Meyer Gerhardt was in a position to give for the first time a full and accurate review of the American situation to the Berlin authorities. I had given him most precise information of my own views and had placed him in full possession of the details of my interview with Mr. Wilson. For the rest I had to content myself with short telegrams by circuitous routes. During our conversation, however, the President offered for the first time to permit me to dispatch a cipher telegram through the State Department, to be sent on by the American Embassy in Berlin. My reports as a matter of fact were somewhat infrequent and always short, as we had to put all our messages into cipher, and this was not always possible. In explanation of the inevitable incompleteness of my communication with the Foreign Office, I may remark that the telegrams of the Wolff and Trans-Ocean Bureaus were regarded as the main sources of information for either side, and that I made use of various arrangements of words, to which the Foreign Office alone had the key, for the purpose of making my own views easily distinguishable in these telegrams.
Meyer Gerhardt, armed with a certificate from Mr. Bryan, to the effect that he was undertaking his journey at the express desire of the American Government, crossed over to Germany with all possible speed. It may be doubted if the English authorities would have taken any notice of this safe conduct, but by good fortune the Norwegian vessel which took him over escaped the attention of their cruisers. His mission was so far successful that the excitement in the United States had time to die down somewhat and the first crisis in German-American relations was thereby tided over satisfactorily. Apart from that, Meyer Gerhardt's mission had no effect on the future course of negotiations. The exchange of Notes between Washington and Berlin continued without an understanding being arrived at; both Governments persisting in their original points of view.
The second American Note, dispatched on June 10th, led to the resignation of Mr. Bryan, the Secretary of State. He considered that American citizens should be forbidden to take passage in vessels bearing the flag of any belligerent nation, and holding these views as he did, declined to make himself responsible for a further exchange of Notes which he believed was bound in the end to result in war.
The resignation of the Secretary of State had another diplomatic prelude of a tragi-comic character. The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, Dr. Dumba, besought Mr. Bryan to discuss the German-American conflict with him; both gentlemen wished to find some solution to the dispute and hoped that the Ambassadors not directly concerned in it might profitably try to mediate. It was said later and probably with truth, that there was a mutual misunderstanding on this subject; but whatever be the truth of that, Dr. Dumba took upon himself to send a radiogram to Vienna, by way of Nauen, in which he gave the following resume of Mr. Bryan's views:
"The United States desire no war. Her Notes, however strongly worded, meant no harm, but had to be written in order to pacify the excited public opinion of America. The Berlin Government therefore need not feel itself injured, but need only make suitable concessions if it desires to put an end to the dispute."
This telegram from Dr. Dumba had just reached the German Foreign Office at the moment when the American Ambassador arrived to inform the Under Secretary of State, Zimmermann, in his customary blunt and abrupt manner, that Germany must yield to America's demands or war would inevitably follow. Zimmermann thereupon, with the object of causing Mr. Gerard to moderate his tone, showed him Dumba's wire, which pointed to the inference that the attitude of the American Ambassador was merely a bluff. Mr. Gerard, as in duty bound, reported the facts to Washington; mutual recriminations ensued and the Press got hold of the story (nothing ever remained a secret for long in the American capital). The general impression there was that Germany, once she were convinced of America's serious intentions to appeal if necessary to arms, would back down; and that now Mr. Bryan was made to appear as a wrecker of the President's policy. His resignation thus became more necessary than ever, and Mr. Lansing, hitherto head of the State Department of Justice, replaced him. American opinion, however, laid the chief blame for what had occurred on Dr. Dumba, who was henceforward regarded as a dangerous intriguer.
Mr. Lansing was a lawyer, not a politician, and looked at everything from the point of view of a lawyer and his position as the President's sole legal adviser. He was, so to speak, Mr. Wilson's legal conscience. My personal relations with him were always extremely cordial.
