June 2, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

From the pages of The Daily Capital Journal:

Heavy Rainfall Makes It Impossible To Move Heavy Guns to Heights

Little Kingdom Makes Demands For More Territory From Austria

Thousands of Germans Fall In Deadly Hail From French Gunners
German Captain Wonders “How Long the Thing Will Last” At Present Rate

Report Capture of Outer Forts In Region About Fortress Przemysl

The sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May significantly changed the attitude of Americans toward the war. Though a passenger liner, the British Admiralty subsidized her construction and she was built to naval specifications. When the ship left New York on 1 May, her cargo included munitions for the war effort, though this would not be confirmed for nearly a century. The paper reported discussions between President Wilson and the German ambassador Count Von Bernstorff:

Kaiser’s Government Asks For Proof First But Shows Willingness To Go To Any Length to Avoid Break Is Unofficial Report of Von Bernstorff’s Message – Will Continue Submarine Warfare As In Past

President Wilson and Ambassador Von Bernstorff, the German envoy, were in conference for 30 minutes at the White House today.

No statement was issued at the conclusion of the conference and secret service men prevented any one from approaching the ambassador as he was departing. Nevertheless it was possible to ask him for a statement to which request Von Bernstorff responded by shaking his head.

It is believed that Ambassador Von Bernstorff told the president substantially, that:

Germany is ready to do everything required toward reparation wherever it is shown there has been infringement of American rights.

But, that there must be an understanding between the two nations regarding the conduct of unarmed neutral vessels and that, based upon such understanding, they can be fully protected in keeping with the terms of the Hague convention.

Regarding the Lusitania, the ambassador is believed to have told the president that Germany has reason to believe in the soundness of her position regarding the vessel’s defiance of rules of international warfare and violation of the American statute as to carrying explosives, but this presents no insurmountable obstacle, provided a clear understanding can be reached on the principals involved.


The effect of Ambassador Von Bernstorff’s representations upon President Wilson could not be judged. But it was surmised that if the ambassador presented any ideas for making Germany’s acquiescence to the American demands however, the president might adopt them in his rejoinder now in course of preparation.

Two minutes before Von Bernstorff left the White House, Ambassador Cellere, of Italy, arrived to see President Wilson. Attendants maneuvered the Italian envoy about in lively fashion in order to prevent a meeting between him and the representative of his enemy country.

An article reports on food shortages in Germany:

Indications That Germany’s Food Supply Is Becoming Matter of Grave Concern

New York, June 2. – Germany’s instructions that table d’hôte dinners, the national custom, be not served hereafter because of waste, is one of a number of indications that the internal situation is disturbing the government. Advice that the people abandon as much meat as possible in favor of vegetables and suggesting that meat be boiled instead of roasted, whereby the meat will be made less tempting, are other indications of a failing food supply.

Bringing the war home, the paper reported appeals to Oregon Senator George Chamberlain regarding the supply of grain bags:

Senator Chamberlain Fears Grain Bag Shortage

Portland, Or. June 2. – Because of a threatened shortage in the Pacific north west, Senator Chamberlain was today asked by the grain trade, through the chamber of commerce of Portland to secure from the government sufficient vessels to carry grain bags from Hong Kong to Portland.

With only ten million bags available and fifty-million needed, the growers fear that a large percentage of this year’s grain crop will be ruined unless additional containers are secured.

The grain bag situation in the Pacific northwest is the most serious ever known.

While there are plenty of bags at Hong Kong, congestion in shipping is so great that it is not believed a sufficient supply can be moved through regular channels in time for harvest.

1914 saw the United States begin to emerge from one of the frequent recessions and panics that characterize our economic history. The paper published an editorial from the Medford Mail Tribune on industrial unrest, with overtones that remain topical today:

The answers to the Mail Tribune’s editorial calling attention to economic and industrial conditions are amusing, as they do not touch the roots of the subject.

The causes of industrial unrest go back for a half a century. This unrest is due to the increase of poverty with the increase of wealth. The process of creating the billionaire necessarily creates the pauper, and the pauperization of the people produces the unrest and stamps the present system a failure.

The effect of neglect of the masses and the fostering of the classes is shown in Great Britain, where the national vitality is ebbing. It was shown in France before the revolution. A few decades more and similar effects will be seen in the United States – are already in evidence in New England and the east, which are rapidly becoming decadent.

The bread line has been an established institution in New York and other eastern centers for a quarter century. Despite the expansion of industry, opportunity has steadily narrowed. It is a fundamental wrong that has to be righted, and no change of administration will bring a cure unless the cause is remedied – and political parties are careful to doctor the affect and leave the cause alone.

“Elect a republican president,” and the sun of prosperity will shine, we are told. Same old bunco game. Elect a president pledged to the protection of privilege in order to remove evils caused by privilege will only increase the trouble.

Along in 1910 or thereabouts, when President Taft was asked the remedy for the steadily increasing unrest and how the idle were to be looked after, replied, “God knows.”

Mr. Taft was far more honest than the average political partisan. The Vreeland-Aldrich tariff bill only increased the unrest, because it still further widened the gulf between privilege and the people. Any tariff bill would have the same effect. The political program of privilege holds no hope of a remedy – its sole aim is to prevent a cure.

War is oligarchy’s time-honored and sole remedy for industrial unrest. When conditions become so intolerable that revolution threatens, war is declared, as is now that case in Europe, to thin the ranks of the producers and to perpetuate privilege in whatever form it exists. Anything rather than face and solve the real problems that confront humanity, and will cause privilege to lose its perquisites.

A letter to the editor asks a question on the morality of exporting munitions to the warring nations, asking the editor to comment, which the editor does:

Editor Journal: Will you be so kind and answer my questions through the column of your paper?

Has the nation a moral right to sell or to export munitions to the allies? If so, is this business in accordance with our Christian spirit? It seems to me the exportation of weapons has caused the Lusitania disaster and the diplomatic feud between our government and Germany.

Respectfully, G. H. K., a reader.

The answer to these questions depends on the individual conscience. Some manufacturers are anxious to get war orders; others refuse to accept them. As far as the government is concerned it seeks to protect its people in their right to conduct their business now the same as before the war, buying and selling wherever they please. All nations have recognized the right of neutral nations to sell munitions and war supplies to belligerents, as Germany for instance, was the source of supply for practically all the nations engaged in the Balkan war. Its war material factories constitute probably its greatest single industry. The neutral policy of the United States government is, as we understand it, to maintain the right of its people to sell goods to all nations, war munitions or anything else. As to the moral side of the trade in war materials, like any other moral question, there will be a difference of opinion, but government follows international and commercial law, leaving the moral issue up to the individual who must answer to his conscience.


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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