Friday, May 16, 2008

Dry White History # 322

One apocryphal bit of business surrounding the 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler...' quote, used 'liberally' without attribution by various conservative writers and attributed to Senator William Borah, the 'lion of Idaho', bears mentioning.

Borah was linked quite often in the papers of the times as a compatriot to his fellow Republican Senator, Gerald P. Nye (R-North Dakota), who during his time in office was the chairman of a special Senate committee tasked with investigating the munitions industry’s connections with World War I.

This was the Munitions Investigating Committee, popularily known as the Nye Committee.

Essentially, the committee found some rather striking degrees of conviviality between the American government of the time under Woodrow Wilson, and various arms manufacturers and sellers, including Samuel P. Bush, who at the time was tasked by Bernard Baruch to head the Ordnance, Small Arms, and Ammunition Section of the War Industries Board, a post for which as a 'railroad man' he showed scant previous experience, save for his very amicable relations with such social luminaries as Percy Rockefeller, owner of Remington Arms, and Averill Harriman, later Senior Partner of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

Both captains of industry later took it kindly upon themselves to recommend young Prescott Bush to Yale's Skull and Bones fraternity in 1916, along with Averill's brother 'Bunny' Harriman.

It should be noted that Remington Arms became preeminent in small arms and ammunition contracts for American and Allied powers during this time, supplying by one estimate '...machine guns and Colt automatic pistols; millions of rifles to Czarist Russia; over half of the small-arms ammunition used by the Anglo-American allies in World War I; and 69 percent of the rifles used by the United States in that conflict'
...No doubt, merely incidental to the close personal relationships being formed by these elite members of American society.

Although the final findings of the committee were somewhat ambiguous, in a similar fashion to the determinations of the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee (tasked to examine the 'businessman's putsch' of 1933), numerous Neutrality acts were reactively authored and passed as an indirect result of the investigation.

It would be illuminating to reflect upon the larger role that Samuel P. Bush might have played in facilitating such amicable relationships in the Great Game of the time, but unfortunately most of the records detailing his activities in this matter were burned by the National Archives at an unspecified date, purportedly in order to 'save space'.

The triumph of convenience.