Despite its neutral status during the first two and a half years of the war, the United States early on cast a substantial shadow over the conduct of the conflict. Although President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 asked Americans to maintain a genuine feeling of neutrality, to be "impartial in fact as well as name," he himself, like most leaders of American opinion, was more sympathetic to the cause of the Allies. Many Americans viewed Germany as the homeland of a disreputable, even dangerous militarism. Its brutal invasion of the neutral country of Belgium necessarily made American leaders wonder how the United States, another neutral country, would fare in a world dominated by German power. Wilson personally admired the British system of government and thought that a victory by the Central Powers in the war would set back democracy everywhere. American commercial and cultural ties with Great Britain and France were stronger than those to Germany, and the British had worked hard to cultivate good Anglo-American relations since the late nineteenth century. The British also had the advantage of controlling the flow of information from Europe to America. On the day they entered the war, the British cut the German undersea cables linking that country to the Atlantic, establishing an Allied monopoly over news from Europe. American policy tilted toward the Allies. Indeed, some of the president's key advisers, notably Colonel Edward House, openly declared their support for the Allied cause early in the conflict. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, the administration's most vocal advocate of avoiding support for either side, resigned over that issue in June 1915. America's trade links to some of the countries of Europe swelled as a result of the fighting. With Britain's blockade of Germany, only the Allied powers could buy and deliver the products of the United States; thus, American commerce with Britain and France grew vastly, more than tripling in value by the close of 1916. Meanwhile, commerce with Germany virtually disappeared. In October 1915, fear that a halt in Allied purchases in the United States would trigger a recession pushed the administration to end a ban on private loans to Britain and France.