Mr. Bryan's point of view was in every sense that of a neutral. The only really effective way of safeguarding American interests was, of course, to forbid the use of hostile passenger ships by citizens of the United States, who could perfectly well travel on their own vessels, or those of Holland or Scandinavia. However, the greater part of American public opinion did not accept this strict view of neutrality, and Mr. Wilson, therefore, adapted himself to the predominant opinion. It was useless for us to demand that the President should interpret his neutrality in the manner most convenient to us; we had to accept the fact that his ideas on this subject were neither ours nor Mr. Bryan's, and, on this basis, endeavor to come to an understanding with Mr. Wilson, if we did not intend to bring the United States into the war. It must be remembered that, as I have already said, we had no means of bringing pressure to bear on America, whereas from her point of view war with Germany would be a comparatively simple affair, which would involve no vital risks for her, but would, on the contrary, greatly benefit her from an industrial point of view, besides gratifying the jingoes, by giving them an opportunity of making full use of their long-desired Army, Navy and commercial fleet. There could be considered, as factors tending to the preservation of peace, only the pacific sentiment of the majority of the people working in alliance with the dilatory policy of the President, who still nourished a hope that some favorable turn or other in events, or perhaps the advent of peace, would give him a chance to avoid breaking of relations with Germany.
The diplomatic incident, mentioned above, made such an impression on Mr. Gerard, as to induce him to make, on his own initiative in Berlin, at the time when the American Note of 10th June had to be answered, a proposal which met with a by no means cordial reception. His suggestion was that a certain number of passenger ships, detailed beforehand for the purpose, and rendered clearly recognizable, should be used for the transport of Americans to England; but though this scheme was embodied in the German Note of 8th July, it was at once rejected at Washington. Any assent to it would no doubt have involved a further departure from the principles laid down by the American Government—principles which it desired should be generally accepted, but which had already been in some measure compromised. The vessels which it was suggested should be employed in this service were to be marked in red, white and blue stripes, and as barbers' shops in the United States are decorated in this manner, they were called "Barber Ships."
On the 21st of July, the final American Note on the Lusitania case was dispatched. The Washington Government modified their position to the extent that they recognized the legality of submarine warfare, provided that before the sinking of any merchant ship, the crew and passengers were given a chance to leave in safety; in the main, however, the Note maintained the original American point of view. It read as follows:
"If a belligerent cannot retaliate against an enemy without injuring the lives of neutrals as well as their property, humanity as well as justice and due regard for the dignity of neutral Powers should dictate that the practice be discontinued. If persisted in it would in such circumstances constitute an unpardonable offence against the Sovereignty of the neutral nation affected ... the Government of the United States cannot believe that the Imperial Government will longer refrain from disavowing the wanton act of its naval commander in sinking the Lusitania or offering reparation for the American lives lost, so far as reparation can be made for the needless destruction of human life by that illegal act.
"In the meanwhile the very value which this Government sets upon the long, unbroken friendship between the people and Government of the United States and the people and Government of the German nation, impels it to press most solemnly upon the Imperial German Government the necessity for the scrupulous observance of neutral rights. This is a critical matter. Friendship itself prompts it to say to the Imperial Government that repetition by the commanders of German naval vessels of acts in contravention of those rights must be regarded by the Government of the United States when they affect American citizens as deliberately unfriendly."
The first act of the German-American negotiations on the subject of submarine warfare thus closed with this open threat that war would follow any further action by Germany on the lines of the torpedoing of the Lusitania.
I think it well to reproduce here four of my reports, dated from Cedarhurst, a suburb of New York, where the Embassy usually had its headquarters during the hot summer months.
"Cedarhurst, June 9th, 1915.
"The political outlook in America appears at present as calm as a summer's day. The position abroad is perhaps reacting on internal affairs to some extent, as Mr. Wilson, as is usual in this country, considers foreign affairs primarily from the point of view of their influence on the prospects of next year's presidential campaign.
