The Charlotte News

Tuesday, January 7, 1941



Site Ed. Note: Six months to the day prior to his burial in Sunset Cemetery in Shelby six days after being found hung by his own necktie in La Reforma Hotel in Mexico City, we find Cash here in the insular sanctums of the editorial room of the Charlotte News writing of William Rhodes Davis and doing so with a toss of the hand, a smirk on the lips, as if throwing waste paper to the steel basket. And, while it would not have supplied but an added motivation among many others for some form of reaction to Mr. Cash by Mr. Davis, it is worth some thought that an officious sort such as Davis, given to self-aggrandisement, self-ingratiation, and extreme pomposity would have probably reacted better if Cash had merely branded him a traitor, (as he would more or less do, with some reservation of doubt, a mere three days later). For if there is one thing such a person cannot tolerate, it is being treated as an insignificant, silly, pompous peon.

And in fact, Davis, while the other things, was no peon, had been given the job from an immediate assistant to Hermann Goering of transmitting peace overtures to Roosevelt and, despite Cash's assumptions to the contrary, was quite authorized to do so by the Nazi hierarchy. (Even Cash sometimes underestimated the lack of professionalism with which the Nazis carried on statecraft.) Davis gladly did so of course only out of sheer avarice, not for any sense of patriotism to his native United States or to his philanthropic font of personal benevolence, Nazi Germany, which had made him quite rich, (and an official intelligence agent, i.e., spy, of the Nazi Abwehr), during the previous five years since 1936--a state of affairs which Davis had known previously during his lifetime but with which he had become at long last disaffected prior to happening on the convenience of dealing with thugs in Germany for replenishing his lost bank deposits.

In early 1936, Davis worked out a complex deal for trading expropriated Mexican oil to Nazi Germany--an altered version of which scheme ultimately supplied oil to Germany's war machine between Mexico's expropriation day, March 18, 1938, and Hitler's invasion of Poland, September 1, 1939. Approximately 70% of Mexico's exported expropriated American and British oil wound up in Germany in exchange for German industrial goods, especially tin and steel. The original scheme in 1936, however, involved the Bank of Boston, which had loaned Davis the money to build his Hamburg refinery, buying surplus Southern cotton from the U.S. Government, trading it to cotton-scarce Germany for railroad equipment, selling the German railroad equipment to Mexico in exchange for oil and then selling the oil to Davis (or more appropriately loaning him the oil in expectation of repayment out of the sale of the refined product); Davis then refined the oil in his German refinery, built with Hitler's personal approval, and sold it on the world market--primarily, of course, to Germany, Italy, and Japan. Thus, Mexico, while supplying the oil which powered the Panzer divisions which invaded Poland and later Norway, Belgium, Holland, and France, was able to circumvent the British and American oil companies' boycott of Mexican oil resulting from the failure of Mexico to pay for the expropriation in 1938.

Davis would seek to revive the cotton barter plan in meetings in the presidential suite at La Reforma Hotel in Mexico City in August, 1939, but failed by this time to win Administration approval for the scheme, having fallen into extreme disfavor with President Roosevelt and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Josephus Daniels. The start of the war on September 1 then produced a British blockade of oil to Germany and Italy. Davis's ensuing unilateral efforts to broker a peace plan whereby Roosevelt would act as negotiator between Britain and Germany allowing cession of the Danzig Corridor in Poland to Hitler, plebiscite determination of the remainder of Poland, and leave Hitler in power, were met with icy non-response in Washington after Davis obtained approval for the plan from Germany in late September, 1939. As Cash duly pointed out many times since the beginning of the war and earlier, Roosevelt would not abide Hitler remaining in power and knew all too well that "plebiscites" in Nazi-occupied lands meant rigged elections and puppet governments. Davis lost his ability to capitalize on Hitler's need for oil from Mexico.

The Mexican oil did, however, continue to flow aboard Japanese freighters and some of it then found its way along the Trans-Siberian railway into Germany until Hitler's invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941 ended that route.

At the very same time, no doubt contemplating with oily lips a quick victory by Hitler over Russia, Davis in fact sat in his Hotel Reforma suite in June, 1941 plotting his next traitorous oily deal to supply himself millions of dollars from the worst belligerents the world has ever known, this time by attempting to establish a bank in Mexico which would have funneled much needed money to the Nazi espionage taking place there. And Davis, nearly broke again, now needs desperately someone who could help return him to favor in Mexico, someone perhaps who knew the son of the U.S. Ambassador. And so perhaps he summons this person for an interview and this person, being a journalist, jumps at the opportunity to interview the subject of a couple of his own editorials. Then came the spy bust of June 28-29 in and around New York City. And then the need for all Abwehr agents in Mexico to be gone...

