Federation After the War?

Cross Currents in War Preparations

Who wrote “Lords of the North," “The Hudson’s Bay Co." etc.

Agnes C. Laut September 1 1917
Federation After the War?

Cross Currents in War Preparations

Who wrote “Lords of the North," “The Hudson’s Bay Co." etc.

Agnes C. Laut September 1 1917

Cross Currents in War Preparations

Who wrote “Lords of the North," “The Hudson’s Bay Co." etc.

Agnes C. Laut

EVERYONE will recall the chaotic confusion in which war preparations plunged Great Britain for the first year. The United States are passing the same phase now. It is a waste cf breath to say they should have avoided the blunders of the Allies and profited by their mistakes. They should but they are not, mainly because a great democracy with its cross-currents of interacting influences is the clumsiest machine ever devised for getting things done.

On the surface, things seem to be going ahead. Down below the surface—deep below the surface, where the real experts are working beyond hearing of the political clamor above—real things are being done; but between these two layers of action there is what Sir Henry Babbington Smith called when he was out on England’s first loan mission absolute chaos.

For instance, on the surface as indications of War preparation’s speedometer: The Americans have enrolled ten million men of military age. Before these words appear, they will have drafted between 600,000 and 800,000 for active service by January first.

They have already sent Pershing and his army of 30,000 more or less, who were in Mexico, to an American sector of the fighting line in France.

Thev have raised two billion dollars of the Liberty Loan and will have launched another loan for a larger amount by September.

They have loaned the Allies almost two billion dollars in a year.

They are now furnishing Russia with complete railroad equipment to>the starvation of rail needs in their own country; and the mission from the United States has done much to stabilize Russia on the side of the Allies in the War.

They have completed 550 submarine chasers and are completing submarine chasers at the rate of three a day. On this work alone, they have more than 12,000 men employed.

They have commissioned 87 enemy ships that were interned and appropriated $500,000,000 for the construction of a cargo fleet to feed the Allies, whether the fleet be wooden or steel is not yet certain. Contracts have been let for 300 ships in all.

And they have appropriated $600,000,000 just as a preliminary flier, to get a fleet of aeroplanes under way.

Also, they are building at the pace of boom towns, military encampments to house and train two million men. There are 16 of these cantonments, each to have 40,000 men at a time, as the various calls go through the mill of training.

And they have ordered the equipment for these men, four million boots, twenty million rifles, thousands of Lewis guns, motor trucks, motor ambulances, tenting, uniforms, ammunitions, hospital supplies. For hospital supplies, in the matter of the Red Cross alone, we have raised over $100,000.

As to food, though the Fo^d Bill has been juggled and thimble-rigged by every self-seeking interest in the country, though it has had tin tacks and steel and copper and cotton and oil and coal stuck on to it by the fast-sticking glut of trickery interests—till President Wilson and Hoover hardly know whether it is a food bill, or a crazy patch work badly stained with beers and whiskys—though the Food Bill has been juggled and thimble-rigged, the fact standing out is—without any maximum or minimum prices guaranteed, with labor the scarcest ever known and at the highest price ever known, and with seed at Klondike levels, the farmers have put in big enough crops to guarantee against world famine. Please notice I did not say to guarantee no scarcity of food and no high prices; for the crop has all gone in very late, and the season has been the coldest for ten years; but there is enough food to guarantee against famine. In any event, Russia’s adherence to the Allies and her recent brilliant victories assure European nations a Russian supply of food.

Enough to prove that War’s speedometer has been registering things done, many of them, and the pace still full power on headed for Europe.

NOW go down to the unseen layers of action, where the experts are silently working.

Such arrangements have been made for the draft by a jury wheel that no favoritism can possibly be shown. Slackers cannot escape through pull. No man can become an officer through political influ enees. The Army, which was under 80,000 muster when War was declared, is now over 200,000; and the Navy, which was 18,000 men short at Christmas is now up to the full muster.

