Two Discomfiting Episodes
Ford’s private diplomacy seriously discredited the honest efforts of all proponents of neutral mediation, but the movement did not collapse entirely. While the Ford pilgrims were attempting to recruit prominent citizens from the European neutrals to serve as delegates for a private neutral conference, American devotees of the cause continued to promote the proposal at home. Advocates of neutral mediation would have two interviews with President Wilson in January. Before they could launch a new mediation campaign, however, they would confront two new issues that diverted their attention. The first was the question of military preparedness, which would result in a fierce public debate throughout the first half of 1916. No sooner was the issue being resolved in Congress than peace advocates confronted a crisis over military incidents on the nation’s southern border that threatened war with Mexico. To the peace proponents, the outcome of the preparedness debate would have serious implications for the future foreign policy of the republic, while the Mexican crisis would provide a practical test of their faith in the efficacy of mediation as an alternative to war.