In the preceding chapters there have been only incidental references to that phase of Belgian relief which at the time was most widely known---the world-wide campaign for public support of the relief enterprise, and the donation of funds, food, and clothing. The various institutions and groups co-operating with or organized by the Commission collected over $52,000,000, an unprecedented accomplishment in the mobilization of charitable contributions. This very considerable sum, though it constituted only a little over five per cent of the total expenditures of the Commission, represented an exceedingly important contribution to the success of the work. It provided invaluable support before government subsidies were granted and indicated the strength of the world-wide moral support of the undertaking, which was an important factor in securing government assistance. This public support, which was of the utmost value to Hoover in his difficult negotiations with the belligerent governments, had its foundation in the knowledge of the conditions in Belgium and the Commission's objectives, broadcast through the newspaper and periodical press. It was greatly strengthened by the actual participation, in the relief campaign, of thousands of individuals identified in one way or another with over 4,000 committees associated in the Commission's appeal for Belgium.

In the organization of this appeal for general support of relief Hoover established certain general policies which were followed by the Commission throughout its life, and later by the American Relief Administration during the post-war reconstruction period. First, a definite program was announced based on the needs as reported by competent investigators, and in relation to resources available locally or from other sources. When conditions in respect to needs or resources changed, a new program was formulated on the basis of a resurvey of the situation.(395)

Second, the Commission's appeals through the press and the co-operating committees consisted of statements of the ascertained need of relief, free from hysterical exaggeration; of the program to be undertaken; of what had been accomplished and the methods employed. In its public statements, as in its work in Belgium, the Commission observed the strictest neutrality except in this, that it steadfastly championed the interests of the Belgians who were the innocent victims of the war.

Third, the Commission made no attempt to dictate to the co-operating committees the methods they should employ in their solicitation of support. There were, altogether, over a hundred principal committees dealing directly with the Commission, with nearly 4,000 regional subcommittees. Seventy-five thousand persons as members of these committees or of the Commission itself were actively engaged in the mobilization of public support of relief. These collaborators represented many nations and races. In the British Empire the National Committee for Relief in Belgium, founded in April 1915, co-operated with existing committees or organized new ones in various parts of the Empire and turned over its receipts to the Commission. There were national or regional committees in the Argentine, in Italy, Spain, China, and elsewhere, having a similar relation to the C.R.B. In the United States, in addition to independent groups and institutions, the Commission secured the organization of committees in each state which maintained a direct contact with the New York office of the C.R.B.

Fourth, the Commission asked for and received volunteer service which constituted an enormous contribution to the relief, the value of which cannot be computed. This contribution included not only the services of men of wide experience and ability in the various departments of the Commission's activities, from the Chairmanship down and on the committees, but also the concessions and special privileges granted to the Commission by railway, steamship, telegraph, insurance, brokerage, and other business firms all over the world. The distinguished services which the Commission was able to command in all the spheres of its activity are in a great measure responsible for the success of its operations, and specifically they are responsible for the fact that overhead and administrative expenses were less than one-half of one per cent.

Fifth, the Commission employed the economic and efficient methods of large-scale business operations with careful and detailed accounting for all contributions for relief from every source.(396)


1. The First Appeals for Belgium. August-October 1914

In August, as soon as the outside world became aware of the first tragic effects of the invasion on the Belgian people, many movements were started to bring aid to the refugees driven before the German advance. Thousands of these helpless people were received with solicitude in Holland, France, and the United Kingdom,(397) and the news of their plight stimulated charitable contributions from all over the world. Belgian diplomatic and consular officers encouraged the work of committees organized for this first phase of Belgian relief. Count de Lalaing and M. Havenith, the Ministers at London and Washington respectively, were particularly active; and energetic committees, principally in the British Empire and America, contributed substantial sums to the central committee, the Belgian Relief Fund, which had been founded under Belgian diplomatic auspices and was supported by the Belgian Government. In the early months of the war many refugee and emergency problems were met through sums supplied by the Belgian Government out of this fund, but until the formation of the Commission in October 1914 no recognized channel existed through which the growing distress in Belgium within the German lines could be alleviated. The Commission for Relief in Belgium thus came on to the scene in the midst of considerable though unco-ordinated charitable activity for Belgians. In organizing the solicitation of support during the first few months of its existence the Commission sought to direct the Belgian relief efforts already under way toward the distress inside the German lines; to co-ordinate relief enterprises whose objectives already were the mitigation of suffering among the poor in Belgium; and to stimulate the organization of new agencies of appeal toward this end.

Distinct from the activities centralized in the Belgian Relief Fund a few individuals and groups, principally in North America, made an early start in the collection of funds and food which eventually reached Belgium through the Commission's organization. Among these was "The Millers' Belgian Relief Movement." As early as August 1914 Mr. W. C. Edgar, editor of the Northwestern Miller, began a campaign to secure gifts in kind or money to send a cargo of flour to Belgium.(398) In September 1914 the Christian Herald of New York established the "Christian Herald Fund" for the benefit of the "widows and orphans of the war in Europe" and in October contributed the funds so collected toward the purchase of food for Belgium.(399), The first gift cargo(400) actually to reach Belgium from overseas sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and reached Rotterdam on the S.S. "Tremorvah" on the 15th November 1914. The publicity and appeals incident to the formation of the Commission spurred the efforts of existing committees in the United States, and leaders in philanthropy established new committees. The Belgian Relief Fund in New York began an energetic campaign for food and money, and other communities formed similar organizations. On the 1st November the Rockefeller Foundation announced its intention of engaging in war relief work in Europe and of immediately sending shipments of food to Belgium. The Foundation proceeded to buy food, charter ships, and dispatch cargoes, arranging also to furnish warehouse space and transportation for the Belgian Relief Fund of New York.

While these many appeals were being made, Hoover and his associates in London and the American diplomatic representatives in Great Britain, Belgium, and Germany were securing from the belligerents the guarantees which made relief in Belgium possible. The issues involved in these transactions and the position of the Commission as the sole channel through which supplies could be sent into the occupied territories were not, of course, generally understood, and the impression prevailed in America that the Commission was merely a London committee under Page's direction to forward supplies to Belgium. The American committees naturally did not send their contributions to the new Commission, but shipped their supplies to the American Embassy in London, the Legation at The Hague, or the Consulate at Rotterdam. The early public statements of the Commission were designed to clear up this confusion first by bringing pressure on the State Department to authorize American sponsorship of the enterprise, and second to make known the purpose of the Commission, and its position vis-à-vis the belligerent authorities, the Belgian distributing organization, and the American diplomatic officers.



TO THE AMERICAN PRESS entitled "Feeding Brussels Depends on U.S."

LONDON, 6 October 1914

It has been put up to the State Department at Washington to decide whether 1,500 tons of provisions shall be shipped from England to Brussels for the scores of thousands of needy persons there.

Millard K. Shaler, an American, representing the Brussels Relief Committee, of which Brand Whitlock, the United States Minister, is the leader, is now here with funds to make the purchase. But the British Government is unwilling to permit the exportation unless it obtains some assurance that the provisions will not fall into the hands of the Germans.

Accordingly, the Government there states that if America assumes full responsibility and the goods are shipped from the American Embassy in London to the American Minister at Brussels, each package being clearly marked, the exportation will be permitted.

The Belgian Legation here so informed Ambassador Page today. Mr. Page communicated the facts to Washington, and is now awaiting a reply.