The 87 alien vessels, which were seized are now ready to transport 2 million troops across the Atlantic in a year. It is the mockery of fate that the freat passenger vessels, which Germany :oobstructed to monopolize the immigranl traffic of Europe, are now to be used to transport Germany’s foes back to the firi ig line to fight against her. Here, the pr >blem for the silent worker has been, not to get soldiers and mariners, but commi n sailors to man the great merchant fleet that has suddenly come into Uncle Sam' i possession;, and the foolish Navigati >n Laws which hampered America’s : merchant marine, passed to curry favor with the Labor Unions, are being abrogat »d under stress of War so quietly that tl e public is hardly aware of what the changes mean. For instance, the Seams n’s Law prohibited foreigners acting as ol leers on American vessels. This law h is been lifted to permit sailors and officeis of the Allied nations acting under the American flag—which means that No a Scotians and Great Lakes sailors ar d Newfoundlanders will henceforth ma i Uncle Sam’s merchant fleet Another foolish lawr prohibited vessels under foreign flags engaging in American coastal trade. That is, a vessel under a foreign flag could come to an American port and go out from that port; but it could not go from port to port in the United States. The|conse-’ quence was that the railroads got of all the coastal lines in the States and promptly jacked up rates to equal land rates which nearly abolished canal and river tri the United States. Under stress oí this law has been abrogated fi

Great Lakes; and it is only a mal tii^r, when it will be abrogated fi sea coast. To the inlander, that nothing. To the coast shipper, it everything. If Canadian and wind-jammers, for instance, could from point to point along the through Panama, it would mean {Ji

days for them. To the Texas lumberman it would mean that he could put hist lum ber as cheaply on the New York mkrlcel as Washington can by rail. To the iuyei of lumber, it would mean $10 to $11) lesi a thousand in the East. '

These are changes the experta an working on without any shouting jfron house tops. When you come to repuih Northern France and Belgium, lumbe by rail across the continent would beTpro hibitive; by water, it would be chea] enough for the impoverished buyer. |Th' reaction of this on British Columbia ¿lili need not be told.

T N the system of training for offuWrs, the tendency has been more and mone to conform to British manuals as to units of men, equipment, guns, rifles, etc. If [the country had been loudly fan-farëd with the information that Uncle Sam was standardizing his equipment to John Bull's, you would have had Irish-Americans and German-Americans clawing chunks oui of the air; but very quietly, the experts have been at work standardizing. What does that mean? ‘ It means if a Sammie, or a Teddy, breaks his rifle, or jams his field gun. or cripples his motor truck, he can have it repaired instantly on the spot on the firing line,

on the spot on the firing line, instead of sending back to America for repair sections, or discarding altogether. The same of standardizing the military manuals. The Americans are to have their own sector in the firing line; but the British and French officers in command on each side of the sector, will know exactly bow strong each unit is in men, rifles, guns, under any combination of confused action ; for all they will have to do is refer ta the standardized manual. In bayonet work, in trench warfare, in uniforms, in guns, the American sector will correspond with the British and French sectors. Only to-day, word has gone out to all the factories working on uniforms to cut the coats after the British pattern.

As to aeroplanes, though the engine now constructed in the United States is better adapted for training flights than fighting squadrons, American aeroplane engineers are now in F ranee studying the 145 mile an hour machines and studying, also, the wrecks of German machines to try to learn the secret of the air ships that “zip” up in the air 20,000 feet like a shot Once the air ship programme is under way! it is inconceivable that American mechanical genius will not equal and surpass German and French mechanical genius; for it was America that first devised the air fleet It was war taught France and Germany the cunning of the modern air fighter; and in a very short time, the American air fleet will have-all the devices of Germany’s high fliers and France’s long distance fliers. Still more important is the torpedo sea-plane; few people seem to have noticed the significance, but when the Gena was sunk by a German torpedo plane, it was sunk by an invention of Bear-Admiral Bradley Fiske. The hydro-plane, the torpedo sea plane, and the submarine chasers seem the only weapons against the submarine; these are American inventions. It is in modifications of these inventions that the first mechanical minds of the United States are now at work to equip a fighting force against submarines. Details of this cannot be given; but the experts, whom I like to think of as the motor power out of sight driving the ships of state, are at work.

