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Plain Words From America by Douglas W. Johnson

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Columbia University, New York



_The following letter, written by Professor Douglas W. Johnson, of
Columbia University, is in reply to a letter, pleading the cause of
Germany, which he received from a German correspondent. Professor
Johnson's letter appeared in the "Revue de Paris" of September_, 1916.


_February_, 1916.

Your two letters, with enclosed newspaper clippings, and your postal
card were duly received. I can assure you that my failure to reply more
promptly was not meant as any discourtesy. The clippings were gladly
received, for I am always anxious to read what prominent Germans regard
as able and convincing presentations of their side of disputed matters.
Your own letters, particularly the long one of July 9, were read most
carefully. I appreciate your earnest endeavour to convince me of the
righteousness of your country's cause, and am not unmindful of the time
and trouble you spent in preparing for me so carefully worded a
presentation of the German point of view touching several matters of the
profoundest importance to our two Governments.

My failure to reply has been due to a doubt in my own mind as to whether
good would be accomplished by any letter which I could write. I could
not agree with your opinions regarding Germany's responsibility for the
war, nor regarding her methods of conducting the war; and it did not
seem to me that you would profit by any statement I might make as to the
reasons for my own opinions on such vital matters. Your letters clearly
showed that you wrote under the influence of an intense emotion--an
emotion which I can both understand and respect, but which might well
make it impossible for you to accord a dispassionate reception to a
reply which controverted your own views. With your country surrounded by
powerful foes, with your sons deluging alien soil in an heroic defence
of your Government's decrees, with the nation you love most dearly
standing in moral isolation, condemned by the entire neutral world for
barbarous crimes against civilisation, you could hardly be expected to
write with that scientific accuracy and care which would, in normal
times, be your ideal.

For this reason I have not resented much in your letters which would
otherwise call for earnest protest. I feel sure, for example, your
assertion that I and my fellow-countrymen derive our opinions of German
conduct wholly from corrupt and venal newspapers, or usually from a
single newspaper which doles out mental poison in subservience to a
single political party, was not intended to be as insulting as it really
sounded. Your emotion doubtless led you to make charges which your sense
of justice and courtesy would, under other circumstances, condemn. I
believe also that in a calmer time you would not entertain the sweeping
opinion that "the daily press has become one of the direst plagues of
humanity, an ulcer in the frame of society, whose one object it is, for
private ends (wealth, political influence, and social position), to pit
the races, nations, religions, and classes against one another." I
realise that some of our papers are a disgrace to the high calling of
journalism; I believe that some sacrifice honour for gain and that some
are subservient to special interests; but the roll of American
journalists is honoured by the presence of many names which command
respect at home and abroad because of a long-standing reputation for
honesty, fearlessness, and distinguished service in the cause of
humanity. To one such name was added at our last commencement the degree
representing one of the highest honours which Columbia University has to
bestow upon a man of lofty ideals and honourable achievement. The paper
edited by this man is among those most extensively read by myself and
hundreds of thousands of other Americans who demand to know the truth.
However low may be the moral plane of some newspapers, your
characterisation of all newspapers as mere business concerns, founded
and carried on with the purpose of enriching their owners, and
supporting certain special interests, "quite regardless of their effect,
beneficial or the reverse, upon the real public interests of their own
country, regardless of truth and justice," is not at all true of the
class of papers read by the majority of intelligent Americans. I am not
sufficiently familiar with a large number of German newspapers to make
assertions as to their standards; but, in spite of the smaller amount
of freedom allowed to the press in your country, I can scarcely imagine
that conditions are bad enough to justify your sweeping condemnation of
all newspapers.

If you had stopped to consider the radically different relations
existing between the press and the Government in Germany and in America,
you would scarcely have fallen into the error of asserting that a
considerable proportion of our papers, in common with those of other
nations, have "laboured in the employ or at the instigation of" the
Government, "with all the implements of mendacity and defamation, to
spread hatred and contempt for Germany." Unlike your own, our press is
wholly free from Government control. Any attempt on the part of our
Government to dictate the policy of any newspaper would be hotly
resented, and would be doomed to certain failure. Americans do not
believe in the German doctrine that the press must be "so far controlled
as is requisite for the welfare of the community," and hold that
absolute freedom of speech is essential to true liberty. There is no
censorship of the American press. You have a censorship which all the
outside world knows has been wonderfully effective in keeping some
important facts from the knowledge of the German people. No American
paper can be suppressed because of what it prints. You are, of course,
well aware that, on more than one occasion, German papers have been
suppressed for certain periods because your Government did not believe
that what they said was for the good of the country. I enclose a message
received by wireless under German control which is only one of the many
announcements telling of suppression of your papers. It does not alter
the situation to say that censorship and suppression are necessary for
the good of the Fatherland, and that the papers in question deserved to
be suppressed. The vital fact remains that your newspapers are not free
to publish anything they like. Ours are thus free. Every issue of your
papers must be submitted to your police, so that your rulers may control
what you write and read. Not a paper in America is submitted to any
official whatever. You cannot read anything which your Government
believes it wise to keep from you. We can read everything, whether the
Government likes it or not. Americans believe there can be no truly free
press, and no real unfettered public opinion, with the possibility of
punishment hanging over the press of a country. Where the police,
representing the ruling power, controls the press there is no true
liberty. Whatever else may be said against the American press, it must
be admitted that it is free from Government control. It is not
necessary, therefore, to inquire whether the American Government has
employed or instigated the public press to attack Germany, since, even
if it desired to do so, it would not dare make the attempt.

There are many other statements in your letters which can only be
explained as the result of writing under stress of intense emotion; you
would probably wish to modify many of these were you writing under
happier circumstances. It is not my desire, however, to dwell upon this
phase of your correspondence. I do not for a moment doubt your
sincerity, and believe you were yourself convinced of the truth of all
you wrote. My purpose in writing this letter is to accept in good faith
your expressed wish for a better understanding between two peoples who
have long been on friendly terms with one another, and to contribute
toward this end by removing, at least so far as we two are concerned,
one serious misunderstanding which now exists.

