Friday, January 31, 2014

January 1914

The year 1914 opens with President Wilson in Pass Christian, Mississippi, on Christmas vacation.  The turmoil in Mexico still dominates his foreign policy concerns.  On the domestic front, trust legislation has risen to the top of the agenda.  Henry Ford announces a five dollar a day minimum wage for his employees.  Former and future felon James Michael Curley is elected mayor of Boston, replacing JFK's grandfather John F. ("Honey Fitz") Fitzgerald.  Former Confederate General and Kentucky Governor Simon Bolivar Buckner dies; his son (same name) will command American forces on Okinawa in World War II.  Orville, the surviving Wright brother, wins a big patent suit.  A civil government will take over in the Canal Zone, probably to be headed by Colonel Goethals.  Germany inaugurates wireless communication with the United States.  German courts exonerate the German Army in the Zabern incident, and the Kaiser again has trouble controlling his son the Crown Prince.  In England, Joseph Chamberlain announces his retirement from Parliament.  In China Yuan Shih-Kai decides he can rule without Parliament.  In Turkey, Enver Pasha becomes Minister of War.  A volcano erupts in Japan, and racial tension continues in South Africa between Europeans and Indian immigrants.


The President with Mrs. Wilson at Pass Christian . . .

. . . and Boarding the U.S.S. Chester to confer with John Lind

President Wilson began the month of January at his temporary vacation residence in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  While there, he took advantage of his presence on the gulf coast to summon John Lind, his envoy to Mexico, to a meeting.  Lind was carried by the cruiser U.S.S. Chester (CL-1) from Veracruz to Pass Christian, where on January 3 the two conferred aboard ship.  The content of the discussions has not been disclosed, but the Navy Department announced on January 8 that United States Marines stationed at Panama would be relocated to American warships at Veracruz.  Although the Navy has said the redeployment is routine, one reason may be to have additional forces available for a landing on the Mexican coast should that become necessary.

 Mexican Refugees on the American Side of the Rio Grande

On January 10, Mexican "Constitutionalists," reinforced by Pancho Villa's rebel forces, captured the city of Ojinaga in the Mexican state of Chihuahua near the Texas border.  Federal forces fleeing across the border, some with their families, present a refugee problem for the American government.  For the time being, the refugees are in Presidio, Texas, and the plan is to move them to Fort Bliss, near El Paso.  The commander of American troops on the border, Brigadier General Tasker Bliss (no relation to the fort), has expressed concern about handling so many refugees, suggesting that they be sent instead to San Diego.

Nelson O'Shaughnessy

General Huerta's New Year's message to President Wilson required a response, but the Wilson administration wants to avoid anything that would imply recognition of the Huerta regime.  On January 7, American Charge d'Affaires Nelson O'Shaughnessy sent the following message to the Mexican Foreign Minister:  "I am instructed by my Government to transmit the greetings of the President of the United States to the Mexican people, as well as his earnest good wishes for the prosperity of the Mexican republic."

Huerta Defying Uncle Sam: The View From Mexico City

Mexico's financial situation is dire and getting worse.  On January 13, the Mexican government announced that it would default on the interest due on its domestic and foreign debt.  Two days later the government suspended payment on postal money orders and the Mexican Minister of Finance Adolfo de la Lama resigned in protest.  The amount currently in default on Mexican debt is in excess of $13,000,000.  European countries with substantial investments in Mexico are following developments there with concern, but seem content for the present to let the United States take the lead.  For its part, the United States is adhering to its policy of "watchful waiting."  The Huerta government in Mexico City continues, meanwhile, to denounce American imperialism.

Representative Henry Clayton

President Wilson returned to Washington on January 13.  On January 20 he addressed Congress again, this time in support of new anti-trust legislation.  Proposals before Congress are designed to improve the mechanism for enforcement of anti-monopoly laws and to respond to criticism that the Sherman Act's prohibition of combinations "in restraint of trade" gives insufficient guidance to businessmen.  The legislative effort will be managed in the House of Representatives by Representative Henry D. Clayton of Alabama, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who abandoned plans to run for the Senate when President Wilson asked him to stay in the House so he could continue to manage this legislation.

Joseph E. Davies

"Trust" is a term originally used in connection with the management of personal estates.  In the last century, however, businessmen began using "voting trusts" to hold the stock and manage the affairs of interstate corporations, and in recent years "trust" has come to refer generally, if imprecisely, to large American corporations such as Standard Oil and American Tobacco.  The 1890 Sherman Act was designed to provide a tool for the federal government to control the competitive activities of such companies, and it has in fact been used successfully in recent years against several corporations, including the two just mentioned.  It has been criticized, however, for providing insufficient guidance to businessmen regarding competitive practices that are allowed and those that are not.  After the Supreme Court's recent Standard Oil decision, it was also criticized for injecting a "rule of reason" into the language of the Act, which on its face outlaws "[e]very combination ... in restraint of trade."  One suggested remedy is to enact legislation stating specific forbidden practices, such as interlocking directorates and price discrimination.  Another is to establish a federal commission with the power to examine and regulate particular practices as they appear.  The commission envisioned by the latter proposal would likely be an expanded version of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Corporations, presently headed by Commissioner of Corporations Joseph E. Davies.