Mr. Shaler, who has been pressing the matter for more than a week, says the situation in Brussels is genuinely desperate, thousands of citizens needing food. Mr. Whitlock, who is taking the keenest interest in the matter, is the honorary president of the relief committee.



HOOVER TO THE AMERICAN PRESS, recommending that all American committees raising funds for Belgian relief should combine into one Commission

LONDON, 14 October 1914

Mr. Herbert C. Hoover, Chairman of the Relief Committee, interviewed today concerning the generous American efforts to alleviate the distress among the Belgians, expressed the opinion that unless the application of funds thus raised be under the direction of persons familiar with existing conditions in Belgium there will be inevitably an overlapping and a great waste of energy and money.

"All the American relief workers should combine into one Commission," he said, "which should embrace all the American committees already established in Belgium and in London."(402)



TO THE AMERICAN PRESS outlining the plan of organization of the proposed Commission

LONDON, 17 October 1914

There has been initiated here and referred to the Government at Washington a comprehensive scheme for the organization of an American Committee with the purpose of taking over the entire task of furnishing food and other supplies to the civil population of Belgium, so far as American relief measures are concerned, under the official supervision of the American Government.

Ambassador Page has referred the proposal to President Wilson and also to Brand Whitlock, Minister to Belgium, who, with Mr. Page, would head the committee.

It is believed that such a committee would furnish a solution of he exceedingly important and difficult problem of getting supplies to Brussels, for Washington could undoubtedly get sanction from all governments concerned, thus arranging for the best facilities for shipments. If supplies were shipped under the official protection of America, trouble from belligerents who might fear diversion of the supplies to other belligerents' armies would be obviated.

The further great problem of getting the Belgian refugees to return to Belgium would be simplified. Under the present circumstances thousands of refugees fear to return to cities held by the Germans. If they could go back under American protection they would doubtless gladly do so.

The committee would also systematize the expenditure of the Belgian relief funds now being gathered in America.

Mr. Page has consulted H. C. Hoover, head of the American Relief Committee here, which has done such valuable work. Mr. Hoover would be one of the leading members of the committee, which would so include prominent Americans in Brussels.

Under official auspices the supplies, which Belgium sorely needs, could be shipped direct from America to Belgium, avoiding the necessity of obtaining export permits from London, and thus saving much time.

The need of some such organization, having official support, is amply illustrated by the fate of the plan of the Relief Committee in Brussels, which Mr. Whitlock heads, for the purchase of supplies here for shipment to Brussels. A month ago M. K. Shaler left Brussels to purchase 1,500 tons of food. He has been here for three weeks waiting for permission to make shipments, which the British Government refuses unless the supplies go under an American diplomatic guarantee. It is understood here that Washington has referred the matter to Berlin, which fails to give an answer.

In the meantime the situation in Brussels grows desperate, while Mr. Shaler, with plenty of funds for purchases, waits for authority to make shipments.

It is considered here vitally necessary that Washington press Berlin for a guarantee of immunity of shipments against seizure.



HOOVER TO THE AMERICAN PRESS, describing the organization of the C.R.B., its co-operation with the Belgian committee, and the immediate need of emergency relief

LONDON, 22 October 1914

At a meeting at the American Embassy today of all who are concerned in Belgian relief, including Emile Francqui and Baron Lambert of the Belgian committee, the organization of the American commission was completed. In addition to Ambassador Page and the American Ambassadors at Brussels and The Hague the Spanish Ambassadors at Brussels and London joined the commission as honorary chairmen.

The commission consists of Herbert C. Hoover, who was head of the American refugees' committee in London, chairman; Daniel Heineman of Brussels, vice-chairman; Mr. Graff of the American relief committee, treasurer; Millard K. Shaler, who came to London as representative of Minister Brand Whitlock, and Mr. Hulse of Brussels, secretaries. J. B. White is to have charge of the purchase and exportation of foodstuffs. Captain Lucey will have charge of the Rotterdam office.

Other members of the committee are Messrs. Hunsiker [of London] and Gibson of the American Legation at Brussels, Mr. Rickard, and the American Consuls at London, Antwerp, Brussels, Ostend, Liège, and Ghent. The commission will have an office in each of these cities, as it is intended to assist in provisioning all Belgium. It will co-operate fully with the Belgian committee.

Food to the value of $250,000 already has been bought in the name of Ambassador Page and Minister Whitlock, and arrangements have been made to begin its distribution to the local Belgian branches on October 26. The commission has received considerable sums in addition to the various Belgian funds.

Operations in the market today revealed that owing to Great Britain's demands the food stocks here may not be depleted. Because of the restrictions on the exportation of food it is extremely difficult to find even emergency provisions here, and supplies from America are even more imperatively needed than was originally expected. The difficulties become more embarrassing in view of the insistent requests received by the commission today for the expeditious despatch of the supplies already obtained.

The supplies available at the relief stations in Brussels Monday were believed to be sufficient to last until Saturday, and these were available only because a certain quantity of wheat was received from Antwerp. That source is now exhausted. The commission learns that the food supply at Charleroi is exhausted and that the people are subsisting entirely on potato soup.

A representative of the relief committee at Liège arrived here today to make representations of the urgency there in consequence of the non-arrival of supplies. It is obvious that with the scarcity of foodstuffs in Holland it is impossible to get supplies on that side for more than emergency service. A stream of supplies must be started from America if the Belgians are to be saved from famine.

The commission emphasizes that it is essential that supplies be sent by neutral ships, arrangements having been made with Great Britain that such shipments will not be interfered with in entering the ports designated by the commission. Germany has given ample assurance to the American Legation at Brussels that the importation and distribution of food to the civilians in Belgium will not be interrupted.



AMBASSADOR PAGE TO SECRETARY OF STATE, WASHINGTON, announcing for the guidance of American committees that the Commission is the only agency for Belgian relief

LONDON, 26 October 1914

To the Secretary of State, Washington

Your 389, October 24. The Commission of Belgian Relief working under diplomatic guidance of Spanish Ambassador here and myself has written assurance of the German military commander of Belgian territory held by the Germans that food sent them by this Commission will not be confiscated. So far as I know this assurance has not been given to anyone else who may send food., No food can be exported from England or Holland, but the Netherlands Government has given this Commission permission to distribute food, landed at Rotterdam through our agents, to people in Belgian territory. Since food cannot be bought on this side of the world, American committees should not send money but should confer with Hoover, Chairman of this Commission, care of this Embassy, regarding what kind of food to send and how to ship it. Commission has agents in every neighborhood in Belgium. It has in fact taken charge of practically all grocery stores. Money sent will be of no use. Food sent except through Commission may never reach Belgium or be confiscated.



