Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

President Woodrow Wilson’s Declaration of War on the Austro-Hungarian Empire

<December 11, 1917>

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(EXISTENCE OF WAR.....AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE)

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION.

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WHEREAS the Congress of the United States in the exercise of the constitutional authority vested in them have resolved, by joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives bearing date of December 7th,1917 as follows:

     “Whereas the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarina [i.e. Hungarian] Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America:1 Therefore be it

     “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a state of war is hereby declared to exist between the United States of America and the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.”

     WHEREAS, by Sections four thousand and sixty-seven, four thousand and seventy, of the Revised Statutes, provision2 is made relative to natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of a hostile nation or government, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be in the United States and not actually naturalized;

     Now, Therefore, I Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim to all whom it may concern, that a state of war exists between the United States and the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government; and I do specially direct all officers, civil or military, of the United States that they exercise vigilance and zeal in the discharge of the duties incident to such a state of war; and I do, moreover, earnestly appeal to all American citizens that they, in loyal devotion to their country, dedicated from its foundation to the principles of liberty and justice, uphold the laws of the land, and give undivided and willing support to those measures which may be adopted by the constitutional authorities in prosecuting the war to a successful issue and in obtaining a secure and just peace;

     And, acting under and by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution of the United States and the aforesaid sections of the Revised Statutes, I do hereby further proclaim and direct that the conduct to be observed on the part of the United States towards all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of Austria-Hungary, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States and notactually naturalized, shall be as follows:

     All natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of Austria-Hungary, being males of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States and not actually naturalized, are enjoined to preserve the peace towards the United States and to refrain from crime against the public safety, and from violating the laws of the United States and of the States and Territories thereof, and to refrain from actual hostility or giving information, aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States, and to comply strictly with the regulations which are hereby or which may be from time to time promulgated by the President; and so long as they shall conduct themselves in accordance with law, they shall be undisturbed in the peaceful pursuit of their lives and occupations and be accorded the consideration due to all peaceful and law-abiding persons, except so far as restrictions may be necessary for their own protection and for the safety of the United States; and towards such of said persons as conduct themselves in accordance with law, all citizens of the United States are enjoined to preserve the peace and to treat them with all such friendliness as may be compatible with loyalty and allegiance to the United States.

     And all natives, citizens, denizens or [i.e. of] subjects or Austria-Hungary, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States and not actually naturalized, who fail to conduct themselves as so enjoined, in addition to all other penalties prescribed by law, shall be liable to restraint, or to give security, or to remove and depart from the United States in the manner prescribed by sections four thousand and sixty-nine and four thousand and seventy of the Revised Statutes, and as prescribed in regulations duly promulgated by the President;

     And pursuant to the authority vested in me, I hereby declare and establish the following regulations, which I find necessary in the premises and for the public safety:

(1) No native, citizen, denizen or subject of Austria-Hungary, being a male of the age of fourteen years and upwards and not actually naturalized, shall depart from the United States until he shall have received such permit as the President shall prescribe, or except under order of a court, judge, or justice, under Sections 4069 and 4070 of the Revised Statutes;

(2) No such person shall land in or enter the United States, except under such restrictions and at such places as the President may prescribe;

(3) Every such person of whom there may be reasonable cause to believe that he is aiding the enemy, or who may be at large to the danger of the public peace or safety, or who violates or attempts to violate, or of whom there is reasonable ground to believe that he is about to violate any regulation duly promulgated by the President, or any criminal law of the United States, or of the States or Territories thereof, will be subject to summary arrest by the United States Marshal, or his deputy, or such other officer as the President shall designate, and to confinement in such penitentiary, prison, jail, military camp, or other place of detention as may be directed by the President.

     This proclamation and the regulations herein contained shall extend and apply to all land and water, continental or insular, in any way within the jurisdiction of the United States.

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and cause the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done in the District of Columbia, this eleventh day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seventeen, and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-second.

(SEAL.)

Woodrow Wilson

By the President:

     Robert Lansing

          Secretary of State.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: The list included attacks on American convoys by Germans submarines based at Austro-Hungarian naval bases in the Mediterranean and, increasingly, by submarines belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson: 43.

Footnote 2: Sections 4067 and 4070 of the Revised Statues entitled the President sweeping powers over the deportation of enemy aliens and seizure of their property. John H. Wigmore, A Source-Book of Military Law and War-Time Legislation (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company, 1919), 644.

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