Friday, February 28, 2014

February 1914

February 1914:  This month there are some clouds on the horizon in a mostly peaceful world. In Russia, the premier who resisted calls for action against Germany over the von Sanders affair is forced from office, and in Germany a new tax goes into effect designed to support expansion of the kaiser's military. Wilson rescinds the embargo on arms shipments to Mexico, and takes a step toward resolution of the dispute over Panama Canal tolls. Racial legislation in the United States continues to strain relations with Japan. In Great Britain, civil war is threatened as Irish home rule moves closer to final enactment.


Premier Vladimir Kokovtsov ...

... and His Successor, Ivan Goremykin

Vladimir Kokovtsov became Russian premier and chairman of the Council of Ministers following the assassination of Pyotr Stolypin in 1911.  On February 12 he resigned and was replaced by former Premier Ivan Goremykin.  His departure was not unexpected. In December he fell out of favor with some in the government when he resisted calls for action against Germany following the assignment of General Otto Liman von Sanders to Constantinople as an "adviser" to the Ottoman army.  Goremykin, his replacement, is the candidate of the party that advocates a more aggressive stance in relations with Germany. 

Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg

In Germany, the Reichstag has voted to impose a new tax to support its ongoing military expansion.  Called the "Contribution to Defense" tax, it will raise more than $250,000,000 to support an increase in the German army and navy.  Despite its military purpose, the tax was supported by the Socialists, the dominant party in the Reichstag, because it will be paid primarily by the wealthy.  In another development in Germany, all members of the civil government of Alsace-Lorraine resigned at the end of January.  Their action was in direct response to the Zabern incident and its aftermath, which included the court-martial acquittals of the Army officers involved and the refusal of German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg to resign despite losing a vote of censure in the Reichstag.

Walter Long

King George V opened the British Parliament on February 10.  In the speech from the throne, he counseled "a spirit of mutual concession" on the issue of home rule for Ireland, a theme that Prime Minister Asquith and Irish Party leader John Redmond echoed in the subsequent debate in the House of Commons.  Unionist Walter Long, former Chief Secretary for Ireland, responded for the opposition, warning of civil war if Ulster's demands were not satisfied.  He moved that the House's reply to the speech from the throne be amended to assert that "it would be disastrous for the House to proceed further with the Government for Ireland bill until the measure has been submitted to the judgment of the country."  His motion was defeated by a vote of 333 to 255.

Reconsidering Panama Canal Tolls

A source of controversy between the United States and Great Britain may be moving closer to resolution.  President Wilson let it be known early this month that he favors repeal of the provision of the Panama Canal Act that provides for free passage through the canal for American coastwise shipping, a provision to which Britain has objected as a violation of the 1901 Hay-Pauncefote Treaty providing for equal access to the canal by all nations.  The United States has defended the provision as no different from a subsidy.  The president, however, has now concluded that apart from the legalities, which are debatable, the United States is morally bound by the provisions of the treaty.  When the president's position became known, Senator Bristow of Kansas took to the floor of the Senate to object, suggesting that he was bowing to railroad interests.  He was immediately answered by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, who supported the president, stating that Great Britain was not the only nation that objected to the discriminatory toll provision, and warning the Senate that the "perilous character" of the country's international relations as a result of the controversy might lead the United States to "serious loss or serious injury or wars or something like war."

President Wilson has appointed Colonel George W. Goethals governor of the Panama Canal Zone.  He will assume his new position on April 1.  Goethals is a logical and popular choice, having supervised the massive construction project since 1907, when President Roosevelt chose him to be its chief engineer.  

In 1903, shortly after the Isthmus of Panama was chosen as the site for a canal, the Roosevelt administration negotiated the Hay-Herran Treaty with Colombia.  The treaty provided for the establishment of a canal zone from ocean to ocean through Panama, then a Colombian province.  The treaty called for generous lease payments to Colombia, and Colombian commerce stood to benefit as much as that of any country from the existence of an inter-ocean canal.  Colombia, however, was emerging from a period of political unrest and civil war, and the treaty ran into political opposition.  Although it was ratified by the United States Senate, the Colombian Congress rejected it.  President Roosevelt responded swiftly and decisively.  In rapid succession, he sent a gunboat to the isthmus to support an ongoing revolution by Panamanian separatists, formally recognized Panama's independence, and entered into the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty with the new nation.  To this day, Colombia resents the United States' role in the loss of Panama, resentment that is focused largely on Roosevelt himself.  (It is no accident that Roosevelt's current swing through South America does not include a visit to Colombia.)  Now, in anticipation of the opening of the canal, Secretary of State Bryan is in negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement with Colombia, a settlement that would presumably include the payment of reparations.  Roosevelt is known to consider the Canal the signature achievement of his presidency, and to feel strongly that the United States owes Colombia no reparations or apology, or anything else that could be construed as an admission of wrongdoing.  All things considered, it is probably just as well that he is in the Brazilian jungle, beyond the reach of newspapers and reporters.