2. The Organization of American Support. October 1914-February 1915

Having secured the basic diplomatic guarantees, the Commission began at once to broaden and intensify the appeal for public support of relief by encouraging the creation of new committees and by collaboration with and co-ordination of the work of existing groups through an office of the Commission established in New York in November 1914. In order to bring new committees into activity Hoover urged friends in America and elsewhere to take the lead in their localities in the mobilization of support for relief. Telegrams were sent to state governors asking them to appoint committees or otherwise aid the campaign. Committees independently organized in October 1914 in Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Nebraska promptly associated themselves with the Commission. In November the states of California, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Oregon completed their organizations; Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina followed in December, and early in 1915 other states---Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington. Up to the middle of January thirty-six states had contributed through state organizations. By way of stimulating the state campaigns, the Commission arranged to preserve the identity of these contributions by "state" ships, the cargoes of which were entirely or largely contributed by a state or groups of states.(405)





1914 December S.S. "Camino" California
  December S.S. "St. Kentigern" New York
1915 January S.S. "Industry" Pennsylvania
  January S.S. "Hannah" Kansas
  January S.S. "Harpalyce" New England
  January S.S. "John Hardie" Maryland
  January S.S. "Lynorta" Virginia
Literary Digest
  January S.S. "Washington" Washington
  February S.S. "Wabana" Louisiana
  February S.S. "Cranley" California
  February S.S. "Helena" Georgia
North Carolina
South Carolina
  March S.S. "Harpalyce" New York
  March S.S. "Strathfillan" Maine
  March S.S. "Lynorta" New England
  March S.S. "Gienshiel" Missouri
  April S.S. "St. Kentigern" Pennsylvania
  April S.S. "Strathgyle" New England
  May S.S. "St. Cecilia" Canada
  October S.S. "Pontoporos" Connecticut
1916 January S.S. "Celebes" Pittsburgh and
Western Pennsylvania
  February S.S. "Lindenhall" Indiana

With the spread of the relief campaign in the United States the Commission's New York office, set up in November 1914, rapidly became a very busy and important establishment. The fact that the Commission was the only agency authorized by the belligerent powers to deliver relief to Belgium, and Hoover's announcement that the Commission would pay all freight charges on food contributed in America (406) made the New York office responsible for arranging the transportation(407) of all gifts in kind and for the purchase and forwarding of supplies made possible by cash contributions. The extent of these operations necessitated the establishment of agencies in the principal markets and ports of America.

Another important function performed by the New York office was the preparation and distribution, to the press and co-operating organizations, of information relative to Belgian conditions and the progress of relief. The first public statements of this character issued by Hoover in London, notably his appeal of the 31st October(408) quoting King Albert's message asking for support of the Commission, were fully and prominently carried in the press. Requests for copy came from all parts of the United States from editors who were eager to aid the cause of relief and who recognized the news value of the Commission's activities. The Press Department of the New York office, under the direction of Will Irwin,(409) instituted daily and weekly news releases to papers and press associations and prepared pamphlets and handbooks for the use of the committees in the field. Weekly and monthly publications(410) carried articles on Belgian relief, and both magazines and newspapers donated advertising space for appeals for contributions for which the Press Department furnished the copy. The primary purpose of the campaign through the press was to bring in contributions to the numerous collecting committees. A secondary purpose was the mobilization of general support of the whole relief enterprise.

One of the most effective appeals for Belgian relief was the "Famous Authors' Service" conceived and instituted by Irwin in co-operation with Goode in the New York and London offices of the Commission. Stories contributed by well-known authors(411) were syndicated and for over three months these stories formed a serial appeal in the leading papers of America.

Effective not only from the point of view of general publicity but in actual contributions were the campaigns carried on, in collaboration with the Commission, by individual publications. Among these were the "Queen of the Belgians Fund" and the "Belgian Flour Fund" organized and managed throughout by magazines which turned the proceeds into the channels of Belgian relief through the Commission. The first mentioned was an appeal to the women of America through the columns of the Ladies' Home Journal running for the months of January to March 1915, featuring a signed letter(412) from Queen Elisabeth. The "Belgian Flour Fund" was instituted by Mr. R. J. Cuddihy of the Literary Digest on the 28th November 1914. Contributions(413) by the readers of the Literary Digest were prompt and generous and from all over the world.



HOOVER TO MRS. HOOVER, CALIFORNIA, giving information regarding Belgian needs and urging her to interest prominent people in their home state and on the Pacific Coast in sending state relief ships

LONDON, 26 October 1914

Mrs. Herbert Hoover
Alaska Commercial Building
San Francisco

Over one million people on bread line in Belgium at present moment with supplies estimated to last from one to three weeks. While we are securing some supplies here for emergency purposes real situation cannot be met without direct exports from states and we shall require upwards of twenty thousand tons foodstuffs monthly. Can you interest Anderson, Newhall, Hopkins, Lindley, Crocker, Grant, other prominent San Franciscans to present shipload food from California. If California will give us the foodstuffs we will pay freight and insurance. We should like five portions wheat, three portions beans, two portions peas, with bacon if obtainable. Must be shipped in neutral bottom consigned to us Rotterdam. Believe McNear would arrange shipping. Edgar has cabled him. If there is Belgian Relief Committee in California should co-operate. We want food not clothes as this is question starvation and Belgians can clothe themselves for the present. I can think of no greater contribution to this occasion of world's stress than a food ship from California and if possible one from Oregon and another from Washington. It might be pointed out that our Commission is largely Californian and that we should have support of our own state. Could also make same claim as to Oregon in my connection.




HOOVER TO W. J. CHALMERS, CHICAGO, urging him to stimulate collections in Chicago

LONDON, 27 October 1914

Care Ashland, Chicago

The Belgian National Relief Committee in Belgium in desperation securing food supplies for their people have appealed to America procure and arrange for transportation and guardianship of foodstuffs in Belgium. American authorities have arranged for the necessary protection of various combatant powers and it has been put to us to organize this relief. We have at the request of the American Ambassadors in Europe formed a Commission for this work and are anxious to secure the co-operation of local committee in the principal centers of the United States. I would be glad to know if you would associate yourself with this effort and surround yourself with men of standing in Chicago as a branch of this committee who could undertake our work in that center. An English friend of ours has cabled to Samuel Insull, Edison Buildings, Chicago, asking his assistance and would suggest you ask him co-operate with you also secure cooperation of any local Belgian relief committees. There are one million persons at present on bread line in Belgium and what we need is absolute food, not clothing. It is our feeling that the grain market of Chicago should present us, in the name of Chicago, with one or more cargoes, these to be composed of wheat, beans, peas, and as much bacon as possible. Shipments must be in neutral bottoms consigned to us in Rotterdam. We should like to be able to announce to world that Chicago is contributing the first cargo. Would like immediate reply as to whether you can personally interest yourself in this effort.

Chairman American Commission for Relief in Belgium



HOOVER TO LINDON W. BATES, NEW YORK, requesting him to help in the formation of the New York section of the Commission and outlining his proposals to set up subcommittees throughout the United States

LONDON, 28 October 1914

Lindon W. Bates
New York

Will you help me Belgian Relief New York section. See Sidney Ball. . . . I am proposing to set up subcommittees principal points in States to collect and ship food. I believe we will be able to raise necessary money from relief funds in Europe to pay for freight and insurance. If you will interest yourself I will send you any, necessary cables of authority.




HOOVER TO BATES, stating the desirability of working through existing committees if possible but also stating the impossibility of refusing the direct aid of friends

LONDON, 30 October 1914

Lindon W. Bates
New York

We are having very considerable amounts of money from various parts of the United States. Although we do not wish to conflict with existing Belgian relief committees the position we are confronted with is so critical that we cannot refuse to accept offers of local friends and others to work on our behalf. Think it probable work through existing machinery so far as possible. Would like you to see the principal Belgian relief committees in the States and ask them if they will agree to receive deposits which may be sent by our friends, such deposits to be held by them to our order and which we will devote to the absolute purchase of food in the United States. Matter is urgent.




HOOVER TO THE AMERICAN PRESS, in which he quotes a message from King Albert and asks the American newspapers to open subscriptions. He states the needs as 80,000 tons each month and sets the charitable funds necessary as $2,500,000 monthly

LONDON, 31 October 1914

Albert, King of the Belgians, has asked the American people through the American Commission for Relief in Belgium to help feed his starving people during the coming winter.

