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Their own allegiance and be free of masters

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their own allegiance and be free of masters altogether."112 [End Page 133]Wilson initially defined the United States in terms of a distance from the war, a friendship for allthe nations involved, and a pacific duty to mankind. At this time he did not discriminate betweenthe belligerents, placing them all upon the same high moral plane and discussing the outbreakof the war as the release of blind material forces. Repeated German-American crises oversubmarine warfare provoked a changing definition of the war and diverging images of theAmerican "self" and the German "other." Following German attacks on the Lusitania, the Arabic,and the Sussex, Wilson came to implicitly redefine the German government as an enemy ofboth the United States and mankind, so far as it pursued a policy that not only involved theviolation of the essential principles of international law and the [End Page 138] dictates ofhumanity, but also involved a growing American death toll. In parallel with a developing image ofthe German government as a violator of the rights of mankind, Wilson began to redefine theUnited States as a champion of such rights, or more precisely as a champion of an Americanconception of such rights as including the right to political liberty.In Wilson's war rhetoric the idea of liberty specifically, rather than the rights of mankind ingeneral, became central to the image of both Germany and the United States. The "other" thatwas the German government was explicitly transformed into an evil enemy of the United Statesand all mankind, one guilty of starting the war in an effort to gain global domination and usher inan age of oppression and tyranny. At the same time the United States was defined as theinternational champion of liberty, an agent of the divine serving mankind as it once served itselfin its fight for independence, by taking up arms against a tyranny that threatened to master anddebase humanity. Wilson's definition of what America stood for was inextricably linked to hisdefinition of what it stood against.
From such a general characterization of the nature of autocracies Wilson went on tospecifically discuss German intrigue in the United States, using it to reinforce hischaracterization of the German government as an enemy of the United States. Wilson said itwas evident that German spies had been in the United States even before the war and that their"criminal intrigues" against American peace, industry, and commerce had been carried out "atthe instigation, with the support, and even under the personal direction of official agents of theImperial Government accredited to the Government of the United States."105 Wilson arguedthat such facts served to convince America that the German government "entertains no realfriendship for us and means to act against our peace and security at its convenience."106Wilson said the Zimmermann telegram was "eloquent evidence" that the German government"means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors."107Wilson discussed the hostile purpose revealed in the Zimmermann telegram not only as a

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Term
Fall
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Tags
Woodrow Wilson, World War I, World War II, President Woodrow Wilson, German government

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