Timer
Message Area
lblCurrentLayerIndex
lblCurrentImageIndex
lblFade-OutLayer
lblFade-InLayer
lblSponsorAdTimer:
lblHidCurrentSponsorAdIndex =
lblMadeItTo

  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: You Can Enjoy Politics

article number 361
article date 07-17-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
New Politics for National and World Affairs, 1939
by James Truslow Adams
   

From the 1942 book, The March of Democracy, The Record of 1933-1941.

THE year which we have now to record may well prove to be a turning point in the history of our civilization. It was marked by high international tension from the start, and before the end many of the leading nations of the world were engaged in avowed or unacknowledged wars—the British Empire, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, as well as minor countries.

America fortunately remained at peace but our domestic affairs were constantly influenced by the world situation. During the holiday weeks of Christmas and New Year there was talk of applying economic sanctions against Japan on account of her closing of “the Open Door” in China, and we were engaged in an acrimonious discussion with Germany which seemed to threaten breaking off of relations.

Secretary Ickes had accused the Nazis of having carried their citizens back to a period when man “was unlettered, benighted and bestial,” and not only had the German Chargé d’Affaires in Washington made formal protest but the government-controlled press in Germany was indulging in a violent campaign of abuse against Roosevelt and everything American.

Meanwhile the Nazi government refused to take notice of our demands to be treated on an equal basis with other nations in the matter of paying the Austrian loans, and there were serious questions involving American Jews and their $700 million of property in Germany.

The State Department sent a strong protest to Japan and informed Germany that her complaints as to statements of American public men came with “singular ill grace.”

Meanwhile, Mexico declined to do anything about the hundreds of millions of dollars of oil lands she had confiscated from American and British owners, and sent an envoy to Germany to arrange sale by barter of our oil to that nation.

Meeting the new session of Congress January 4, 1939, President Roosevelt called attention in his message to the dangerous condition brought on by countries in which “religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force.”

His attack on the dictatorships was followed next day by his message on the budget, which called for the staggering sum of approximately $9 billion, with over $1.3 billion for defense, an increase of over a quarter from the preceding year and the greatest peacetime appropriation for that purpose in our history. He also made a demand for $875 million for the WPA from February 1 to July 1.

Several points were also revealed. The defense services would probably require about $2 billion. The tenth successive Federal deficit would apparently be around $4 billion, and the national debt in a few months almost up to the $45 billion limit which had been placed by Congress in 1917.

In 1914 our national debt was less than $1.2 billion and although it rose during the war to about $25.5 billion it had been reduced to less than $17 billion by 1931. Now after ten years of peace the President intimated that he would ask to have it raised nearly thirty billions above that figure.

   
BY THE MIDDLE OF 1939, THE UNITED STATES WAS BEGINNING TO WONDER WHETHER THE SECOND PHASE OF THE NEW DEAL WOULD BRING ABOUT THE RESULTS ITS SPONSORS CLAIMED. Thomas—Detroit News.

In the last chapter we spoke of the attempted “purge” and the split in the party. Mr. Roosevelt, a few days after his demands, that is on the 7th, did not make matters better by seemingly intimating at the Jackson Day dinner that only New Dealers should remain in the party ranks and that Democrats who disagreed with him should go over to the Republicans.

Moreover, one of the polls of public opinion had just shown that 61 per cent of the people thought the government was spending too much, and only 10 per cent that it was spending too little.

This, with the overturn in the last election and the almost total failure of the “purge,” made for a recalcitrant Congress, which, in any case, is always less amenable to the leadership of the Executive as he nears the end of the eight years of office.

The President, moreover, had apparently given up all hope or desire to balance the budget and had been won over by the spend-lend group of advisers. The immediate reaction was that Congress cut $150 million from the relief appropriation, an investigating committee having disclosed that in some states during the election in the preceding November, relief funds had been used to sway votes.

Harry Hopkins, who had been head of the WPA, and had been nominated by the President for the Cabinet post of Secretary of Commerce, was subjected to a critical examination by a Senate Committee, and admitted that he had made an. error in publicly taking a stand in the campaign when he had the greatest relief fund in history to administer, but denied that, as was reported, he had said that his plan was to “spend and spend, tax and tax, elect and elect.” Eventually the nomination was confirmed.

