The Dutch Quandary
UNDER an outward appearance of prosperity and plenty, conditions are steadily growing worse in Holland, and great anxiety is beginning to be felt about the future. But it is not actual conditions alone that make certain people suffer: there is also — among practically all the small neutrals, dependent as they now are on the good-will or ill-will of the mighty belligerents — a tendency in some circles to suffer in anticipation. There are even some good Hollanders, who imagine that they have been suffering all along; whereas, after two years of fair prosperity, or, at least, of plenty, it is only a year since things took a decided turn for the worse; but they are now fast approaching a crisis.
Distress began with a shortage of fuel, which assumed alarming proportions last autumn. Besides its peat, Holland produces only a small quantity of soft coal, and in peace-times was amply supplied by England, Germany, and Belgium. Houses with central heating are still an exception here, stoves being used in all the different rooms; and the majority of houses still have gaslight, while in the country oil-lamps are generally used. Owing to the sudden lack of fuel, trains were greatly reduced, and heated only partly or not at all; factories had to work on half-time or stop altogether; streets were practically not lighted, and households were rationed to a minimum of both fuel and light. People grew ingenious accordingly: resorting to fireless cookers, thermos bottles, and similar devices, and having but one hot meal per day.
No country can possibly exist without coal; but for a country below the sea-level, where windmills to a large extent are replaced by steam-pumps, it is also a matter of ‘ pump or be swamped!’ As has been the case all along the line, the government had to interfere, and try to meet the most urgent needs, which it succeeded fairly well in doing — but at terrific sacrifices when foreign arrangements were made. All Dutch, British, and German coal is now being sold at an average price. A certain minute minimum was allotted, much below cost, to all private householders, who later on could get a limited surplus at higher prices according to the number of chimneys for which they paid taxes. Railroad companies, steamship companies, factories, gas-plants, and the like, pay more.
Although in this way we managed to scramble through the past winter, it certainly has been a severe trial. The very poor people fared best, for the general minimum in some cases was more than they consumed in times of peace; the wealthy people could supply their needs to some extent by burning enormous quantities of expensive wood; but the average Holland household, forming the majority of the nation, throughout the winter was huddled together in a single poorly heated room, about a single lamp, in an otherwise dark and icy-cold house. Some of the more simple households parted with their single servant, or even let her sit in their room of an evening.
Allotments of gas being much smaller than of electricity, owing to the difference in quality of the fuel used, a great many people had electricity put into their houses; but this is coming to a stop as the necessary material is fast running out. Using light above the allowed quantity not only is punished by a considerable extra charge, but the culprit is inexorably cut off from all light for a few days, thus preventing the rich from abusing their wealth. At first, candles were used, but these are now distributed only in the ‘ lightless ’ country-side at the rate of two per month. For some time the rural population was practically without light, owing to the complete lack of oil.
Before the war, firewood was used mostly as a fancy fuel in the comparatively few open grates of libraries, boudoirs, etc., in Dutch houses. The shortage of coal not only caused a considerable speculation in wood, but also brought about a cutting-down at random of trees, to such an extent that a law was passed to prevent, or regulate, this lawless deforestation of the country, while at the same time maximum prices were fixed for firewood. This again caused considerable discontent among some owners of timber, who felt injured in their particular interests, as they had hoped to profit hugely in this their ‘golden’ time.
Small quantities of coal were obtained in England, but the shortage of labor there, and the repeated torpedoing by the Germans of our vessels going to fetch it, made us practically dependent on Germany. Needless to say that the demands of that country were more than equal to the urgency of our serious want and our dependence on them. Though a good fight was put up, considerable concessions had to be made, both in supplies and in credits. For coal, iron, and steel Germany had to be given a credit of 11,250,000 guilders per month, of which 5,250,000 is carried by the big industrials, 2,000,000 by ironand steel-works, and 4,000,000 by the Netherland Export Company.
