Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 1913

In April 1913, for the first time in over a hundred years, the president goes to Capitol Hill to deliver a state of the union message in person. No cabinet members or Supreme Court justices go with him, and he speaks for nine minutes. Trouble is brewing with Japan due to California racial legislation. Wine is banished from diplomatic dinners. Woman suffrage goes down to defeat in Michigan, and suffragists go to jail in Britain. There's an assassination in China and an attempted one in Spain. The war in the Balkans appears to be coming to an end, but Scutari remains a hot spot. Germany's chancellor warns the Reichstag about the threat of pan-Slavism following the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from Europe.


 Woodrow Wilson, Doing It Himsel


This month, for the first time in over a hundred years, a president of the United States went to the floor of Congress to promote his legislative program.  The last president to do so was John Adams, who addressed Congress in person in 1801.  His successor Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice, and since then every president has fulfilled his constitutional duty to "give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient" by means of written messages sent to Congress and read to each house by the clerk.

Senator John Sharp Williams

The new president's journey to Congress on April 8 comports with the view he has expressed throughout his academic career that the United States government should follow more closely the example of the British system of parliamentary democracy, in which the chief executive leads his party in the legislature. Some, however, have criticized the practice as inconsistent with the constitutional separation of powers, comparing his innovation to the British monarch's speech from the throne at the opening of Parliament (this, in fact, was Jefferson's reason for discontinuing it).  Perhaps surprisingly, most of the criticism has come from the president's own party, led by Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi, one of President Wilson's strongest supporters in last year's presidential campaign.  When the president's wish to visit Congress was made known, the House adopted a resolution to convene a joint session.  When the resolution reached the Senate, rather than expose the question to potentially embarrassing objections from Williams and other Senate Democrats, Vice President Marshall declared the question to be one of high privilege on which unanimous consent was not required.  When no one moved to appeal his ruling to the whole Senate, the resolution was adopted.

Joseph P. Tumulty, the President's Secretary

President Wilson's journey did not perfectly replicate those of Presidents Washington and Adams.  Those presidents took their entire cabinets with them when they addressed Congress; President Wilson was accompanied only by his secretary and a single Secret Service agent.  Another difference is that each of the earlier presidential addresses was followed by a formal reply, which was neither expected nor given on this occasion.  Finally, the distances Washington and Adams traveled were much shorter.  When they were in office, the national capital was in New York and Philadelphia.  In each of those cities the president's office was in close proximity to the meeting place of the Congress.  When Jefferson discontinued the practice in 1801 he said it was because he wanted to avoid the trappings of royalty, but he might also have been influenced by the distance from the White House to the Capitol in the city of  Washington.  Thus it may not be entirely coincidental that the renewal of the president's personal message to Congress coincides with the advent of the automobile.

Senator Aldrich in 1909, Rescuing High Tariffs

The subject of the president's address was tariff reform, with the president urging an overall downward revision in rates and the inclusion of some imports on a "free list."   Tariffs have been a major issue since President Taft took office promising similar reforms and calling a special session of Congress for the purpose.  Most of the promised reductions were included in the House bill, but in the Senate changes were made that resulted in the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909, which eliminated or lessened many of the proposed reductions and even increased some tariffs.  Taft signed the legislation into law, making little if any effort to impose his own views.  The Payne-Aldrich Act was a bitter disappointment to progressives, foreshadowing the Republican Party split that doomed its electoral prospects in 1910 and 1912. 

The President Addressing Congress on April 8

In his nine-minute address the president avoided specifics, preferring to focus on broad principles. He said that tariffs no longer serve their original purpose of "protecting" the country's industries, which now seem to have the idea that they are "entitled to the direct patronage of the government."  He told Congress that high tariffs have "built up a series of privileges and exemptions behind which it was easy ... to organize monopoly" with the result that "nothing is obliged to stand the tests of efficiency and economy, in our world of big business, but everything thrives by concerted arrangement."