By an appointment in January, ratified by the Senate, the President filled the vacancy in the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Cardozo in 1938 by appointing Felix Frankfurter. In earlier years he had been somewhat feared as a radical, much as Brandeis had been when appointed by Wilson, but the country had gradually learned that he was a liberal, in the best sense, and devoted to the Constitution.

His appearance in the highest tribunal of the land was the more significant because he had opposed the President’s plan to pack the Supreme Court, and his twenty-five years’ service as professor of administrative law at Harvard seemed to insure that one of the ablest minds in the country would add a special contribution to the solution of the problems of the rank growth of the many administrative bureaus which have been created in the past few years.

In February Justice Brandeis retired and the following month the President nominated William O. Douglas, a former Yale professor and chairman of the SEC. This appointment, the fourth which the President had been able to make to the Court, was also generally approved by the people at large and the business leaders, and promptly confirmed by the Senate.

By death or resignation the President had thus had, with yet another change to come in 1940, the opportunity of practically reconstructing the Court. Five members, a majority of the whole, are now the appointees of Mr. Roosevelt, and the Court, for a long time, may be expected to take a very liberal view in its interpretations of the law.

   
JUSTICE WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS APPOINTED 1939.

As a matter of historical rather than legal interest it may be noted, that early in the year the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Georgia all ratified the first ten amendments to the Constitution (our Bill of Rights), one hundred and forty-eight years late. As the amendments had been adopted by a sufficient number of States in 1791 to become the fundamental law of the nation, ratification now is a mere form.

Early in the year an important constitutional question arose in connection with the State of Vermont. It was the old issue of States’ rights. During the depression years both States and individuals have asked for more and more Federal money, but in getting it they have surrendered certain liberties.

Vermont, to a great extent, has preferred to run its own affairs rather than accept Federal grants and has had a number of clashes over Federal projects.

The issue in January was whether, on the terms proposed, the Federal Government could take over a considerable part of the State for assumed flood control and power enterprises. If it could constitutionally take over, say, 10 per cent of a State against the wishes of the citizens, why could it not take over the whole State?

Vermont made an appropriation to fight the case and finally the government dropped it, the President commenting that if Vermont did not want the money some other State would. This was unfortunately true.

Nevertheless there were other signs of growing restiveness over spending. The funds for relief in particular were more and more coming under scrutiny. The need for help had led mayors and governors to ask for money from Washington, but the money was under Federal and not local control. It was raised by the nation at large but spent where Washington chose.

From January, 1938, to election, although business production had risen from 79 to 103 and employment from 88 to 91, relief funds had risen from 107 millions a month to 185 millions.

The question arose as to allocation, and why Minneapolis should be getting twice as much per capita as Hartford; New Orleans three times as much as Galveston, or St. Paul five times as much as Greensboro. The whole problem of relief and its centralization came more and more under the scrutiny of a largely hostile Congress.

The early part of the year brought some important decisions from the Supreme Court. In February a decision regarding the TVA, although the entire constitutional issue was not covered, seemed to imply that the government was free to build any sort of plant in competition with a privately owned one.

In the same month the Court also stingingly denounced three acts of the National Labor Relations Board by a 5-2 decision, and declared in another case that sit-down strikes were illegal, thus ending a, bitter controversy in which the government had appeared to side with the C.I.O. against business.

Although all three cases involving the Labor Board were important, the most sweeping decision was that of the Fansteel Metallurgical Corporation in which the Court asserted that the sit-down strike as seizure and retention of private property was “a highhanded proceeding without shadow of legal right” and would “subvert the principles of law and order which lie at the foundations of society.”

   
THE COURT RULED THAT SIT-DOWN STRIKES WERE ILLEGAL.

Labor continued to be divided into the two bitterly hostile camps of the C.I.O. and the A. F. of L. On February 24 Secretary Hopkins in a speech generally favorable to business mentioned this as one of the difficulties confronting recovery. The A. F. of L. asked in a national convention that the government should remove all barriers to the return of business confidence as the only sound method of creating jobs, which could not be permanently provided by taxes and doles.

