Woodrow Wilson to Augustus Octavius Bacon




Woodrow Wilson writes to Augustus O. Bacon regarding the rights of American citizens travelling abroad or on the border.


Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Washington, District of Columbia


My dear Senator

I have conscientiously tried to reconstruct the enclosed resolution in such a way as to relieve it of the implication which it obviously carries. That implication is that the rights of American citizens on the border and in foreign countries are not being diligently or properly safeguarded by the Government of the United States, and that is, of course, not the case.
The resolution involves an entirely untenable position. American citizens can not have “constitutional” rights outside their own country. They can have only international rights, the rights guaranteed them by international law. These rights do not include, as we were agreeing the other day, the right of the American Government to enter a foreign territory in order to protect property, or even, except in certain unusual circumstances, to protect life. To do so would be a declaration of war or, at the least, an intervention with armed force. The Government of the United States has the right, on the other hand, to hold every foreign government strictly responsible for its violation of international law in every respect with regard to American citizens, and the present government will certainly be diligent to do that. I think that the Democratic members of the Senate can safely vote against this resolution or any resolution equivalent to it as involving a virtual impeachment of the faithfulness of the present administration.
If I could have reconstructed it to mean anything else, I would gladly have done so.

Woodrow Wilson


Hon. AO Bacon,
United States Senate.

Original Format





Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Woodrow Wilson to Augustus Octavius Bacon,” 1913 July 24, WWP17887, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.