The King's message, written under fire in the battle in Belgium, follows:

"I am informed that American officials and citizens in Belgium and England are working to save my people from the horrors of the famine which now threaten them. It is a great comfort to me in this hour of sorrow and misfortune to feel that your great-hearted, disinterested people is directing its efforts to relieving the distress of the unoffending civilian population of my country.

"Despite all that can be done, the suffering in the coming winter will be terrible, but the burden we must bear will be lightened if my people can be spared the pangs of hunger with its frightful consequences of disease and violence.

"I confidently hope that the appeal of the American Commission will meet with a generous response. The whole hearted friendship of America shown my people at this time always will be a precious memory.


The American Commission for Relief in Belgium is an official body recognized by the various Governments for the transmission of foodstuffs into Belgium. It is the only channel through which food can be introduced into Belgium, and by its association with a committee in Belgium, has the only efficient agency for the distribution of food within that country. H. C. Hoover, Chairman of the Commission, which has headquarters in London, makes the following appeal to all American newspapers:

7,000,000 TO FEED

"We have received reports from members of this Commission who were sent into Belgium. They have the assistance of the National Committee of Relief and its branches throughout Belgium, together with the help of the American Ministers and Consuls and local officials. Their reports show that there are still some 7,000,000 people in Belgium. In many centres the people are receiving an allowance of a little more than three ounces of flour per capita daily.

"This is not a question of charity or relief to the chronic poor; it is a question of feeding an entire population. The situation affects the wealthy and well-to-do as well as the poor. It touches every home in Belgium. Our experts calculate that in order to avoid actual starvation Belgium must have every month a minimum of 60,000 tons of wheat, 15,000 tons of corn, 5,000 tons of peas or beans, and a limited amount of bacon or lard.

"This will allow rations of ten ounces per capita daily, which is about half the usual soldier's ration. All this will cost $4,000,000 or $5,000,000 monthly. There is no money in Belgium. The whole credit machinery has ceased. Eighty per cent of the people are unemployed.

NEED $2,500,000 A MONTH

"A plan may be devised whereby such Belgians as possess property may give obligations to pay when the war ends, but even if we could realize on these obligations we must still have at least $2,500,000 monthly in food or money with which to buy it. That these figures are no exaggeration is proved by the fact that Belgian imports in normal times average 230,000 tons of cereals monthly; this, together with its own production, which, with accumulations, is now exhausted.

"During the past week we have received and expended in emergency food $600,000, and yet this is only four days' supply. The problem is immediate. The Belgians are helping themselves, but they can do little. The British and French are under such strain that they also can do little. Besides, these nations, together with the Dutch, have a million refugees on their hands. Americans must feed Belgium this winter. There never was such a call on American charity, and there never was a famine emergency so great.

"This committee and its distributing agency, The Belgian Committee, is composed entirely of volunteers, and every dollar represents actual food, without any organization expenses. It is our earnest hope that all funds raised for Belgium relief in the United States will be translated into actual food and shipped through the Commission.

"Will you, therefore, in the interests of humanity, open a subscription among your readers, ear-marked, 'For the Sole Purpose of Purchasing and Transporting Food.' Every dollar so raised will be used to purchase food in the United States. Information as to what centres and what relief agencies in the United States will undertake the purchase and dispatch will be cabled later."




29 October 1914

I have learned with gratification of the noble and effective work being done by American citizens and officials on behalf of my stricken people. I confidently hope that their efforts will receive that ungrudging support which we have learned to expect from the generous womanhood of America.

We mothers of Belgium no less than the mothers of America have for generations instilled in our children the instincts and the love of peace. We asked no greater boon than to live in peace and friendship with all the world. We have provoked no war, yet in defence of our hearthstones, our country has been laid waste from end to end.

The flow of commerce has ceased and my people are faced with famine. The terrors of starvation with its consequences of disease and violence menace the unoffending civilian population---the aged, the infirm, the women, and the children.

American officials and citizens in Belgium and England, alive to their country's traditions, have created an organization under the protection of their Government and are already sending food to my people. I hope that they may receive the fullest sympathy and aid from every side.

I need not say that I and my people shall always hold in grateful remembrance the proven friendship of America in this hour of need




HOOVER TO MRS. LINDON BATES, NEW YORK, asking her to undertake the formation of a women's organization in America

LONDON, 31 October 1914

Mrs. Lindon Bates
New York

The American Commission for Relief in Belgium which has been set up officially by the American Ambassadors to execute their international agreements for the provisioning of Belgium and which embraces American Ambassadors as honorary chairmen, the American Consuls and American residents of England and Belgium as members, would like to have you undertake the formation of a great group of American women who would support us in securing food or money for the Belgian people. It is certain that the entire population of seven million are on the verge of famine and that eight thousand tons of cereals per month is the absolute minimum upon which body and soul can be kept together and this provides a ratio of but ten ounces per capita per diem. The situation is one of the greatest gravity. We have sent an appeal to the American press to open subscriptions for our purposes all of which subscriptions we want translated into actual foodstuffs from the United States. We would be grateful for the help of yourself and all those women who rightly should come to your support.




415) asking them to interest themselves in the collection of food for Belgium and suggesting the possibility of furnishing state ships

LONDON, 2 November 1914

The Governor of Kansas

Would you be good enough to interest yourself in the critical situation which exists amongst the people in Belgium to the extent of either through official agencies or through the creation of some committee for the purpose to collect foodstuffs or money within your State on behalf of these people, such foodstuffs to consist of cereals, bacon or ham. It would be a matter of great gratification if the people of your State could furnish one or more shiploads of foodstuffs to be known as the Kansas ships. If you could see your way to take in hand this beneficent work we will use every influence we can bring to bear to have handed over to you all the funds subscribed within your State for Belgian relief that they may be translated entirely into foodstuffs. We can arrange for the reception of such food on the Atlantic seaboard and its transportation and distribution in Belgium.

Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium



HOOVER TO W. C. EDGAR, regarding the latter's plan for collecting a shipload of flour

LONDON, 3 November 1914

William C. Edgar
Northwestern Miller
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Your letter of October twenty-first to Mr. Page has been handed to us. There is no more practical and humane effort which could be undertaken than the provision shipload food for the Belgian people in this hour of their misery. This Commission will be delighted to take charge of such ship and distribute its cargo into hands of the most efficiently organized local relief committees in Belgium which are operating under the protection of members of this Commission. Before arrival of your letter we had cabled the Governor of Minnesota asking him secure the organization of such an effort within that State. Would you kindly communicate with him so that such beneficent efforts may not overlap.




HOOVER TO STATE GOVERNORS, asking them to assist in the collection of money for Belgium

LONDON, 9 November 1914

Would you be good enough to interest yourself in the critical situation which exists amongst the civil population of Belgium to the extent either through official channels or through the creation or stimulation of some existing channel, of making collection in your State on behalf of these people. All such monies will be devoted by this Commission to the purchase of foodstuffs in the United States and this Commission has been endowed with a fund for the sole purpose of paying for the transport of such foodstuffs to the people of Belgium so that every dollar secured will be represented by actual food.

Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium



HOOVER TO BELGIAN MINISTER, WASHINGTON, suggesting procedure to make effective the desire of the Belgian Government that gifts collected by committees, with which the Minister was associated, should be forwarded through the Commission

LONDON, 3 November 1914

His Excellency, The Belgian Minister Washington, D.C.

