January 12, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The opening of the legislative session dominated the front page of the Capital Journal, with only one war-related headline:

BOTH GERMANS AND FRENCH CLAIM THE SAME VICTORIES
Reports Coincide As to Places Where Heavy Fighting Is In Progress
POSSESSION OF SOISSONS GIVE FRENCH ADVANTAGE
Report That Brussels Has Been Set On Fire Finally Discredited

Berlin, via wireless to Sayville, Jan. 12 – Confirmation of the French announcement of severe fighting at various points where the French claimed victory were contained in the official statement issued by the war office this afternoon.

Bad poetry would often bring out a version of the primal scream from the editor,or at least a biting comment:

Ella Wheeler Wilcox used to write what ordinary mortals called poetry, because there was some jingle and rhythm in the lines. Now here syndicated lines read more like Sir Alfred Austin’s Laureate stuff, the following being a random sample:

“Out of the wild disorder
That spreads from border to border
I see a new world rising from the ashes of ancient towns;
And the Rulers wear no crowns.

Over the blood-charged water,
Over the field of slaughter,
Down the hidden vaults of Time, where lie the worn-
out things.
I see the passing of Kings.

The importance of the freedom of neutral commerce was the substance of a headline in the Statesman:

UNITED STATES NOT SATISFIED WITH ANSWER
England’s Preliminary Reply to Protest Not to the Point
WASHINGTON WILL WAIT
No Formal Comment Yet Forthcoming
Statistics Quoted By Great Britain Regarded As Attempt to Dodge the Issue
Conduct of Fleet Does Not agree With Utterances of Foreign Office, America Contends

Great Britain’s preliminary reply to the American note of protest concerning neutral commerce, while gratifying in the concessions it makes has in many respects failed to satisfy the United States government.

At the outbreak of the war, Britain sought to enforce a doctrine of “continuous voyage.” Under this interpretation, a ship, en route from one neutral port to another neutral port, could be seized by a belligerent if the cargo was eventually destined to the enemy. The United States protested that this violated neutral rights. The American principle of neutral shipping turned on the concept of “free ships, free goods.” The nationality of the ship determined the status of the cargo and only the shipping of contraband could justify capture and seizure.

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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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