On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stood before a joint session of Congress and asked for a Declaration of War against Germany in order to make the world “safe for democracy.” Six senators and fifty congressmen voted against going to war, but the majority agreed with the president's commitment to join the Allies. At that point, America had made the decision to engage itself in one of the deadliest and most atrocious battles in human history. When the war in Europe started in 1914, the president had originally announced a policy of neutrality. At the time, American antiwar sentiments was high and therefore, most of the public agreed with the president's neutral stance. However, a series of events between the years 1914 and 1917 would soon change the minds of many Americans from one of peace to one of war. What caused this massive shift in American opinion? Why would America get involved in such a dreadful conflict? What were the arguments made to stay out the war? What were the arguments made to enter the war?


Describe America's initial position towards the war when it first started. Explain the events that persuaded America to involve itself in the conflict. What arguments did antiwar supporters make against joining the war? How did pro-war supporters finally convince the majority of Americans to support their country's involvement?

Background and Context

President Wilson's Declaration of Neutrality [ link ]

American Entry into World War I, 1917 [ link ]

Chief Events of the War Timeline: 1914-1919 [ link ]


Opposition to President Wilson's War Message – Speech by Senator George W. Norris [ link ]

Opposition to President Wilson's War Message – Speech by Robert M. LaFollette [ link ]

Article: World War I, at home and in the trenches [ link ]

The Canton, Ohio speech by Eugene V. Debs [ link ]

The War and the Intellectuals: Randolph Bourne Vents His Animus Against War [ link ]

“I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier”: Singing Against the War [ link ]


Making the World “Safe for Democracy”: Woodrow Wilson Asks for War [ link ]

Newspaper Article: President Calls for War Declaration, Stronger Navy, New Army of 500,000 Men, Full Co-operation With Germany's Foes [ link ]

War Is “a Blessing, Not a Curse”: The Case for Why We Must Fight [ link ]

Four Minute Men: Volunteer Speeches During World War I [ link ]

Song Lyrics: "When the Lusitania Went Down" [ link ]

WWI Songs [ video 1 ] [ video 2 ] [ video 3 ]

Image: "Enlist," by Fred Spear [ link ]

American World War I Posters - Armed Forces Recruitment / Home-front Efforts [ link ]

Supplemental Reading

Events and Statistics [ link ]

The Increasing Power of Destruction: Military Technology in World War I [ link ]

U-Boat warfare at the Atlantic in WW1 [ link ]

German Discussions Concerning Unrestricted Submarine Warfare [ link ]

Image: Lusitania warning [ link ]

Article: The Lusitania Disaster [ link ]

NY Times Newspaper Article – Lusitania [ link ]

London Newspaper Article: Lusitania [ link ]

U.S. Protest Over the Sinking of the Lusitania , 13 May 1915 [ link ]

Second U.S. Protest Over the Sinking of the Lusitania , May 1915 [ link ]

Third U.S. Protest Over the Sinking of the Lusitania , 21 July 1915 [ link ]

British Law Courts Review of the Sinking of the Lusitania , 7 May 1915 [ link ]

German Government's Response to the Sinking of the Lusitania , 28 May 1915 [ link ]

Teaching With Documents: The Zimmermann Telegram [ link ]

Arthur Zimmermann on the Zimmermann Telegram, 29 March 1917 [ link ]

GERMAN WWI Propaganda [ link ]