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Nothing Less Than WarA New History of Americas Entry into World War I$
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Justus D. Doenecke

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813130026

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813130026.001.0001

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Preparedness Debates and the Presidential Election

Preparedness Debates and the Presidential Election

March—November 1916

(p.188) 7 Preparedness Debates and the Presidential Election
Nothing Less Than War

Justus D. Doenecke

University Press of Kentucky

When the US realized that peace negotiations were going nowhere, attempts to improve the country's military preparedness intensified. In Congress, legislators debated a number of proposals that sought to increase the strength of the regular army, federalize the National Guard, and raise an army of thousands of volunteer men. After much deliberation, Congress passed the Hay–Chamberlain bill, which was signed into law by Wilson on June 3. In a meeting with anti-preparedness advocates, Wilson was quoted as saying: “In the last analysis, the peace of society is backed by force.” In August, Wilson signed another bill that contained by far the largest naval budget in the nation's history. To finance the new military expenditures, Congress passed a revenue bill that raised the income tax on upper brackets and added inheritance and munitions taxes. With the national elections coming, Republican leaders used the preparedness issue to criticize Wilson's foreign policy. In Wilson's defense, the Democrats harped on the peace theme, arguing that despite several international crises, Wilson had successfully kept the country out of war. With his reelection in November, Wilson was free to pursue his goal of mediating between the belligerent nations and ending the Great War.

Keywords:   World War I, peace negotiations, American foreign policy, preparedness, Hay–Chamberlain bill, 1916 elections, Wilson reelection

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