We are advised from the Belgian Minister of Finance that his Government had expressed the wish to you that all funds collected by the committee with which you are associated in the United States should be devoted exclusively to the purchase of foodstuffs through and in co-operation with this Commission, we in turn delivering such foodstuffs in the hands of the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation. We have direct offers of foodstuffs and money from many committees and local bodies throughout United States. It is our desire to prevent overlapping and we should like to suggest to you that as a matter of practical work you should hold the funds at your disposal subject to our recommendation as to their application so that they can be used to supplement various local funds and supplies thus enabling us to concentrate upon complete cargoes and thus facilitate clearance and delivery. We should be glad if you could advise us of the approximate amount of the funds which you have available. The New York Belgian Relief Committee has undertaken to contribute 150,000 dollars towards a cargo costing approximately 300,000 dollars. We would be glad if you could appropriate 150,000 dollars to complete this cargo, in which case would you kindly remit it to Messrs. DeForest and Ryan, Purchasing Subcommittee of that organization, New York. Also we have other instances of same character now developing. Address




BELGIAN GOVERNMENT TO THE BELGIAN MINISTER, WASHINGTON, instructing him to forward gifts collected by committees with which he is associated through the Commission

LONDON, 19 November 1914

His Excellency, The Belgian Minister Washington

Comité National Secours in Belgium, very important Belgian body in Brussels, agreed to and subsidized by me, has as executive agent The Commission for Relief in Belgium---President, Hoover---organized with great efficiency and devotedness under protection of neutral states, purchases and transports for the Comité. This Commission chosen by American and Spanish Ambassadors is strongly supported by them. Think desirable that whilst respecting initiative try have transport and distribution Belgium centralized as much as possible through Commission and Comité National specially organized for that. Each American group, especially Rockefeller, should purchase with their funds, leaving care transport into district depots of Comité National to Commission Hoover which disposes funds for transport and has obtained from German authorities guarantees for free passage and nonrequisition. Only means of securing methodical adequate distribution for needs different districts which meet with enormous administrative and material difficulties. Understand a modus vivendi arranged between Rockefeller Foundation and Bates representing Commission. Encourage all efforts in view of combined action being indispensable. Have appointed Chevalier Carton de Wiart to represent me on London Commission. If necessary communicate with him care Legation London.





PAGE TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT, requesting that the Governor of Iowa be informed that the Commission is the only agency for forwarding and distribution of relief

LONDON, 6 November 1914

Secretary of State

1015. Please telegraph following to Governor of Iowa. At Chamberlain's(418) request I give you following information.

The Commission for Relief in Belgium is the only agency that has machinery for distribution of food in Belgium. It has the benefit of complete diplomatic arrangements made with all belligerent governments by American Ambassador and Ministers and Consuls in Holland and Belgium and written guarantee of German military governor of Belgium that food will be permitted to pass all boundaries and will not be confiscated. The Commission distributes all contributions made by governments and food sent from all neutral countries. It works with the only committee in Belgium for local distribution in every community. No cargo safe unless properly shipped and consigned. All shipping directions given by Hoover, London Chairman of Commission, three London Wall Buildings. Commission commands me to express heartfelt thanks.




WM. H. CROCKER TO HOOVER, regarding proposed gift cargo from California

SAN FRANCISCO, 7 November 1914

Herbert C. Hoover

Large public meeting today Merchants' Exchange. Speakers Bishop Hanna, Bishop Nichols, Mayor Rolph, and others. Over one hundred thousand dollars cash and produce pledged. Entire State enthusiastically working. A shipload of food supplies assured from California early shipment . . .




HOOVER TO BATES, instructing him to organize a New York office of the Commission to handle shipping and transport questions, and to co-operate with existing charitable committees

LONDON, 11 November 1914

Lindon Bates
New York

We have definite assurances ample funds payment transport all foodstuffs offered us any center in world to Belgium. Will you, McCarter, Will Irwin and, if agreeable, J. B. White, open for us office New York to handle shipping and transport questions from that end much on lines laid down your cable. We wish avoid overlapping existing committees in soliciting money but offer all agencies free transport for any foodstuffs they provide and stimulate collection actual foodstuffs all centers. It is most desirable have express railway companies agree collect deliver free seaboard. If desirable can get American Express officials this side put it up strongly their organization. We propose put on regular weekly steamers and for your confidential information we have large funds with which supplement any failure of charity. You need engage competent staff arrange warehousing and we will mutually arrange shipping. If you agree we propose to announce it is not our policy to enter field for collection moneys already covered by local organizations, our one desire being place our machinery for free transport foodstuffs in close cooperation all existing organizations and persons desirous presenting food and have opened office New York this purpose. We consider our press propaganda is doing fine service in stimulating results to all Belgian relief organizations. Have no desire whatever to manage their business or take their credit. Have single idea delivering food into Belgium merely and not dream about it. November second on Ambassador's approval we telegraphed every governor asking him create or stimulate local organizations collect food transportation of which we undertake free. Ships to be named after various states. This appeal created most gratifying responses. One critical fact evident from every quarter is that West and Middle West will not be dominated by or filter through the Red Cross, the New York Relief Committee, or Rockefeller Foundation. If these organizations wish to co-operate closely with us we shall be delighted. They cannot enter Belgium without us. Psychologically we can produce more food by strong punch of cable from scene of action than any amount appeals New York. We wish keenly co-operate with the New York Committee and we especially wish co-operate Rockefeller Foundation. Have offered them right nominate member Commission at this end and in New York. Am informed will have no difficulty coming to co-operative arrangements on arrival of their representative here. Do not mention our large resources as it would dry rills of charity. Will Irwin will devote entire time our propaganda. Is best press agent in world. He will communicate with you and would attach himself New York office and should go to work stimulating our Governor and newspaper funds for collecting actual food. We would propose you add other useful persons to your members New York to be mutually agreed by us. All of you to be actual members this Commission appointed by the American Ambassadors Europe.




BERT, POTTER & HUGHES, LONDON, TO NORTON, LILLY & COMPANY, NEW YORK, contributing their services to the Commission without remuneration

LONDON, 13 November 1914

Norton, Lilly & Company
New York

We have informed American Commission for Relief in Belgium that you will act as their shipping agents in New York without remuneration.(419) We are undertaking same duties in London.




Extract of letter,(420)
HOOVER TO FRANCQUI, giving a résumé of the position in America

LONDON, 14 November 1914

Emile Francqui, Esq.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The following résumé of the position in America may interest you.

We have carried on, with the assistance of practically the whole of the American press, an enormous propaganda on the subject the Belgian people. We have cabled to all associations of whom we could hear, stimulating them as to position. We have cabled to the governors of every state asking them to see that such an association was set up in their territory and we have so far the following results:

The Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco, at the instance of my wife who happened to be there, has collected money with which they have purchased actual foodstuffs to the amount of 5,000 ton and have chartered the ship "Camino" which sails November 30th for Rotterdam.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce are in progress with the provision of a cargo, and as friends of ours were raising a fund in the state of Idaho we have asked these people to combine to ensure large ship full.

In the state of Oregon we have a good friend at work but at present can report no definite results.

In the state of Kansas, Ex-Governor Stubbs has inaugurated an active campaign for the collection of foodstuffs and is organizing an efficient committee for taking the matter in hand.

In the state of Iowa Mr. Chamberlain is organizing a complete cargo of maize which is the chief product of that state.

