The Awakening of the American Eagle
How Uncle Sam Can Take His Part in the War
Agnes C. Laut
Author of “Lords of the North,” “The Canadian Commonwealth,” etc.
I SEE them yet as they marched down Fifth Avenue, three solid miles of women, old and young, native-born and foreign-born, Camp Fire Girls from the best of homes and Hebrew orphans from no homes at all, gray-haired antisuffragists and blond-haired militants, “cashies” from departmental stores and women who can sign their cheques in six figures, college girls and university dons, women and girls, girls and women, far as eye could see from Washington Square north to 72nd Street, women on horseback and women in motors, squads of nurses marching in front of squads of men’s cavalry, women in platoons with hoes over their backs and Boy Scouts with placards declaring, “WE ARE COMING, FATHER ABRAHAM, 300,000 STRONG”—following battalions of the Friars’ and Players’ Clubs, who had decked one of their actors up as Lincoln— the most wonderful spontaneous outburst of national consecration to the fight for freedom that the United States have seen in their history!
There was no use blinking truth ! Things were not in a good way. The strongest republic on earth on the verge of war against the strongest despotism on earth—seemed asleep, or dead in ease, or drugged with prosperity to the utter disregard of the great cause rocking the world’s fopndations. One month at war ! An army of a million and a quarter needed, Congressmen haggling over the words “universal service and conscription,” and enlistments lagging at the rate of a dozen a day ! There was a reason for the lagging, more apparent on the spot than at a distance—many young men keen to enlist were waiting to see whether there was to be a universal draft, or not. Also, the same thing was happening here as happened in England — men, metaphorically, sat on the door step waiting to enlist, because official staffs were swamped by the sudden necessity. If every man in Uncle Sam’s regular army were an officer there would not be officers enough to train a force of a million men.
Also, it was now apparent beyond contradiction, or argument, that the world was dependent for food on Uncle Sam’s fleets of merchantmen ; and there were not enough marines to man the ¿ips in the navy, not to speak of the countless wooden ships being built to carry food to Europe.
And multitudes seemed unaware of the fact that with short crops in America in 1916, and high-priced seed and almost impossibly high-priced labor for 1917, there was danger of world hunger—hunger that would bring the menace to America’s very shores.
THEN came such unspeakable outrages as the blowing up of the Eddystone Plant with loss of 150 lives!
Everybody seemed suddenly to realize that we were in the war, and we were doing—nothing. In a land where every man is king, an awakening comes with a jurrtp. Everybody asks heart-searching questions, not of his neighbor, but of himself. Were we a nation of loudmouthed slackers, our blood diluted to some cold reptile fluid by the hordes of foreigners, who have poured into the nation since the Civil War? It needed only a rumor of submarines at our doors to set the entire population by the ears. If everybody waited for everybody else to volunteer proof of patriotism, there was something wrong with the American spirit. Nobody knows who started it. Everybody started it Everybody was bursting to give some expression to faith in the ideals of democracy. The British Government announced an American Day. Perhaps the shouts of jubilation in Paris on America’s entry into the war, rolled back and echoed here. It chanced that April 19th was the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, when the embattled farmers of New England rose to “fire the shot heard round the world” against another foolish Teutonic king. Mayor Mitchell had been deeply distressed by New York’s lack of response to the call for enlistments.
Had New York become so foreign there were no Americans left? The credit of giving the great cosmopolis of America'a chance for self-revelation belongs to Mayor Mitchell.
Suddenly, American flags were seen everywhere, entwined with French and British flag?. It was like the re-union of a divided family threatened by a common foe. The thing was absolutely spontaneous. Stars and Stripes and Union Jacks appeared on the same flag poles. Such a thing would have caused a riot five years ago. Then everybody broke loose. New York stopped working. Office and store staffs went on a riot of enthusiasm— these same foreigners, whose loyalty we have been doubting, who almost; swerved in their own hearts in their loyalty. Nobody financed it It financed itself. Anybody, who wanted to—could march. It was all arranged and sprung in less than four days.
On the anniversary of the Paul Revere night, a young girl mounted on a speedy gray started down Broadway, calling on men to enlist Every church bell in the city rang out Chimes from Washington Heights to the Battery broke the midnight silence with “the Star Spangled Banner” and “Rule Britannia.” Theatre goers on the way home first stopped—then gasped. Before the police knew it, there wasn’t any traffic. The whole city had stopped and was listening. For the first time in a century,and a half, Great Britain and the United States were singing a national anthem in unison—an anthem of freedom. People choked up and didn’t know why. Then, from the Battery to the Bronx, the city cheered and clapped.
That was the beginning of it.