The New Spirit of Cooperation

Perhaps in response to the increased focus on trust legislation, several large companies have recently agreed to remedies proposed by the Justice Department.  Settlements this month include the American Telephone & Telegraph Company's agreement to divest its interest in Western Union, and the agreement of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad to sell its interests in trolley lines, steamship lines and the Boston & Maine Railroad.  Several leading bankers have resigned from corporate boards in response to interlocking directorate concerns.  Cases brought under the Sherman Act are still pending against the United States Steel Corporation, the International Harvester Company and the American Sugar Refining Company.

John Skelton Williams

On January 13, President Wilson named Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John Skelton Williams to be Comptroller of the Currency.  In addition to the traditional duties of that position, Williams will join Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo and Secretary of Agriculture Houston as the third ex officio member of the committee that is holding hearings to determine the number and locations of the Federal Reserve Banks to be established under the new currency law.

Governor Buckner

Simon Bolivar Buckner, a Lieutenant General in the Confederate army during the Civil War who served as Governor of Kentucky from 1887 to 1891, died on January 8.  Buckner was a graduate of West Point, where he became friends with Ulysses S. Grant.  When the Civil War broke out in 1861 he and Grant found themselves on opposite sides, and he was the recipient of Grant's famous "unconditional surrender" demand at Fort Donelson.  They renewed their friendship after the war, and when Grant died in 1885 Buckner was one of his pallbearers.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford, head of the Ford Motor Company, announced on January 5 that his company would make $10,000,000 in profit-sharing payments to its employees in 1914, and begin paying its workers a minimum wage of five dollars a day.  This is made possible by the popularity of the Model T automobile and the company's increased productivity resulting from the recent institution of the assembly line.  Ford also announced that the company would begin running its factory continuously, reducing the length of a shift to eight hours and operating three shifts a day, thereby providing employment for thousands of additional workers.  Boys and women, constituting about ten percent of Ford's work force, will not receive the profit sharing payments unless they are supporting families, but all employees will have the benefit of the minimum five dollar wage.

The New Mayor of Boston

Representative James Michael Curley, now serving his second term in Congress, was elected Mayor of Boston on January 13.  He succeeds John Francis ("Honey Fitz") Fitzgerald, who decided not to seek reelection due to health concerns.  The new mayor promises an honest and efficient administration for the City of Boston.

 Orville Wright

In 1906 Wilbur and Orville Wright were granted a patent for a "flying machine."  The heart of the invention was a method of controlling heavier than air machines in flight.  Claiming that the patent was invalid, rival manufacturer Glenn Curtiss refused to pay a royalty to the Wrights, and a lawsuit ensued.  On January 13, the Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judgment in the Wrights' favor, leaving the Wright company the sole legal manufacturer of aeroplanes in the United States.  Earlier in the month Orville Wright took one of his machines to a field near Dayton, Ohio, and demonstrated what he calls an "automatic stabilizer."  He says this innovation makes flying "as nearly foolproof as anything can be," and he hopes "to see the day when it will be just as safe to board an aeroplane and take a long trip as it is at present to make a journey behind a locomotive."

As if in response to Wright's comment, the Daily Mail reported on January 28 that British government experts are considering plans for a new type of aircraft designed to carry ten passengers in addition to the pilot.  It is believed that such machines, manufactured in sufficient quantities, could be of vital importance in military operations.


In the United States, 1913's most popular song was "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."  It was written, and is sung here, by Chauncey Olcott (click to play):

Chauncey Olcott


Joseph Chamberlain

In Great Britain, the January 6 edition of the Birmingham Post carried a letter from the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain announcing that he will not be a candidate for Parliament in the next election.  This brings to an end a remarkable political career.   A successful industrialist who entered politics as an outspoken radical, Chamberlain served as mayor of Birmingham from 1873 to 1876, when he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party.  He served as President of the Board of Trade in the Gladstone government from 1880 to 1885.  In the home rule crisis of 1886 he led the "Liberal Unionists" out of the party to join the Conservatives in their opposition to home rule.  He has remained with the Unionists, serving as Secretary of State for the Colonies in the governments led by the Marquess of Salisbury and Arthur Balfour from 1895 to 1903.  His son Austen was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last Unionist government.  Another son, Neville, is a member of the Birmingham City Council.