Business was improving after the setback of 1938, but the agricultural situation was still a cause for great anxiety. In almost all nations the problem of the farmer is a serious one. However, our method of trying to solve it by artificially creating high prices by scarcity has not worked. This has been most notable in cotton, once the “King Cotton” of the South.

One great difficulty is that agricultural prices are world prices and if one country raises its prices too high, other countries, which have been its customers, will seek markets elsewhere with the general consequence of extending areas of production and aggravating the drop in prices. This happened during our Civil War when England, our biggest customer, was shut off from our supplies and found them elsewhere and it has been happening again now.

Our 1938-39 exports are the smallest since the 1880’s, and it would appear that we must expect a permanent drop of nearly a third in exports if we insist on holding the price of our cotton above that of the rest of the world. This is one example of the widely ramifying difficulties encountered in attempting to control prices artificially. Such a great and lasting decline in the export of the staple crop of a large section of the country must have important effects on the whole nation.

The same difficulty applies to other crops. The year 1939 gave us bumper harvests, which formerly would have been considered as contributing to prosperity, but now merely added to our difficulties with the unwieldy and costly surpluses for which the government had become responsible.

Many business leaders, especially in the chemical and manufacturing industries, are beginning to glimpse a solution of the problem in the raising of crops to a large extent for use in industry instead of for food. We are moving so fast in that direction that it is impossible even to catalogue the new materials which are being produced and whose manufacture will not only give employment but may change the face of the whole land.

One of the most important bases for a long list of products is cellulose derived from wood. Yarn, rayon, celanese, safety glass, all sorts of things, are now coming from wood pulp, and the cotton fields of the South may well be replaced in time by forests.

The development of plastics staggers the imagination. We are now making from vegetables over 200 million pounds of all sorts of these. Almost daily chemistry develops a new form, and it is prophesied that in the near future automobile bodies may be made from vegetable products instead of steel. Henry and Edsel Ford are particularly interested in the new relation between agriculture and industry which will make them complementary instead of antagonistic in their work and profits.

The field appears to be unlimited, and it is estimated that by 1965 some 30 million acres may be utilized for the production of vegetable oils alone. In another quarter of a century instead of trying to limit, at vast cost, agricultural production, we may need everything our farms can produce, but the farms and the produce, and their markets, will be different.

This is a glimpse into the future but in this closing year of our decade we have gone far enough to assure the certainty of vast changes in both industry and agriculture within the lifetime of the young generation.

   

* * *

Interested as we were in our domestic difficulties in the early months of the year, world affairs absorbed much more than usual of our attention. In February the President invited a group of Senators to a meeting at the White House, all pledged to secrecy. It was stated in the press that Mr. Roosevelt had declared that now “America’s frontier was on the Rhine,” although this was vigorously denied by him.

Many in the Senate, probably without any justification, came to have the feeling that the President was leading us into war. This feeling was not diminished by the death of a French army captain, Paul Chemidlin, in the crash of a Douglas bomber of a new type supposed to be the secret of the American army. Apparently he had been inspecting it with the consent of the President but without the knowledge of the military authorities.

   
TROJAN HORSE? THIS CARTOON, PUBLISHED AT THE TIME OF THE PRESIDENI’S CONFERENCE WITH A GROUP OF SENATORS, REFLECTED THE ATTITUDE OF CONGRESS AND A PART OF THE PUBLIC TOWARD THE PRESIDENT’S FOREIGN POLICY. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

On leaving Warm Springs, Georgia, Mr. Roosevelt said, “I’ll be back in the fall—if we don’t have a war.” On the 11th he was quoted as endorsing an editorial which stated that we should take the lead in halting the dictators, “by threat, and if that failed, by war.” Three days later, according to the press, he told the representatives of twenty-one Latin American countries that we were prepared to defend American peace “matching force to force,” and next day he ordered the fleet to the Pacific.

At the same time he offered personally to Hitler and Mussolini to call a world conference if they would guarantee not to attack thirty-one specified nations for ten years or more. The offer was declined.

Meanwhile, the President was trying to induce Congress to repeal the so-called Neutrality Act, which many of our most experienced and distinguished statesmen had considered not only non-neutral but more likely to lead us into war than keep us out. In this he was unsuccessful.

Congress had come to Washington to assert itself. The whole session was made up largely of a struggle with the President. In February, after heated debates, the Senate refused to confirm two of his appointments, that of Floyd H. Roberts to be a district judge in Virginia, and later that of Thomas R. Amlie as a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

In the first case the Senate vote was 72-9 including in the majority most of the loyal New Deal Senators as well as the Democratic moderates and Republicans. The rift in the party, thus early in the session, seemed far wider than ever.

In April the report was made by the Joint Congressional Committee which for nine months had been investigating the TVA. Although the majority upheld the President and the organization in all respects the committee had split on purely party lines, the majority of five New Dealers being wholly on the President’s side, and the minority of three Republicans handing in a separate report in which they denied most of its findings.

Meanwhile, outside Congress, the Tennessee Valley Authority had at last come to terms with Wendell Willkie, acting for the Commonwealth and Southern Corporation, and agreed to pay approximately $79 million for the properties of the Corporation located within the State. While the adjustment of this long-standing dispute did much to reassure bona-fide investors in public utilities, it was later to create difficulties for the citizens of Tennessee and to raise questions for the whole country.

The passing of such a vast amount of private, taxable property into the hands of the Federal Government played havoc with the solvency of local communities which demanded that the government make up for the loss in tax income.

If the TVA paid the taxes, the idea of a “yard stick” for rates would appear quite differently. If the government made up the difference, the whole United States would be contributing to cheap electricity for the inhabitants of Tennessee alone. If neither paid, some municipalities in that State would be getting lower rates for light and power at the cost of bankruptcy or impossible taxation.

   
TVA PICKWICK LANDING DAM, TENNESSEE.

In May Congress defeated the President’s request to resume work on the abandoned Florida Ship Canal. As the session continued into the summer, Congress shelved the administration’s $3 billion “spending-lending” Bill, the new Neutrality Bill, the $800 million Housing Bill and others called for by the White House.

On the other hand it:

- passed a modified and more or less innocuous Reorganization Bill;
- the Hatch Bill prohibiting employees in the execdutive branch from political activities;
- one providing $2 billion for national defense;
- one curtailing the WPA and dropping the theatre projects from it;
- a resolution to investigate the National Labor Relations Board;
- an extension of the President’s power to devalue the dollar;
- an amendment to the Social Security Act which was counted on to save $900 million a year to the taxpayers;
- a Bill limiting the activities of the TVA;
- and one abolishing the undistributed profits tax.

The total amount appropriated, including so-called “non-budgetary” items, was $13.4 billion, an all-time high.

The “spending-lending” Bill had brought a storm of protest from the country, equalled only by the controversy over the Supreme Court packing plan. Letters and telegrams had swamped the office rooms of Congress and indicated, as did the polls and the election of the previous November, that the people generally wanted to end experiments and spending and try to cut down government expense and consequent borrowing or taxation.

The Hatch Bill was a result of the attempted “purge” of 1938 and of the revelations of the influence of the WPA in elections. Fought to the end by the administration, it provided that no Federal employe below the “policy making” rank could take active part in a political campaign. Finally reported out of a committee which had tried to emasculate it, it was passed uproariously in the House by a vote of 242-133, in its original stronger form.

The political effects of the Bill may be far-reaching. It is human nature to want to hold on to a job and it has always been recognized that a party in power has an advantage in the active support of at least a large number of its officeholders.

This situation has become more acute as, with the vast extension of government, the number of those on its pay roll is greater than ever before, in peace or war, amounting to over 920,000 by June, 1939, as compared with 917,760 in the World War (1918) and less than 516,000 in 1923. (We speak of course only of civilian employes and of neither the armed forces nor those receiving some form of government relief or benefit.)

The result of retiring this large body of citizens from any active political campaigning still remains to be seen. While the new legislation in no way interferes with their voting as they choose, it would seem to be a step toward cleaner politics and greater independence of officeholders.

The relation of government to those receiving money from government took an unexpected turn when the new WPA Bill, including the exaction of longer hours, resulted in a strike of WPA workers, it being stated that 100,000 went out in New York alone.

The movement, although it had support from Labor Unions, did not receive sympathy from the public, and the President declared that no one had the right to strike against the government. The anomalous situation was due to the hybrid nature of the WPA idea, which provides for neither mere relief, in the ordinary sense, nor employment as usually understood.

