Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 1 - Chapter Twenty-one. 1916 A Busy Year

The year 1916 opened on us with all the trials and tribulations caused by the war. Our greatest difficulty is that we don't know how to arrange our business, as changes are continually occurring. We were fortunate enough to buy a cargo steamer of over seven thousand tons for $500,000, a price two and a half times her normal value, but she cleared half of her purchase price the first trip, and before the year was up had paid for herself.

On the 22nd of January, a party of us left for New Orleans, to attend the annual meeting of the Foreign Trade Council. When we arrived at Los Angeles, we were informed that three miles of the Southern Pacific track had been washed out and no trains would go through for a week. Through the kindness of the president and vice-president of the Santa Fe Railway, our car was taken by that road, and, at considerable expense, they got us into New Orleans but one hour before the meeting commenced.

Mr E. Sweet. Vice-Secretary of Commerce, delivered the address on the American merchant marine, to which I was asked to reply. The large hall was packed full even to standing room. When I had finished speaking I received a most enthusiastic reception, in fact, I have never seen a speaker receive such an ovation. The following is the stenographer's report of my remarks:


Mr Chairman and Gentlemen: You have heard that what we need is a merchant marine owned and operated by the Government. Now, Mr. Sweet has said that he differed with me. and I am very glad he did, for if we all agreed we would be men of putty, and it would not be necessary for me to get up and talk at all; all I would have to say is. "That's right—what he says." I do not propose to say that what he said is just right.

In discussing this subject, it is necessary for us to look at it from a broad viewpoint. First of all, it is very, very interesting to us who are engaged in the foreign trade. My interests are more in foreign trade than in shipping, though you are led to believe that my interests are more in shipping. But to see an audience such as this interested in foreign trade is encouraging to us in the extreme, and I want to say to you gentlemen that we have a good many things to discourage us. You see the movement that has been made in South America by the establishment of banks. Previous to this, when we had bills of exchange to sell or buy, they came through foreign banks. Officers of foreign banks are human They are men of their own nationality, and blood is thicker than water, and it is quite natural for them to give the tip to the other fellow as to what we are doing. I have got a tip myself, so I know what I am talking about! (Laughter.)

The American International Corporation is another step in the right direction. You were told here yesterday the great difficulty about us being able to sell our products on account of the money having been loaned by foreign nations, and they favored their nationality. Another illustration that "blood is thicker than water." Another encouragement in the midst of our discouragement, was that the American International Corporation bought out the ships of the Pacific Mail that remained on the Pacific, and continued the trade from the Pacific Coast to South and Central America. Those ships were on the eve of being sold; in fact. I don't think that the corporation got in more than a few minutes ahead of the other party. If those ships had been sold, it was the intention to divide them and they would have gone hither and thither, and our Pacific Coast would have been without any commercial communication with South and Central America. That was another encouraging sign.

Now, then, in discussing this merchant marine, it is not a question of the shippers themselves. The people who are interested are many; the whole of you—there is not a gentleman in this room who is not interested in the shipping business, indirectly, of course. Here are the farmers and the manufacturers. How are they going to ship their products to foreign markets if there are not ships? Here are bankers. What are the bankers going to do if there is no foreign trade—those who are dependent on that? Then, there are the merchants who are doing business in foreign countries who buy our products here and sell them in the foreign countries; and then, last of all, are the ships. What will the ships do if we have not the bankers?

Mr. Sweet said that our commerce was absolutely tied up at the commencement of the war because we did not have ships. I take a different view from that. What tied up our ships was the lack of banking facilities. A moratorium had been declared practically throughout the world, and hundreds of ships were left loaded and lying in harbors at that time. Merchants dared not send them out because they could not sell their bills of exchange. They dared not send their ships to foreign countries, for they did not know whether they could get their money out of them, and for more than two weeks our ships were tied up. until a meeting was held in Washington, when the great magnanimity of our bankers permitted us to start in business again—they taking the responsibility. Otherwise, the ships would have been held up indefinitely. (Applause.)

Now as to the help or detriment that Congress gives us. I happened to get a telegram, sent to me here, that really did not pertain to this organization at all. It is a private telegram. It reads this way, and it is pertinent—I hope that you gentlemen will see that we have got to be friendly with the nations that we are doing business with. You can catch a great many more flies with molasses, you know, than with vinegar. It reads this way: "Senator Lodge in the Senate and Mr. Burnett in the House have introduced bills requiring all Chinese in America to register within one year; making failure to register a crime punishable by several years imprisonment. Mr Baker also introduces a bill directly against all Asiatics."

Now, what is the meaning' of that? It means that, when I go over to China—many of our Americans are over there--that if we put the Chinese in jail here, they can put us in jail over there, and will make an end of our foreign trade with China. It is humiliating in the extreme, gentlemen, for me to land in this country, coming from China-—I have made many trips from there—to see Chinese gentlemen and Chinese ladies, just as good as any one in this room here, fired over to Angel Island and subjected to all kinds of indignities, and when I go to China with my wife, we walk ashore the same as if we were privileged individuals. Is that right? Why shouldn't we go to an Angel Island over in China, just as logically as we send them to our Angel Island here?

Now, as to the condition of the American Merchant Marine, and the reasons why the United States should have it enlarged to correspond with importance in the world.

