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Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 20590

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

A Nation of Men Destroyed-Millions in Shipping and Commerce Destroyed-World's Maps Changed-Billions in Money-Immense Debts-Nation's Wealth-The United States a Great Provider.

The human tongue seems almost devoid of power to convey to the human mind what the war has actually cost the world in lives, money, property, ideals and all that is dear to humanity. In all the world there is not a human being who has not contributed something to the awful cost and the loss due to the destruction of property, the stopping of industry, the waste of energy and the curtailment of human endeavor in the interest of civilization, and the effects which the struggle has had upon the world cannot even be approximated in dollars and cents.

We have been taught to regard war as a terrible thing and to realize that thousands must be slain, but in no war in the history of the world has there been as many troops engaged as have been killed in the European war on the battlefields of Belgium and France.

At the beginning of the year 1917 it was estimated that the total casualties of the war were 22,500,000. In a report based on figures compiled in Washington it was stated: The human estimated waste and financial outlay are staggering. The combined casualties of the war, partly estimated because all belligerents do not publish lists, are 22,500,000. The figures included killed, permanently injured, prisoners and wounded returned to the front. Of this number the Central Powers were estimated to have suffered permanent losses in excess of 4,000,000, and the entente perhaps twice that number, Russia being by far the heaviest loser.

The financial outlay, based in part on official reports and statements and in part on estimates, was placed at approximately $80,000,000,000, divided $50,000,000,000 to the entente and $30,000,000,000 to the Central Powers. The entente lost more than 3,500,000 tons of merchant shipping and approximately 800,000 tons of naval vessels. On the other side the loss of naval tonnage was approximately 250,000 tons, and merchant ships aggregating 211,000 tons were reported captured or destroyed.


Of the foreign commerce the Central Powers had lost $10,000,000,000 in the two and a half years of war, including imports and exports. The loss of commerce of Great Britain and her allies with the Central Powers probably was in the neighborhood of $7,000,000. This was largely made up at least on the import side by increased trade with the United States and other neutral countries and enlarged trade with the colonies.

Germany lost virtually all her African colonies and all her possessions in the Pacific Ocean, an aggregate of more than 1,000,000 square miles. Turkey also lost a large area of territory held at the outbreak of the war, while Austria lost most of Bukowina and Galicia. To offset the territory losses of the Central Powers, the entente have lost in Europe approximately 300,000 square miles. Of this large area, all of it thickly populated in normal times, 175,000 square miles were wrested from Russia on the eastern battlefield.

The staggering losses in men include the vast number on both sides wounded in such a way as to permanently cripple them and render them unfit for military service. The figures are based on official reports and estimates by military experts.

Germany's permanent losses were placed at 1,500,000 men, including about 1,000,000 in killed. The permanent losses of Austria-Hungary were placed at about 1,000,000 more than those of Germany, owing to the fact that so much of the hard fighting on the eastern front was in the Austro-Hungarian theater. The losses of the Austro-Hungarians during the drive of General Brusiloff in 1916 were frightful. Large numbers of Austrians were taken prisoner by Brusiloff.

Russia's casualties for the first year of the war were estimated by military experts at more than 3,500,000 men, and these were doubled in the succeeding year, according to estimates by American military experts. Russia returned to the fighting line a smaller percentage of wounded than any of the other great Powers.


Great Britain's casualties were placed in excess of 1,250,000 despite the limited front of British operations in France in the early stages. The aggregate of Italy's casualties was estimated at 1,500,000, while Belgium's were placed at 200,000, Servians at 400,000, Montenegro's at 150,000 and Rumania's at more than 300,000.

While the area of the territorial losses of the Central Powers was nearly four times as great as that of the entente group, with the exception of the occupied portions of Bukowina and Galicia, the value of the territory included in them is comparatively small. For example, Germany's African colonies were sparsely settled, largely by natives, with virtually all development in the future. Despite this fact, their loss was a severe blow to Germany.

