After World War I broke out over the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, American public opinion against both sides were unfavorable. Americans felt threatened by the German's colonial aggression in the Caribbean, while the British were frowned upon for the hunger blockade they were using against Germany. No matter the side they supported, Americans were nearly unanimous in saying that they did not want to get sucked into the European slaughterhouse. Five days after war was declared, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge reflected public opinion on the war in a speech to Congress, which he stated that "[America] will not send a million young men to their deaths to avenge the death of an Austrian prince. [America] will not enter a meaningless European war if America is in no danger from the irresponsible belligerents." Lodge's speech went down in history as the Lodge Doctrine, or the Lodge Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Lodge was praised for protecting the rights and the lives of hardworking Americans and quickly became the most popular man in the United States, much to the dismay of his arch rival, Woodrow Wilson.
The Lusitania Incident
The Sinking of The Lusitania
Tragedy struck on May 7th, 1915, when the British Ocean Liner RMS Lusitania struck a British anti-ship mine which drifted away from the English Channel blockade. The ship sunk, killing 1198 of the people aboard, including 128 Americans. The British attempted to pin the accident on a German U-boat attack, while the Germans condemned the British for their dangerous blockade. Woodrow Wilson sided with the British side of the story, even though American specialists confirmed that a mine had struck the ship. US citizens condemned both sides for their dangerous actions, and demanded that Congress act to prevent future crises such as the Lusitania. Congress passed the Neutrality Acts of 1915 a month later. The three-part Neutrality Acts would be largely successful in keeping America out of the Great War.
Wilson and the Open Seas Act
President Wilson, however, wanted American entry into World War I. Wilson wanted to partake in combat in order to establish a peace based on his Fourteen Points, believing that, as a neutral nation, America could only "call through a crack in the door" at the peace conventions once either side won. Wilson, therefore, went over the attempted to ram through Congress the Open Seas Act of 1916 in early March. The Act called for freedom of the seas to all Americans, cancelling the First Clause of the Neutrality Acts, and would immediately declare war, without congressional approval, on any power that defied the act, which would have most likely been Germany. He ordered supportive Democrats in the White House to pass the bill, confident the passage would be successful. However, the more conservative Southern Democrats, whom Wilson publicly denounced as "obstructionist" and "solid-headed", finally had enough and rebelled against Wilson. Republicans and the "Solidhead" Democrats forcefully struck down the bill, and the public became outraged at Wilson's attempted warping of the Constitution.
After Wilson's fiasco with the open seas act, Congress saw that Wilson and his idealism was a threat to the American system of government, and his attempted abuse of power was sufficient to impeach Wilson. Despite a significant block of pro-Wilsonian Democrats, Republicans, Solidhead Democrats, and other Democrats disenchanted by Wilson's abuse of power bound together to overwhelmingly vote to impeach Wilson. The trial stretched on for weeks, and it seemed as if it Wilson would be acquitted. Suddenly, Wilson, trudging through a stressful impeachment case and plagued by the abuses showered on him by angry Americans, suffered a stroke and became so ill that he could not attend his own trial. Wilson's stroke was enough to convince pro-Wilsonian Senators that Wilson should be removed from office. With a vote of 93-3, Wilson was removed from office. Thomas R. Marshall took over the presidency, but the follies of Wilson's presidency assured he would not get elected in his own right.
The War Ends
Meanwhile, World War I stayed frozen in a stalemate until the Russians surrendered under the Treaty of Brest-Livotsk. With the knowledge that the US would not enter on behalf of the Allies, Germany massed their soldiers for a final attack on France. On June 21st, 1918, Germans made a massive push towards the port city of Dunkirk in brutal fighting that inflicted major losses on both sides. After two months of fighting, Germans swung around from Dunkirk and assaulted Paris. Paris was overrun on August 23rd, and France officially surrendered to Germany two days later. Britain officially surrendered the next day, and the Great War ended with a German victory. The spoils of victory were impressive. Kaiser Wilhelm had doubled the size of Germany with the edition of the Brest-Livotsk land, the Low Countries, and the Northern half of France. Despite this, the casualties were even greater due to the final push on Paris and continued partisan strife which would last for nearly a decade. Final death tolls amounted to a staggering twenty million dead, with twice that number wounded or maimed. Europe would take years to recover from the deadly conflict.
After the smoke cleared over Europe, the true extent of the damage was revealed. The fighting had devastated much of Europe and half of the population of Europe was starving. Farmland in Europe was either wrecked or over-farmed, and it became apparent that even with the help of colonial foodstuffs, European nations would not be able to feed themselves. If the food in Europe was a problem, however, then the economy was in even greater ruin. Germany had forced the defeated Allies to pay reparations that created rampaging inflation, which had made the starvation in Europe much worse. The reparations had unforeseen events when Italy used its former alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary to extract money to assist the Allies in paying the reparations. The Roman Destruction, as it was later named, spread the runaway inflation to Germany as well and permanently ruined the European economy. Europe had sunken into a quagmire of economic ruin and starvation that seemed inescapable.