As you are well aware, the American people, with the exception of a
certain proportion of German-born population, are practically unanimous
in condemning Germany for bringing on the war and for conducting it in a
barbarous manner. You, together with hosts of your fellow-countrymen,
believe this unfavourable opinion is the result of the truth being kept
from the American public by improper means. It is, of course, a
comforting thought to you that when the whole truth is known we will
revise our opinions and realise that Germany acted righteously, and was
not guilty of the crimes which have been charged against her. But, as a
scientific man, devoted to the search for truth, no matter where it
leads you, you would not want to deceive yourself with such a comforting
assurance if it were founded on false premises. If, therefore, you
really want to know the conditions under which American opinion of
Germany's conduct has been formed, I will endeavour to describe them
with the same calmness and careful attention to accuracy which I
earnestly endeavour to observe in my scientific investigations. In
discussing this vitally important matter, I will first endeavour to
picture the American opinion of Germany and the Germans before the war,
since this was the background upon which later opinions were formed. I
will then explain the sources of information which were open to
Americans after the war began; and will next describe how this
information produced an American opinion unfavourable to Germany, as
observed by one who has read widely and watched the trend of his
country's thought with keen interest. If this analysis is successful in
convincing you that American opinion does not rest on English lies, is
not the result of a venal press controlled by British gold, but has a
far more substantial foundation, then my letter will not have been
written in vain. If you are not convinced, but prefer to retain the
comforting belief that if America only knew the truth it would applaud
Germany's actions, then I shall, at least, have the satisfaction of
knowing that I earnestly endeavoured, in good faith, to return the
courtesy which you showed me when you wrote so fully, by telling you
with equal fulness the truth as I see it.


First, then, let me picture the background of public opinion toward
Germany and the Germans as I saw it before the war began. Inasmuch as
one's vision may be affected favourably or unfavourably by his personal
experiences, it is only fair that I state briefly my own experiences
with people of German birth or parentage. One of my earliest
recollections is of a German maid in our household who taught me to make
my wants known in the German language, and also taught me to love her as
I did members of my own family. In college, one of my two favourite
professors and one of my college chums were of German parentage. Both
these men are still valued friends, and both believe in the
righteousness of Germany's cause. I have spent parts of three summers in
Germany, and have many German friends, both in America and in Europe.
The two Europeans in my special field of science for whom I have the
greatest personal affection are German professors in Berlin and Leipzig
respectively. I have more personal friends in the German army than in
the Allied armies. My sister is married to a professor of German
descent and German sympathies. Surely, therefore, if personal
relationships prejudice me at all, they should prejudice me in favour of
Germans and things German.

In my opinion, the American estimate of Germany and her citizens prior
to the war was, in general, most favourable. Certainly America looked
with admiration upon the remarkable advance achieved by Germany in the
short space of forty years. To your universities we have always
acknowledged a great debt. We have profited much by your advances in
economic lines and admired the combination of scientific research and
business which made your countrymen efficient in many lines. The large
number of your people who have emigrated to America have, in the main,
made good citizens, and we have welcomed them as among the best of the
foreigners who flock to our shores. German music and German musicians
find nowhere a more cordial welcome than here where admiration for their
achievements is unstinted. Nor have we forgotten the heroic services of
the many Germans who laid down their lives in defence of our flag, that
the Union might live. The Germans' love of honour and family has touched
the American heart in a tender spot, and many of my acquaintances admit
that with no other foreigners do they establish such intimate and
affectionate relations as with their German friends.

This admiration and friendship has not blinded us to certain defects in
the German character, any more than has your friendship for Americans
closed your eyes to our defects. The bad manners of Germans are
proverbial, not only among Americans, but all over the world; so much so
that certain German writers, admitting that Germans as a nation are
ill-mannered, have sought to find in this fact an explanation for the
world-wide antagonism toward Germany's policy in the war. I do not
believe, however, that, so far as American sentiment is concerned, there
is any considerable element of truth in this explanation. It is true
that we do not like the lack of respect accorded to women by the average
German; that the position of woman in Germany seems to us anomalous in a
nation claiming a superior type of civilisation; that the bumptious
attitude of the German "intellectual" amuses or disgusts us; and that
the insolence of your young officers who elbow us off the sidewalks in
your cities makes us long to meet those individuals again outside the
boundaries of Germany, where no military Government, jealous of their
"honour," could protect them from the thrashing they deserve. It is also
true that, at international congresses, excursions and banquets,
attended by both men and women representatives of all nations, the
Germans have gained an unenviable reputation for bad manners because
they have pushed themselves into the best places, crowded into the
trains ahead of the women, and generally ignored the courtesies due to
ladies and gentlemen associated with them. But, in spite of our full
recognition of this undesirable national trait, I doubt whether any
great number of Americans have permitted a dislike of German manners to
affect their opinion as to German morals in the conduct of war, though
some do hold that lack of good manners is a characteristic mark of
inferior civilisation. On the whole, we have been inclined to be
tolerant of German rudeness, regarding it as in part due to the rapid
material development of a young nation, and possibly as, in part, the
result of over-aggressiveness fostered by a military training.

It is only fair to say, also, that our admiration of Germany's
achievements in art, literature, and science never led us so far as to
accept the claim of superiority in these lines advanced by many Germans
on behalf of their country. The insistence with which this claim has
been reiterated and proclaimed abroad by Germans, often with more of
patriotism than of good taste, may have led a part of the public to
believe it. But the more intelligent and thoughtful portion of the
people, accustomed to analyse such claims by careful comparison with the
products of non-Teutonic civilisation, has been unable to find any
adequate basis for the assumed superiority. Indeed, while intelligent
and fair-minded Americans are not slow to recognise Germany's great
contributions to the world's art, literature, and science, they believe
that, with the possible exception of music, greater contributions have
been made in these lines by France, England, and other nations. In the
realm of invention, we fully appreciate the skill and resourcefulness
manifested by the German people in adapting new discoveries to their own
needs; but we cannot deny the fact that most of the discoveries which
have played so vital a part in the development of modern civilisation
have been made, not in Germany, but in other countries.

