Wilson on the Sussex Case
19 April, 1916
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
German Government should now immediately declare and effect an
of its present methods of warfare against passenger and freight
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....