The territorial losses of the entente covered all but a small corner of Belgium, a highly developed, thickly populated industrial country; a large slice of northern France, virtually all of Servia, all of Montenegro, more than three-fourths of Rumania and 175,000 square miles of Russia, the major part of it in the grain-growing section.

According to military experts on the "war map" of Europe as it stood at that time, the Central Powers had won the war. But when their enormous loss of foreign commerce and territory is considered, their "victory" was shown to have most decided limitations, especially because of their admission that they eventually would have to give up all occupied territory in view of the frightful cost in men and money.


Supplementing these statements, as showing the progress of the war, it was stated just before the United States took its memorable step to break off diplomatic relations with Germany, members of the National War Council estimated the total casualties of the war at that time as in excess of the population of the United Kingdom, which in 1911 was more than 45,000,000. This of course included those maimed, injured or so stricken that they were unfit for future service. The number actually killed was estimated at more than 7,000,000.

Staggering as these figures are they are easily conceivable when it is remembered that the German front lines covered more than 500 miles with Allied troops opposing them, and that in a single battle millions of shells were fired by one side or the other. In one battle it was officially reported that 4,000,000 shot and shell were used, and in another the English mined the German trenches for a distance of several miles and blew out the strongholds, using more than 1,000,000 pounds of high explosives.

One of the great 42-centimeter guns of the Germans is said to have used a charge of guncotton involving the use of a full bale of cotton to make the explosive-and a bale of cotton contains 500 pounds. The shrapnel of the heavy field artillery of the United States contains 717 balls or bullets about the size of a common marble, and the shell, so timed that it explodes just before it touches the ground, scatters the bullets or balls over an area estimated at one yard for every bullet, or more than 700 yards. With thousands of such shells being rained over the entrenchments is it any wonder that the list of wounded and killed was great?

Thousands were killed by poisoned gases, and where they were not killed a very large percentage of those affected suffered consequences which rendered them unfit for battle-turned them into invalids. The gas bombs produced hemorrhages of the lungs and bowels in thousands of cases and left those who inhaled the fumes in an anemic and permanently disabled condition. And what of the thousands who succumbed to fevers, and who because of the terrible shock became mental and physical wrecks and were made unfit for further duty on the actual firing lines?


When it comes to the cost in dollars and cents it is possible to tell something of what they mean with reference to war construction and maintenance, although no one can estimate what it represents in destruction. No one has yet devised an accounting system to determine the percentage of "depreciation" through wear and tear on guns and devices that cost thousands of dollars each, but everybody knows that guns wear out and that some of the larger ones have a very decided limit on the number of times they can be fired without being rebored or rifled.

Railroads which have taken years to build and develop have been destroyed, telephone and telegraph lines put out of commission, great castles and temples razed, works of art burned, whole cities devastated, green fields turned into great craters torn up by bombs and shells, factories dismantled, herds of cattle fed into the maw of the armies, and the ruthless Germans even went so far as to wantonly cut down and destroy whole forests and magnificent shade trees which it took generations to grow.

How the indebtedness of the nations grew during the progress of the war is shown in the following statement issued by some of the financial institutions of the country in the Spring of 1917:

"Indebtedness of the seven principal nations engaged in the European war has crossed $75,000,000,000. In the middle of 1914 the indebtedness of these seven nations was $27,000,000,000."

Financing on an extensive scale followed this state of affairs. France issued a second formal war loan, Germany a fifth loan and Russia a sixth loan. Great Britain issued temporary securities in enormous sums.

The war cost $105,000,000 every twenty-four hours, according to the statistics, expenditures of the Entente Allies being fully double those of the Central Allies.


Without for one moment taking into consideration the billions which were thrown into the war-pot by America the figures are staggering. An interesting comparison is found in the cost of the previous great world wars. The American Civil War, the greatest conflict in prior history cost $8,000,000,000, a sum equalled every three months in the conduct of the European war.

Approximate cost.

