During World War I, the issue of neutral rights on the seas plagued America’s foreign relations. One of the German justifications for its shoot-on-sight policy was the fragile U-boat’s vulnerability to armed vessels. To deal with this problem, in early 1916, Lansing proposed a modus vivendi: if the Allies agreed to disarm their merchant ships, the Germans would agree not to attack such vessels without warning and without protecting the safety of civilians. In effect, the submarine would act as a surface cruiser and observe the established rules of naval warfare.

Unwilling to surrender what they considered to be a right to arm surface vessels, the British rejected the proposal. Lansing quickly dropped the modus vivendi proposal. Unfortunately, he had opened a Pandora’s box. In explaining it to the German government, Lansing had implied that the American government regarded Allied armed merchant vessels as warships. This had been the Germans’ position all along, and they seized on the opening the Americans had created. The Germans informed the Americans that their U-boats would resume attacks on armed merchant vessels without prior warning.

These events alarmed the pacifists. The Wilson administration, by dropping the modus vivendi, seemed to be saying that it accepted the British position that armed merchant vessels were not warships. If this were so, then by the administration’s interpretation, Americans would have the right to travel on such vessels. Since the Germans now intended to attack them on sight, Wilson was almost guaranteeing a collision with Germany. To avoid such a confrontation, Representative Jeff Lars and Senator Tom Gore introduced resolutions forbidding American travel on armed ships. Wilson interpreted this as a challenge to his leadership in foreign affairs and a surrender of American rights. “For my own part,” Wilson wrote the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “I cannot consent to any abridgment of the rights of American citizens in any respect. Once we accept a single abatement of rights, many other humiliations would certainly follow, and the whole fine fabric of international law might crumble in our hands.” Congress backed down and tabled the Gore-Lars resolutions. Wilson’s victory over Congress would later be viewed as a pivotal incident, since later attacks on U.S. shipping drew America into the war.

1. Which of the following is the main topic of the passage?

(A) the role of American diplomacy in enforcing international laws concerning sea travel
(B) how conflicts over control of the sea lanes helped lead to the outbreak of war
(C) the effects on international relations of internal political conflicts in the United States
(D) Wilson’s failure to accede in certain steps that could have prevented the United States’ involvement in war
(E) the disagreement between the Germans and the Allies over the arming of ships and how it helped draw the United States into war

Type: Main idea
(E) As the first sentence of the passage states, it is “the issue of neutral rights on the seas” that is mainly discussed in the passage. Choice (D) is too narrow: Wilson’s rejection of the Gore-Lars resolutions is not the primary subject of the passage, since it only comes up in one place in the passage. And do not be fooled by choice (B): World War I was already underway before the sequence of events discussed in this passage began, as is clear from the opening sentences, even if America had not yet entered it.

2. What is the primary purpose of the passage?
(A) to defend Wilson’s ideals and non-compliance with Germany
(B) to describe the US’s stance on naval warfare in WWI
(C) to argue that Wilson could have prevented war by giving in to Germany’s demands
(D) to compare the war strategies of the Germans and the Allies
(E) to trace a disagreement between Germany and the Allies and show how it drew the US into war

Type: Purpose of the passage
(E) The passage describes the conflict between Germany and America over neutral rights on the seas and then tells about the many players within the conflict and how their disagreement eventually led to America entering the war. (A) and (C) are both incorrect because the author does not express an opinion about Wilson either way. Thus there is no defense in Wilson’s favor or argument against his decision in the passage. (B) is incorrect because it is only part of the passage’s purpose. The important issue of conflict is left out of this answer choice. (D) also fails to acknowledge the conflict central to the passage. The choice is also too general; the passage doesn’t explore general war strategies; it only explores the one issue of neutral sea rights.

3. Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?

(A) A conflict is presented, followed by its final result and decisions based upon that result.
(B) A series of arguments is presented alongside the major players who created them.
(C) An event in history is described, followed by an examination of the decisions that led up to this event.
(D) A proposal is stated, followed by the reasons it should have been accepted.
(E) A conflict is explored, followed by a description of its major players, decisions, and eventual result.

