July 31, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Capital Journal Headlines:

Russia Mobilizes Her Entire Army Forcing Germany

London Exchange Closes First Time

London Sees Little Prospect of Peace Ready For Worst

As the belligerents prepared for war, shipping slowed nearly to a halt. The German government ordered merchant ships held in port for possible conversion to naval purposes. As Canada prepared to send troops to England, Canadian liners were requisitioned for troop transport. In New York, Hamburg-American vessels were held in port or recalled by wireless.

The German chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg reportedly said that “the control has slipped out of the hands of the responsible monarchs and statesmen so that the mad European war would happen without the rulers or their people wanting it.”

In Germany, the declaration of a state of war placed railroads, telegraphs, telephones and other means of transportation and communication under martial law. Similar orders would soon follow from the British, French and Italians. German haste to mobilize because the German army needed to be ready to take Liege, Belgium before war was declared (a strategy not shared with the civilian government). “Few can have an idea of the extent, the duration and the end of this war. Nobody today can have a notion of how it will all end,” commented Helmuth von Moltke as he drafted the mobilization order that would lead to war. Opinions among many in the German military was that France would be defeated within four weeks.

As the paper reported, “American tourists in Europe were in a serious situation. Under the most favorable conditions west-bound ships would have been crowded from about this season until late in the fall, and the German order detaining in port all naval reserve vessels stranded large numbers of prospective voyagers, even among those who had already engaged passage.”

Readers also read of the hanging of the Tango Murderer, Henry Spencer, “the man without a soul” and of Joe Knowles, who planned to enter the Klamath National Forest and live for thirty days in a literal state of nature, “perfectly nude and wrest a living from his beloved nature in her primitive mood. . .”

The editor wrote of the “European War and Its Effects”:

WHEAT took another jump in the Chicago pit Thursday, going up nine cents over the opening, which leaves it about thirteen cents above the price Wednesday morning. If this price remains, it will mean that the European war has added nearly three hundred million dollars to the value of the grain crops of the United States, as corn and other cereals climbed the ladder along with wheat. This at first glance might seem to prove that war elsewhere was really beneficial to us, but such is not the case. The purchasing power in other lines will be weakened throughout Europe and the gain made in cereals will be more than counterbalanced any losses in other industrial lines. War used to be considered, and perhaps was, beneficial to those countries not parties to It, but modern business methods and the intimate and intricate connections of vast business interests are such that war anywhere hurts business everywhere. For in stance, the mere threat of war has caused the withdrawal of millions of dollars from this country, and there will be a steady drain on American finances indefinitely. Foreign holders of American securities will want to cash up and use the money at home, and this means scarcer money here. Uncle Sam has nearly a billion and a half of coin laid away and can stand a tremendous drain without serious injury, but at the same time it makes money that much harder to get for new industries, railroad extension and all that, and so necessarily hurts business.

In commenting on “Austria’s Pretext For War,” the editor concluded that “It is a far cry by which Servia is made responsible for the crime of a fanatic, and the price Europe may be compelled to pay if the present war blaze is not put out will make Austria’s honor high priced indeed.” Indeed.

The coming war ended the social order that existed in most of the industrialized world. Three years into the war the October Revolution in Russia would lead to further revolutions in response to the unravelling of the pre-war social and economic order. Speaking in Seattle, the anarchist Emma Goldman argued that workers would not support war:

“There will be no general European war,” says Emma Goldman, noted anarchist, speaking in Seattle this week. “Stories to that effect are largely exaggerated.” Miss Goldman declares countries like Russia don’t dare to plunge into war and face internal revolution as well. “The newspapers give war too much prominence, anyhow, she says, “For the barbaric relic that It Is, war gets undue notice.

“The men who are to be sent to death if an all-European war would be killed anyhow. Those who will die in the war are the same who are killed in the mines, in the factories, in the mills. ‘The war makes no difference to them. ‘ ‘ What is important, is the effect the war will have on the industrial revolution that Is gaining ground all the time. Consciously or unconsciously, wars have been serving the purpose in the past of distracting the attention of the worker from this revolution, lie had been taught to say: ‘My Country, Right or Wrong!’ We don’t say it any more.”

“Uncle Sam Will Place His Wealth Solidly Behind Country’s Business” headlined assurances by the Wilson Administration that the Treasury Department would stand behind banks. “Officials were preparing today to prevent a panic in the event of a general European war,” the paper reported.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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