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Mail Tribune 100

Feb. 27, 1918


In a letter to the editor of the Mail Tribune, written Feb. 19, before his illness, Senator Chamberlain writes as follows regarding the controversy over the conduct of the war:

"You can very well imagine that my controversy about inefficiency in the war department was anything but pleasant. Complaints as well as suggestions before my New York speech were as voices crying in the wilderness, and nobody would give attention to them.

"What is not generally known in Oregon, not is known at all except by those who have done me the honor to read my speech in the senate is that I had gone with Senator Hitchcock to see the president and advised him as to the deficiencies which were developing as the result of the senate military affairs investigation. The president paid little attention to that, and later addressed me in a letter, in which he said he opposed the legislation providing for the appointment of a director of munitions.

"What was left for me to do, therefore, as the chairman of one of the most important committees in the senate in this crisis? Was I to learn from the testimony of witnesses who knew what they were talking about the bad conditions which prevailed in the war department and in the several cantonments and camp divisions and remain silent, and by so doing assume a terrible responsibility; or was it not rather my duty, under my oath of office and following the dictates of my conscience, to let the people know the situation and thru that instrumentality arouse the war department to more efficient methods?

"I chose the latter course, and I am glad to be able to say to you that it has done great good. The war department is being reorganized, inefficients are being let out, and even our distinguished executive has sent a bill to congress to be introduced which does all that we intended to do — and more — and I am hoping all the time that a bill will eventually be agreed upon that will do what our committee wanted to do, and that was to speed up the war program and while doing so, protect the young men who are now offering their lives upon the alter of their country.

"I have not now, nor have I ever had, a quarrel with the president, but I have found fault with conditions as they exist, and for which it is not difficult to place the responsibility. The country is coming to understand now that turning on the light has done great good, and the relatives and friends of the boys going to the front are feeling that these young fellows are likely to have someone to look after their interests here in Washington."