AS to the purchase of equipment for 2 million men, do you realize what it means? A pair of shoes lasts only a few weeks in the trenches. A rifle is good for a shorter period. With every man go 3 pairs of socks. The ration for an American soldier per day is—20 ounces beef, 18 ounces flour, bí ounce baking powder, 2b* ounces beans, 1 b* ounces prunes, 20 ounces potatoes, 1 bt ounces coffee, 3 ounces sugar, 1/3 ounce evaporated milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, lard, butter, syrup in portions of an ounce; but if you multiply these small quantities by an army of two millions, or even by the first 500,000 slated to be on the firing line by January, you get some totals tha: are astounding. Take beef, flour, potatoes!

The beef for 500,000 men for one year would be equal to a herd of 228,000 beeves. The flour for 500,000 men for a year acres. The potatoes for 500.01*0 men would equal the average crop of 608.333 acres. The buyers on the National Council of Defence have made arrangements for all this provisioning so quietly that it has caused hardly a ripple across the market. In fact, in t.:e face of all this buying, prices have gone off about The 16 great military' cantonments. which will house *40.000 men each will require more than 6 million bushels of wheat. 84 million pounds of fresh beef, 42 million pounds,of pork. 2,500.000 bushels of potatoes. All this is being arranged so quietly the public has hardly awakened to what it means; and when besides the 600.000 in training in the cantonments, there are 2 million men on the firing line—requirements can be figured but hardly guessed.

In fact, if the surface speedometer shows a high pace, the sub-surface silent work shows a still higher paoe.

IT is between these two layers of action that the cross-currents have kicked up ail the foam and froth and confusion that are churning up in the public press and in party platforms.

The enrolment, the drafting, the training, the preparation of munitions and rifles and ammunition—the man power end of it—these things are going ahead without a jar. It is in connection with industry and labor, raw material and fabrication. that the confusion has tome and such changes are impending as will not leave “one stone upon another” in the industrial world. I don’t purpose offering the solution of these industrial problems. If I could, I would not be writing about them. I shall set down facts.

Take the matter of financing future loans. The first Liberty Loan was a huge success ; but it was only a success because it came so near being a failure that every bank and bond house in the United States, every manufacturer and shipper, got out behind it and hoisted it so that it was oversubscribed almost a billion. But meanwhile, it was necessary to petas new revenue laws taxing excess profits as they ought to be taxed. But here is the rub. It is something like üie house that Jack built. How is the Steel Trust, for instance, to subscribe $50 millions to a second Liberty Loan if its excess profits are to be taxed? How is it to have any excess profits if it must not charge the Government on war contracts more than 10?; over cost? How can it keep its prices down to 10?; over pre-War cost, when it must pay 100% and 200"? higher for raw

The'Government refused to pay the trade price for copper apd procured some million pound* at 16 cents as against a public price of over 30 cents; but it wa* found no more copper could be bought at that price; and the Government raised the price to 25 cents. 75"« down, the balance to be paid if the Trade Commission found the charge did not exceed 10% profit? to , the copper miners. At present, the price averaged for the Government is 18c. as against 30c to the trade. Now here is what the copper miners are up against They have been paying $5 a day for a 7hpur day to their men; and the men arenow on strike for $6 a day for a 6-hour day. You will see if the Government is going to hold down prices on manufactured articles, it must also hold down price* on raw materials; and if it holds down prices or. raw materials, it must also held down wage demands; or the output stops altogether; and then, where are we at? We are at where we were w ith our farmers last spring—“scared stiff'' of a world faming. material, and 100% and 200"? higher for labor? I could give the exact figures of what the «tee! people are paying for pig iron and what Denman has asked them and Daniels has ordered them to charge for steel; but being a lay mind, I should pro babiy confuse the techr.H-a' term«. Besides copper and shoe«

term«. copper are examples simpler to the average public.

This is the real reason why all the list of follies—tin tacks, barb wire, steel, ltkid, zinc, cotton, oil—a nice war diet—were tacked on the Food Bill. The manufacturers wanted to force the President to declare himself—if he would regulate prices down on manufactured goods, and up on foo?i goods, what was he prepared to do about raw material and wages? Also the farmer—if he was to produce abundance of food cheaply to save the world from famine, was the agricultural implement man also to produce abundance of machinery at a minimum price? You see where the whole policy of price fixing leads—don’t you? To shallows that may wreck a war policy. And Wilson’s answer to the manufacturers demand was an invocation for all to lay aside profits and fight for freedom.

