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A resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 22, 1916, requesting the President to ask all Americans to refrain from traveling upon belligerent, that is to say British merchant ships, and warning them that they did so at their own peril and that, by doing so, they forfeited the protection of the United States. The passage of such a resolution would have embarrassed the Administration in its negotiations with Germany, which denied this right to Americans; and a very considerable vote for this resolution would have shown a division on this subject and would have been unfortunate, as indicating a division of opinion on foreign policy, in which and about which the American people should be a unit. Therefore the President wrote the following letter to bring the matter to the test of a vote in the Congress.
MY DEAR MR. POU:
Inasmuch as I learn that Mr. Henry, the chairman of the Committee on Rules, is absent in Texas, I take the liberty of calling your attention, as ranking member of the committee, to a matter of grave concern to the country which can, I believe, be handled, under the rules of the House, only by that committee.
The report that there are divided counsels in Congress in regard to the foreign policy of the Government is being made industrious use of in foreign capitals. I believe that report to be false, but so long as it is anywhere credited it cannot fail to do the greatest harm and expose the country to the most serious risks. I therefore feel justified in asking that your committee will permit me to urge an early vote upon the resolutions with regard to travel on armed merchantmen
1 On this subject see the memorandum transmitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, March 4, 1916. Appendix, pp. 361-374.
which have recently been so much talked about, in order that there may be afforded an immediate opportunity for full public discussion and action upon them and that all doubts and conjectures may be swept away and our foreign relations once more cleared of damaging misunderstandings.
The matter is of so grave importance and lies so clearly within the field of Executive initiative that I venture to hope that your committee will not think that I am taking an unwarranted liberty in making this suggestion as to the business of the House; and I very earnestly commend it to their immediate consideration. Cordially and sincerely, yours,