Besides this so-called ‘free’ iron and steel, Germany allows us a little more, to which special conditions are attached. On March 31 the contract with Germany expired, and the alternative of ‘freeze or pay up had to be faced once more by those who watch over the country’s needs and interests. The coal question certainly is a very ‘threatening fist,’ as it involves light, power, and heat in all their varied applications.
Gasolene is no more to be had, so that practically all automobiles have stopped running, causing widespread unemployment and distress among chauffeurs. The lack of gasolene and oil also hampers the motor-barge traffic on our numerous canals and rivers.
All this shortage of transport makes unusually heavy demands on the horses, whose condition, on account of the ever-decreasing supply of fodder, is really pitiful. Ocasionally horses drop dead in the street from mere exhaustion. Moved by pity for the suffering of these dumb animals, someone wrote to the President of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in the United States, asking whether that society could not help in this matter. The answer, While expressing sympathy, was to the effect that it was not considered desirable to use any influence whatever with the United States government as to its policy concerning exportation of fodder to neutrals. Our poultry stock had to be mostly killed off, for the same reason; while the larger dogs, even of good breeds, can be had for a song, as many owners find it impossible any longer to feed them properly.
Wherever one turns nowadays in Holland, it is the government, and again the government — in fact State Socialism all round, which may hereafter have very serious and unwishedfor consequences! By the DistributieWet of September, 1916, all foodstuffs, and practically everything, has been taken up gradually by State commissions. The all-important question just now is the bread-supply. What with foreign-grown and home-grown crops there is just enough grain to last until early July (after deducting eleven per cent for wheat reserved for sowing) at the present rate of distribution.1
Now, the ordinary man in the street knows — and if he does not know, you may rest assured that the German propaganda will draw his attention to it, as it does to all war-measures of the Entente — that his government chartered ships, which left for America, where grain was bought and paid for, and loaded; and also, that these ships now, for months and months, have been kept by force, while the grain either was unloaded again, or is spoiling in the ships. As his diplomatic insight is located somewhere in or near his digestive organs, which clamor for more bread and better food, is it to be wondered at that he begins to speak about ‘nasty Americans’; to believe that the United States ‘ hates’ Holland; to look with increasing hope toward the East, whence help has been promised? His unsophisticated mind cannot perceive that the blows Holland gets are not meant for him, but for the man behind him, and therefore should be borne cheerfully!
Of course all blame, always and for everything, is put on the government. And sometimes it does seem as if the nation existed for the sake of the government, instead of the government for the nation. Of criticisms, no end! Perhaps there has been a lack of insight as regards the duration of the war, and accordingly too much was allowed to be exported, both to England and to Germany, during the first years. But trade had to go on somehow, imports had to be secured, and also huge profits could be made. Through mines, submarines, and ever-varying regulations, our former extensive exports to Great Britain became increasingly difficult, while trade with Germany could go on unhampered.
FINANCE AND COMMERCE
The prevailing idea in America, so far as we can gather from what we read or hear, is that Holland is waxing ‘fat and rich’ through the war. With the waxing fat the preceding section has dealt; as to waxing rich — we certainly are doing so; but rich, alas, in debts! No doubt enormous warprofits have been made by the major part of the commercial class, which in Holland is proportionately much smaller and more strictly limited than is the case, for instance, in the United States, where engaging in business is much more general. Also, people in the vast official and leisure classes holding the right shares have benefited hugely by war-profits. The war-losses of the nation as a whole, however, have far exceeded the profits; but the figures can be appreciated only when the smallness of the country and its population (nearly six and a half millions) are taken into consideration.
Until lately, Hollanders by preference invested their money in foreign securities; but this war has brought it home to them that national capital preferably must be used for national and colonial purposes, and as a result, great emissions for Dutch concerns are being placed with unusual alacrity. The normal income tax of two per cent on the interest of most American securities, instituted already before the war, and the fear of more taxes that may have to be paid in the future, have not increased the popularity of American securities in our market; while anxiety is now being felt about the future of such American railway bonds and shares as Missouri Pacific, Rock Island, and others.