The Kaiser and Crown Prince Wilhelm

In the wake of the Zabern incident, in which German troops garrisoned in Alsace-Lorraine were accused of abusing the local (mostly French-speaking) residents, the Reichstag passed a vote of censure against the government for its handling of the affair.  The main culprit, Lieutenant Gunter von Forstner, was convicted by a court-martial and sentenced to forty-three days imprisonment.  On January 10, a separate court-martial acquitted the other officers involved, including Forstner's commanding officer Colonel Adolf von Reuter, and on the same day a court of appeals in Strasbourg reversed Forstner's conviction, holding that the disturbance was the fault of the local population and the inadequate protection afforded by the local police.  While the second court-martial was pending, German Crown Prince Wilhelm sent a telegram to Colonel von Reuter congratulating him on his "firm stand" in the matter.  When the Kaiser learned of the telegram, he stripped Wilhelm of his command of the "Death's Head" Hussars in Danzig and reassigned him to staff duty in Berlin.  This disagreement, the latest event is a long-running feud between the Kaiser and his heir, is reminiscent of the Kaiser's rebuke of his son in November 1911 after the Crown Prince, sitting in the Reichstag's visitors gallery, loudly applauded a speech criticizing the government's handling of the Agadir crisis.

The Kaiser celebrated his fifty-fifth birthday on January 27.  President Wilson sent birthday congratulations to the Kaiser, noting "the extent to which so many persons of German blood have contributed to the good citizenship and progress of the United States," and expressing "for myself and my countrymen a hearty wish for the continuation of the splendid progress and prosperity achieved by the German Empire during your reign."  On the same day the Kaiser sent a message to President Wilson announcing the opening of a new wireless transmitting station at Elvese, near Hanover.  The Kaiser's message was the first sent by direct wireless from Germany to the United States.  In his reply the President congratulated the Kaiser on "this additional tie of closer communications between the United States and Germany."  The wireless station in New Jersey that received the Kaiser's message is unable to transmit radiograms, so the President's reply was sent by cable.

Colonel Goethals

On January 27 President Wilson signed an executive order pursuant to the Panama Canal Act creating a civil government for the Canal Zone.  Secretary of War Garrison has notified Colonel George W. Goethals that it is the president's intention to appoint him governor.  This appears to have headed off an attempt by newly elected Mayor John Purroy Mitchel to appoint Colonel Goethals to the post of Police Commissioner of New York City.  Mitchel offered Goethals the job earlier in the month, and Goethals replied with conditions that could not be immediately met, including that he be given complete control of the Police Department.  Mayor Mitchel has submitted proposed bills to the state legislature designed to satisfy Colonel Goethals' conditions, but in response to an inquiry from Secretary Garrison, Colonel Goethals has stated he "will not retire [from the Army] as long as my services are needed."

Enver Bey

Enver Bey, now known as Enver Pasha since leading Turkish forces in the recovery of Adrianople from Bulgaria in the second Balkan War, was appointed Turkish Minister of War on January 4.  A leader of the "Young Turks" in their rise to power in 1908, Enver led the Ottoman defense of Libya in the Italo-Turkish War.  He was the military leader of the Young Turks last January when they overthrew the Grand Vizier and installed their own candidate.  That candidate, Mahmud Shevket Pasha, was in turn assassinated in June.  He was succeeded by the current Grand Vizier, Said Halim Pasha.

Sun Yat-Sen (Front Row, Sixth from Left, Hands on Knees) With Supporters in Japan

On January 11 President Yuan Shih-Kai issued a decree dissolving the Chinese Parliament.  Observers consider it unlikely that it will reconvene as long as Yuan Shih-Kai remains in power.  Sun Yat-Sen, leader of the opposition Kuomintang Party, remains in exile in Japan.

Residents of Sakura who Fled the Eruption Viewing the Devastation from Kagoshima

Sakura is a volcanic island in Kagoshima Bay, on the southern coast of the Japanese island of Kyushu.  The volcano that forms the island, dormant for over a hundred years, began to erupt on January 11 and continued for days, destroying three towns, killing hundreds and rendering twenty thousand residents homeless.  The city of Kagoshima, across the bay, suffered damage in the violent earthquake that accompanied the eruption.

 Prime Minister Louis Botha

There is racial strife in the Union of South Africa, the British dominion created in 1909 by the merger of Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State.  The Boer-led government of the Union, still headed by its first prime minister Louis Botha, discriminates between white Europeans (primarily English and Boers) and natives of India who have immigrated to South Africa to work in the Rand mines.  Because the immigrants are citizens in good standing of British India, the official discrimination violates the policy of the British Empire that the citizens of all its dominions are to be granted full rights of citizenship throughout the Empire.  Last year the young lawyer Mohandas Gandhi led a strike and protest march, resulting in his arrest and imprisonment.  The controversy is limited to discrimination against Indian immigrants: no one is arguing that black African natives are entitled to equality with whites.

January 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, February and March 1914
New York Times, January 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
H.W. Brands, The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace
Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill: Young Statesman 1907-1914
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
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
Charles Emmerson, 1913: The World Before the Great War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Peter T. Marsh, Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War
David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
Candice Millard, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
Michael Perman, Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South 1888-1908
Richard B. Sherman, The Republican Party and Black America From McKinley to Hoover, 1896-1933