1913: America's Worst Year - Introduction

The root of all America's problems.

While we're a young country, we've had some bad things happen to us.  Some early wars, civil war, terrorist attacks, natural and economic disasters have all been experienced throughout our history.

And as bad as some of these things are, they're not the worst things that have happened to the country.  The worst things were seemingly unrelated and not very bad.  In fact, at the time, they were heralded as improvements on what we had.  Put the three things together and one might contend they were the events that have created the current messy socio-economic-political situation we're in now.

The Law of Unintended Consequences states that there will be unintended results for every human action.  It doesn't take much to see this law's effects.

Prohibition is a great example.  A law designed to improve the morality of the country instead made us a country of law breakers; the increasing disrespect for law and order that we've seen over the last century can be traced to this event.  Giving welfare checks to unwed mothers has produced more children to more unwed mothers, making the problem worse.  The examples are endless.

Almost a full century ago, a few cancer cells were introduced into our body politic.  Early on, it might have been easy to kill them, but a diet of oligarchy, fear and the introduction of communist/socialist ideas made for an unhealthy body politic.  These cells have grown and metastasized and will be very painful to remove.

One particular year in our history shows what happens when the populace becomes complacent and jealous, doesn't pay attention, is manipulated by the media, or is lied to by those in power.  What happened in 1913 that was so bad?

  • The Constitution was amended to permit the federal government to levy an income tax
  • The Constitution was amended so that senators were elected by the citizens of each state rather than being appointed by the state legislatures
  • The Federal Reserve Bank was introduced

The articles in this series will explain why each of these "innovations" was such a disaster for our nation.

To be continued...

Fennoman is a guest writer for Scragged.com.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Fennoman or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
"The Constitution was amended so that senators were elected by the citizens of each state rather than being appointed by the state legislatures."

How is that worse than what we have now? Here in California our state legislature is Democrat controled and borderline insane. I'm sure our state legislature would appoint people Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to be California's senators.
March 6, 2008 1:33 PM
How about stay with the subject?
April 2, 2009 11:23 AM
This is were the masses were asleep. These three events allowed the progressive movement into our society leading to the changes that were to follow during the depression era.
July 18, 2009 10:34 PM
December 12, 2009 7:45 PM
2010 ain't looking so good either.
March 25, 2010 9:47 AM

"The Law of Unintended Consequences states that there will be unintended results for every human action. It doesn't take much to see this law's effects."~Article

The fact of sinister political agenda trumps "The Law of Unintended Consequences," when all of the deep facts of the Wilson regime are taken into account.

July 17, 2011 10:11 PM

2012 is like the worst year it feels like! Look at the weather its not suppose to be like this in May! Then there was 2011 which was bad, too. I Honestly I do think the world is going to end soon due to politics, weather and money crisis.

May 6, 2012 9:48 PM

The world as we know it will end soon if things continue. However, I don't believe the planet will spontaneously combust. Whatever happens, you can guarantee that it will be man-made!

October 22, 2012 5:48 PM

So...where's the rest of this article and the facts backing the statements made? It says "to be continued", but isn't.

October 24, 2012 11:34 AM

@Kristie Dixon:

Scroll up a few inches. "Other articles in this series"

October 24, 2012 11:46 AM

You need to roll back the years to when Teddy got on his stump and pushed through the anti-trust laws. This was a huge mistake. JD Rockefeller was pilliored to the nth degree because he was described as a greedy man. All he did with his oil was to bring down the price of kerosene to 6 1/2 cents per gallon over the years. All the breakup of Standard Oil did was to increase the price of kerosene to the people that thought that he was a greedy and didn't need any more money, he had enough they decided. The beneficiaries of this were the political cronies of the rock stars in Washington since the companies that benefited from the breakup now could gouge the people and contribute to their campaign coiffers. Ans as for JD
being greedy he was not greedy but was running his company in his own self interest, just as you and would do if we had a company, big or small. To do otherwise would be certain failure. To be greedy would also be certain failure as the public buys products for what reason? Their own self interest.

It is my opinion that the changing of the Constitution put our country on the downward spiral that we find ourselves today, no question but the catalyst was the anti-trust laws. Once we as a country passed into law that a man could do with his private property as he chose the changes in 1913 were easy.

