FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM
AMERICA IN THE WAR
Preceding chapters have shown how the Allied blockade and German measures of retaliation menaced or curtailed the activities of the Commission. From early 1915, when the siege warfare actually began, there were recurrent crises chiefly attributable to the growing intensity of the economic war. All these, however, were overshadowed by the event of 1917 which retarded and for a time stopped the flow of relief imports and put an end to the neutral status of the Chairman and the personnel of the Commission. This neutral status was the essential condition of the Commission's existence as a body recognized and supported by the belligerents and endowed by them with privileges and immunities which permitted its operations within and across the opposing lines. It was reasonable to assume that this loss of its neutrality would cause either the replacement of the Commission by another body of neutral membership or the discontinuance of relief. It caused neither. The American declaration of war forced the withdrawal of Americans from behind the German lines in Belgium and Northern France, but at the request of the Allies and with the consent of the Germans the external organization of the C.R.B. remained unchanged in status or function. Thus, though its Chairman became the United States Food Administrator and the Allied Supreme Council recognized Belgian and French relief as a "war measure," the Commission did not become a belligerent, but continued its relations with the Germans through the neutral patrons and through its own representative in Belgium and through the Belgian, French, and Spanish-Dutch Committees. The fact that the belligerents strongly desired the C.R.B. to carry on and that it was able to do so is significant of its position as a non-belligerent war-time institution, a position resting on carefully laid foundations and buttressed by the faithful and efficient discharge of great responsibilities.
1. The Diplomatic Crises. May 1915-February 1917
The strained relations between Germany and the United States which followed the sinking of the "Lusitania" in May 1915 presaged a crisis in the life of the Commission of a character entirely different from those which it had previously encountered. The problem for the Commission was to prevent if possible any interruption in the flow of relief to the Belgians and French while the machinery of relief was being reconstructed or adapted to the changed political situation. If the United States declared war, the members of the Commission would no longer be neutrals, they would not be permitted on territory behind the German lines, and it was likely that the Germans would insist not only that the C.R.B. delegates in Belgium be withdrawn but that the Commission's great external organization for the purchase, transport, and delivery of supplies should be replaced by an organization of citizens of a neutral state. This would, of course, mean a fundamental reorganization of the whole relief enterprise.
There was, however, another possibility---that the United States would not immediately declare war, but merely break diplomatic relations. In that case the members of the Commission would still be neutrals and their remaining in Belgium and Northern France would depend on the German attitude. As for the external organization, a diplomatic break presumably would not immediately force a fundamental change. In order to prepare the C.R.B. representatives in Brussels and Rotterdam for the possible emergency, Hoover on the 13th May 1915 wrote out for them his thoughts on the situation with tentative instructions for the steps to be taken in case the diplomatic break occurred.
DOCUMENT NO. 465
HOOVER TO C. A. YOUNG,(333) indicating his anxiety over relations between Germany and America due to the sinking of the "Lusitania," and outlining plans in case Americans would have to withdraw from Belgium
LONDON, 13 May 1915
Commission for Relief in Belgium
We are becoming even more anxious over the question of what may arise as the result of the sinking of the "Lusitania" with respect to our work in Belgium, as it is our impression, from what we hear, the American government is likely to take pretty vigorous action, and this, from the present outlook of things, may take the form of withdrawing their diplomatic representatives from German territory, which I assume will include Mr. Whitlock and others from Belgium. .... The technical withdrawal of an Ambassador is a mark of indignation, but it does not necessarily mean that there is any jeopardy to his nationals remaining in such territory. I shall have to be guided by the various American Ambassadors on this point. If it should happen that we have to withdraw from Belgium, it seems to me there is only one course open to us and that is to appeal to the Dutch Government to co-operate with us in substituting Dutchmen for our staff in Belgium. In other words, that we should ask them to secure for us some Dutch gentleman of character and experience who will take Mr. Crosby's place and who could secure something of a staff to take the place of the American element. In this view, I made an application to the Allies yesterday, to know if this would be a satisfactory arrangement under our guarantees, and I expect a favorable reply from them.
I have been in some quandary as to whether I should not come tonight to Holland, so as to be on the ground myself to co-operate with you in such an arrangement, but for the moment I think I should remain here to keep better in touch with the developments of the situation than I could from that end. We, however, telegraphed to you yesterday that we thought it desirable to ship as quickly as possible the main requirements in Belgium, i.e., on the old hypothesis that 80,000 tons should be shipped into that country each month.
This is a sort of compromise from what I wrote to you the other day. I do not wish to precipitate any panic by anything that we might do. It is of course possible that this situation may blow over through some diplomatic means, and if we had taken any drastic measures, such as withdrawing our people or precipitately dumping in Belgium, we might have made the situation worse.
When all is said and done, it is my belief that the Germans are so anxious that these people should be fed that they will not interfere with these foodstuffs, and that the necessities of the situation have now grown in their minds to a point where we can rely on this as a measure of protection more than we could initially. As a matter of practical administration the co-operation of the C.R.B. and the Comité National in Belgium make enormously for efficiency; but if all of the C.R.B. people were withdrawn from Belgium the feeding of the Belgians would still go on, although of course on a less satisfactory basis, and it is my feeling that so long as the Germans do not interfere with the foodstuffs the Allies will continue to allow them to filter in.
If it became necessary to reorganize the Commission by recruiting Dutchmen for Belgium, I would not propose to make any alterations either in London, New York, or Rotterdam, but merely to substitute Dutch friends for the Americans now in Belgium. Nor do I believe that under these circumstances it would be necessary to maintain as many Dutchmen as we have Americans, but to rely more largely on the Comité National in the distribution than has hitherto been done. We all recognize that now that the organization is well protected and works like a machine in Belgium, our members have but comparatively little actual administration work to do, but in the main are maintained in Belgium to give assurances as to the guarantees and to give moral support to the Comité National.
It is probable in any event, no matter what happens, that diplomatic pourparlers will employ two or three weeks before the final breaking point arrives. If in the meantime we continue shipments on a rather heavy scale into Belgium we shall have got the local people well stocked up, so that they can stand a shock. Such a program on our part obviously undermines our previous scheme of lighter stocking of the provincial warehouses, but these new situations compel us to guide ourselves the best we can as they arrive. Our one and prime object is to save the Belgian and French people until harvest, and I should be glad to have your own good judgment on all these points freely by telegraph from time to time.
I may telegraph to you, asking you to see Dr. Van Dyke and approach Mr. Loudon for advice on the question of substituting Dutchmen.
I also have the feeling that it would be very desirable if Mr. Crosby could come up to Rotterdam and see this letter and be in a position to co-operate with us in whatever measures we have to take. On the other hand, if it should eventuate that we have to make a quick retreat, it would be most unfortunate if he were out of Belgium for long, thus running the risk of being unable to organize such a retreat. On this point, however, I have a feeling that we should be given the same opportunities that diplomatic staffs have. If it became necessary to substitute Dutchmen, I imagine that we should want the Dutch Government to take up with the Germans the question as to whether the Germans would agree to give to the Dutchmen the same facilities that we have enjoyed and the same undertakings.
Altogether you will see from the above that we are in a state of mixed feelings, but I write to you all complexions and shall depend upon the telegraph to instruct you of our views and of the steps to be taken from moment to moment.
(Signed) H. C. Hoover
The long drawn out "Lusitania" negotiations finally came to an end with no serious reactions on the C.R.B. beyond certain manifestations of resentment against Americans by German officials. The following year(334) the "Sussex" incident again brought a period of strained relations, but Bethmann-Hollweg and the German moderates were still strong enough to delay the adoption of the unrestricted U-boat campaign and a break was averted. A few months later, however, the break came. On the 31st January 1917 Count Bernstorff informed the American Government of the German decision to begin unrestricted U-boat warfare and on the 3rd February diplomatic relations with Germany were broken. Hoover was at this moment in the United States, engaged in financial negotiations made necessary by the inadequacy of the subsidies the Allies were then able to provide.(335) It seemed at first that the diplomatic break would be quickly followed by the declaration of war and by the refusal of the Germans to give immunity to relief ships so long as they were under the direction of Americans. Faced with this prospect and in order to prevent any stoppage in the flow of relief, Hoover advised the Commission's London headquarters that the American delegates should remain at their posts in the occupied territories as long as possible; but if they were forced out by the Germans, arrangements should be made with the Dutch Government to take over the whole responsibility for relief then carried by the C.R.B. Five days later, news came from Belgium that the Germans would no longer permit the C.R.B. delegates to perform their duties in Northern France or the Belgian provinces, but that five or six men might remain in Brussels. Such an arrangement would effectively prevent the Commission from discharging its responsibilities regarding distribution and the fulfilment of guarantees by the Germans. The C.R.B., therefore, notified the Germans and the Allies that it was compelled to withdraw its entire organization from Belgium and Northern France. The external services of the Commission would be continued until some new arrangement was made.
DOCUMENT NO. 466
LANSING TO PAGE, concerning the feeling of the United States Government relative to the continuation of Belgian relief and quoting Hoover's wishes respecting the American delegates in Belgium and other relief matters
STATE DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON
3 February 1917
AMERICAN EMBASSY, LONDON
Regarding Belgian Relief:
Department would be glad if you would express to the British Government the strong feeling of this country and of the Government that the relief of the Belgian and occupied French population must in any event continue, for this country will wish to show no less interest in this great work of humanity than has been shown during the last two years by the British and the French Governments, should it become impossible for the Americans to remain in Belgium and in control.
Hoover considers it desirable that the work of relief should be taken over by the Dutch Government, a transfer which could probably be best negotiated by the Belgian Government and American Minister at The Hague. We have telegraphed Whitlock asking him to remain at his post and asking him to secure from the German authorities, for members of Relief, the treatment of diplomatic and consular staff. Mr. Hoover desires you convey following message to Poland and Kellogg:
"Think it extremely desirable for all members in Belgium to remain at their posts even after the departure of diplomatic and consular staff, if Germans will guarantee their freedom to depart if situation becomes entirely untenable. Wish you to take Mr. Page's advice in all matters and to consult freely with Belgian and British Governments particularly on the following questions: First, if any change in sailing directions of ships afloat, such change, if any, to be issued by British Admiralty; second, whether and by what route ships at present in Rotterdam and Atlantic ports should sail. If new British mine field does not interfere, represent to British Government strongly desirability of taking route outside war zone at the present time.
"Ask Spanish Ambassador if he will communicate through Brussels and Berlin that as British mine field and necessity to bunker in the United Kingdom and conditions of charter and insurance render Falmouth Channel route the only practicable passage, the Germans should agree at once to respect relief ships on this route and issue passes to this end, and that all departures are held up meantime. Remit us all the money you can lay hands on at once."
DOCUMENT NO. 467
HOOVER TO LONDON OFFICE, concerning withdrawal of Americans from Belgium and desirability that entire work be taken over by Dutch Government, this proposal being due to the attitude of the Germans on assurances of immunity of the Commission's shipping if it remained under American direction
WASHINGTON, 6 February 1917
COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM, LONDON
It appears to me that situation is developing toward ultimate necessity of withdrawing our men from Belgium. In this case it seems to be absolutely critical that relief should be taken over officially both internally and externally by Dutch Government; that the personnel in Belgium should be comprised of government or army officers, not volunteers, and that the Government should take over buying and transport operations as part of their own existing import operations. There are many reasons for this attitude: First, if we were to recruit a body of volunteers from minor nationalities to replace Americans and continue external operations as at present, the Commission could then exert no real influence upon Germans inside Belgium. It would be simply impossible for us to take responsibility for integrity or loyalty of the actions of such a staff, no proper communication could be carried on and no proper control exerted over distribution, and if we go to war utterly impossible to hold the C.R.B. together abroad, as the whole of its personnel will probably wish to engage for their own country. It is imperative that we should liquidate the C.R.B. as an institution and secure its honorable discharge. On the other hand, if the Dutch Government took over the work officially, the external operations would become a mere extension of their present operations and the situation of routing and protection shipping is in any event identical with their own case. They could easily reaffirm to themselves all North France agreements. Belgian arrangements are in their joint names already. They would also be under obligation to supply as much local produce as possible and they have strategic position to command respect from the Germans. Of equal importance is that the high esteem in which the Dutch are generally held in the United States and weight of the Government name would enable us to continue efforts in recruiting benevolence and even possible American Government financial support. Owing to existing national sentiment no such support could be commanded for the relief if it were conducted under body of mixed neutrals.... In failure of the Dutch it would be better to hand over the whole operation to Danish Government and in failure of this it would be better that internal operations be taken over by the Swiss Government and for the Belgian Government or Comité National to take over external operations. I wish you present these views to Mr. Page and if you all agree to them strongly impress them upon the British, French, and Belgian Governments. Please confirm.
