Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 1914

April 1914:  This month, a minor confrontation with Mexican authorities escalates into an American take-over of the Mexican city of Veracruz, leading to an occupation that will continue for most of the year. Irish home rule moves closer to reality in Great Britain, as Ulster Protestants arm themselves and politicians search for compromise. King George and Queen Mary pay a state visit to France to observe the tenth anniversary of the Entente Cordiale. American Secretary of State Bryan is in apology mode, expressing regret for American actions in Veracruz and Panama. Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo announces the district boundaries and locations of the new Federal Reserve Banks, as the White House announces that he will marry one of the president's daughters. In the future, U.S. Navy ships will be powered by oil, wireless communication will enhance commanders' ability to control fleet movements, and officers will have to do without wine in the wardroom. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. defends his company's actions in the Colorado coal strike in testimony before Congress; shortly afterward, violence erupts in the "Ludlow Massacre." The gunmen in the Rosenthal murder are executed. Broadway actress Billie Burke (later famous as the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz) marries Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld.


Salute or Else
President Wilson's Mexican policy of "watchful waiting" came to an abrupt end this month.  On April 6, as a U.S. Navy squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo was anchored in Mexican waters off the port of Tampico, a major oil exporting port, a boat from the U.S.S. Dolphin, Admiral Mayo's flagship, went ashore with seven sailors and a paymaster to load supplies.  The city was under martial law in anticipation of attacks by Constitutionalist rebels.  A local official, having been ordered to close the port, ordered the arrest of the Americans.  He was shortly overruled by his superior officer, who released the Americans with an apology.  Admiral Mayo, outraged and unsatisfied with a mere apology, issued an ultimatum that the arresting officer be punished and that the local Mexican garrison raise the American flag and render a 21-gun salute.

President Wilson Addressing Congress on April 20

When word of Admiral Mayo's ultimatum reached Washington, President Wilson decided that American honor required that it be complied with under threat of military reprisal.  General Victoriano Huerta, head of the de facto Mexican government in Mexico City, gave evasive replies, asking, for example, why the United States attached such importance to a salute from a government it does not recognize.  On April 18, the President issued a new ultimatum with a 24-hour deadline.  When the deadline passed without a satisfactory response, Wilson addressed Congress (in person, as he has done on numerous occasions since taking office) with a request for authorization to use military force.  The requested resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives on April 20 and by the Senate on April 21.

Major General Leonard Wood's term as Army Chief of Staff expired on April 20.  He has been assigned to command American forces in Texas, where he will lead the army of invasion if one is required.  Major General William W. Wotherspoon, a veteran of the Indian Wars and the Philippine Insurrection, is the new Chief of Staff.

Marines at Veracruz Aboard the Atlantic Fleet flagship U.S.S. Arkansas (BB-33)

On April 21, while the President's request for the authorization of military force was still pending, American Consul William Canada notified Secretary of State Bryan that the German steamer Ypiranga was en route to Veracruz with a shipment of arms for the Huerta regime.  Without waiting for the Senate to act, President Wilson ordered Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, commander of the American squadron anchored off Veracruz, to put forces ashore, seize the customs house and prevent the landing of war supplies.  American sailors and marines occupied the port facilities as Admiral Fletcher's ships intercepted the Ypiranga and prevented it from entering port.  Ashore, armed resistance to the American landing by naval cadets and residents of Veracruz caused the deaths of at least four Americans, and the American squadron's retaliatory shelling of Veracruz caused numerous Mexican deaths.  Additional forces under the command of Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, Commander of the Atlantic Fleet, then reinforced Admiral Fletcher's squadron and American sailors and marines occupied the entire city.

U.S. Naval Forces at Veracruz

At the end of the month, the Navy and Marine Corps personnel in Veracruz were relieved by Army forces under the command of Brigadier General Frederick Funston.  The city remains under American occupation, and the American and Mexican governments have agreed to an offer by the ABC powers (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) to mediate the dispute.  Germany, meanwhile, has protested the interception of the Ypiranga as a violation of international law, and Secretary Bryan has called on the German ambassador in Washington with an apology, which the German government has apparently accepted.


An Amicable Divorce?

The civil government of the Panama Canal Zone went into effect on April 1 with Colonel George Goethals as governor.  On April 7, a treaty between the United States and Colombia was signed which, if ratified by the Senate, will resolve all issues regarding America's role in Panama's separation from Colombia in 1903.  The treaty, which includes an expression of regret by the United States and an indemnity of $25 million, is already encountering stiff opposition from Republican Senators.  They regard the expression of regret as an uncalled-for apology, and the treaty as a whole as a public rebuke of former President Roosevelt, who in their view was justified in taking strong action in the face of Colombian intransigence.  Early ratification of the treaty is considered unlikely.