Napoleonic W

ars, 1793-1815 $6,250,000,000

American Civil War, 1861-1864 8,000,000,000

Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871 3,000,000,000

South African War, 1900-1902 1,250,000,000

Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905 2,500,000,000

European War, 1914-1917 (3 years) 75,000,000,000

It was further estimated that after the year 1917, the payment of $3,800,000,000 a year would be required to pay the interest on the debt, and that the total Government expenditures in Europe for bond interest and support of the various branches of the Governments would require in the neighborhood of 20 per cent of the people's income.


Another comparative table that is important to any one desiring to study the costs and their effects is that relating to population and wealth of the principal countries. The latest available figures are:

Population Wealth

United States 101,577,000 $187,739,071,090

British Empire 394,930,000 130,000,000,000

Germany 67,810,000 80,000,000,000

France 39,700,000 50,000,000,000

Russia 187,379,000 40,000,000,000

Austria-Hungary 53,000,000 25,000,000,000

Spain 20,000,000 5,400,000,000

Belgium 7,500,000 9,000,000,000

Portugal 5,958,000 2,500,000,000

Italy 37,048,000 20,000,000,000

Taxes have been the main sources for raising money to carry on the war. In Germany taxes on all incomes from the Kaiser to the ordinary business man were kept at the highest rate, the Kaiser paying $500,000 on his fortune of $35,000,000 during the early part of the struggle. This was in addition to his income tax which amounted to $440,000, making a total annual tax of nearly $1,000,000. The Krupps are said to have been assessed at $3,000,000.

When the new military service laws were approved in Paris, which was about the middle of July, 1913, the French Cabinet was at its wit's end to provide the financial end of the tremendous military budget. Investment markets were sluggish, and there were thousands of notes whose values were rapidly depreciating. The French Government was unable to float a loan of $200,000,000 which was necessary for making preparations.

Then in her desperation Paris closed her doors to all foreign loans. The Viviani Ministry practically duplicated the plan of its predecessor in proposing an issue of $360,000,000 3-1/2 per cent bonds, which were redeemable in 25 years.

One year previously to this financial struggle the Belgian Government had started to raise $62,800,000 in order that the people of this country might prevent its being used as the battleground for the world war which they had seen away off in the future. This money was raised for the purpose of making Antwerp an impregnable fortress.


Russia had taken steps to raise $3,700,000,000 which the Russian Minister of Finance had informed the Budget Committee must be spent in the next five years on the army and navy. During the first year of the war there was $500,000,000 spent by this country in military and naval defence. This does not include the cost of those strategic railroads of which so many were constructed by the Russian Government, and which cost so many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Previous to the time Great Britain declared war on Germany the House of Commons had voted $525,000,000 for Emergency purposes, and within a couple of days of this appropriation an additional $500,000,000 was granted by the British Parliament.

One of the things accomplished by war was to bring out the fact that the resources of individuals are far greater than is ordinarily suspected. In 1870 Bismarck imposed an indemnity of $1,000,000,000 on France, never believing that country could meet the great debt, but with the help of all the inhabitants the debt was lifted within a few months.

When countries are at war the cost of continuing fighting does not stop with those actually engaged. The trade of the world is affected, and this means loss in all quarters of the globe. Of the import trade of the United States more than $500,000,000 was directly with those nations engaged in the war at the opening of hostilities. This was out of a total of $1,850,000,000. A great part of this commerce is classed as among that which yields the greatest import tax, which means that internal taxes must be imposed on the people to make up for the money necessary to meet with the yearly loss occasioned during the continuance of the war.


In the United States there is an annual national income of $50,000,000,000, the total bank resources being $35,000,000,000, the individual deposits being $24,000,000,000, with cash held by the banks totaling $2,500,000,000, total gold stock in the country being $3,000,000,000, and available additional commercial credits on the basis of cash holdings totaling $6,000,000,000.

The borrowing power of the American Government does not total less than $40,000,000,000, from domestic sources, and this does not disturb the ordinary financial and economical affairs of the nation.

During the first five months in 1917 the Government of the United States reached a record for expenditures never before equalled in American history. The total amount expended was $1,600,000,000.

