Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Cellars and Attics for Archives

In 1919, America’s most important governmental and historical papers were stored haphazardly and dangerously.

[There are] a hundred different places in Washington in which valuable Government papers are stored. In this situation Washington stands alone among the capitals of the world. All other countries of importance have their archives concentrated in a special building furnished with every possible protection against loss by fire or deterioration.

 

There appeared little appetite for something similar in the U.S., though.

The agitation for a national archive building began in the seventies of the last century [1870s]. Fifty different archives bills have been introduced. Two got by the Senate, but not one past the House. Meantime a site was authorized and purchased, but on account of the long delay — while pork-barrel measures were attended to regularly — the site was used for another building.

It wasn’t that people were opposed, per se, but rather that it was low on the list of importance.

On the whole no other Congressional neglect furnishes a parallel to this one, for there never has been any organized opposition to the idea; it was generally admitted to be a sound one, even by members who did not apprehend its high importance, but after all it was a rather vague need.

But World War I drastically increased the need.

The war, it is estimated, will double all the papers that had been accumulated by the country up to 1917. Records include not only those of the army and navy and other regular departments, but of special activities, such as the Food Administration, the Fuel Administration, the Railroad Administration, and War Industries Board.

After all, the physical conditions were subject to great risk.

At present the greater part of the Government’s archives are stores in the two worst places to prevent them from deterioration: in attics and in cellars. To preserve papers under the best conditions requires an even temperature, light, and an absence of excessive moisture. In the attics the papers are subjected to a terrific heat in the Summer time, so great that spontaneous combustion has been feared.

The National Archives would be created by Congress 15 years after this article, in 1934. The actually transfer of records to the new National Archives building began in 1936.

And what a collection it is. From their website:

There are approximately 10 billion pages of textual records; 12 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; 25 million still photographs and graphics; 24 million aerial photographs; 300,000 reels of motion picture film; 400,000 video and sound recordings; and 133 terabytes of electronic data.

Cellars and Attics for Archives: These and Rented Non-Fireproof Buildings House Many of the Most Valuable Records in Washington (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 4, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 1st, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Politics

Future of the Democratic Party

Politics in 1919 was similar to 2019: a president had just suffered a devastating setback as his opposing party regained control of the House of Representatives. But the chair of the president’s party in 1919 aimed for a spirit of more bipartisanship, while it’s hard to think of any olive branches Trump has extended to House Democrats thus far.

The big looming issue in 1919, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, was whether the newly-Republican Congress would approve Democratic President Woodrow Wilson’s plan to enter the U.S. in the League of Nations. Democratic Party Chair Homer S. Cummings advocated for why Republicans should support it across the aisle:

“I have been an advocate of the League for many years, long before the war began. I think it is the greatest thing in the world today — the most important. It is inconceivable that anybody who is familiar with the real conditions in Europe can think that there is any chance for permanent peace without a League of Nations. It is idle to talk of merely concluding a proper peace and then letting the world drift again.”

“If this world war taught us anything it is that, if one great nation gets into war with another, other great nations are drawn into it also. I would be much distressed to see this great idea made the subject of partisan appeal, for it is bigger than any party — too important to the world to be treated as a mere party issue. If I have anything to say as to the course of the Democratic organization, the League of Nations will be treated as a nonpartisan question, as nonpolitical, and will be discussed on the basis of what is best for America.”

It was not to be. Eight months after this article, in November 1919, the Senate would vote overall in favor of the treaty by 55-39, but at 58% support that felt a bit shy of the 2/3 support required. Democrats almost completely backed their own President Wilson by 42-4, but the opposition Republican majority mostly opposed it by 35-13.

Future of the Democratic Party: New National Chairman Discusses League of Nations and Labor Question as Possible Issues — Dismisses Defeat Last November as Temporary “Reaction” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 8th, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Politics

Her Pressure On Congress

How were the top lobbyists for a woman’s right to vote trying to convince recalcitrant politicians in 1919? One method was by convincing the politicians’ mothers, explained the chair of the Lobby Committee of the National Woman’s Party:

It is important to know all about the mother, and that explains why a whole card is devoted to her. Mothers continue to have strong influence over their sons. Some married men listen to their mothers more than to their wives. You will hear a man telling his wife how his mother used to do it, and then we know from his frequent reference to his mother that if we can make of her a strong advocate for suffrage we have the best of chances of winning the son.

Little did she know how prescient that prediction would become. A year and five months later, the constitutional amendment had passed Congress and needed to be ratified by 35 states. 34 had, when it came to Tennessee. A 24-year-old state House member named Harry Burn had originally voted to table the amendment, until his mother changed his mind.

“I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification,” Burn later said. “I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery was mine.”

 

Her Pressure On Congress: Suffrage Lobbyist’s Card Index Keeps Tab on Members’ Home Influences, Financial Backers, and Even Golf Partners (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 1st, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Shall We Deport the Interned Aliens?

Several thousand Germans and Austrians were interned during World War I, suspected of being agents or spies. ANow that the war had ended a few months prior, it was time for most of them to be released:

But the department believes that the greater number of the persons now behind the wire fences should be sent out of the country. The majority are regarded as having been “distinctly dangerous during the war.”

So what should be done with them? A bill was introduced in Congress that would allow any of them to be unilaterally deported by the Secretary of Labor — a man named William B. Wilson, no relation to then-President Woodrow Wilson.

The heads of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the subject took opposing views, even though they were both southerners from the same party.

In favor was the House Immigration Committee Chair, Rep. John Burnett (D-AL7):

He takes the stand of the Department of Justice that the majority of the interned aliens are dangerous and should be deported. He believes that the measure will pass his committee successfully… The fact of internment or conviction is defined by the bill as prima facie evidence that the aliens are “undesirable,” and the decision of the Secretary of Labor is to be final.

Opposed was the Senate Immigration Committee Chair, Sen. Thomas Hardwick (D-GA):

“If I retain my present frame of mind I shall certainly not vote for any law giving one man the power to determine who should be deported. This might be done in wartime. But in peacetime, no! I would consent to a law allowing a trial by jury of these people. But I could not consent to giving this power to one man. This is not Russia!”

As best I can tell, this specific bill didn’t pass Congress, but all the several thousand people interned were eventually deported back to their nations of citizenship — the last in April 1920, a year and a half after the war ended.

 

Shall We Deport the Interned Aliens?: Representative Burnett’s Bill in Congress Is Enlisting Strong Support, but Has Aroused Opposition, Including Senator Hardwick’s (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 27th, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Is the Czar Dead?

Was the czar dead? It was February 1919 and seven months had elapsed since anyone had heard from Russia’s Czar Nicholas II. Turns out, yes: he was executed.

The tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917 after the February Revolution, then he and his family were imprisoned in the Ipatiev House. More than a year later on July 17, 1918, Bolshevik authorities killed them all. The tsar was dead.

As was his family, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this 1919 article by Carl W. Ackerman, a New York Times correspondent.

I have just returned to the United States, after a tour of investigation, with all of the facts and testimony I was able to obtain in Siberia and Russia about the last known days of the Romanoffs. After weighing this evidence carefully I am inclined to think, although I cannot prove it, that the Czar is dead, but that his family still lives somewhere in Russia.

Fake news! A grave containing the tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters was discovered in the late 1970s, with the remaining daughter and son found in 2007. DNA testing proved who they were: https://genetics.thetech.org/original_news/news108

In the lyrics of Bret McKenzie from the comedy music group Flight of the Conchords: “A man is lying in the street, some punk has chopped off his head / But I’m the only one who stops to see if he’s dead. / [Pause] / Turns out he’s dead.”

Is the Czar Dead?: Six Chances in Ten That He Was Executed by the Bolsheviki — Fate of His Family Also Doubtful (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 23, 1919

 

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Written by Jesse

February 21st, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Why Most American Jews Do Not Favor Zionism

29 years before Israel was founded, Jewish Congressman Julius Kahn (R-CA4) advocated against forming a Jewish state, arguing four main points. Here’s how his four points hold up (or don’t) today.

First — It creates a divided allegiance, as between our country and its Stars and Stripes and Zion with its white flag with the blue star. The Zionists, even in this country, are bent upon following their flag. The real American Jew knows but one flag, the Stars and Stripes. The American Jew sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” as his national anthem. The Zionist sings “The Hatikvah” as his.

This argument doesn’t hold much weight in 2019. It’s become clear that supporting America and supporting Israel is not an either-or proposition.

Second — The Zionist doctrine is in conflict with our own free institutions. The Zionists believe in the foundation of a Government which shall embrace both Church and State. That is not in keeping with the trend of modern statecraft anywhere. In that respect Zionism is decidedly reactionary. Besides, the Jews of Palestine are a small minority of the population. Will the other people who live there consent to domination by this minority?

I’m not certain what the demographics of Israel were in 1948, but now it’s 74.3% Jewish — the opposite of a small minority. Have the other people “consented” to such domination? Not exactly. The country is rife with strife and violent attacks such as suicide bombings occur with some level of regularity. As for the idea that Israel would not respect a separation between religion and state, there’s some merit there: just look at this 2018 law declaring that only Jewish people have a right to self-determination.

Third — There is the practical objection against the huddling together in a confined territory of enormous numbers of the Jewish people. As every one [sic] knows, Palestine is small; it could never support the millions of Jews who live in countries where Jewish persecution is a matter of common occurrence. That huddling together has had a baneful effect in Russia, Rumania [sic], Galicia, and Poland. The result would be a continuance of these disadvantages in the proposed new home.

Israel does in fact support million of Jews — about 6.6 million of them to be exact. And Israel only has the world’s #31 highest population density.

Fourth — The greatest danger to the Jews in all those countries where they are on an entire equality with every other class of citizens is that, with the establishment of a separate Jewish State, they would be looked upon as aliens where today they are respected citizens. They would frequently be told to go to their own country, Palestine, by those agitators and fanatics who have a hatred of the Jew in their hearts.

With the exception of maybe a few extremists, this prediction has not been borne out.

So with a century of hindsight, Rep. Kahn’s arguments probably go 1 for 4.

Perhaps Kahn’s arguments may have had some level of credence at the time, but they didn’t stand up to scrutiny after Adolf Hitler attempted “the final solution” in the Holocaust. Three years the end of World War II, Israel was founded in May 1948.

A 2018 Gallup poll found American support for Israel at 74%, tying the previous high recorded in 1991. However, a YouGov poll found that the support level is highly polarized: 65% of Trump voters see Israel as an ally, compared to 29% of Clinton voters.

Americans' Sympathies Continue to Be More With the Israelis Than With the Palestinians

And if Julius Kahn couldn’t support Zionism, surely he could at least support Zion Williamson:

Why Most American Jews Do Not Favor Zionism: Their Allegiance to This Country Is the First Reason, and They Object to a Union of Church and State in Palestine or Elsewhere (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

February 16th, 2019 at 11:27 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

ROOSEVELT’S SUCCESSOR: Who Will Be Republican Leader and Candidate for Presidency in 1920? — Outlook Two Years in Advance.

Prognosticators did much better predicting 1920’s Republican presidential nominee two years out than predicting 2016’s nominee.

From the time of the November [1916] election issues between the two parties began to sharpen more rapidly. Two recognized leaders were in command; on the one side Wilson, on the other side Roosevelt [a former Republican president]. Then came, unexpectedly, Roosevelt’s death [in January 1919, a month prior to this article], and since then one fact has continued to impress itself more deeply on the Republican Party: What the party needs most is a leader.

In theory the next president after World War I would be a military leader, but that was not to be:

When the United States entered the war, the prediction was made, based on past experience, that our next President would be some General whose deeds in the fighting on the other side had thrilled the popular imagination. The civil war made Grant President, the Spanish-American War elevated Roosevelt. [And a few decades later, World War II would elevate Eisenhower.] But this war, owing to the suppression by the censorship policy of individual achievement, apparently has left us without a war hero of Presidential popularity among the American Generals who fought in France.

So who would be the 1920 Republican nominee? The anonymous author predicted either former President William Howard Taft or Ohio Senator Warren Harding.

On the Senate list Mr. Harding comes nearer to commanding the support of both ends of the party than any of the others. As Chairman of the Republican National Convention in 1916 he delivered the keynote speech, and the impression he made throughout the proceedings was a positive one. He is of distinguished appearance, and a charm of personality is one of his assets.

But so far as distinct leadership is concerned he has yet to win it; he appears to be a man who advances steadily to a purpose without haste and with reserve force for the greater occasion. It has been made apparent that he is to take a more prominent part in the Senate.

In a recent speech he sharply criticised [sic] the President for not having devoted himself immediately on his arrival in Europe to bringing about a speedy peace, and also for not having given more attention to pressing reconstruction problems in this country. Practical things here at home, the Senator said, were being neglected while the dreams of idealism were being chased abroad.

Harding would indeed go on to win both the nomination and the presidency the following year.

In the past decade, of course, neither of our two presidents were the frontrunners for their party nomination prior to announcing. In fact, the top five Republican candidates at this point in the election cycle last time around were Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker — none of whom even ultimately finished in the top four:

ROOSEVELT’S SUCCESSOR: Who Will Be Republican Leader and Candidate for Presidency in 1920? — Outlook Two Years in Advance. (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 31st, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Politics

Recollections of Roosevelt

President George H.W. Bush died recently in November 2018, and a century ago America lost another former president: Theodore Roosevelt, at age 60. The week after his early January 1919 death, this eulogy recalled the man who had served as president from 1901 to 1909.

While our current president is often described as a populist, his policies in office have often been the opposite: lowering the tax rate on the top income bracket and making the overall tax system less progressive, doing nothing to curb the effects of big money in campaign finance, installing Supreme Court justices who have lessened the effects of unions.

Roosevelt, on the other hand, walked the walk. His administration brought more than double as many anti-trust lawsuits as his three predecessors combined, helped enact legislation to increase the safety of food and medicines, and established national parks free for all citizens. He attempted to create a national income tax on top incomes (which passed shortly after Roosevelt left office) and tried to institute an eight-hour workday for all employees.

This portion in particular does a vivid job of describing Roosevelt’s personality, at the intersection of the political and the personal — and what he meant to the American people:

His democracy was the true sort. It was not indiscriminate, and there was an aristocracy to which he paid tribute in his own mind — the aristocracy of Worth. Where he did not find it he was never at ease; he could use unworthy men (not for unworthy purposes, however) in the vast continental game of politics he played, as a party leader must, but never without contempt, and he always felt happy when he could get rid of them. A President or the leader of a national party must work with such instruments as the people choose to give him in Senate, House, and party machine, and the people do not always pick out saints.

It was his keenest joy to find this aristocracy of Worth in what to most people would be unexpected quarters. When he found it, he recognized an equal, whether the man having it was a wolf-killer, a ranchman, or a statesman. Neither did he care if public opinion were set against the man’s worth, so long as he himself had found it.

It was always strange to me to see how the solemn profundities and the unco’ guid [a Scottish term meaning people who are strict in matters of morals and religion] among our varied population used to regard this trait of his as something discreditable to him. He received visits from [heavyweight champion boxer] John L. Sullivan at the White House! He entertained Booker Washington there! He was a friend of boxers and actors! With what a sneer would they pronounce the words “Jack Abernathy, a wolf-killer,” and “Bill Sewall, a guide,” in listing Roosevelt’s friends.

Mean minds, incapable of imagining that a man would do anything except for advantage, cast about for Roosevelt’s motive. It must be that he had a motive; by which they meant a selfish one. They hit on it — it was spectacular drama to impress the crowd, or demagogic ostensible democracy to get votes. It was not possible to suppose that he actually liked these boxers and wolf-killers and reporters and wanted to be with them.

 

Recollections of Roosevelt (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 12, 1919

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Written by Jesse

January 12th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

McAdoo Talks of the Railways

Most of America’s railroads were placed under federal government control in December 1917 because of World War I, in a move called “possibly the largest American experiment with nationalization.” The new U.S. Railroad Administration was headed by Treasury Secretary William McAdoo.

Under existing law, control of the railways were set to return back to private hands within 21 months of the end of the war. Yet shortly after war ended, McAdoo, who was set to retire from the Cabinet to co-found a law firm, stunned many by advocating Congress extend the government’s control of the railways for an additional five years — even though it was peacetime.

Why? Because massive investments were needed that he thought were unlikely to occur under private control.

The… difficulty in the present situation, as Mr. McAdoo views it, is financial, and affects annual permanent improvements that are, in his opinion, imperative for the maintenance of a national transportation system commensurate with the country’s growing needs. Up to the signing of the armistice about $600,000,000 had been spent in improvements during the year 1918. The authority for these expenditures was the “necessity of war” as recognized in the law. When hostilities ended this necessity could no longer be urged. Without this co-operation of the corporations owning the railroads it would be difficult under the existing law, Mr. McAdoo said, to develop and adopt a comprehensive plan for the improvement of the railroad system as a whole; and even with the consent of the corporations twenty-one months would be too short a time in which to make and apply such a plan.

McAdoo did not get his wish. The U.S. Railroad Administration ended in March 1920, with all railroads once again returning to private ownership.

McAdoo Talks of the Railways: Retiring Director General Foresees Private Ownership as Result of Five-Year Extension of Federal Control of the Nation’s Transportation System (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919

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January 5th, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Danger in Optimism

An August 1918 article said it was completely unrealistic for WWI to be won by the end of the year. The war would end on November 11, less than three months later.

An example was given of a Midwest manufacturer who believe the war would be over by spring 1919, about 6-9 months after this article.

He held this idea so strongly that it had begun to affect his plans for the near future; instead of seeing a greater effort ahead, he saw a lessening effort, and, of course, those with whom he came in contact, especially his employees, were similarly affected, to a greater or less degree. The man was ardently loyal; little had he realized, in optimistically spreading an idea that was without logical foundation, that he was following a course which would have received the enthusiastic approval of German propagandists.

Why was that considered so unrealistic? Because the official projections of how many soldiers it would take to win the war kept rising considerably higher.

Our popular estimate that it would require 1,000,000 men to defeat the Germans, in addition to what the French and English had, was all wrong. Later we calculated that 3,000,000 would be required. Now the plans, in a clearer conception of the reality of the situation, have risen to an army of 5,000,000, and it may be necessary to go higher. It is evident that only the foolish optimist now arrives at an overestimation of the damage inflicted on the enemy by the present allied success and infers that anything like a vital blow has been dealt to the Germans, or is to be dealt in the immediate future.

A little cynicism is a good thing, but it’s possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction and become too cynical.

 

Danger in Optimism: Senator New Reflects Opinion of Official Washington in Deploring Prophecies that War Will End Soon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 18, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 18th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Is An Air Ministry Necessary?

America is debating whether to create a new military branch: the Space Force. 100 years ago to the week, America debated whether to create the air force — or, as they called it then, an “Air Ministry.”

A key difference between then and now was the stance of the president. While Donald Trump supports the Space Force creation, signing a policy directive in June to jumpstart the process, Woodrow Wilson during World War I was opposed to a new branch devoted to aviation.

Indeed, the Air Force would not be created for another 29 years in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. In the United Kingdom, the formation of the Royal Air Force was similarly controversial, but was formed in April 1918.

Planes and pilots were certainly used during WWI and WWII. In fact, the first military use of airplanes was before WWI, in 1909, A military airplane was also used in 1916 against the Mexican general Pancho Villa, who had raided a town in New Mexico and killed 17 Americans.

For years, the military’s air operations were under the auspices of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. “Because aircraft were initially used for observation and reconnaissance missions, rather than offensive/defensive work, it made some sense to have them be part of the Signal Corps,” Sarah Dunne, Archivist and Librarian for Maine’s Owls Head Transportation Museum, tells me.

This similar to how today space operations are under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force.

Interestingly, Trump’s Space Force directive overrules both Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, both of whom originally opposed the idea. That’s unlike in 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of War Newton Baker, and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels all opposed an “air ministry.”

Actually, why was it called an air ministry back then in the first place? “Odd that the writer chose the term ‘air ministry’ – very British. We didn’t have government departmentts called ‘ministries,’ I don’t think,” Dunne tells me. “Perhaps more than anything else, shows the American sense of kinship with the British?”

This 1918 article quotes extensively from Texas Senator Morris Sheppard, who opposed an “air ministry.” He gave four primary reasons:

#1: the status quo was already working.

“I took exception to the opinion that the Signal Corps had been inefficient in its handling of airplanes. Since then my opinion has not changed. I still believe that in the face of unparalleled difficulty there has been accomplished by our Government in aviation production an unparalleled task, and that it has been done with characteristic American energy, capacity, patriotism, and enthusiasm.”

#2: it would add more bureaucracy.

“Moreover, at the present time I see no reason for taking out of the hands of the Secretary of War and of the Secretary of the Navy and of the Aircraft Production Board the various controls which now emanate from them. To my mind that would only add a complication instead of removing one.”

“If we need a Ministry of Aeronautics, why not have also a Ministry of Submarines, or a Ministry of Military Food Supply, or a Ministry of Clothing, or a Ministry of Ordnance?”

#3: Congress shouldn’t oppose the president on a matter like this, especially during wartime.

“Those who advocate a Cabinet member for Aeronautics, despite the contrary opinion of the President, seem to me no less reckless than the pilot who takes the air without examining his petrol tank. If the President desires so radical a change in Government machinery — and if it becomes necessary he will desire it — then he will ask for it, and, of course, then he shall have it. But why impose on him what may be only a complication?”

#4: air should be considered less important than land or sea.

“While the airplane is highly important and while its quick production and development may even be vital to our military success, it is, and must be in its last analysis, only an adjunct to the army and navy. It seems to me a total misconception of its functions to segregate its production or its distribution from the routine work of the two great military branches of the Government.”

“That cannot be done any more than you can segregate its work in action from that of the army and navy. It can only operate in the field under the protection of the army and on the sea from the haven of the fleet. Why should it be regarded as a thing apart, a latter-day miracle, which is to wing us to victory in some marvelous manner, above our soldiers, beyond our ships?”

 

Is An Air Ministry Necessary?: Senator Sheppard of the Military Affairs Committee, an Administration Man, Tells Why He Thinks Not — Production Adequate, Public Tension Unjustified (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 11, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 14th, 2018 at 5:14 pm

Who Will Be Drafted Next?

What should be the minimum and maximum ages for potentially getting drafted to serve in the military? This 1918 article details the then-current state of affairs:

When the present law was before Congress the War Department asked that the draft be imposed between the ages of 19 and 26, inclusive. In both houses opposition developed at once against going below 21. The House of Representatives finally adopted 21 to 40 years as the age limits, the Senate 21 to 27 years. In conference 21 to 31 was agreed upon.

The article, about pending legislation to expand the draft ages from 18 to 45, passed soon after. America’s fighting forces were projected to expand by more than one million men as a result.

Today, as a combination of peacetime conditions and post-Vietnam conscription reforms, draft registration is required for men between ages 18 and 25.

 

Who Will Be Drafted Next?: Discussions in Congress as to Calling Youths Between 18 and 21 Years, and Men as Old as 45 — Crowder’s New Figures on Exhaustion of Present Eligible List (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2018 at 11:04 am

U-Boats Off Shore!

Franklin D. Roosevelt… assistant secretary of the navy?

Many people — or perhaps even most people — today don’t even remember what position FDR held right before his presidency: governor of New York. But virtually nobody remembers what position he held even before that: assistant secretary of the Navy.

FDR held the #2 spot in the Navy from 1913-19. He was appointed a year before World War I broke out in Europe and four years before America entered the conflict.

In this June 1918 article, FDR explains the reasoning behind Germany launched a U-boat attack on shipping right off the American Atlantic coast:

First, merely to carry out the known German system of terrorizing the enemy; second in this particular case, it may be the definite belief of the German Admiralty that this campaign will force the United States to withdraw destroyers and patrol vessels now in European waters in order to protect our own coasts. To do this would be playing directly into the hands of the German Admiralty, because… it pays them better to attack our ships on the other side and not here; if we withdraw destroyers and patrol boats from the other side it would make it that much easier for the Germans in their chosen field of operations.

We must realize, therefore, that while Germany may and probably will continue to send occasional submarines to our own coasts, and while these submarines may occasionally sink ships off our shores, we must regard their operations as secondary.

The secretary of the Navy — and FDR’s boss — was Josephus Daniels. FDR would repay Daniels as president by appointing him ambassador to Mexico.

U-Boats Off Shore!: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Discusses the Possibilities and Purposes of Germany’s Submarine Attack (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 9, 1918

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Written by Jesse

June 10th, 2018 at 12:34 pm

One Year of Hoover’s Control: Food Enough for All Allies

More than a decade before he would be elected president in 1928, Herbert Hoover led the U.S. Food Administration, which exerted much control over the nation’s and Allies’ food supply.

The appointment cave even though the Republican Hoover was named by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, a bipartisan move that would be difficult to imagine in today’s political environment.

This May 1918 article describes the results of Hoover’s efforts:

Take wheat: Owing to the shortage of last year’s crop we had scarcely 20,000,000 bushels above our normal consumption and seed requirements. Practically all this had been shipped by Christmas. Then, in January, came the British Food Commissioner’s urgent call for 75,000,000 bushels before the new crop, if the Allies were to have food enough to carry on the war. In response to that call, the American people saved 50,000,000 bushels out of their normal consumption; it was shipped to Europe, and the war goes on!

How was this accomplished?

Hoover himself describes in a quotation for the article that much of it was due to voluntary cutbacks and a common sense of purpose among the American people, rich and poor alike. Alas, these are also two phenomena which would be much harder — or perhaps impossible — to accomplish today.

This quote is a little long — four paragraphs in total — but take two minutes out of your life because it’s worth reading in full, to understand the potential greatness that can come when a country like America is united in sense of purpose.

“A man came up from my State,” he said, “to attend a conference that concerned one of the most important food industries in our State. This man is a prominent official at home and a citizen of much influence. He was aroused over proposed interference in the industry by the Food Administration. ‘We won’t stand for it,’ he said. ‘It isn’t fair. We are willing to be reasonable; we don’t ask to make what we are entitled to, but this proposal is too raw. If Hoover insists on it, we’ll go after him as he never has been gone after before.’

“‘Better wait and see what he says,’ I suggested.

“After the conference the State official came to me. ‘How much longer can Germany hold out their food supply?’ he asked. I told him that Germany was practically self supporting before the war, and had since seized some of the richest farm lands in Europe. ‘But,’ he broke in, ‘it doesn’t matter. We’ll get them in the end. Of course, we have to make every sacrifice; think of what the Allies are doing over there. All that’s worth living for is at stake! We’re in to the limit. Hoover can take the whole industry if he wants it, do with it as he pleases. We’ve got to win. At a time like this who would think of profit?’

“That man did not seem to know that a change had been wrought in him, that something bigger than he had ever known before had got hold of him; for the first time he realized we we are standing for. And you see he wasn’t forced to do anything!”

After the war, Hoover would continue leading the agency under its new name: the American Relief Association. They were tasked with feeding millions of hungry people in 23 war-battered countries in Europe and Russia. He would be elected president in 1928.

 

One Year of Hoover’s Control: Food Enough for All Allies — Taking a Chance on His Faith in Nation’s Loyalty, the Administrator Has Succeeded in Using Volunteer Spirit to Assure Supplies for Democracy’s Hosts (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 26, 1918

 

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Written by Jesse

May 24th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Posted in Food,Politics

A Whole World Outraged

If Germany lost WWI, should they be granted the same status they had previously held in the European and world geopolitical landscape? That was the question facing American and the world in May 1918.

George Trumbull Ladd, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Yale, argued no:

The feelings of an outraged world against an outrageous Germany, as set forth in deeds and fortified by theory, ought to continue undiminished to the end of time. Without faith in the eternal principles of righteousness no one can guarantee that it will be so; but we may be somewhat confident in the belief that these feelings will continue essentially the same for a very considerable time.

Indeed, Germany in the 1920s did not all regain their pre-WWI status. They were forced to pay tremendous sums of money in reparations to Great Britain and France, and also forced by the Versailles Treaty to give up 13 percent of their land. These produced the desperate economic and political conditions that would allow for the 1930s rise of Adolf Hitler.

A Whole World Outraged: Should Guilty Germany Be Permitted Ever to Resume Her Place Among the Nations? An Argument for Ostracism “on Grounds of Morality and Religion” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 12, 1918

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Written by Jesse

May 10th, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Spies and Plotters

What’s the best way to handle and punish spies who give information to America’s enemies? In World War I, the different options split the country.

On one side was Sen. George Chamberlain (D-OR), whose bill introduced in Congress would have tried spies by court martial. On the other side was President Woodrow Wilson, a fellow Democrat, who called the bill “unconstitutional, unnecessary, and uncalled for.”

Sen. Chamberlain defended his position, arguing that his bill would adapt an antiquated interpretation to modern times:

The term ‘spy’ has had a very limited meaning in the past. It is unknown to the criminal law of the United States. A spy as such may only be punished by military law.

Our enemy of today uses very different tools from those employed at the time when spies were used to obtain information from the enemy. Germany has introduced new devices. The greatest injury wrought on us is not by the technical spy, but by sabotage, the destroyer of property by violence, the spreader of propaganda, and in other insidious and injurious ways.

By the Act of 1806 it was shown that Congress had the constitutional power to subject to court-martial civilians who acted as spies, as the word was then employed; in my opinion it has the same power today to subject to court-martial civilians who commit acts just as injurious to the members of our army and navy.

Ultimately, the senator’s position — and not the president’s — won out. Upon the 1950 adoption of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), spies are court martialed.

A recent example from 2016 is Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin: born in Taiwan, became an American citizen in 1998, but when serving in the military was suspected of giving secrets to China. Lin was court martialed and is now serving six years.

Spies and Plotters: Chamberlain Defends Drastic Bill Which He Withdrew — The Trials of Enemies in England, France, and Italy (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 28, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 26th, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

System In Our War

The War Department underwent a substantial change at the beginning of World War I, transforming from a largely combat-based agency to a manufacturing- and business-based one. Assistant Secretary of War Benedict Crowell explained in this 1918 interview:

The War Department [has] become a business affair. He cited the aircraft work of the army as an example.

“A year ago,” said Mr. Crowell, “there were eleven officers, all strictly military men, and about 1,000 privates in the aircraft work. Now in that branch of the war business we have thousands of officers and 100,000 men. But 96 per cent. of those officers are trained business men and engineers from big civil enterprises. Most of them are in military uniform, but that is merely a matter of form that does not go to the substance of the business.

“And this change that has come over the aircraft division in its personnel is illustrative of what is being done or has been done by Mr. Baker [Secretary of War Newton Baker] throughout the department. There is very little about it today that is military, on this side of the Atlantic, except the outward form, the dress and the assumed military ceremonial. Under all that is the same sort of spirit and energy and organization that is indispensable to the successful business enterprise.”

In the words of comedian Bo Burnham to the tune of the classic Edwin Starr song War: “War! / What is it good for? / Increasing domestic manufacturing.”

 

System In Our War: An Interview with Acting Secretary Benedict Crowell, Who Tells of a Year’s Changes in Baker’s Department 

Published: Sunday, March 24, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 22nd, 2018 at 8:01 am

Need of Federal Budget in Wartime

In this 1918 interview, newly-chosen House Appropriations Committee Chair J. Swagar Sherley of Kentucky proposed the formation of a Budget Committee. It would be created the next year 1919 as a “special committee” for that session only, later becoming a permanent committee in 1974.

The current chair is Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR3). He has served for a few months ever since the previous chair, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN6), stepped down to focus more attention on her campaign for Tennessee governor. Here’s a list of all 36 committee members.

Although Sherley got what he wanted, he wouldn’t still be serving to see it. Sherley lost his November 1918 reelection bid, despite having been reelected to the House multiple times since 1903 at that point.

In 1933, Sherley would be asked by President Franklin Roosevelt to serve as Director of the Bureau of the Budget, today known as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). However, Sherley declined due to ill health. However, he wouldn’t die for another four years until 1941 — so perhaps he could have served after all.

 

 

Need of Federal Budget in Wartime: Secretary of the Treasury Should Be Real Premier of Finance, Says Chairman of House Committee on Appropriations — Few Changes Necessary to Start New System (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 17, 1918

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Written by Jesse

March 14th, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

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

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