Tag Archives: war debts

 

Better Than Nothing…

 

John KnottUncle Sam asks his allies, France and Great Britain, to repay the United States for helping them
in World War I.

From the 1920’s to late 1930’s, the years following World War I, several European nations were indebted to the United States. This was due to the fact that the United States helped in many parts of the war and was not paid back. In World War I, the United States joined forces with Great Britain, Belgium, Russia and France to form the Allies, who worked together to defeat the Central Powers of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. The allies were ultimately able to win the war and force Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles. This Treaty contained a “war guilt clause.” By signing this clause, Germany accepted responsibility for all of the loss and damage that the war caused and agreed to pay thirty two billion dollars in war reparations (Potter).

War reparations are when a country makes amends for a transgression they have committed by paying money to the countries they wronged (Moulton and Pasvolsky). However, the years following the end of World War I were difficult for the economies of Great Britain, France and Germany not only due to the devastation, but also the expenses that came with war, such as transportation, weapons, repairs, and so forth. (“World War I Fast Facts”). Thus, the end of the WWI came with massive war reparations and war debts, which were not small sums. War debts refer to the money a country owes to another country for the resources that were borrowed to fight the war. To put it into context, even in 2014, Great Britain was still making plans to pay back what they borrowed from the United States (“First World War Debt to Be Paid off at Last”).

With their massive war reparation debts, from Germany, who had just signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28,1919, with allied nations -Britain, France, Italy and Russia- to formally end the war, Germany struggled to pay back what was determined to be owed to Great Britain and France, according to the Treaty of Versailles. In turn, this made it quite challenging for Great Britain and France to acquire the money they needed in order to fully repay the United States (Moulton and Pasvolsky).

The political cartoon by John Knott titled, “Better Than Nothing,” published on December 30, 1931, in the Dallas Morning News, depicts the United States asking to be repaid by its allies for their help in the war. The cartoon shows Uncle Sam, who represents the United States, standing off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and asking Great Britain and France to pay the war debts they owe. Since France and Great Britain were unable to pay their war debts, Uncle Sam points to the land that is near him—the large colonial possessions of Great Britain and France in the West Indies, Guiana and Central America—and says, “I might take some real estate on account.” Meanwhile,

Great Britain and France stare back across the Atlantic Ocean, looking quite unfazed as they share a smoke together. Knott’s illustration makes the point that if Great Britain and France could not pay the money back, then the United States did not want to go home empty-handed and would instead accept the two European powers’ colonial territories in the Americas as repayment.

The title of Knott’s cartoon, “Better Than Nothing,” coincides with an editorial that was published in the same Dallas Morning News issue. Written during the Great Depression, the editorial titled, “Reparations and War Debts,” announces that the United States Congress voted not to reduce or cancel the war debts. That meant that Great Britain and France were expected to pay back every cent of what they owed the United States. The article also explains that Great Britain and France had their hands tied because they needed Germany to pay them reparations before they could even afford to repay the United States.The editor equated this situation to Great Britain and France essentially being “bankrupt” and stuck. Something was going to have to give, or an alternative deal was going to have to be made, in order to move forward.

Senator Arthur Capper, a U.S. Representative of the state of Kansas who had a prominent hand in the ruling that no cancelations or reductions be made to the war debts, was quoted in an article in The New York Times as saying, “Uncle Sam has played Santa Claus long enough.” Senator Capper was worried that the amount of money the United States loaned to these Great Britain and France was beginning to become “too much of a load.” At that point, not only had America paid for most of the war itself, but also for the reconstruction that followed the war (“Capper Opposes Debt Revision; ‘Uncle Sam Santa Long Enough’”).

Another editorial that was featured alongside John Knott’s cartoon in the Dallas Morning News was entitled, “Buy Them Out.” In the piece, the editor explained how congressman Louis Thomas McFadden, a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, suggested an alternative deal that would help Great Britain and France repay the war debts they owed the United States. Instead of forcing Great Britain and France to pay billions of dollars—that they did not have—McFadden proposed offering the countries a buyout deal where they would give up their colonial territories south of the United States as repayment of their debt. The article further explained that if such an agreement were to be made, “Holland only would be left of European powers having control over United States territory south of Canada, excepting the Falkland Islands in South America.” Though this deal was fair in economic terms, it was most likely not an agreement that Great Britain and France would accept.

The message in John Knott’s cartoon was that it was only fair for the United States to walk away with at least some sort of repayment for the debt that Great Britain and France owed, even if it was not in the form of cold hard cash. In the cartoon, Knott does not portray Great Britain and France as two men who are struggling financially and can barely get by. Rather, Great Britain is drawn with a belly, portraying the state of being well-fed, and both Britain and France are smoking, an act of luxury. This kept the audience from empathizing with Britain and France and helped to show the fairness of expecting the two countries to find a way to repay what they owed the U.S. in some form or fashion.

When the United States Congress voted not to cancel or reduce the war debts owed by France and Great Britain, this demonstrated that the United States was demanding repayment no matter what. The question was not if, but how the United States was going to be repaid by the two countries. John Knott illustrated a potential answer to this question through his cartoon.

Works Cited
“Buy them out.” Dallas Morning News, December 30, 1931. Editorial.
http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=L56R4DMHMTUyNjMyNTM5NS4yODU2MDk6MToxMzoxMjguNjIuNzAuMTE5&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D2247C6907F01@2426706-104D22487677A470@12-104D224B65AA3163@Buy%20Them%20Out .

“Capper Opposes Debt Revision; ‘Uncle Sam Santa Long enough’.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Dec 27, 1931, pp. 1. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/99200163?accountid=7118.

“First World War Debt to Be Paid off at Last.” Evening Standard, 03 Dec. 2014, p. 45. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=99762662&site=ehost-live.

Knott, John. “Better Than Nothing.” Dallas Morning News, 30 Dec. 1931. Editorial.
http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=P5FT56BQMTUyNjMyODM4Ny4yNjg1MTU6MToxMjoxNDYuNi4xMTkuOTc&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D2247C6907F01@2426706-104D22487677A470@12.

Moulton, Harold G., and Leo Pasvolsky. World war debt settlements. The Macmillan company, 1926.

Potter, Edmund D. “World War I debts,” The 1930s in America, edited by Thomas Tandy Lewis, Salem, 2011. Salem Online.
http://te7fv6dm8k.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info%3Asid%2Fsummon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=bookitem&rft.title=The+Thirties+in+America&rft.au=Potter%2C+Edmund&rft.atitle=World+War+I+debts&rft.date=2011-01-01&rft.volume=3&rft.spage=1035&rft.epage=1036&rft.externalDocID=1916300673&paramdict=en-US.

“Reparations and War Debts.” Dallas Morning News, December 30, 1931. Editorial.
http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=P5FT56BQMTUyNjMyODM4Ny4yNjg1MTU6MToxMjoxNDYuNi4xMTkuOTc&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D2247C6907F01@2426706-104D22487677A470@12.

Better Than Nothing..

John KnottUnlce Sam asks his allies France and Great Britain to repay the United States for helping them in World War I.

In the 1920’s to late 1930’s, the years following World War I, several European nations were indebted to the Unites States, causing prominent issues. In World War I, the United States joined forces with Great Britain, Belgium, Russia and France to form the Allies and work to defeat the Central Powers made up of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Allies were ultimately able to win the war and force Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles, which contained a war guilt clause. By signing this clause; Germany was accepting responsibility for all of the loss and damage that the war caused and agreeing to pay thirty two billion dollars in war reparations (Potter). War reparations are when a country makes amends for a transgression they have committed by paying money to the countries they wronged (Moulton and Pasvolsky). However, the years following the end of the war were difficult for the economies of Great Britain, France and Germany not only due to the devastation, but also the expenses that come with war, such as transportation, weapons, repairs etc. (“World War I Fast Facts”). Thus, the end of the war came with massive war reparations and war debts. These were no small sums; to put it into context, even in 2014 Great Britain was still making plans to pay back what they borrowed from the United States. (“First World War Debt to Be Paid off at Last”).

War debts refer to the money a country owes to another country for the resources that were borrowed to fight the war. After World War I, the United States asked for war reparations from Germany, as decided in the Treaty of Versailles, and for Great Britain and France to repay war debts. Considering much of the war took place on European soil, Germany, Great Britain, and France suffered a lot of destruction to their cities. This made it quite challenging for them to acquire the money they needed in order to fully repay the United States (Moulton and Pasvolsky).

The political cartoon by John Knott titled, “Better Than Nothing” published on December 30, 1931, in the Dallas Morning News, illustrates the United States asking to be repaid by their allies for help in the war. In the cartoon, it shows Uncle Sam representing the United States off the Coast of the Gulf of Mexico, asking Great Britain and France to pay the war debts they owe. Since France and Great Britain were unable to pay the war debts, you see Uncle Sam pointing to the land that is near him—the large colonial possessions of Great Britain and France in the West Indies, Guiana and Central America—while saying “I might take some real estate on account.” If Great Britain and France could not pay the money back, the United States did not want to go home empty-handed. While Uncle Sam is asking for the land, France and Great Britain are across the Atlantic Ocean looking quite unfazed as they are sharing a smoke together.

The title of Knott’s cartoon, “Better Than Nothing” coincides with an editorial that was published in the same Dallas Morning News issue; the editorial titled, “Reparations and War Debts,” announces that United States congress voted not to reduce or cancel the war debts. That meant that Great Britain and France were expected to pay back every cent of what they owed to the United States. The article also explains that Great Britain and France had their hands tied because they needed Germany to pay them reparations before they could even afford to repay the United States.The editor equated this situation to Great Britain and France essentially being “bankrupt” and stuck. Something was going to have to give or an alternative deal was going to have to be made in order to move forward.

Senator Capper, who was one of the Senators who had a hand in the ruling that no cancelations or reductions be made to the war debts, was quoted in an article in The New York Times as saying, “Uncle Sam has played Santa Claus long enough.” Senator Capper was worried that the amount of money the United States loaned to these countries was beginning to become “too much of a load.” At that point, not only had America paid for most of the war itself, but also the reconstruction that followed the war (“Capper Opposes Debt Revision; ‘Uncle Sam Santa Long Enough’”).

Another editorial that was featured alongside John Knott’s cartoon in the Dallas Morning News was entitled “Buy Them Out.” In the article, the editor explained how Representative McFadden of the United States Congress suggested an alternative deal that would help Great Britain and France repay the war debts they owed to the United States. Instead of forcing Great Britain and France to pay billions of dollars—that they did not have—McFadden proposed offering the countries a buyout deal where they would give up their colonial territories south of the United States as repayment of their debt. The article goes on to explain that if such an agreement were to be made, “Holland only would be left of European powers having control over United States territory south of Canada, excepting the Falkland Islands in South America.” Though this deal was fair in economic terms, it was most likely not going to be something on which Great Britain and France were eager to sign off.

The message Knott is getting across with his cartoon is that it is only fair for the United States to walk away with at least some sort of repayment for the debt that Great Britain and France owe, even if it is not in the form of cold hard cash. In the cartoon, Knott does not portray Great Britain and France as two men who are struggling and can barely get by; rather, Great Britain is drawn with a belly, portraying the state of being well-fed, and both Britain and France are smoking, which can be considered an act of luxury. This keeps the audience from empathizing with Britain and France and helps to show them that it is fair to expect the two countries to find a way to repay what they owe in some form or fashion.

When the United States Congress voted not to cancel or reduce the war debts owed by France and Great Britain, this demonstrated that the United States were demanding to be repaid no matter what. The question was not if, but how the United States was going to get repaid by these countries. John Knott illustrated a potential answer to this question through his cartoon. Works Cited
“Buy them out.” Dallas Morning News, December 30, 1931. Editorial.
http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=L56R4DMHMTUyNjMyNTM5NS4yODU2MDk6MToxMzoxMjguNjIuNzAuMTE5&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D2247C6907F01@2426706-104D22487677A470@12-104D224B65AA3163@Buy%20Them%20Out .

“Capper Opposes Debt Revision; ‘Uncle Sam Santa Long enough’.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Dec 27, 1931, pp. 1. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/99200163?accountid=7118.

“First World War Debt to Be Paid off at Last.” Evening Standard, 03 Dec. 2014, p. 45. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=99762662&site=ehost-live.

Knott, John. “Better Than Nothing.” Dallas Morning News, 30 Dec. 1931. Editorial.
http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=P5FT56BQMTUyNjMyODM4Ny4yNjg1MTU6MToxMjoxNDYuNi4xMTkuOTc&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D2247C6907F01@2426706-104D22487677A470@12.

Moulton, Harold G., and Leo Pasvolsky. World war debt settlements. The Macmillan company, 1926.

Potter, Edmund D. “World War I debts,” The 1930s in America, edited by Thomas Tandy Lewis, Salem, 2011. Salem Online.
http://te7fv6dm8k.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info%3Asid%2Fsummon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=bookitem&rft.title=The+Thirties+in+America&rft.au=Potter%2C+Edmund&rft.atitle=World+War+I+debts&rft.date=2011-01-01&rft.volume=3&rft.spage=1035&rft.epage=1036&rft.externalDocID=1916300673&paramdict=en-US.

“Reparations and War Debts.” Dallas Morning News, December 30, 1931. Editorial.
http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=P5FT56BQMTUyNjMyODM4Ny4yNjg1MTU6MToxMjoxNDYuNi4xMTkuOTc&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D2247C6907F01@2426706-104D22487677A470@12.

