Monday, January 15, 2018

Secretary to the Navy

‘Pres. spoke to Congress. . . W W looked serious, confident, compelling. He had given much thought to his message - read it deliberately & calmly, letting its logic and strength make all the impression. It was received with marked approval & evoked enthusiasm.’ Josephus Daniels, 41st US Secretary to the Navy during the First World War, died 70 years ago today. While in office, he kept diaries - of cabinet meetings and decisions - which were not published until the 1960s, but are now considered a primary source for information about Wilson Woodrow’s Presidency.

Daniels was born in 1862 in Washington, North Carolina, during the civil war. When his father was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter, his mother moved her family 60 miles west to Wilson, also in North Carolina. There, Jospehus was educated at Wilson Collegiate Institute and at Trinity College (later Duke University). He became editor of a local newspaper, the Wilson Advance, and went on to purchase it in 1882. Joint ownership of other publications followed. He also studied law at the University of North Carolina, being admitted to the bar in 1885, though he never practised. In 1888, he married Addie Worth Bagley, and they had four sons. In 1892, he launched the North Carolinian, before subsequently buying more newspapers, and merging some.

Daniels was an active member of the Democratic Party, in favour of prohibition and women’s suffrage, but he was also a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan believing in white supremacy. He used his newspapers to promote Democratic candidates, and, in 1912, was part of the Democratic Executive Committee supporting Woodrow Wilson’s presidential campaign. On Woodrow’s election, Daniels was appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1913, a position he held until 1921. Franklin D. Roosevelt, later president himself, served as his assistant. Daniels oversaw a modest expansion of the navy (in spite of his own pacifist tendencies), various administrative reforms, and a clean-up of personnel behaviour (banning alcohol on navy ships, clearing prostitution from a five mile radius of naval installations, and prohibiting work on the Sabbath). After the war, he published The Navy and the Nation (1919) and Our Navy at War (1922); and, in 1921, he returned to his newspaper businesses.

During the 1930s, Daniels became a trustee at the University of North Carolina, but in 1933, President Roosevelt made him ambassador to Mexico. He remained in Mexico City for eight years, only returning to edit his newspaper News & Observer, in 1941, by which time one of his sons had gone to work for Roosevelt. He published several autobiographical works, and died on 15 January 1948. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, International Encyclopedia of the First World War, NCpedia, and the North Carolina History Project.

In 1963, E. David Cronon, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published The Cabinet Diaries of Josephus Daniels, 1913-1921 (University of Nebraska Press). The book is long since out of print, but second hand copies can be found online for under £10. A review in The Journal of Modern History at the time concluded: ‘All told [the diaries] constitute the fullest and most intimate view of the cabinet and one of the best sources for a biographer of Wilson now in print.’ A score of extracts from the diaries can be found online at the website of Naval History and Heritage Command, complete with notes and references. Here are a few of those extracts as found (but without their footnotes).

30 April 1917
‘Admiral Gleaves complained that destroyers were taken from him & given to Sims. Then Mayo plead for him & wished him made a Vice Admiral. Never.

Council of National Defense. Houstons resolution to give President power to fix prices and make prohibition. . . . Denman wished U.S. to build ships instead of England so after the war we would have them. Opposed Schwab’s plan of building for England.

12.40: Went to see President. Talked about sending our ships to England & France & decided to send 36 & try to secure other small craft- Must act now- He did not like Com named by L & W - all of them had fought shipping bill.’

6 May 1917
‘President called at Navy Dept. to talk over arming ships & danger of sub-marines in American waters & about bringing the fleet North - He thought, in addition to arming, we ought to have 3 motor boats on each ship to be lowered in Smooth seas & hunt submarines - When in England he saw the annual occasion where a shepherd would stand in a circle & by calls & whistles herd three sheep distant from him in a pen - It wasnt hard to manage 2, but very difficult with 3. They would expect a boat on each side of ship but the third boat would confuse them.’

7 July 1917
‘Talked to Baruch about price of raw materials & getting steel &c for Great Britain. No conclusion

Swanson came to talk about the article of encounter with submarines- Showed him the telegrams.

Baker had a talk with the President and will call a meeting of the steel committee on Tuesday to tell them he must Know the cost of production before the price is fixed. If they cannot give right price, he will take over mills and run them and fix reasonable prices. Denman is also to be there-

Saw Denman about the ships we need to use as transports. He wanted more conversation - Baker said “D__ is impossible,” but he is honest- That’s the main thing

Mayo returned to fleet-

Rodman felt sure the submarine had been sighted off Hampton Roads.

Josephus came home, with cold, Gave him calomel

President turned over 12 German ships to Navy to be used to carry troops to France’

19 July 1917
‘W l Saunders - lunched - the unsinkable boat. He had a plan which he thinks would let a boat float even if torpedoed. It would reduce cargo carrying space 20-30 per cent

Attended funeral of Bo Sweeney – Cremated. He had been with me in oil fight and he & Lane were not on good terms. He refused to sign certain papers without written instructions

Dined with Winterhalter-Mayo, Usher and others_W5_said he was dined by V.P.of China, & champagne flowed. When W entertained him, he said “it is against navy regulations.” The Chinese VP said “that is very interesting to me - I would like to put it in effect in our navy.”