In regard to municipal government and various forms of social
legislation, we have long recognised the high position held by your
nation But in the more vital matter of the relation of the individual to
the supreme governing power, we have always held, and still believe,
that Germany is sadly reactionary. For half a century your professors,
in the employ of an educational system controlled by a bureaucratic
Government, have taught what we condemn as a false philosophy of
government. Your histories, your books on philosophy, your whole
literature, glorify the _State_; and you have accepted the dangerous
doctrine that the individual exists to serve the State, forgetting that
the State is not the mystical, divine thing you picture it, but a
government carried on by human beings like yourselves, most of them
reasonably upright, but some incompetent and others deliberately bad,
just like any other human government. We believe that the only excuse
for the existence of the State is to serve the individual, to create
conditions which will insure the greatest liberty and highest possible
development to the individual citizen. It has never seemed to us
creditable to the German intellect that it could be satisfied with a
theory of government outgrown by most other civilised nations. That you
should confuse efficiency with freedom has always seemed to us a tragic
mistake, and never so tragic as now, when a small coterie of human
beings, subject to the same mistakes and sins as other human beings, can
hurl you into a terrible war before you know what has happened, clap on
a rigid censorship to keep out any news they do not want you to learn,
then publish a white book which pretends to explain the causes of the
war, but omits documents of the most vital importance, thereby causing
the people of a confiding nation to drench the earth with their
life-blood in the fond illusion that the war was forced upon them, and
that they are fighting for a noble cause. Most pitiful is the sad
comment of an intelligent German woman in a letter recently received in
this country: "We, of course, only see such things as the Government
thinks best. We were told that this war was purely a defensive one,
forced upon us. I begin to believe this may not be true, but hope for a
favourable ending."

Certainly in what you wrote to me you were thoroughly sincere and
honest; yet your letter was full of untrue statements because you were
dependent for your information upon a Government-controlled press which
has misled you for military and political reasons. How can a nation know
the truth, think clearly, and act righteously when a few men, called the
"State," can commit you to the most serious enterprise in your history
without your previous knowledge or consent, and can then keep you in
ignorance of vitally important documents and activities in order to
insure your full support of their perilous undertaking? Such is the
thought which has always led America to denounce as false the old theory
of "divine right of kings," long imposed upon the German people in the
more subtle and, therefore, more dangerous form of "the divine right of
the State." Our conviction that such a government as yours is
reactionary and incompatible with true liberty, and that it stunts and
warps the intellects of its citizens, has been amply confirmed by
extended observation in your country, and more particularly by the
unanswerable fact that millions of your best blood, including
distinguished men of intelligence and wealth, have forsaken Germany to
seek true liberty of intellect and action in America, renouncing
allegiance to the Fatherland to become citizens here. Some of them
still love the scenes of their childhood, but few of them would be
willing to return to a life under such a Government as Germany

To summarise what I said above: Americans, prior to the war, admired the
remarkable advances made by Germany in recent years in economic and
commercial lines; held in high regard your universities and many of your
university professors; loved your music, and felt most cordial toward
the millions of Germans who came to live among us and share the benefits
of our free institutions. The prevalence of bad manners among Germans we
regretted, but made allowance for this defect; and we did not fail to
recognise that some Germans are fine gentlemen of the most perfect
culture, while most of them have traits of character which we admired.

We recognised the immense value of Germany's contributions to art,
literature, and science, but did not consider Germany's contributions in
these lines as equal to those of other nations. We never have regarded
German culture as superior, but rather as inferior, to that of certain
other countries; and the Germans' loud claims to superiority have seemed
to us egotistical and the result of a weak point in the German
character. For your form of government and the philosophy of history
taught by your university professors we could never have much admiration
or respect. Both seemed to us unworthy of an intelligent, civilised
people, and sure to lead to disaster. Your military preparations,
evident to every observant visitor, have long caused us to distrust your
Government and to consider your country a menace to the world's peace.
In a word, we admired and loved your people, although we considered them
neither perfect nor even superior to other people; but we disapproved
and distrusted your reactionary military Government.


Such was our attitude when the war burst upon the world. Since that time
what opportunities have the American people had to form an intelligent
opinion as to who was wrong and who was right? What sources of
information have been open to us, what means of getting at the facts?
Have we been drowned in English lies, as several of your professors have
written me is the case? Have we relied on one corrupt party newspaper,
as you intimate is our habit? Have we been dependent on a press bought
up with English gold, as is continually asserted by the German press?

In the first place, we have relied in part upon our previous knowledge
of the German Government and the German people. The hundreds of
Americans who have studied in your universities, the thousands who have
visited your country, and the millions who have come into close contact
with Germans in this country, all have a pretty good idea of the German
type of mind, German standards of national morality, German virtues and
defects. Americans have, of course, used this information in reaching a
conclusion as to the truth or falsehood of charges against Germany. I
talked with some of our American professors just as they landed on the
pier in New York fresh from a summer in Germany which was cut short by
the outbreak of the war. They came direct from your country and were as
fully informed of the German points of view right up to the declaration
of war as were any of your citizens. Many Americans who have spent
months and even years on German soil, and who know the country and the
people intimately, have made us well acquainted with German standards
and German methods of thinking.