Guns Being Packed in New Orleans for Shipment to Mexican rebels

On March 14, 1912, when President Francisco Madero was still in power in Mexico, President Taft, acting pursuant to a joint resolution of Congress, imposed an embargo on the shipment of arms to that country from the United States.  The joint resolution found that a condition of domestic violence existed in Mexico that was promoted by such shipments, and made them unlawful except under such limitations and exceptions as the president might prescribe.  Since then, Mexico's domestic violence has resulted in the very occurrence that it was hoped the embargo would prevent -- the overthrow and assassination of Madero.  Now that Mexico is under the dictatorial regime of Victoriano Huerta, the embargo is serving only to prevent the shipment of arms to rebels seeking Huerta's overthrow.  Making use of his authority to prescribe "limitations and exceptions," President Wilson on February 3 revoked the embargo in its entirety, noting that conditions in Mexico have "essentially changed" since it was imposed.  The president's hope is that resumption of the flow of arms and ammunition from the United States to Mexico will assist the rebels in their efforts to overthrow Huerta.

Attorney General James C. McReynolds

Hearings in Congress continued this month on proposed new anti-trust legislation designed to clarify and improve enforcement of the laws against monopolies and restraints of trade and to establish a trade commission to regulate competitive activity in interstate commerce.  Meanwhile, Attorney General McReynolds seems determined to demonstrate the continued relevance of the 1890 Sherman Act, which was used aggressively in the "trust-busting" campaigns of the Roosevelt and Taft administrations.  On February 11, in a sequel to last year's Supreme Court ruling that ordered the dissolution of the merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads, the Department of Justice sued, again under the Sherman Act, to force divestiture of the Southern Pacific's leasehold interest in lines owned by the Central Pacific Railroad.

 A Drawing of the Aeroboat Designed by Glenn Curtiss for Mr. Wanamaker

The Panama-Pacific Exposition has announced a prize of $150,000 to be awarded next year to the aviator making the fastest trip around the world in ninety days or less.  The prescribed route begins in San Francisco and crosses the United States to New York, then north to Labrador, Greenland and Iceland, through Scotland and England to Europe, across Russia and Siberia with a stop in Japan, over to Alaska and down the Pacific coast to the starting point in San Francisco.  The total distance is in excess of 21,000 miles.  Several aviators have stated their intention to enter the race, which is to take place in 1915, the Exposition year.  The Aero Club of America is taking the lead in making the arrangements, with the cooperation of foreign aero clubs and governments along the route.

A somewhat less ambitious offer is on the table for this year.  In a competition sanctioned by the Aero Club of America and the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain, Lord Northcliffe has offered $50,000 for the completion of the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  An attempt to claim the prize has been announced by Mr. Rodman Wanamaker of Philadelphia, who is backing construction of an aeroboat designed under the supervision of Glenn H. Curtiss.  Carrying a wingspread of some eighty feet and powered by a 200 horsepower engine, it will be more than twice the size and power of the largest aeroplanes now in existence, and is expected to be capable of speeds up to 70 miles per hour.  It will carry two pilots and be able to make the trip in a single flight during the daylight hours of a single day, flying nonstop from St. John's, Newfoundland to the west coast of Ireland.  Three other giant flying boats are being constructed in Europe for the purpose of entering the competition.  To take advantage of the prevailing westerly winds, all the flights will originate in North America and make the transatlantic flight from west to east.  Inventor Orville Wright, whose patents were recently upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals, says he will not allow Mr. Curtiss to build or fly the Wanamaker aeroboat, or any other aeroplane, in the United States without first obtaining a license from the Wright Company.

Another race, also sanctioned by the Aero Club of America, will be held this summer.  Open to aeroplanes equipped with pontoons for water landing, the race will start in New York Harbor at the Statue of Liberty, round the Boston Light in Boston Harbor, and return to New York Harbor without stopping (landing en route will result in disqualification).  Covering a distance of approximately 600 miles, it will be the longest air race ever held in the United States.

