Who's Who - William Gibbs McAdoo

William Gibbs McAdoo William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941), the son-in-law of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, acted as the latter's Treasury Secretary from 1913 until 1919.

McAdoo hoped to avoid U.S. participation in World War One by offering loans to the Allied powers at favourable terms; he also acted to encourage continued U.S. trade with Europe in the meantime by guaranteeing marine insurance.

In the event U.S. involvement proved inevitable with Germany's adoption of a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare and America duly entered the war in April 1917.

McAdoo largely financed the U.S. war effort by issuing four heavily-oversubscribed so-called 'Liberty Bonds', which raised some $21 billion by the end of the war.  Separate attempts to raise funds via taxation, direct or otherwise, met with stiff conservative opposition and McAdoo was obliged to drop such plans.

A pragmatic, effective Treasury Secretary, McAdoo ensured that he was surrounded by high achievers from the world of business, a practice which also ensured ongoing support from the world of commerce even while government regulations bit ever further into the realm of business practice.

In 1917 McAdoo was chiefly responsible for the establishment of the Inter-Allied Purchasing Commission responsible for procurement of wartime Allied requirements.

Already under a heavy workload McAdoo nevertheless agreed to take charge of the then-creaking U.S. railway system as Director General of a federally controlled network in December 1917.  McAdoo's pragmatic policies succeeded in raising the morale of railway personnel while ensuring the operation of an efficient system of ferrying wartime supplies to and from the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).

By the time the armistice was agreed with Germany on 11 November McAdoo was close to exhaustion: he consequently tendered his resignation the following day, effective from January 1919.

His subsequent attempt to secure the Democratic presidential nomination in 1924 proved unsuccessful.  He died in 1941.

Click here to hear a speech given by William Gibbs McAdoo following the U.S. declaration of war in 1917, on the subject of American Rights.

One in five of the Australians and New Zealanders who left their country to fight in the war never returned; 80,000 in total.

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