It is true that since the war began much of our news has come through
cables controlled by the Allies; but Americans have too much common
sense to accept such reports as final. News from biassed sources is
always accepted with reservation, and not fully believed unless
confirmed from independent sources. Furthermore, Americans have never
lacked for first-hand information from Germany. Direct wireless reports
from your country to several stations in America have given us a
valuable check on cable reports. German papers come to us regularly, and
are continually and extensively quoted. Germany has sent special agents
to this country to represent her side of every issue. The speeches and
writings of these agents have been published repeatedly and at length in
almost every paper in our country from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
American correspondents in Germany and in the war-zone have told as much
as your censors would permit concerning what they saw of Germany and
Germany's army. Many Americans have returned from Germany during the
war, and have published their experiences and impressions. Some of them
have seen your army at work, suffered from its inhumanity, and been
subjected to outrages and indignities by the civil officials of your
Government. Others were dined and honoured as notable guests and given
unusual opportunities for seeing as much as your officials wanted them
to see. Both have offered valuable first-hand testimony as to the
behaviour of the German nation at war. Your university professors and
other prominent citizens of your country have written us circular and
private letters without number, presenting Germany's arguments in every
conceivable form. Your Ambassador and other officials of your Government
have been most active in keeping first-hand information before the
American public. Thousands of your reservists, unable to cross the sea
in safety, remain in this country to talk and write in behalf of their

In addition to all this, Germany's cause has been most vigorously
championed by many Germans and German-Americans long resident in
America. Muensterberg and others have published numerous articles and
books in Germany's favour. Every possible plea to justify Germany's
position has been enthusiastically spread abroad by the German-American
press, and with that love of "fair play" which is a widely-recognised
characteristic of Americans, even those papers which believe Germany
responsible for the war and its worst horrors, have printed volumes of
material from pro-German authors in order that the whole truth might be
known by a full and free discussion of both sides of every question. I
have read many pro-German articles in the _New York Times_, the _New
York Sun_, the _Outlook_, and other papers and magazines opposed to
German policy--articles by Muensterberg, Kuno Franke, Von Bernstorff,
Dernburg, and other staunch defenders of Germany. The columns of our
papers are freely open to every authoritative champion of the German
cause, no matter what the editorial policy of the papers may be. Never
was fuller and freer opportunity for defence accorded to anyone than has
been given to the friends of Germany to present in print to the American
public every possible justification for Germany's acts. Only the
grossest ignorance of the actual facts could ever lead anyone to make
the charge in good faith that the truth about Germany has been
concealed from Americans. Your letter did not contain a single statement
or argument that has not been printed over and over again in papers from
one end of America to the other by various defenders of the German
cause. Germany's official documents issued in defence of her position at
the beginning of the war, her charges of atrocities against her enemies
and her supposed proofs of the falsity of atrocity charges against the
Germans, have all been published fully and widely, although you seem not
to be aware of this fact.

Still further, in addition to the legitimate publicity in favour of
Germany related above, there has been forced upon the American public
the most stupendous propaganda which the world has ever witnessed.
Millions of dollars have been spent by German agents in a colossal
endeavour to shape public opinion. America has been literally deluged
with leaflets, pamphlets, books, articles, and advertisements,
subsidised by these propagandists. Money has been lavishly spent in
every form of appeal which might be expected to turn American sentiment
against the Allies and in favour of the Teutons. Contributions have been
widely solicited to finance this propaganda, and one of my colleagues in
Columbia is among those bearing German names who, in published letters,
have refused to support this moneyed campaign, engineered by German
agents. Strikes have been organised in our factories, newspapers have
been subsidised, labour orators have been employed to incite trouble,
all with gold supplied from Teutonic sources. Ambassador Dumba was
forced to leave this country because of the capture of secret letters
revealing plots to organise strikes in our munitions factories, to buy
up orators to incite workmen to discontent, and to pay newspapers for
advancing the German propaganda. For all of this the Austrian Government
was to supply the necessary funds. German spies now in our prisons have
admitted that they were sent here by high German officials and provided
with ample supplies of money to engage in secret plots against our
neutrality with the object of stopping munition shipments. German
officials in this country have admitted handling millions of dollars in
illegal operations carried on in defiance of our laws and in insolent
disregard of international diplomatic courtesy. Our courts have
convicted and sentenced to 18 months' penal servitude three high German
officials of the Hamburg-American Steamship Line for a conspiracy to
help German warships in defiance of our laws. These officials admitted
spending nearly two million dollars of German gold in this illegal work.
Our detectives estimate that German authorities have spent twenty-seven
million dollars in America alone to influence us against the Allies, to
stir up trouble against us in labour circles, and to foment a revolution
in Mexico to our embarrassment. Our Government asked that the German
Military and Naval Attaches be removed from this country because of
their insolent violations of our neutrality, by activities in connection
with which they handled immense sums of German gold for the propaganda
to influence us against England and in favour of Germany.

For every pamphlet, paper, or article sent to me by English, French,
Russian, and Italian organisations I get several dozen from German
organisations. I get but a few circulars a month from Allied countries.
Not a week passes that I do not receive many from German sources.
America has been flooded with German propagandist literature; very
little ever comes from other countries. Full-page advertisements, paid
by German agents, have appeared repeatedly in American papers, urging
the merits of Germany's case. I have never seen one on behalf of the
Allies. All over New York City, before I left for my summer vacation,
were giant posters on the billboards, put there by a pro-German society,
urging the people to ask President Wilson to stop the exportation of
arms to Germany's enemies. I have never seen one poster of any kind put
up by friends of the Allies. Indeed, America has been so deluged with
German propaganda and German-paid advertisements, and requests for money
to carry on the propaganda in favour of Germany, that the whole nation
has become heartily sick of it, and has urged the Government to expel
from the country some of your agents who have been particularly
offensive in carrying on such a propaganda among our citizens. German
gold, not English gold, has been lavishly used to influence American
opinion. Our Government has had to employ a special detective force to
discover and destroy the many plots in which German and Austrian gold
has been lavishly used to influence opinion and action in America; and
from other neutral countries comes abundant evidence that the same
stupendous propaganda, to turn opinion and action in favour of Germany,
has been carried on everywhere, with an audacity and utter disregard of
cost which has astonished the world. In the face of such facts as these
the German outcry against "English gold" has seemed wholly insincere,
and little less than ridiculous.

