Edward N. Hurley to Woodrow Wilson


Edward N. Hurley to Woodrow Wilson


Hurley, Edward N. (Edward Nash), 1864-1933




1918 September 7


Head of the shipping board assures President Wilson should not be worried that the US is preparing for economic advantage at sea.


Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson Papers


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence
World War, 1914-1918--United States


Morgan Willer






Document scan was taken from Library of Congress microfilm reel of the Wilson Papers. WWPL volunteers transcribed the text.


Dear Mr. President:

Before replying to your letter of August 29th, I wanted to refresh my mind as to whether any statement of mine might have been open to misconstruction by the British. The only statements I have made, however, were designed to show that the American merchant fleet now building would be as beneficial to the world in peace as it is intended to be in war. I have been tempted at times to argue that our ships would benefit us primarily, so that a certain discontent which unquestionably exists among many of the workers in the shipyards might be removed, but I have realized that the situation is delicate and that much harm might be done even by unwise reassurance of our own people.

Before entering the government service, I was interested in a company successfully doing business in England and came to know the British mind fairly well. It has distressed me to note constantly since the war began the very condition which you describe in your letter. I am afraid that some of the alarm they express over our shipbuilding program is simulated. You may remember that when we commandeered ships being built for British account they gave signs of deep concern. Yet at the very time they were making their arguments here, the British marine papers were rather gleefully calling attention to the fact that British owners were relieved of the high war costs in building ships, and that they would be able to replace the tonnage at half the price after the war.

In the same manner, the real shipping experts point out that our operating costs will always be higher than the British operating costs, and that this advantage quickly will restore the lead of England after the war.

Lord Reading mentioned to me before his departure for England that he would like to discuss on his return the question of pooling American and British shipping interests after the war. Of course, I shall be pleased to listen to what he has to say, but will be guarded and not commit our government in any way.

My own thought has been that they not only believe you to be entirely fair and generous, but that they know it absolutely. The British business men are literally dominating the policy of the British government towards us. The figures they furnished us with regard to the ships they could spare were the figures their own shipping interests wanted them to put forward. These figures were quickly revised when the call came for a larger American force in France. The same thing was true with respect to coal and oil.

I agree with you that we should not give them the slightest color of provocation or excuse for what they are doing. America can afford to make sacrifices for her own ideals, but it is regrettable that interests which are identical should not have behind them an identical and single motive.

The Committee on Public Information on August 23rd requested me to make a statement on this subject for publication in Great Britain, and I take the liberty of enclosing herewith copy of same for your information.

You can rest assured that I appreciate the spirit of your frank letter, and will avoid anything that might in anyway lend itself to an evil interpretation of selfishness.

Yours very sincerely,
Edward N. Hurley

The President,
The White House

Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924





Hurley, Edward N. (Edward Nash), 1864-1933, “Edward N. Hurley to Woodrow Wilson,” 1918 September 7, WWP25166, World War I Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.