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Sovereignty at SeaU.S. Merchant Ships and American Entry into World War I$
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Rodney Carlisle

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813037622

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813037622.001.0001

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The Voyage of the Vigilancia

The Voyage of the Vigilancia

(p.9) 1 The Voyage of the Vigilancia
Sovereignty at Sea

Rodney Carlisle

University Press of Florida

The merchant ship Vigilancia was sunk without warning on March 16, 1917, while bound for Britain with a cargo containing contraband of war. Most of the seamen escaped with their lives, but fifteen drowned, including six American citizens. Although this was not the first ship sunk under the German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, it was the first which clearly violated the American view of international law, and the first under that policy in which American citizens had been killed. Although the loss of life was light, the cumulative effect of three ship losses on the same weekend convinced Wilson's cabinet to recommend war. The failure of historians to focus on these precipitating events was partly due to Wilson's own decision to choose more idealistic grounds when asking Congress to declare war.

Keywords:   Vigilancia, cabinet, contraband, declaration of war

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