The United States' geographic separation from the European and Asian continents historically made it easy for presidents to advocate a policy of non-intervention in the conflicts of other nations. President Wilson was following the example of presidents going back to Washington and Jefferson, who cautioned against becoming involved in the affairs of other countries. In his Farewell Address, President Washington counseled, "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world."
President Wilson openly worked to attempt to lead in negotiating a peaceful settlement between warring European nations while keeping the United States out of the conflict. When a German U-boat sank the British passenger ship Lusitania, drowning 128 Americans among the passengers, President Wilson demanded that the Germans stop attacking passenger ships but continued to resist calls for the United States to become directly involved in the fighting.