This chart was gotten up by Mr. Ross, and has been reproduced here. These bars are ten-year intervals. You see that this is 1705 and this is 1800. (Indicating.) You see that we reached our maximum along here. (Indicating on the chart.) Here we were carrying 91.5 per cent, of our products to foreign countries; then down here, we got down to the time of the Civil War, when this drop took place here. Then, by the great wisdom of Congress, the drop continued right down (Laughter.) And I want to tell you, gentlemen, that along here we not only had the most ships and the most tonnage of any nation in the world, but we had by all odds the very best ships afloat. When the decline took place we were the rivals of Great Britain. They started in to build iron ships. We continued with wooden ships, because we had no encouragement—in fact, nothing but discouragement. From this line here, to this line here, (pointing to i860 and 1914), that all means discouragement. (Laughter.) To this up here, (indicating 1810) that was all encouragement; you see how it went up?

Now, by the Canal Act, we were permitted to import ships into this country free of duty, and it has been constantly thrown at us that not a single ship accepted the permission Well, the reason is very easy to explain. If we imported those ships we would have to go into foreign trade with them, and we would be in competition with the ships of the whole world; with ships of nations whose laws were the most favorable that human mind could devise, while ours were just the reverse. So, any man that imported a ship and put her into the foreign trade and operated her under the American dag was sure to make debt, and it was only a question of how much money he had until he would go into bankruptcy. (Applause.) That has always been concealed by the politicians and others who are talking for effect. They say, "You don't put any ships under the American flag; therefore, you have not the enterprise and the get-up to do it." That is a falsehood; it is not right, because before this war, American citizens had more than two million gross tons of shipping, entirely owned and successfully operated by American citizens, and were flying foreign flags on those two million tons. Now, does it not stand to reason that, if our laws were as favorable as the laws of those foreign nations under whose flag they were operating, we would be able to operate those ships under our own flag? And there is not a shipowner who would not rather use his own flag than the flag of another nation. I always feel, gentlemen, in doing business under the other flag, like the man who is doing business n his wife's name. (Applause and laughter.)

I am not going to bother you with all the handicaps under which we labor. It would take me about the rest of the day to tell about the handicaps that: produced these very things. Others are going to tell you about them, so I am relieved of that subject. A good many people think that we are cramped for want of ships and tonnage: that it is local and that it only pertains to some parts of the United States. It is general and the shortage of tonnage is throughout the whole world, and I have looked over the conditions throughout the whole world many, many times in the last few months, but I cannot find a single place that is any worse off than any other. They are all alike. It is a question of supply and demand. The supply is far, far short of the actual demand, and you gentlemen know that whenever you have a commodity for which there is far, far more demand than the quantity available, what the result is. The price goes up. There is none of you who is shy about playing a trick of that kind. (Laughter.) So we are not being discriminated against. Therefore you gentlemen appreciate the situation that you are in. I happen to own some British ships. The British Government has notified me that when I want to charter my ship, or send her from one port to another, 1 must get permission from the Government to do it. Suppose the British Government got at outs with this country and said: "You can't carry any cargoes here; you have got to go elsewhere." You can readily see the position our commerce would get into if this were done. Then you would appreciate the advantage of our having ships under our flag.

This is something that reminds me of the American and the Englishman, who were arguing about the relative greatness of our two countries. The Englishman did up the American, and the latter had nothing to say. As a parting shot, he said: "If you don't look out, we will stop this Gulf Stream from going over there, and we will freeze out the whole lot of you." So, 't would be very easy for Great Britain, or one of the big nations, to freeze us out. consequently we had better stay quiet and not say too much about it.

A million and three-quarter tons of shipping have been sunk since the war. All of the German and Austrian ships are interned, and England and France have commandeered over two thousand ships, so you can see the reason why the shortage has occurred. It is quite apparent to any one. The war has not decreased the amount of tonnage that had to be moved in the world. In fact, I think it has increased it somewhat. In some lines it has decreased but there is more tonnage to be moved now than before, hence it is impossible for the ships to get around to do it. Now, w e were told last year that, if this Ship Purchase Bill went through, we would immediately get ships. Every ship cleared in these United States is full to its capacity, and I defy any man, the Government included, to get any ships built inside of two years. (Applause.) Now, that's the relief that you are going to get by the Government building its ships. It cannot do an impossibility, and we all know that it cannot build them tn our yards, as the yards are full to their capacity, and will lie for two years; and we all know that the laws of the great nations have recently been changed so as to prohibit the sale of vessels to any other nation. You cannot go out and buy ships and bring them :n here now. Each nation wants to keep the ships it has in case its merchant marine becomes depleted.

Now, what is going to happen after the war? That, I think, no man can tell. That the bottom is going to come out of freights I don't think there is any question. Other people may have a different opinion from that, but what I am banking on is, that when all the German and Austrian fleets are released—and probably half of the transports will be released after the war—there is not going to be cargo enough available, and you will see the biggest crash in freights that you ever saw. We have gained 583,000 tons under the Emergency Act, and, in all, we now have about 1,700,000 tons engaged in foreign shipping, which is a great deal more than we had four years ago. We then had about half a million tons engaged in foreign shipping. That increase has been caused by the half million tons that did come in, and then the exigencies of the case were so extreme that old ships, which had been condemned, have been fitted out and are now engaged in the foreign trade. Of all the ships they are building today, there are only forty cargo ships building in the United States, and cargo steamers are what we want. The yards are full, budding other kinds of steamers, but it is the cargo steamers that arc going to relieve you gentlemen. Of the fleet of Great Britain, two-thirds of all their ships are cargo boats, and that is what has given Great Britain control of the markets of the world, and we have only forty such vessels on the stocks, and two-thirds of the ships that have been built in our yards—fine, big ships— have gone under the. Norwegian flag.

