by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The days headlines from The Daily Capital Journal:

Cold Rain and in Places Snow Made Life Miserable for Troops in Trenches

While Allies Claim Larger Armies Germans Put Them On Defensive
Conditions Such that They Cannot Continue Long – “Something Doing” Soon

Allies Claim Small Gains in Vicinity of Arras and St. Mihiel

The outbreak of war resulted in a dramatic fall off in revenues to the federal government. In ”Why War Tax Is Necessary,” the Capital Journal editor explains how the war has resulted in the need for a war tax even though we were not at war:

The much talked of war tax is looked upon evidently by many as an additional tax forced on America by the war. It is nothing of the kind. The people of America have to pay the expense of running the government always. Heretofore the money for this purpose was collected largely from importations on which customs duties were levied; in other words, through the tariff. This someone sapiently described as the best tax system ever discovered, as under it “the greatest amount of feathers could be plucked with the least amount of squawking from the goose.”

It is a tax which every consumer of foreign-made goods pays, but as it is included in the price, it is not shown up as a tax.

Owing to the war, the importations have fallen off greatly and consequently the receipts from customs are very light. The result is that Americans are consuming less foreign-made stuff and are not contributing through the tariff so large an amount as before. In consequence of this it becomes necessary for the government not to raise more money than before, but to raise the same amount from different sources.

Every industry or product on which the so-called “war tax” is levied sets up a cry of ruin, and yet not they, but the public that consumes their goods or products, finally pays the bill, and they are out nothing. There is no tax collected by the government, but the American consumer ultimately pays, and the war tax is simply a making up of the deficiency caused by the people not buying foreign-made goods.

A column in the Saturday edition of the Oregon Statesman discussed the potential impact of immigration following the war. Noting a drop in immigration from the 1,000,000 per year preceding the outbreak of war, the columnist considered the impact the war could be expected to have. After considering the effects of war on the general health of those who would be immigrating, the author considered other issues:

There is a moral danger, too. The moral effects of military service, on the whole, are bad. Ordinary restraints of society and family are loosened. The soldier, while giving strict obedience to his superiors in matters military, loses respect for the Ten Commandments. He tends to become, in his private conduct, a law unto himself. It takes little to turn disbanded soldiers, who are always restless, into vagabonds. Thousands desert their families. Thousands never return to ordered life.

Some such influence, too, is at work among the women. Taking men’s places in many fields of work, they suddenly develop a sense of freedom, and perhaps irresponsibility. Left unattached by the fortunes of war, they, like men, may turn to lives of adventure. Such women will migrate in large numbers.

These obvious moral aspects are but the darkest side of the tremendous awakening war brings to both men and women. It takes them out of ruts. It reveals to them their own personality and power. It gives them a spirit of self-reliance and independence.

War may make democrats or socialists of stolid peasants. It may turn human clods into active anarchists.

In any event, the common people who remain in Europe are going to be more concerned hereafter with their own governments; and those who come to America are going to be more self-assertive, more sensitive of their newly discovered rights, more difficult to handle and assimilate than ever before.

And largely because of this overflow from the old world maelstrom, we shall probably have troublous times in our industrial and political life during the next decade or two.

The op-ed piece reflected concerns of Christian morality movements dating to the previous century. Long before the war, the Christian morality movement “feared a crisis of masculinity and national degeneration if men were allowed to indulge in their ‘primitive’ sexual drives and stray from the gender roles prescribed by religious authorities.”1

The war would radically alter gender relationships, as well as the political and economic landscape.

The last two decades of the 19th Century saw the emergence of Christian morality movements in Europe and this country. Confronted with a growing industrialized world they saw as eroding core family values and social structures, they foresaw the prospects of national degeneration when religiously prescribed gender roles were seen to be breaking down. In this country the movement manifested itself through the WCTU, the rise of fundamentalist evangelicalism, and a rejection of science that proposed timelines that differed from the accepted Old Testament narrative. Undermining the traditional narrative included the rejecting of the paternalistic view of the employer-employee relationship, suffrage, and sexual relationships.

The prospect of war raised concerns on both sides of the Atlantic and among all belligerent parties.

On another issue of moral consequence, the November election would present voters with an initiative to impose prohibition. In a letter to the editor, the press superintended for the WCTU writes, with respect to the effect of prohibition in Kansas:

Kansas, after thirty-four years of prohibition pioneering, has demonstrated to its entire satisfaction, and has proven to the world, that whisky and houses of prostitution and gambling dens are a commercial liability of the heaviest sort coupled with their attendant evils of crimes, divorces, murders, paupers, untold suffering and ignorance. Mankind realizes that not only is the liquor traffic a moral and commercial evil, but that no city, state or nation need submit to it longer. The people rule. The majority of the people are against the liquor traffic, and the whisky evil is necessary only so long as men who believe in prohibition sit supinely by, and by their dormant, drone like inactivity lend color to the statement that these twin crimes committed by society against itself are to be countenanced. Any evil is a necessary evil, to just such an extent as those who are opposed to it think it necessary.

The moral consequences of the technology of warfare prompted a resolution to President Wilson stated that “Bomb dropping from aeroplanes should be stopped”:

New York, Oct. 16 – A resolution and letter asking President Wilson to protest against bomb dropping by Zeppelins and aeroplanes upon European cities were adopted by 200 passengers on the steamship Olympic, which arrived here tonight from Scotland.

Though the United States sought to remain neutral, American vessels were boarded, and in an incident involving German-Americans, French naval officers sought to arrest them. The American steamship Metapan was boarded by officers of a French cruiser. The chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee “voiced a warning in which he notified the belligerents that they will be held responsible if their interference with the rights of American citizens forces the United States to act.” The Metapan was an American steamer owned by a subsidiary of the United Fruit Company. On the 4th of October, 1914, the steamship was boarded by the French cruiser Conde, and passengers of German nationality were required to sign an agreement “not to take up arms in the present European War or until exchanged, under threat of being forcibly taken from the ship as prisoners of war.”

1. Jason Crouthamel, Cross-dressing for the Fatherland: Sexual humor, masculinity and German Soldiers in the First World War, First World War Studies, 2:2, 200)