On the other hand, Germany tries with all her might and with all sorts of devices to introduce her securities, and she succeeds to a greater extent than is desirable for our future economic independence. Business with Germany can be transacted without difficulty or loss of time. Letters, although severely censored, pass quickly, and letters between Holland and Switzerland via Germany are not censored at all, while telegraphic replies from that country can be had in one day.
With the Entente, correspondence is much more difficult. Instead of the two night-services and the one dayservice, between Holland and Great Britain, of peace-time, and the direct communications with the United States and with our colonies, one single mailsteamer, heavily convoyed, reaches us once a fortnight. Letters to England and to France take about a month, to America about two months, and to our colonies often three months or more, owing to transportation difficulties, and often also to unnecessary delays by the censor. Cabling, too, is considerably hampered.
In more purely business circles perhaps nothing has impaired pro-Allied sympathy more, and caused more bitter feeling, than the sudden and unexpected cutting off of all cable communication for several months with the United States, and with our colonies, by Great Britain, owing to the vexed ‘sand and gravel’ question. Though it was teirible and humiliating to be unable to communicate with our own colonies, and though it hurt trade with America to an unheard-of extent, our bankers and business people approved entirely of the attitude of the Netherlands Foreign Office. The farce of it is, that American quotations of the bond and share markets in America always reached us one or two days later, — via Wolff, Germany! — but no banker here could do any business with America, because there was no cable communication. The result was something extraordinary! When Atchison and Topeka shares were quoted at 92 at Amsterdam, Union Pacifics at 124, and Norfolk and Western Common at 115, the quotations at New York were, on the same day, respectively 82, 114, and 103. In fact, the difference between the two markets was even greater, as exchange on New York was quoted at a discount of about eight per cent.
Needless to say that the holding up of our ships in America, together with the censorship between Holland and her colonies, has greatly injured our colonial trade in sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee, rubber, etc., although a small part of the products is now being sold to the United States. Apart from the financial losses, it is hard for the home country to be forced to do without all that of right belongs to her; but possibly Providence is using the Entente to cure Holland of some of its faiblesses; for besides much drinking of strong tea, the excessive use of tobacco was one of the national characteristics. Hampered on every side, and ignored as regards their unquestionable rights, both, the Netherlands government and private businessmen, are trying to make the best of a bad job, and devise means to keep things going that will satisfy all the belligerents, which certainly is not always an easy or a pleasant job.
The ‘Netherlands Overseas Trust,’ instituted since the war, is not exactly a financial institution, but rather a body of prominent merchants and bankers, who safeguard the destination of imported goods, and see to it that no goods are exported to Germany unless such exportation is permitted by the Allies. The true Holland merchant or banker does not look with kindly eyes on the N. O. T., and considers it as an infringement of his neutral rights, with which he simply has to put up for the time being. He has to put up with a lot nowadays, not only with regard to his own foreign and colonial relations, but also because the home government is forced to take over the distribution of almost everything imported or produced here, which in the long run is apt to kill private initiative. Heavy losses are now sustained by commissionnaires and middle-men, for whom there is no place in the present system of State-Socialism, and who accordingly have lost their source of income.
Another war creation is the ‘Netherlands Export Company,’ or ‘Export Centrale,’ with a capital of five million guilders furnished by corporations and official bodies. Its aim is to concentrate both exports and imports in such a way that goods exported from Holland shall, in the first place, be exchanged for goods most urgently needed here, so as to prevent the accumulation of gold and the giving of foreign credits to a considerable extent. That it does not succeed altogether was shown in the coal question. Contracts with Great Britain, Germany, and Austria have been made, and others, with America, are being made. Neither the N. 0. T. nor the N. E. C. allows a higher profit than five per cent, the remaining profit going to the government in aid of the distribution. Thus in various ways Holland tries to get its necessary supplies without losing altogether its economic independence.
