Wilson on the Sussex Case

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19 April, 1916
Wilson on the Sussex Case


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United States, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., House Document 1034.

President Wilson's remarks before Congress concerning the German attack


on the unarmed Channel steamer Sussex on March 24, 1916.



...I have deemed it my duty, therefore, to say to the Imperial German

Government, that if it is still its purpose to prosecute relentless and

indiscriminate warfare against vessels of commerce by the use of

submarines, notwithstanding the now demonstrated impossibility of

conducting that warfare in accordance with what the Government of the

United States must consider the sacred and indisputable rules of

international law and the universally recognized dictates of humanity,

the Government of the United States is at last forced to the conclusion


that there is but one course it can pursue; and that unless the Imperial

German Government should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment

of its present methods of warfare against passenger and freight carrying

vessels this Government can have no choice but to sever diplomatic

relations with the Government of the German Empire altogether.

This decision I have arrived at with the keenest regret; the possibility of

the action contemplated I am sure all thoughtful Americans will look

forward to with unaffected reluctance. But we cannot forget that we are in

some sort and by the force of circumstances the responsible spokesmen of

the rights of humanity, and that we cannot remain silent while those

rights seem in process of being swept utterly away in the maelstrom of

this terrible war. We owe it to a due regard to our own rights as a nation,

to our sense of duty as a representative of the rights of neutrals the

world over, and to a just conception of the rights of mankind to take

this stand now with the utmost solemnity and firmness....


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