Henry Ford And His Peace Ship

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But others have differed sharply. Walter Millis, in his Road to War, deplored the fact that “the Peace Ship was launched, to the undying shame of American journalism, upon one vast wave of ridicule.” Upton Sinclair praised the crusade, while there was scarcely a pilgrim, from Schwimmer to B.W. Huebsch, who did not believe that it justified itself. Those who ridiculed the project had indeed little to support their ridicule, while those who defended it could point to the worldwide dramatization of the peace hope through the cruise and to a definite effect on public opinion in Europe through the activities of the conference. And although the crusade failed, it had held aloft before the world the ever-desirable alternative to war. A large body of Americans respected Ford’s idealism, and in less than two years after the conference closed, the industrialist showed amazing strength as a senatorial candidate and was persistently talked of for President.

Ford perceived other practical gains. Although he did not charter the peace ship to make himself or his car better known, the cruise publicized both. When Liebold told him that the total costs were $465,000, he remarked: “Well, we got a million dollars worth of advertising out of it, and a hell of a lot of experience.”

Was Ford humbled in spirit by the ridicule he encountered—under which he undoubtedly smarted despite his smiling denials? No evidence supports such a possibility. Later on he pointed out that in a time when no bold effort to end the war was being made, he had acted. “I wanted to see peace. I at least tried to bring it about. Most men did not even try.”