Now, the Emergency Act of 1914 gave us great encouragment.

I said to myself:

"The end has come; now we are going to get a merchant marine," and as I had occasion to go to China. I went away quite happy. I was not happy very long, however, when the Seamen's Bill came down on us like a flash out of a clear sky. (Laughter.) The Seamen's Bill was drafted to aid American sailors—the very title of the bill tells you that. (Laughter.)

I have some statistics here that I just received from San Francisco. The seamen there all have to take out certificates. There were 2064 who took out certificates in San Francisco up to last week; of these, 168 were Americans, 345 were naturalized citizens, and 1551 were aliens. 1 will give it to you in percentages because I want you to put the figures in your pocket and remember them. There are eight per cent of these seamen American citizens. That's what all this trouble is about, this bill to protect this eight per cent. Seventeen per cent were naturalized, and seventy-five per cent were foreigners. All this dislocation of business was caused to help this poor eight per cent of American citizens!

Then this bill did not take into consideration the officers of the ships. They were entirely disregarded; this was for seamen. Now, you gentlemen in business know what it is to have men at the head of your business. These men were ignored. Take the Pacific Mail owners. They employed American officers, American engineers, quartermasters, etc., totaling quite a large number; but, because they employed Chinese crews, they had to get out of business; and these American officers, who had their homes in San Francisco and lived there, prosperous men, had to seek other employment, because, today, the officers on ships corning into San Francisco are Japanese citizens, every man. I do not see why our officers, who by our laws must be American citizens, should not have been given a little consideration as well as the eight per cent of the sailor American citizens. However, it is the law of the land, and we have to put up with it.

The only criticism I have to make about it is that it is unfortunate that the Government was not strong enough and big enough to enforce that law to the absolute letter and made us toe the mark one and all without compunction. If it had done that, truly gentlemen, there would not be any Seamen's Bill, because one-half of the ships in American ports seeking clearance would have been denied clearance, and there would have been such a howl set up by you gentlemen that there would have been no Seamen's Bill.

We have another diagram here which is very instructive. The upper line represents the Japanese tonnage just before the Seamen's Bill went into effect. The third line shows the Japanese tonnage in November. 1915, a year after; if any of you have a spyglass, try to see the American tonnage at this latter date (laughter and applause), and I think after another month or two you will have to have a magnifying glass to find any American tonnage.

Statement of Increase in Japanese and Disappearance of American Steam Vessels Engaged in Oriental Commerce on the Pacific Ocean:

Number of vessels November, 1914: Japanese, 22; American, 6. Net tonnage of vessels, same date: Japanese, 89,932 tons; American, 45.315.

(This was before the Seamen's Bill became effective.)

Number of vessels. November, 1915: Japanese. 42: American 1. Net tonnage, same date, Japanese. 141,262 tons: American. 3186.

(This was after the Seamen's Bill became effective.)

Now, Mr. Chairman, rap on the table when my time is up, because I am interested in this subject, and I may go on too long. (Laughter and applause.) Now, then, by this act of Congress the Japanese have gained complete control of the Pacific. I have heard of their hopes and ambitions for many years. But none of them expected to live to see this. They have said, "The day is coming when the Japanese nation is going to get control of the Pacific," and the Japanese, like ourselves, think that the great traffic of the world is going to be transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific, just as sure as it was transferred from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

When I was in Japan this last time, the shipowners of Japan invited me to a meeting, and when I got to the meeting there was quite a number of shipowners there, and I noticed a number of papers on the table. The President told me it was a translation of the American Seamen's Bill, and what they wanted to say was that they could not believe that Congress had turned over the control of the Pacific to them. They wanted me to explain to them if that could be possible, and when I informed them it was, they said: "Truly we have control of the Pacific Ocean, not so much by our own efforts as by an act of the Congress of the United States." (Applause.)

Now, then to bring the thing home to yourselves, gentlemen. If any of you want to travel to the Far East from a United States port, you will sail on a Japanese steamer. If you have any business over there, and are sending letters and getting them from there, they will be carried by a Japanese steamer. If our great Government wants to send any important letters over there, the Japanese will carry them, except by an occasional steamer of the transport service. Now, we are all interested in the Philippine Islands—-although I see in Congress they propose to turn them over to the natives—but; until we give them up, surely our Government should provide the means of getting letters there. Manila is about eighteen days from San Francisco. Now. what have you got to do if you want to go over there? You will go from San Francisco to the Hawaiian Islands—that is our own country—then to Yokohama. Kobe, Nagasaki, and across to China, to Shanghai and Hong Kong, and you or your letter will reach the Philippines in thirty-three days. That is the best that can be done. Is there any other nation in the world that would stand for that sort of thing? No nation, no matter how small, would trust foreigners to furnish transportation to its colonies.

In looking over the bills introduced in Congress, I notice that there are forty bills which were introduced in Congress that affect our commerce. I looked through them to see if I could find any of them that were going to help us. Not a single one of them: every one of tliem imposes more exactions on us! Hence the shipowners have become completely discouraged — and I wish to say this for men who own American ships in foreign trade, and those Americans who own foreign ships in American trade — they are men not easily discouraged, but the continued hammering and discouragement has been so great that they are almost forced to throw up the sponge, and say: "Well, if you won't allow us to operate our own ships under conditions that foreigners are allowed, then for God's sake give us Government ships." I, therefore, agree with Mr Sweet.

