June 21, 1915
Theodore Roosevelt Blames Woodrow Wilson for the Sinking of the Lusitania, Killing 1,198 people in May, 1915
On May 1, 1915, the Imperial German Embassy in Washington was good enough to run a notice in the shipping line advertisements of the New York Times informing transatlantic travelers that should they venture into the waters adjacent to the British Isles, they were liable to be killed. President Wilson, however, did not protest. That same day a German U-Boat off the coast of Sicily saw fit to torpedo an American oil tanker, the Gulflight, resulting in the loss of three American lives. Wilson, again, did not protest. It was not wise, he said, to discuss the Gulflight incident until the Government had all the facts. He was still gathering information when, on May 7th, a German U-Boat torpedoed and sank, fifteen miles off the coast of Ireland, the British luxury ocean liner RMS Luisitania, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. This time Wilson did protest – but that was all. “Americans must have a consciousness different from the consciousness of every other nation in the world,” he declared. “There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.” Roosevelt was apoplectic:
I do not believe that Wilson was right on the Lusitania matter. Had he acted with reasonable firmness in the Gulflight business the thousand men, women and children who were murdered on the Lusitania on the high seas would be alive today.
Typed Letter Signed, 1 page, quarto, Oyster Bay, Long Island [New York], June 21, 1915. To John Lorimer in Philadelphia.