Type: Organization of the passage
(E) The first paragraph discusses the neutral sea rights conflict between Germany and the Allies. Paragraph 2 details the events that led to later attacks, and paragraph 3 details the internal conflict within the US government to deal with the German proposal, ending in the US entering the war. Thus, the conflict is explored, followed by a description of its players, decisions and eventual result. (A) is incorrect because the final result (US entering WWI) is not presented until the last sentence of the passage. (B) is incorrect because all arguments in the passage are dealt with in the second and third paragraphs. The first paragraph is therefore left out of this choice. (C) is incorrect because it is backwards. The US entering the war comes last. The decisions that led to this result come first. (D) is incorrect because the author does not explain why the proposal should be accepted.

4. The author implies that U.S. involvement in the war was caused:

(A) mainly by British political pressure on the United States.
(B) chiefly by Wilson’s unwillingness to compromise his ideals.
(C) primarily by German belligerence.
(D) by a breakdown in international communications.
(E) largely by unplanned and unintentional actions.

Type: Inference
(B) The last paragraph discusses Wilson’s letter and more specifically his motivation (idealism) for sending that letter. The last sentence implies that Wilson’s refusal to accept the congressmen’s proposal left American civilian passengers vulnerable to German naval attacks, the consequences of which would later prompt America to enter the war. The author’s point here is that Wilson’s idealism helped draw the U.S. into the war, and choice (B) discusses this.

5. This passage most likely appeared in a:

(A) newspaper editorial
(B) naval history chronicle
(C) sociology article
(D) United States government text
(E) military instructional manual

Type: Category of Writing
(B) The focus of the passage is on neutral sea rights. The conflict ensues between the Allies and the Germans over this issue. Thus the passage is likely to appear in a place that deals with naval subject matter. (A) is wrong because if it were a journalistic article it would probably have a more contemporaneous perspective. Also, the passage deals with a historical period too long ago to be news-appropriate. (C) is wrong because the effect of individuals and their decisions is more important in this passage than the contributions of groups – sociology studies group behavior and social constructions. (D) is wrong because the topic is international relations, not how the American government functions internally. (E) is not likely either since a manual contains specific instructions, not a detailed historical account. (B) is the best choice.

6. It can be inferred from the passage that Lansing’s dropping of the modus vivendi proposal seemed to represent:

(A) a perceived reversal of the U.S. position on the status of armed merchant ships
(B) a rejection of the British position concerning the rights of merchant vessels
(C) an attempt to subsume the controversy under the general provisions of international law
(D) a tacit acceptance of the German shoot-on-sight policy
(E) an assertion of the right of the Allies to use merchant ships for the transportation of arms

Type: Inference
(A) In the middle of the second paragraph, we read that in presenting his modus vivendi proposal, Lansing implied that the American government had accepted the German view that armed merchant vessels were warships. Then, in the second sentence of paragraph 3, we read that by dropping the modus vivendi proposal, the Wilson administration seemed to be reverting to the British view on this question. Therefore, as choice (A) states, the United States seemed to be reversing its position. Many of the other choices have merit but none are as precise as choice (A).

7. According to the passage, the Gore-Lars resolutions were introduced in an attempt to:

(A) conciliate the British.
(B) avoid a confrontation with Germany.
(C) appease pro-pacifist sentiment.
(D) undercut the Allied bargaining position.
(E) assert the rights of U.S. citizens on the seas.

Type: Detail of the passage
(B) See the beginning of the fifth sentence of paragraph 3, where we read that Gore and Lars introduced their resolutions “to avoid such a confrontation” with Germany. There is no suggestion that the resolutions were introduced merely to placate those who opposed entry into the war; for this reason, choice (C) is wrong.