DOCUMENT NO. 468
VILLALOBAR AND FRANCQUI TO HOOVER, stating the attitude of the German Government regarding the status of the C.R.B. in Belgium, indicating a change in attitude of the German Government
ROTTERDAM, 11 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
Villalobar and Francqui suggest the following telegram to be sent by Gregory to Hoover. Gregory sends same for your information but expresses his own views in telegram which follows. Villalobar and Francqui telegram begins:
"The German Government has notified us that they could no longer authorize American subjects to continue in the service of the C.R.B. in the North of France and in the provinces of Belgium. The German Government consents to allowing five or six Americans to continue to reside in Brussels in order to assure the service of the central administration. The German Government will be very happy to see the C.R.B. continue its activity in Holland, England, and America on condition, however, that C.R.B. boats will strictly observe the indications laid down by the new blockade and will take the Northern Route for Rotterdam. Belgian coal will be furnished Rotterdam through the medium of the C.R.B. in Belgium, which will assume the transport of this coal by its canal boats returning to Rotterdam. The German Government suggests to take other neutrals who would enjoy the same privileges that the Americans have been accorded until now in order to replace the latter. We could engage temporarily a few neutrals, Spanish, Dutch, and Danish here. The Marquis de Villalobar is working in accord with us and he will telegraph you direct. Finally concerning the merchandise bought in England, the German Government will only consider this question on the condition that this merchandise will be transported to Holland by the Dutch boats which regularly constitute the service Holland England and by no other. This line of boats will be respected by the German Government."
DOCUMENT NO. 469
GREGORY(336) TO HOOVER, referred to in the preceding
ROTTERDAM, 11 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
Gregory advises that von der Lancken informs Whitlock orally as follows:
"Whitlock is asked to remain as assurance of German good faith to the Commission but without diplomatic privileges. Whitlock will probably go out. C.R.B. may retain a few principals in Brussels, and von der Lancken suggests Whitlock, Ruddock, Dietrich, Gregory, and Gray. Could probably get permission substitute and add to others, but all provincial delegates must be replaced by other neutrals and automobile privileges withdrawn. Above applies to present international status. C.R.B. steamers must not touch English ports. Assurance to our men of safe-conduct not in writing but oral assurance repeated."
We must act promptly and you must advise at once if Allied Governments will continue imports on above basis. If not, think little practical good accomplished by our remaining and we had better close operations as soon as possible. Gregory states positively that in event of war he will not remain here. Von der Lancken has promised to place above in writing to Spanish Minister. It might under all the circumstances be desirable to substitute an entirely new personnel of some other neutral country. Please inform Hoover. Further telegram on same subject being sent today through American Legation, London.
DOCUMENT NO. 470
GRAY(337) TO HOOVER, regarding German attitude and the willingness of the American representatives to stag with the work under any conditions.
11 February 1917
AMERICAN EMBASSY, LONDON:
Kindly inform Hoover and the Relief Commission that Gray, now in Rotterdam, advises as follows:
"On the night of February 8th, Rieth and von der Lancken returned to Brussels from Berlin. Conference between Lancken and Villalobar was immediately held. On February 9th at five o'clock Whitlock received from Lancken advice in sense of Gregory's telegram. Bruhn advised Gregory at identically the same hour that personnel could stay as before under present diplomatic relations without change save possibly in the imposition of some slight restrictions in use of automobiles. At six o'clock on the same day Gray was advised of same status, by Schlubach, who said that Rieth had so advised him. At same time Fritz Neuerbourg was advised by Wengersky, who had also attended the Berlin conference, that present composition of Commission would be maintained. We cannot clearly estimate influence exerted by Villalobar in the reduction of the staff to five Americans. We are, however, of opinion that a counter proposal offering conditions similar to those which obtain in Northern France regarding personnel might be acceptable. Recommend, however, that door be left open to future negotiations. Germans will not lay down working conditions possible in event of hostilities. Hope to arrange use of pouch with Van Vollenhoven or Villalobar but first sealing our packages. The members of the Commission are nearly unanimous in the wish to stay with the work under any conditions and they are willing to accept any terms whereby the continuation of the work will be ensured. If change comes the plan is to transfer the shipping department with same personnel to the Comité National, but Baetens desires orders from Hoover before leaving C.R.B. and expresses first allegiance to the Commission. Relief Commission."
DOCUMENT NO. 471
PAGE TO DEPARTMENT OF STATE, advising immediate withdrawal of Americans and liquidation of C.R.B.
LONDON, 12 February 1917
SECRETARY OF STATE, WASHINGTON:
Director Gregory at Brussels informs Commission for Relief in Belgium that von der Lancken, Civil Governor of Belgium, has reported to him that the German Government will no longer permit American members of Commission to exercise functions in Belgium and Northern France. Hoover and his American associates can in my judgment pursue only one course, namely, inform the German Government immediately that every American retires, get all American members out of Belgium and France in whatever way their exit can best be managed by Gregory, with whom Poland is conferring by telegraph, and close the Commission's business immediately in Belgium and France and liquidate it as soon as possible. We shall have to leave to the decision of the British, French, and German Governments the work for the future. Americans can now retire with clean record and make dignified exit without parley, leaving the onus on the German Government.
I regard it as of the very highest importance that Hoover announce retirement under German order emphatically and immediately. Further discussion may lose the present tactical advantage.
I await Department's instructions to me to retire as Patron of Commission which I hope will be given.
Please inform Hoover of the contents of this telegram and your instructions to me.
DOCUMENT NO. 472
HOOVER TO C.R.B., LONDON, concerning re-establishment of the relief and indicating that the Commission is completely at the service of the Allies to this end
NEW YORK, 14 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
I hope you have made it clear to British, French, and Belgian Governments that our sole desire is to secure the re-establishment of the relief and that despite any views we hold as to best methods and detail that we are absolutely at their service to this end and that we wish to strongly present fact that there is nothing which so dominates the heart of the American people and all of us, as the continued succor of these people, and there is nothing more important in maintaining the allegiance of America to the Allied cause than that no effort should be spared for its re-establishment.
DOCUMENT NO. 473
C.R.B., LONDON, TO C.R.B., BRUSSELS (VIA ROTTERDAM), stating that German decision compels withdrawal of Americans of C.R.B. from Belgium
LONDON, 12 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, ROTTERDAM
Please communicate Whitlock, Gregory:
In accord with Mr. Hoover and Mr. Page, in view of communication from German Government to you through Lancken that Americans can no longer exercise their functions in Belgium and Northern France, please notify the German authorities and Comité National that as under these conditions the American members of the Commission can no longer carry out their responsibilities and undertakings with the other interested governments and toward the peoples of France and Belgium, the American members officially withdraw from participation in the work of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and from the relief work in France. Further inform German authorities that we have assured the Allied Governments on the basis of previous German communications to the Commission that our withdrawal from participation in the work of the Commission does not in any way affect the continued existence of the Commission. Consequently we have also informed the Allied Governments that no guarantees given to the Commission or its Patron Ministers by either of the belligerents are invalidated by our withdrawal. We assume that German authorities will be glad to confirm this understanding to the Patron Ministers. The British Government on their part have expressed their approval of continued importations through the Commission without interruption. We advise you arrange all men leave Belgium and France at once, except you, Gray, Neville, and perhaps one or two others of Commission staff needed to close up affairs and ensure no interruption relief pending reorganization. Important papers and all accounting figures not required to carry on current business should immediately be sent out or if not possible stored with Legation papers under protection of Spanish Minister; close all books and accounts as between Commission Rotterdam, Commission Brussels, C.N., and C.F., as at February 15th midnight, including Rotterdam shipments same date. For annual report extremely important obtain all incomplete data, particularly distributions to communes Belgium, Northern France to October 31st and exact figures of Belgian-French provincial and general stocks as to October 31st, arranging to continue all similar data to February 15th.
Accounts: Complete all transactions as at close of 15th as for complete accounts so that C.N. and Commission are in agreement to enable balance sheet and accounts to be prepared at that date. Include all Rotterdam shipments to date stated. Object in view is to know exact position and to have full detailed records. Final accounts and schedules as at October 31st 1916, also required and should be sent as soon as possible. Jones advises accounts and records more important than audit. Inform Neville.
DOCUMENT NO. 474
POLAND TO HYMANS, informing him of contemplated withdrawal of Americans in Belgium
LONDON, 13 February 1917
His Excellency Paul Hymans(338)
Belgian Minister, London
Yesterday we received a number of telegrams which bring to a crisis our relations to the ravitaillement work in Belgium and France. We have the honor to hand you herewith a long telegram to New York, which was prepared yesterday and forwarded last night, embodying our complete information and outlining the action which was taken in accord with our Chairman, and the instructions sent to our Director and Mr. Whitlock in Brussels.
The notice to the German authorities is made necessary by their action.
As between the Allied Governments and the Commission you will of course understand that we shall take no action which will in any way jeopardize the food supply to either the Belgian or the French people; our operations will continue uninterrupted as at present, in soliciting support, in diplomatic negotiations and shipping and purchasing, until such time as we may mutually have arrived at a new basis, made necessary by the withdrawal of our nationals from Belgium and France.
We hold ourselves subject to your convenience at any time when you would like to discuss future arrangements in detail.
(Signed) W. B. POLAND,
2. Between Peace and War. February-March 1917
The Commission's announcement of its decision to withdraw from the relief work had immediate results. Representatives of the British and French Governments issued statements expressing their regret that the Americans were compelled to take this step and their appreciation of the service which the Commission had performed. On their part, the German authorities in Belgium, not wishing to be responsible for the discontinuance of relief, promptly reversed themselves and declared that the Americans might remain in the occupied territories, exercising the same privileges that they had hitherto enjoyed. On receipt of this information the Commission's previous instructions to its staff in Belgium were revoked and the Americans were asked to remain at their posts as long as possible. In the meantime Ambassador Merry del Val in London had notified the Allies that the Spaniards were prepared to take over the work of the Americans, while a representative of the Belgian Government had cabled Hoover to urge that American management of relief be continued as long as possible and in event that the delegates had to be withdrawn from Belgium that the Americans should continue to handle the finance purchasing, shipping, and other external matters.
DOCUMENT NO. 475
by LORD ROBERT CECIL, describing the work of the C.R.B.
LONDON, 14 February 1917
The withdrawal of the Americans from participation in the work of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the withdrawal of Mr. Page and Mr. Whitlock from their position as Patrons of the Commission, will be very sincerely regretted by the Allied Governments.
The Commission still goes on in the hands of its other neutral members, but you know how, in practice, the organization of the Relief Commission both here and at Rotterdam and in Belgium and Northern France was created by, and in practice, depended upon Mr. Hoover and his American colleagues, who for more than two years have sacrificed every personal interest to their great humanitarian enterprise. It is they who have dealt daily and hourly with the Foreign Office here, with the German authorities at Brussels and with the German Headquarters in Northern France. They have been the constant intermediaries in a series of most arduous international negotiations, and it is they who have built up the elaborate system of guarantees which has made the continuance of the work possible for twenty-eight months and which stands today as a bulwark between the Belgian people and their invaders.
Now, I am not going to pay any tribute to their business organization or their efficiency, wonderful as these things have been. The mere fact that for twenty-eight months they have kept alive ten millions of people without a single serious hitch in the machinery of purchase, transport, and distribution shows what their organization has been. But this any observer can judge as well as I. What I want to say is this:
When the first proposals were made in October 1914, for the importation of foodstuffs into Belgium after the fall of Antwerp, these proposals were directly counter to every dictate of military prudence. The natural feeling of people here was, and long continued to be, that the Germans were in complete control of Belgium, and how could a dozen or two neutrals safeguard the supplies imported? It was only with the greatest anxieties and misgivings that we consented to allow importations, and I sometimes doubt whether the proposals would ever have been made or our consent given if we had known how long the work would have to last, or the extent to which it would grow. Yet, in spite of this, the work has gone on uninterruptedly for twenty-eight months and has grown from small beginnings into an undertaking which may be literally called gigantic.