The very acute question of smuggling can suitably be mentioned here. There undoubtedly is a considerable amount of smuggling still going on, into Belgium, and especially into Germany; but to reassure those in the United States whose only interest in and knowledge of Holland are apparently comprised in the five words, ‘Holland is feeding the Germans,’ let it be told, that the Netherlands government is fighting this evil with unabated rigor.
Whole romances could be written about the endlessly varying devices used, and about the categories and nationalities going in for smuggling. Only a short time ago two well-known German countesses, homeward bound with a special recommendation from our Foreign Office, were caught at the frontier smuggling valuable quantities of rubber and various articles. They pretended to be highly indignant, said it was all a mistake, insisted that their luggage should be sent on at once to the Foreign Office at Berlin, where one of them actually did belong; yet — all was confiscated, and each of these ‘noble’ women was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment.
From such as these the practice descends, in marvelous variety, to the little boy who had hidden many tablets of chocolate in his drawers! Then there were Dutch day-laborers going across the border to work in Germany, returning at night practically stripped, till now all new underwear is being officially stamped by the customs officials. And last, but not least, there are the sordid, mean people, who run smugglers, but remain safely at home, pocketing the enormous profits and paying a pension to the family, if the smuggler gets into prison, or even if he is shot.
All these laws, all this fight against smuggling, are enforced and carried on by our regular customs staff, aided by mounted police, and reinforced by four to five thousand military as extra customs officials. These men often risk their lives in catching or chasing smugglers in the darkness of night; several have been killed while doing their duty loyally. All goods seized are sold later on, the proceeds coming to the State. The officials get no percentage or premium; only, in cases of special daring or ingenuity, they get a small gratification. Yet the temptation put before these men is almost beyond human endurance. Several hundreds of guilders are offered to a soldier for just looking in a certain direction for a quarter of an hour. Only recently, a customs official, whose yearly salary is 1500 guilders, was offered not less than 12,000 per week, if he would connive; but the man withstood! Of course, not all men stand firm against temptation in this way. The small salaries, the high cost of living, the desire for money, and all that this means for them and their families; the argument of the smuggler that it is not a guilty but a charitable act to allow foodstuffs to pass, combine to make men give in. Cases of corruption do occur. It cannot be wondered at, but it is a curse; for before the war the Netherlands corps of customs officers used to be absolutely incorruptible, which cannot be said of those of all countries. The ethical loss caused by this evil of smuggling in all its varieties is in a way perhaps more serious than the financial losses the nation is now suffering.
THINGS ETHICAL, AND INTERNATIONAL
Perhaps no nation can see more clearly the moral evils wrought by war than can a small neutral in the midst of it all, by looking objectively at what is happening both around it and within it. The loss in ethical value in both instances is so tremendous, that one can hardly fully realize it as yet. Moral standards have been lowered everywhere. It certainly is not the least of Germany’s crimes that by her methods she almost forces her opponents to lower their standards so as not to be at too great a disadvantage. But apart from this, war seems to awaken in all countries both the noblest and the lowest sentiments.
Glorious, wonderful patriotism, side by side with the most narrow, selfish nationalism! Deeds of chivalry and of human compassion alongside of deeds born of intense international hatred and desire of vengeance. Wilful lying and blindness on all sides,causing a spiritual estrangement which it will take decades to heal. ‘Necessity of war’ as an all-round excuse for measures a government would not have dreamed of taking in peace-time. Yet, what acts of utmost devotion and self-sacrifice in all countries around us; what loyalty, what energy, what heroism, what renunciation of self in the common pursuit, of an ideal, which each side honestly believes to be the right one! Should any people cease so to believe, that side would collapse, for moral factors ultimately count more than material ones. To be strong in war, each side must of necessity confine itself to implicit faith in its own ideal and policy, and to wholesale execration of the other side. Men will not sacrifice their lives, women cannot give up their husbands, sons, or lovers, unless they have a clear ideal before them, and a burning indignation, if not a hatred, in their hearts. To strengthen this ideal, to nourish this indignation beside the best and purest impulses, most degrading methods are used — to the moral detriment of all nations.
This tragic struggle between two different ideals, with varied motives and aspirations at the back of each, and this mutual hatred, Holland with sad and anxious eyes has been observing for nearly four years now. Of course, in Holland we see only the horrible side of it. War, though demanding the supreme sacrifice from a nation, both in precious human lives and in goods, undoubtedly has also its compensations in its very activity, its enthusiasm, in the going forth to battle for a national cause and ideal. It draws out both the highest and lowest qualities in men, and, even though exhausting a nation, may unify and steel it; whereas prolonged neutrality makes for deterioration. Here, enforced inactivity, constant humiliations on all sides, moral isolation, are apt to blunt one’s feelings in the long run and make one selfish. The unity, the manliness, the spirit of self-sacrifice, the wonderful spirit of compassion and charity, so beautiful at first in Holland, are slowly giving place to a kind of despondency and pettiness of outlook, which those who love their country cannot but regret. But can it be wondered at? It is much harder to bear enforced privations, than to make willing sacrifices for a cause that thrills one; to toil for a living ideal is more elevating than the having to protest against being trampled upon, or simply to acquiesce. Neutrality is a negative ideal, against which part of the nation chafes, though all recognize its wisdom.
Another serious matter is the gradual change in the standard of morality. Holland no doubt had its many faults and shortcomings, but it certainly never was a corrupt country, either in administration, in politics, or in business. This war has fostered temptations and vices totally new to the country. As conditions grow worse, profiteering, hoarding, trying to circumvent regulations, lack of responsibility and of public feeling, selfishness, lust of undue profits — all these do increase. Then there are the spies of all nationalties having centres in our country, trying to bribe our folk into rendering them services for high rewards. Then there is the gradually growing unemployment, with its curse of idleness, making men prone to succumb to the temptations of profitable smuggling. Then there are the many undesirable foreign elements, the alarming growth of prostitution and its inherent evils, the increasing number of thefts, burglaries, and even murders. All this makes for ethical loss to the nation. Alas, for the nice, clean Holland of pre-war days!
Though strictly neutral in policy, sympathies are apt to diverge in Holland, and it is difficult to give a proper estimate of them. There is also a remarkable difference. The average Hollander with pro-Ally sympathies feels his attitude more or less as self-evident, and accordingly he is fairly quiet, quite frank, and most liberal-minded about it. He sees the manifold blunders made by the Entente countries; he often resents the way they treat Holland; but the cause they are fighting for has his warm sympathy, respect, and profound admiration. The average pro-German, on the contrary, perhaps from an unconscious feeling that his cause wants much defense, is ever at it, with a violence and a wholesale admiration for Germany, which makes one wonder whether his pro-German feelings do not sometimes outrun his loyalty to his own country —and yet he works to an amusing degree anonymously! The common people are decidedly anti-German. Is it a class instinct, which unconsciously feels where the danger lies? or have they heard too many tales of woe from Belgian refugees? In the upper classes, and more particularly among the aristocracy, there is more sympathy for the German cause. Is it because in Germany they find their ideal materialized?
It is curious that the more orthodox Roman Catholics and Protestants alike are apt to be pro-German. The aged leader of the Calvinists, having a numerous following in the lower classes, openly avows that sentiment. On the whole, the church, not knowing how to combine religion and war, preaches a kind of effete and superior pacifism, which would make our ancestors, who for eighty long years in olden days fought for our freedom and independence, turn in their graves, if they could hear it. These good ministers, with their almost pharisaical pride in their neutrality, utterly fail to see that — as was so well pointed out in the Outlook of December 26 — ‘ what is commonly called peace is not peace at all; mere absence of fighting is not peace; on the contrary, if you want peace, you will have to fight for it.’