Mr Wilson said in Washington, while I was there: "If the shipowners of the United States will not give us a merchant marine, then the Government must give the merchants a merchant marine." But he did not say that he had securely tied our hands behind our backs when he turned us into the prize ring and turned the other fellow loose to "hammer the stuffing out of us." (Laughter and applause.)

The other day Colonel Goethals was in San Francisco. He delivered an address, and pointed out to us the iniquity of the measurements of our ships. He cited this instance: "Here are two ships that went through the canal. They were sister ships, exactly the same. One was flying the American flag and the other was flying the British flag.'' He said: "By the increased measurement of the American ship, she was paying five hundred dollars more toll every time she went through the canal than her sister ship when flying the British flag." That's the encouragement and the help we are getting from the Government!

Now, Government ownership is not an untried thing. The last time I was in Australia they had a Government line running from West Australia—in fact, it had just gone into the bankruptcy court when I happened to be there. (Laughter.) The Government papers came out and said: "Yes. we have lost a great deal of money, but it is not all lost; the regular lines charge a great deal less freight." I have not the exact figures, but they lost about two-thirds of the value of the ships, and they only ran the line three years. However, as long as you have the taxpayers behind you and plenty of money in the treasury, I say to Mr. Sweet, surely you can run Government ships. Now, they propose to invest $30,000,000 in ships. Why, there isn't a large steamship company throughout the world that has not $30,000,000 in ships. That is only a drop in the bucket. That is only a small commencement of what is going to happen.

Now, to wind up. I have just this to say: That if a commission of practical shipping men was appointed—not politicians mind you—(laughter), but practical shipping men, and they are given a free hand, as Mr. Sweet stated, I have only this to say: you will never see a Government-owned ship-—never. The American people will get up and give you an American merchant marine so quick that it will surprise the most sanguine, as there is plenty of money available

I had an experience with Senator Nelson. They put me through a long "course of sprouts" in an investigation at Washington (laughter), and he said to me: "Mr. Dollar, why don't you make all your ships American ships?"

"Because," I said, "I haven't got money enough, and I couldn't stand it."

"Oh, then," he said, "that's the measure of your patriotism?" (laughter.)

And I said: "Yes, sir."

So after the session was over, I said to the Chairman, Senator Burton: "Senator, will you permit me to ask Senator Nelson a question?" He replied: "Yes, sir."

"You know you have been asking me questions, going into the hundreds," I said. "Senator, will you answer me truthfully this one question I am going to ask?" (Laughter.)

"Yes sir."

"Now, Senator, let us two go in and build a ship," I said. "Now, here is an American ship we can get for $700,000, and here is the same ship we can get in England that will cost $250,000. Now, the extra expense of running the American ship will be about $30,000. Now, Senator, when I say that to you, I will ask you this question, whether you and I will build a British or an American ship?"

And he said: "A British ship, sure."

"That's the extent of your patriotism, and you a United States Senator—I'm ashamed of you!" (Applause and laughter.) So it depends altogether, you know, on what foot you have the shoe.

That concludes what I have to say. I thank you for this hearing, and I want you just to study up these things. Think of us having our hands tied securely behind our back and going into that ring. Remember that, gentlemen.

We then went to New York where we met my son, Melville, who was loading a steamer for Vladivostok. I was elected a director of the American International Corporation and attended its meetings. The paid up capital is $50,000,000, and its primary objects are to develop American foreign trade. I was a guest of honor at a luncheon at the Chamber of Commerce of New York. Also attended meetings of the Foreign Trade Council, at India House, which has grown to be very popular and of which I was one of the charter members, when it looked as though it would rake a long time to grow, but it has sprung up like a mushroom and now has a long waiting list. We went to Washington on the 8th of February and attended the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Ambassador Koo ably addressed the meeting on China, and I followed his talk and backed up what he said of the honesty of the Chinese and the great future of China.

The day I got home I attended a meeting of the Merchants Exchange and the Chamber of Commerce, so public affairs continue to take up more than half my time. During this year, we bought several steamers and re-sold them again, mostly to Japanese. We also sold all our own vessels we could spare, the "Robert Dollar," "Stanley Dollar" and "Grace Dollar." Although we really required these vessels, the prices we were offered were so attractive we let them go at over three times their original value.

During this year. I paid several visits to Vancouver, B. C, looking forward to establishing the terminus of our steamers there, and also with a view to budding a sawmill to furnish us cargoes for our foreign going steamers. In San Francisco, there had been a longshoremen's strike for some time. They took such complete possession of the waterfront that the United States Government had to get a permit from Mr. Murphy, president of the Union, to remove specie from the dock to the sub-treasury. This so incensed the merchants that a meeting in the Merchants Exchange was held on the 10th of July, which was by far the largest and most enthusiastic meeting ever held in San Francisco, and at which a Law and Order Committee was formed and a fund of one million dollars was promised. This absolutely stopped violence, and the police judges were compelled to do justice by force of public opinion.

