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Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 20035

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

President Wilson Puts Embargo on Food Shipments-Scandinavian Countries Furnishing Supplies to Germany Inspires Order-The Difficult Position of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland.

When America first declared its intentions there were in the United States thousands who held to the theory that "America in War" simply meant that we should shut ourselves within our borders, perhaps furnish supplies to the Allied forces, lend money to England, France, Belgium and Russia, use our navy to protect our merchant shipping and go about our business, leaving the fighting to the forces joined in conflict against Germany.

They were disabused when the English and French Commission and the representatives of Belgium and Russia made it apparent that it would be necessary for America to actually raise a fighting army and General Pershing was sent to France. But they learned, too, that mobilizing the forces of the country and waging warfare were not simple matters. The truth was brought home that the whole nation must fight; that it must use its brains, its money, its resources of every sort, its whole power, both in an offensive and in a defensive way.

Not only must its soldiers and sailors face the guns of the Teutons, but the machinery of government must be used to bring the arrogant Hohenzollerns to their knees. Some startling things were discovered, and the brains of the diplomatic force of the government were put to the test. International problems arose which were never before encountered in the history of nations.

England, with its blockade against Germany, and Germany with its submarine warfare against British and neutral shipping, developed problems which had to be solved relative to keeping Germany from getting supplies which would enable her to withstand the siege, and also as to the sending of supplies to England, Belgium, France and Russia, and particularly to our own forces fighting with the Allies in France.


Unfortunate as it may seem, one of the biggest factors in waging successful war is to prevent the enemy from getting food supplies. It is a frequently repeated truism that "an army travels on its stomach," and in the pleas for conservation and efficient management the leaders in every country declared frequently that "the war would be won by the last loaf of bread," or that it was not a question of ammunition, but of wheat.

One of the serious problems which the government was therefore called to face within a very short period after the American troops were first landed in France was that of dealing with the food situation, both at home and abroad. At that time the German U-boats had sunk merchant ships having a total of more than 5,000,000 tonnage, and the food situation was precarious in the Allied countries. Germany, on the other hand, because of long preparation for the struggle, coupled with efficient management and practices, was more largely independent of other countries.

At this time it was learned that Germany was securing large quantities of foodstuffs through the medium of some of the neutral countries. America was, therefore, called upon to take steps to prevent the Germans getting supplies from this country, through the intermediary of Holland and the Scandinavian countries. As a result the government placed an embargo on a long list of articles including fuel, oils, grains, meats and fodder. The embargo, which was made effective by a proclamation of President Wilson, forbade the carrying of such supplies as were mentioned from the United States or its territorial possessions to neutral countries.

The purpose of the embargo was not to prevent the neutral countries from securing foodstuffs from America for their own consumption, but to prevent their reselling such supplies at a profit to Germany. The position of the government was made plain in the statement of President Wilson, who said:


"It is obviously the duty of the United States in liberating any surplus products over and above our own domestic needs to consider first the necessities of all the nations engaged in war against the central empires. As to neutral nations, however, we also recognize our duty. The government does not wish to hamper them. On the contrary, it wishes and intends, by all fair and equitable means, to co-operate with them in their difficult task of adding from our available surpluses to their own domestic supply and of meeting their pressing necessities or deficits. In considering the deficits of food supplies, the government means only to fulfill its obvious obligation to assure itself that neutrals are husbanding their own resources, and that our supplies will not become available, either directly or indirectly, to feed the enemy."

While the conservation of our resources had a great deal to do with the issuing of the embargo, the action was partly taken as the result of information lodged by England that Holland, Sweden and Norway had been supplying Germany and her allies with food, despite the latter's hostile action in sinking ships owned by the neutrals. The government made an investigation and discovered that the shipment to these neutral countries had become abnormally large. It was reported, particularly, that many Holland business men had become fabulously wealthy by trading in the supplies which came from America, and which they resold to Germany.

The embargo became operative under a method of license procedure, so that all shipments could be watched by the government authorities. The order compelled all persons seeking to export goods to make application for a license to the Secretary of Commerce, or bureaus designated in various parts of the country.

In support of the contentions that the neutral countries were supplying Germany, Great Britain furnished the Government with the following table as representing the minimum of food exports from Scandinavia and Holland to Germany in 1916: Butter, 82,600 metric tons; meat, 115,800 tons; pork products, 68,800 tons; condensed milk, 70,000 tons; fish, 407 tons; cheese, 80,500 tons; eggs, 46,400 tons; potato meal, 179,500 tons; coffee, 58,500 tons; fruit, 74,000 tons; sugar, 12,000 tons; vegetables, 215,000.

These figures are most impressive, it is asserted, in relation to fats, the scarcest thing in Germany. Fat, it is claimed, is the only food seriously lacking now in the diet of the German people. Imports of this food, the British declare, furnish one-fourth of the daily German fat ration.


There are five neutral countries whose positions were anything but enviable during the war, and it is perhaps worth interpolating a little something about them at this particular point. Norway, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland were the neutrals at the time the embargo was placed on foodstuffs.