In the state of Minnesota Mr. Edgar, the editor of a trade journal called the Northwestern Miller has got the millers in the northern part of the Mississippi Valley all hard at work and he assures us that he will secure at least 9,000 tons of flour and is making the first shipment from Philadelphia about the end of November.

The Philadelphia Belgian Relief Committee in co-operation with the Ladies' Home Journal (for which paper we obtained an autograph letter from the Queen of the Belgians to further the appeal) have already despatched on the 11th November to us the S.S. "Thelma" carrying 2,900 tons of cereals.

The Rockefeller Foundation has despatched the S.S. "Massapequa" carrying 4,000 tons on November 4th and we have bought a cargo of 4,000 tons which is being shipped on the S.S. "Terschelling" which sailed from New York on the 11th November.

The people of Nova Scotia have already landed in Rotterdam the steamer "Tremorvah" carrying about 2,100 tons of foodstuffs and a lot of clothes. They have now despatched the S.S. "Bankadra" which sailed from Halifax on the 13th instant with 3,000 tons.

The people of Ottawa, Canada, are despatching approximately 4,000 tons at an early date.

The New York Relief Committee are presumably despatching a cargo at an early date, and we have organizations getting on definitely in Spain, Italy, British Columbia, North Carolina, Maine, and Virginia.

We have opened an office in New York and have advised the American public generally that our New York office will undertake the free transportation of foodstuffs into Belgium.

We are taking some steamers on time charter for regular trips across the Atlantic, and we are expecting to supplement the irregular supplies of gift food by purchases to keep these steamers employed.

We have organized a Women's Division of the American Commission in New York and have the co-operation of all of the women's clubs and societies in the United States, and tomorrow they are issuing an appeal to all of these club members to get on pushing food into the hands of the local organizations.

In our London office we are conducting three Commissions: i.e., the American Commission the Spanish Commission, and the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation; and we expect to have the Italian Commission launched next week. We combine representatives of all of these Commissions into the general organization which we style simply "The Commission for Relief in Belgium," which is dealing with all of the minor points of international complexity.

We have secured the assistance of the two largest shipping firms in England, and they have agreed to handle the whole of our shipping problems for absolutely no cost whatever for commissions or agency charges or anything of that nature, and they have placed one of their most expert men in our office and at our elbow. In like manner we have secured the voluntary services of one of the largest food firms dealing on the Baltic, who are giving us their services on exactly the same terms. We have thought it much better that we should not only take the expert advice and the responsible management of such agencies as this but also it affords some measure of protection to us which might not exist if we endeavored by our own individual effort to arrange such matters as charters and food purchases. These gentlemen have taken the greatest possible interest in the work which we are endeavoring to do and are giving us most extraordinary services.

As an indication of such services you will realize that under the terms of the London Shipping, Food, and Insurance Exchanges these people cannot operate without charging commissions, but they are in this case making subscriptions to our funds of amounts equivalent to such commissions.

Yours faithfully




HOOVER TO THE "LITERARY DIGEST," regarding the "Belgian Flour Fund."

LONDON, 9 January 1915

The "Literary Digest"
New York

Have noticed splendid response of your readers to appeal enormous sufferings of Belgians. I earnestly urge you to continue your efforts. If you could send one hundred thousand barrels instead of twenty thousand it would be infinitely welcome. The situation is an appalling one.




HOOVER TO EX-GOVERNOR W. R. STUBBS, conveying the gratitude of Belgium for the gift relief cargo from Kansas.(

LONDON, 6 February 1915

W. R. Stubbs
Topeka, Kansas

I am asked to convey to the people of the State of Kansas and to yourself the heartfelt gratitude of Belgium for the magnificent generosity they have displayed to a suffering nation. The Kansas cargo of relief, which arrived in the nick of time, has already been distributed in the Provinces of Antwerp, Brabant, East and West Flanders, Hainaut, Liège, Limbourg and Namur. Ex-Congressman Scott accompanied some of the flour to Brussels. The situation remains acute and if the supply of food is diminished Belgium will starve. We know that Kansas never turned a deaf ear to a people in distress.

Chairman, Commission for Relief


3. Public Support from the British Empire and Elsewhere. 1914-1918

It was not until the spring of 1915 that Hoover took steps to organize a central committee for the mobilization of support of Belgian relief in the British Empire. In the meantime, however, the facts of the situation in Belgium and the formation of the Commission under the auspices of the American and Spanish Ambassadors in London were given wide publicity in the British press, and British citizens, despite the many calls of local charities, contributed considerable sums to the Commission. At the outset the British Government gave £100,000, and this official indication of approval of the neutral committee for Belgian relief encouraged the public to follow suit. In November the Belgian Government handed over to the Commission £100,000 drawn from the Belgian Relief Fund, whose resources were largely contributions from the British Empire and America. As has been mentioned, the first gift cargo to arrive in Rotterdam came from Nova Scotia and others shortly followed(422) the results of widespread activity throughout Canada. In December 1914 the Belgian Minister in London turned over to Hoover a check for £60,000, the first substantial contribution for the Commission from Australia and New Zealand and the forerunner of a series of generous gifts from Australasia which continued during the war. By April 1915 the Commission had received over £750,000 in charity from British Empire sources and in addition committees, both self-constituted and inspired through cables from the Commission's London office, were sending in contributions from Holland, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, China, and elsewhere.

To centralize the appeals throughout the British Empire the Commission in April 1915 decided to ask a number of men prominent in English public life to raise funds for the charitable side of its work, and the National Committee for Relief in Belgium(423) was the result. This Committee took over from the Commission the stimulation and collection of charity from British Empire sources. Differing from the policy adopted in America, donations of cash(424) were requested and the response throughout the British Empire was magnificent.(425)



HOOVER TO GELASIO CAETANI, requesting him to aid in the formation of an Italian Belgian relief committee(

LONDON, 6 November 1914

Signor Gelasio Caetani Rome

We have now decided make Commission to Belgium international. Spanish Ambassador has joined as one of our Honorary Chairmen and is giving us active diplomatic and financial assistance from Spain. I would like to have a meeting to discuss with you question of joining Italians to this effort which has now reached gigantic proportions as it is going to be a problem of feeding entire population.




HOOVER TO HALIFAX "MORNING CHRONICLE," describing Belgian situation and appealing for continued Canadian contributions

LONDON, 2 December 1914

The "Morning Chronicle" Halifax, Nova Scotia

Commission for Relief in Belgium composed of representatives United States, Italy, Spain acting under authority all belligerent Governments desire express their appreciation Canada's magnificent response to Belgium's cry of distress.... Thousands of tons of supplies, including those brought by the "Tremorvah" have already been distributed, but every mail brings pitiful requests for assistance from small and large Belgian villages where the misery of the people is accentuated by the shortage of food, the lack of fuel and the spectre of famine. To supply the actual necessities of the seven million people remaining in Belgium reliable authorities estimate that eighty thousand tons of foodstuffs a month will be required throughout the winter. What most needed are wheat, flour, corn, corn meal, beans, peas, potatoes, biscuits, bacon and money. The freight and all shipping expenses on every cargo of such supplies will gladly be paid by the Commission for Relief who will also pay all expenses incurred in the actual distribution of the supplies in Belgium. Canada with her great resources is in a splendid position to help She as a already done much but we do not hesitate in these appalling circumstances to ask her to do more.




