Monday, January 16, 2017

Today -100: January 16, 1917: We cannot afford to give the impression that we are chasing peace at all costs


The US-Mexican Joint Commission dissolves after four months of discussions which were never going to accomplish anything, and which didn’t.

German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann says that the Entente’s reply to Wilson’s note has made it impossible for Germany to name its own peace conditions. See if you can follow the logic: the peace terms that the Entente named in response to Wilson were so extreme that if Germany now named its terms, their very mildness and reasonableness would be taken as a sign of weakness, which would just encourage the enemy to keep fighting. “We cannot afford to give the impression that we are chasing peace at all costs.” He suggests that if England’s goal is, as it says, liberation rather than pillaging, it should set an example by freeing Ireland.

The Supreme Court upholds the Mann Act, which is supposed to regulate commercialized prostitution (“white slavery”), but is often used to prosecute any couple who cross state lines for sexual escapades. Since Congress only claims the power to enact this law under the Inter-State Commerce Clause, it’s hard to see the Court’s logic in counting sex where no money exchanges hands as “commerce.”

Boston financier Thomas Lawson, testifying before the House Rules Committee’s investigation of the rumor that cabinet member(s) leaked Wilson’s peace proposals to stock speculators names names, including Treasury Secretary (and Wilson’s son-in-law) William Gibbs McAdoo and his banker brother Malcolm (who wants William to punch Lawson’s head), Wilson’s secretary Joseph Tumulty, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, and financier Bernard Baruch. The witness names as his source the – hey, wait a minute! – chairman of the Rules Committee, Robert Lee Henry (D-Texas). Henry denies this. Lawson says he talked to journalists about their conversation immediately after it occurred and shouts, “I’ll make good here, and I won’t go to jail as the goat.”

The New York City Health Department’s campaign against spitting continues. 174 men (no women) appear in court. 2 have acceptable excuses, the rest are fined $1 or $2.

German Foreign Minister Zimmermann sends a telegram to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, informing him that Germany intends to resume unrestricted warfare on February 1st and instructing him that if the United States looks like declaring war in response, Eckhardt should propose an alliance with Mexico against the US – “make war together, make peace together” – promising Mexico the return of territories lost in the Mexican-American War. Well, some of them, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. California would go to Japan, which Mexico should ask to join (Zimmermann thought Japan might be amenable due to annoyance at racist immigrant and land ownership laws in the US). The Zimmermann Telegram will be intercepted and decrypted by British Naval Intelligence as it wends its way through transatlantic cables that fortuitously pass through Britain, the British will pass it to the Americans, and away we go.


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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Today -100: January 15, 1917: Welcome, Leon


Du Pont insists that the explosion of their Haskell, New Jersey munitions plant was not the result of a plot. No, just us being incompetent as usual, they say reassuringly.

Czar Nicholas fires a bunch of (relative) liberals from the Council of the Empire, replacing them with reactionaries, as was the custom.

Headline of the Day -100:


Leon Trotsky arrives in New York, having been successively expelled from Russia (technically he escaped from Siberia – twice), Austria (not Germany) at the start of the war, France (for publishing an anti-war newspaper) and Spain. This is almost certainly the first time the NYT has mentioned Trotsky, presumably prodded by the big deal that Russian-language and socialist newspapers in the city are making about his arrival. Interesting that the NYT keeps mentioning his Jewishness; “pacifist” is also a funny way to describe Trotsky.


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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Today -100: January 14, 1917: A series of tubes


A letter from Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, gives anecdotal evidence for her claim that corruption and vote-buying were responsible for the defeat of women’s suffrage in state referenda.

The House votes to ignore the postmaster-general’s recommendations and restore pneumatic mail tube deliveries, because they’re awesome.

The US Justice Dept has heard that one person might be responsible for the explosions last week at two different New Jersey munitions factories. The evidence is pretty thin.