Now the only thing which has made this possible has been the absolute confidence which Mr. Hoover and his colleagues have inspired in all the Allied Governments. They have been in the most difficult position and have borne the heaviest responsibilities that could possibly fall to the lot of any neutral, but their absolute frankness in discussion and their energy in carrying out their undertakings have led us to rely absolutely upon their word and upon their ability. How high a tribute this is, no one can perhaps understand who has not had actual experience of war conditions, but the American people may be confident that these American citizens leave behind them in Europe a reputation which, if I may say so, America may count on as a national possession in future years.
I do not speak of the financial help which the American people have given to the Relief, because this is a sort of farewell speech and I am sure that while we must say farewell to the American directors of the work, we need not do so to American interest in the work. On the contrary, I am sure that American interest will in the future be even keener than in the past and that the American people will take a pride in competing with the Allied nations in giving financial support to a great enterprise with which the name of America must forever remain associated.
DOCUMENT NO. 476
By BRIAND FOR THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT, relating to the work of the C.R.B. and its continuation by the Spanish collaborators
[PARIS, 14 February 1917]
At this moment when the German Government is forcing the American representatives of the Spanish-American Commission of Relief to leave the invaded lands and to abandon the task to which they have dedicated themselves with so much devotion, I desire you to express to the Central Committee of the Commission in London, the recognition an gratitude of the Government of the Republic for the humanitarian work which the American representatives of the Commission, with the devoted collaboration of the Spanish representatives, have carried out, in saving the unfortunate French populations from famine. I do not overlook with what disinterestedness the Commission has successfully administered a most complicated and difficult work, which has necessitated constant and methodical efforts. The devotion of the Commission, of the bankers and contractors to the Commission for Relief in Belgium, who have refused all remuneration, is also known to us. It is to be hoped, for the sake of our unhappy compatriots of the North of France, that this great international work of benevolence may be able to continue to the end of the war. It is to this end that the generous efforts of the King of Spain, to whom the Government of the Republic has just appealed, are at present directed. If, as we like to hope, His Majesty Alphonse XIII succeeds in making the voice of humanity heard in Berlin, we are sure that the services of the Americans of the Commission for Relief will be continued in the same devoted way, in the work of purchase and transportation, thus still contributing, with the cooperation in the country of other neutral representatives who will come to replace the Americans, to the humanitarian task which they now perform.
Of all the acts of charity which now stand to the credit of the Americans and which earn our deepest gratitude, the work of the Commission for Relief is among those which are dearest to us, since they are working for the sake of those French people who add to all their other misfortunes that of temporary separation from their mother country, and who have to suffer bondage to the enemy.
DOCUMENT NO. 477
C.R.B., ROTTERDAM, TO C.R.B., LONDON, stating change in German attitude permitting Americans to perform their usual functions in Belgium
ROTTERDAM, 15 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
Villalobar, "We have had today a meeting(341) at which assisted von der Lancken, Villalobar, Whitlock, Bruhn, Rieth, Francqui, and Gregory, and which was held concerning your telegram of the 12th instant. It has been agreed that our delegates may remain as heretofore and with the same privileges. However, it is possible that later it may be necessary to place delegates of other nationalities on military fronts. In consideration of this, the Protecting Ministers and Gregory suggest that we keep on our regular work as heretofore and consequently we will not close our accounts unless we receive other instructions from you."
DOCUMENT NO. 478
HOOVER TO C.R.B., LONDON, instructing Americans to remain in Belgium and commenting on German tactics
NEW YORK, 15 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
Overriding my previous cables would like you instruct Belgian staff remain long as possible at their posts. The Germans are obviously trying by allowing Whitlock and few to remain to throw responsibility on to us and I have proposed to State Department that Whitlock should be instructed that he will only remain conditional upon his having full diplomatic privileges and upon whole of American staff being allowed remain and exercise their functions as hitherto; and if Germans not prepared for this, then entire Legation and Relief staff will withdraw. The object of this is obviously that we shall throw responsibility on to Germans and although I have no expectation that they will accept it, it is desirable that we should proceed carefully step by step. I do not assume that Allied Governments will consent to form of administration proposed by Germans, as such an administration would be absolutely inadequate for the protection of the people and food supplies; and that in failure to secure retention of our entire staff it is entirely desirable that they should together with Whitlock be withdrawn, in order to clear the decks for a re-established neutral body of some other nationality.
DOCUMENT NO. 479
C.R.B., LONDON, TO C.R.B., BRUSSELS (VIA ROTTERDAM), directing postponement of liquidation
LONDON, 15 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, ROTTERDAM
Advise Brussels in view changed attitude of German authorities and overriding previous cables, liquidation not necessary. American staff requested to remain at their posts long as possible but notify German authorities this action taken solely on understanding that representatives' functions, activities, circulation, communication continued in full. Advise whether full diplomatic privileges restored Whitlock. Please be governed accordingly.
DOCUMENT NO. 480
HOOVER TO C.R.B., LONDON, giving State Department instructions to Whitlock and suggesting an arrangement for continuing functions of the C.R.B.
WASHINGTON, 15 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
State Department tonight emphatically directing Whitlock to demand immediate restoration of his own and our position to previous basis, alternative to which is his and our immediate withdrawal with the whole responsibility on German shoulders. We believe Germans proposed previous stultifying arrangements with intention of throwing on to Allied Governments or ourselves the responsibility of cutting off the relief. In case they refuse, instructions have been given Whitlock to inform Belgian people that this Government and Commission will do all in their power to secure re-establishment of the relief [in the] hands of some other neutral body. We must proceed in the whole matter with great circumspection, step by step. First is as above, and if any our men come into Holland they should remain there until the above issue is determined. If Germans give in to demand we must proceed as before, although I have little anticipation that it will last for long. Second step is in case we withdraw, we should support the creation of new neutral organizations to take charge distribution. Ideal organization would be one under patronage Queen of Holland and King of Spain, but comprised entirely Dutch personnel, preferably army officers or civil servants. New organization to control distribution in interior. Such arrangement is, I believe, in accord with wishes of Allied Governments. Third: after prolonged consideration I believe that if we withdraw will be most important interest the Belgian people that whole purchase shipment foodstuffs should be taken over by Belgian Lloyd. This would enable them build up proper efficient organization which would be inestimable benefit for ravitaillement Belgium after war, and in this matter they could take over our paid staff and officers if they so desired, we of course, removing the whole of our records and accounts. Fourth: The Commission should then retreat entirely to a local American organization for recruiting charity propaganda on behalf of the Belgian people, from which anticipate material results. Fifth: The least which the various governments can agree to in return for our services is that we should have the honor of liquidating our own business and obtaining a proper discharge from our personal liabilities and the retention of our name and organization for effective American use. The matter is not only sentimental but it is of practical importance, in view of legal responsibilities which I personally hold for outstanding liabilities and unsettled operations and the good-will here; when it comes to liquidation it should be undertaken by way of completion for our accounts of some particular cargo to be determined with a view to our stocks and financial position. Sixth: In case of our retirement the Comité National should extend its operations to include the Rotterdam Office, thus joining up with the Belgian Lloyd. In any event we must get a shipping lane open at the earliest moment and we anxiously await news regarding it.
DOCUMENT NO 481
MERRY DEL VAL TO CAMBON, stating the intention of the Spanish members to carry on the work of the C.R.B. after American withdrawal
SPANISH EMBASSY, LONDON
15 February 1917
To His Excellency, Monsieur Paul Cambon Ambassador of France, London
MY DEAR COLLEAGUE:
The American members of the Commission for Relief in Belgium having signified to me their irrevocable decision to retire from the work, I have the honor to inform you, in my capacity of founder and President of the Commission, that it will be carried on under the administration of their Spanish colleagues.
Thus, Mr. José Roura, of 14 Seething Lane, E.C., will take the direction of the Commission. He will place himself at your disposal for the information which you will be good enough to give him, in the belief that the Commission will continue to receive in the future the same support as it has hitherto received from the Government of the French Republic, and that it will maintain with Your Excellency and your Government the same good reputation as it has had in the past, resolute, as is the Government of His Majesty the King my August Sovereign, to do all that is possible for the relief of the occupied territories of France.
I pray you to accept, my dear colleague, the assurance of my high consideration and my devoted sentiments.
(Signed) MERRY DEL VAL
DOCUMENT NO. 482
CAMBON TO MERRY DEL VAL, suggesting that the direction of relief be left provisionally in the hands of the present directors of the C.R.B.
FRENCH EMBASSY, LONDON
15 February 1917
His Excellency Merry del Val
Spanish Ambassador, London
MY DEAR COLLEAGUE:
I thank you for your letter(342) of even date concerning the Commission for Relief in Belgium. I know what share you have had in the foundation of this institution and how you have never ceased to aid it. I wish here to express to you my appreciation.
The American members of the Commission for Relief had received from the German authorities the order to retire from Belgium and the Federal Government had to cease its patronage on the rupture of its diplomatic relations with Germany. But it is possible that the useful assistance of the Americans may be maintained to the Commission even in Belgium according to news which I have just received, and in London they will be able, at least for some time, to assure the purchasing and transportation services which are just now passing through a difficult period.
It is very important, as you know, that the ravitaillement operations proceed without interruption and to arrive at this result it seems to me advisable to leave the provisional direction to those who up to the present have carried on this mission. This is what the American members of the Commission have been informed this morning and it would be inopportune, in my opinion, to modify the London management of the Commission for Relief before certain financial questions, at present in suspense, have been settled.
(Signed) PAUL CAMBON
DOCUMENT NO. 483
CARTON DE WIART TO HOOVER, urging the continued participation of Americans in the relief of Belgium
LONDON, 17 FEBRUARY 1917
HOOVER, NEW YORK
Allow me to impress again how important I consider both American and Belgian points of view that management relief be continued up to end by Americans as far as physically possible. Even if you have to eventually abandon activity in Belgium the external activity is of essential importance diplomatically, charitably, and materially. If external activity of relief were transformed in a purely business organization the character of whole work during past would be affected by it. I fervently hope the direct co-operation of our American friends will last as long as our trials, thus to remain forever closely associated with them in memory of Belgian people. Amitiés.
DOCUMENT NO. 484
CARTON DE WIART TO HOOVER, again urging in the name of the Belgian Government continued American participation in C.R.B.
LONDON, 23 February 1917
HOOVER, NEW YORK
Have communicated your cable to Van de Vyvere who asks me to assure you that Belgian Government counts more than ever on cooperation of our American friends and moreover hopes to associate very closely C.R.B. with economic reconstruction of Belgium and wishes to confer with you as soon as possible on the subject. Unable to communicate before some time your cable to Comité National but messages received from them indicate most positively their great desire and hope American co-operation to remain in as many features of relief as possible. This unanimous desire amongst us is based not only on Belgian interests but also on Belgian feeling for America.
DOCUMENT NO. 485
Extracts of letter,
MERRY DEL VAL TO POLAND, giving German attitude in favor of continued participation of Americans in the relief in the occupied territories despite severance of diplomatic relations
SPANISH EMBASSY, LONDON
23 February 1917
W. B. Poland, Esq.
Director, The Commission for Relief in Belgium, London
As I had the pleasure of informing you verbally last night I communicated by telegram to the Spanish Government the contents of the Memorandum attached to your letter of the 22nd inst., begging them to press the matter as vigorously as possible in Berlin.
The reply from the Imperial German Government is expressed in two communications. The first of these set forth the .... [route for relief steamers.]
In their second communication, dated February 18th, the German Government declare that in spite of having broken off diplomatic relations with the United States, the humanitarian work of the Relief of Belgium, founded on an agreement to which Spain is also a party, may continue and that the German Government consider it convenient that the present American members of the Commission should also continue provisionally at their post. This will not prevent the possibility of their replacement if necessary by other neutral agents being examined. There is no reason why some of these American citizens should not remain in Brussels at the head of the Commission until further notice.
Such are the contents of the German Government's replies. I hasten to transmit them to you and will be glad to communicate to the Spanish Government your impressions regarding the same.