Davis would, however, never realize the product of his next move; he was dead on August 1. His death has been suggested by a former British Secret Service agent as something other than the ostensible heart attack listed on his death certificate, that the British were eager to eliminate Davis from the scene and so dispatched him with an undetectable poison. (See Mystery Man, by Dale Harrington, 1999, pp. 40, 63, 80, 82, 126, 184)

W. J. Cash, of course, had died precisely one month earlier in Hotel Reforma.

And there was that unpublished novel about Cash's last two years, written in 1991-92, to which we have before occasionally referred. In it, without ever seeing Cash's editorial mentions of Davis or knowing of Davis's association with La Reforma, the author set down a scene in which a character, whom we, the reader, are left to believe must be taking his orders from Mr. Davis--to whom Cash is introduced briefly in Austin on the way to Mexico, in the novel, that is--winds up in the hallway outside the room in which Cash is hung while some Nazi hireling thugs take care of business inside that room. But, you see, that was just a novel. And, as everyone knows, novels are just fiction.

For more Cash editorialization on Davis, see "A Buyer", January 10, 1941. In both editorials, Cash seems to be responding immediately to two lines in the President's State of the Union address, to which Cash makes general reference in "Can Be Done": "We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests... The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and, if that fails, to use the sovereignty of Government to save Government."

The address became known as the "Four Freedoms Speech" and is one of Roosevelt's best known. (Read the speech at the F.D.R. Library.) The President concluded:

"I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.

A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception--the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change--in a perpetual peaceful revolution--a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions--without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

Leadership; not salesmanship...

Can Be Done

President Strikes at a Dangerous Falsehood

The headline writers were probably correct yesterday in selecting as the most important part of the President's speech his insistence that "we stand to be invaded physically if Adolf Hitler destroys England."

It is a nice job of puncturing the silly assertion of the General Woods and General Hugh Johnsons that it is impossible to strike the United States across 3,000 miles of water. That may be impossible. But it is not impossible to strike the United States from bases in Greenland or Canada or the Caribbean or Latin America.

The Nazis are already busily angling for the bases in Latin America through their subversive activities. And if Britain falls, the Nazis will automatically acquire title to the Canadian bases, will certainly move heaven and earth to make good that title.

In the same breath, that they roar against our fighting in European war as a mad over-extending of our lines the isolationists tell us constantly that we can prevent the Nazis acquiring these bases very easily--calmly ignoring the fact that it involves extending our lines from Greenland to the equator and from Hawaii to the Azores!

The President, however, might have gone further than he did. Neither General Wood nor General Johnson has any status as an expert on grand strategy, though they constantly attempt to pass themselves off on the public as such. Both made their military reputations in supply. And their confidence about our immunity to attack flies straight in the face of the expressed opinions of John J. Pershing; the sole living General of the armies and the victor in World War I. Worse, it flies in the face of Admiral Mahan, the greatest of American naval strategists, who constantly preached that a nation with the coastline of the United States could successfully defend itself only if it struck and destroyed the enemy far away from its shores.

Bad Defense

Judgment, Not Patriotism, Is Under Fire Here

Mr. William Rhodes Davis exercises himself about the wrong thing. Mr. Davis is the oil man who, according to Mr. Verne Marshall, brought to the President a request from the Nazis that he use his good offices "to negotiate an honorable and just peace in Europe." And now he wants the Senate to investigate his patriotism, which he says has been slandered.

But that does not dispose of the real charges against Mr. Davis--that he is a muddle-headed, downright silly, and dangerous wish-thinker. In view of the Nazi record and Adolf Hitler's own words, there is no reason at all to suppose that a "just and honorable peace" can be negotiated. The record says plainly, indeed, that either democracy will destroy Hitlerism or it will everywhere be destroyed.

And the silliness comes in Mr. Davis's naive supposition that he was actually picked out to bear "peace proposals"--that these proposals are real and not merely a device designed to confuse and divide the United States. The German Government maintains an embassy in Washington. When it actually wants peace terms, it will communicate the fact through that embassy and not send obscure oil men without status to do the job. It is the etiquette of the matter, and it is the only way the German Government could assure itself of being heard and of maintaining secrecy.

A child should know as much. And the fact that Mr. Davis didn't know it brands him, not as a traitor but as a prize sucker.


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