Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Today -100: December 3, 1913: Of states of the union, watchful waiting, surrenders, sleeping gas, and royal trains


Woodrow Wilson’s first State of the Union address (in fact the first SOTU speech to use the phrase, which the annual address would now be called) calls for binding presidential primaries; full territorial government and railroads to be built and run by the government in Alaska; credits for farmers; workmen’s compensation, and other elements of the Progressive program. The remaining adherents of the Progressive Party are wondering whether it still has a role. He even calls for “social justice,” one of Theodore Roosevelt’s old phrases. And for “ultimate independence” for the Philippines.

One thing he didn’t mention: women’s suffrage.

Wilson predicted the future with astonishing accuracy: “The country, I am thankful to say, is at peace with all the world, and many happy manifestations multiply about us of a growing cordiality and sense of community of interest among the nations, foreshadowing an age of settled peace and good will.” Phew.

“There is but one cloud upon our horizon,” the meteorologist-in-chief remarked: “There can be no certain prospect of peace in America until General Huerta has surrendered his usurped authority in Mexico”. “Mexico has no Government. The attempt to maintain one at the City of Mexico has broken down, and a mere military despotism has been set up which has hardly more than the semblance of national authority. It originated in the usurpation of Victoriano Huerta, who, after a brief attempt to play the part of constitutional President, has at last cast aside even the pretense of legal right and declared himself dictator.” But he reassured Congress that “the collapse is not far away. We shall not, I believe, be obliged to alter our policy of watchful waiting.”

More fun and games in Zabern, Alsace: Baron von Forstner, the arrogant boy-lieutenant who started all the fuss with the local Alsatians, decided to chase down some men who jeered the German soldiers as they passed. He caught only a lame shoemaker, who he hit on the head with the sharp bit of his saber.

Seven of Huerta’s generals in the north announce plans to surrender or switch sides or something (they say they’re surrendering, but at the same time they’re fleeing towards the American border as fast as they can), in a proclamation citing the important principle that they haven’t been paid.

Oil companies in Mexico have stopped supplying oil to the National Railways. Oil is mostly produced in the northern regions now held by rebels, whom the companies are unwilling to risk angering.

Pancho Villa’s chief of staff is arrested in El Paso on a complaint from Villa that he had embezzled rebel funds.

In US District Court in Phoenix, all cases against Texas and Arizona firms for smuggling weapons to the Mexican rebels are dismissed.

Saxony, Germany is developing a sleeping gas: “It is said that the gas from a single bomb has thrown several hundred men into a deep sleep lasting seven or eight hours.”

The teamsters’ strike in Indianapolis, the one that caused Mayor Shank to resign because he couldn’t avert it, is on. And we’ve got what the NYT optimistically calls its “first fatality,” a 19-year-old negro elevator operator shot by special officers “in a riot resulting from an attempt to move an ice wagon.” Don’t know who these “special officers” who are being sworn in are, but there’s also a “Citizens’ Cavalry.” The teamsters are calling for a general strike and for unions to withdraw their funds from local banks.

The government of French Prime Minister Louis Barthou falls after 8 months in office. Barthou himself will fall in a different way in 1934 as fatal collateral damage during the assassination of the king of Yugoslavia. Oh, and while the real cause of the fall of the Barthou government was the instability of multi-party democracy under the Third Republic, the vote the government lost was for tax-deductibility for the latest government loan to build up the army against Germany.

Headline of the Day -100: “May Look at Royal Train.” The German (Prussian?) Ministry of Railways issues an order that RR employees (gates-keepers, porters, etc) must stand at attention when a royal train passes.

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