Tic-tac, Its peace must be planted upon the
Tic-tac, clickety-clack-clack went the typewriter as Arthur Zimmermann’s sly fingers flew across the keys. His telegram, now commonly known as the Zimmermann Telegram reads, “We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral.” That second sentence is ironic, because the Zimmermann Telegram was the exact thing that compelled the USA to join the war. After the first world war, which raged from 1914-1918, the question arose: Did President Wilson err by failing to protect civil liberties during World War I? President Wilson was, in fact, mistaken. No matter how right or wrong a leader is, citizens of a nation should always be able to express their opinions. Furthermore, Wilson himself was hypocritical in condemning German anti-democracy. Lastly, people of a nation need a voice in their country, especially during times of war. It doesn’t matter whether opinions are right or wrong. It matters that all people are given equal opportunities to pronounce them. Voltaire is famous for asserting, “‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'” He was reminding America that free speech is what matters, whatever the words may be. Regardless of accuracy, voicing of opinions should not be restricted. The First Amendment clearly states, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” “No law” means no law. Therefore, restricting civil liberties during a war is unconstitutional. People anywhere, specifically Americans, should not be confined to say or publish what the leaders of the nation think. They should be granted the permission to disclose what they think. Not only did President Woodrow Wilson restrict civil liberties, but he denounced other nations for doing so. He pressed, “‘The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.'” This quote infers Wilson’s opinions that Germany’s militarism is a threat to democracy. Wait a minute. Wasn’t Wilson the one impeding political liberty? His love for democracy seems to be more of a love for the people who use democracy to agree with him. Democracy however, is a system represented by all citizens eligible to vote. A well-known poster initiated by Alice Paul during the suffrage movement displays the words, “Kaiser Wilson.” This powerful message was intended to declare that the President of the USA was really no different than the German emperor. He claimed that his country was different from the rest, justly ensuring democracy for the people. The problem was, democracy isn’t democracy if it’s not for everyone. In a time when many might have viewed speaking out as disloyal, representation was actually more important than ever. People for the defense of President Wilson might argue Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s point when he opined, “‘When a nation is at war many things which might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its efforts that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight . . . No court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.'” However, this opinion is not valid. During World War 1, the government and their opinions, whether right or wrong, were everywhere. Propaganda, regulation of production of goods, food rationing and more made their way into everyone’s life. With all of this going on, people needed to be able to exercise their civil liberties, so that the government couldn’t become a dictator. President Woodrow Wilson was mistaken in forsaking the civil liberties guaranteed to the people during World War 1. He denied rights provided by the First Amendment, was hypocritical in criticizing other nations, and failed to see that American voices are necessary during war. Ultimately, in a country where democracy is assured, rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of press cannot be taken away. When they are, democracy is no longer democracy.