Finally, American opinion has been based more than all else on Germany's
official communications, directly addressed to our Government, on
certain acts which Germany has admitted, and on the nature of the
defence and excuses offered by the German Government in palliation of
those acts. You must not forget that the many lengthy notes addressed by
your Government to Americans have been published in full in American
papers. The outcry against English gold, against cable dispatches
altered by the English, and against corrupt newspaper publishers cannot
be raised in connection with diplomatic correspondence transmitted
direct to your Ambassador here. This authentic, official correspondence
has given us an excellent measure of the standards of morality and
humanity which actuate the present German Government. Our opinion of
Germany has been profoundly influenced by these official documents.

Germany has committed certain acts which are freely admitted by your
Government. A nation, like a man, is judged by its deeds. After all
excuses and explanations are made, the deeds remain. Americans have read
the excuses and the explanations fully and repeatedly; and with these
excuses and explanations in mind have formed an opinion of the power
responsible for the deeds. No English gold, no manipulated cable
dispatches can have had anything to do with that opinion. The deeds
themselves have been the supreme force in shaping American opinion of
Germany. Germany has defended the many acts which have brought down upon
her the contempt and opprobrium of the entire civilised world. As you
well know, one of the best tests of a man's morals is the kind of a
defence he offers for his acts. Americans have read most carefully the
many defences offered by your Chancellor, your Minister of Foreign
Affairs, your Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, your official
spokesmen sent to this country, and your Ambassador here; and in the
notes sent officially and directly to our Government by your
Government. We have formed an opinion of the moral standards of the
Government which makes and approves of such defences.

I believe you must, in sincerity and frankness, admit that the American
public has had many sources of information open to it in forming its
opinions about Germany. Indeed, with a free press, a large German
population absolutely free from censorship or restrictions of any kind,
and a Government which does not need to suppress facts for military or
political reasons, we are in a far better position to learn the whole
truth about Germany than are the German people themselves.


Having outlined some of the many sources of information upon which
Americans have relied in forming their opinions of Germany and her
actions in this war, I now will state what the American opinion is in
regard to some of the vital issues which have been raised. In doing
this, I will not endeavour to explain that opinion, to criticise it, nor
to defend it. Neither will I give you my personal opinion on the several
points, for my own personal opinion is of slight consequence when we are
discussing the attitude of an entire nation. If you desire, I will be
glad to tell you, on some other occasion, just how far my own opinions
coincide with the collective opinion of the country at large, and just
where I differ from that opinion. My object at present is simply to
interpret American opinion to you as it exists to-day. When I say
"American opinion," I mean, of course, the opinion of the vast majority
of our people. A significant proportion of the German-born population
and a very small proportion of native Americans (usually those married
to Germans or otherwise connected with Germany) disagree with the
opinions cited. But over 90 per cent. of our population may safely be
said to hold the views described as "American" below.

In the first place, Americans, in general, make a distinction between
the German Government and the German people. They realise that certain
features of the Prussianised Government have never appealed favourably
to the Bavarians, the Saxons, and other elements of the German
population. I do not mean by this that Americans believe any part of
Germany is disloyal to the Government. On the contrary, they believe the
German people as a whole are supporting the Government and its acts with
devotion, and that, therefore, the German people as a whole are
responsible for whatever acts the Government commits. But Americans
recognise the reality of Prussian leadership in the policy of your
country. They do not believe the German people wanted the war; but they
do believe the military Government, under Prussian control, wanted the
war, planned for it with infinite skill and efficiency for many years,
and brought it about when they believed the time was ripe.

Americans have no doubt whatever that the insolent ultimatum to Servia
was delivered for the purpose of provoking war, and that Austria would
never have dared sent it were it not for the fact that the German
Government "assured her a free hand" in advance, as has been officially
admitted by your Government. The fact that Austria refused to make
public the full evidence on which she based her accusations against the
Servian Government, added to the fact that she made these accusations
after a secret investigation in which the defendant had no
representation, has shocked not only America but the entire world; and
has convinced the world, as a whole, that Austria and Germany were more
guilty of wrongdoing than was Servia.

Americans have studied carefully the official documents issued by the
different Governments concerning the origin of the war, and have had the
advantage of seeing all the papers which each has published. The
official papers issued by England, Germany, France, Austria, and the
other Governments have been printed in full in pamphlet form, and have
been eagerly studied by the whole nation. Edition after edition has
been exhausted by a people eagerly seeking to learn the truth. In
Germany there has been no such eagerness to learn the truth by careful,
critical study of the official sources of information, and leading
Germans have regretfully admitted that too many of the German people
were content to accept their Government's statements as the truth,
without attempting to use their own intelligence in the matter. In the
opinion of Americans the official documents, and especially the
admissions made by your Government in its attempted defence, prove that
the German Government forced the war in order to satisfy the ambitions
of the military party which has long been in control. When you have a
chance to read certain documents which your Government does not let you
read now, you can form an impartial judgment as to whether or not
Americans and the other neutral peoples have been unjust in deciding
that Germany is responsible for the war. Until that time you will, of
course, feel that the judgment of the world does your country a terrible
wrong. The Government which caused the war is not going to let its
people read things which would shake their confidence, and cause them to
weaken in their support of the war!

If Germany really exercised a moderating influence at Vienna, and strove
to avert the war, the State papers exchanged between Berlin and Vienna
would clearly prove this, if published. Germany has every reason to
publish those papers and prove her sincerity, if she tried to prevent
the war. On the other hand, both Germany and Austria have every reason
to keep those papers secret if they were jointly planning the war. They
have kept the papers secret. Not one word of the vital correspondence
between the two Teutonic capitals has ever been made public. Even your
own people are entirely ignorant as to what exchanges really took place
in the critical days preceding the declarations of war. You only know,
and the world only knows, that Germany made the vague general assertion
that she was "exercising a moderating influence at Vienna." You can
hardly expect the world to believe such a vague generality when the
documents which would prove its truth or falsity are carefully
suppressed. Why are they suppressed? Americans, in common with the rest
of the world, are convinced that your Government does not dare publish
them because it would prove the guilt of Germany more conclusively than
do the admissions contained in papers already made public.