This is an experience which every high-minded man has in his daily life. A greater psychological problem confronts the old-fashioned pacifists, who in almost all countries are inclined to proGermanism. Without exaggeration, it surely can be said that, except for a few purely savage tribes, Prussia is the only civilized country where war as an institution was not only preached and glorified, but desired! The Central powers at present are Prussianized to an alarming and even surprising extent, for Prussia used not to be loved in Southern Germany, Austria, and Turkey. It certainly is curious that pacifists should feel in the least drawn to a group of nations, which now is the embodiment of the direct opposite of their sincere wishes. Besides, in their horror of war, and with their great longing for peace, — and what thinking human being does not long for an equitable peace?— these deluded persons fail to see that an untimely peace, or ‘German peace,’ such as Russia and Roumania were forced to sign, means, not only a victory for Germany, but at the same time the victory of the very principles they are fighting against. Then, too, a great many people cannot look at the war detachedly, and former influences and relations come into play. The musical world, for instance, taken as a whole, is out-and-out pro-German, whereas artists, architects, and people with a sense of color and proportion are, as a rule, pro-Ally. Quite an interesting study could thus be written about sentiments in Holland.
Yet foreigners make a tremendous mistake when they imagine, even for a moment, that either the Dutch government or the Dutch people are influenced by these sentiments instead of being guided by the deep-rooted, centuries-old love that we Hollanders have for our country. Above all sympathies or antipathies, we are good, loyal, patriotic Hollanders first and foremost. When sheer might forces us to make concessions to either of the belligerents abusing their power, our sympathies do not play any part in our action; and though having sometimes to give in, we scorn at all events the sophisticated explanations offered to us as pretexts for such oppression.
War, with its ‘necessities,’ seems to have a morality of its own. To us neutrals it certainly is most cheering to witness the affectionate compassion that the Allies show us when Germany ill-treats us, or the kindly sympathy we get from the Central powers — not to speak of their ‘moral indignation’ — when the Allies pinch us hard — so much kindness and democracy all round when it regards the other side! What a relief it will be when, once more, people in all countries shall be able to see things in their true light and proportions!
Just as war has its moral compensations of increased efficiency, manliness, the spirit of sacrifice, even so neutrality has hers: besides the greater objectivity with which we can judge events, we need not hate, or make for what divides. In fact, we must try to keep together whatever there is left of internationalism.
Little did we know, when these last words were written, what was in store for Holland. It undoubtedly is America’s sovereign right to refuse to sell to us any of her coal or products for solid Dutch gold; but why a nation with such high aspirations prevented neutral Holland from getting the much-needed grain that she bought in a neutral South American country, or the products of her own colonies, on her own neutral ships, is a riddle to many. Trusting in America’s strong sense of fair play, we did not doubt for a moment that things would soon be cleared up. In the meantime we paid terrific sums of money in demurrage for the ships which, in full trust and confidence, had sailed to America, and were kept there by sheer force, and certainly not out of fear of German submarines.
Then suddenly came what may be called the ‘ultimatum’! The Netherlands government met it as far as was consistent with its principles of strict neutrality, though sacrificing, perhaps, much to the nation’s disgust, part of the national honor, from fear of famine. But — it was not to be! Our neutral ships were wanted to strengthen the Allied fleet. Few people in the United States can have any idea of the burning indignation that the seizing of the Dutch ships caused in Holland, or of the bitter disappointment and utter surprise that of all nations the United States should be the first to wrest from us part of our so far strictly preserved neutrality — for that is what it practically comes to.
