Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Nineteen
On my arrival I immediately went to work at
the office and also called upon many friends. I gave a luncheon at the
India House to a large party of steamship men which was thoroughly
enjoyed. Meetings of companies in which I was a director and company
business took up the balance of my time during our eight days' stay. On
the last day I worked from early morning until late at night.
We arrived home October 27th, and was real
glad to see San Rafael after an absence of just seven months of a
lengthy and profitable trip.
I received many calls to address
associations; but declined them all with the exception of the
Commonwealth Club, before which body I spoke at a luncheon on November
We must all commend President Warren
Harding for his wisdom in calling together at Washington the
representatives of the principal nations of the world. This meeting
should be of the utmost importance and hopes for success and best wishes
of the American people are with the President, and every effort must he
made to make it a success.
As to the personnel of the conference,
there appears to be some doubt.
The Japanese members will be either
military or naval, as Japan is under complete control of the
militarists, and it will not be wondered at. that they should send such
representatives. Although militarists are in the minority, they are kept
in power by the limited franchise. The big majority of the Japanese
people have no voice, for if they had, the personnel would be of an
entirely different caliber and would be represented by merchants,
manufacturers and working people, who are strongly opposed to war.
The Chinese delegates will be peace
loving men who will do everything in their power to do away with war.
England will be strongly in favor of
The French delegates are all military or
naval men, or backed by this class, and will not favor disarmament.
The same can be said of Italy.
The best men of the United States have
been selected, and we can rest assured they will do what they can to
secure permanent peace and disarmament. So while we have great hopes of
success, we cannot help but feel disappointed in those members who will
not favor peace. It is not reasonable to expect that they will vote to
put themselves out of business and out of the way of making an easy
living. However, we must not despair, but hope for the best.
As nearly as I could ascertain, the
standing armies of the various nations are approximately: United States
138,000, United Kingdom 280,000, while Japan is variously estimated to
be from 600,000 to 1,000,000.
These figures are significant. Before the
war Germany was looked upon as the great danger center of the world. Now
Japan has taken her place. Therefore, as it were, a great black thunder
cloud hangs over the western side of this Western Hemisphere. Japan
claims she must continue her conquests to make room for her fast
increasing population, Let us see how they have expanded in the last
The Island of Formosa was the first
conquest, and is of such importance today, that it practically produces
all the sugar that Japan uses. Manchuria, her next conquest, is not more
than half populated and is a very rich agricultural country. Then Korea
fell into her lap, a country offering great opportunities for expansion.
She next acquired a big slice of Mongolia which is a very sparsely
populated country. Siberia, drawing a line from the Bering Straits to
Lake Baikal and thence to Harbin, may be said to be Japanese. In this
great territory there are comparatively few people. Last, but not least,
the Japanese acquired Shantung, a country rich in minerals and
agricultural possibilities, with over forty millions of inhabitants.
They have always said they would return this
Province; but when the Chinese asked for
an explanation of the delay, the Japanese mentioned the conditions that
would make this possible. When the Chinese learned what those conditions
were, they theoretically threw up their hands in despair, as the
conditions were impossible. It would be pertinent to ask what more they
want, as it is quite apparent that the plea of overcrowding' and the
necessity for more territory is a myth, unless they are looking some
thousands of years ahead. In addition, twenty-one demands were made of
China, which if accepted, would give to Japan the entire country. I have
been reciting only actual facts as I have the most kindly feelings
toward the Japanese. We should make every effort to prevent strife or
ill feeling, and to promote a lasting peace between America and Japan.
Inasmuch as the Pacific Ocean in years to
come will be the great center of the world's commerce we cannot help
being intensely interested. We want our share of this great trade that
is increasing so rapidly. China is to show the greatest development in
the near future and it remains with us not to do anything that would
provoke strife or prevent our getting a portion of this great wealth of
All true commerce is an exchange of
commodities. Buying is as necessary as selling, as we must get return
cargoes for our ships. One-way cargoes mean nearly double freight
charges. As time goes on our need of foreign trade increases. Mr.
Redfield, ex-Secretary of Commerce, has stated that the factories of the
United States could manufacture sufficient for our requirements in six
months, therefore, we must either sell our surplus products in foreign
countries or our men will be idle. The importance of foreign trade must
appeal to us all. as there is no one not directly or indirectly
The British have long been alive to this
situation, and in every port of the world British ships are to he seen,
and merchants and bankers have long been established. When we go after a
share of this trade, we must expect to meet with keen competition as
others have held the trade for centuries. Some of our American merchants
and shipowners take serious exception to this, evidently expecting to be
received with open arms, as if they were a long lost brother. It is for
this reason there is so much newspaper publicity concerning the unjust
discrimination against Americans. I call this by its proper name: ''The
keen competition for the world's commerce.''
The British are thoroughly organized and
have competent men to manage their business, men who thoroughly
understand conditions, Many of our people are without previous
experience, and it is not to be wondered at that they do not succeed.
They, however, return home stating that foreigners employ unfair methods
into play against them. Therefore, I want to say to you: Before going
into foreign trade, be sure you have the man before you start.
I find humanity the same, the world over
stripped of its racial peculiarities and customsman is the same. It is
environment that has changed him.