Switzerland, as all the world knows, is one of the most picturesque countries in Europe, and is a republic in the west central part of the continent, bounded on the north by Baden, Wurtemburg and Bavaria; on the east by the Tyrol, on the south by Italy and on the west by France. There is no national tongue, three languages being spoken within the boundaries of the republic. Where it comes in contact with the French frontier, the French language is largely spoken; while Italian is the language spoken in the southern part, where it is bounded by Italy. In the northern section the German language is spoken. The country has an area of 15,992 square miles.

In the main, Switzerland is mountainous, the chief valley being that of the Rhone, in the southern part. The most level tracts are in the northwestern section, where there are a number of mountain-locked valleys. Mountain slopes comprise about two-fifths of the area of the country, and practically all of the rivers are rapid and unnavigable. The forests are extensive and consist of large trees. Cereals, along with hemp, flax and tobacco, are raised, and the pasture lands are fertile and abundant. Hence, the dairy products, as well as hides and tallow, are produced in profusion. Fruits of the hardier varieties grow well and profitably.


The republic consists of twenty-two States or Cantons which form a Federal Union, although each is virtually independent in matters of politics. The Swiss Constitution, remodelled in 1848, vests the ruling executive and legislative authority in a Diet of two houses-a State Council and a National Council. The former consists of 44 members-two from each Canton-and corresponds in its functional action with the United States Senate. The National Council is the more purely representative body, and is composed of 128 members elected triennially by popular suffrage. Both chambers combine and form what is called the Federal Assembly.

The chief executive power is exercised by the so-called Federal Council, or Bundesgericht, which is elected triennially. Its governing officers are the President and Vice President of the republic. International and inter-cantonal questions are discussed before and adjudicated by the Bundesgericht, which serves as a high court of appeal. The army consists of 142,999 regulars and 91,809 landwehr; total, 231,808 men of all arms. Every adult citizen is de facto liable to military service, and military drill and discipline are taught in all the schools. The Protestant faith forms the ruling form of religion in 15 of the cantons, Roman Catholicism prevailing in the rest. Education is well diffused by numerous colleges and schools of a high grade; and its upper branches are cared for at the three universities of Berne, Basle and Zurich.

Denmark, whose home possessions comprise 14,789 square miles, is, by the way, barely one-half the size of Scotland. It consists of a peninsular portion called Jutland, and an extensive archipelago lying east of it. It has a number of territorial possessions in the Atlantic ocean, among them the islands o

f Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe islands in the north.


One of its possessions in the West Indies was purchased by the United States almost at the time America entered the war, and created a situation which was not calculated to inspire the friendship of Germany for the little country, since it was intimated that Germany would liked to have had the island for a base. The islands cost the United States about $25,000,000. Including the colonial possessions, the total area of the Danish possessions is 80,000 square miles, the population being 2,726,000 persons.

Copenhagen is the capital, the other chief cities being Odense, Aarhuus, Aalborg, Randers and Horsens. For administrative purposes Denmark is divided into 18 provinces or districts, besides the capital, nine of these making up Jutland and the other nine comprising the island possessions. On the south Denmark is bounded by Germany and the Baltic, on the west it is washed by the North Sea; while to the north lies Norway, separated by the Skagerrack, and on the east lies Sweden, separated by the Cattegat and the Sound.

The line of seaboard is irregular and broken, and the low, flat nature of the country necessitates the construction of dykes, in many places, in order to prevent the ocean from making inroads. There are few rivers, and these are small and not of value commercially. Timber is not abundant, and minerals are scarce and of little value. The climate is generally moist and cold, fogs are frequent and the winters generally severe. Cereals, potatoes, wool and dairy products are the principal products. Cattle raising is carried on extensively, much of the beef being exported.

The Danes, physically, are sturdy, and represent the truest physical characteristics of Scandinavian types. The people are brave, sober and industrious, and the sailors from this country are among the leading navigators of the world. The government is a constitutional monarchy, with the executive power vested in a king and a ministry, who are held responsible to the Rigsdag, which is the parliament.


This parliament consists of a Senate, or Landsthing, and a lower house, or Folksthing. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the State religion, but all other persuasions are fully and freely tolerated. Education is compulsory, and is largely disseminated. The army consists of 60,000 men, while the navy is quite small, having a personnel of about 4000 officers and men.

The authentic history dates from 1385, the year of the accession of Margaret, the "Semiramis of the North," and wearer of the triple Scandinavian crowns. The latest monarch, Frederick VIII, came to the throne in 1906.

Holland, the most picturesque of the neutral countries, aside from Switzerland with its wonderful scenery, is credited with having profited very largely by the war. It rests along the North Sea and adjoins the German Empire on the east and borders Belgium on the South. It contains about 11 provinces, with a total area of 12,582 square miles and a population of about 6,000,000.

Always one thinks of windmills, dykes, fat cattle, butter, eggs, ducks and green farms when Holland is mentioned, and it is in many respects one of the most highly developed commercial countries in the world. The country manufactures many articles of world-wide distribution, including chocolate, linens, fine damasks, pottery, chemical and pharmaceutical products, and Amsterdam is a center of diamond-cutting.