The President referred “to the greed of the shipper?” and “the marine interests” in charging high ocean freights endangering victory. Now let us get back to the house that Jack built.

Why are marine freights extortionate?

Because so much tonnage has been destroyed by the submarines; because insurance is high; because risks are about 50—50; because the delays of War cause extortionate demurrage charges—high as $5,000 a day at the docks. I know one line that has paid $5.000 demurrage a day for 30 days.

Why has so much tonnage been destroyed by the submarines’’

Because the one defence against the submarine—the one effective submarine destroyer—has been so hampered and delayed by financial Government requirements that there are not enough of them to clear the seas of submarines. I have referred to this elsewhere; but I shall give it more explicitly. In 1915, the seas were practically cleared of 84% of the German submarines by submarine chasers, 550 of which were delivered from American yards. These chasers had been standardized 80 feet long, 12 beam, 4 draft, 32 tons, 220 h.p. at a speed of 14 to 19 miles, crew 10 men—very swift, deadly, sea-worthy craft. The yards standardized to these sizes. Keeping these standards, the yards could turn out 100 a day. They cleared the seas of “subs” in 1915 and not one was lost; but the British Admiralty first and then the American Navy suddenly decided they wanted 30 to 40 feet more space “for the officers’ comfort” The yards had to change all their standards, and consequently can turn out only 3 “sub” destroyers a day instead of a hundred.

To go back to the house that Jack built, ocean freight rates are high because tonnage has been destroyed by submarines; acd tonnage has been destroyed by submarines because there are not enough submarine destroyers; and there are not enough “sub” destroyers because departmental “sissies” and “fussies” arbitrarily changed standards and threw all the ship yards in complete confusion.

It is just such hitches and halts and jars and criss-crosses as these that have kept two $500,000,000 contracts lying on the President’s desk unsigned for more than six weeks.” 'The manufacturers simply do not knew where they are at.

I spoke of army boots of which two contracts have been let at $4.73 a pair for some four millions in all. Now Canadians don’t need to have the word “boots” said to them. They know that the boots, which were so cheap in Canada the first year of the War, had to be “junked” in England, which is precisely what the manufacturers of Toronto warned the Purchasing Board wouldöbe done. Leather has almost doubled in price. The shoes were so cheap they were no good; but Uncle Sam is clapping minimum prices on manufactured articles; and the error is being repeated.

Much the same story could be told of the controversy between Denman and Goethals as to wooden and steel ships; and if the controversy lasts much longer, there will not be ships to carry food to Europe this fall; for raw material is going higher and higher in price, and labor is growing scarcer and scarcer.

THE censorship belongs to the same sphere of confused action. It is no longer serious. It is a howling joke. There is an adage in the New Testament about—straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” We all did it the morning of July 4th, when the lurid account came out of the sinking of a solitary submarine. The whole country “swallowed” it, swore and had bad indigestion even before the true account came out from the American officers in command. England had sunk 84% of Germany’s submarines in 1915 and had hardly whispered fact. Uncle Sam sank one and the cei sor in Washington yelled with such ubilatkm the people hid their heads in si ame-, for this censor was controlled by he same MrDaniels, who had refused U tell the public why the size of the subir arine chasers had been changed, whether i was true the chasers built in the Govei nment yards would not work—sank below the dead line and otherwise disported themselves like untrustworthy sh i ps,—whetier the specifications Tor the big navr authorized last January have been chan red and held up needlessly three times, irhether the Government-built ships real] y cost more than the contracted ships s >ite of purchase of assembled parts at half price; whether in fact it is true that many manufacturers simply cannct go ahead under present conditions.

But the censorship, like f red prices, has been tried elsewhere and has always failed. The speedometer rs that the United States are going ahea I with war preparations—both above the line where they can see their own pace and below decks where the silent worke -s toil. If between decks, there is con: usion and noise, it need not discourage us. You sometimes don’t know you are noving between decks ; but the water s slipping past very fast ail the same; ind unless Kaiserdom collapses very an on. Uncle Sam will be therms for the obsequias.