(Signed) A. MERRY DEL VAL
DOCUMENT NO. 486
HOOVER TO C.R.B., LONDON, delaying withdrawal of Americans in Belgium until absolutely necessary, and agreeing to formation of Allied Commission in an eventuality
NEW YORK, 27 February 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
Regarding information from American Ambassador to State Department, we do not wish to withdraw our men until it becomes absolutely necessary and in fact would like to have them remain until they are ordered out by the Germans. Whitlock is being instructed by State Department to remain in Belgium as long as the American members of Commission remain, and when situation arrives at point where he must withdraw either because of German request or from views of this Government on situation, he will be instructed by State Department to bring with him the Relief Commission. We do not wish you to take any action in the matter as we are extremely anxious that we shall leave Belgium either at the order of the Germans or alternatively upon the order of the United States Government, and would like you to convey this information to Brussels privately. With regard to arrangements in event withdrawal Americans we see no objection to the proposals made so far as they concern the control of the distribution from Rotterdam. As to arrangements for Allied Commission seems to us this covers entire matter, but as it does not press, we will advise you later. Do not commit us in any way without reference, as we must act in cooperation with Washington.
The change of front by the Germans in respect to the privileges of the C.R.B. delegates and the absence of any outstanding incident in the political sphere relaxed the tension on the Commission. The matter of reorganization was held in abeyance, while Hoover and the other members concentrated their efforts on the matter of shipping, which was in a very desperate situation as a result of the U-boat activities.(343) There was, however, some discussion of an inter-Allied committee to take over the external functions of the C.R.B. in the event of a declaration of war by the United States; but no final decision was made.
Toward the end of February the political situation took a new turn. On the 28th the Associated Press published the Zimmermann Note, offering Mexico the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona if she would join Germany in the event of war with the United States. On the 25th a U-boat sank without warning the British liner "Laconia" with the loss of two American lives. The President, meanwhile, had asked Congress for authority to arm American merchant vessels, and though this authority had not been given because of the filibuster of the "little group of wilful men" in the Senate, Wilson announced on the 7th March that guns would be placed on the ships. These events brought the declaration of war appreciably nearer, and the question of the reorganization of relief became of more immediate concern.
In the new discussions the idea of the complete withdrawal of Americans from relief was abandoned in deference to the wishes of the Belgians and the other Allies, who were insistent that the Commission as constituted continue to carry on the external relief operations even if it became necessary to recall the American members from the occupied territories. This arrangement, moreover, avoided friction with the Spaniards, who had promptly offered to take over the work from the Americans and who would have been offended had their offer been declined by the Allies and the contemplated inter-Allied committee been established to carry on the Commission's work.
DOCUMENT NO. 487
HOOVER TO C.R.B., LONDON, presenting alternate plan for continuation of the relief organization, the only change being the substitution of Spanish-Dutch members for the American delegates in the invaded territories
NEW YORK, 1 March 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
In event our retirement from Belgium and in such case the proposed substitution inter-allies committee and liquidation Commission, in view Belgian protests and changed conditions here, and after careful consideration and consultation with important men, have come to the view that despite the apparent reversal of previous attitude yet for national reasons in the main ---in order to maintain and augment American sentiment Allied cause and maintain the prestige of Commission before American charitable public---it is our duty despite sacrifice and many reasons to the contrary that if approved by the Allied Governments we should carry on the Commission under present direction with our terminal at Rotterdam. Wish you lay entire matter before Percy and secure frank opinion Allied officials. The administrative arrangements at Rotterdam terminal will require some consideration as to whether our contact should cease at out-turn ships into hands Dutch-Spanish group who in turn re-transfer to Comité National or whether we continue manage Rotterdam office and out-turn direct to Comité National as present. In the first case we should require an office Rotterdam in any event to make settlements with intermediate committee and would appear to us that the second case is the more practical. It is always possible that situation may develop to alter these views, making inter-allies committee desirable, and it might eventuate that such a committee would want to embrace joint American participation, as I have in view that if we join in war American Government might be induced join in support Belgian people and in any event we may yet be wanted to find loans or for other service. In any event, we feel strongly that nothing should be done by way of the erection of interallies committee and our liquidation until we have had a month or so to see clearly what is in the best interests of the Belgians, the Allies, and the Americans, and in any event so long as we remain in Belgium no changes of any kind are to be made from our present organization.
DOCUMENT NO. 488
Extract of letter,
HOOVER TO POLAND AND KELLOGG, summarizing the various proposals for reorganization of the relief in the event that the United States should declare war
NEW YORK, 5 March 1917
W. B. Poland, Esq.
Vernon L. Kellogg, Esq.
With regard to our partial or entire withdrawal from the Relief, we have all of us of course---and myself in particular---altered our views from time to time as to precise organization, because of changing political situation.
It was our first conviction that it was only a question of hours after February 1st until the United States should openly declare war Ten days later we became convinced that this was not only improbable but that both Germany and this country were making every effort to avoid actual war, and the restoration of our men in Belgium and Northern France after being expelled seemed to us to present a new situation. Finally, during the last three days, as the result of the "Laconia" incident, the exposures of German intrigues here, and the action of the President and Congress, it now again looks like actual war sooner or later and consequently at least the retirement of our men from Belgium and Northern France.
Beyond these changing political situations there are the following principles which have dominated our minds:
1. We must assume that if we are compelled to retire from Belgium some other neutrals must at least take over the control of the distribution and under this head several alternatives seem to present themselves:
The first is that we should select a body of mixed volunteer neutrals who would simply replace the Americans and that we should continue the C.R.B. as at present.
A mere tyro in administrative experience must be convinced that this could only result in an ultimate breakdown. While we would have responsibility, we could have no real control over such a group; we are not in position to determine the character and loyalty of such men; there must certainly grow up intrigue with the Germans or the Belgians with some of such individuals; there must be internal friction amongst the body of mixed nationalities---therefore there could be no discipline, no adequate control of distribution, and no guarantee in territorial allocation of justice in Belgium and Northern France. Sooner or later all confidence in the controls would be undermined. There are other difficulties in the Belgian problem well known to you, which I will not enter upon here, further than to mention that they would multiply under such an administration.
2. The second of these alternatives was for some one nationality to take over the separate patronage of internal control, and this operation could be performed either by a volunteer body or by agents of the government in question. I do not believe it is possible to secure sufficient volunteers of a high degree of idealism from any one of the nationalities available and that it would be better to place it under the control of either the army or some civil department of such a government, to be staffed by government agents.
Furthermore, such an organization as this would commit the government concerned to a strong support of the guarantees and of the Relief.
3. When we survey the available material, we have practically only the Spanish, Dutch, or Swiss to consider. . . . The Dutch enjoy a high reputation for integrity and efficiency and stand high in sentimental esteem, especially in the United States and would be well supported here. Of more importance than all this, the Dutch control a great measure of supplies which could be made available for Belgium, and the direct responsibility on their part for the distribution would lead them to further exertions by way of native supplies. They are able to command men of a wider experience in language and a greater knowledge of Belgian life than any other nation.
4. It is extremely desirable, from the point of view of moral support to the Allied cause and to the Belgian cause in particular, that the great organs of the National Committee(344) in the British Empire and of the Commission for Relief in the United States should be maintained in great activity in the direction of recruiting public charity and public opinion. This has come during the last few days to have even a higher value in the United States than may be apparent in Europe. We are probably faced with agitations for embargoes on food supplies owing to world shortage, and it is necessary to maintain here a strong organization in order that there may be no prejudice to Belgian supplies and which can insistently advocate strongly the necessity for a proper division of our abundant foodstuffs with the Allies themselves. There is no organ in the United States which stands in such high esteem and influence in the matters today as does the Commission, and it is of extreme importance to all these causes that there should be no break in its activities. These activities would be further enlarged if our men should be forced out of Belgium, because then the necessity for personal neutrality would have departed and we could carry even stronger conviction on all of these various phases if we were not under the present restraint which we are now compelled to maintain.
5. We believed that it would be of great value to the Belgian Government for them to take over themselves, as a governmental measure, the buying and shipping of the supplies, for not only would they be able to bring governmental pressure to bear to secure shipping and supplies, but, of more importance, they would have established a consequent organ through which they could carry on the ravitaillement of the Belgian people during the necessary period after peace. We thought from all that has taken place during the last year that they---so anxious for the increase in Belgian prestige and the demonstration of the self-sufficiency of the Belgian people---would be anxious to take over the providing of their own people, not only for its effect in Belgium itself, but for the great moral influence that it would have abroad, and we felt that they might like to embrace this opportunity of a general change with this objective in view. On the other hand, we have since received the positive and strong protest of the Belgian Government against such a course and their strong request to us to continue, so that we presume this possibility is eliminated.
6. We have no desire whatever to run away from the Relief. It represents an increasing sacrifice to us, but having set our hands to this plow, we are prepared to go on with it if it continues in a form which would have proper, weighty and important objectives that would make it worth while, that is, if the interests of the Belgian and French people were of necessity served by us and if it continues to have importance from American national point of view in the contribution of our national spirit and ideals.
We cannot allow any complexion to be put upon the matter that would suggest that we are running away from any service of this character. Our one desire is in effect to carry it out if it is desired by the Allied Governments that we should do so.
7. If, however, it is determined that we should not only retire from Belgium and Northern France but from the buying and shipping offices, it then becomes absolutely necessary to us that we should liquidate the C.R.B. as a business organization and maintain it only as a charitable recruiting agency in America. We have handled up to date over $275,000,000;(345) we have outstanding liabilities of over $20,000,000 and these latter are based on our personal credit and reputation. We have hundreds of unsettled accounts throughout the world, and if we deserve nothing else for these two and half years service, we at least deserve to have this business settled up in a proper and businesslike manner, a proper auditing and settlement of our accounts and liabilities, a proper relief to us of our financial responsibility, and a properly acknowledged discharge from all of the governments concerned, of our having conducted this work with integrity and with circumspection. This could only be accomplished by the liquidation of the C.R.B. and the initiation of a new organization to take over buying and shipping phases. There is also the sentimental fact that we, the present individuals, initiated the whole Belgian Relief. We made the C.R.B. into an institution of world-wide repute for integrity and efficiency and high ideals. For us to step out and allow some other administration to come in is a risk to these principles and the reputation of this institution to which we do not deserve to be exposed.
8. It has been our view all along that we should remain at our posts in Belgium unless the Germans render our position intolerable thus securing to themselves the responsibility for any break. This is the strong desire of the State Department at Washington, as well as of ourselves. There is only one alternative and that is that should this Government determine to declare war, it would be obvious as a duty of the Government to recall Mr. Whitlock and the Commission coincidently. We have been anxious that in case of a recall it should be done by the United States Government, based on the judgment of intolerable conditions of safety and not by ourselves. There is a responsibility attaching to breaking down this work which we do not wish ourselves to assume and there is a responsibility in leaving our men in Belgium and Northern France which is primarily a responsibility of the Government. They have agreed to assume both these responsibilities and it is therefore up to us to co-operate with them intimately.
In view of the above principles, we have in the voluminous cable correspondence with you argued from many points of view against the various suggestions of reorganization which have been set up in Europe. These proposals may be summarized as follows:
a) The proposal that we should recruit a mixed body of other neutrals for Belgian and Northern France administration and continue as at present. The objections to this are in violation of the principles set out in paragraph 1 (Disorganization of mixed neutrals) above.
b) The proposal of the Spanish Ambassador in London that Spanish gentlemen should step into the shoes of the Americans and continue the C.R.B. as at present. This violates the principles set out in paragraphs 3 (Exclusive Spanish control), 4 (Public support in America and England), 6 (Our abandonment of Relief), and (Liquidation of our financial responsibilities).
c) The proposal that we should on February 15th have notified the Allied Governments that we are handing the whole Relief over to them and are withdrawing, violates the principles set out in paragraph 6 (Our abandonment of the Relief) and 8 (Throwing responsibility on the Germans).
d) The proposal that a Spanish-Dutch Committee with predominant Dutch character should be set up under the aegis of the Dutch and Spanish Governments, to take over the control of distribution in Belgium and Northern France meets, we imagine, as far as the diplomatic situation permits, the objections set out above in case we must retire from Belgium, and with this we are in accord, although we would like to see an exclusively Dutch administration.
e) The proposal that an inter-Allied Committee should be set up to handle the purchase and transport of supplies of course meets our acquiescence if it be desired by the Allied Governments. On the other hand, having gotten to this position, it is our feeling that the C.R.B. could quite well continue as it stands today, under its present direction, with its terminal in Rotterdam, selling its supplies to the Comité National exactly as at present, the Dutch-Spanish Committee confining itself to distribution and control. The advantages of this appear to us at the present time to be manifold. It continues in a large way the American interest in the Belgian and the Allied cause; it gives the C.R.B. a stronger background upon which to continue its propaganda in America for charitable support, as it continues the sense of obligation of the American people, and having built up an efficient business organ for handling this enterprise it continues this organ without disturbance; it does not necessitate any liquidation of accounts until after the war is over, when it can be done properly and methodically.