There Ain’t No Such Animal

Uncle Sam as he passes by the "Germanese Twins"
Uncle Sam as he passes by the “Germanese Twins”

There Ain’t  No Such Animal

John Knott ~ December 28, 1931

World War I was an enormous global conflict that completely altered the geopolitical landscape and changed the way the world thought about war. Many societies, including the United States, were astonished by the unprecedented death toll that occurred due to advances in weapons, machines, and trench warfare. The introduction of tanks, the automatic gun, and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, led to horrors that had never been seen before. With a generation of young men killed and injured due to the Great War, society was left changed, and the United States’s view of the contributing factors and aftermath of this war were broadcast throughout the nation in newspapers. In the political cartoon There Aint No Such Animal, by John Knott from the December 28, 1931 issue of the Dallas Morning News, we see a satirical and politically biting interpretation of the controversial war reparations brought upon Germany by the Allied powers.

Following World War I, at the Paris Peace conferences, the Allied powers had to decide what punishments to divvy out to the Central powers. The Allied powers decided to force the defeated Central powers to pay reparations. However, the other Central powers could not pay reparations because many countries were bankrupt and their governments had broken apart, such as the dissolution of Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Germany was forced to take sole responsibility for World War I and for the reparations. Many countries recognized there were other contributing factors to World War I and believed the reparations would be too harsh, which would lead to geo-political and economic consequences in the future (Webb, 786). However, France believed Germany deserved to pay all these reparations due to France’s destruction at the hands of German troops. The debate over reparations was a point of contention throughout the Paris peace conferences. Germany had to pay thirty-three billion US dollars to the Allied powers in 1931, which is the equivalent of five hundred and sixteen billion dollars in 2015 (Webb, 793-4). The Allied powers should have had the foresight to see that these penalties were too harsh and would ultimately lead to further tragedy, such as World War II.

In the political cartoon, There Aint No Such Animal, we see Uncle Sam passing a store front acknowledging, yet walking away from the ‘Germanese twins’.  The title of the cartoon alludes to the idea that this colossal amount of debt and reparations had never been seen before because no war resolution had ever resulted in such large reparations directed at one country. As we see Uncle Sam peering into a window, in shock at the two fat twins, and he is trying to wave at them. Yet, the twins look back angrily through the window. Germany was angry because America was one of the countries that contributed to the reparations, and the German people believed the reparations were unfair and humiliating to their country. The twin’s size illustrates that Germany had a large war debt. Uncle Sam’s facial reaction alludes to the American people’s guilt of Germany’s financial situation. The ‘Germanese twins’ represent the massive war debts and the one hundred and thirty-two billion gold marks of war reparations that Germany had to pay (Taussig, 37-8). Knott employs the use of humor through his characterizations of the two global superpowers. The emblem of Uncle Sam is supposed to demonstrate American military heroism, yet here Uncle Sam shies away from his own actions. The large size of the twins and their angry expressions are literal in demonstrating Germany’s large debts and reparations and their anger about said debts and reparations, and Knott illustrates the humiliation and reduction of Germany as a country by placing the twins behind a glass window. The glass window allows others to ignore their plight and their accountability.

The Basel Report opinion article that is paired with the cartoon explains the economic consequences of Germany’s war debts and reparations. The article states that economists in over eleven nations believed that Germany was unable to pay these reparations due to their “declining business, departures from the gold standard, tariff bars, and heavy interest charges on loans and credits” (The Basel Report).  Another issue set forth in the article is that taxes could not be raised to pay the reparations. There was growing fear that Germany’s economic crisis could start a global economic decline. In the cartoon, we see Uncle Sam shying away from the twins, but also staring at them in fear of what troubles they could bring. The issue that the war debts and reparations were part of the same issue and could not be separated is demonstrated in the cartoon by representing them as twins. Basel asks, “If war debts due us cannot be met in full, they should be reduced. Why worry over the loss of driblets, when billions of dollars are being lost annually through the continuance of hard times and unemployment?” (The Basel Report). Clearly the reparations were not the answer to global economic repair, and many people found the reparations to be ridiculous and humiliating, as the cartoon illustrates.

Ultimately, these reparations were unjust and shortsighted because they forced Germany into a financial crisis from which they could not recover. As world renowned economist John Keynes said this was a ‘Carthinagian’ solution that ultimately led to the complete destruction of Germany’s economy and political system. The economic collapse and degradation of the ineffective Weimar Republic led to poor quality of life, rampant poverty, and desperation in Germany that ultimately led the German people to alternatives like the Nazi party to save the country from total disaster.

Works Cited

Bradley, Megan. “Reparations.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. George Thomas          Kurian. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. 1459-1460. Gale Virtual Reference              Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “There Ain’t No Such Animal.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed. Print.

Taussig, F. W.. “Germany’s Reparation Payments”. The American Economic Review 10.1 (1920): 33–49.

“The Basel Report.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed., sec. 1: 4. Print.

Webb, Steven B.. “Fiscal News and Inflationary Expectations in Germany After World War I”. The Journal of Economic History 46.3 (1986): 769–794.