War is Hell, Sunday New York Times Magazine Edition:


The New York City Health Department is undertaking a crackdown on people who spit, issuing summonses to 206 alleged spitters in a single day.

Headline of the Day -100:  


Yeah, it’s a swim meet between the Princeton and University of Pennsylvania teams, but for a moment there...


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Friday, January 13, 2017

Today -100: January 13, 1917: Our enemies have dropped the mask


Kaiser Wilhelm responds to the Entente’s rejection of his feeble peace feelers: “Our enemies have dropped the mask, admitted their lust of conquest and their aim to crush Germany and enslave Europe and the seas... but they will never achieve their aim. ... Burning indignation and holy wrath will redouble the strength of every German. God, who planted the spirit of freedom in German hearts, will give us the full victory.”

Enslave the seas?

The Canadian Car and Foundry Company says it will rebuild its Kingsland, New Jersey munitions plant after all that exploding. Kingsland, New Jersey would prefer that it didn’t. While only a few houses burned down, most of them were perforated by projectiles. The company is beginning to insinuate that the fire was deliberate.

And there’s another massive explosion at another munitions plant in New Jersey, the Du Pont powder plant in Haskell. 2 dead. At this point a Du Pont plant blowing up hardly even qualifies as news.

The New York State Bar Association decides to allow women lawyers to join.


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today -100: January 12, 1917: Of lubes and lynchings, picketers, fireworks in the Meadowlands, and not exterminating the German people


Gov. Augustus Owsley Stanley of Kentucky personally prevents the lynching of a black man, Lube Martin (that can’t be his correct name, can it?), after his trial for killing a white man is postponed. Hearing of the threats to kill the judge if he didn’t order Martin returned to Murray (that’s a place), Gov. Stanley charters a special train, saying he’d give the mob “a chance to lynch the governor of Kentucky first.”

The Senate passes a measure to ban from the US mails printed matter – including newspapers – containing liquor ads.

Pres. Wilson invites the suffragist picketers inside to get warm because, well, January might not have been the best time of year to start picketing the White House. The invitation is not accepted.

Explosions destroy the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, a munitions factory in Kingsland, New Jersey (the Meadowlands), going on and on for four hours as hundreds of thousands of shells, intended for export to Britain and Russia, detonate. No one will ever be sure whether sabotage was involved, although West Germany will be coerced into paying some compensation in the 1950s. There is a hero: Tessie McNamara, who ran the telephone switchboard and made sure every department evacuated before barely making it out herself. There were no casualties, not even the police chiefs of Kingsland and Rutherford, who were in an automobile when a shell fell on it and wrecked it. Not helping: the idiots, not all of them children, who decide that unexploded shells make good souvenirs.

After last July’s explosions in New York Harbor, NY and NJ tightened their rules for the handling of explosives. One of the companies fighting local safety measures was, you guessed it, the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, which went to court to preserve its ability to ship explosives by rail through Jersey City.

The Entente finally responds  to Wilson’s letter sent 4 weeks ago asking both sides to set out their objectives, and they actually do: evacuation of foreign occupation forces from Belgium, Serbia, France, Russia, Montenegro, Romania with reparations, the “reorganization of Europe,” return of Alsace-Lorraine to France and some territory to Italy, “liberation” of Slavs, Romanians (they mean Transylvania), Italians, Czecho-Slovaks (i.e. the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), enfranchisement of subject populations in the Ottoman Empire and the removal from Europe of that Empire, “decidedly alien to Western civilization.” They are positioning themselves as “not fighting for selfish interests, but, above all, to safeguard the independence of peoples, of right, and of humanity.” They do say that they do not aim for “the extermination of the German people and their political disappearance,” so that’s nice of them.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Today -100: January 11, 1917: So petty and so monstrous


The suffragist picketing of the White House (“silent sentinels”) begins. A new tactic in the US, though in Britain the Women’s Freedom League picketed Parliament in 1909 and have just resumed while the Speaker’s Conference discusses various possible changes to the electoral system. Pres. Wilson, returning from golf, ignores them. Carrie Chapman Catt denounces the sentinels, because of course she does. The NYT says “no one can imagine the Socialists, the Prohibitionists, or any other party conceiving of a performance at once so petty and so monstrous”. The Times thinks this tactic shows the essential difference of the female mind which would make granting women the vote a political danger.

