Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
1918 WEDNESDAY 9 January
Swanson, Gregory & I called to see W.W.1 about oil bill & he approved bill we had drawn for the Navy to take over all lands in oil reserve No 2 & to operate, paying to present claimants what is right, & if they decline compensation offered to offer them 75%, & if they decline permit them to go into the courts.2 We will oppose the jokers in the bill that passed the Senate.3 I am to see Ferris & ask to have Swanson amendment incorporated in the bill.4
Before discussing oil, Swanson congratulated the President upon his message to Congress,5 & W W discussed various reasons that prompted him to state his war claims. “They never beat me to it if I see it first” quoting Johnston Cornish.6 I doubted his recommendation to let the Turks control Turkey in Europe.7 He said we could not undertake to dictate the form of government of any country or dismember. His autonomy in Austria-Hungary would permit the peoples to resolve their own government.
Talked to head of Servian mission.8 He did not like what W. W. said about Turkey and Austria. Doubted if Greeks would fight.9 He believes America should send troops to Salonica & war can be won there & not on Western front10
Dinner at British Embassy to meet Lord Devonshire, Gov. Gen. of Canada11 Spring Rice greatly depressed.12
Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diaries, Roll 1.
Footnote 1: Sen. Claude A. Swanson, D-Virginia, United States Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory, and President Woodrow Wilson.
Footnote 2: Daniels had grown increasingly concerned that the Navy might lose control over its oil reserves in California, which were embroiled in a legal battle in which private individuals claimed ownership of these lands, and thus due compensation from the Navy for their use. A native of California, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane opposed Daniels’ view on this situation, and the matter was also up for discussion in Congress, where Daniels’ view on the California Oil Reserves also faced resistance. Despite this opposition, however, Daniels enjoyed strong support from Senator Swanson, Attorney General Gregory, and, ultimately, President Wilson.
Footnote 3: By “jokers,” Daniels presumably meant frivolous amendments.
Footnote 4: Rep. Scott Ferris, D-Oklahoma, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands. For the text of the Swanson amendment, see, Gregory to Wilson, 28 December 1917, Wilson Papers, 45: 374.
Footnote 5: On the previous day, 8 January 1918, Wilson went before Congress to present his statement on the United States’ objectives in World War I, which became known as the Fourteen Points.
Footnote 6: This may perhaps be Rep. Johnston Cornish, D-New Jersey, who served one term in Congress from 1893 to 1895.
Footnote 7: Turkey, then the center of the Ottoman Empire, controlled-and still controls-a small area (approximately 40 km2) of territory on the European continent west of the Turkish Straits.
Footnote 8: Dr. Milenko R. Vesnitch.
Footnote 9: The Greeks did participate in an Allied campaign directed against Bulgaria, an ally of the Central Powers, in 1918. For its support of the Allied cause, Greece won territorial concessions in Thrace and Ionia, mostly at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Greeks lost most of this territory in the subsequent Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).
Footnote 10: While the United States did not send troops to the Balkans, the French, Italians, and British did. Peter Hart, The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2013), 194-95.
Footnote 11: Victor C. W. Cavendish, Lord Devonshire, former Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Governor General of Canada since 1916.
Footnote 12: Sir Cecil A. Spring Rice, British Ambassador to the United States.