Friday, March 29, 2013

March 1913

In March 1913, Woodrow Wilson is inaugurated and forms his cabinet. William Jennings Bryan is the new Secretary of State and Franklin D. Roosevelt follows in his famous cousin's footsteps by becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy. As the war in the Balkans appears to be winding down, an anarchist assassinates the king of Greece. Churchill plans to build more super-dreadnoughts but proposes a naval holiday. Germany and France bulk up their military budgets.


The Presidential Inauguration; Future Admirals and Generals on Parade
The United States has a new president.  On March 4, Woodrow Wilson became the nation's twenty-eighth chief executive (counting Grover Cleveland twice).  He arrived in Washington on March 3 and stayed overnight at the Shoreham Hotel.  The next day, as he traveled from the Shoreham to the White House under a cloudy sky, his route was lined by college men from the universities most closely associated with him, Princeton and the University of Virginia.  While he was in the White House with President Taft, a thousand Princeton men gathered on the west drive and serenaded him with "Old Nassau", Princeton's Alma Mater.  As they sang, Wilson emerged from the front door, bared his head, and joined in.  He and the president then journeyed to the Capitol, where Chief Justice Edward White, a former Confederate soldier, administered the oath of office as the sun broke through the clouds.  In his inaugural address, Wilson said "This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication," and summoned "all honest men, all patriotic, all forward-looking men, to my side."  In an unprecedented move, he invited William Jennings Bryan, the defeated candidate for president in the last election, to sit next to President Taft on the speakers' stand.  After the ceremony, as Taft was driven to Union Station to board a train for his winter home in Augusta, Georgia, President Wilson and the new vice president, Thomas Marshall, led the way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House where they reviewed the inaugural parade.  Some 40,000 strong, it was the longest parade in the history of presidential inaugurations, continuing until well after dark.

The Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory, Lexington Avenue and 25th Street

While Woodrow Wilson and his immediate predecessor were attending the inaugural ceremony, the other living ex-president was in New York visiting a collection of paintings by "futurists" at the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory.  Roosevelt studied the paintings closely, seeming to take delight in discerning the hidden meanings in the cubic images on the walls.  While pondering one painting, he was asked if he had ever seen anything like it.  He replied "the only things I have seen that resembled some of these pictures were certain animals in Africa."  One of the paintings on display, Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase,":has attracted much comment.

"Nude Descending a Staircase"

Returning home, Roosevelt wrote a review of the Armory Show which was published later this month in the Outlook.  In the review he translated the title of Duchamp's picture ("Nu Descendant un Escalier") as "A Naked Man Going Downstairs."  He compared it to "a really good Navajo rug" in his bathroom, which he says might as well be called "A Well-Dressed Man Going Up a Ladder" and which he claims is "infinitely ahead of the picture" in terms of artistic merit.


The Eltinge 42nd Street Theater

Before traveling to Washington for his inauguration, Wilson met with two of his most trusted advisers, Mr. William F. McCombs and Colonel Edward M. House, to make the final decisions regarding his cabinet selections.  They met in Colonel House's apartment in New York City, taking a break for dinner and a play.  The play was "Within the Law," one of the most popular productions on Broadway this year.  It is the first play to be produced at the new Eltinge 42nd Street Theater.

 A Scene From "Within the Law"

President Wilson and His Cabinet.  Clockwise from left: President Wilson, William G. McAdoo (Treasury), James C. McReynolds (Attorney General),  Josephus Daniels (Navy), David F. Houston (Agriculture), William B. Wilson (Labor), William C. Redfield (Commerce), Franklin K. Lane (Interior), Albert S. Burleson (Postmaster General), Lindley M. Garrison (War), William J. Bryan (State).

On the morning of March 4, his last day in office, President Taft signed a bill dividing the Department of Commerce and Labor into separate cabinet departments.  The next day President Wilson submitted the names of ten cabinet nominees, including one for the new position of Secretary of Labor, to the Senate for confirmation.  Meeting in special session for the purpose, the Senate confirmed all of them the same day.  As expected, William Jennings Bryan is the new secretary of state.  William Gibbs McAdoo is Secretary of the Treasury, and the War and Navy offices went to New Jersey Vice-chancellor Lindley M. Garrison and North Carolina newspaper editor Josephus Daniels, respectively.

 Franklin D. Roosevelt

A few days later, a second level of appointees was confirmed, including Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.  A New York state senator prior to his appointment, he is a distant cousin of the former president.  Unlike his famous relative, he is a Democrat.  His first duty in his new office was to submit to a smallpox vaccination, which Secretary Daniels has required of everyone connected to the Navy.

 Doctor Simon Flexner

Doctor Simon Flexner of the Rockefeller Institute, addressing an audience at Johns Hopkins Hospital on March 14, announced that he has succeeded in identifying and cultivating the germ that causes infantile paralysis, one of the smallest organisms ever identified.  It is hoped that this discovery will aid in the treatment of the disease and perhaps lead to the discovery of a serum for its cure.

Jessie Woodrow Wilson

Last month Miss Jessie Woodrow Wilson, the president's daughter, addressed the Consumers' League in Wilmington, Delaware, urging passage of a bill before the Delaware legislature limiting the number of hours women may work to ten hours a day and fifty-five hours a week.  Her advocacy is credited with the bill's passage on March 22.

Louis D. Brandeis

A 1908 Supreme Court case has made possible the success of Miss Wilson, the Consumers' League, and others in promoting legislation limiting the hours women are allowed to work.  An earlier case, Lochner v. New York, had cast serious doubt on the constitutionality of such laws, striking down by a 5-4 vote a similar limit, which applied to all bakery employees, as violating "freedom of contract."  Only three years later, however, in Muller v. Oregon, the Supreme Court ruled the other way in a case involving women.  With the permission of the Oregon Attorney General, the Consumers' League secured the services of Louis D. Brandeis, known as the "people's attorney," to defend the statute.  Brandeis pioneered the use of a different kind of brief in Muller.  Now widely known as the "Brandeis brief," it relies less on legal arguments than on social and economic studies.  Brandeis argued that the studies cited in his brief demonstrated that physical differences between men and women justified the Oregon legislature in treating women differently.  The Supreme Court agreed, holding unanimously that "woman's physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence."  Since the Muller case, states like Delaware are free to enact legislation designed to protect women in the workplace, thus enabling an important part of the progressive program.

As different treatment of women in the workplace gains traction, the state-by-state campaign for equal access to the ballot continues, with mixed results.  Nine thousand women marched for suffrage in the District of Columbia on March 3.  On March 5 the Michigan Senate adopted a House resolution submitting the issue to a vote next month (only men, of course, will vote).  On the same day, the Maine legislature voted down a woman suffrage bill.  Massachusetts followed suit on March 25. 

Walter Hines Page

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels is not the only former North Carolina editor to be appointed to an important administration post.  On March 30 it was announced that Walter Hines Page, the former editor of the State Chronicle in Greensboro and now a partner in the publishing firm of Doubleday, Page & Co., will become United States ambassador to Great Britain.  The job was previously offered to Doctor Charles W. Eliot, President Emeritus of Harvard University, and to former Secretary of State Richard Olney, both of whom turned it down.  President Wilson has said he wants no rich men as ambassadors, but the financial requirements of the position make it unlikely that any other than rich men will be able to accept.  For example, William McCombs, one of Wilson's closest advisers throughout the campaign, has cited financial considerations in declining the President's offer to become ambassador to France.

 Downtown Dayton, Ohio

March was a month of violent weather in the United States.  Tornadoes swept across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana on March 24, causing some 260 fatalities, most of them in Omaha.  Torrential rains followed, causing flooding that inundated farmland and cities in Indiana and Ohio.  Hardest hit was Dayton, Ohio, where thousands may have lost their lives.  (NYT 3/25-26).

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman died on March 10.  She was born a slave, escaped from her owner in 1849, and became active in the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad.  Senator William H. Seward, later President Lincoln's secretary of state, sold her a house on generous terms near his own home in Auburn, New York, which she called home for the rest of her life.  With Frederick Douglass, she was an outspoken abolitionist, and in 1859 she provided assistance to John Brown as he was preparing for his raid on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.  During the war, she worked for the Union Army and continued her efforts to transport slaves to freedom.  After the war, she was an advocate for woman suffrage.

