Germany Receives Latest American Armistice Conditions
October 15 1918, Berlin–Since Germany’s armistice appeal and apparent acceptance of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, a series of notes had been exchanged across the Atlantic between the American and German governments, with Wilson attempting to get a firm commitment from the Germans. On October 15, the Germans received a second note from Secretary of State Lansing on behalf of the President. It stressed that the Allies were winning in the field, and that any armistice must “provide absolutely satisfactory safeguards and guarantees of the present military supremacy of the United States and of the Allies in the field.” It demanded that Germany stop its unrestricted submarine warfare; the Germans had not given any signs so far of stopping on this front. On the 10th, sunk the passenger vessel Leinster in the Irish Sea, killing over 500 British and American civilians.
The United States also refused to consider an armistice as long as the Germans continued scorched earth tactics in the occupied territories of France and Flanders from which they were now retreating. Finally, the note reminded Germany that their acceptance of the Fourteen Points and associated statements meant that they were committed to “the destruction of every arbitrary power anywhere that can separately, secretly, and of its single choice disturb the peace of the world,” and that the “power which has hitherto controlled the German nation” was one such arbitrary power. While vague on specifics, the implication was clear–the military would have to be made subordinate to the people, and the Kaiser’s power would have to be reduced to that of a constitutional monarch.
The Kaiser was outraged by the note, calling it “a piece of unmitigated frivolous nonsense” in a letter to the new chancellor, Prince Max. “You must use it to arouse the entire people to rally round their emperor in defense of their sacred heritage, just as the government must stand shoulder to shoulder behind him. This impudent intervention in our political affairs must be exposed to all.” Prince Max, however, knew that the war was lost, and was determined, at the very least, to draft a conciliatory reply.
Sources include: Robert B. Asprey, The German High Command at War; David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall.