CHAPTER 9
FINANCING THE RELIEF OF BELGIUM

Our financial difficulties began at the very birth of the Commission. At the Embassy meeting on the eighteenth of October, the representatives of the exiled Belgian Government had promised us £2,000,- 000 ($9,600,000), and Francqui promised he would raise a loan, guaranteed by the Belgian banks, of another £600,000 ($2,880,000). The British Government, through Ambassador Page, assured us of a contribution of £100,000 ($480,000).

The Belgian Government soon reduced its promise to £1,000,000 (about $4,800,000). Francqui was unable to persuade the banks to make his loan. The British kept their promise of $480,000.

It quickly became evident that the Belgians had greatly under- estimated the cost of even their minimum of needed imports. While their original estimate was about $4,000,000 a month, it was certain that the minimum for Belgium alone would be about $8,000,000 a month. Our problem was further complicated by the fact that under war conditions we had to make commitments for purchase of supplies and charter of ships at least three months in advance if we were to assure a regular stream of food to these hungry people.

It was obvious that charity could not supply these amounts and that if the Belgians were to survive, we would need financial support from the Allied Governments. On November 3, 1914, prior to my visit to Belgium, I addressed our Ambassador Honorary Chairmen

-55-

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