J. Pierpont Morgan

World-renowned banker J. Pierpont Morgan died in Rome on March 31.  Among his impressive achievements in the world of finance were the formation of the General Electric Company and United States Steel.  His last major success came during the Panic of 1907 when he organized a group of solvent banks that employed emergency funds deposited by the United States Treasury to buy securities and extend loans and lines of credit to trust companies and brokerage houses, rescuing the nation's financial system from collapse.  One of the brokerage houses saved was Moore & Schley, which had a large stake in the Tennessee Coal & Iron Company.  As part of the resolution, U.S. Steel purchased the stake at what turned out to be a bargain price.  The threat that the Department of Justice would challenge the transaction under the antitrust laws was removed when then-President Roosevelt gave it his personal approval.  Four years later, President Taft's Justice Department filed suit against U.S. Steel alleging that the transaction did indeed violate the antitrust laws, and in its complaint alleged that Roosevelt had been misled in 1907 (see the November 1911 installment of this blog).  Roosevelt reacted angrily, deepening the split that led eventually to his campaign against Taft for the Republican Party nomination and his "Bull Moose" campaign for the presidency.

 Carter Glass

Although the Panic of 1907 was resolved without long-term damage to the economy, it gave impetus to the movement for banking and currency reform.  Recently the National Monetary Commission established in the wake of the Panic and chaired by former Senator Nelson Aldrich submitted a report recommending the creation of a central bank with capital of at least $100 million and with the exclusive power to issue currency, hold the deposits of the federal government and control the nation's money supply by determining discount reserves and engaging in open market transactions.  Thus it would be able to perform as a matter of course many of the functions Mr. Morgan performed under the pressure of unfolding events in 1907.  Many progressives, remembering President Andrew Jackson's war with the second Bank of the United States, oppose the creation of any central bank controlled by private interests, and insist that any such bank be an adjunct of, or under the control of, the federal government.  Competing proposals have been made to implement the Monetary Commission's recommendations, including one put forward by Representative Carter Glass, chairman of the House Banking Committee.

King George of the Hellenes

King George I of Greece was assassinated on March 18 in Salonika, a city recently captured from the Turks.  The killing adds to the sad total of assassinations of royalty and other political leaders in recent years (see the November 1912 installment of this blog).  He was a native of Denmark and brother of Queen Alexandra, the mother of King George V of Great Britain.  He was very popular in his adopted country, which he ruled for almost fifty years.  He always refused bodyguards or protection of any kind, saying he trusted the people.  He was shot in the back by an anarchist while walking down the principal street of the city, accompanied only by his aide.  The new king is George's son Constantine.

On March 22 the major powers of Europe, meeting in London, presented their plan to end the war in the Balkans, under which the Ottomans would surrender most of European Turkey to the Balkan allies.  A few days later, Turkish forces surrendered Adrianople to the besieging Hungarian army.  In another part of the Balkans, Austria-Hungary, backed by the European powers, has demanded that Serbia and Montenegro withdraw from Scutari and other areas along the Adriatic coast designated to become part of the new nation of Albania.

President Taft with Colonel Goethals in Panama Last Year

On March 1, the British government replied to former Secretary of State Knox's note rejecting Great Britain's move to submit the Panama Canal dispute to arbitration.  Responding to Knox's argument that the matter is not ripe for arbitration until actual injury has been sustained, the British take the position that the enactment of a statute in contravention of a treaty raises an arbitrable issue without the necessity of waiting for injury to occur.  They point out that the arbitration treaty between the United States and Great Britain expressly includes disputes regarding the interpretation of treaties, and argue that enactment of the Panama Canal Act creates such a dispute with regard to the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.

Turning to matters closer to home, Prime Minister Asquith's government on March 12 announced a plan to complete the work begun by the 1911 Parliament Act by abolishing the heredity principle in the House of Lords and eliminating the Lords' veto power in its entirety.

"The New Cocktail "

A British view of the new American government was captured in a cartoon published this month in the humor magazine Punch.  Entitled "The New Cocktail," it portrays the new president examining a bedraggled American Eagle.  Alarmed at the bird's condition, he prescribes "a good stiff leave-it-to-Woodrow."

Anatole France

In another development reflecting heightening tensions in Europe, the French cabinet on March 5 approved a bill extending compulsory military service from two to three years.  Socialists and radicals are vehemently opposed to this measure.  Anatole France has denounced it as "an end to French culture," saying that "the demand for another barrack year from all young Frenchmen" will interfere with France's industrial development and will be a  "heavy blow" to the expansion of the arts, especially sculpture.  "Sculpture," he writes, "is not practiced on the battlefield."