Representative Cordell Hull

The tariff bill includes a new feature: an income tax, made possible by the recently enacted Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  If the bill becomes law, it will impose a tax of one percent on all incomes between $4,000 and $20,000 a year.  A two percent tax will be levied on additional amounts between $20,000 and $50,000, three percent on amounts between $50,000 and $100,000, and four percent on all amounts in excess of $100,000. The bill was drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee, under the chairmanship of Representative Cordell Hull of Tennessee.

Governor Hiram Johnson

California has presented the new administration with a foreign policy headache in its opening weeks.  A bill before the California legislature will forbid ownership of California land by immigrants "ineligible to citizenship," a category mainly describing immigrants from Japan.  The Japanese foreign minister has made an informal objection to the State Department, and on April 24 President Wilson sent Secretary of State Bryan to Sacramento to confer with legislators and the governor to express the federal government's concerns.  The governor is Hiram Johnson, who was Theodore Roosevelt's running mate on the Progressive Party ticket last year.  While Bryan was en route, Governor Johnson issued a statement strongly defending California's right to legislate in this area.  After a late-night meeting between Bryan and California legislators on April 30, the Senate proceeded with the legislation, which with minor modifications appears to be on its way to becoming the law of California.

Ambassador Takahira Kogoro

The Alien Land Law is not the only issue that has caused relations between the United States and Japan to be plagued by suspicion in recent years.  The American victory in the Spanish-American War and Japanese victories in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars made the two countries major Pacific powers for the first time.  President Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his successful mediation of the Russo-Japanese War, but in the same year the San Francisco Board of Education mandated segregated schools for students of Japanese descent, leading to a Japanese protest and a series of diplomatic notes.  The notes eventually comprised an informal "Gentlemen's Agreement," under which the Japanese government agreed to restrict Japanese emigration to the United States and the United States agreed to persuade San Francisco to withdraw the school segregation measure.  In 1908, Secretary of State Root and Japanese Ambassador Takahira Kogoro signed an agreement that formalized the "Gentlemen's Agreement" and recognized each country's interests in the Pacific, including the United States' possessions in Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines, its "Open Door Policy" in China, and Japan's de facto control of Northeastern China, Korea and Formosa.  With California's Alien Land Law, another source of irritation between the countries has arisen, aggravated by Japan's difficulty in understanding the United States government's inability to dictate matters of California law to the governor and legislature of that state.

Ambassador and Mrs. Bryce

Secretary of State Bryan gave his first diplomatic dinner on April 21.  The guests of honor were departing British ambassador James Bryce and Mrs. Bryce.  The only beverages served were grape juice (unfermented) and mineral water.  Bryan explained to his guests that he had told President Wilson when he was offered the secretaryship that his temperance convictions would preclude his serving wine at diplomatic functions, and that the president had told him he could use his own judgment.  Accordingly, he said, there would be no wine.  By all accounts the guests took the news in good humor, and agreed with Bryan that the warmth of the words made up for the absence of wine.  In England, however, the Pall Mall Gazette professed alarm: "Official life in Washington under the Wilson-Bryan regime holds out little prospect of gaiety.  The long accumulated experience of man demands wine to make glad the heart on festive occasions.  We fear that the capital of the great Republic is destined to be known as "Wishywashington."  Not all Englishmen disapproved: George Bernard Shaw suggested Bryan go a step further and make his dinners vegetarian.

Before he left for California, Bryan presented to a meeting of foreign diplomats his plan for the maintenance of world peace.  He proposes a series of "cooling-off" treaties whereby the contracting parties agree that any dispute between them is to be submitted to an international board of inquiry, and that they will not declare war or make further preparation for hostilities until the board submits its report, at which time the nations involved may decide to accept or reject the board's findings.  The diplomats will relay Bryan's proposal to their governments, which may or may not find such an arrangement appealing.  One objection already raised is that it would appear to give the advantage to the nation that is more ready for war when the dispute arises.

Woman Suffrage Tent at Last Year's Michigan State Fair

On April 7, the voters of Michigan went to the polls to consider a number of measures supported by progressives.  They approved some and rejected others, adopting initiative, referendum and recall but voting down a woman suffrage amendment.  The suffrage amendment appeared on ballots along with county by county liquor prohibition proposals, which were vigorously supported by the Anti-Saloon League and just as vigorously opposed by brewery and liquor interests.  The liquor interests also opposed the woman suffrage proposal, probably in the belief that more women than men support prohibition.  Many observers believe the suffrage amendment would have been adopted if it had not been linked to the prohibition issue.

Senator Thomas P. Gore

With the Connecticut's legislature's ratification, the Seventeenth Amendment became part of the United States Constitution on April 8.  Next year one third of the members of the Senate will be elected or re-elected by the voters of their states and not by their state legislatures.  Among the prominent senators whose terms will expire with the end of the Sixty-third Congress are Republicans Elihu Root of New York and Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania, and Democrats William J. Stone of Missouri and Thomas P. Gore of Oklahoma.  Senator Root was Secretary of War and later Secretary of State under President Roosevelt, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912.  Senator Penrose is the powerful boss of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, Senator Stone is the new Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Gore, chosen in 1907 as one of Oklahoma's first two senators, has achieved high political office despite being blind since childhood.

The President on Opening Day

President Wilson is as fond of baseball as his predecessor.  Following the practice initiated by President Taft in 1910, he went to National Park in Washington on April 10 to attend the opening day game, throwing out the first ball to start the season.  The game pitted the home town Washington Senators against the visiting New York Yankees (formerly the Highlanders, using their new name for the first time).  The Senators won by a score of 2-1.


Montenegrin Troops at Scutari

On April 1, the Turkish government accepted the terms of peace proposed by the major European powers, which include the Ottoman Empire's withdrawal from practically all of its territory in Europe.  With the fall of Adrianople last month, it had little choice.  The war continued into April, however, with the siege of Scutari, a Turkish port on the Adriatic, by Montenegrin and Serbian troops.  Austria-Hungary is alarmed by the prospect, not so much of Turkish defeat as of Serbian victory, and is adamant that Serbia not be allowed to have a port on the Adriatic, where it could challenge Austrian sea power.  The European powers' solution, part of the terms now accepted by the Turks, is to include Scutari in the new independent nation of Albania.  On April 7 British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey told the House of Commons that if the European powers had not come to an agreement over the future of Scutari the entire continent would have gone to war.  On April 21 the Turks surrendered Scutari to the besieging Montenegrin and Serbian forces, which remain in possession of the city, defying the European powers' demand that they withdraw.  Austria-Hungary is threatening to evict them by force, and Russia, which supports its fellow Slavs in Serbia and Montenegro and has been forced to back down in previous Balkan crises, may feel compelled to come to their aid if that happens.  Meanwhile the powers have backed up their demand with a blockade of the Montenegrin coast, and are seeking a compromise solution, possibly involving alternative territorial compensation.


Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg formally submitted his proposals for military expenditures this month.  In his speech, delivered to the Reichstag on April 7, he asserted that the strength of the German army had not kept pace with the growth of the German nation.  He is concerned that the success of the Slavic nations in their war against Turkey has given rise to a surge of pan-Slavic sentiment in Eastern Europe, "substitut[ing] for passive European Turkey other states of feverish political activity."  He warns that, "should the great European conflagration between Germanism and pan-Slavism come, this change would alter the balance in Germany's disfavor."  The chancellor expressed skepticism about Winston Churchill's proposed "naval holiday," but said he would be willing to consider concrete proposals from the British government.  The main threat in his view comes from Russia, the largest of the Slavic nations, on Germany's eastern border, and Russia's ally France to the west.  He said that while he does not doubt the good intentions of those governments, Germany "must reckon with the great force of modern public opinion, which in the form of French warlike patriotism and Russian pan-Slavism threatens the peace of the world against the wishes of the great mass of both peoples."  He did not explain how the peaceful "wishes of  the great mass" of people in those countries can coexist with warlike "public opinion."

The 1906 Assassination Attempt

On April 13, an anarchist attempted to assassinate Spanish King Alfonso XIII.  This was the second attempt on the king's life, the first being in 1906 when a bomb was thrown at the carriage carrying the king and his new bride on their wedding day.