"The tide of anti-German feeling aroused by the Lusitania incident is still running pretty high, but it may now be regarded as certain, that neither the President nor the American people want a war with Germany. Mr. Wilson, then, will, I believe, have public opinion on his side, if he can find an honorable solution to his differences with us, and make use of this solution as the basis for a peace movement on a large scale. I am now even more convinced than I was a short time ago, at the time of my long interview with him, that the President's ideas are developing in this direction, and that this is the cause of his suddenly taking up the Mexican question again, as he hopes to find in it a means of diverting public opinion. I am unwilling to give any grounds for exaggerated optimism, but my recent observations incline me to the belief that the President and his Cabinet are more neutral than is commonly supposed. England's influence here is tremendous, permeating as it does through many channels, which we have no means of closing; but the Central Government, none the less, is really trying to maintain a neutral attitude. It is an astonishing thing, no doubt, but well established none the less, that all influential Americans who come from New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, the English headquarters in this country, to Washington, complain about the pro-German feeling there. I feel sure in my own mind that the Government hopes, by reviving the Mexican question, to diminish the export of arms and munitions to Europe. Public opinion, apart from the anti-German clique, would probably welcome such a move, as it is widely felt that the traffic in arms and munitions is hardly consistent with the continual appeals to humanity sent out all over the world from Washington. My general impression, as will be seen from the above, is that Mr. Wilson considers his best chance of re-election lies in bringing peace to Europe and restoring order in Mexico; for the latter purpose he will probably employ General Iturbide, who spent the whole of last winter in New York and Washington. He was at one time governor of the district of Mexico City, where he acquitted himself with courage and credit. He impressed me personally as a man of great ability. He should be able to find sufficient partisans in Mexico to enable him to raise an army, and the bankers of New York would be prepared to advance him the necessary sums. General Iturbide enjoys the full confidence of the present Administration, but only the future can show whether he will succeed in establishing a stable Government in Mexico, without the intervention of the United States."
"Cedarhurst, 12th June, 1915.
"Since the publication of President Wilson's second Note on the Lusitania incident, the daily Press has been busy with conjectures as to the real reasons for Mr. Bryan's resignation. It is generally agreed that the Note itself could hardly have been the occasion of the Cabinet crisis; as Bryan had concurred in the first Note, and there was no reason, therefore, why he should not have assented to the second one as well. On the other hand, no one can believe that the controversy with Germany was in reality simply an excuse for a personal trial of strength between Wilson and Bryan, after the manner of the earlier rivalry between Taft and Roosevelt.
"Bryan has now published in the World a manifesto addressed to the German-American community defending his attitude in this matter; but it is fortunately couched in terms which are unlikely to find favor in the eyes of those for whose benefit it was written. It would certainly be undesirable from our point of view that Bryan should be regarded as the champion of the German cause in this country; no useful result could follow from such advocacy. We must use all our efforts to come to an understanding with Mr. Wilson, if possible without compromising our present point of view; he is undoubtedly at the moment the most influential man in the country, and if he is antagonized we shall be powerless against him!"
"Cedarhurst, July 2nd, 1915.
"In spite of the English interference with the American mails reported here to-day, I hope that the reports dispatched in the ordinary course of my duty have all reached your Excellency safely. In case they have not done so, I may report that since my audience with Mr. Wilson, the removal of the 'agitator' Dernburg, the mission of Meyer Gerhardt, and the arrival of the Press telegrams from Berlin giving details of the last-named, things have been pretty quiet generally; the situation has reverted to the normal, and will remain normal if our next Note shows a conciliatory disposition. I might even go further, and say that the Lusitania incident, taking it all in all, despite the manner in which we dealt with it, has exercised and will exercise in the future a favorable influence on our mutual relations. Of course it has brought us into even greater odium with our avowed enemies; Anglophile 'Society' in New York, Philadelphia and Boston is infuriated, and the Wall Street magnates are little better; but these two cliques have always been inveterate supporters of England. The Government has lost ground for the first time as a result of the Lusitania incident, and it now fully realizes the importance of these questions of sea warfare; whereas when I first spoke in February, March and April to various exalted personages about the submarine campaign and kindred matters, no one would listen to me, and the full seriousness of the situation was quite unrealized. Now, however, 'the freedom of the seas' has become the test question of American politics. Every preparation has been made to take energetic measures with regard to England if our answer to the last American Note renders further negotiations possible. Even the New York Press has become more reasonable, and capable of discussing war questions impartially; and this was notably the case over the torpedoing of the Armenian. In a word, at no time since the outbreak of war have the omens been so favorable for a rational policy on the part of America."
