Woodrow Wilson Papers

The Food Administrator ( Hoover ) to President Wilson

Dear Mr. President: The general food situation in Europe looms more strongly hour by hour through the various reports and telegrams that we are receiving.

In accordance with the arrangements made with your approval, the War Department is to give us shipping for 140,000 or 150,000 tons at once which foodstuffs they will advance to carry into French stocks or southern European ports for re-distribution on methods that may be determined on my arrival.

In addition to this, and in view of the serious situation in Northern Europe, I am—in accordance with our discussions of yesterday—instructing the Grain Corporation to purchase and ship to English ports for re-direction, another 125,000 to 140,000 tons of food to be used, probably in Northern Europe. We can finance this through the Grain Corporation up to the point of sale.

The ability to perform the measure will depend of course on our ability to secure the shipping. Mr. Hurley is making arrangements to divert to us if possible some boats outside of the Army programme but if this should fail I am anxious that the Army should make other sacrifices of its munitions programme to enable this to be carried out at once. I am confident that if we can have started to Europe 350,000 to 400,000 tons of food for these special purposes within the next ten or fifteen days and I can inform the various governments—especially [Page 631] some of the Northern Neutrals—of positive arrivals that will be placed at their disposal, it would enable them to increase rations from their present stocks and probably keep their boats from rocking.

I have had an opportunity this morning to discuss with a group of Senators the question of the provision of an appropriation for working capital to cover these operations. Some of them, especially Senators Pittman and Kellogg, are prepared to place themselves at your disposal, to forward any appropriation for this purpose. On the other hand, I find that amongst some of them bitterness is so great that they would raise strong opposition to raising an appropriation that they thought might be used for feeding Germany. I do believe that appropriation of a revolving fund could be obtained for providing food to the liberated peoples and neutrals and that it might be well to limit this legislation to these purposes; because through such agencies as the Army and the Grain Corporation, with perhaps your Presidential fund, we could probably manage to handle the German problem in itself.

While it should be clear in such appropriation that it is not a gift, but to provide a revolving fund to enable us to carry on relief commerce, it should have a special provision that the foodstuffs may be used for philanthropic purposes if necessary, for the populations of Belgium and Serbia.

Yours faithfully,

Herbert Hoover