We cannot of course anticipate all that may happen between now and the end of the war. It may be necessary for us to retire absolutely from the Relief, but in any event, the continuation on the basis of a Dutch-Spanish Committee in control of distribution and guarantees, the C.R.B. running to a Rotterdam terminal and there turning over the goods to the Comité National, would appear to us to be the proper thing to do for the present, in view of all the circumstances involved. We have therefore cabled you fully on this matter as we are anxious to learn the frank desires of the Allied Governments.
I regret intensely that I have not been in Europe during this crisis and will return as soon as I find I cannot be predominantly useful here.
I should be glad if you would furnish Lord Eustace Percy and Mr. Chevrillon with a copy of this letter.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 489
SPRING RICE TO HOOVER, quoting attitude of British Foreign Office as strongly in favor of continued American control
BRITISH EMBASSY, WASHINGTON
8 March 1917
MY DEAR MR. HOOVER:
The Foreign Office have telegraphed requesting me to communicate, confidentially, to yourself and to the State Department the following statement of the position in regard to Belgian Relief:
"At the time of the threatened withdrawal of Americans from Belgium, the Relief Commission stated emphatically that they must in that event liquidate and retire wholly from any participation in the work in London or Rotterdam. In view of this we have been endeavouring to sketch an inter-allies organisation in England and a Dutch organisation in Holland which would, to some extent, protect us from having to accept all the business of control in (here are two words lost in transmission). We have not communicated with Hoover or the United States Government as we understand that, though they were most anxious to continue American interest in the work so far as raising money was concerned, they wished to disclaim all responsibility for any organisation in London or Rotterdam designed to succeed them. Now Mr. Hoover has telegraphed to the Commission here that on consideration he has reversed his former view, and would be willing that Americans should remain in charge of the London and Rotterdam offices. Such a solution would be a great relief to us because the constitution of any competent new organisation at these two places would, we have found, inevitably create friction with the Spanish Government, owing to the ambiguous nominal constitution of the existing Commission. If Americans will remain in control we shall of course be glad to arrange for it to be made clear that their responsibilities after the withdrawal of their delegates from the occupied territories are fundamentally different from their previous responsibilities and that they are fully and finally discharged from those previous responsibilities.
If the American Commission finally decides to adopt this course with the approval of the United States Government we should be glad to be placed in a position at once to notify the Spanish and Netherlands Governments of the fact."
In addition to the above message, the Foreign Office have instructed me to discuss with you the financial situation of the Commission. It appears that, while the British Government can, to a certain extent, increase the subsidies which they are now giving, they cannot undertake to provide an increase up to the full amount which would be required if the present programme of imports is to be maintained. The British authorities feel in the circumstances that it should be possible for a sum of at least five hundred thousand pounds a month to be provided in the United States, more or less on the same lines as the French and British subsidies. Perhaps you could let me know your views on this aspect of the situation, so that I can cable your opinion to London.
Very sincerely yours
(Signed) CECIL SPRING RICE
Fig. 16. Letter, 18 May 1915, Hoover to Young
DOCUMENT NO. 490
C.R.B. LONDON TO HOOVER, quoting letter from Hymans expressing approval of the Belgian Government for Hoover's decision that the present organization be maintained
LONDON, 8 March 1917
HOOVER, NEW YORK
Following letter received: begins, "London March 7th. I have learned with deep satisfaction that Mr. Hoover and his colleagues have consented to maintain as far as is possible the present organization of the Commission for Relief. He himself and colleagues will continue to exercise their most useful functions at Rotterdam and at London even in case of complete rupture between the United States and Germany. I am charged by the Government of the King to inform the Commission that it approves this solution most earnestly. It seems to be the best solution to the efficient continuance of the work of ravitaillement since Mr. Hoover and the members of the Commission have directed this work since its inception with such noble devotion and wherein they have shown such remarkable capacities. It is once more an occasion for me to express to them the lively gratitude of the Government and the Belgian nation and I should be obliged if you will kindly forward these expressions to your most distinguished President. Hymans." Ends.
DOCUMENT NO. 491
BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE TO FRENCH MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, stating British Government's view of future of C.R.B.
FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
22 March 1917
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, PARIS
1. His Majesty's Government understand that the French Government would be glad to have a brief explanation of their precise view on the subject of the future Organisation of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and Northern France.
2. It is unnecessary to enter into any historical account of the organisation of the Relief Commission. It is sufficient to say that the continuance of its work has been made possible by the fact that its establishment has fulfilled two requirements. These are: First, a thoroughly efficient business organisation for the purchase, transport and distribution of supplies; and secondly, the presence in the Occupied territories of thoroughly reliable delegates in free and constant communication with the head office of the Commission and in a position to report fully on the machinery of distribution and on the action and attitude of the German authorities.
3. Any future organisation established to take over any part of the functions of the present American Commission must fulfil these two requirements. Provided that this is secured, the Allied Governments need not, and indeed ought not to trouble themselves as to the precise details of the Relief Commission's administrative arrangements.
4. His Majesty's Government, in agreement with the French and Belgian Governments, desire that the present business organisation of purchase and transport should remain unchanged in the hands of the present American managers. The offices of the Commission at Rotterdam, London and New York would thus undergo no alteration. If and when the United States enter the war, His Majesty's Government consider that it might be valuable to associate Englishmen, Frenchmen and Belgians with the American managers, in order clearly to show the interest of the Allied Governments in the work, but this need necessitate no actual administrative change in the machinery of the Commission.
5. On the other hand, the American managers will be unable to exercise personal control over conditions in occupied territory, and they will thus neither be able to guarantee a sound method of distribution nor will they be able themselves to ensure a constant flow of information from the delegates in the occupied territories to the offices at Rotterdam and London. It is therefore necessary that some supplementary organisation should be created with headquarters on neutral soil in Holland, to act as connecting link between the American managers on the one hand and the delegates and distributing agencies in Belgium and Northern France on the other.
6. His Majesty's Government believe that this function can best be discharged by a Dutch organisation. There are two possible forms which such an organisation can take.
7. It can either be a distinctly independent body capable of organising the machinery of distribution in the occupied territories and of accounting in detail to the Allied Governments for the disposal of the foodstuffs imported, or it can be merely a subsidiary organisation acting purely as the agent of the American managers and reporting and accounting directly to them. If the American managers are, in practice, prepared to make themselves in some measure responsible for the conduct and efficiency of the delegates in the occupied territories, whose activities they will not be able personally to inspect, the latter alternative would probably be preferable. It would obviate the necessity for a double system of accounts, and it would render less likely any conflict of authority or difference of opinion between the American Commission and its Dutch branch. It must rest mainly with the American managers of the Commission to say whether this solution will meet their views. If they feel that it entails too great responsibility upon them, it will be necessary to set up a more elaborate organisation in Holland and to appoint a Dutch business man on whose ability and sentiments the Allied Governments can rely, to assume definite responsibility for all matters beyond the Belgo-Dutch frontier.
8. In either event, it will be necessary to nominate some prominent neutral, preferably a Dutchman, with some experience of political business, who could carry out such part of the constant diplomatic business between the Relief Commission and the German authorities as cannot be adequately discharged by the Spanish Minister and the Dutch Chargé d'Affaires at Brussels. For it must be remembered that the diplomatic patrons of the Commission cannot, in view of their position and the policy of their Governments, go beyond a certain length in pressing the demands of the Relief Commission upon the Germans. In the past it has been Mr. Hoover's ability and energy which have enabled the Allied Governments to secure guarantees from the Germans which could never have been obtained by the ordinary methods of neutral diplomacy.
9. It must obviously be left to Mr. Hoover to select a man for this position with whom he feels that he can co-operate and on whose activity he can rely.
10. In general, it is desirable that the American managers of the Commission should keep in their own hands, so far as possible, the appointment of all delegates in the occupied territory and of all persons in Holland who are to form the nucleus of any neutral organisation which may be set up there. The diplomatic patrons of the Commission must not interfere with this function, but must confine themselves to matters of negotiation between the Governments.
11. In order to obtain the necessary diplomatic support it unfortunately seems necessary to associate more than one neutral Government in the protection of the work. The Spanish and Netherlands Governments have already given their protection and it has been suggested that the Swiss Government should be associated with them. His Majesty's Government are perfectly ready to accept this latter proposal, but, while this species of "Condominium" between various neutral protecting powers is advisable from the point of view of negotiation, it seems essential that so far as possible the actual administrative personnel of the relief work in the occupied territories should be of one nationality.
DOCUMENT NO. 492
VON DER LANCKEN TO VILLALOBAR, regarding safe-conducts for American delegates leaving Belgium
BRUSSELS, 12 March 1917
To His Excellency the Marquis de Villalobar
Minister of His Majesty the King of Spain, Brussels
MONSIEUR THE MINISTER:
Replying to the letter which Your Excellency was good enough to address to me on the 6th of March last, concerning the members of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, I have the honor to communicate that Monsieur the Governor General has consented that a safe-conduct should be granted to the American members(346) of the C.R.B. designated in the annex of your above-mentioned letter, whenever they should ask for them and whatever may be the position between Germany and the United States of America. In all cases a quarantine of not exceeding four weeks duration is necessary before their departure to satisfy military interests.
I beg Your Excellency to be good enough to bring the above to the attention of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and I profit by the occasion to renew to Your Excellency the assurances of my highest consideration.
3. The American Declaration of War and the Reorganization of Relief. April-July 1917
While various plans were being discussed relative to the reorganization of the relief machinery inside and outside of the occupied territories, the period of America's "armed neutrality" came to an end. On the 18th March the news came that three American ships had been sunk by U-boats ---with a loss of fifteen lives. The President advanced the special session of Congress to the 2d April and on the evening of that day delivered his war message. The joint resolution declaring the existence of a state of war with the Imperial German Government passed the Senate on the 4th and the House on the 6th, and the President immediately issued his war proclamation.
The declaration of war by the United States meant that the withdrawal of the members of the Commission in Belgium and Northern France must be hastened and the new organization, which had been the subject of discussion since the beginning of February, promptly established. Hoover, who had now returned to London, worked out a plan in which the British concurred along the following lines: The Commission should continue its functions outside of the occupied territories, being responsible for the delivery of supplies to the Comité National and the Comité Français at the various terminals in Belgium and. France. The Commission should also maintain a shipping and accounting office in Brussels, employing Belgian citizens of its appointment. In other words, it was to carry on as in the past all the operations relating to finance, purchase, oversea shipping, transshipment from Holland, and accounting. A new committee, provisionally named the "Comité Neutre de Protection du Secours" under the patronage of the sovereigns of Spain and Holland should be formed to maintain the guarantees of the belligerents and free communication in the districts receiving relief. All the governments concerned immediately accepted the proposal in so far as it applied to functions of the C.R.B., but various minor but troublesome difficulties were encountered in setting up the new neutral committee. There were objections to the name; the Swiss asked to be allowed to participate; and there were appointments which did not meet the approval of all concerned. Meanwhile matters were not going well in Belgium. All the Americans except Gray, C.R.B. Director in Brussels, and one or two others were now out of the country; the Spanish and Dutch delegates who were to take their places were still unappointed, and there were reports of violations of guarantees by the Germans. Before leaving for the United States where he had been summoned by President Wilson to direct the mobilization of America's food resources, Hoover wrote to the Spanish Ambassador in London and the Minister in Brussels, calling their attention to the unsatisfactory situation and urging them to expedite the establishment of the new committee.
