« ПретходнаНастави »
which included Howard E. Coffin, in charge of munitions, Daniel Willard, president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in charge of transportation, Julius Rosenwald, president of the SearsRoebuck Company, in charge of supplies including clothing, Bernard M. Baruch, a versatile financial trader, in charge of metals, minerals, and raw materials, Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, in charge of labor and the welfare of workers, Hollis Godfrey in charge of engineering and education, and Franklin H. Martin in charge of medicine. The commission at once prepared to lay down its programme, to create subcommittees and technical boards, and to secure the assistance of business leaders, without whose coöperation their task could not be fulfilled.
Following plans developed by the Council of National Defense, experts in every business likely to prove of importance were called upon to coördinate and stimulate war necessities, to control their distribution, to provide for the settlement of disputes between employers and wage-earners, to fix prices, to conserve resources. Scientific and technical experts were directed in their researches. The General Medical Board and the Committee on Engineering and Education were supervised in their
mobilization of doctors and surgeons, engineers, physicists and chemists, professors and graduate students in the university laboratories. Everywhere and in all lines experience and brains were sought and utilized. State Councils of Defense were created to oversee the work of smaller units and to establish an effective means of communication between the individual and the national Government. Naturally much over-organization resulted and some waste of time and energy; but the universal spirit of voluntary coöperation evoked by the Councils overbalanced this loss and aided
greatly in putting the country on an effective war · basis. As Wilson said, “beyond all question the
highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous coöperation of a free people.” In return for their efforts the people received an education in public spirit and civic consciousness such as could have come in no other way. .
Of the committees of the Council, that on munitions developed along the most elaborate lines, becoming of such importance that on July 28, 1917, it was reorganized as the War Industries Board. As such it gradually absorbed most of the functions of the Council which were not transferred to other agencies of the Government. During the autumn
of 1917 the activities of the Board underwent rapid extension, but it lacked the power to enforce its decisions. As in the case of the General Staff, it was important that it should have authority not merely to plan but also to supervise and execute. Such a development was foreshadowed in the reorganization of the Board in March, 1918, under the chairmanship of Bernard M. Baruch, and when the President received the blanket authority conferred by the Overman Act, he immediately invested the War Industries Board with the centralizing power which seemed so necessary. Henceforth it exercised an increasingly strict control over all the industries of the country.
The purpose of the Board was, generally speaking, to secure for the Government and the Allies the goods essential for making war successfully, and to protect the civil needs of the country. The supply of raw materials to the manufacturer as well as the delivery of finished products was closely regulated by a system of priorities. The power of the Board in its later development was dictatorial, inasmuch as it might discipline any refractory producer or manufacturer by the withdrawal of the assignments he expected. The leaders of each of the more important industries were called into
council, in order to determine resources and needs, and the degree of preference to which each industry was entitled. Some were especially favored, in order to stimulate production in a line that was of particular importance or was failing to meet the exigencies of the military situation; shipments to others of a less essential character were deferred. Committees of the Board studied industrial conditions and recommended the price that should be fixed for various commodities; stability was thus artificially secured and profiteering lessened. The Conservation Division worked out and enforced methods of standardizing patterns in order to economize materials and labor. The Steel Division coöperated with the manufacturers for the speeding-up of production; and the Chemical Di#vision, among other duties, stimulated the vitally important supply of potash, dyes, and nitrates. Altogether it has been roughly estimated that the industrial capacity of the country was increased by twenty per cent through the organizing labors and authority of the War Industries Board.
The success of this Board would have been impossible without the building up of an extraordinary esprit de corps among the men who were brought face to face with these difficult problems of industry and commerce. Their chairman relied, of course, upon the coöperation of the leaders of “big business," who now, in the hour of the country's need, sank their prejudice against governmental interference and gave freely of their experience, brains, and administrative power. Men whose incomes were measured in the hundreds of thousands forgot their own business and worked at Washington on a salary of a dollar a year.
The same spirit of coöperation was evoked when it came to the conservation and the production of food. If steel was to win the war, its burden could not be supported without wheat, and for some months in 1917 and 1918 victory seemed to depend largely upon whether the Allies could find enough to eat. Even in normal times Great Britain and France import large quantities of foodstuffs; under war conditions they were necessarily dependent upon foreign grain-producing countries. The surplus grain of the Argentine and Australia was not available because of the length of the voyage and the scarcity of shipping; the Russian wheat supply was cut off by enemy control of the Dardanelles even before it was dissipated by corrupt officials or reckless revolutionaries. The Allies, on the verge of starvation, therefore looked to North America.