Skip to main content

Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

MAY                MONDAY 28                    1917

Council of National Defense–discussed coal & raw material.1

Talked to Swager Sherley2 about fortifying Fort Henry3 and said he had opposed it 4 years ago but since ordnance had made such progress guns could now protect. Talked to him about young man who had taken examination in the Pay Corps & stopped by my order.4

At night McAdoo, Baker, Baruch &, Hoover5 & I went to talk with the President6 about the best method of purchasing for us and for the allies. It was agreed both must get the same price & price must if possible be fixed so that it would not be high & that it would be high enough to keep production[.] Hoover wanted to control food purchases & felt it necessary to have that power. McAdoo wanted B7 to be the purchaser for all. The President wished to find a way by which citizens should get the same price as the government. Complicated & difficult8 Baruch to draw a chart & meet again on Wednesday9

Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers. Daniels kept his diary in a daybook so the date is printed along the top.

Footnote 1: The Council of National Defense was created in 1916 as a preparedness measure. Historians have judged the Council to have been largely ineffectual. When war was declared actual power devolved quickly to special agencies created to oversee specific economic sectors, such as the Food Administration, Fuel Administration, and War Industries Board. Kennedy, Over Here: 114-17; Cuff, The War Industries Board: 34-50.

Footnote 2: Rep. J. Swager Sherley, D-Kentucky, was an influential member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Footnote 3: Fort Story at Cape Henry, which is at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

Footnote 4: It is not known why Daniels rejected this applicant for the Paymaster Corps.

Footnote 5: Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo; Secretary of War Newton D. Baker; Bernard M. Baruch, member of the Advisory Council of National Defense and later chairman of the War Industries Board ; Herbert C. Hoover, chairman of the food committee of the Council of National Defense.

Footnote 6: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 7: Baruch.

Footnote 8: The question of fixing prices was, according to one historian, “impossibly complex.” It was an exercise in trying to set prices that would maximize production without “flagrantly over-rewarding the biggest firms.” Kennedy, Over Here: 135.

Footnote 9: There is no evidence that this group met on Wednesday, 30 May 1917, however Baruch did send Wilson a chart, which he explained in some detail in a letter to Wilson dated 4 June 1917. Wilson Papers, 43: 424, 447-49.