 Aristide Briand

In the Chamber of Deputies, opposition led by former Premier Georges Clemenceau led on March 18 to the defeat and resignation of the recently installed premier, Aristide Briand, and his government.  The new premier is Jean Barthou, who is on record supporting a larger army and increased military appropriations.  Meanwhile, continued improvements in aircraft capabilities suggest that their military potential is only beginning to be realized.  On March 11 near Paris, a French aviator flew his machine to a record altitude of 19,650 feet.

Anthony Fokker

On March 28, Germany made public its plans for increased military preparedness, calling for military expenditures of $321,000,000.  Reflecting the increasing potential of aircraft, and perhaps inspired by their use in the recent wars in North Africa and the Balkans, the government has designated $37,000,000 for an air force.  Last year a young Dutchman named Anthony Fokker formed a company near Berlin to manufacture aircraft for the German military.

George Bernard Shaw

British leaders too are appealing for a larger army.  Great Britain does not have compulsory military service, but some influential writers, such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, are calling for conscription.  On March 19 the Secretary of State for War, Colonel J.E.B. Seely, told the House of Commons that the British army's air service is the best in the world, adding that "the mechanical problem of repelling attacks on aircraft ... has been solved by experiments carried out by the royal army service."

 First Lord Winston Churchill

Great Britain's naval race with Germany continues unabated.  Early this month, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill presented the government's naval estimates to the House of Commons.  Projecting the next six years of capital ship construction, he adhered to the policy of building sixteen capital ships for every ten built by Germany.  Later in the month, in another speech in the Commons, he proposed a naval "holiday" in which Britain and Germany would agree not to build any capital ships in 1913.  He argues that his proposal would be to Germany's advantage because, by simply agreeing not to build three super-dreadnoughts, Germany could subtract five such ships from the British fleet.  "This is more than I expect they could hope to do in a brilliant naval action."

Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley

Great Britain lost one of its military heroes this month.  Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley, First Viscount Wolseley, died March 25 at the age of eighty.  He fought in the Burmese War, the Crimean War, the 1857 Indian Mutiny, and numerous other operations in China and Africa.  He led the unsuccessful expedition to rescue General Charles "Chinese" Gordon in Khartoum in 1884.

Venustiano Carranza

The grip of the Huerta regime on the Mexican government is anything but secure.  Self-styled "constitutionalists" led by Venustiano Carranza have seized Durango, Agua Prieta, and Nogales, near the Arizona border.  In another development involving Latin America, President Wilson issued a statement on March 11, apparently in response to reports of incipient revolutionary movements in Central and South America.  Issued after a cabinet meeting devoted to the subject, the statement expressed the United States' support for "just government, based upon law and not upon arbitrary or irregular force."  The statement was drafted by the president himself and was seen by Secretary of State Bryan for the first time when newspapermen showed it to him after its release.  Its meaning is the subject of considerable speculation, particular among Central American diplomats.

Tsar Michael Romanov

On March 6, Russia celebrated the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.  The Romanov family has ruled Russia since Michael Romanov was proclaimed tsar in 1613, ending a period of civil unrest and famine known as the "Time of Troubles."  The current tsar, Nicholas II, is not only a descendant of Tsar Michael, but is also part of the extended family relationships among European royalty.  As a grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark, the tsar is a first cousin of King George V of Great Britain, King Christian X of Denmark and the new King Constantine I of Greece.  The tsarina, Empress Alexandra, is a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and thus a first cousin of both King George V and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

March 1913 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, April and May 1913
New York Times, March 1913
The Outlook, March 29, 1913

Books and Articles:
Miranda Carter, George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I
Ron Chernow, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John A. Garraty, A Lion in the Street, American Heritage, June 1957
Andre Gerolymatos, The Balkan Wars
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Kermit L. Hall, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States
Richard C. Hall, Balkan Wars 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise of Anglo-German Antagonism, 1860-1914
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
Patricia O'Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House
H. Erle Richards, The Panama Canal Controversy (1913 lecture available on
Walter Stahr, Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man
Joseph Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him