DE LALAING TO HOOVER, enclosing £60,000 from New South Wales, Queensland, and New Zealand

21 December 1914


I have very great pleasure in enclosing a cheque for £60,000---representing contributions from New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand to the Belgian Relief fund.

The donors expressed the wish, through the Agent General for New South Wales, Hon. Sir T. A. Coghlan, that this sum should be employed to alleviate distress in Belgium through the medium of the United States Embassy, so I forward it to you as Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

Yours sincerely

(Signed) LALAING



HOOVER TO DE BRUYN, requesting assistance in forming Argentine committee(
427) for Belgian relief

LONDON, 19 January 1915

Casimiro de Bruyn
Buenos Aires
Argentine Republic

This Commission ... was formed to carry out an international agreement with the belligerent powers, permitting the supply of food to the seven million people still in Belgium, who are absolutely destitute of foodstuffs except through the efforts of this Commission. ... We have had most generous support from American, Spanish, Canadian, Australian and Belgian peoples but we fear we have taxed these sources to their uttermost limit. Furthermore the supply of foodstuffs from these quarters now being rapidly exhausted. We are therefore compelled to turn to Argentine in hope that from their bountiful harvest they will help. We have been recommended to consult you as to best manner this work could be undertaken, and we have in mind the creation of strong Argentine Committee who would be represented this Commission.... We earnestly ask your advice and counsel. Cable Hoover, Chairman Commission for Relief in Belgium.



of Appeal(
428) C.R.B. TO AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, for continued support to Belgian relief

LONDON, 19 February 1915


In the name of seven million Belgians, still in Belgium and unable to help themselves, we appeal for help to Australia and New Zealand. Faced with a situation from which there is no escape, deprived of liberty and freedom, the Belgians only ask for enough bread to keep themselves alive.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The people of Australia and New Zealand have set the world a magnificent example by the aid which they have already contributed. But more, much more is needed. To keep the body and soul of the Belgian nation together £1,125,000 must be provided every month.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In the midst of patriotic support of Empire, in the turmoil of war, the people of Australia and New Zealand have magnanimously proved that their eyes and hearts are open to the misery of Belgium. With the chivalry of a virile young nation they have spontaneously come to the support of the little race that has almost been wiped from its historic place on the map of Europe. Had it been otherwise we should not have ventured to make this appeal. Now we are emboldened to ask for still greater efforts, still more organised assistance, because we believe that Australia and New Zealand only measure their activities by the emergency which confronts them and are able to overcome difficulties which might well shock an older people into tragic inactivity.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Will the people of Australia and New Zealand give £75,000 a month or food equivalent to that amount? We appeal in confidence to a people who have so lately proved that bravery in war is not inconsistent with a tender, grateful heart.


Chairman, Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation, Brussels

Chairman, Comité National, Brussels

Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium, London




On April 27th, 1915, the first direct appeal was made to the United Kingdom through the medium of the National Committee for Relief in Belgium, which, at the suggestion of Mr. Hoover and with the approval of His Majesty's Government, I had the honour to organise, The Lord Mayor of London, as Chairman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Bourne, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the President of the Free Church Council, the Chief Rabbi, the Duke of Norfolk, Lords Lansdowne, Rosebery, and Bryce, Mr. Arthur Henderson, M.P., and Mr. John Redmond, M.P., with Mr. A. Shirley Benn, M.P., as Hon. Treasurer, and myself as Hon. Secretary, signed the first call issued for help in England. The Belgian Minister in London was an honorary member of the National Committee, which was formed not only to provide money then required desperately by the C.R.B., but to act as a central depository for all benevolent contributions from the British Empire and to co-ordinate activities already existing. Those who signed the first appeal nominated the following representatives to act on their behalf as an Executive Council:

MR. A. SHIRLEY BENN, M.P., Deputy Chairman
MR. W. A. M. GOODE, Hon. Secretary

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

His Majesty King George inaugurated the National Committee's fund with a donation of 9500 on April 27th, 1915, and subsequently duplicated this amount. The Queen, Queen Alexandra, and other members of the British Royal Family also gave generous support. The total collected from April 27th, 1915, to June 1st, 1917, solely from the British Empire, was £2,411,222 18s. 2d. To this must be added £52,203 collected in New Zealand and now held by the New Zealand High Commissioner to await requirements; £44,000, collected on behalf of the National Committee in New South Wales, but handed to the King of the Belgians by the Premier of New South Wales after June 1st, 1917; and £25,308 12s. 10d. collected for the National Committee by the Canadian Committee, and held to purchase foodstuffs in that Dominion at such time as the Commission may need them. The total, therefore, raised by the National Committee for Relief in Belgium, solely from British sources, during the twenty-five months of its active existence was £2,532,734 11s., or an average of over £100,000 per month.


4. The Reorganization of American Support. May-August 1915

During the autumn and winter months of 1914-1915 while the appeals for public support were being made, Hoover was engaged in the negotiations by which in the spring of 1915 he secured monthly subsidies for relief from the Allied Governments.(429) The sums thus received assured a financial foundation for the relief and the Commission could look ahead with some confidence toward supplying a portion of the needs of Belgium. The sums advanced, however, were not only inadequate to cover the full requirements but were in the nature of exchange, in that the relief organization had to turn back, to specified channels, equivalent fund within Belgium. In order to accomplish this, food bought with subsidies in gold was sold in Belgium to those who were able to pay, and the paper money thus accumulated was applied through the relief organization to liquidate state indebtedness such as pensions, doles to state railway workers, etc. support of state institutions, separation allowances, etc. To be sure a vast number of individuals who would otherwise have been completely destitute were thus enabled to pay for their rations, but there existed a large and growing number of destitute who were entirely outside this circle. These were entirely dependent upon the charity of the world and it was for them that the Commission continued to appeal.

The situation was misunderstood in America(430) largely through the unfortunate wording of some independent announcements in the American press which led the public to believe that the entire responsibility for Belgian relief had been shouldered by the Allied Governments.

There were, moreover, other reasons for a slackening in public interest in relief. Independent committees and magazines which had set definite objectives in their campaigns either relaxed their efforts or terminated their activities on a closing date previously announced. The torpedoing of the "Lusitania"(431) and the consequent crisis in relations between Germany and the United States completely absorbed the interest of the American public. In the circumstances there was no opening for arousing interest in Belgian relief, and the Commission, whose existence as a neutral organization hung in the balance during the diplomatic crisis,(432) adopted a passive policy as far as benevolence in America was concerned. With the settlement of the "Lusitania" incident the Commission set about to strengthen its position in America by establishing on a permanent basis a country-wide organization comprised of state committees with subcommittees in counties and towns. As a result of this reorganization dormant or overlapping committees were replaced by a permanent, decentralized C.R.B. structure through which the entire public could be reached.



BATES TO HOOVER, suggesting that since Allied Governments had subsidized the Commission the time had come to discontinue appeals for charity

NEW YORK, 19 April 1915

Hoover London

Having regard to statement on authority of Consul to publication yesterday of large orders by the Belgian Government, to Foundation decision,(433) and to vastness of food problem, believe time near or has come in behalf of all whose generosity has been invoked and which has enabled the situation to be bridged to put the future responsibility squarely up to all the warring nations. The question imminent is how far it is fair and proper to continue appeals in this and other neutral countries. The fall and winter conditions warranted and demanded world humanity; such may properly continue to be invoked only if, and as long as such conditions endure, but as these disappear or governments assume or become capable of carrying the burden, such appeals should cease through appreciative announcement ending them considerately and wisely in few weeks, say June 1st; but keeping what is a noble nation-wide organization intact as possible against the hour of future emergency to this country or another. The Commission's mechanism of course must continue to be the purchasing and forwarding and distributing medium.