Senate consideration of the bill to repeal the free-tolls provision of the Panama Canal Act continued this month.  On April 29 the Senate Committee on Interoceanic Canals voted to report the bill to the Senate with an amendment stating that the United States does not thereby waive any rights.  Meanwhile, the administration's position favoring repeal may have been a factor in changing the British attitude toward participation in next year's Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.  It now appears likely that Great Britain will send the arts and crafts exhibits that were shown at the recent world's fair in Ghent.

The Prime Minister (At the Window) Pursuing Home Rule

In Great Britain, the government's Irish Home Rule bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on April 6 by a vote of 356 to 276.  After its third reading it will go to the House of Lords, where it is expected to be defeated again.  Because this is the third time the bill will have passed the Commons, however, the 1911 Parliament Act requires that it receive royal assent regardless of the action of the Lords.  Prime Minister Asquith was not among those voting.  In the aftermath of last month's Curragh "mutiny," in which British officers stationed in Ireland indicated they would resign rather than obey orders to enforce home rule in Ulster, Secretary of State for War J.E.B. Seeley and Chief of the Imperial General Staff Sir John French were forced to resign.  Prime Minister Asquith assumed the office of Secretary of State for War, and in accordance with Parliamentary custom stepped down from his seat in Parliament and sought his constituency's approval by running for reelection.  He was reelected without opposition on April 8.

Gun-running at Larne

During the night of April 24-25, the Ulster Volunteers landed large quantities of guns and ammunition, procured in Germany, at Larne Harbor on the coast of northern Ireland.  A few days later, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill responded in the House of Commons to a motion by Austen Chamberlain to censure the government for its handling of the Curragh affair.  Referring to the illegal landing of arms, he argued that Chamberlain's motion was "uncommonly like a vote of censure by the criminal classes on the police."  He went on, however, to express the wish of the Liberal government to reach a compromise with the Unionist opposition.  This was followed by similarly conciliatory speeches by Irish Party leader John Redmond, former Unionist Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, and Sir Edward Carson, the most outspoken of the opponents of home rule.  Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey has suggested that the answer might ultimately lie in the adoption of a "devolution" scheme, in which home rule would be granted to all parts of the British Empire.

Queen Mary and the President of France

While the House of Commons was debating home rule, King George V and Queen Mary made the first state visit of their reign, traveling to Paris on April 21 to observe the tenth anniversary of the Entente Cordiale, the 1904 agreement that resolved a number of colonial issues and ended centuries of hostility, and off-and-on conflict, between the two countries.  The king and queen received a warm welcome from the French, who preserved their republican virtue by greeting the monarchs from across the channel with cheers of "vive la reine" rather than "vive le roi."  King George's hesitant French, spoken with a British accent, was complimented by President Poincare and was generally well received.  When Paul Cambon, the French ambassador to Great Britain, saw the British foreign minister in conversation with Poincare, he marveled: "The Holy Ghost has descended on Sir Edward Grey and he now talks French!"  By all accounts, the royal visit was a great success, and served to strengthen ties between the British and French (Click to play):


Launching of the U.S.S. Oklahoma

Only a few years after steam replaced wind as the common means of propulsion, revolutionary changes are taking place in the way steam is generated and its power harnessed.  U.S.S. Oklahoma, launched last month at Camden, New Jersey, will be one of the first ships in the U.S. Navy designed to burn oil rather than coal.  The steam generated will be used to drive piston engines, while Oklahoma's sister ship, U.S.S. Nevada, will be driven by a product of newer technology, steam-powered turbines. 

Radio Operator in the Hoboken Station

Another revolution in the operation of ships at sea is in the area of communications.  Not long ago, maritime communication was limited to flags and flashing lights.  Morse code messages relayed by radio followed, and in recent years wireless telephony has enabled voice communication between ships and with shore stations.  Ships are not the only users of the new technology, however, and this has raised concerns.  Wireless communication equipment installed on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and designed to facilitate communication with moving trains was tested for the first time this month.  On April 16, as the Lackawanna Limited left its terminal in Hoboken and sped across the New Jersey meadows, test messages were sent to the train from the terminal.  Shortly after the first transmission, the telephone in the terminal rang with a message from the Commanding Officer of the Brooklyn Navy Yard who complained that the transmissions were interfering with communications directing the movement of Atlantic Fleet ships en route to Mexican waters.  The railroad has agreed to cease transmissions until it can modify its equipment to transmit on another wave length.