   

Finally, after five years, Congress turned down the Townsend Plan by a vote in the House of 302-97. Although the vote was overwhelmingly decisive, public satisfaction was somewhat marred by the fact that 7 members, including Republicans, had been willing to vote for a scheme which seemed so thoroughly unsound and which it had been estimated might cost as much as $24 billion annually.

The year brought forth other similar plans, such as those in Ohio, Wisconsin and the “ham and eggs” campaign in California calling for the payment of $60 a month to every one over sixty years old.

The head of the American Legion opposed a further pension demand, but Congress extended the scope of general old-age pensions in its revisal of the Social Security Act. The number covered was increased, as was also the amount to be received, while the date when the plan was to become operative was set ahead two years to 1940 (election year).

In many respects the new Act was a great improvement on that of 1935, for example in abolishing the unreal “reserve fund” of $47 billion, but although the fundamental idea is accepted by most there are still many changes to make. The cost has been variously estimated, the ‘United States News’ figuring that it would gradually rise from $88 million now to $2.5 billion annually in another twenty years.

The situation is also complicated by both the stabilizing of population growth and the coming changes in age groups, due to many factors. These will affect many departments of our life, such as business, education, unemployment, taxation, old-age insurance and others.

The greatest event of the year, although America is only partially involved as yet, was the outbreak of war in Europe. For some years there had been wars in many quarters of the globe. The League system of collective security had broken down.

Japan had been crushing China, and ignoring treaties and our interests. Italy had conquered Abyssinia and Albania. Germany, breaking pledge after pledge, had annexed Austria and overrun Czecho-Slovakia.

Treaties had become mere scraps of paper. The most solemn promises meant nothing. Just as the earth’s surface in cooling and shrinking produces earthquakes, the political world was producing convulsions among the nations.

When we consider the vast results, social and economic, of the last war, what another world war, within the same generation, may entail is impossible to forecast. All we can say is that it implies another enormous shift in our form of civilization.

Congress adjourned on August 5, while the situation was rapidly approaching the dreaded crisis. Britain and France had warned Hitler that an attack on Poland would mean war. By the last week of August matters had become so critical that Roosevelt not only sent urgent peace pleas to Poland, Hitler and the King of Italy, but our State Department prepared to evacuate 100,000 Americans from Europe.

Hitler refused every overture of peace, and on the 1st of September he invaded Poland and annexed Danzig. That country was rapidly overrun by Germany with her new ally, Communist Russia.

   
RUSSIA CELEBRATES AFTER JOINING HITLER IN THE INVASION OF POLAND.

On the 3rd Britain and France declared war against Germany, Britain being soon joined by Canada and the other Dominions (with the exception of the Irish Free State, which decided to remain neutral), each of which made its separate declaration.

There was marked contrast between the coming of the World War in 1914 and what may prove the new World War of 1939.

In America, at least, the earlier one had seemed to burst without warning. Americans had been busy with their own affairs and had been taking little interest in those of Europe. To the average citizen the world had appeared to be settling down to a long period of peace, although in all countries certain leaders in statesmanship and the military services were uneasy.

Foreign trade, however, was flowing smoothly and was increasing, while the ease of travel and the abolition of even passports for most European countries seemed to presage a sort of “Pax Romana” and world citizenship.

During the more than four years of war, however, with the complete dislocation of domestic and foreign business, the drama of the struggle (in the course of which over 2 million crossed the ocean to fight); the Peace Conference, in which the United States took a leading part; the problem of the War Debts; and later the revolutions and increasing unsettlement in many countries, had all greatly increased America’s interest in overseas affairs.

Moreover, the radio had brought not only the news but the actual voices of all the leading European statesmen into our own homes. There was an immediacy and a tenseness about the successive crises which we had never felt hitherto. In the fateful months leading up to the war in September, all America seemed to be listening in as events unrolled, and, as never before, we participated directly in the hopes and fears of Europe.

The President had pledged himself to do his best to keep America out of the conflict, and on September 21 called Congress in special session to repeal the Embargo Act and pass new neutrality legislation.

