U.S. To Go to War With Germany,
House and Senate Say Yes to War.
President Signs War Declaration.
Special to The Great War Project
(6 April) – For two days round-the-clock, members of the House and Senate are debating a resolution that would bring the United States into the war against Imperial Germany.
The Senate begins its deliberation at 11 at night on April 5th and finally votes for war the next morning,
Then the House takes up the war declaration, just as news reaches the U.S. that another American ship is sunk by a German submarine. At that point, writes historian Margaret Wagner, “The momentum for war seemed unstoppable, even though many were torn.”
There was “something in the air,” said one lawmaker, “forcing us to vote for this declaration of war…
“…when away down deep in our hearts we are just as opposed to it as are our people back home.”
Many members of Congress vote against the war declaration. Those opposed include Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first female member of the House of Representatives.
With tears in her eyes, reports historian Wagner, “Rankin said “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.”
Nevertheless, the war resolution passes in the House 373 to 50, at 3:12 a.m. on April 6th, precisely one hundred years ago.
President Woodrow Wilson signs the declaration at one-eighteen that afternoon.
The United States is now at war with Germany.
You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the Allies, writes Wagner. But the American people are much divided. Reports Wagner, “Americans absorbed the news with confusion and conflicting emotions.”
“The evening of April 6th in New York, as the Metropolitan Opera ended a performance of Tosca by leading the audience in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” police raided an antiwar meeting that they said “bordered on treason.”
“There could be no doubt,” writes historian Martin Gilbert, “about the potential impact of America’s troops on the battlefield. At least a million at first, in due course more than three million, were to be under training in the United States.”
“But it would clearly be a long time, at least a year, and possibly more, before the vast apparatus of recruitment, training, transportation across the Atlantic, and supply once in France, could be mastered.”
At this moment in the Great War a century ago, it is not at all clear what impact the vote in Congress and the signature of President Wilson would have on this terrible conflict the likes of which have never before been seen in human history.