Archive for February, 2018

Propaganda to German People by Balloon Routes

 

“Ironclad ignorance and skillfully applied misinformation are the two hypnotizing agents by which the military masters of Germany’s restless and suffering millions keep them loyal and obedient.” How to combat this?

Henry Louis Smith, President of Washington and Lee University, proposed an idea that could only be considered legitimate in the pre-internet age: send balloons with  messages containing Western ideas over France, Spain, and Italy, letting the eastern or northeastern winds transmit them into the German and Austrian Empires for their citizens to read.

“If the masses of the German people could read for themselves the messages of President Wilson and the other allied statesmen, could receive the argument and appeals of reformers in every land, could learn the facts concerning the war and the state of public opinion throughout the world, their blind loyalty, cemented by ignorance and falsehood, would be fatally and permanently disintegrated.”

“The following method would accomplish this result rapidly, inexpensively, and thoroughly in spite of frontier guards and police supervision, and also without violating morals or international law, imperiling its agents, or interfering with present military operations.”

I almost always try to avoid commenting on modern American politics or society in these posts, but the idea that the free flow of intellectual or progressive ideas would cause “ignorance and falsehood [to be] fatally and permanently disintegrated” certainly seems to have been disproven in the past few years.

As for Germany specifically, it’s hard to imagine this plan would have worked. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected in 1932 — it seems doubtful at best that this plan would have changed more than a few minds out of the many millions of Germans who would ultimately help elect Hitler.

Propaganda to German People by Balloon Routes: Scientist’s Novel Idea of Using Air Currents to Flood the Enemy’s Land with Educational Messages on Innumerable Small Carriers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 24, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 24th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Life,Science,War

Case Against National Prohibition

In February 1918, six of the required 36 states had ratified the constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol, after the House and Senate had both done so the previous August and December, respectively.

Edgar M. Cullen, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court), broke his decades-long silence on political matters to speak out against the proposal:

“I am opposed to incorporating in the Federal Constitution the proposed amendment at any time. I appreciate fully the magnitude of the evils which excessive indulgence in intoxicants entails. I honor all those good and earnest men and women who are working to diminish the evil by impressing on the people its injurious effects. Though I differ with him, I admire the devotion to his faith of one who, believing that all drinking is wrong, wholly abstains from it…

“‘But the same right that he had to regulate his conduct is possessed by others who differ from him. The ‘total abstainer’ is wholly different from the prohibitionist. The first lives up to his own standard of morality, which, as it affects only himself, he has a perfect right to do. The second seeks to impose his standard upon others who do not believe in it and to compel them by law to regulate their lives according to his notions.”

No dice. Less than a year after this article’s publication, Montana’s ratification in January 1919 pushed the 18th Amendment over the top.

However, Cullen’s viewpoint won out in the end. The 21st Amendment repealed prohibition in December 1933, marking the only constitutional amendment which was ever formally overturned.

Case Against National Prohibition: Ex-Judge Cullen Says Federal Amendment Would Be Particularly Bad Just Now and Productive of Evil in the Future (PDF)

From Sunday, February 24, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 23rd, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware

The iconic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware is a misnomer. The river was actually modeled after the Rhine River in Germany, leading to several inaccuracies. According to Wikipedia:

“The river is modeled after the Rhine, where ice tends to form in jagged chunks as pictured, not in broad sheets as is more common on the Delaware. Also, the Delaware at what is now called Washington Crossing is far narrower than the river depicted in the painting.”

After this 1918 article, the original 1851 painting was destroyed in a 1942 bombing raid, as the original was housed in Germany. The two other versions also painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze are still intact, currently housed at the Met in New York City and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

The painting was also parodied last month in Geico’s commercial Washington Crossing the Delaware Turnpike:

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware: Leutze’s Famous Painting Really Represents the German River, and German Soldiers Were Used as Models — American Pupil Aided Artist to Get Proper Uniforms (PDF)

From Sunday, February 17, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Art,History

Conscription of All Men Up to Forty-five Years?

Maryland Senator Joseph Irwin France was Congress’s primary advocate during WWI of forcing all men between ages 18 and 45 to register for the draft.