A fortnight later, October 2, a conference of the New World nations, exclusive of Canada, met at Panama and agreed to a declaration establishing a “safety zone” of varying width, but in general about 300 miles, around the coasts of the entire American continent, except those of countries owned by foreign powers, and Canada.

The object was to keep the war from our shores, but it was questionable what it could accomplish in practice, as it would be impossible to patrol such a vast area and the new doctrine had no standing in international law. It was obviously impossible to prevent the belligerents from fighting each other on the high seas, unless they themselves agreed to accept the safety zone, which they later declined to do.

Meanwhile, Congress had met and had been debating the problem of neutrality. After a month the Senate (October 27) repealed the arms embargo by a vote of 63-30, and the House (November 2) by 243-181.

For complete embargo of arms or contraband to any belligerent there was substituted the “cash and carry” plan which meant that belligerents could secure what they wanted from us but only on condition that they pay cash here and carry the goods themselves and not in American ships, which as well as Americans themselves, were not to be allowed to enter the war zone.

   
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. By Red O. Seibel in “The Richmond Times-Dispatch.”

While the debate had been going on, one of our vessels, the ‘City of Flint,’ sailing to a neutral port, had been captured by the Germans and taken to the Russian port of Murmansk. After protest, she left Russia, still in charge of the German prize crew, but, entering Norwegian waters, was taken by Norway and released.

It was obvious that the former Embargo Act might easily have not saved us from war, but opinions differed both as to the legality and wisdom of the new Act. Some authorities claimed that we could not change the rules of war in the middle of one, and many Americans felt that we were not defending neutral rights but abandoning those we had always stood for.

General opinion, however, supported the change from the embargo, though the “cash and carry” plan clearly gave all the advantage to France and Britain as against Germany, which had no cash and could not carry. Polls, and this may have had its influence, indicated that about 98 per cent of the public was for the Allies and against the totalitarian states, although it was unquestionably opposed to our entering the war ourselves.

The Russian-Finnish undeclared war began with the brutal attack of Russia on her small neighbor in November, and American sympathy was wholly with Finland. Private gifts to the extent of some millions were forwarded by a committee organized by ex-President Hoover, and the government loaned Finland, the only country which had paid its war-debt installments to us, $10 million for civil purposes.

There were demands from many of our own people that we cancel Finland’s debt and also afford her more help, but nothing further was done by the end of the year, though the matters were being debated in the Senate. Finland paid the December installment of her debt as usual even though the little country, with a total population only one-half that of New York City, was desperately defending herself against the armies of vast Russia with a population of 170 million.

Rarely if ever has history to note so gallant a fight in the name of freedom, honesty and good faith. Even if the brave Finnish nation is doomed to be crushed under the heel of ruthless, communistic tyranny, her example lights and shames a world now strewn with lies and broken pledges.

Germany and Russia were both bitter against us, but in spite of extraordinarily undiplomatic and discourteous language used by both Hitler and Stalin, the year ended with our not having become entangled in the European wars, though American lives had been lost in the sinking of the British ship ‘Athenia’ by an unknown submarine. With 1400 passengers she was torpedoed and sunk about 200 miles off the Hebrides.

It was obvious that the German piratical submarine attacks which had at last drawn us into the World War had begun again. Germany pretended that she had had nothing to do with the sinking and that an English submarine had made the attack on an English vessel as a bit of propaganda. No one believed this, and the later succession of sinkings of neutral vessels by avowed German submarines disposed of the claim. There was, however, no absolute proof.

Our relations with Japan had also become worse through the year. There had not only been a number of minor incidents, such as face-slappings, bombings and attacks on American citizens, but it had become clear that Japan did not intend to observe her treaty obligations toward us.

The undeclared war against China had never been recognized by our government, so the former arms embargo had not been put into effect, and Japan had been getting a large part of her war supplies from us.

   
IN NEW YORK CITY’S CHINATOWN, AMERICANS OF CHINESE DESCENT PROTEST AGAINST JAPAN.

For that reason, when, after repeated and emphatic protests to her had had no effect, our government denounced the trade treaty of 1911, Japan was stunned. Under the terms of the treaty either party had the right to end it on six months’ notice, the consequence being that when we did so on July 26 it meant that after January 26, 1940, there would be no existent trade agreement and we could shut off war and all other supplies as we might choose.