In October, after a visit to New York. Philadelphia and Washington, we visited friends in Coulounge and Ottawa. At the latter place, .Senator Edwards gave me a complimentary luncheon at which four Cabinet Ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier, three noblemen and several of the great men of Canada met to do me honor. It was certainly a great compliment, more especially as when I first left Ottawa I was receiving wages amounting to $26.00 a month

Excerpt from and Ottawa paper:

"On a cool, crisp, fall day, seven and fifty years ago, a young Scotch lad clad in homespuns walked into the Ottawa office of Hiram Robinson, lumberman and demanded a job. He got it—washing dishes and cleaning stables up in the shanties at ten dollars a month.

"This morning this erstwhile shanty boy returned to Ottawa for a brief stay—Robert Dollar, western lumberman and vessel owner, pioneer of trade between North America and the Orient, friend and confidant of the Chinese President, and regarded as one of the fifty greatest men of the United States.

"Mr. Dollar is staying with relatives, and when seen by The Journal this morning was busy talking over old times with his old employer, Mr, Robinson, the man who gave him his earliest start.

"'Yes,' he said, 'Mr. Robinson gave me my first job way back in 1859, and I started in at the bottom washing dishes in the shanties and I don't regret it, for today, if I go up to one of my coast camps and see the dish boy making a poor job of things I can set right in and show him how things should be done.'

"From chore boy, Mr. Dollar worked his way to the top of the lumber business. Leaving Mr. Robinson to go up to Muskoka, and then, at the end of the Civil War. crossing to Marquette, Michigan, he entered business on his own account. An ardent student of Horace Greely, the advice 'Go West, young man,' sank deep into the lumberman's mind. As a result he was unsatisfied until the shores of the Pacific came within his ken. And even then a hankering for still further 'Westing' remained. His lumber business increased until he was forced to build ships to carry his wood, and finally he entered the trans-Pacific transportation business with such success, that today the Robert Dollar house flag is as well known in the Chinese treaty ports and those of the Russian Orient, as it is in Vancouver and 'Frisco.'

"Today eight great Clyde built freighters are running to the Orient, and, thanks to the American Seaman's Act, every one now flies the Union Jack and has its home poll in Vancouver instead of San Francisco. Their owner, with whom lies much of the credit for opening Oriental markets for American products, stated today, that, as one result of the transfer of his vessels to a Canadian port, he would devote every effort to building up a new market for Dominion-made goods in the Far Fast.

"Mr. Dollar has just completed the purchase of a quarter of a mile of deep sea frontage on the north shore of Burrard's Inlet, near Vancouver, where, the moment he returns to the coast, work will be commenced on a vast lumber mill designed to manufacture Canadian timber for the markets of the Orient.

"Naturally, reminiscences occupied the bulk of the conversation between Mr. Dollar and his old employer. The former recollected the day when he brought the first saw logs over the Chaudiere and then tried to run them through the Kettle, with somewhat disastrous results, for they jammed. and. as Mr. Dollar remarked, 'We had the very dickens of a time.' After this jam, it was decided to run the logs through the north slide; Mr. Dollar's narrative of the incident follows:

"'We let 'em in one by one, and they went through fine, so well, that I kept shouting, 'Let 'em come! Faster! Faster!!' And they came—-so fast that we had another jam, and backed the water right up through biddy's match factory. Then Mr. Eddy came out and gave me a good cussing. I just told him not to waste my time talking, if he wanted me to break up the jam. He stopped and sat down on the bank watching me. Then I got busy, and, after I had finished the job, he came over to me and said: 'Young man, I gave you an awful talking to, just now, but after seeing you move those logs, it's up to me to take my hat off to you. instead of calling you a fool.'

"Though an American citizen now, Mr. Dollar is an enthusiastic pro-ally. He gave The Journal a little piece of hitherto unpublished information about the Teuton attempts, prior to the battle of the Falkland Islands, to secure his finest steamer, the 'Robert Dollar.'

"The facts of the 'Robert Dollar's' voyage were these: A few weeks before the battle of the Falkland Islands, she left an Atlantic port with a full cargo of steam coal destined for either Manila or Batavia. Her charter, which was signed by one of Mr. Dollar's sons, provided that the vessel should call at Pernambuco, South America, for orders. The moment Mr. Dollar read the charter he surmised there was something wrong, but by that time the ship was well at sea. and nothing could be done.

"Luckily Captain Morton, who commanded her, was a staunch Britisher and was also suspicious, so he lay to off Pernambuco instead of entering the port. A small boat came off. carrying three Germans who gave him orders to proceed to Montevideo, off which the German fleet was lying. The Captain flatly refused to obey the alleged orders, whereupon the Germans offered him five thousand dollars in gold if he would steer his vessel south. The result was that three badly mussed up Teutons went down the ship's side quite a bit faster than they came aboard, and the "Robert Dollar' steamed off for the China Sea. As Mr. Dollar added. 'The Hun fleet went hungry for a line cargo of good Welsh coal.' "

From Ottawa we went to Vancouver. where I addressed the Rotary Club on October 10, at the Vancouver Hotel.

A Vancouver newspaper's report of address—

"China presents greater trade possibilities to British Columbia and to the world than does any ether portion of the globe, according to Captain Robert Dollar, of the Dollar Steamship Line, which recently established headquarters in this city, on account of the United States shipping laws not being so favorable to shipowners and the shipping business as are the British laws.