To illustrate this further: When I was in
London last year I was invited to attend a luncheon of shipowners,
bankers and merchants, at which the Lord Mayor presided. Lord' Robert
Cecil delivered an address on the League of Nations. I was the only
person at the speakers' table who was not a nobleman. The presiding
officer then called upon me to address the meeting, but I refused,
.stating that I was a comparative stranger and it would be entirely out
of place. He would not take "no" for an answer telling the guests that I
did not want to speak because I was a stranger, and asked if there were
any who did not know me to hold up their hands, but not a hand was
I had to be careful in commenting on the
League as our Congress had refused to accept it, so I explained that we
favored peace, but considered the conditions of the League unworkable. I
said that a league of English speaking peoples of the world would be a
far better combination and would make war almost impossible. This turned
out to be the keynote of the day, as the entire audience rose and
cheered so that I had to stop speaking for quite a tune. I apologized to
Lord Robert for getting so much more enthusiasm than he, but he replied,
"You struck the keynote that we all want." Many came up afterward and
thanked me for the suggestion.
I rind in my travels around the world
that the Germans and Belgians are underbidding us in various
commodities, especially in products of iron and steel. 1 had an
experience in Peking which illustrates this. When bids were opened for
freight cars, the lowest American bid was $2,095,000; the lowest British
bid, $1,342,383; and the Belgian bid, to whom the contract was awarded,
was $1,126,850. There were seven American bids and twenty-nine of other
nations. Wages have a long way to drop before we can compete . We cannot
get business while staying at home, and must go out and hustle for t and
only our best men should be sent, as they have to compete with the best
that: other nations can produce.
I will give you an illustration of the
difficulties we have to contend with in China. When I arrived in Ichang,
which is on the Yangtse river. 1200 miles from the ocean, I found that
the town had been sacked and partly burned by soldiers, and the contents
of our office had also been destroyed. This was not the first time our
office had been looted, it having happened six months before. We went to
work, however, and after replacing what had been lost, are now doing
business "at the same old stand."
1 wrote my friend, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of the 'Peking Government, that twice a year was too
often for this to happen, and I thought once a year was sufficient. lie
replied in the same strain, stating he agreed with me and that he would
endeavor to limit the occurrence to once a year in the future.
If internal military turmoil was going on
in any other country such as it is in China, business would be
paralyzed. In China however, fighting, killing and the killing of people
is prevalent, while ui cities only fifty or seventy-five miles away,
business is transacted as usual.
From Ichang we have passenger steamers
that run to Chungking, hut have had considerable trouble on account of
bandits and soldiers attempting to hold them up. This has necessitated
our installing bullet-proof shutters to protect the officers from
gunfire. I saw where many bullets had dented
CUFFS RISING PERPENDICULARLY FROM THE WATER
the iron plates. Recently the attacks
became so constant that we had to give up operating vessels for a time.
The trip through the Gorges from Ichang
to Chungking is one of the most interesting and picturesque that I have
ever taken. The walls of solid rock rise perpendicularly on each side
and the great river is confined to such a narrow space that ii rises to
unheard of heights. This summer it reached a point 330 feet above low
water. The steamer service opens up the great Province of Szechuen in
which there are something over sixty millions of people that heretofore
have been practically cut off from communication with the outside world.
They produce everything 1hat they require. A great variety of minerals
are to be found within its borders and it is very rich m agricultural
land. The city of Chungking, the terminus of our service, is 1600 miles
from the ocean. A recent census places the number of inhabitants at
A very encouraging condition that
prevails in China which must be of interest to Americans, is that the
American population has increased very much since the war. An American
Chamber of Commerce has been formed in Shanghai with a membership of
over 300. This body made a vigorous effort to have a Bill put through
Congress permitting the incorporation of companies for the purpose of
doing business in China and putting them on an equality with other
nationals as regards taxation. The Bill, however, failed to pass through
lack of knowledge or comprehension of what Americans are doing in China.
The same may be said of Congress with reference to changing our
navigation laws so as to permit us to operate American ships irf foreign
trade. The subject has produced considerable amount of discussion, but
without results. To those engaged in this trade it would seem as though
discussion were unnecessary as it is so plain to us that all that is
necessary to enable us to operate ships under the American flag is to
have our laws exactly the same as other nationals, under whose dogs we
are successfully operating.
I made an address before the Bankers'
Association of California at Santa Rosa on Banking in Foreign Countries,
and its connection with foreign trade, and also gave them
a short synopsis of our trip up the
Yangtse River and through the gorges.
It seems to me that I never let up to
take a rest, but keep at work every minute of the day; and my health
continues to be so good, that I recently told some friends that I felt
as much like working as I did thirty years ago. Plenty of work and good
health are the greatest blessings one can enjoy. It was certainly a
great pleasure for me to meet quite recently, all of our thirteen
I found the Chinese Y. M. C. A. building
in San Francisco had made no progress since I left, hut I had a promise
of $100,000 while in New York, and I gave $25,000 toward the total cost
of $200,000. The association owns the lot free of debt.
I learned that a Y. M. C. A. building for
American young men in Shanghai was very much desired over there, and as
Ambassador Crane gave taels 50,000, I also agreed to give a like sum
toward a building which is to cost taels 300,000, as I am sure such a
building will be beneficial. It will be built on the principal
residential street facing the race track, where all kinds of games are
played, a fine place for recreation.
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