It is the practically universal opinion, not only in America, but in
other neutral countries as well, that the repeated excuses and shifty
evasions by which Berlin rejected every plan for mediation, arbitration,
or any other programme which would tend toward a peaceful solution of
the crisis, combined with Berlin's acknowledgment that "a free hand was
assured" to Austria, and the further fact that all correspondence
between Berlin and Vienna is carefully suppressed, are amply sufficient
to convince any fair-minded, unprejudiced man that the Berlin Government
is primarily responsible for the war. The fact that Germany has for
years published a voluminous war literature, has taught her people to
think and live in terms of war, and was fully prepared with enormous
reserves of materials when war came; whereas the Allied countries were
notoriously unprepared and in no condition to ward off the first blows
of a surprise attack, to say nothing of fighting an offensive campaign,
is generally considered enough to create a strong presumption that
Germany and not the Allies wanted war. The official correspondence of
the _ante-bellum_ days is full of suggestions for arbitration,
mediation, and other plans to preserve the peace, coming from the Allied
countries. Americans have searched in vain for a single plan for a
peaceful solution coming from Germany. On the contrary, your own version
of the negotiations shows only a persistent rejection by Berlin of every
peace plan, and a dogged determination to support Vienna in her assault
on Servia--an assault which, following the robbery of Bosnia and
Herzegovina by Austria under Germany's protection, could not be endured
by a civilised world, and was, therefore, certain to cause war.

When Servia, urged by the Allies to yield as much as possible in order
to prevent war, acceded to eight out of ten of Austria's humiliating
demands and agreed to arbitrate the two involving her national
sovereignty, the world saw that the Allied countries did not want war,
and were willing to suffer great humiliation for the sake of preventing
it. Americans do not consider that any fair-minded man possessed of
ordinary commonsense can honestly believe that nations seeking to
provoke war with Germany would have urged their _protege_ to make a
humiliating surrender to insolent and unjust demands. If there were any
truth in the assertion that the Allies were trying to force war on
Germany, they would have advised Servia to resist, not to yield. When
Austria, backed by Germany, declared war on Servia, despite Servia's
abject and complete surrender on eight points and willingness to
arbitrate the other two, there no longer existed outside of Germany and
Austria the slightest doubt that Germany was forcing the war to achieve
the aggrandisement which has been taught for years in your country as
the natural destiny of Germany.

Germany's guilt in forcing the war is recognised not only by Americans
and other neutral peoples, but by hundreds of thousands of Germans who
live in neutral countries and thus have a chance to learn more of the
truth than is possible in the belligerent countries. Germans who were
in Germany when the war broke out, but who have since come to America,
have told me personally that, after learning the whole truth, they can
no longer doubt Germany's responsibility for the catastrophe. Germans
who have left here to go back and fight for the Fatherland admitted to
me in private conversation that they knew Germany forced the war, and
that the Kaiser and the Prussian military party were alone to blame. I
know Germans who are liberally supporting the Allied cause because they
believe the defeat of Prussianism is essential to a civilised Germany.
Even your rigid censorship has not prevented our receipt of occasional
letters from Germans, in which they admit the uncertainty of Germany's
claim that the Allies forced the war. A considerable element of
independent thinkers in Germany have had the wisdom to realise the
perfectly obvious truth that no Government is willing to admit
responsibility for the war, and that therefore your Government's
assertion that it did not start the present conflagration can carry no
weight until the whole truth is revealed to the German people, and they
are thus given the opportunity to form an intelligent judgment, like
men, instead of being forced to believe mere assertions and partial
evidence, like children. To-day you believe in the innocence of the
Prussian military power; but few people in the rest of the world doubt
its guilt. Tomorrow, when the war is over, and you can get an outside
view of the whole question, you will have the chance to form an
intelligent judgment as to what nation History will for ever record as
the one guilty of this fearful crime against humanity.

The violation of Belgian neutrality shocked Americans as it did the rest
of the civilised world, and turned the tide of sentiment against Germany
more strongly than ever. Americans are practically unanimous in
regarding the belated excuses of your Government, to the effect that
Belgian neutrality was already violated by the Allies, as mere clumsy
subterfuges, trumped up to stem the terrible tide of universal
condemnation heaped upon Germany for this crime against an innocent
people. Nothing that any German can ever say or write will efface from
the memory of the world the uncontrovertible fact that your Chancellor
officially admitted your country's guilt in this matter. "The wrong--I
speak openly, gentlemen--the wrong we have done Belgium will be righted
when our military ends are accomplished." In these words your Chancellor
blundered out a truth which has for ever silenced all your apologists
for the crime. American opinion considers it discreditable and futile to
invent charges against French soldiers on Belgian soil and French
aviators flying over Belgian territory; and to try to make out a case in
defence of Germany--when your Chancellor has officially admitted
Germany's guilt. Americans have no doubt that on the basis of the
well-known facts of the case, supplemented by your Chancellor's
admission of guilt, History will for ever record Germany's brutal
disregard of her treaty obligations and her murderous assault on a
small, innocent nation as one of the most terrible crimes ever committed
by a nation claiming to rank high among civilised peoples.

The plea that "military necessity" justified the destruction of an
innocent people, that the invasion of Belgium was necessary as a measure
of "self-defence," Americans consider as striking proof of the essential
barbarity of the German Government. A man who would shoot down an
innocent girl in order to get at another man would be condemned as the
worst kind of a brute. A Government which slaughters an innocent and
peaceful people in order to get at an enemy Government is universally
regarded by Americans as the worst type of a barbarous Government. No
truly civilised Government could be so brutally selfish as to protect
itself by inflicting the horrors of fearful war upon a helpless and
unoffending people.

