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Weston Willingham

Mr. Brandon Rader


Pre-DP World History
12 November 2014
The Difficulty of American Neutrality
As World War one progressed, the president of the United States of the period, Woodrow
Wilson was having trouble keeping the United States a neutral nation. Wilson urged citizens of
the United States to be impartial in thought as well as action because [t]he people of the
United States are drawn from many nations, many of which involved in the war (Wilson,
Woodrow). Wilson thought it necessary for the people of the United States to be impartial, but
he took this challenge with serious burdens involved. While pushing to remain a neutral nation,
the United States was economically burdened as many trade routes were altered or stopped as
trade with hostile foreign nations became increasingly difficult. Also, Wilson had trouble trying
to remain neutral because Germany violated international rules of warfare as the United States
was a signatory of these rules (Spring-Rice, Cecil). Wilson encountered international troubles
and roadblocks as it became more difficult for the United States to stay neutral in World War
One.
One result of the United States difficulties with neutrality was that American trade ships
received impediments that constricted the free market between them and Europe. On a national
level, United States trade ships were required to implement specific requirements regarding the
armament of ships trading with belligerent nations (US Department of State).

These

requirements forced American ships to lack any threat to foreign nation by [carrying] small
guns and arms... few in number (US Department of State). By forcing trade ships to perform
such tasks, like [carrying] passengers... unfitted to enter military, these trade ships became safe
to trade with other nations, so that hostile nations did not fear the United States joining the war
(US Department of State). This greatly impeded the United States trading patterns. American

merchant ships were now required to meet specific requirements set forth by the government.
Consequently, these requirements did not make the United States merchants ships invincible to
hostile threats. These ships were still subject to His Majestys Government seizing American
ships on high seas (Bryan, Secretary of State). All of these factors made it more troublesome for
Woodrow Wilson to remain a neutral nation.
The Germans also were giving Wilson a reason to not be a neutral nation. Wilson had
trouble dealing with that fact that the German military was ignoring international rules of
warfare. These laws were kept precious to the United States, as the United States were
signatories [to these] rules of warfare (Spring-Rice, Cecil). Germany violated these rules on
multiple occasions, one of which was when they sunk a passenger boat the Lusitania, on May 17,
1915, where over 100 Americans lost their lives (PRFA). This attack went against
international warfare laws, killing civilians caught in the crossfire. German attacks like this
became frequent events. In addition to the Lusitania, the Sussex was sunken in a similar manner
by German U-boats (Wilson, Woodrow). German acts of hostility even forced Wilson to threaten
Germany that they would end diplomatic relations (Wilson, Woodrow). Hostile acts of
Germany gave President Wilson a hard time made becoming a neutral nation more of an
inconvenience.
It was not easy for President Woodrow Wilson to keep the United States a neutral nation
during World War One. Both trade impediments and German belligerence caused the United
States to consider whether it was better or worse for them to be involved in the war going on.
The pressure was on Woodrow Wilson as a leader because he led the most powerful nation in the
world during a world war. It was an act of greatness that he could nullify any hostile actions
against the United States and stay so neutral during a time of war raging around the planet.
President Woodrow Wilson dealt with the troubles of his decision-making and peacefully led the

country through a tremulous period where many lives were at stake.

Works Cited
Bryan, Secretary of State. Letter to Walter Hines Page. 26 Dec. 1926. MS. N.p.
Instructions from the U.S. Department of State regarding the Arming of Merchant Ships
Registered to Nations at War (1914). Print.
"PRFA, 1915, Supplement: The World War, Pp. 393-396." N.p., n.d. Web.
Spring-Rice, Cecil, Sir. "U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryans Thoughts on the War."
Letter to Sir Arthur Nicholson. 13 Nov. 1914. MS. N.p.
Wilson, Woodrow. "President Wilson's Declaration of Neutrality." 19 Aug. 1914. Speech.

Wilson, Woodrow. "Wilsons Remarks to Congress regarding Germanys Attack on the Sussex."
19 Apr. 1916. Address.