That is not to say that all men up to aged 45 would actually be forced to fight in combat. As France explained:

“The second section of the bill… authorizes the President to consider all enrolled between ages of 18 and 20, inclusive, as members of a Federal cadet corps subject to call for military and nonmilitary training and for noncombatant national service. The men between 21 and 31 by the terms of the bill constitute the Federal first line of defense corps, who may be called into military service in accordance with the conscription act already in force or put into noncombatant national service. A third group is made up of the men between 32 and 36 years of age. It is the second line of defense corps, whose members may be called upon for military or nonmilitary training or for noncombatant national service. The fourth group, consisting of the men from 37 to 45, is the Federal reserve corps, also subject to call for noncombatant service.”

France’s bill didn’t go anywhere. Less than a year into his first Senate term at the time this article was written, France ran for reelection in 1922 but lost.

As for me, under the rules of current U.S. military draft law, I aged out of the draft only last month.

Conscription of All Men Up to Forty-five Years: Senator France, Author of Bill Subjecting Them to Government’s Call, Says It Is the Only Way to Solve War’s Industrial Problems (PDF)

From Sunday, February 10 , 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 10th, 2018 at 9:01 am

Posted in Debate,Politics,War

When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals was largely about how Abraham Lincoln stacked his Cabinet with several people who had run against him for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination. Lincoln named:

  • New York Senator William H. Seward as Secretary of State
  • Pennsylvania Senator Simon Cameron as Secretary of War
  • Former Missouri Congressman Edward Bates as Attorney General
  • Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase as Secretary of the Treasury, and later nominated by Lincoln as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)

Donald Trump appointed two people who ran against him for the Republican nomination to his Cabinet:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Energy Secretary
  • Physician Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Barack Obama nominated several intra-party rivals as well:

  • Delaware Senator Joe Biden as Vice President
  • New York Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

Obama was a vocal fan of Team of Rivals, which he repeatedly cited as one of his favorite books of all time — and specifically mentioned that Lincoln was his favorite president. Obama did keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, a Republican holdover from George W. Bush’s administration.

Perhaps not quite a “team” of rivals, although Obama did retain or reappoint several other notable non-Cabinet appointees of Bush such as Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chair and Robert Mueller as FBI Director. In contrast, Trump did not keep any of Obama’s Cabinet appointees, and axed several of Obama’s other appointees such as James Comey and Janet Yellen.

(Not going to lie, though — I tried reading Team of Rivals but couldn’t finish it. It’s 916 pages long.)

When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet: Discussion About Such a Body Today Recalls How His Great Tact and Firmness Enabled Him to Allay Discord Among His Advisers (PDF)

From Sunday, February 10, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 9th, 2018 at 9:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Has the Power of Public Opinion Waned?

Was the power of public opinion on American politics declining in 1918? Job E. Hedges, former Republican candidate for New York governor, said yes and blamed it on political primaries:

With the increase in our population, the average citizen is necessarily unable to have before him all the facts from which to draw his conclusions and express himself affirmatively or negatively at the polls. This necessarily compels the citizen to act through a representative of his selection with similar beliefs. Here the direct primaries have demonstrated their inefficiency. They have militated against the formation of public sentiment and at the same time increased the power of money.

The first state to hold a presidential primary was Florida in 1901, and by 1920 (two years after this article was published) 20 of the 48 states had primaries. But Hedges’ argument caught hold as many states discontinued their primaries. Indeed, as late as 1968, only 12 states used them.

The modern presidential primaries as we know them today — first Iowa, then New Hampshire, with all states participating — truly began in 1976.

As for “the power of public opinion,” modern polling as we know it today wouldn’t begin until the Gallup Organization’s founding in 1935.

Has the Power of Public Opinion Waned?: Job E. Hedges Says It has Ceased to be a Great Aggressive Force in America Since the Direct Primary Idea Became Popular (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 2nd, 2018 at 9:45 am

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight

While about 20 percent of the population at the time were enrolled as library borrowers and took out an average of three books per year, World War I soldiers in the camps were enrolled at a rate of 40 percent and took out an average of 12 books per year.

Half a million book volumes were already located in the military camp libraries by February 1918, less than a year after American entered the conflict, with a “soldiers book fund” containing more than $1.5 million.

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight: Books in Camp Are Used Twice as Much as Those in City Libraries — Many Men Acquire Valuable Habit for the First Time (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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Written by Jesse

February 1st, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Education,War