8. What does the author mean by “Lansing had opened a Pandora’s box”?

(A) The dismissal of Lansing’s proposal opened up an opportunity for the Germans to make more dangerous proposals.
(B) Germans perceived the American dismissal of Lansing’s proposal as an opening to attack armed vessels.
(C) Lansing was misled by the Germans; he was used to create a false promise.
(D) Lansing’s proposal gave the Americans an excuse to attack Germany in self-defense.
(E) WWI was a dangerous time, and the Germans forced Lansing to instigate the first of many conflicts.

Type: Definition of a word or phrase
(B) The passage tells us that “Lansing had implied that the American government regarded Allied armed merchant vessels as warships. This had been the German position all along, and they eagerly seized on the opening the Americans had created.” Thus, the Pandora’s box was the start of German attacks. Lansing’s subtle misrepresentation of the facts was enough for the Germans to justify their position. (A) is incorrect because no further proposals are mentioned in the passage. (C) is incorrect because Lansing was not necessarily misled himself. There is no evidence to suggest that in the passage. (D) is incorrect because the Americans did not want to attack the Germans. (E) is incorrect because the Pandora’s box does not represent the entire war, just the German attacks. There is also no evidence that Germany planned to have Lansing be the instigator of their attacks.

9. According to the passage, the U-boat was

(A) a formidable weapon against any type of surface warship.
(B) relatively vulnerable to attack by surface vessels.
(C) clearly subject to the same international laws that governed surface warships.
(D) generally unable to inflict serious damage on large surface vessels.
(E) considered by the Allies as subject to attack without warning.

Type: Detail of the passage
(B) The second sentence of the passage refers to the “fragility” and “vulnerability” of the U-boat. (E) means that the Allies would attack the U-boats immediately upon seeing them. It is wrong because the question of shooting without warning discussed in the passage refers to attacks by U-boats, not against U-boats. (A) and (D) are not discussed in the passage. (C) is incorrect because, while Lansing’s proposal would have had the effect of making U-boats subject to the same rules as surface ships, U-boats were not already in that position. (B) is the best choice.

10. It can be inferred from the passage that Wilson regarded which of the following as most important?

(A) avoidance of U.S. involvement in war
(B) upholding the rights granted by international law
(C) suppression of congressional opposition
(D) protection of the lives of U.S. citizens
(E) maintenance of good relations between the United States and Britain

Type: Inference
(B) The quotation from Wilson’s letter in paragraph 3 is one piece of evidence for the correct answer here. Another is the fact that Wilson was evidently willing to risk a confrontation with Germany, and the risk of war that that entailed, in order to uphold the concept of international law. This fact helps eliminate choices (A) and (D). Though the passage states that Wilson interpreted the Gore-Lars resolutions as a challenge to his leadership in foreign affairs, it does not suggest that his primary motive in opposing the resolutions was to suppress congressional opposition (C). (E) might be true, but the relationship between America and Britain is not discussed in the quotation as a factor in Wilson’s decision.

11. For what reason does the author say that the dropping of the modus vivendi had alarmed the pacifists?

(A) to show that Wilson had few opponents
(B) to show that some disagreed with Wilson
(C) to show that peacemakers feared the Germans
(D) to show that not everyone was against Germany
(E) to show that America was in turmoil

Type: Function of a passage
(B) After the author makes this statement, he or she goes on to show that people feared that “Wilson was almost guaranteeing a collision with Germany.” Lars and Gore introduced resolutions to try to block Americans from traveling on these boats, showing that some people were fearful and doubted Wilson. (A) is incorrect, because the passage shows just the opposite to be true. (C) is incorrect because, although, this statement may be true, the function of this part of the passage is to show that Wilson’s decision was feared. (D) is incorrect because it is not stated in the passage. (E) is incorrect, because, again, though this statement may be true, it does not answer the question of why the author says that the pacifists were alarmed. The remainder of the paragraph discusses the actions of politicians who disagreed with Wilson, not turmoil.