Illinois Governor Edward Dunne Signing the Suffrage Bill

Last June Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to grant women the right to vote.  Response has exceeded expectations, some 150,000 women having registered for the upcoming aldermanic elections in Chicago.  In other states, both houses of the New Jersey legislature approved a woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution this month, and on February 18 the suffrage movement suffered a setback when the Maryland House of Delegates rejected a similar amendment.  In Washington on February 3, the House Democratic caucus adopted a resolution stating that woman suffrage is a state and not a federal issue.

Helping Income Taxpayers in New York

March 1 is the deadline for filing returns under the new income tax law, and financial and banking houses have been occupied this month in assisting their clients with the necessary paperwork.  The law contains some unanticipated provisions.  One that made the front page of the New York Times this month is that social clubs such as the Union League, Metropolitan and University Clubs have learned that they will be required to file returns and pay any tax due if they are organized as corporations.  The old corporate excise tax law, which the income tax law replaces, exempted all corporations "not organized for profit."  The new income tax law specifies certain corporations that are exempt, such as labor and agricultural organizations, fraternal societies, chambers of commerce and the like, but does not specify social clubs and contains no blanket exclusion for non-profits.  The Times cites this as proof that the new law is "an almost inexhaustible mine of surprises."

Secretaries McAdoo and Houston at the Hearing in New York Last Month

This month Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo and Secretary of Agriculture Houston completed their hearings to determine the location of Federal Reserve Banks and the boundaries of Reserve Districts to be established under the new currency law.  The hearings were held in numerous cities across the country, ending with a sweep through the western states this month.  The secretaries returned to Washington on February 18, and their report is expected shortly.  Also expected shortly are the president's selections for appointment to the Central Reserve Board, which will oversee the activities of the Reserve Banks.

Bryan Catching Up on His Mail

Relations between the United States and Japan, already strained by California's anti-Japanese laws, worsened perceptibly this month.  An immigration bill pending in the House of Representatives proposes to restrict immigration by imposing a literacy test requirement.  The House of Representatives voted on February 2 to amend the bill to exclude all Asiatic immigrants, regardless of literacy.  The vote was rescinded the following day, but it adds to the impression in Japan that immigrants from that country are not welcome in the United States.  At last count, the Japanese government has sent three diplomatic notes to the United States protesting the California legislation.  Japanese Foreign Secretary Baron Makino, in his annual report to the Diet at the end of last month, reported that no reply had been received to the most recent of those notes, which was presented in August.  He said it might therefore be necessary to formulate "other plans for the solution of the question."  Members of the opposition party were vocal in their criticism of Makino and his government, contending that they had placed too much reliance on American good will.  Other recent irritants in Japanese-American relations involve the ongoing turmoil in Mexico.  They include the sale of surplus Japanese weapons to the Huerta regime and the dispatch of a Japanese cruiser to the west coast of Mexico, ostensibly to protect the interests of Japanese citizens there.


The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the longest running dog show in the United States.  This year it was held on February 25 at the Grand Central Palace in New York City.  The Best in Show prize went to Slumber, an Old English Sheep Dog.  Slumber is owned by Mrs. Taylor Morse.

 Dustin Farnum (left) as The Squaw Man

After a successful run on Broadway, The Squaw Man was released this month as a motion picture.  One of the first full-length feature plays to be produced on film, it is the first to be produced in Hollywood, California, an increasingly popular place for motion picture production.  Directed and produced by Cecil B. DeMille, it stars Dustin Farnum in the title role.  

Joshua Chamberlain During the Civil War

Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain died on February 24.  A college professor when the Civil War began, he joined the Union Army and commanded the 20th Maine at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The regiment's successful defense of its line at Little Round Top on the crucial second day of the battle helped prevent the Confederate attackers from turning the flank of the Union Army, and was a significant factor in the Union victory.   Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor, and later served as President of Bowdoin College and Governor of Maine.

Senator Bacon

Another notable death this month was that of Senator Augustus O. Bacon of Georgia.  A Confederate veteran of the Civil War, he was elected to the Senate in 1894.  At the time of his death he was serving as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  The new chairman is Senator William J. Stone of Missouri.

February 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

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

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
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
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
Scientific American, January 1, 2014, Civilian Airplanes 1914 [Slide Show],
Stephen W. Sears, Gettysburg