Usher told of Russians in N.Y. Navy Yard. After revolution, enlisted men did not salute officers & they became so lazy Usher said they let their ships get dirty & he had to tell them they must salute while they remained under American control.

Went to see Senator James & talked about the Penrose resolution. He still following his partisanship

Long conference will Tillman & Swanson Will write letter to Tillman about the conference statement of attack of the boats given out by me on July 3rd

Ordered 20 new destroyers’

24 July 1917
‘Went to Naval Hospital just before operation on Admiral Earle. He is the salt of the earth.

Talked to Capt. Bryan of Charleston. Negro women had registered to work in clothing factory & no white women could be appointed. Arranged to have segregation & 2 buildings, one for each race. Necessary as could not do work necessary.

Talked to Benson & Mayo about seeking co-operation in naval warfare with England and France. Mayo thought he ought to go & I later talked to the President who rather thought it wise. Sims had written to the President who gave me the letter unsealed to read and tell him whether anything new. No propositions from England for conference to determine upon joint program - we are asked to send & send, but not a conference where we have equal voice

Cabinet. Shall we recommend increased salaries? No. Redfield said he had experts (24) who would resign & they could not live on $2,400. Wilson said they could live very well, but might not be able to keep up with the Joneses.

Berry - Palmer - Both boats  The President did not like it’

19 October 1917
‘. . . Transport submarined on return trip near French coast. Our first transport lost.

Went over with Mayo to see President. Mayo told him of message from the King. He told of what he had seen. The President said the English thought we were were Anglo-Saxons and like themselves. We are very different. He had said one of our troubles was we could understand the English & when they said things against us, we knew it while if F[rance] or G[ermany] did the same we knew nothing about it. He listened to M[ayo] & hoped some real offensive would come. He was disgusted with the idea of sinking 100 ships to shut up river beyond Heligoland when dynamite could clear the channel.

Dined at English Ambassador’s to meet Lord and Lady Redding. I talked with a lady about the undefinable thing called charmed. Who is the most charming person you ever met? asked lady. “I will not answer as to ladies, but make it men. You write down the two most charming & I will.[”] I wrote Lloyd George & Balfour & she wrote Balfour & Lloyd George. When a boy Lord R---- said he had been a boy before the mast on a ship

He went to school in Germany & had many friends & yet 13 years ago he decided never to go there again. The people were offensive & made an Englishman feel they were a decadent nation (& in some ways we are) & I would not go again.’

2 November 1917
‘Sperry said he and another man had a plan by which ships in convoy could communicate with other ships without danger of detection, very important now that wireless cannot be used by our ships going into danger zone and therefore can have no communication at night. This discovery would be of highest value –

Alfred Lucking same about Eidsel Ford, who had applied for exemption which had been denied by local board. I saw Baker who said it showed he passed on on its merits by this board organized for that purpose. Mr. Ford says he is greatly needed to carry on big work of factory.

Cabinet- WW criticism is that this is rich man’s war, & it was reported that sons of rich men were being given places in W[ashington] & others away from firing line and this ought to be prevented. Mostly in new organizations[.] Lane said he thought this mistake & that rich men’s sons were going quicker than others. Cannot be too careful said W.W.

Asked Baker to commandeer guns & hundred million rounds of ammunition belonging to Scandanavian country & then send to Italy. He said he could belonging to Scandanavian country & then send to Italy. He said he could not approve Ordnance recomm to let explosives go by express.

Council of National Defense. Too many organizations asking money to help soldiers – Some pay big salaries & there ought to be some way to prevent any except those approved to appeal &c’

8 November 1917
‘Victor Blue at my request called and went over the report of investigation. Thoughts Gleaves & Marbury Johnson wished to pile up specifications so as to get him. He wished US court martial –

Finland man came up with idea about air ships that could go across the ocean in 60 hours. Wished this government to build ships –

. . .Creel and O’Higgins here to dinner. The latter to write an article about me and my service as Secretary of the navy. Talked of the criticism and the policies I had tried to carry out . . .’

4 December 1917
‘Pres. spoke to Congress. No tickets for wives of cabinet officers. Sinnot sent one to my wife & Ethel took her place. She was in Savannah speaking on Y.W.C.A.

W W looked serious, confident, compelling. He had given much thought to his message - read it deliberately & calmly, letting its logic and strength make all the impression. It was received with marked approval & evoked enthusiasm. After delivery we discussed it at cabinet meeting - all gave warm commendation. W W seemed relieved & was plainly pleased at its reception.

Because of Roberts College & such institutions he hoped we would not have to declare war upon Turkey, but must be prepared for any eventualities. He wished a plebiscite on Alsace & Lorrain[e], Suggested that many who had owned & still owned land should be entitled to vote. Not certain all wish to go to France. Children still speak German. Wished to let world know we stand for no such treaties as would call for land or money beyond repairing Belgium and Northern France.

More rooms needed by Departments.

Spent evening reading spotted record of E. D. Ryan whom Vance McCormick and Mitchell wished made Admiral I had almost promised to do it, but could not after reading

Represt-of Chili [Chile] here to buy RR engines & cars. Can we trade & get ships from Chili.’

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