HOOVER TO BATES, agreeing to suspend appeals in America only temporarily and planning a vigorous campaign for charity in the autumn

LONDON, 20 April 1915

Lindon Bates New York

Many reasons why cannot abandon benevolent side. Must bear in mind governmental support only operates as matter of exchange and therefore does not provide for the destitute. We hope for sufficient benevolent support for the present from appeals to be made here next week also my feeling is present results America not commensurate with cost and effort of ourselves and friends and feel that if we simply suspend effort in America without any public announcement of any kind thus giving a period of quiescence in our demands it will allow recuperation and arm us most strongly for renewed vigorous campaign next autumn if situation unchanged. Obviously cannot close appeal way you suggest while appealing other countries. In any event destitute always with us.




HOOVER TO A. J. HEMPHILL, describing the methods of operation of the Commission's provisioning department, the misunderstanding of which in America had depressed the results of charitable appeals

LONDON, 1 June 1915

A. J. Hemphill, Esq.
Commission for Relief in Belgium, New York


Many thanks for your letter of May 21st.

I quite sympathize with the feeling that our publicity may develop conflicting results.

The articles which you sent me did not originate from our publicity department here but apparently were compiled by one of the American press agencies in London, from a speech which I delivered at the Mansion House, together with some data from our fortnightly reports.

I entirely recognize the difficulty of deriving any simple explanation of the facts---first that we ... make a profit upon our Provisioning Department. The fact, however, does remain that this method of organization has been the salvation of Belgium and that every concession which we can obtain on the purchase of foodstuffs which we resell increases our profits, and that these profits go direct to the support of the destitute, so that every atom of concession given us by transportation and other commercial bodies is a direct contribution by them to the support of the destitute, by virtue of increasing the profit which we make on the sale of foodstuffs to those who can still pay. As great as the benevolence of the world has been, the people of Belgium would have starved before this had it not been for the success which we have had in rehabilitating the currency in Belgium, in effecting exchange on Belgium, and in the profits that we have made, which went over to the destitute end. The whole of this organization has been no less a measure of benevolence, and in fact of more intelligent charity than the actual support (itself) of the destitute.

I regret intensely that any misconstruction should have been put on the matter in America, and apparently nothing of the kind originated here, as is evidenced by the great support we have had from England and her Colonies as a result of these explanations. This support now amounts to a larger sum than that contributed from the whole of the United States, and this in addition to something over £1,600,000 found by the English people for Belgian Relief in other quarters. In other words we believe that, complicated as our system is, it is capable of intelligent representation and that a frank and open statement of the whole of our methods commands the most intelligent support. We have had no difficulty in obtaining concessions from shipping companies, shipping agents, and insurance and transport organizations in other quarters of the globe by virtue of the appeal which we made to them as business people that we were conducting an eminently charitable institution absolutely on sound financial lines.

Yours faithfully




HOOVER TO BATES, discussing the future policy of the Commission in America in connection with charity, recommending a decentralized organization, and limiting appeals to the care of the destitute

LONDON, 31 August 1915

Lindon W. Bates, Esq.
New York


I should like you to take up with White(434) the whole question of publicity and organization of the charitable side in America, as he knows our experience here and can keep before you our actual psychological changes in tenor at this end.

It appears to me, from the considerable experience which we have now had in all phases of this work, that certain features have developed. We initially appealed for foodstuffs for a starving nation, but we have since built up an economic machine by which this is no longer a legitimate undercurrent of appeal and we long since abandoned it everywhere except that these phases of the matter seem to crop up in the American mind. The only legitimate, honest appeal which we have the right to make to the public now is for food, money, or clothing for the destitute in Belgium. Any other basis of appeal is subject to refutation at once as dishonest, and must lead us into criticism. Furthermore, in the initial stages in order to bring vividly before the world the right of the Belgians to import foodstuffs, we engaged in a wide propaganda of newspaper publicity. This material had great news value and was freely used and in the main served to create a public opinion in support of the Commission's objects. This phase is now firmly established, and the material no longer has news value and is no longer received by the press. Practically, the era of publicity in the daily prodding of the newspaper is entirely over and is degenerating into personal puffs. It is a useless waste of money, time, and energy to pursue it, and lacks dignity apropos the position we have arrived at. Announcements of importance must be made from London. The political phases which surround the Commission are so delicate and only to be balanced by the London office. The Germans greatly resent direct publicity from us and it embarrasses our relations with them. It should be accomplished by committees locally.

Our experience of actual results in soliciting benevolence proves that beyond all question of doubt the only real fruitful method of securing what we want is through strong decentralized committee organization. The thing which produces money and material is the personal interest and solicitation of people of standing in each community. Practically our most successful field to date has been the Australasian Colonies where we have issued but one document and that was originally an appeal from the London office. The whole of the work has been done by closely knit and able local committees and has produced so far practically as much money out of the five millions of people as has been produced out of the whole ninety million in the United States. Likewise the organization in England of a special general committee with subcommittees in every locality has produced extraordinarily gratifying results with the use of scarcely any newspaper publicity, and even this has been accomplished in competition with a thousand other funds which are in the field. If we review the American position we shall find some interesting lessons to be had out of it. In the first place, the contributions to the Rockefeller Foundation and Northwestern Miller were inspired directly from the American Ambassador in London. The New York Belgian Relief Fund, of course, operated on its own initiative. After these we may select the States of California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa. In these cases the committees were organized on inspiration directly from the London office, and the results of these committees would have been practically the same without any daily newspaper dope. Their results were founded on the personal appeal of the gentlemen who organized them. If we eliminate all these items from the totals obtained in the United States, the whole amount degenerates down to only $1,000,000 which could be attributed to the vast amount of propaganda carried on from all offices and a large part was due to the personal work of these committees which you set up, as distinguished from the publicity. In other words, the whole of this is to show that the effective result is obtained from capable decentralization and publicity must be obtained practically by supplying material to the committees only, at least from now on. When one comes to the question of committee organization we immediately come to the question of personal amour propre. In order to gain the best results, one has got to elevate the efforts of the individuals in these committees to as high a point as is possible in order to give them a stimulating interest which is absolutely necessary. My own idea would be, subject always to better considered opinion, to set up the chairmen of all state committees and have them co-operate with us in forming a national body in support of this Commission; that these gentlemen should be asked to elect from their members an executive body; that the Commission for Relief in Belgium should undertake to pay the whole of the out-of-pocket expenses of the central organization. I would have this Committee called something like "National Committee in Support of the Commission for Relief in Belgium"; its sole function to be to collect money and material and hand them on to us.

In the matter of a campaign this autumn, our necessities come practically to the fact that we should be able to take care of the destitute in Belgium out of other resources than those from the United States, except as to the one item, and that is clothing. It seems to me that it would attract the imagination of the American people better to have the job of clothing the destitute in Belgium and Northern France assigned them and to work on this theme; but, above all things, the American campaign has got to be gotten off the basis of "saving a famishing nation" and gotten on to the support of the destitute.

Of all the people we have got engaged on this organization work in many countries, far and away the most successful man has been Goode, and I think it is well to consider whether we should not send him to America to help with this new campaign on the above lines. As you know, he is half an American.

Yours faithfully


Chapter 15, continued

Table of Contents