There wras no longer any doubt about the “Wake Up America” Parade, which was to take place next day. Citizens from every walk of life came marching down Fifth Avenue next day. “You have called us foreigners.” they seemed to say. “You have called us Wops, Dagoes, aliens — now, we show you which side we are on, and what we will do if you give us a chance. We’ll show you whether w’e are Americans.” And they poured forth in thousands — in tens of thousands if you counted the spectators, in hundreds of thousands— and they sang America’s national airs till the canyon of the great Avenue was a sea of voices — voices chanting freedom
The dominant feature of the parade was the presence of women and girls among Boy Scouts and regular troopers—women in uniformed brigades, mounted and afoot, Red Cross nurses, women gardeners, Camp Fire Girls, signal corps, girls, mounted brigades. Said the New York Herald :
“At two o’clock in the afternoon, behind a great band playing a stirring march, a company of school girls, fifteen abreast in close order, marched south in Fifth Avenue. They wore white middy blouses and blue skirts and their hair was down their backs.
“March? We don’t know who is responsible for drilling them, but they marched like veterans. In perfect alignment, with eyes front, they strode along. Anon a few companies broke with song. ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and ‘My Country, Tis of Thee’ were mostly heard. The singing was not loud. There was no shouting. It was soft, low, earnest, as if it came from the heart. It intensified the steady trend of the little feet, but there was no deviation from the ‘eyes front.’
“This was at two o’clock. At five o’clock, three hours later, there was the same tread of feet, the same soft but earnest singing to typify loyalty and, perhaps, ease the weariness the brave faces would not show.
“Behind the school girls, an equally creditable order and make-up, were the Camp Fire Girls, another refreshing sight.
“There were, of course, other features of the pageant — soldiers, flags, Boy Scouts, mounted marshals—but all the pomp and circumstances of glorious war and all officialdom faded into nothingness compared with the impressive sight of 20,000 future mothers of men marching with a precision and earnestness undreamed of in the sex.”
WHEN I saw first little band come marching down, singing a national air that first roused and then hushed applause, followed by women riding among mounted officers—I asked myself. as I know other spectators asked, is it part of a street spectacle, or is it something deeper? Then came a group of little girls dressed as colonial heroes and in front of them—tiny girls—mere “kiddies" —wheeling two baby carriages. On the placard was the lettering—“WON’T YOU FIGHT FOR THESE?”
Were the women and children in the parade as a great national protest against such outrages as women and children have suffered on the Lusitania, in Belgium, in Poland? Were they conscious of the deeper meaning of their own presence in such a parade? For it must be remembered that every foreign “kiddie” in that parade had a foreign father and mother, had foreign brothers and sisters, had relations on the war-blighted fields of Europe, who wrote out to America, what they were suffering.
Came the Girl Scouts, 10,000 strong, carrying the effigy of a man on a stretcher. Their placard read—“IF HE WON’T FIGHT, WE WILL. IF HE CAN’T, WE CAN."
The floats left no doubts in any mind what the parade meant. One was the torpedo of a submarine, another was Columbia with the Stars and Stripes enwrapping women and children. I came down closer from my window above the Avenue to see the faces of the marchers—dead in earnest, all of them unconscious of the added beauty gained by such zest, earnest and eager and unswerving—in the tramp —tramp—tramp—of old and young that lasted from noon till dusk. It has been said—Germany will fight to the last man. It can now be said that Columbia will fight —if need be—to the last woman and child. Women know what this war has meant
‘to womankind; and unspeakable things have happened that will never again be condoned in war or peace.
One of the most impressive brigades was a band of departmental store girls with rifles on their shoulders. “No more trampling of girlhood in a military cesspool of crime”—they seemed to say. “Men have fought for us in the past. Now we will fight shoulder to shoulder beside our partners!" Ever so many brigades carried spades and hoes. “No more starving women and children under an iron heel"—they seemed to say.
“What a pity,” one spectator remarked, “that there are more foreign-born than native Americans in the parade!*’
"But no,” was the answer. “This shows just where the foreign-bom American stands in this fight Now we know where we are at I have for the first time no fear for America now in this war!”
It need scarcely be told that “The
Wake-Up America Day” has____
increased enlistments for both Arm Nav5T. Curiously enough, the _ West, which was suspected Of indiffe if not pro-Germanism, has led larger enlistments than the A. States; but the reason is apparent Middle West is more truly American [than the Atlantic States. Also the Middle West was paralyzed with fear of wliat & complete blockade of shipping would mean to the producers of corrr, wneat. cotton and beef. Then, the greatest munition factories are situated in the Hast; and the plan has been to discourage imen leaving factory or farm for the Army.