"'When the people of China increase their purchasing power,' said Captain Dollar yesterday in an address to the Rotary Club at a luncheon at the Hotel Vancouver, 'there is no telling how large the trade may become. The resources of China are greater than any of us have any idea. This is the trade you will have to depend on. The surface of that country has only been scratched and they have a fourth of the population of the world."

"Captain Dollar went on to explain what he meant by increasing the purchasing power. He has some large lumber yards in that country and men work in the yards for eight cents a day. With these men receiving higher wages, when the wages of the whole country become increased with the march of time, they will buy more goods, so there is no telling to what extent the purchasing power may grow. At present men do the work of horses. Were a horse to be put to work in the place of so many men, it would release this man-power for other lines of industry where they could make more money, and they would buy socks and shoes, for instance, whereas they now go barefooted in very cold weather.

"The people of Vancouver should go after this new trade that is bound to come, and can be obtained with vigorous hustling, according to Captain Dollar, who advised business men to take off their coats. In the United States they fully realize the importance of the Chinese trade. One huge company has already voted six million dollars to dredge the Grand Canal, a waterway which was built before the Christian era. To develop this business there must be cooperation among the merchants and the people. 'It is possible for the people of Canada to make Vancouver the great Canadian port of the Pacific,' declared Captain Dollar.

"Speaking particularly of the port of Vancouver, Captain Dollar complimented the officials connected with the port and the shipping business. He said they made it easy for the shipowners here. The port charges are reasonable, which is a great inducement. Some other ports make it as hard as possible for shipowners, and some persons seem to think the more they charge shipping the more money will be made, which is not the case, as the people are made to pay. A tax on a ship is a tax on the whole people, for shipowners simply put their rates up to meet the increased tax on their ships. Also, shipowners are like other people—they like to follow the line of least resistance.

"The owner of a ship furthermore. Captain Dollar said, is the best drummer for trade. He sings the praises of his home port, for the more trade it has the better it is for the owners of ships. Captain Dollar's efforts will be to get trade here, for, in his own words, 'the most extensive freight is wind and air.' He wants to keep his ships loaded and he told the club he would go to every extreme, except stealing, to get cargoes.

"Payroll was the big thing, in the Captain's opinion, making for final success. 'You have got to have manufacturing to get the big payroll," he said. Factories are of more importance than anything else. The raw material could be brought from foreign ports. He gave for instance: When Irondale, near Port Townsend, Washington, was started with an iron plant a few years ago, Captain Dollar made a contract to bring Chinese iron, and he laid it down at Irondale cheaper than it could be laid down from Pittsburgh. The company failed, however, owing to poor management.

"Though not speaking at all in a spirit of criticism, the speaker drew attention to a condition of the lumber business here. Two weeks ago he shipped two million feet of lumber to his China yards, using the lumber to complete a cargo of one of his ships. He had to get this lumber on Puget Sound.

"With reference to the trade which is coming with Russia, Captain Dollar, who has an office in Petrograd, said much depended on the attitude of the Russians, who usually did the wrong thing at the wrong time, according to his experience. Before the war he received notice that Vladivostok was to be closed to commercial shipping and be used for war purposes, so commercial shipping was to use another port, up a river, where navigation was dangerous as there was a sandbar at the mouth. Vladivostok is the only Siberian port that can be used. If this port is not shut up, trade will develop.

"'The board,' said Captain Dollar, 'gave you here one of the best ports in the world, without any expense to Vancouver. It is up to the people to develop it further. The Lord helps those who help themselves," he quoted. 'As to what I think of this port,' he wenton, 'you can always tell better by what a man does than by what he says. What have I done? Well, I am here.'

"As to increasing the commerce at this port, Captain Dollar said there was a good trade already, but foreign trade was lacking. Domestic trade, he said, was like swapping jack-knives, in the end each had a jack-knife, though it might be the other fellow's; that was all. But foreign trade brought in gold and was the foundation of a port's prosperity. When the war is over there will come the greatest commercial war history has ever recorded. As to the importance of foreign trade—the farmers of the United States formerly thought it was not essential to their welfare, but since the war, they have awakened to its importance to the interior as well as to the seaboard sections.

"Captain Dollar had noticed that there was an apparent disposition to frame Canadian shipping laws after those of Amenca which he deprecated, for British shipping laws have produced a shipping business that is the greatest in the world."

We returned home the latter part of October, and on the 17th of November I gave an address at the Hotel Oakland, Oakland, California, before the Real Estate Convention. At its close I received quite an ovation.

Address at Oakland, California—

Those interested in foreign trade are not only the shipowners, but those in different lines of business. There is first the farmer. He produces more crops than the United States can consume, and there is only one way he can sell them and get the money, and that is by selling to foreign countries. Therefore, he is intensely interested in it. Mr. Redfield has said, that if the manufacturers of the United States were to run their plants full time, in six months they could produce all the United States would require for a year. Therefore, for six months of the time they have to sell to foreign countries. The manufacturers are intensely interested.

Next come the bankers, who are keenly interested, because they have to buy the bills of exchange for all commodities going to foreign countries.

Then there are the merchants with establishments in foreign countries, who depend on buying and selling our products, and they are very much interested.

And last comes the shipowner. What use are surplus products to you if you haven't ships to carry them. We are all linked together, and you gentlemen in the real estate business come in with the rest. Unfortunately those of us who are engaged in foreign trade necessarily come under the ban of being in "big business." The foreign trade, of necessity, takes a lot of capital, and it is big business, and various administrations have attempted to crush "big business" and put. big business out of business, until lately they have had their eyes opened, and now you see the persecution of "big business" has stopped, in-so-far as foreign trade is concerned.