You dismiss the question of atrocities by asking if Americans can
believe that such Germans as I know would commit such awful deeds. The
reply to this is that, while Americans realise that there are many
Germans who would rather die than do a cruel act, Germany possesses a
military Government which has convinced Americans and the rest of the
world that, under the plea of "military necessity," it will commit the
most barbarous crimes. History demonstrates that a military Government
stifles the finer instincts of the people which support it. Many Germans
struggled to overthrow the military clique in Germany, and some of them
are among the most gentle-hearted, kindly souls it has ever been my good
fortune to meet. Others have exalted the military and the idea of war;
and while boarding in the home of a German army officer I witnessed
heartless and cruel acts which I do not believe could have occurred in
any other civilised country among people of the same education and
intelligence. Unfortunately, Americans see no opportunity to doubt the
barbarous behaviour of the German army; and in the debate over the
Zabern affair some of your best citizens rebelled against military
brutality--but the punishment meted out to the military offenders was
nullified by your military Government. In the present war that same
Government has admitted and justified unspeakable atrocities under the
plea of "military necessities." Americans do not believe every lie
wafted on the wings of gossip; but when your book of instructions to
army officers expressly breaks down every safeguard for civilised
warfare by justifying "exceptions" to the rules governing such warfare,
Americans cannot fail to conclude that your Government is more barbarous
than that of any other country claiming to be civilised; for other
countries do not now recognise the right of armies to make such
exceptions. Your Government, in trying to defend itself against the
storm of world-criticism, has admitted and justified the slaughter of
innocent hostages as a "military necessity." No other civilised country
does this; and Americans consider the German Government both brutal and
barbarous for permitting this utterly inhuman practice. American
soldiers in Vera Cruz were killed by franctireurs; but our Government
would hang any American officer who permitted the murder of innocent
hostages on that account. Your Government justifies and excuses such
measures; therefore Americans have been forced to conclude that your
Government is less civilised than are the Governments of America,
England, and France, which forbid such conduct.

Your Government executed a woman of noble character, and defends its act
as perfectly legal and a "military necessity." Americans are quite
willing to admit that Miss Cavell may have been guilty of the charges
brought against her. Yet the entire world stood horrified when the
Government of Germany, with due legal form, committed a crime against
womanhood and against humanity, which for centuries will make Germans
blush for shame when the name of Miss Cavell is mentioned. Englishmen
blush at the memory of Jeffreys, but no Englishman ever defends that
fiendish butcher of women. Americans blush at the memory of Mrs.
Surratt; but few Americans will defend her execution. The fact that
Germans have risen to defend the Cavell atrocity led many Americans to
conclude that the brutalising influence of militarism has made the mass
of the German people less humane than are the peoples of other
countries, since they defend what other peoples condemn.

Your Government has bombarded unfortified seacoast towns which Americans
know from personal observation, both before the war and during the
bombardment, were not defended in any way. Mothers and babies were blown
to shreds, but no military damage was done in most cases. Dozens of
helpless old men, women and children were killed for every soldier
slain. The same is true of your Zeppelin raids. Americans believe these
acts are committed for the purpose of stirring up enthusiasm among the
German populace. They believe such acts are in defiance of the rules of
civilised warfare, that they are utterly inhuman and barbarous, and
that a nation which approves and applauds such senseless slaughter is
less civilised than other modern nations. The British Government has
steadfastly refused to accede to the clamour of a few of its citizens
who urge a policy of wholesale reprisals against German open towns.
Americans honour this respect for the rules of civilised warfare and
regret that even occasionally France has yielded to the provocation for
reprisal raids against such a place as Freiburg. The fact that Germany
began the slaughter of babies and women in defiance of the rules of war,
and has kept it up in frequent raids by warships, Zeppelins, and
aeroplanes, whereas the Allies have very seldom attacked open towns, and
then only as occasional reprisals following peculiarly barbarous German
attacks, has won for Germany the condemnation, and for the Allies the
commendation of the civilised world.

The _Lusitania_ atrocity removed from the minds of the American people
the last possible doubt as to the essential barbarity of the German
Government. No other Government pretending to be civilised has ever
shocked the entire world by such a sickening crime against humanity. It
is utterly inconceivable that the American nation could descend so low
in the scale of humanity as to order the deliberate destruction of an
English ship bearing hundreds of innocent German women and children
across the seas. But if such a thing were conceivable, you could not
find in the American navy an officer who would obey the inhuman order.
Nor do Americans believe that the English or French Governments could
ever disgrace their countries' honour by such a barbarous act. I am
shocked and surprised that a man of your position and intelligence can
find it in his heart to defend an act which has for ever stained the
fair name and honour of your country.

I read with amazement your assertions that the _Lusitania_ was armed,
that she carried ammunition in defiance of American laws, and that our
official inspection of her was careless. Your own Government has itself
abandoned the false charge that the _Lusitania_ carried guns, and no
longer makes such a ridiculous claim; while the German reservist who
pretended to have seen the gun has admitted that he lied and is now
serving a term in prison for perjury. You are not familiar with American
shipping-laws which expressly permit the carrying of certain types of
ammunition on passenger vessels, and you are, of course, quite ignorant
as to what inspection of the vessel was made in New York, for you were
in Germany at the time. Your assertions were made wholly on the basis of
the false statements furnished you in Government-controlled papers. You
had no means of determining the truth or falsity of the statements, on
the basis of reliable and impartial evidence; yet you did not hesitate
to make assertions which your own Government now practically admits were
not well founded. The fact that the learned men of Germany have
throughout the war violently supported the German position by reckless
charges and wild assertions, paying no regard to the necessity of basing
such charges and assertions on impartial evidence, instead of accepting
with child-like simplicity the unsupported statements of the German
Government, has destroyed the confidence of Americans in the ability of
the German educated men to think and reason fairly and honestly about
the war.