Pope Pius X

Pope Pius X, who had been recovering from an attack of influenza, suffered a relapse on April 8.  His.weakened condition is aggravated by shortness of breath, coughing fits, heart palpitations and kidney disease.  The pope, born Giuseppe Sarto in 1835, has occupied the chair of St. Peter since 1903, when he succeeded Pope Leo XIII.  The College of Cardinals elected him to the Papacy after Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary exercised a rarely used privilege traditionally accorded monarchs of Catholic European countries by vetoing the leading candidate, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, after the balloting had started.  Franz Joseph's veto struck many as an anachronism unsuited to the modern world and unlikely to be seen again.

Mrs. Pankhurst in Prison

While the woman suffrage movement in the United States is gaining strength, it does not compare in intensity to that in Great Britain.  Since an amendment to the Franchise Reform Bill granting the vote to women was ruled out of order in Parliament in January, suffragists have engaged in a widespread campaign of property destruction, including burning railway stations, invading art galleries and destroying their contents, blowing up passenger trains and smashing windows.  On April 3, Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, who has acknowledged her role in destroying Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George's country house in February, was sentenced to three years at hard labor.  This has further enraged the suffragists, who have said they will no longer respect human life in their campaign of violence.  In jail, as she had promised, Mrs. Pankhurst went on a "hunger strike," refusing all nourishment.  After a few days her health had suffered to the extent that the government authorized her release on parole on April 12.  A bill before Parliament would provide for the release of "hunger strikers" when they are in danger of total collapse and their rearrest following recovery, the process to be repeated as often as necessary until their sentences are completed.

Queen Mary

The vigor of the woman suffrage campaign in Great Britain does not appear to be matched by its public support.  Government officials have called the campaign a "reign of terror," and the press is largely hostile.  On April 6, two women were booed and pelted with oranges, bananas and clods of dirt by an angry crowd of 12,000 in Hyde Park when they tried to speak in support of suffrage.  Queen Mary does not comment on this or other political issues, but is believed to be opposed, if not to woman suffrage itself, at least to the tactics employed by the suffrage movement.  Her view is not shared by all the female members of the royal household, leading to the recent resignations of at least two of her maids of honor, both peeresses of the realm, who have expressed their support of the suffragists.

Song Jiaoren

In China, the first parliament of the Chinese Republic convened on April 8 in Peking, but it did so without the leader of its majority party.  Parliamentary elections held in December gave the victory to the Kuomintang, led by Sun Yat-Sen and his deputy Song Jiaoren.  Song, who had led the party in the campaign, was an outspoken advocate of limiting the power of the president, Yuan Shih-Kai.  On March 22, Song was assassinated.  Suspicion has focused on the president and his allies, but other than their obvious motive no one has come forward with evidence of their involvement.  China's first parliament thus opens with its influence weakened and Yuan Shih-Kai's grip on power strengthened.

Lord Northcliffe

The German airship Z4 was forced down in Luneville, France on April 3.  Twenty-four hours later, after paying a customs duty, it was released by the French and allowed to return to Metz.  The ranking German officer gave his word of honor that no observations of military value had been made, and the French stated that they did not take advantage of the airship's plight to examine it for German secrets.  Nevertheless, some in Germany are claiming that it was the crew's duty to destroy it in the air and sacrifice their lives rather than allow the airship with its sensitive equipment and information to fall into the hands of the French.  In other aviation news, the London Daily Mail, published by Alfred Harmsworth, Baron Northcliffe, has announced a $50,000 prize to be awarded to the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a hydro-aeroplane, completing the flight within a seventy-two hour period.  The flight may be in either direction between any point in the United States, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland.

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

Books and Articles:
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
Andre Gerolymatos, The Balkan Wars
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
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
Louis W. Koenig, Bryan: A Political Biography of William Jennings Bryan
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
Joseph Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson As I Know Him 
Bernard A. Weisberger, Our Sporting Presidents, American Heritage Magazine, September 1992