The question may be asked—with! the American regular army less than 10(1,000 strong and the State Volunteers mere amateurs, who or what is to train an army of a million-and-a-quarter men? The plan at time of writing is to draft some three thousand to five thousand
Continued on page 79
The Awakening of the American Eagle
Continued from page 31
men for four months’ training as officers —from May to August This staff will then be set adrift to train recruits; and another reserve officer staff of two thousand to five thousand be taken on for four more months—till officers enough have been trained to drill and instruct a million-and-a-quarter men. e As to the Navy, let us face the fact—Uncle Sam has practically no sailors, next to no extra marines and not enough Navy officers to train half the men offering to enlist. Navy requirements for an officer are very high and very strict. The question comes up—should requirements be lowered? The Navy has always justly prided itself on the freedom of its personnel from snobs, cads, bounderB, in a word, on freedom from the type of man who is unfit to command other men. A blackguard or bounder, is not “disciplined” in the Navy. He is thrown out neck and crop; and there is an almost paternal supervision over boys, who enlist. A boy, who enlists, can be earning $2,500 a year as a petty officer, by the time he is 26. The Army offers no such reward. either m a military way, or social standing.
It may be said frankly—Navy requirements will never be lowered. They may be widened to take in gunnery experts, submarine skilled mechanics ánd hydroplane operators. “We do not consider a boy, who enlists, worth the cost of his salt till he has been with us for at least a year,” said a recruiting Navy officer to me. “Bv the end of a year, we know whether the boy is decent or can be made decent; for you must know a modern battleship is a huge floating community family, where every man must fit into his part like the cogs of a machine; or there would be jars that would destroy the whole ship’s usefulness. Take the matter of gunnery of a 16-inch gun, which throws a ton 25 miles. A boy must be a bit of a mathematician as well as a mechanic, and must have nerve of polished oiled steel to handle that kind of proposition. The difference in personnel required is just the difference between anold-time ox driver and a highly skilled chauffeur driving a racing car; for any modem battleship, scout, destroyer, or cruiser, is a racer; and victory depends on her being a racer without as much as a glint of dust or dullness on her polished steel machinery. And we want boys without a glint of dust or dullness in their mental machinery. That is why we keep our requirements so high.”
THE real trouble with the Navy is no longer lack of men. Nor will it long be lack of officers; for at time of writing, it is likely that the Allies will loan of cera, if not marines, for any participation by the Navy. The real trouble is that the battleships planned cannot be finished before 1920. Therefore, the suggestion has gone out, why put efforts on these battleships at all? They will be too late for any work in the war; and what is needed is not more battleships. The Allies have plenty. What is needed is the small cargo carrier—the purveyor of food, to run the gauntlet of the block-
ade, not risking too much food in each carrier, but armed and in such multitudes that they will be a greater menace to the submarines than the submarines are to them. At the time of writing, more than 1,000 such wooden ships are on the stocks; and it has been suggested by the , Allied Commissioners that the United States bend efforts to create such a -merchant fleet, like the fast clippers of a century ago, which belted the world. Such a ship can be built in a few months. She can be equipped for the use of oil or coal fuel. She need not cost more than $200,000. Now a submarine costs $600,000. Will Germany risk a few hundred
costly submarines against thousands of these free lances of the sea? If she does, there can be only one result—the end of the submarines from sheer force of the wooden ship numbers. At time of writing, it is suggested the United States give over attempting to complete the big battleships and give all attention to a fleet of wooden cargo carriers, which the Allies—if necessary—could man.
At time of writing also, Theodore Roosevelt has offered to lead a volunteer a-m;of 25,000 to France; and the Administration has up to the present, refused sanction. Still 300,000 volunteers have rallied to the call of the Colonel;
where only 31,000 enlisters have rallied to the call of the Government; and if the Federal Government does not co misión him, it is likely Governor Whitman will appoint him head of the New York State Militia. It is more than likely public Opinion will compel the Federal Government to commission Colonel Roosevelt to head a division of volunteers and regulars to France—a repayment of La Fayette’s services a century-and-a-half ago.
THE coming of the Allies’ Commissioners could not have been staged more opportunely. Enthusiasm is at
white heat. Union Jacks and Stars and Stripes are entwined. Army and Navy are floundering with new problems, as England floundered for the first year. The big bond issue—seven billions in all —has been authorized, for the immediate credit of the Allies. The United States will be saved all the costly errors made by the Allies in the first years of war—such as wrong types of rifles, too heavy engines for aeroplanes, the new type of H. E. (high explosive) and artillery warfare, the relation of hydro-plaqe to navy. It is plain and obvious now that what the Allies need most is not men—though a Roosevelt Regiment would have its reaction on the morale of Germany—but food and ships to carry it. The war is now on its stomach. The side best fed and most secure in its food supply will outlast the other side; and whether the war lasts four years or collapses in four months, America must be prepared to feed the world.