The manifestos of the German professors, issued to Americans, did much
to alienate American sympathy from Germany; for the bitterness and
unreasoning fury of the documents, combined with the entire absence of
evidence to support the many reckless statements made in them, did much
to convince Americans that the German position was not capable of
honest, logical, dispassionate, manly defence. There has never at any
time been any such outbreak of fury and bitterness among the English or
French people. While there are individual exceptions, taken as a whole
the press, pamphlets, and private letters of the English and French,
dealing with the war, have from the first been characterised by a
self-control and calm determination, which in the case of the French
has especially astonished Americans; for we expected the French to be
more excitable. Taken as a whole, the Teutonic literature has from the
first been characterised by an uncontrollable bitterness and violent
denunciation of the enemy and of neutrals; which has also surprised
Americans, for we expected you to be more logical and self-contained
than the French, instead of less so.

Americans believe that the German people are a great people, capable of
great and good things. They honour and admire the Germany which finds
her best expression in the literature, music, and science which has
justly made you famous. But they distrust and abhor the German
Government which has made the name of Germany infamous. The heroic
bravery of the German soldiers dying for their Fatherland, and the
heroic fortitude of the German women who bear and suffer--all fail to
evoke any enthusiasm in this country, or in other neutral countries,
because of the stain which the German military Government has put upon
their sacrifices. Your greatest victories bring no world honour to your
armies because of the cloud of dishonour which hangs over every
achievement of the German military machine. There is no enthusiasm, and
very little praise, for the captors of Warsaw and Vilna, for Americans
remember that it was German soldiers who murdered innocent hostages from
"military necessity," who destroyed much of Louvain from "military
necessity," who violated every rule of civilised warfare and humanity in
Belgium from "military necessity," who executed a noble English nurse
from "military necessity," who wrecked priceless monuments of
civilisation in France from "military necessity," who have dropped bombs
from the sky in the darkness upon sleeping women and children in
unfortified places, and slaughtered hundreds of innocent non-combatants
from "military necessity," who sent babes at the breast and their
innocent mothers shrieking and strangling to a watery grave in mid-ocean
from "military necessity," and who have defended every barbarous act,
every crime against humanity on the specious and selfish plea that it
was justified by "military necessity." Your Government has robbed your
soldiers of all honour in the eyes of the world by making them the
instruments of a military policy which the rest of the world unanimously
condemns as brutal and barbarous.

It seems to thoughtful Americans who know Germany and Germans best, that
the highest duty of intelligent German professors like yourself is not
to attempt the hopeless task of converting the rest of the world to an
approval of the methods of the German Government, but rather to use your
whole influence to establish a German Government which shall have a
decent respect for the opinions of the rest of the world, and shall
restore Germany to the place it used to have among civilised nations.
Your greatest enemy is not the Russian, nor the French, nor the British
Government. They might defeat you in war, but they never could take away
your honour. Your greatest enemy is the Government which has dragged the
fair name of Germany in the mire of dishonour, shocking the moral
instincts of the whole world by acts no other civilised country would
think of committing. Your greatest enemy is the Government which stifles
your individual development by making you the obedient tools of the
"State," which smothers your free thought by a muzzled press under
police control, which makes your learned men ridiculous in the eyes of
the world by training them to blind, unthinking support of the
Government and credulous belief in whatever falsehoods it chooses to
impose upon you for military and political purposes, which hurls you
into a disastrous war without your knowledge or consent, and which
brings down upon you the contempt of the whole world for crimes you
would not yourselves commit, but which you must forsooth defend "for the
good of the State."

Americans believe that a Government which provokes a war and deceives
its people to secure their support, should be destroyed; that a
Government which breaks its treaties and murders an innocent neutral
nation, should be innocent hostages to prevent sniping by those whose
homes are violently attacked, should be destroyed; that a Government
which systematically and repeatedly bombards unfortified towns and
villages, killing hundreds of innocent women and children, should be
destroyed; that a Government which torpedoes unarmed passenger ships,
drowning helpless men, women, and children by the thousand in shameful
defiance of law and every instinct of humanity, should be destroyed;
that a Government which in cold blood executes a woman nurse like Miss
Cavell should be destroyed; that a Government which ruthlessly destroys
works of art and monuments of civilisation and levies crushing
indemnities on captured cities, in defiance of the well-established laws
of war, should be destroyed. In the opinion of Americans, a Government
which did any one of these things would not be fit to exist in a
civilised world. A Government which has done all of them and much more
that is equally barbarous and brutal, must, in the opinion of the
American people, be utterly destroyed.

Americans hoped for many long years that the German people would
themselves throw off the incubus of the military Government which was
crushing out their individuality and making their country an object of
distrust and fear to all those interested in the progress of
civilisation; but if you will not rid yourselves of the monster which
has dishonoured and disgraced you before the world, then, in American
opinion, the safety of the world and the future of Germany require that
the present German Government shall be destroyed through military
defeat. For this reason the American people are praying earnestly for
Allied victory. While there is a sincere effort to maintain the
technical neutrality enjoined by the President, there is no neutrality
possible on the moral issues involved. Americans may not violate the
neutrality of the nation by giving concerted military support to the
Allies; but they are practically unanimous in giving their whole moral
support to the nations engaged in the necessary task of destroying the
monstrosity of Prussian militarism. Every aid which they can render the
Allies without violating national neutrality is being given, not because
they do not admire the German people, but because the destruction of the
present German Government is regarded as the essential first step in
enabling the German people to return to the place of honour they once
held in the world. Americans would regard ultimate German victory as an
intolerable disaster to civilisation; and they will never be satisfied
until the German armies are decisively defeated. They believe that the
ultimate defeat of Germany is assured, and that the least suffering will
result to the German people if they will themselves repudiate the
Government which brought upon them their present sufferings, and will
start anew with a modern Government responsible to the will of the

Sincerely yours,


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