The importance to Japan may be noted by figures for the percentage of her total imports of six essential war supplies which she got from the United States:

Oil • 66%
Copper • 90 %
Metal working machinery • 67%
Airplanes and parts • 77%
Autos and parts • 65%
Iron materials • 63%

Her possible difficulties are emphasized by the fact that she may be unable to get anything from the British Empire and all other nations now at war owing to their own needs.

In spite of this she appeared to prefer the desperate throw of continuing her Eastern policy without regard to her obligations to us and the other signatories of treaties respecting China, and “incidents” and protests continued to the end of the year.

Our domestic business steadily improved, though unemployment was only slightly lessened. The improvement was, in the main, normal and not affected by the war in Europe, except in a few industries, such as airplanes.

This healthy condition was almost unanimously welcomed by the leaders of industry, who had learned from the last war that the evils certain to follow a war-boom are greater than the benefits of any immediate profits. Not only is the market a false and temporary one, but the alteration and overexpansion of plant, the dislocation of labor and prices, the interruption to peacetime development, all pave the way for inevitable depression.

The expressed desire of leaders in all lines that we may keep as free from these wartime difficulties as we can makes it impossible to claim this time that war may come from a desire for profits.

In spite of the uncertainties of a world torn by wars in almost every quarter except our own continents of the Americas, there were signs of encouragement at home, and of a return to a more normal outlook.

The polls taken by various organizations indicated in general that the people were more and more turning from so-called panaceas back to more conservative American ways.

   
POLLS ON WAR & PEACE, 1935-1939

While much of the ill feeling in Washington was to be deplored, the fact that Congress tended to restore its own powers and the constitutional balance between the Executive and the Legislature is a healthy sign.

Although confidence has not yet been fully restored there emerged in many instances, such as the settlement of the TVA dispute, a better relationship between industry and government.

There was also a tendency to recognize and correct some of the mistakes in the hasty legislation for the vast experiments which we have to a great extent perforce had to make in the past few years. Events in Europe have also done much to clear the American air.

For a while it appeared as though we might be entering on a conflict here between the various “isms” of the Old World, but Europe has done what no amount of arguing here could have to open our eyes. The false faith of both Hitler and Stalin, and especially their alliance to plunder other nations, gave both Nazism and Communism a blow from which they will not soon recover.

At home the conviction of Earl Browder, head of the Communist Party in America, for the use of false passports, and of Fritz Kuhn, head here of the German Bund, for larceny, afforded “close-ups” of what their forms of government might mean.

Moreover, in spite of rather bad handling, the Dies Committee brought out much material for sobering thought. The Committee had been hampered in various ways and undoubtedly had been unwise in some instances in its choice of witnesses and methods of questioning, but enough regarding the subversive activities of various persons and groups had been unearthed to warrant the action of Congress in continuing the work with a new appropriation.

* * *

Among the events of the year was the visit in June of the King and Queen of England, the first reigning sovereigns of the Empire to appear in America. After a tour of Canada they went to Washington, where they stayed at the White House. It was a dramatic moment of history when the King-Emperor, George VI, placed a wreath at Mount Vernon in the tomb of George Washington, the arch-rebel against George III.

In Washington, New York and along their line of travel, the monarchs were received with a cordiality which was clearly heartfelt, and due to the charm of the Queen and the respect felt for the King as a man doing a hard job and doing it well rather than to their position or titles.

Before leaving the United States they spent the night at Hyde Park with the President and Mrs. Roosevelt.

The World’s Fairs in New York and San Francisco were among the events of the year also. Both Fairs drew enormous crowds, and both are preparing to reopen in 1940. Practically all the great and many of the smaller nations were represented at New York, with the exception of Germany.

   
NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR, 1939.

Its theme was “the world of tomorrow” and the Fairs on both coasts were notable for their modernity, but if they gave to the visiting millions a view of the up-to-the-minute world of invention with a glimpse into the future, there was also much of the hoarded beauty of the past.

Many Americans who had never had the opportunity of travelling abroad had a chance to study the finest products of dozens of foreign countries. Notably Italy sent to each Fair some of her choicest treasures of painting and sculpture.

Both Fairs, each with its distinctive motifs and exhibits, showed the bewildering advance the world and our country have made since the first great exhibition in America, that held in Philadelphia in 1876. The mere magnitude to which we have grown was shown by the fact that one country could hold two Fairs within its borders simultaneously, and that one of them, even in a war year, attracted a greater attendance than any Fair in the past anywhere.

Counting employes, almost 33 million people passed through the turnstiles of the one in New York. It has been planned, for its continuance in 1940, to stress particularly our cultural and other relations with South America. Better mutual understanding and the pressure on both continents of the wars elsewhere are happily bringing the two American continents closer together.

In this the plane and the network of Pan American Airways are playing their part in greatly reducing the former hindrances of time and distance. It may be noted incidentally that although we and others call our nation “America” we occupy only about one fifth of the territory of the Americas and are the third country in size, although by far the most powerful and important.

The resources of the other four fifths of the twin continents, however, are enormous, and the present Administration has wisely made one of its chief policies that of general neighborliness and understanding among all nations of the New World.

The year also marked the hundredth anniversary of our national game, baseball, which is popularly and generally credited to Abner Doubleday of Cooperstown, New York, though possibly the adoption of the rules by the Knickerbocker Club of New York in 1845 would more properly mark the beginning of the distinctive American form of ball playing. However, 1839 is the traditional date, and some 7000 people travelled to Cooperstown to join in the celebration.

Another anniversary was that of the opening of the Panama Canal twenty-five years ago. A new treaty with Panama, as well as several separate Conventions, was also made, one of the chief features of the former being the increase in the annual rental of the Canal Zone, thus at last rectifying the injustice done to that little country when America went off the gold standard and insisted on paying the rent in devalued dollars.

An echo of the World War was the final decision handed down by the Mixed Claims Commission which found Germany not only guilty of sabotage in 1916 and 1917 in the Black Tom and Kingsland disasters, but also of having presented to the Commission false and fraudulent testimony in the course of the investigation. The damages assessed against her amounted to about $50 million, most of which was in the possession of the United States Treasury.

In May our navy had one of its most dramatic disasters. The new submarine, ‘Squalus,’ put into commission only a few weeks earlier, was being tested off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and having taken an experimental dive, failed to come up. Aid was dispatched at once, including a new type of diving bell which the navy had invented for such emergencies.

Twenty-six men were lost but thirty-three were saved by extraordinarily skilful and heroic work, and the ship herself was eventually raised from the bottom and taken into harbor for examination.

   
RESCUE DIVING BELL DISPATCHED TO SUNK SUBMARINE ‘SQUALUS.’

A happier achievement was the establishment, after most careful experimenting, of the air clipper service between the United States and Europe, now operating regularly twice a week, making the trip via the Azores and Portugal in approximately twenty-four hours. With our lines over the Atlantic, our own country, the Pacific and South America, American air service now leads the world.

An item of a quite different sort but interesting because of the general opinion to the contrary, was a statement made in Congress in February in connection with Indian legislation, that the Indians were now reproducing themselves at a rate twice that of any other racial group in the country.

A twenty-two-year fight for freedom and justice ended in January when Tom Mooney received a pardon from the Governor of California. Although he had been a radical and an advocate of “direct action,” it had long been evident that his conviction for a dynamite outrage in San Francisco in 1916 had been based on perjured testimony.

The laws of California did not permit of a rectification of the injustice, though nine of the ten living jurors who had convicted him pleaded for his release. Also he had become a symbol, both for the labor and anti-labor groups in the State. Finally, Governor Olson, who had made a campaign pledge to do so, not only gave Mooney an unconditional pardon but absolved him from all guilt in the case.

By the end of the year, in spite of their anxiety over the world situation, Americans were becoming deeply absorbed in the prospects for the 1940 Presidential campaign, with the conventions only five or six months off.

President Roosevelt refused to commit himself as to whether or not he wanted or would accept a third term, if he could get it.

As the months had passed, although the problem overshadowed almost all else in Washington politically, candidates had held back, but, with the time for campaigning getting ever shorter, before the close of the year a number in both parties had openly “thrown their hats into the ring” and become avowed candidates, notably Vice-President Garner, Senators Taft and Vandenberg, and District Attorney Dewey of New York City.

< Back to Top of Page