Much we have suffered in this war from all sides; but, apart from the intense humiliation, America’s action has made Holland’s international position infinitely worse. There is no saying what may next be extorted from us. Reading the American interpretation, the action looks almost plausible, and perhaps American citizens even imagine that it was lawful and humane — for are we not to receive most generous compensation, and are we not to be allowed to buy some food in return, or to get what of right belongs to us? Alas, for the infatuation of war! Even German citizens honestly believe their government’s measures to be lawful and humane. It is all very bewildering, and how hard it becomes for the average Hollander to believe any longer in America’s idealism! Then, how galling to witness Germany’s joy and evident satisfaction, even her pity for us! She feels that she need not do much more, for the Entente is gradually pushing unwilling Holland into her arms; she can now also base her next action on American precedent. All along in this war she has tried thus to justify her cause and actions! And to think that it should be the great Republic across the ocean which inflicts this injustice upon us! Is the past to be altogether forgotten in the needs of the present?
When Germany was still a chaos of small principalities fighting each other; when the United States of America were not even dreamed of, the Netherlands fought themselves free, formed their Union of Provinces, and, in 1581, issued their Declaration of Independence. Here is not the place to recall the leading rôle the Netherlands played after that in European history, or the ideals and principles which through centuries they have stood for, and still stand for. Yet it was these very ideals and principles which prompted the United Netherlands, two centuries later, to side with the American oolonists, struggling for freedom and independence. Though allied at the time with England, the Dutch espoused the American cause by word and by deed. They refused to allow the ‘Scotch Brigade,’ then stationed in Holland, to be used against the American colonies; neither would they advance one single man or a single cent to help England in this cause; on the contrary, fourteen million dollars were furnished by the bankers of Amsterdam to help the colonists in their struggle. And when Baltimore was hard pressed through the British blockade, it was Claas Taan who broke that blockade, and relieved the town with Dutch grain-ships. The first foreign salute to the American flag was fired by Dutch guns from the Dutch vessel Andrea Doria.
Again, the United Netherlands were the first to welcome the new Republic as their equal, and, by concluding a treaty with it, established the value of the United States in the eyes of the world of that time. In 1782 the StatesGeneral recognized John Adams as ‘Minister of the Congress of North America’ to the Netherlands. It is only five years ago that a prominent American historical society placed a memorial tablet in his old home at The Hague, ‘In token of more than three centuries of enduring friendship and of the manifold debt of the people of the United States of America to the Netherlands.’
Different tablets, commemorating other friendly relations with America, can be seen in Holland. IIow they make us smile, in these times of ‘Might is Right,’ when that same Republic, now growrn mighty, imposes on a small friendly nation conditions the mere consideration of which it would count as incompatible with its own honor. We also remember the thrilling accounts of the Hudson Fulton festivals, and many others. Was it all words, words, mere words?
Though no longer a republic in the real sense of the word, Holland, like Great Britain, with her constitutional monarchy and ministerial responsibility, can still be considered a republic — only with a permanent president; and yet the ruling monarchs in these countries have less absolute power than the President of the United States has. Was it mere accident that history repeated itself, — though the rôles were now reversed, — and that it was with Holland, of all European nations, that the United States first concluded a general arbitration treaty in 1913? How the whole world was then filled with great hopes for a better future, and how these hopes have been dashed to the ground on all sides by this ghastly war! We did not ask for charity, but wre had expected fair play on America’s part. Great is the disappointment, deep the humiliation. In the first rage, even the odious word ‘ reprisals ’ was whispered by some; but far be it from us! Holland is an old country, with honorable traditions to keep up, and she still stands for the same old principles. We shall go on harboring the Belgian refugees and all the numerous foreigners within our tiny country, and we shall continue, as far as we can, to send help to poor starving Allied prisoners, because such is our privilege. When, later on, the history of this war comes to be written, will the Dutch histories teach future generations that the United States, having risen in arms to avenge a crime against civilization, w ere friends or oppressors of small neutral nations?
- In June, 1918, the bread ration was cut from 250 to 200 grammes per head a day, and all meats together are distributed at 200 grammes per head per week. — THE AUTHOR.↩