October 24, 2012 11:54 PM

I only stumbled upon this article as aresult of having a single thought, "What happened in 1913 in the U.S.?" Asking it because my father was born in 1913 and he just passed from this life October 10, 2012. I am a Christian and believe in predestination in following after the Spirit of the Living God. My father also I have to mention was a preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word says that all my times are in thee, and that God declares the ending from the beginning. So I was just curious to know what was going on at that time perioda nd the expereinves that helped to shape his character external forces, etc.

October 27, 2012 9:10 PM

The income tax has been responsible for funding a government that has provided infrastructure, business incubation, a socioeconomic safety net, enforcement of civil rights laws including the end of Jim Crow, a means to defend ourselves against foreign aggression, disaster relief, and free trade (due to the dropping of tariffs that previously funded the federal government).

Direct election of US senators has taken some of the corruption out of the process from the time state legislators chose them.

The Fed is a reactionary institution so it could not prevent financial calamity but can intercede to remedy the problems. Without it, we had economic ebbs and flows. With it, we have economic ebbs and flows. However, the potential to moderate crises is present with its existence - especially now that the members are not bankers as much as economists.

November 25, 2012 9:48 AM

You aren't alone


1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War. By Charles Emmerson. PublicAffairs; 528 pages $30. Bodley Head; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

VIEWED from the capitals of Western Europe, the world looked pretty good in 1913. There were many, it is true, who heard rumblings of war; but this was so often the case in Europe, even after two decades of peace. The Economist was not alarmed. In June 1913 it described the recent entente cordiale between Britain and France as “the expression of tendencies which are slowly but surely making war between the civilised communities of the world an impossibility.”

We got that wrong. Yet the coming slaughter, which would leave 35m dead or wounded, was not inevitable. Europe was not only peaceful but also richer, healthier and arguably more stable than it had ever been. It was also more interconnected. Kaiser Wilhelm II, King George V and Tsar Nicholas II were cousins and socialised together. The latter two monarchs looked very much alike, and the societies they presided over were also close kin.

A hybridised elite travelled the continent, patronising its hybridised music and art. A swelling European middle-class went shopping for the same luxuries in London as in Vienna. And Europe’s workers at least had the consolation of socialism—as preached by the 553 delegates from 23 countries who gathered in Switzerland in November 1912 to rededicate themselves to peace. Despite expressions of nationalist fervour, in Europe a multi-tiered continental identity was emerging.

Charles Emmerson, a young British historian who has previously written a fine study of the Arctic, provides a grand tour of Europe at this fateful time—and then proceeds to Detroit, Buenos Aires, Tehran, Bombay and Tokyo, to 23 cities in all. With barely a nod to the impending calamity, he aims not to explain what caused or was lost to the war, but to retrieve from the partial glare of hindsight the world in which it erupted.

This is no modest undertaking. Mr Emmerson draws from a wide range of sources, including memoirs, billboards and newspapers, to recreate a year that was fairly uneventful. 1913 saw the opening of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and New York overtake London as the world’s busiest port; it was a caesura before great events. Yet Mr Emmerson makes no apology for the geopolitical verisimilitude he describes. Not unlike Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”, the first instalments of which were published in 1913, his narrative finds coherence in the unremarkable. It can similarly drag; but what emerges is a rich portrait and an important set of ideas.

Humanity was less shaped by the Great War than is often supposed. Rather, the world of 1913 was quite like that of 2013: modern, substantially urbanised and, even as Woodrow Wilson set about slashing import tariffs, thriving on global trade. The report of a bad harvest in Canada could mean a fall on the London stockmarket the next day, and the arrangement of imports of Russian wheat by the end of the week. The European empires augmented these linkages; advertisements in one London paper recommended holidays in Sudan, with travel by “express steamers and sleepcar trains-de-luxe”. Yet challenges to colonial rule in India, South Africa and elsewhere, were becoming louder, partly due to the same global forces.

Though some features of the world in 1913 seem strange—including the riches of Argentina—most are familiar. Yet with that comes a troubling corollary. In the current testing of European unity, the reassertion of the nation state and insecurity engendered by rising powers, the world in 2013 looks a bit discomfitingly like that of 1913.

June 8, 2013 8:51 PM

Also Wilson (D) segregated Blacks & Whites in the military.
And We entered WW I -- not a good thing.

November 2, 2017 4:15 PM
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