Foreign trade and commerce, if carried on properly, is only an exchange of commodities. You gentlemen have things to sell. You send them over to the foreign country, and if trade is properly conducted, you should buy in that foreign country as much or nearly as much as you sell. Very nice to have the balance of it in our favor, and the European war has made us the biggest creditor in the world.

Just to give you an idea of how the Chinese look at that— we think that they do not know very much over there—I was trying to put through a deal with the Chinese Government by buying iron ore and pig iron from them. We came to a deadlock and, as they desired to send them off in good humor, they gave me a banquet. They said they were sorry they could not meet my terms, but, as I could not come up on my terms, we would have to agree to disagree. As a parting shot I said, "Remember one thing, gentlemen: up to the present time I have done many millions of dollars worth of business with China, and I have yet to take the first dollar of your money away from you. I have even bought more than I have sold to you." We were just ready to go into the banquet room, when they said, "Sit down a moment," and they began to talk. I didn't understand what they were saying, only every one had something to say. The President of the Republic finally said to me: "We have been trying to form an answer to your last remark, and we have utterly failed, so we have now decided to give you our products at the price you have named because we cannot afford to do without the exchange of commodities that you are giving us."

Now, a very important part, as I have said, is the banking. It may appear rather strange to you that we had a law in our country that prohibited national banks having any branches in foreign countries: therefore, we were compelled to sell our bills of exchange to foreign countries. The Federal Reserve Act changed the law so that it now permits our banks to have branch banks in foreign countries. They have been established in South America, through the National City Bank, of New York. We have had an American banking institution, but it never went in for this kind of business, consequently should one of you sell a bill of goods in a foreign country and you draw jour profits with documents attached, they go through foreign banks. When I want to draw from China or the Philippine Islands, coming this way. my bills of exchange are put in the foreign bank and the bill of exchange tells the whole story; tells the goods and tells what the prices are, and, as you know, blood is thicker than water, the information leaks out to our disadvantage. Our Congressmen cannot see it, however. I talk through personal experience because I, too, have received tips as to what the other fellow was doing.

Our administration recently attempted to regulate foreign commerce. I attended the meetings in Washington, and the argument was this: "We have regulated our railroads with perfect success, and now we are going to regulate you fellows that are in the foreign trade, and we are going to tell you what you are to do, in the same way we have told and do tell the railroads what they are to do. As a result of telling the railroads, there are seventy-seven railroads now in the hands of receivers— railroads with thirty-eight thousand miles of trackage. That is one of the beneficial effects, coupled with the eight-hour law that has just been passed!

In attempting to regulate foreign trade, they are going to do it in this way: Any ship asking clearance in an American port has to get a license, and they are going to put that into the Ship Purchase Bill. I said to them: "Allow me to give you a problematical instance of how it will work. We will suppose that one of my British ships comes into New York engaged to carry a carload of flour for the British Government. I ask you for a license and you say, "No; the audacity of these shipping men! Here is a load of flour for Great Britain, but we will give you a license to earn this lumber to Montevideo! if you please." What is the British Government going to say to us? They are starving, the ship is under their flag, and you tell them that I cannot carry flour to feed their starving people, but you compel me to carry this cargo of lumber to South America. " That was the last I heard of it.

Last year Great Britain passed 239 laws, while our country passed several thousand laws to regulate us. Don't you think we are being regulated to death? However, there is one fine thing which has been brought about by the war, and that is the building of ships on this coast. There is building going on in the United States, on the Atlantic seaboard, but especially on this coast. Immense sums of money are being spent here which are going to our laborers. It is a splendid thing, but the unfortunate part of it is that seventy-five per cent of these ships up to the present time have sailed away under a foreign flag. However, we received the benefits from building them, for which we should be thankful.

Foreign countries aid their merchants in foreign commerce. It would take too long to tell how it is done, but they get right out. and in some instances actually compelled their people to make a combination, so that they could get the commerce for their own country against other countries. What have we done? The very reverse. The Sherman Act prevents us from making any combination of any kind under penalty of going to jail. There is the difference between the action of our Government and the action of other governments in trying to simulate foreign trade.

Then we come down to the Seaman's Bill that was put through two years ago, which, if it had been enforced, would put fifty per cent of all of our ships out of commission. We told them that, explained it to them, but it was no use, the bill became a law.

They started to enforce it, which caused such a commotion that they let up on some American ships. Over two hundred American ships had been fined five hundred dollars apiece for infraction of that law. but strange to say the law says that all ships asking clearance shall be governed by that law, and the foreign ships are coming and going in and out of the ports of this country, and they are never looked at. I have ships coming in which could not pass the law at all. They haven't looked at them. The law is not enforced. What do you think of a government making a law and not enforcing it? There is a law against stealing and murder. What would you think if they did not enforce it, and let the guilty go free? That is what is being done with the Seamen's Law. I was foolish enough to think the law would be enforced, and I could see that it was impracticable to run ships under that law, so I went to Vancouver. I need not have done so, as the law is a dead letter. After this European war is over, we are going to feel it, I am afraid. The administration has admitted that it cannot put that Seamen's Bill into force, in its entirety. Those bills were put through for a purpose and probably the purpose has been served now.