The End of a Tradition

Another naval tradition, the officers' "wine mess" on board Navy ships, appears to be a thing of the past.  Before coming to Washington as Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels was a North Carolina newspaper editor, active in Democratic Party politics.  He was an early supporter of Wilson for president, and among other things was (and is) a staunch prohibitionist.  On April 4 it was announced that Secretary Daniels has signed an order, effective July 1, that will bar alcoholic beverages aboard navy ships and on naval yards and naval stations.  The "rum ration" for enlisted men was abolished many years ago, and one of the reasons given for the new rule is to eliminate a privilege extended to officers but not enlisted men.  By forbidding alcoholic beverages, the effect of the new order will be to limit the use of the "wine mess" to cigars and cigarettes.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Testifying before the House Committee

A long-running strike by the United Mine Workers against coal companies in Colorado is the subject of an investigation by the House of Representatives Committee on Mines and Mining.  One of the companies involved in the strike is the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, which is controlled by the Rockefeller family.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a director of the company, testified before the committee on April 6.  He said he is not opposed to unions, but does object to unions trying to force men to join them or depriving men of "the right under the Constitution to work for whom they pleased."  He said he would rather close down the mines and lose his investment than recognize the mine workers' union in the present circumstances, which he insisted would mean turning his back on the employees who had faithfully stayed with the company during the strike.

Governor Ammons

The coal strike erupted in violence on April 20, as the Colorado National Guard and security guards employed by the coal companies attacked striking miners and their families in Ludlow, resulting in several deaths, including some women and children. On April 28, in response to an urgent request from Governor Elias M. Ammons, President Wilson dispatched federal troops to quell the disorder and issued a proclamation directing all persons engaged in domestic violence in connection with the strike to retire peaceably to their homes by April 30.  In his reply to the governor's request, the president emphasized the limited nature of his action, saying that he would not "inject the power of the federal government into the controversy which has produced the present situation."  He cited Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, which empowers the federal government to protect states against domestic violence "on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened)."  The governor has advised the president that the legislature is not in session and cannot be convened before May 4.  The president's reply states that he expects when the legislature does convene that the governor will "draw the attention of that body to the imperative necessity of immediate consideration of the whole situation and as prompt action as is possible in the premises, in order that the use of the federal power may be limited within its contemplated confines, and in order that the state may take up its duty as soon as it is possible for it to do so."

"Dago Frank" In Custody

The convictions and death sentences of the three men convicted of murdering Herman Rosenthal were affirmed last month by the New York Court of Appeals.  Governor Glynn denied their request for clemency on April 7, and four days later Justice Goff denied their request for a new trial.  Someone then tried to stop the executions by destroying the prison dynamo with a hammer, but a replacement dynamo was quickly installed and the executions were carried out on April 13.  Before his electrocution, "Dago Frank" Cirofici confessed his role in the murder as well as that of the other two gunmen, "Gyp the Blood" Horowitz and "Lefty Louie" Rosenberg.  He said he was the leader of the plot and that the other two were the trigger men who shot Rosenthal.  He said that as far as he knew Police Lieutenant Charles Becker, also convicted of the crime but facing a new trial next month, was not involved.

The Federal Reserve Districts

The Federal Reserve Organizing Committee has been holding hearings throughout the country to determine the locations and district boundaries of the regional banks to be established under the new Federal Reserve Act, which specifies that there are to be no more than twelve nor fewer than eight such banks.  The Committee announced its decision on April 2.  There will be twelve districts, with Federal Reserve Banks located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.  Inevitably, not everyone is pleased by the decision.  The choice of Richmond over Washington or Baltimore, of Dallas over New Orleans, of Kansas City over Denver, are just some of the decisions that are controversial.  New York, disliking the dissemination of so much financial power outside the canyons of lower Manhattan, argues that it should be the home of the largest of the banks and the others little more than branches, an arrangement that Congress deliberately rejected when it enacted the law.

Billie Burke

Florenz Ziegfeld, the theatrical manager and producer of the Ziegfeld Follies, married Billie Burke on April 11 at the Lutheran Church in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Miss Burke is currently starring in "Jerry" at Charles Frohman's Lyceum Theater on West 45th Street.  She and Ziegfeld slipped over to Hoboken after her matinee and returned in time for the evening performance.  This is Mr. Ziegfeld's second marriage; his first, which ended in divorce, was to another Broadway actress, Anna Held.

April 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, May and June 1914
New York Times, April 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Philip Blom, The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914
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
Kermit L. Hall ed., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
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
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War
Kenneth Rose, King George V
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram