Imágenes de páginas

other raw materials which were unconditional contraband, apart from the cases already mentioned of wool and cotton, proved impossible, in spite of repeated, extensive and very cautious preparation. A very ambitious scheme of this kind with the S.S. Atlantic had to be abandoned at the last moment owing to difficulties with the port authorities.

All these enterprises, the purchase, sale and shipment of foodstuffs and raw material, the chartering, buying and selling of ships, the founding of shipping lines, new companies, etc., as well as the financial business had their political as well as their purely business side. They were either intended to serve as precedents in the definite phases of development of international maritime law or to exert influence on American public opinion from an economic point of view.

When the result of these shipping enterprises is weighed after the event, it will be seen that they did not play a decisive part in the supply of Germany with foodstuffs and raw material. Germany would during the first year of war have managed to get along even without the few hundred thousand tons which in this way were brought in via neutral countries. Nevertheless, in conjunction with the imports from neutral countries, they several times served to relieve the situation. Very important in this respect was the successful struggle for the free import of cotton at the end of 1914 and the beginning of 1915, quite apart from our own shipments. Without this we should have come to an end of our supplies considerably earlier.

The question of war and marine insurance very soon called for particular attention to the interests of our own shipping. The American insurance market was dominated by the English companies. The latter not only conducted about two-thirds of the whole insurance business of the country, but also exerted a decisive influence on the American companies. In addition to this, they held an authoritative position as holding a share of the capital. England very soon gave instructions that English insurance companies should not participate in any business in which German interests were in any way involved. Consequently in making shipments to neutral countries, we were faced with great difficulties, for the power of the German insurance companies and the few American companies that were independent of England did not suffice.

The two most important German companies with branches in New York, the Norddeutsche Versicherungsgesellschaft and the Mannheimer Versicherungsgesellschaft, which was excellently, actively, and very loyally represented in New York by the firm F. Hermann & Co., at first offered an insurance limit of about 75,000 dollars, that is 150,000 dollars together, which in any case was insufficient. At first they had no authority to undertake war insurance.

The economic importance of the insurance question is obvious on the face of it. No marine insurance was possible without war insurance. In particular the American Government bureau for war insurance made the covering of the marine insurance an essential condition. This example was followed by all the American insurance companies. A satisfactory settlement of the insurance -both war and marine-on the other hand was a necessary condition for the financing of the shipments. The shippers only obtained credit from the bank on handing over the insurance policies. In addition to this it came about later that the few American shipping lines which remained independent of England, and so were on the black list, were no longer in a position to cover the “Hull Insurance,” i.e., the insurance of the ship herself, and therefore the solution of the insurance question became a necessary condition for obtaining freight space. Here too, then, it was to our interest to come to the rescue, because otherwise the lines in question would have been forced to come to an understanding with the English firms, which would have placed their tonnage at the service of our enemies.

To begin with, Herr Albert himself undertook the insurance in cases of exceptional importance. It was at most a question of a small balance, by the furnishing of which an immediate risk or a dangerous delay in shipment was avoided. Our chief efforts were directed towards raising the insurance limit of the German companies. As a result a pool of German insurance companies was formed whose limit for marine and war insurance was gradually raised more and more. In this way it was possible to carry through a number of shipments to European countries, to keep a not inconsiderable tonnage-about 30,000 tons-out of the hands of the Allies, as well as to enable a number of important German firms in South America to carry on extensive trade between North and South America, and so to maintain their business activity in spite of the measures adopted by the English.

About our propaganda I have already spoken in detail in the second chapter. It may be mentioned again here that the centre of gravity of our active propaganda lay in the economic question, which was to a certain extent the key to the understanding of our American policy during the war.

Though the vast and rapid development of American export trade through the trade in war material, and the change in position from debtor to creditor, was only effected gradually, and the loss of the German market at first made itself adversely felt both actively and passively, the size of the contracts from the Allies and the consequent profits at once acted like a narcotic on public opinion. This was all the more the case as a result of the extraordinarily skilful way in which the English handled the question. They always proceeded cautiously and gradually. For instance, they at first accepted the Declaration of London in principle, but made several alterations which to the public, who did not realize the extent of their effect, seemed unimportant and which yet formed the basis for the gradual throwing overboard of the Declaration of London. After public opinion had grown accustomed to the English encroachments and the interests affected had been pacified by the Allied contracts, the blockade was introduced after careful preparation in the Press; it was not at first described as a blockade, but was gradually and systematically tightened. Among other things, the export of cotton to Germany was expressly agreed to at the end of 1914, but was afterwards hampered in practice by various measures, as, for example, the holding up of individual ships, and the refusal of marine insurance, and finally brought to an end by the declaration of cotton as unconditional contraband. It is characteristic that the declaration of cotton as unconditional contraband was made public on the very day on which the whole American Press was in a state of great excitement over the Arabic case, so that this comparatively unimportant incident filled the front pages and leading articles of the newspapers, while the extremely important economic measure was published in a place where it would hardly be noticed.

We made vigorous efforts to oppose this English step. We got into touch with the importers of German goods, who formed an association and forwarded a protest to Washington. Without attracting attention, we gave the association the assistance of a firm of solicitors, whose services were at our disposal, as legal advisers. Relations were entered into with the cotton interest, which, through the political pressure of the Southern States, exerted great influence on public opinion and in Congress. Various projects for buying cotton on a large scale for Germany were considered, discussed with the cotton interest and tested by small purchases. In the same way negotiations were entered upon with the great meat companies, the copper interest and others by systematic explanation and emphasis of the interests with regard to the German market. The result, partly for the reasons given, partly owing to the political development of the general relations between Germany and the United States, was small. This, however, can hardly be taken as an argument against the expediency of the steps taken as at that time. No one could foresee the later development of the war and particularly the length of time it was going to last; whereas had the war been shorter there is no doubt that these measures would have attained their object.

An important part of the economic propaganda was the institution of the so-called “Issues," i.e., the attempt by carefully construing individual incidents to make clear to public opinion the fundamental injustice of the English encroachments and their far-reaching consequences in practice. The most important case in this direction is that of the Wilhelmina. According to the prevailing principles of international law, foodstuffs were only conditional contraband. They might be imported into Germany if they were intended for the exclusive use of the civil population. As, however, England succeeded in restraining the exporters from any attempt to consign foodstuffs to Germany, especially as in view of the enormous supplies that were being forwarded to our enemies they had little interest in such shipment, the question

« AnteriorContinuar »