August 1915—March 1916
By mid-1915, the US found it increasingly difficult to maintain its status as the world's most powerful neutral nation. It cited the British as violating international laws when they attacked a German U-27 submarine and seized several American cargos, although Wall Street approved a $500 million Anglo-Franco loan to pay for the Allies' continuing war contracts. Meanwhile, America's relations with the Central Powers were further strained by the Turks' execution of thousands of Armenian civilians as well as indiscriminate German U-boat attacks and various cases of sabotage and other covert activities involving Germans. The heightened international tension brought about new attempts for peace negotiations, with automobile manufacturer Henry Ford the most prominent crusader. In December 1915, Wilson instructed Colonel House to put diplomatic pressure on Britain to modify its blockade and on Germany to stop its submarine warfare in exchange for some indemnities and concessions. Much to the dismay of pacifist and progressive Americans, however, Wilson began to soften his antiwar stance and look toward building up the country's military preparedness. He made this the underlying theme of his annual speech in December 1915 and launched a ten-day campaign to promote his military agenda the following month.
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