DOCUMENT NO. 493
HOOVER TO C.R.B., ROTTERDAM, outlining plans of reorganization agreed to by British Government
LONDON, 4 April 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, ROTTERDAM
In order to secure efficient neutral governmental support in the protection of the relief, following plan has been settled with British Government and will be proposed by Townley to Villalobar and Dutch, that is:
In first instance, C.R.B. will continue purchase and shipment, including management of Rotterdam office, and control of inland shipping to Belgium and Northern France lighter terminals as at present, delivering there to C.N. and C.F. Under no circumstances can Gray stay in Belgium and we propose that Baetens should act as representative of C.R.B. in Brussels, co-operating with C.N. in shipping, exchange of accounts, settlement of bills of lading, etc., as previously. A new committee to be created to be called the Comité Neutre pour la Protection du Ravitaillement, under the direct patronage of the Spanish and Dutch Governments or their Ministers and Ambassadors. This Committee to have two Chairmen resident in Brussels, one Dutch and one Spanish, and to have combined Dutch and Spanish delegates, the Dutch Chairman having the special charge of the Belgian Etapes and North of France while the Spanish Chairman to have special charge of Occupation Zone, the two to co-operate on general policy and themselves to settle the distribution of their subordinate staffs in conjunction with their Patron Ministers, they also to maintain a Dutch Director in Holland and a Spanish Director in London. The chairmen and directors to be selected by their respective Governments. The functions of the new committee will be to carry on the Bureau of Inspection and Control, to assist the local committees generally, to carry on the protection of the guarantees, procuring lighter passes, etc., in fact, all the negotiations with the German authorities in protection of the relief, but not to have anything to do with the commercial or distribution side of the work. The Dutch Director in Holland to be the go-between from you to the German authorities in Holland, and the Spanish Director in London to be go-between for us with London. In other words, the whole of the procuring, delivery and distribution of supplies will rest in the hands of the C.R.B., the C.N., and the C.F., whereas the whole of the protective measures under which the above Committees will operate will be carried on by the new Comité de Protection. Hope you will help get this carried through quickly.
DOCUMENT NO. 494
BALFOUR TO MERRY DEL VAL, concerning plan for reorganization of the C.R.B.
FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
6 April, 1917
His Excellency Señor Don Alfonso Merry del Val
MY DEAR AMBASSADOR:
1. In view of certain unforseen difficulties which have arisen in regard to the appointment of the neutral delegates who are to replace the Americans in Belgium and Northern France, I venture to suggest to Your Excellency the following proposals for the reorganisation of the Relief Commission, which I trust will meet with Your Excellency's approval.
2. 1 think we are all agreed that the economic work of the Relief organisation should be carried on by the present executive management without alteration. It therefore seems clear that the existing Commission for Relief in Belgium, under its present management, should remain responsible for delivering supplies to the various terminals in Belgium and Northern France, where they will be handed over to the Comité National and the Comité Français as at present. The accounting and other machinery of these committees would continue on their present basis without alteration. In order to facilitate this accounting and shipping, it is suggested that the Commission for Relief in Belgium should maintain a shipping and accounting office in Brussels, using Belgians or other staff of its own appointment. I understand that the present directors of the Commission anticipate no difficulty in continuing a Belgian staff at Brussels which will be able to carry out these duties and to correspond with the Commission's office at Rotterdam.
3. Your Excellency will observe that this only covers the purely economic activities of the organisation. For the purpose of protecting the Relief and discharging the responsible international work, which is the most difficult and vitally important part of the business, I would suggest that a new committee should be set up under some such name as the "Comité Neutre de Protection du Secours," under the patronage of the King of Spain and the Queen of Holland, the duties of patronage being discharged by the Ambassadors and Ministers of Spain and Holland in Brussels, London, Paris, and Berlin. The functions of this committee will be the maintenance of (1) all undertakings and guarantees given by the various belligerents, and (2) free communication.
4. The first function includes all the guarantees in force in the occupied territory, especially the protection of the Belgians and French employed in the Relief and the enforcement of the German undertakings not to commandeer or export native foodstuffs and to supply fixed quantities of certain commodities to the populations of the Belgian Etappengebiet and the North of France. The Committee would of course have to furnish information, as in the past, to the various governments as to the carrying out of these guarantees, and would have to manage for this purpose the large organisation in Belgium called the Department of Inspection and Control.
5. The second function will include adequate provision for the transmission of the reports of the local committees throughout Belgium, the enforcement of the agreements covering transportation, and the regular transmission of accounts and other documents both inside and outside the occupied territories. The Committee would also have to provide for the issue of safe-conducts for oversea shipping and also for the lighters, etc., in the occupied territories.
6. 1 would suggest that this neutral committee should be headed by two chairmen, one of Spanish and one of Dutch nationality. They might either work together in all matters, or they might each assume special responsibility for one part of the work. In the latter case, I would suggest that the Spanish Chairman might take responsibility for the Belgian "Zone of Occupation" under civil government, while the Dutch Chairman should supervise the Northern part of France and the Belgian Etappengebiet. In any case, they would naturally act jointly in all matters of general policy. It would also be advisable that the Committee should maintain a representative or director in Holland of Dutch nationality and one in England of Spanish nationality to attend to the protective measures. The Committee would also appoint representatives in the United States or other countries as the patrons may find necessary in order to provide adequately for the regular issue of safe-conducts, etc.
7. Your Excellency will, I think, agree that the staff of delegates in Belgium and Northern France should be of both nationalities and should be chosen by the chairmen. They will probably have to be salaried. As the managers of the Commission for Relief in Belgium have in the past set up the standard in their Belgian staff of having no men of mercantile training or affiliation and have chosen their entire staff from men of university, professional, or public service categories, with a view to avoid any possible questions of self-interest, it would seem desirable that the same type of men should be chosen by the chairmen of the new Committee. Indeed, the Dutch delegates already chosen for Northern France are men of this type. The men employed in Northern France must be able to speak German as well as French, and the men in Belgium must all speak French.
8. I feel that the above proposals form the simplest solution of the problems involved in the appointment of new delegates, more especially as, under these proposals, the neutral governments and representatives will be relieved of the very heavy financial responsibilities entailed by the expenditure of the very large sums of money advanced by the Allied Governments. These responsibilities will continue to be borne by the old organisation of the Commission for Relief in Belgium.
9. I am telegraphing these proposals to His Majesty's Minister at The Hague for discussion with the Netherland Government and the Marquis de Villalobar.
My dear Ambassador,
(Signed) A. BALFOUR
DOCUMENT NO. 495
CAMBON TO POLAND, giving French observations on proposed reorganization
FRENCH EMBASSY, LONDON
13 April 1917
On the whole, the project of reorganization arranged by Mr. Hoover with the British Government does not give rise to any objection on the part of the French Government.
Mr. Ribot, however, would prefer for the new Committee another title than the one indicated, for instance, "Comité neutre pour la protection du ravitaillement des pays envahis" [Neutral Committee for the Protection of the Ravitaillement in the Invaded Countries], or "Comité neutre pour la protection de l'oeuvre d'assistance aux pays envahis" [Neutral Committee for the Protection of the Relief Work in the Invaded Countries], the title of "secours" seeming improper. Further, it would seem preferable that the two presidents of the neutral Committee should work in common. It would be of great importance that their relation to the C.R.B. be specified, in order to avoid any misunderstanding in this respect. Also, will not Mr. Hoover's departure bring about a rearrangement of the C.R.B.? Who will be his successor? What has become of the plan of assigning Allied directors to be attached to the Director-General?
The French Government has no other observations to make in regard to the project of reorganization on which it has been approached by the British Government.
DOCUMENT NO. 496
SWISS MINISTER IN LONDON, TO HOOVER, Suggesting the appointment of Swiss delegates in Belgium
SWISS LEGATION, LONDON
13 April 1917
The Commission for Relief in Belgium
MONSIEUR LE DIRECTEUR:
The philanthropic and eminently useful work created by the United States of America for the assistance of the civil population of Belgium and the occupied portions of France has continued, on the spot, since the departure of the American delegates, under a Spanish-Dutch Commission. Without wishing to interfere in the action undertaken by this latter Commission, Switzerland would, however, be very glad to be allowed to co-operate in its work and would attach some value to the fact if four or five delegates of Swiss nationality could be associated with them.
The Spanish Government, approached in this regard, has already replied that they would with pleasure accept this co-operation. The British Government for its part, through the medium of Lord Robert Cecil, whom I met today, expresses a similar opinion. Lord Robert Cecil, however, considers, and I share his opinion, that it would be necessary to obtain the consent of your Commission. I have therefore the honor to request you to inform me if the Commission for Relief in Belgium, for its part, would find any objection to Switzerland's being represented by some Swiss delegates in the membership of the Spanish-Dutch Commission [Commission Hispano-Néerlandaise] at present functioning in Brussels.
Thanking you in advance for an agreeable and if possible immediate reply on this subject, I beg to express, Monsieur le Directeur, the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.
DOCUMENT NO. 497
HOOVER TO MINISTER CARLIN, replying to above
LONDON, 14 April 1917
His Excellency Monsieur Gaston Carlin
Swiss Minister, London
I am in receipt of your letter of the 13th April. So far as the Commission is concerned I should be delighted to have the participation of the Swiss people in Belgium. The situation at the present moment is, however, somewhat obscure as we are endeavoring to create a new committee to be called the Comité Neutre de Protection du Secours, and have suggested that two chairmen should be chosen, to act jointly, one of Dutch nationality and the other of Spanish. As yet its form of organization has not been completed, but as quickly as it is on its feet I will communicate with you and recommend the kindly offer which you have made.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 498
PERCY TO POLAND, quoting substance of telegram from British Minister at The Hague, regarding difficulties in organizing the Spanish-Dutch co-operation in Belgium
FOREIGN OFFICE, 14 April 1917
W. B. Poland, Esq.
DEAR MR. POLAND:
With reference to our conversation on the telephone this afternoon, I should like to communicate to you the substance of a telegram which we have received from The Hague. This telegram was dispatched on April 12th.
The French and Belgian Ministers foresee great difficulties in the smooth working of the proposed scheme for the reorganisation of the Relief Commission. It appears that when the Marquis de Villalobar was at The Hague, he told them that he would abandon the whole business if a Dutch director were appointed, and even showed a telegram from Madrid approving his determination to do so. The proposal that there should be a Spanish as well as a Dutch Chairman ---with which idea the Marquis expressed his concurrence to Sir Walter Townley whilst strongly urging the retention at Brussels of Mr. Gray---seems to have altered the situation.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs at The Hague has chosen a man to be Dutch Chairman who appears to be most unsuitable for the post, and the French Minister thinks it would be better to return to the idea of M. Van Vollenhoven, and suggests the appointment of a Spaniard in London.
I should be very glad to receive your views on this subject at the earliest possible moment.
(Signed) MARY ROBBERDS
(for Lord Eustace Percy)
DOCUMENT NO. 499
HOOVER TO MERRY DEL VAL, Urging that the formation of the Spanish-Dutch Committee be expedited
LONDON, 17 April 1917
His Excellency Señor Don Alfonso Merry del Val
Ambassador of Spain in London
As some time has now gone by since the protection of the Relief inside Belgium was handed over to the total responsibility of the Spanish and Dutch Governments, and as yet no organization has been initiated by these two Governments, I am filled with anxiety for the safety of the whole enterprise. You will recollect that by the communications between His Majesty the King of Spain and Her Majesty the Queen of Holland, it was determined that the two Governments should take over jointly the sponsorship for the Relief inside Belgium. Various plans of organization were projected, and ultimately you will recollect that on our representation all the Allied Governments accepted the principle of simple joint control between the two neutral Governments without intervention from the Allies or from the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which has now become, in effect, a belligerent institution. The lack of restraint in Belgium has already resulted in the abstraction of vast quantities of cattle and in other disturbing factors which fill us with the utmost anxiety. I do feel that the total responsibility and arrangements for execution having been handed over to the two neutral Governments, the delay on their part in having arrived at the appointment of a proper staff, seriously jeopardizes the whole work, and knowing your own keen anxiety in it I take the liberty of again raising the whole question, in the hope that you may be again able to intercede to secure expedition. You will realize that we of the Commission are now entirely helpless in the matter of administration in Belgium and that the whole responsibility to the Belgian people of continuance of their supplies must rest on the Spanish and Dutch Governments, for we will not fail in delivering them to the frontier.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 500
HOOVER TO VILLALOBAR, urging the establishment of the Spanish-Dutch organization
LONDON, 19 April 1917
SPANISH EMBASSY, THE HAGUE
I am directed to come to Washington and shall be leaving soon for that destination. It does appear to me that the critical thing in the Relief is to get Spanish-Dutch protective Committee erected an in operation at once, as the taking of cattle and other evidences of German encroachment on guarantees are causing greatest possible disturbance amongst Allied Governments and it appears to me that you should secure the appointment of a Spanish gentleman of importance and character as chairman, jointly with Dutch gentleman of same qualifications, who will between them select their various delegates and get the machine going in Belgium. We do not wish to impose our views, but think one chairman should deal with Étape and Northern France so as to hold all dealings with staff in one hand, and responsibility of other to deal with Occupation Zone matters of course both under your direction. Gray positively cannot remain beyond May 1st, and in any event negotiations between him and German authorities are wholly irregular, and not countenanced by our Government. I am asking our Rotterdam office to show you copy of letter which I despatched to Ambassador Merry del Val. Generally if our ships are not torpedoed and if the interior guarantees are adhered to and an adequate protective organization is created in Belgium, there is no reason why the Relief Commission should not go on; in fact, its finance, food, and shipment possibilities are much improved by probable entrance of American Government into its financial affairs. It will be impossible for me to substantiate the Commission with the American Government who must in future furnish its finance, shipping, and foodstuffs, unless we can point to a sound and solid organization replacing C.R.B. inside Belgium. It seems to me that you, knowing the whole background of this work, are the only person who can solve the difficulties in present emergency, and that all negotiations with various parties outside your leadership are practically wasted owing to entire lack of understanding of the difficulties and requirements.
DOCUMENT NO. 501
VILLALOBAR TO HOOVER, replying to above and stating agreement with Hoover's proposals
THE HAGUE, 23 April 1917
Thanks your telegram, with regrets not seeing you now. Deeply sorry Gray cannot remain, but after your manifestation and my conversation here with Sir Walter Townley give up hope keeping him in Brussels and have wired to Madrid asking His Majesty's Government send adequate Spanish Director, who I hope will be able to take up work with Dutch Director within ten days. Meanwhile I beg you leave in Brussels Gray for a few days longer only, as I think it most convenient for sake everything and your own advantage that he should personally show their duties to both new directors. Your statement United States Government to find finance, food, and shipment pleases me greatly and is the best assurance for new arrangement organization. I am fully convinced that we shall be able to continue and secure all present guarantees from German authorities. Rotterdam office has given me copy of your telegram and I beg to state that if directors have not yet been appointed by neutral Governments it is due to desire hold Gray in Brussels, as we considered that your own man was the most efficient person to continue work. I have handed to Sir Walter Townley for yourself and information Foreign Office copy of German answer to my plaint and your telegram to me in reference to last boat torpedoed in order that it reaches you sooner. Thanks for confidence you kindly place my good-will and anxiety for this work of relief. You may heartily count upon it, but nothing can be accomplished without you. Therefore I am sure that you will never fail to maintain the relief of this unfortunate country of Belgium that feels so indebted to your genius, your activity, your constant attention and interest.
By the end of April most of the details of the new neutral committee had been settled and the Spanish and Dutch delegates were taking up their duties in Belgium and Northern France. Poland, the Commission's Director in London, who carried on the negotiations after Hoover's departure for America, drew up a statement of the duties of the new organization (eventually named Comité Hispano-Néerlandais pour la Protection du Ravitaillement de la Belgique et du Nord de la France) vis-à-vis the Commission, the Comité National, and the Comité Français, and this was approved by the British, French, Belgian, and German Governments. Gray remained in Brussels long enough to instruct the Spanish and Dutch representatives in the work which they were to perform. By the first of May all the Americans were out of Belgium and the Commission's Brussels office in charge of Baetens was in full operation.
DOCUMENT NO. 502
POLAND TO HYMANS, announcing the Spanish and Dutch officials of the new committee
LONDON, 28 April 1917
His Excellency Monsieur Paul Hymans
Belgian Legation, London
As you have undoubtedly been advised, Mr. J. E. Roura has been appointed Spanish Director of the new Comité de Protection du Ravitaillement, London. He will have offices at No. 3 London Wall Buildings.
We are just advised that Jhr E Michiels van Verduynen has been appointed Dutch Director Holland. He is Under Secretary at the Dutch Foreign Office and our Rotterdam office consider the choice most fortunate.
Señor Don Pedro Saura, formerly, I believe, in the Spanish consular service, Berlin, been appointed Spanish Chairman Brussels. He is assisted by Señor Buylla and several other Spanish subjects.
Herr Langenbergh, formerly attaché at the Dutch Legation in Brussels, has been appointed Dutch Chairman.
You have further already been advised that a number of Spanish and Dutch delegates have taken on their work in Belgium and France replacing the American representatives who have retired. It therefore appears that the new neutral committee is being. placed on a satisfactory basis to take over the protection of the ravitaillement in the invaded territories.
(Signed) W. B. POLAND
The full name of the new Committee is:
Comité Hispano-Hollandais pour 1a Protection du Ravitaillement de la Belgique et du Nord de la France.
Identical letters to:
Sir Hugh Daly, Foreign Office
M. Roger Cambon, French Embassy.
Copy to: H.E. Merry del Val
DOCUMENT NO. 503
GRAY TO FRANCQUI, outlining the functions of the various departments of the reorganized relief machinery
BRUSSELS, 25 April 1917
Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation
Attention of Mr. Francqui
At your suggestion, and in order to place upon a firm footing the relation of the various committees occupied with the ravitaillement of Belgium, I beg to set forth our ideas of the plan of reorganization which is made necessary by the recall of the Americans in Belgium
In order to secure efficient neutral governmental support of the relief in Belgium, a new committee has been formed called "Comité Neutre pour la Protection du Ravitaillement." This committee shall be under the direct patronage of the Spanish and Dutch Governments, or their Ambassadors and Ministers, and shall have two chairmen resident in Brussels, one Dutch and one Spanish, with Dutch and Spanish delegates in the provinces and districts.
The Dutch chairman shall have special charge of the Belgian Étape and Northern France, while the Spanish chairman shall have special charge of the General Government in Belgium. These two chairmen shall co-operate on general policy, and shall settle, in conjunction with their Patron Ministers, the distribution of their subordinate staffs. This committee shall also maintain a Dutch Director in the Rotterdam office of the C.R.B. and a Spanish Director in the London office of the C.R.B., who will act as intermediaries in all negotiations with the German Government.
The functions of the "Comité Neutre pour la Protection du Ravitaillement" shall be to carry on the Bureau of Inspection and Control; to insure the faithful carrying out of the guarantees given by the contracting governments upon which the relief in Belgium rests; and to assist the national, provincial, and local committees when requested to do so.
The Comité National and the Comité pour le Ravitaillement du Nord de la France shall have exclusive control over all questions of accounts, rations, and distribution of imported foodstuffs. The present departments of the C.R.B. of Milling Control, Clothing, Statistics, and Automobiles shall be conducted hereafter by the Comité National.
The Commission for Relief in Belgium will continue the purchase and shipment of foodstuffs for Belgium and Northern France. They will continue the management and control of the New York, London,. and Rotterdam offices and the shipment of imported merchandise to lighter and rail terminals in the Belgian provinces and the French districts.
The C.R.B. will appoint a representative in Belgium who will be responsible to them for the proper conduct of these affairs. He shall receive from the provincial delegates of the C.N. or of the C.F. receipts for the delivery of merchandise at the above-mentioned terminals, whereupon the responsibility of the C.R.B. shall cease. These goods shall be delivered in such proportions and at such places as indicated by the C.N. The representative of the C.R.B. shall send the division lists, upon which these deliveries are based and which he shall receive from the C.N., to the Rotterdam office of the C.R.B. He shall co-operate with the C.N. in all matters appertaining to his department, such as exchange of accounts, settlement of bills of lading, etc.
Carrying out this program the Commission for Relief in Belgium has today addressed a letter (copy attached) to Mr. Fernand Baetens, appointing him as their representative in Belgium, effective from May 1, 1917.
We have also addressed a similar communication to His Excellency the Marquis de Villalobar and to Mr. van Vollenhoven and have asked them, as well as yourself, to signify their approval.
Very sincerely yours
(Signed) P. N. GRAY
DOCUMENT NO. 504
POLAND TO CAMBON, with an outline of the functions of the C.R.B. and the Comité de Protection under the new arrangement
LONDON, 1 May 1917
Monsieur Roger Cambon French Embassy, London
DEAR MR. ROGER CAMBON:
In accordance with your request, I send you herewith a memorandum outlining what we conceive to be the functions in Holland and the occupied territories of the Commission for Relief under the new arrangement, also the operations of the new Comité de Protection and its relations to the various governments and the work of the Commission. We have purposely made this rather brief---possibly you will think not brief enough. Undoubtedly, much liberty should be left to the new neutral body. On the other hand, if some fairly definite plan is not presented as approved by the interested governments, we fear that the different ideas which the various important personages concerned will have may result in almost endless discussion and lack of immediate efficiency. It is therefore suggested that if this outline meets with the approval of the French Government, in accord with the British Government, to whom I am sending a similar draft, you will present same to the Belgian Minister as the plan approved by the Governments of France and Great Britain and request that same be forwarded for the information of the Comité National. I would suggest that it also be sent to Minister Loudon, at The Hague, and to the Spanish Ambassador, London.
Will you keep us posted as to your action so that we may in turn send the necessary advice to our Director in Holland?
(Signed) W. B. POLAND
Director in Europe
FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
The Rotterdam office of the C.R.B., following instructions transmitted by the London office from the interested governments, will determine the distribution of imports as between Belgium and the occupied territory of the North of France.
Commodities will be forwarded by the Rotterdam office of the C.R.B. consigned as heretofore to the C.N. or to the C.F., care of the C.N.
The Chief Representative of the C.R.B. in Brussels will continue, as at present, in accord with the C.N. and the C.F., to make reports through the Rotterdam office to the Director for Europe in London, concerning all matters in connection with the transportation and distribution of these commodities.
Financial accounts and statistics in connection with these shipments will be handled by the Brussels and Rotterdam offices of the C.R.B., and transactions will be reported as at present through the Rotterdam office to London.
The distribution of C.R.B. imports from the first unloading point within the occupied territory to final destination, will be handled, as at present, by the Provincial and District Committees of the C.N. and the C.F.
The responsibility for the protection of these imported goods, from the moment they cross the Belgian frontier, will rest with the Comité Hispano-Hollandais pour la Protection du Ravitaillement.
ORGANIZATION AND FUNCTIONS OF THE COMITÉ DE PROTECTION
1. The Comité Hispano-Hollandais pour la Protection du Ravitaillement (hereinafter designated the Comité de Protection) will have, within the occupied territories, two Chairmen---one Dutch and one Spanish---resident in Brussels, and a requisite number of representatives attached to the Brussels office and to the various provinces and districts.
2. There will be a Spanish Director resident in London and a Dutch Director resident in Holland.
3. A general Department of Inspection and Control will be maintained at Brussels, on the same basis as heretofore by the C.R.B.
4. The provincial and district representatives will be members of all provincial, district, regional, and local committees within their territory. Thus they will be in touch with the processes of distribution down to the ultimate consumer. They will report weekly to the Department of Inspection and Control on all cases of violations of the guarantees of the occupying authorities as to imported goods or native foodstuffs and also to the chairmen on other matters connected with the ravitaillement.
5. The expenses of the members of the Comité de Protection and its office expenses will be paid on vouchers submitted to the chief representatives of the C.R.B. in Brussels, or to the C.R.B. Director in Rotterdam, or to the C.R.B. Director for Europe in London, on the basis heretofore established for members of the C.R.B.
1. The Comité de Protection is responsible for the safeguarding of the supplies forwarded by the C.R.B. at Rotterdam from the time they cross the Belgian frontier until they have been actually distributed to the civil populations of the occupied territories. It is responsible for the suppression of all illicit traffic in commodities imported under the guarantees. Together with its Patron Ministers it is in general responsible for the carrying out of the several guarantees and undertakings of the interested governments as regards the ravitaillement.
2. Should there occur any violation of the guarantees given by the occupying authorities, the Comité de Protection is responsible for calling the attention of the proper authority to the incident in question, either directly through its chairmen or through its Patron Ministers.
3. It is particularly expected that the Comité de Protection will act with the C.N. and the C.F . in all negotiations with the occupying authorities in regard to any matters which naturally concern the ravitaillement and secours.
C. Reports to Be Presented by the Comité de Protection
1. It will be the office of the chairmen of the Comité de Protection to prepare weekly reports as to the protection of imports, the distribution of native products, the faithful execution of the guarantees of the occupying authorities and any protests presented or negotiations entered into concerning them. These reports will be forwarded through the director of the Comité de Protection in Holland to its director in London. The director in London will present copies of these reports to the London office of the C.R.B., to the British Government, and to the diplomatic representatives of France and Belgium in London. The director in Holland will also furnish copies of these reports to the director at Rotterdam of the C.R.B.
2. It is also expected that the chairmen, being, with their Patron Ministers, the general protectors of the ravitaillement, will, from time to time, in accord with the C.N. and the C.F., furnish the C.R.B. and the governments interested, with their reports and recommendations as to the general conditions and needs of the people of the occupied territories.
DOCUMENT NO. 505
SIR EYRE A. CROWE TO C.R.B., LONDON, regarding the approval of the outline given above
FOREIGN OFFICE, 19 May 1917
The Commission for Relief in Belgium
With reference to your letter of the 1st instant, which enclosed a copy of a letter of the same date to the French Embassy, and of a memorandum outlining the functions of the new Committee at Brussels, I am directed by Lord Robert Cecil to inform you that the memorandum has been transmitted to the Spanish Ambassador and the Netherland Minister, as accepted by the British, French, and Belgian Governments, and with a request that it may be communicated to the Spanish and Dutch Chairmen of the new Committee.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient, humble,
(Signed) EYRE A. CROWE
DOCUMENT NO. 506
ZIMMERMANN TO POLO DE BERNABÉ, SPANISH AMBASSADOR AT BERLIN, stating the German Government's approval of the new arrangements for relief
BERLIN, 15 June, 1917
To His Excellency M. Polo de Bernabé
Spanish Ambassador at Berlin
In reply to the letter which Your Excellency was good enough to address to me on the 31st May last, Belgian Affairs No. Reg. 3198, I have the honor to inform you that the Governor-General in Belgium has given his assent to the propositions contained in the note concerning the organization of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the new "Comité Neutre pour la Protection du Ravitaillement," which Messieurs the Protecting Ministers addressed to the Baron on von der Lancken Wakenitz on the 1st May last.
Please accept, Your Excellency, etc., etc ......
DOCUMENT NO. 507
POLAND TO SIR HUGH DALY, regarding final decisions of governments concerned in respect to the patrons of the new committee
LONDON, 12 July 1917
Sir Hugh Daly
The Foreign Office, London
DEAR SIR HUGH DALY:
Confirming my recent conversation with you, I beg to advise that the slight difficulty in regard to Patrons of the Committee for Protection has now been adjusted. You will recall that there was some objection on the part of the Dutch to having the Spanish Minister at The Hague a joint Patron with the Queen of Holland. However, this has all been adjusted by withdrawing the Spanish Minister as Patron and also withdrawing the Jonkheer de Weede at The Hague, leaving as Patrons the Spanish Minister and the Dutch Minister Resident in Brussels, and the Spanish Ambassador and the Dutch Minister in London as the only active Patrons of the Committee. We have been advised that the King of Spain and the Queen of Holland have accepted the patronage of the Committee, but we assume that this is in an honorary capacity and that they should not appear upon letterheads, et cetera.
(Signed) W. B. POLAND
Director for Europe
4. The C.R.B. and United States War Administration. January-October 1918
Once established, the Spanish-Dutch Committee performed with devotion and skill the duties which devolved upon it in respect to belligerent guarantees and negotiations with the Germans.(347) On its part the Commission continued its established status and functions of finance, purchase and shipping at Rotterdam, London, and elsewhere without change, except that the Chairman was in Washington, where he was able to perform particularly valuable services for relief in meeting the problems of finance, shipping, and food.(348) In the face of a world shortage of ships and food and the increasing demands growing out of America's military effort, there were repeated insistent suggestions that in order to save the cause of the Allies from disaster the program of relief should be curtailed. Thanks to Hoover's position and influence in the councils of the Allies and the American Government these suggestions were never carried out, and Belgian and French relief received equal priority with war requirements. The documents which follow indicate various means employed by Hoover to guard the interests of relief through this period which in the economic sphere was the most critical of the war.
DOCUMENT NO. 508
HOOVER TO FRANCQUI, describing certain food problems and the relation of the C.R.B. to the Food Administration
WASHINGTON, 24 January 1918
MY DEAR FRANCQUI:
I am greatly obliged for your letter of late November.
Our situation when we started the Relief, was one of anxiety only as to finance; later on we added the anxiety of shipping, and now we have to add another and even greater anxiety than either of the other two---and that is the food supply.
As to the first, the American Government, at my solicitation, agreed to raise the total advances for Belgium to $9,000,000 a month, and to Northern France, to $6,000,000 a month. This was made conditional upon certain sums provided by the French and English Governments. Some confusion has arisen as to the total sum of money to be raised, which I think can be cleared up. One has to bear in mind with regard to all these advances that they cannot be considered by the Governments as loans in a normal sense of probable repayment; they are practically absolute gifts to this great purpose. Furthermore, in these desperate times repayment at a thousand per cent could not compensate for the drain on national resources in furnishing such moneys.
In the matter of shipping, by one device or another we have managed, during the last few months, to get sufficient to keep the minimum ration moving. On the other hand, so many international interests supervene which delay the shipping, that it is impossible to calculate in advance any longer a precision in arrivals; nor is it possible to take an amount of shipping out of the world's total that would give a satisfactory margin of safety.
In the matter of foodstuffs, the exportable balance of wheat from America is exhausted. We have not the shipping to go to more remote markets, and all of the grain sent to Belgium is now the result of repression in consumption in the United States. You will be astonished to realize that I am now putting the American people on a practical rationing of many of the commodities most urgently needed in Europe, with a view to saving from our consumption a sufficiency to carry the Belgian Relief and to provide their essential foods.
As my department practically controls the despatch of foodstuffs from the United States, you may be assured that the Belgian Relief will have full priority in shipments. It is not possible that we can choose the exact character and condition in which foodstuffs will arrive. We must load whatever character of food we may have available at the time, and therefore you may expect to receive some shiploads of flour, some shiploads of corn, and some shiploads of wheat, but we will try to make up a total quantity sufficient for you to struggle through.
The Commission for Relief in Belgium has an office next door to mine in this department and is a matter of constant solicitude. You and I thought from time to time, in years gone by, that we had overcome almost overwhelming difficulties I am afraid the difficulties ahead of us are even greater, but I believe by virtue of the position which I now hold that solution will be found. I am confident that were it not for the influence I am able to exert from this position, the Relief would long since have broken down. The next six months are the most difficult period that we will have to face, because every indication promises enormously increased production from the United States both of food and ships, all of which will be realizable in the last half of this year.
I cannot speak too highly of the single-minded devotion which Messrs. Poland, Honnold, Brown, Gray, Rickard, and Shaler still give to the management of the Relief work after all these years. Positions much more attractive from a public point of view have been offered to these men, and the constancy with which they are giving this service without profit to themselves is beyond any experience that I have hitherto had in dealing with men.
I trust that you and your people may keep good courage. All that is humanly possible is being done for Belgium, and I believe that something near the present program will be carried out without failure.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 509
HOOVER TO HEMPHILL, proposing the appointment of the Grain Corporation as agent for the C.R.B. in purchase and shipment of foodstuffs
WASHINGTON, 27 June 1918
A. J. Hemphill, Esq., Chairman
Guaranty Trust Company, New York City
MY DEAR MR. HEMPHILL:
We have, for a long time, been having a large amount of discussion leading to the formulation of plans for co-ordination of our port handling and railway traffic, together with overseas shipment of foodstuffs. As a step in this co-ordination we have decided that the Food Administration will undertake the purchase, and convey to seaboard and storage, all cereals and cereal foodstuffs from the United States. It will thus become the sole dealer in foodstuffs for export and it will deal with exporters at the wharf and warehouse along the seaboard.
The effect of this will be a much better management of our storage and dock facilities, the ability to load ships from every source from stocks without necessity of any one shipper awaiting the arrival of special purchasers.
I am anxious that the Belgian Relief shall have a complete preference in this situation and I believe we could kill two or three birds with one stone if we constituted the Food Administration Grain Corporation as the agents of the Belgian Relief; that corporation to handle the Belgian Relief shipping and all export foodstuffs. The method would be for the Belgian Relief to make a deposit with the Grain Corporation to cover operations. The Grain Corporation would take charge of the loading and purchase and would furnish at periodic intervals an accounting to the Relief Commission. The Relief Commission would furnish to the Grain Corporation a program and place at its disposal the necessary shipping, and the Grain Corporation would practically do the rest. This would involve the transference of some departments of the Relief to the Grain Corporation.
In order to make matters smooth, I have had Honnold down and discussed the matter with him during the last day or two, and I would be glad if you and your colleagues would consider the whole project.
The Belgian Relief will be on practically an identical basis with other exporters of foodstuffs from the United States, and if we take this above step we make it absolutely sure that the Belgian Relief has priority not only on purchases but priority on berthing of ships, etc., etc., as it will be the spirit of the Food Administration to see to that end. What is more, I feel that it gives the Government a little further commitment to the Belgian Relief and I think it will ease up financial arrangements with the Treasury.
You understand of course that the Grain Corporation operates without profit and its large-scale operations will in the long run result in great economics for the Belgian Relief.
I have discussed the detailed arrangements with Honnold to show how it would work out from an organization point of view, and he will take it up with you.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 510
HOOVER TO FRANCQUI, reviewing measures taken to insure the continuation of the full Belgian program
WASHINGTON, 3 October 1918
Monsieur Emile Francqui Brussels
MY DEAR FRANCQUI:
I was greatly pleased to receive your letter of early September. The situation of the Belgian Relief is a matter of anxiety at all times, but more particularly during the past six months. The movement of the gigantic American Army of three and one-half million men into Europe and the coincident necessity to feed the Allies from the United States has ofttimes introduced into the councils of all the governments the query as to whether the Belgian Relief should be sacrificed to the greater aim of the ultimate liberation of Belgium. I am happy to say that although decisions were taken adverse to us by practically all of the governments,(349) at one time, we did, by concerted action of all of the friends of Belgium, secure a reversal of this policy.
By the conditions which we succeeded in introducing through the American Government into the negotiations for Swedish tonnage, we have had assigned to us 200,000 tons of dead-weight shipping, not otherwise available in the war zone, thus placing us in a position of comparative security. In order to accomplish this, however, it was necessary for me to undertake the sacrifice of such imports as sugar and coffee into the United States in an amount that would equalize the situation. The effect of this has been loyally borne by the American population in the feeling that they were making a direct sacrifice to the Belgian people, and the small sugar and coffee allowances which the American people are receiving today are constant reminders to them of this sacrifice.
Except through such stipulations as I have made in negotiations with Holland as to the employment of their idle tonnage, there is but little hope of increasing our fleet at the present time. We have introduced every device that we could invent for the speedier operation of the boats and thus their greater aggregate carrying capacity. I have taken over the purchase of all Belgian Relief supplies and the loading of the boats by the Food Administration in order that we can give a very practical and effective priority to these ships over all other food ships, thus materially reducing delays in loading.
I have some hope that within five or six months the American ship-building program will have reached dimensions with regard to certain types of ships, that the negotiations we have instituted for the purchase of these ships from the American Government will bear fruit, and that the program will become a little more assured after that date.
The present cost of the Relief is running into huge sums, and we have, for the present at least, settled the financial necessities by the undertaking of the American Government to pay for the materials purchased in the United States on condition that the French and British Governments pay for the shipping charges of such foodstuffs as may be purchased in Europe. The food situation of the world is of course such that there is now but little hope of securing their foodstuffs otherwise than in the American market. Certain commodities obtained through England are no longer open, and it throws a rather larger load on our fleet to make the journey, than hitherto when we were obtaining some supplies from other sources.
While our harvests in North America this year are much better than last in the matter of wheat, they are much poorer in corn, and for that reason I am, for the present, substituting wheat for corn in the program, as I have the feeling that the greater food values will be obtained through wheat than through corn, despite the dislocation as to minor questions.
I am suggesting to the various governments that we directly import into Belgium oils from this country for the manufacture of soap.
I hope you will take opportunity to convey my sympathy and feeling to all those in Belgium and the devotion which the whole of the American people feel to their cause.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
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