The gravity of the food situation cannot and need not be exaggerated. The first two years of the war witnessed this country travelling almost with a fool’s luck—two bumper crop years, such huge crops, in fact, that on some commodities like fruit and potatoes, farmers did not receive 35 per cent, of the price quoted. The returns on potatoes and -apples were so poor in 1914-15, that many farmers did not trouble to harvest the crops; but turned their hogs into the fields. In 1916, farmers neglected orchards and put in small potato areas. Came one of the shortest crop years this country has ever known. In only two commodities were there good crops—hay and tobacco; and unfortunately men cannot eat hay and tobacco. Crops were also short in Europe both because of untimely weather and scarcity of labor. On the firing line are twenty million men, who must be fed. Average each man one pound a day, that is at least 300 loaves a year, or a barrel of flour or 5 bushels of wheat or 100 million extra bushels of wheat. Now, however, much the Government reports have erred in crop returns for 1916, the fact remains this country did not have a wheat crop exceeding 650 million bushels of wheat. For home use, Uncle Sam requires 500 million bushels. For seed, he should have another 100 million bushels, leaving about 50 million bushels to ship abroad. But the country has shipped 100 million bushels abroad. The results don’t need argument for proof. Flour is now $15 a barrel, and on the way to $20, and the stores will not sell any one buyer more than 25 lbs. on or«ier. And wheat is so high seed is beyond the reach of the average American farmer. To maké matters worse, 1917 opens with one of the most backward, untoward springs known for years. A wheat crop not in by the 10th of May stands poor chances. Up to April 21st, the weather has been too cold and wet for planting in the East, and worse in the West. With backward season and high priced seed, no person on earth can prevent 1917 being a short , crop year. Winter wheat West of the Mississippi indicates only a half crop. Up to the declaration of a state of war, the labor situation was beyond description. Farm labor did not exist. Munition factories had drawn all labor away to the town. Hotel dishwashers, unskilled and ioreign, were receiving $45 a month and board. Farmers could not compete against such w'áges. The short-
age of grain had reacted in such high priced feeds—cattle feed that was $2'.'. a ton a year ago is now $59 a ton—that many farmers sold out and closed down operations to await a readjustment Wages for farm labor that were $2 a day and board in 1914 became $4 a day anil board in 1916. In the East, the sys tern is different. A farm of any size has always a tenant house, where the farm hand is given free rent, vegetables, fruit, milk. fuel. Wastes were $30 to $33, with house in 1914. For the same calibre man, they are $40 to $50 to-day. j No farmer on an average farm can pay j these figures for seed, labor and feed and j have anything left for himself but debt.
Of 350,000 farmers in New York State, j half could not get help for 1917.
BUT since the declaration of war has come a subtle change—unfortunately j too late to react on the farms for 1917. Only munitions factories with abnormal profits can pay 7c for steel that used to be 2c and $6 for wages that used ! to be $2. All the factories have been i slowing down and laying off hands. There are few strikes because wages have not been reduced. Men have been ! laid off. The man, who was demanding i $14 a week in April to work on a farm,
; on May 1st was content with $30 a month and board. But this factory reaction will barely be felt on the farm before June; and June is too late for much crop I planting; but I look to see the labor ¡ situation right itself before midsummer.
The hopeful fact is—everybody is I alive to the situation. In city nnd country. even in New York parks, everybody is cultivating a home garden for . household use; and while this will not relieve the shortage of wheat, it will relieve some of the demand for wheat, j It will also stop extravagance and waste in food. Hotels have already cut down menu lists; and high prices are quickly ! cutting the superfluous from private ; tables. The elimination of waste and careful buying and cooking will probably make up any ordinary shortage; but we need not blink the fact that we are facing a world menace of hunger.
Of course, all sorts of wild and foolish remedies are being suggested. Farmers are to be loaned money at 6 per cent, to buy seed potatoes at $4.20 a bushel. Now no poor fanner will chance his credit against weather and fate at $4.20 a bushel. He will buy enough for his own family use on a note. Whereas if he could repay his debt in potatoes, he j could afford a chance.
The thing thatwill probably help the food shortage more than anything else is the fact that people, who work on farms, are to be exempt from military ; service. That has come too late to help I 1017 crops very much; but the fact that i millions of consumers will be forced back i on the land during war will lessen an j enormous demand by the city consumer and translate consumers into producers.
The food menace is, indeed, the only cloud I see in awakened America’s horizon; and the fact that all America is awrake—down to the Camp Fire Girls, who carried a hoe—has roused a vast army of food producers for the world need.