Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson


Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson


Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964




1918 October 19


Herbert Hoover tells Woodrow Wilson about Belgian relief efforts and activities, including a memorandum.


Hoover-Wilson Correspondence, Hoover Institution, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964--Correspondence




in reply refer to

Dear Mr. President

The task of the Belgian Relief Commission,— the preservation of the life of 10,000,000 occupied Belgians and French over these four years, — is now rapidly drawing to conclusion and questions as to what further assistance should be extended to the Belgian people and as to what disposition shall be made of the Relief Commission are pressing.

I enclose herewith a short memorandum on
(a) the organization and work accomplished The Re Preservation of the people Relief during occupation
(b) the work still to do in emergency action and reconstruction of economic life. Their rehabilitation and back to a self support. The Relief required for Rehabilitation

The Belgian people, while more fortunate than the Servians and Poles in that they are all alive, are still come out of occupation under-nourished, under-housed, under-clothed, industrial plants ruined, they are without mraw material and without resources in shipping and money to find a remedy. It is my belief that vigorous action and liberal help over a period of 18 months would make them self-supporting.No matter who may administer these matters in Belgium, t

There is immediate need for an additional 200,000 tons of shipping to the 350,000 tons now allotted to in use by the Relief Commission. The relief subsidy from the United States Government should be increased from $9,000,000 to $20,000,000 per month, and if possible the present British and French relief subsidies should be increased from $7,000,000 to $12,000,000 per month. With these resources over 12 to 18 months I believe the people could be made self supporting.problem can be accomplished.

As to the basis of organization,
Assuming this must be accomplished the problem of organization at once arises.

Certain Belgians are anxious that the Relief Commission should liquidate and hand over to the restored Belgian Government who should undertake all further relief; others wish the Commission to continue to find emergency food imports for an indefinite but no doubt comparatively short period perform such functions as may be assigned by the Belgian government; others are anxious that the Relief Commission should undertake the great problem of economic restoration, acting, as hitherto, in co-operation with Belgian unoffical organizations, and drawing its support from all our own and Allied governments and public charity.

I need hardly mention that the selfish view of myself and my colleagues would be entirely with the first proposition. We would like to have relief from this particularly especially poignant worry and anxiety that has now extended over four years.

From a purely Belgian point of view the proposition of the Belgian direct operation by their Government is a mixed argument of sturdy independence and of natural amour propre or and to some extent of individual political ambitions; the second proposition of a short controlled continuance of controlled by the Commission Belgian Govt is an argument of utilization of the organization until it can be dispensed with at will; the third is an argument which I believe should be further discussed, as it has both moral and economic bearings for the American people. With the present misery and economic difficulties facing Europe there can be little hope of Belgian recuperation without the major help in material coming from the United States. and forward The American people, under your guidance, through through its citizens and with the help of its officials and citizens, took upon itself the burden of protection and sustenance of this population four years ago, and in completion of this task has maintained not only their physical well-being but has maintained the a definite spiritual value running through the entire war. As intenible as these values are, they should have great weight in deciding whether the American people should not commit themselves now to assumption of a further burden, and by maintenance of a this imposes no obligation But offers an opportunity to take on a further task for further service — the completion of which would represent even more confer moral values to our country not to be underestimatedIntangible as these values are they cannot be gained by our people unless they are won through some bond of definite definite American organization emphasize this bond of the American people particularly in the labor and its conservation. This is It has proved a burden that has not only struck a raised a responsive chord in every American heart but would continue to stimulate and invigorate our people in well-doing. and should would continue to have There are many practical questions that enter into the problem as to whether a definite American organization should be maintained through which American support will be forthcoming, for instance –

While it can be said that the Belgians are an efficient administrative people, it is my impression that security and effectiveness in the application of these funds, without religious, political or racial bias, could be much more effectively secured by the continuance of this independent commission American participation in organization and administration.There will be a large outpouring of charity towards the Belgian people which could be stimulated, but in the expenditure of which, unless there is some consolidated control single channel, there will be enormous waste and corruption, and re-actions will set in to the disadvantage of the both Belgian and American people.If the matter were undertaken over alone by the Belgian Government it they would psychologically naturally have to take its their position with the other needy allied governments under the various allied controls, whereas if a distinctly American organization, maintained by the American Government, were to be installed for this service, such an organization could easily secure the same tenderness in priorities and supplies and complete independence of action from other allied control that it now possesses.If American participation in organization of rehabilitation is to be maintained it would seem logical to continue it through the Relief Commission whose organization who simply receive large resources, who have already the support and recognition of the Allied governments. It would be represent the ultimate consumation of a great American Enterprise which would rounding out of an enterprise by one of our people toward another of which we could have lasting pride—If howeverOne of the objectives in peace conferences must be the re-payment to Belgium, in addition to other damages, to Belgium of the whole of the sums that have been spent by the Relief Commission, together with such further moneys as are spent on rehabilitation. It would appear to me that it would be a pointed and positive lesson to the world for all future time if it could be made a peace condition that the expenditures of the Relief Commission both in the past and in the future be are made a condition of payment repayable by the Germans directly to the Relief Commission, so that they could and that the Commission should refund the sums to advanced by the various goverments involved, and iIt would I believe be entirely correct for the United States Government, if they decide to continue the work through the Commission, to announce that in so doing she considers herself the trustee for the Belgian people, and that the sums expended in this manner will be recovered from Germany on behalf of Belgium. collection of these funds.

I would be glad to have your views on the matter and if you consider the Commision should be continued and that it will have the support of the Government it is desirable that its relations to Belgian organizations should be properly defined.

Faithfully yours,
Herbert C. Hoover

Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964, “Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson,” 1918 October 19, WWP19475, Hoover Institute at Stanford University Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.