New Russian Prime Minister Prince Nikolai Golitsyn says his government is responsible only to the will of the tsar, not to the Duma (not to mention the Russian people.  Because he doesn’t. He doesn’t mention the Russian people).

The federal court in San Francisco finds the German consul, the amusingly named Franz Bopp, the vice-consul and 3 employees of the consulate, guilty of conspiracy to blow up ammunition factories in the US and Canada as well as ships, railroad bridges, and military trains (the latter coming under the legal heading of conspiring to restrain interstate and international commerce).

The Entente forces the pope to send his First Acting Private Chamberlain, who is German, out of Rome.

A private in the New York National Guard’s Second Field Artillery is punished by being tied to the wheel of a gun carriage (“tricing” or “spreadeagling”), which is old-school discipline. There will be an investigation. The private had been arrested for returning to the Bronx armory drunk, and then refusing to do prison-type work unless fed. The unit, just returned from Texas, has not been paid for weeks and hasn’t been fed in a while either.

Ibsen’s Wild Duck (1884) is performed for the first time in the United States. In German.

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, slaughterer of bison and Indian alike and mythologizer of the Old West through his cowboys & Indians touring show, dies at 70.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today -100: January 10, 1917: Of silent sentinels, trepovs, and prohibition


Suffragists plan to picket the White House.

Alexander Fyodorovitch Trepov resigns as Russian prime minister, figuring that almost 7 weeks in that job is enough for anyone. Next up: Prince Nikolai Golitsyn, who is appointed over his own objections by the tsar, who wants an extremely reactionary prime minister, and an extremely reactionary prime minister he will have. For now.

The Senate passes a bill for prohibition in the District of Columbia, 55-32. A proposal to let the actual people of DC vote on it fails by a tie vote.


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Monday, January 09, 2017

Today -100: January 9, 1917: Wars of murder and rapine are the worst kind


A British court in India sentences 17 Indians in the 1915 “Lahore conspiracy” to overthrow the Raj (aka the Ghadar Mutiny). 6 are sentenced to death (actually a lot more than that were executed). The court says the movement originated in the United States in conjunction with the German consulate in San Francisco (which is actually true). “The enemy’s plan was to bring about a war of murder and rapine.”

Sen. Robert Owen (D-Oklahoma) introduces a joint resolution to remove the Supreme Court’s power to declare federal laws unconstitutional. In a speech a couple of days ago, Owen said that the Court is an “antiquated institution” which has outlived its usefulness. He objects to their getting to rule on the Adamson 8-Hour Act.

Chicago Police Superintendent Charles Healey and several others are arrested for taking payoffs from brothels, thieves, gamblers, etc. A raid ordered by the state attorney grabs up bagman Thomas Costello, who has on him a book detailing which places could be raided and which could not. At his trial in October, Healey was represented by Clarence Darrow, who put the blame on Costello, on Mayor Big Bill Thompson, on anyone other than Healey. Darrow had him come to court practically in rags and called him “old, weary, feeble, and broken” (he was c.61, but would live to c.103) and got him acquitted.

The Supreme Court upholds the ban on liquor shipments from wet states to dry ones.

The AP is suing Hearst’s International News Service for stealing its stories through bribery and other nefarious means.


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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Today -100: January 8, 1917: Why, the trenches are almost like a health resort, what with the mud baths and everything


Lord Northcliffe claims that the average death rate among British soldiers is 3 per thousand per year and their rate of illness is less than among civilians in London.

Former Greek finance minister Alexandros Diomidis, who has defected to the Venizelos side, says that King Constantine is only waiting for German orders before declaring war on the Entente.


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