Here is something that might interest you gentlemen a little bit. We were making this a terminal for our ships, and our captains, engineers and officers had their homes here. Twelve families have moved away, mostly from Auckland, and gone to Vancouver to live. We are spending in Vancouver today eighty-one thousand dollars a month, which practically all goes to labor. That is what this Seamen's Bill has done for us.

Now there is another thing which took place, which our Government was warned of and shown exactly what would happen; namely, that this bill would turn the commerce of the Pacific over to the Japanese, because the bill was so worded that Japanese were exempted from its operation. In 1914, thirty-three per cent of the tonnage on the Pacific was Japanese, thirty-nine per cent European and twenty-eight per cent American. Try and keep those figures in mind. Today seventy-six per cent is Japanese, twenty per cent European and the great American nation's four per cent. That is where we have got to, and it is going to remain that way just as soon as normal times comes back, because it is an absolute impossibility, with the restrictions imposed upon American shipping, for us to run ships. A good many people say, "What does it matter who carries our freight? We get it carried; it doesn't make any difference to us by whom." I want to tell you this: if our seaport is to become great, it is going to become great by having shipowners living in the place. Do you think I would drum up trade for Hamburg or London? Not at all. My interests were right here, and I was drumming all I could for this Pacific Coast: and I am continuing it today, but unfortunately it is on the other side of the Canadian line. Ships are great drummers of trade. What has made England, on the little island which she owns, such a power on the sea? Her snipping. I heard an Englishman and an American arguing, and the Englishman did him up on the argument. "Darn you, I'll take your little island and sink it in Lake Superior," said the American, in disgust.

The English had ships going to all parts of the world and virtually controlled through their shipping, as we at one time did when we had just as good and as great a shipping trade as England has, but we frittered away our birthright and now depend upon the courtesy of the Japanese to carry our goods. Even our mails are carried by foreign ships. Our Government made an outcry that the mail had been opened. I say, it served us right; why not carry our mail on our own ships and not be depending upon other people. Now, a foreign trade council has been established to try and see if it is not possible to extend our foreign trade. At the first meeting held in Washington, some six or seven hundred merchants and bankers from the United States met there. Mr. Redfield, Secretary of Commerce, out of courtesy, was asked to say a few words. He came there and said: "Gentlemen. I am very busy and have very little time. May I be permitted to say a few words to you at the commencement of this meeting?'- He did. and sat down, and did not get up. It was about 10 o'clock when we began and it lasted until 1 o'clock. He was fascinated to see the men there who were planning to increase our foreign trade. We adjourned to meet at 2 o'clock, he went away and came back at 2 o'clock and said to the Chairman, "I would like to make a statement. I had no time to wait and listen this morning but I was so attracted that I stayed until 1 o'clock and I am back here again. When I went to lunch, I went to lunch at the White House, and I told Mr. Wilson what was going on, and he asked that all of you go over there, he wants to take a look at you." He took a look at us, and there was the commencement of the abandonment of the persecution of "big business." The chairman said to the President, "I think you have made a mistake m calling us gentlemen here, because there isn't a man in this room who is not in big business." The President, however, could see the handwriting on the wall.

The Webb Bill has been introduced in Congress, permitting citizens of the United States to form combinations so that they can go into foreign trade. And that bill is being pushed energetically by the Foreign Trade Council, I will say this, however, the Foreign Trade Council does not need the Webb Bill, because they have connections in foreign countries, but the small manufacturer and the small merchant cannot go into foreign countries, as it would not pay them to send their representatives there. This bill is to permit those small dealers to club together and send their representatives to foreign countries to increase their trade.

Another outcome of that meeting was the formation of a company with a capital of several million dollars, especially to develop foreign trade. We have discovered we cannot get along without foreign trade. In years gone by when we were not producing so much, we consumed all we produced and did not need foreign trade. That day has gone by, and gone by forever. You have read about a convention held in Paris by the allies—held with the object of consolidating their various energies—and for what? So that they will be able to do business within themselves when the war is over, and it is up to Congress to sit up and take notice and see whether that combination will not put us practically out of business. That action of the convention was backed up by governments that are governments. I will say this for our Government, it has now seen the light, and if it won't help us fellows on the firing line in foreign trade, I do not think it will put any obstacles in our way. Something like the sailor going to fight a battle with a bully aboard a ship. He thought it was a pretty hard job and thought he would go into the forecastle and pray. He said: "Now, Lord, I have never asked you anything before, never prayed to you in my life and will never again, but if you don't help that fellow out there, you will be surprised how quickly I will do him up." So if our Government will only leave us fellows alone, you sit up and take notice and see how quick we will do the other fellow up.

Now just one more thing I want to ask of you gentlemen. Our Government has tried doing missionary work in foreign lands, but the missionary work should be done right here at home, and you, gentlemen, if you see the importance of this thing, the importance to our merchants, it is necessary for them to go into foreign lands, to look over the situation and see whether they want the trade, and if they go into this trade, it should be for keeps.

I want to tell you it will cost a great deal to get started. They are going to be out of pocket the first year. For example. I introduced a certain commodity into China. The first year I lost fifteen hundred dollars; the second year, one thousand; the third year I got even, and have made money ever since. It requires grit to go into foreign trade, and the main thing this nation should do is to get our merchants to go to foreign countries and develop the trade, because we need it badly now, for, I want to tell you gentlemen, when our manufactures increase as they have been doing they will need ships. The nation that has the ships is pretty near boss of the job.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus