Lot 27: Herbert Hoover Hand-Corrected Telegrams
10th October 2018
Two hand-corrected telegram drafts, totaling three pages, 8.5 x 13.25, March 31 and April 1, 1919. First and second drafts of Norwegian explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen's telegram to President Woodrow Wilson regarding the crisis in postwar Europe, both edited in pencil by Herbert Hoover. The first, in part (Hoover's corrections shown in italics): "The present food situation in Russia, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying monthly from sheer starvation and disease, is one of the problems now uppermost in all men’s minds. As it appears that no solution of this food question has so far been reached by the Allied Governments; therefore, we would like to make a suggestion on behalf of ourselves and some Neutral associates for the alleviation of this gigantic misery on purely humanitarian grounds. It would appear to us possible to organize a Neutral Commission for the provisioning of Russia, the foodstuffs to be paid for perhaps to some considerable extent by Russia itself, the justice of distribution to be guaranteed by such a Commission. We cannot believe that the existing authorities in Russia would refuse the intervention of such a Commission of wholly non-political order, devoted solely to the humanitarian purpose of saving life.” Here, several insertions in Hoover’s hand have been struck through, and the letter continues: “If thus organized upon the lines of the Belgian Relief Commission, it would raise no question [of] political recognition or negotiations between the Allies with the existing authorities in Russia." The second draft, dated April 1, 1919, incorporates Hoover's first round of edits within the typed text, and has a few more of Hoover's additions in pencil: notably, he replaces "the Allied Governments" with "in any direction," and "Neutral" with "purely humanitarian," as well as the longer addition: "The membership of the Commission to be comprised of Norwegian, Swedish, and possibly Dutch, Danish and Swiss nationalities." In fine condition, with paperclip impressions to the top of each sheet. Accompanied by a carbon copy typescript of the final telegram, dated April 3, 1919, as sent to David Lloyd George. To combat starvation in Europe during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson created the United States Food Administration by executive order. Under the direction of Herbert Hoover, it became one of the most efficient and successful governmental initiatives in American history. Although Norway, like Sweden and Denmark, declared its neutrality during the war, its loss of overseas trade led to food shortages. In 1917, Norway sent explorer and scientist Dr. Fridtjof Nansen to the United States, where he obtained food supplies in return for the establishment of a rationing system in Norway; he met Hoover during this time, and they quickly became good friends. By this time in 1919, Russia had been out of World War I for over a year but civil war wreaked havoc, and millions neared starvation. To extend the reach of his American Relief Administration, Hoover needed to find a 'neutral executive' like Nansen to serve as an intermediary with the Russians. With Hoover's help, Nansen sent this telegram proposal to American President Woodrow Wilson, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando—the 'Big Four' Allied leaders of postwar Europe. Ultimately, the Bolsheviks refused the aid—insisting that politics were being mixed with humanitarianism in the Allied leaders' demands—and blocked Nansen's proposal.
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