The Inter-Ally Debts: An Analysis of War and Post-War Public Finance, 1914-1923

By Harvey E. Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
Financing Belgium 1914-1923

JUST following the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 word had come to the American embassy in London giving the most harrowing account of conditions in Belgium. It was said that Brussels had only food enough to feed the people for thirty-six hours. Ambassador Page, three Belgians and an American business man were in conference as to what could be done. "Upon the result of that meeting," says Mr. Page's biographer, "hung the fate of millions of people."

It was evident that the success of such an enterprise called for the leadership of a great executive. So Mr. Page realized. Turning suddenly to the American man of affairs he said, " Hoover, you're It!" It is recorded that Mr. Hoover made no reply. He acted. He glanced at the clock, got up and silently left the room. In a few minutes he returned stating that he had bought by cable several million bushels of wheat in New York--Belgian relief had started. The flow of food from America for Belgium which began then lasted until after the armistice--that is until Belgian national life once more was functioning.


Belgium Before the War

Belgium is the most densely populated country of Europe. In fact the population per square mile is 50 per cent denser than that of any other European nation. This population for fifty years prior to the war had been growing denser each decade, while immigration had exceeded emigration.

The principal occupations in order of their importance were manufacturing, commerce, and agriculture. Manufac-

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