It has a large mercantile marine and was at one time a tremendous maritime power, doing an immense trading business in many waters. It still has rich and extensive colonies, including the Dutch possessions in the East Indies, comprising the Sunda Islands, except a portion of Borneo and Eastern Timor, and New Guinea. Java and Madura are two of the richest of the group and have a population of more than 30,000,000. There are also possessions in the West Indies and in South America.


The Dutch army has approximately 40,000 officers and men and is regarded as one of the most efficient armies in the world of its size. There is also a colonial army in the East Indies with 1300 officers and 35,183 men. Its navy has 4000 officers and men and has about 200 vessels of all sorts, none of them of the modern dreadnought or super-dreadnought type.

The history of the rich little country is one of the most interesting in literature. It was originally part of the Empire of Charlemagne. Subsequently, it became divided into a number of petty principalities, and by heritage became a possession of the Austrian monarchy. In the long struggle against the Spanish power it became one of the Seven United Provinces. The country made rapid progress, and during the 17th century withstood the power of Louis the XIV of France, but later was overrun by the French, and finally in 1806 was made a kingdom by Napoleon, in favor of his brother Louis. Under the Treaty of Paris Belgium and Holland were united to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and this arrangement remained until 1830, when Belgium broke away. Holland attempted to reduce the revolting province by force, but the powers intervened and an adjustment was made. The last King was William, III, who died in 1890, leaving his daughter Wilhelmina, then but 10 years old, Queen.

Of the neutral countries none endured more than heroic Norway. With a long coast line practically undefended and with the full force of the German navy anchored but a few hours away, and a none too friendly country on her land border, possessing an army greater than her own, Norway's position was extremely difficult.

Had she flung herself into the war with the Allies when the breach came she would have been of little help to them, for she would have placed them in the position of being called upon to help defend her long coast line. It is probable also that a break with Germany would have let loose the Swedish army on the side of the Teutons.


The little country was between two fires, and she suffered great strain. In the first place, while Norway attempted to maintain her export trade and her shipping, the Allies inspected her import invoices and subjected her to much annoyance, while Germany, without provocation, ruthlessly attacked her merchant ships and sent many of them to the bottom of the ocean.

There were intimations that Germany's real intent was to precipitate a rupture which would justify her attack on the little country, which she would be able to subdue with ease and seize the rugged coast and ports of vantage. But Norway remained neutral, and was not at all pleased with the embargo placed upon shipments by the United States, though it developed that the restrictions would not prevent the country from getting its share of grain and other supplies from America.

Norway is the western portion of the Scandinavian peninsula, and has an area of about 125,000 square miles. Its northern coast is washed by the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, and against the northeast is Lapland, while Sweden bounds it on the east and the famed North Sea on the south and the broad Atlantic on the west.

The rugged country is separated from Sweden by the Kiolen, or the Great Scandinavian chain of mountains, and in the hills and mountains are found the wonderful Norway spruce and fir trees familiar in commerce. Its fisheries and shipbuilding industry are also of great importance in the world of business.


The constitution of Norway is one of the most Democratic in all Europe. Although a monarchy, its executive and legislative power is vested in the parliament, called the Storthing, and the King has merely a nominal command over the army and navy, with power to appoint the governor-general only. The latter has a limited right to veto acts of the parliament. Hereditary nobility was abolished in 1821.

Under the treaty of Vienna in 1814, and following the defeat of Napoleon, it was arranged that Denmark must give up Norway, and the two countries were united under the Swedish Crown. Norway demanded a separate consular service in 1905, and the Storthing declared the union with Sweden at an end. Prince Charles of Denmark then became King, reigning as Haakon VII.

The country has a population of 2,340,000, and her full military force mobilized for war is only 110,000 men.

Sweden, Norway's next-door neighbor on the Scandinavian peninsula, in contradistinction to the latter, is a constitutional monarchy, with extraordinary powers vested in the King, who is assisted in the administration of affairs by a council of ministers. The Diet, or legislature, consists of two chambers, or estates, both elected by the people.

Like Norway, the country is very rugged. Lapland and Finland are at the northeast, and on the east is the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic, and on the south the Baltic, the Sound and the Cattegat. It joins Norway on the west. Its area is 172,875 square miles, and its coast line is more than 1400 miles long.

Sweden, while it does not have a first-class navy, possesses a score of armored vessels of small displacement, besides torpedo boats, destroyers, etc., and has an army of 40,000 at peace strength. The country is particularly rich in minerals, and some of the finest iron ore in the world comes from its mines. Nickel, lead, cobalt, alum and sulphur are also produced in large quantities; while it gives to the world, too, immense quantities of lumber and larger quantities of hemp, flax and hops.

The reigning monarch is King Gustavus V, who succeeded his father, Oscar II, who died in 1907. The population of the country is about 5,000,000.

Of these neutrals, both Holland and Switzerland did a great deal for the suffering Belgians when Germany pounded through the country of King Albert, sending money for the relief of the sufferers and offering refugees shelter.

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