The chief item of the increase-$607,500,000-was the purchase of the obligations of foreign Governments in exchange for loans advanced to the Allies. The sum did not represent by approximately $140,000,000 the total amount authorized in loans. An increase of approximately $245,000,000 in the ordinary disbursements of the Government, chiefly due to military and naval needs, also was recorded and another item going to swell the grand total of expenditures was the payment of $25,000,000 for purchase of the Danish West Indies.

War loans of the six chief European belligerents, early in 1917, aggregated approximately $53,113,000,000.

Loans of the chief Entente nations, Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy, were placed at about $36,300,000,000; those of Germany and Austria-Hungary, not including the sixth German loan reported to have yielded about $3,000,000,000, at $18,800,000,000.

The amounts of the various loans were placed at:

Great Britain, to March 31, 1917, $18,805,000,000; France, to February 28, $10,500,000,000; Russia, to December 31, 1916, $7,896,000,000; Italy, to December 31, 1916, $2,520,000,000; Germany, to December 31, 1916, $11,226,000,000; Austria, to December 31, 1916, $5,880,000,000; Hungary, $1,730,000,000.

The total included the advances made by the United Kingdom and France to the smaller belligerent countries allied with them.


Some idea of what all this financing means to a country may be judged by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in October, 1916, replying to questions regarding the English loans in the House of Commons, declared that England was paying at that time about $10,000,000 a day in the United States, for every working day in the year.

When the English mission visited the United States in May, 1917, after the country had entered the war, there was handed to Arthur James Balfour, ex-Premier of England, a check for $200,000,000, said to have been one of the largest single checks ever paid in this country. It was a loan for war purposes. In the month of June it was stated that the total advance made to the Allies was $923,000,000, among the loans made then was one of $75,000,000 to Great Britain, and $3,000,000 to Servia. The Servian loan, the first made by the United States to that country, was mainly for the improvement of railway lines. A small portion was used for the relief of the distressed population, and Red Cross work.

It was stated that the allied countries would spend in America, in the neighborhood of $200,000,000 a month for the year; which brings attention to the resources which America turned in against Germany when she joined the allied forces. To meet the demands made upon it the Government borrowed at once $3,000,000,000 by popular subscription-a matter of history of which the nation is proud.

From its funds the country loaned Russia $100,000,000, which was the first loan made by the United States to that Government. A credit of $45,000,000 to Belgium was also established by the Secretary of the Treasury. This also was Belgium's first participation in the loan of the Allies.


Aside from the financial resources of the United States, the country is undoubtedly the richest in agricultural, mineral and other natural resources. It annually produces more than 3,500,000,000 bushels of corn, wheat touching the high point of 1,500,000,000 bushels; 1,600,000,000 bushels of oats; 250,000,000 bushels of barley; 40,000,000 bushels of rye; 22,000,000 bushels of buckwheat; 425,000,000 bushels of potatoes; 77,000,000 tons of hay; 30,000,000 bushels of flaxseed; 7,000,000,000 pounds of cotton; more than 1,000,000,000 pounds of tobacco; 2,000,000 long tons of sugar and 275,000,000 pounds of wool.

There are nearly 70,000,000 swine, and as many cattle, more than 25,000,000 head of horses and mules, and 62,000,000 sheep. Coal is mined at the rate of more than 500,000,000 tons yearly, and the copper mines yield 1,250,000,000 pounds of metal. Petroleum wells yield 225,500,000 barrels yearly. There are 270,000 manufacturing plants with a yearly output of more than $25,000,000,000. The products of the farm total more than $11,000,000,000 annually.

As to Germany's position, economists all over the world have considered her position as not only lacking soundness, but as crazy-crazy in that no attention whatever has apparently been paid to what are recognized as firmly fixed economic laws. The world has been at a loss to understand Germany's attitude, and it can only be explained by assuming that Germany was perfectly well aware of the entire unsoundness of her commercial and financial position, and was willing, or, in fact, had to risk everything with the hope of acquiring sufficient indemnity, resulting from the war, to bring her financial affairs to a sound basis. Germany's entire structure from the close of the Franco-Prussian war evidently was built upon rotten foundations.

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