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War with Austria-Hungary, A Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson, December 11, 1917

Existence of War – Austro-Hungarian Empire

New York State Archives, NYSA_A4234-78_B2_F23_War
Document Description
A proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson acknowledging war with Austria-Hungary, December 11, 1917. In this document, Wilson proclaims that a state of war exists between the U.S. and Austria Hungary. He asks that all civil and military officers "exercise vigilance and zeal in the discharge of the duties incident to such a state of war" and that the American people uphold the laws of the land and give their support to the war effort.President Woodrow Wilson's acknowledgment of war with Austria-Hungary. In this last part of the document Wilson provides public safety regulations, such as not allowing Austro-Hungarian citizens living in the U.S. who are over the age of 14 to leave the U.S. without a court order or permit from the President.
What is a defensive alliance?
What goal did many European powers have when creating alliances?
Who were the major members of the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente?
If the United States was angry with Germany because of submarine attacks and the Zimmermann Telegram, why did President Wilson declare war on Austria-Hungary?
In addition to declaring war on Austria-Hungary, name two other restrictions this document places on people of Austro-Hungarian background.
Historical Challenges
If you were a leader of a European power in the years leading up to World War I, would you join an alliance? What positive and negative arguments would you use to support your choice?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English: Divide into two groups. Each group is part of a panel of advisors to a European ruler in the early 1900s. Each group is assigned to either persuade or dissuade the ruler from joining an alliance. After each group researches and prepares statements, the teacher serves as moderator for a well-ordered mock-debate.
Allan, Tony. The Causes of World War I. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003.


About this Activity


Lesson Topic:

Historical Context
One of the main causes that led to the start of World War I was the complex alliances between many European countries.  As militarism and nationalism were on the rise, many countries began to fear attacks from their neighbors.  As a result, some countries formed defensive alliances.  A defensive alliance was a pact between two or more countries in which each member of the alliance promised to come to the aid of another in case of an attack. Many European powers created alliances in hopes of preventing war.  In short, since an attack on one ally was considered an attack on all members of that alliance, the goal of alliances was to make war so risky that no country would want to begin a war.

Two of the major alliances at the time of World War I were the Dual (later, Triple) Alliance and the Triple Entente.  The Dual Alliance was a defensive agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary created in 1879.  In 1882, Italy also joined the pact, and the Triple Alliance of the Central Powers was formed.  In response, Great Britain, France, and Russia formed their own alliance, the Triple Entente, in 1907.  When the war began, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies became known as the Central Powers, and the members of the Entente were called the Allied Powers.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, it fought alongside the Allied Powers.  Germany and Austria-Hungary were two countries that became enemies of the United States.  The document above is American President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war upon Austria-Hungary.
Essential Question
Why are nations far removed from regional conflicts drawn into war?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of the president's proclamation and explain why this proclamation was necessary.