"Cedarhurst, July 22nd, 1915.
"If we ask what have-been the results of our eleven weeks' negotiations over the Lusitania incident, and which involved the employment of all our available arts of persuasion, we may well reply that we have, despite our grave difficulties, averted the severance of diplomatic relations and the inevitable war that must have followed. The former possibility, at all events, was at one time considerably more probable than most people in Germany are aware of.
"There could have been but one opinion among those I who saw and felt it as to the popular attitude of mind during the first few weeks following the Lusitania incident. In such circumstances we had only one possible resource left to us, to gain time, and hope for the restoration of a more friendly disposition in this country. The continuation of negotiations rendered this contingency possible; and so matters eventually turned out.
"We can hope for further results only if the American Government decides to institute simultaneous negotiations with Berlin and London, with the object of bringing about a settlement. Our own views and those of America are radically divergent, and no mere one-sided discussion between us can bridge the gulf. The American Government went too far in its first Note to allow of its withdrawing now; although it admits our submarine campaign to have been a legitimate form of reprisal against the English hunger blockade, it still persists in holding us responsible for damage to American lives and limbs resulting from these reprisals. Put briefly the demands of the United States are therefore:
"1. A full apology in some form or other, and indemnification for the lives lost in the Lusitania.
"2. An undertaking that no passenger ships shall in future be sunk without preliminary warning.
"The latest Note from America, which is already on its way to Berlin, will in a sense bring the negotiations to a conclusion, as the Government want to have a definite basis of agreement which may form the foundation of their discussions with England. In my conversations with Mr. Lansing I have been given to understand that the Government wish to know verbally or in writing whether we are in a position to incline somewhat to the American point of view, and whether we can see our way to assist the present Government to secure by means of joint conversations with Germany and England the freedom of the seas, which has always been the main object of Mr. Wilson's endeavors."
Dr. Dernburg returned to Germany in the middle of June, having been provided, by request of the American Government, with a safe conduct from the Entente. I went to New York to take leave of Dr. Dernburg and invited a few friends to dinner in the roof-garden of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the eve of his departure. One incident of our gathering may be regarded as typical of the atmosphere of these Lusitania days: a party of people for whom the next table to ours had been reserved refused to take it, as they declined to sit down in the neighborhood of Germans.
After Dr. Dernburg's departure I deemed it advisable, in view of the popular hostility towards us, to redistribute the greater part of Dr. Dernburg's duties. I did so, therefore, in agreement with the Foreign Office, and with the assistance of Dernburg's former colleague, Councillor Albert took over, in addition to his former business with the Central Purchasing Company, all financial and economic affairs, and was attached to the Embassy as commercial adviser. Dr. Alexander Fuehr became Chief of the Press Bureau and Captain Hecker took over the duties connected with the German Red Cross. Unfortunately the generosity of many in America, and particularly those of German descent, has not been fully recognized or appreciated by the people of Germany. The total sum remitted to Germany for our Red Cross and other similar societies amounts to over 20,000,000 marks. The disillusion of our people at home when they realized the slight political influence exercised by the German-American element in the United States has led them to overlook their great achievements in the cause of charity, which were inspired by a heartfelt sympathy with the sufferings of the German nation.
THE "ARABIC" INCIDENT
A few days after the dispatch of the last American Note concerning the Lusitania incident, on July 21st, 1915, Mr. Lansing asked me to call on him. He then told me that the American Government had come to the end of its resources, and if any further cases occurred of loss of American lives by the torpedoing of merchant ships, war must inevitably result. The United States Government intended to write no more Notes, which had been proved useless, but would request me to undertake further negotiations in person. My action in the Lusitania incident had given proof of my earnest desire to avoid war, and the American Government were confident that I should succeed, even under such difficult conditions in finding some way out of the present impasse.
From this time onwards, Mr. Lansing agreed with me that, as a regular thing, I should be permitted, whatever negotiations were going on, to send cipher dispatches to my Government through the channels of the State Department and the American Embassy in Berlin. It will be remembered that a similar privilege had been granted me at the time of the Lusitania incident.
My sole ground of hope for success lay in one passage of the American Note of July 21st, which read as follows:
"The Government of the United States and the Imperial German Government, contending for the same great object, long stood together in urging the very principles on which the Government of the United States now so solemnly insists. They are both contending for the freedom of the seas. The Government of the United States will continue to contend for that freedom from whatever quarter it is violated, without compromise and at any cost. It invites the practical co-operation of the Imperial German Government at this time, when co-operation may accomplish most, and this great common object can be most strikingly and effectively achieved. The Imperial German Government expresses the hope that this object may in some measure be accomplished even before the present war ends. It can be.
"The Government of the United States not only feels obliged to insist upon it, by whomsoever it is violated or ignored, in the protection of its own citizens, but it is also deeply interested in seeing it made practicable between the belligerents themselves. It holds itself ready at any time to act as a common friend who may be privileged to suggest a way."
It seemed possible to reach some sort of agreement on the basis of the above request from America that we should co-operate in endeavoring to restore the freedom of the seas; but there remained the question of finding a formula which should serve as a basis for the settlement of the Lusitania question and prevent any repetition of such incidents.
I was aware that there were two political counter-currents in Berlin: the one party desiring at all costs to prevent war with the United States, the other preferring to risk war for the sake of continuing the submarine campaign. I was clearly bound to co-operate with the first named, as I was convinced that America's participation in the war would certainly result in our eventual defeat; this view was, I knew, that Von Jagow, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whose opinion on this point was identical with mine. Up to January 31st, 1917, however, I could never ascertain which of these two views was the accepted one in Berlin, although, of course, I always hoped that the party of common sense would eventually prevail, nor was I able to discover what degree of success, if any, Meyer Gerhardt, who had been sent to represent my views to the authorities in Berlin, or Dr. Dernburg, who was working for the same end, had managed to achieve. As will be seen from my account of the subsequent course of events, my information on this point was very insufficient, and I was not even made acquainted with the views of the Berlin Government, on the conduct of the submarine campaign, or on the subsequent peace proposals put forward by the President. I was never informed beforehand as to the real intentions of Berlin, and I cannot understand, even to-day, why I was not told, until after the Arabic incident, that the German submarine commanders had been instructed immediately after the torpedoing of the Lusitania not to attack liners. A knowledge of this fact at the time would have assisted me greatly in my dealings with Washington. I do not intend to assert that in all this there was any deliberate neglect on the part of the Berlin Government but neither, on, the other hand, can I credit the commonly accepted explanation that the technical difficulties of transmitting reports were insuperable. It should have been possible to give me definite information on these matters by any one of the various channels of communication which were available between the Foreign Office and the Embassy at Washington. No other explanation is possible, except that which is to be found in the conflict of the two parties in Germany. The head of the Foreign Office was well aware that my policy in Washington was the same as his own in Berlin, but he was frequently unable to send me definite and early information because he, himself, could not tell whether his own views could be accepted and acted upon.
At this time I sent the following report to Berlin:
"Cedarhurst, 28th July, 1915.
"I have on more than one occasion respectfully begged your Excellency to be so good as to wait for my report before deciding whether the last American Lusitania Note is to be answered, and if a reply is to be sent, in what sense it should be drafted. Neither the Government nor public opinion considers such a reply absolutely necessary, so that there is no danger in delay; but I respectfully request that I may be permitted at all events to undertake further negotiations here, verbally and confidentially, even if my instructions have to be sent by letter. Experience has proved that negotiations, if they are to have any prospect of success with the American Government, must be carried on in Washington. Both President Wilson and Mr. Lansing are now prepared to attempt to reach an agreement by this means. In Germany, where the tone of the American Note must have appeared unnecessarily abrupt, this fact is perhaps not realized the explanation of course is that Mr. Wilson was carried away by the popular excitement over the Lusitania incident, and was, thus, compelled to adopt an intransigent attitude, from which he cannot now recede, without making his position impossible here. Then besides the resignation of Mr. Bryan, and that unfortunate telegram of Dr. Dumba's, which has become known here has convinced him that we are not in earnest. Finally, he wishes to come to some kind of settlement with us by means of this exchange of Notes, in order that he may then turn his attention to England; and his well-known pride confirms him in the view that only after he has concluded his negotiations with us, can he take up the matter with her. It should be clearly understood that Mr. Wilson does not want war with us, nor does he wish to side with England, despite all statements to the contrary in the Press of the Eastern States. This Press, in agreement with other powerful and influential circles is Anglophile to a degree and not altogether averse to a war with Germany; but this view is not shared by Mr. Wilson, or the large majority of the American people.
"The great danger of the present situation is that we may be driven to war, either by the efforts of this Press, or by a new Lusitania incident. What Mr. Wilson wants is to satisfy public opinion here, by the serious tone of the Note sent to us, and at the same time to induce us to make certain concessions and thus carry out his darling project of the freedom of the seas, by finding some middle course between the German and English views. In his last note, the President has certainly modified his views in our favor by his admission that submarine warfare is legitimate, whereas he formerly maintained that it could not be regarded as permissible from the point of view of international law.
"It is not my business, even were I in possession of all the necessary facts, to say whether it would be better policy from our point of view, to reply to this Note, or to leave it unanswered; I can only describe the situation, as it appears to me at the moment. From that point of view the decision must depend very largely on the results which we expect to follow from the submarine campaign. If this campaign is regarded as an end in itself, and we are justified in believing that it can bring about the overthrow of England, it would be wiser to leave the American note unanswered, and carry on with the submarine campaign and turn a deaf ear to neutral protests. If, on the other hand, this campaign is only a means to an end, the end being the removal or slackening of the British blockade restrictions, then I beg respectfully to urge that it would be worth our while to make some concessions to President Wilson's convictions, in the hope of achieving our object through his co-operation. He is reported by a witness in whom I have complete confidence, to have said: 'If I receive a favorable answer from Germany I will see this thing through with England to the end.'
"Before this report reaches your Excellency, Wilson's Note will have been delivered to the English Government. If this is couched in as peremptory a tone as the one addressed to us, then I urgently recommend that we should endeavor to come to an agreement with the American Government on the basis of the following draft note. I hope that your Excellency will send me an authorization by wireless—it should be sent in duplicate for greater safety's sake—to enter into negotiations on this basis; I believe that I can guarantee to find a satisfactory principle to serve as a weapon for Wilson in his attack on England. If we show ourselves ready to help him out of his present difficulties, I am sure he for his part will energetically prosecute against England his design of vindicating the validity of international law. 'It can be,' said the President himself in his last Note. In these three words may be seen the conviction of Mr. Wilson, that he can impose his will upon England in this matter.
"As I have already reported, I earnestly hope that it will be decided to reply to the American note; and a reply should, to my mind, deal with these three points:
"(1) Settlement of the Lusitania incident. In this connection it would be well to state that from the point of view of reprisals we were entirely justified in attacking the Lusitania. In so doing, however, we had no intention of taking American lives, and deeply regret that through a combination of unfortunate circumstances this has actually occurred. If any distress still exists among the survivors of the disaster, we should be quite prepared to leave the amount of financial compensation to be decided by a later agreement.
"(2) We propose in the future course of the submarine campaign to abide by the practice recently adopted. As things stand at present, the arrangement is that no liner is to be torpedoed without warning.
"(3) We should be prepared to support to the utmost of our power the efforts of President Wilson, to insist on the observation of the dictates of international law during the present conflict, and leave it to his discretion to enter into conversations to this end with the British Government. The Declaration of London might serve as a basis for these conversations, more especially as it was drawn up at the time by the American Government.
"If we act in accordance with these my respectful recommendations, the breakdown of the negotiations with England is the worst that can happen; and then it would be clear for all the world to see that our enemies were to blame for this breakdown, and Mr. Wilson would come over to our side. Knowing the President as I do, I have not the slightest doubt of this."
I gather from the account in Karl Helfferich's "World War," Vol. II., p. 322, that the Secretary of the Treasury in Berlin was in favor of this policy, which I held to be the only possible one. When he stated, as before mentioned, that his proposal had found no support from the Foreign Office, I was much astonished.
I was instructed to commence negotiations verbally and confidentially with Mr. Lansing on these lines, and was convinced myself that these would lead to nothing, so long as we persisted in carrying on our submarine campaign on the old lines. Policy should be based on what is possible; now it was not really possible to unite these two contradictory methods, and to come to an understanding with the United States over the freedom of the seas, and at the same time to bring her to agree to the continuation of submarine warfare on the existing lines. We were bound to decide once for all on the one policy or the other. I supposed that Berlin had decided for the former course of action, as I knew that our submarine commanders had lately been ordered to arrange for the rescue of noncombatants before torpedoing merchantmen, and I was confirmed in my supposition by the very fact that I had been authorized to open conversations with Mr. Lansing.
Scarcely had these conversations begun, when on August 19th the passenger steamer Arabic was sunk, and again some American lives were lost. Excitement at once attained a high pitch, and once more we seemed to be on the brink of war.
On August 20th I dispatched by one of my usual routes the following wire (written for reasons of safety in French) to the Foreign Office:
"I fear I cannot prevent rupture this time if our answer in Arabic matter is not conciliatory; I advise dispatch of instructions to me at once to negotiate whole question. Situation may thus perhaps be saved."
At the same time, without writing for instructions, I explained both officially and also through the Press that on our side the United States would be given full compensation, if the commander of the Arabic should be found to have been treacherously dealt with. It was my first preoccupation to calm the public excitement before it overflowed all bounds; and I succeeded in so calming it. The action I thus took on my own responsibility turned out later to have been well advised, as, although I did not know this at the time, the submarine commander's instructions had, in fact, been altered as a result of the disaster to the Lusitania.
On the 24th of August, in accordance with instructions from Berlin, I wrote to Mr. Lansing the following letter, which was immediately published:
"I have received instructions from my Government to address to you the following observations: Up to the present no reliable information has been received as to the circumstances of the torpedoing of the Arabic. The Imperial Government, therefore, trusts that the Government of the United States will refrain from taking any decided steps, so long as it only has before it one-sided reports which my Government believe do not in any way correspond to the facts. The Imperial Government hopes that it may be allowed an opportunity of being heard. It has no desire to call in question the good faith of those eyewitnesses whose stories have been published by the European Press, but it considers that account should be taken of the state of emotion, under the influence of which, this evidence was given, and which might well give rise to false impressions. If American subjects have really lost their lives by the torpedoing of this ship, it was entirely contrary to the intentions of my Government, which has authorized me to express to the Government of the United States their deepest regrets, and their most heartfelt sympathy."
Fortunately, as already mentioned, orders had been given before the torpedoing of the Arabic, to all submarine commanders that no liner should be sunk before preliminary warning had been given, and the non-combatants had been placed in safety, unless any ships tried to escape or offered resistance. At the end of August I received an official statement to this effect, intended for my use in the negotiations over the Lusitania question. This statement caused the first hitch in these negotiations. The American Government regarded the term "liner" as comprising every steamer plying on recognized routes as distinguished from the so-called "tramp steamer." The German Naval authorities, on the other hand, averred that their reservation only applied to the large ships of the regular passenger services. However, this divergence of opinion only became important at a later date, and was not for the moment an obstacle to our proceedings.
On the other hand, it was certainly unfortunate for us that up to the 31st January, 1917, neither of the two contending parties in Berlin were able to gain complete control in the matter of policy. I, myself, was never in favor of the submarine campaign, because I was convinced that it could not fulfil its avowed object, and would probably involve us in hostilities with the United States; but bad as this policy was, it would have been better to follow it consistently than to halt between two opinions.
The submarine campaign was in the end gradually and unwillingly sacrificed, owing to our desire to placate the United States. If we had made a clean sweep of it, once and for all, after the Lusitania incident, or, at any rate, after the sinking of the Arabic, as we actually did after the torpedoing of the Sussex, considerable advantages would have been gained from the diplomatic point of view. To my mind, there was now only one thing to be done—to abandon our pretensions that the submarine campaign was being conducted in accordance with the recognized principles of cruiser warfare, laid down by international law, and to offer compensation for the loss of the Lusitania and the Arabic. Having done this, we could then proceed to recall to the American Government their oft-expressed original view of the freedom of the seas. As a matter of fact, immediately after the settlement of the Arabic incident, Mr. Lansing sent a peremptory Note to England. But the prospect of any favorable result for ourselves from this exchange of Notes was never fulfilled, as our methods of war at sea always resulted in fresh incidents and fresh conflicts. There was, of course, a second possibility: that is, while persisting in the submarine campaign to recognize that it was inevitably bound to lead to friction with America, and to discount all the ensuing consequences.
Neither of these two courses was consistently followed in our policy. We were for ever trying to square the circle, and to conduct a submarine campaign which should be from a military point of view effective, without at the same time leading to a breach with America. The order that "liners" should not be torpedoed under any circumstances was regarded simply as a piece of red tape, and not applicable to war conditions, as the submarine was not in a position to distinguish through its periscope between "liners" and other craft. We thus contrived at one and the same time to cripple our submarines, and yet to fail to give satisfaction to America. Probably the German Government did not venture in face of public opinion in the country to desist altogether from the use of submarines.
It has been said that "the freedom of the seas" was an unattainable ideal, a mere phrase, a red herring drawn across our track; but it was in reality none of these things. America attached to this phrase a definite and concrete meaning; namely, the abolition of the law of capture at sea, and I am convinced that after the World War America will yet fall out with England over this question, and will not rest till she has achieved her object. Certainly the original sin of the United States against the spirit of neutrality lay in the fact that she suffered the violation of her admitted rights by England's interference with the reciprocal trade of the neutral States. Messrs. Wilson and House often talked with me about this matter of the law of capture at sea. It would be a complete misconception of American policy to deny that in this phrase, "the freedom of the seas," one of their dearest desires found expression.
When I informed Mr. Lansing confidentially at the end of August of the latest instructions to our submarine commanders, he was much gratified, but explained at once that the fact of its being confidential would deprive the information of all its value; something must, at all costs, be done to reassure public opinion. I could not but admit that the view of the Secretary of State was correct in this respect. The factor of public opinion obviously appeared of less importance in Berlin than in Washington; besides, I knew from experience that no secret could be kept in Washington for long, and that in a few days this, our first sign of yielding, would be common knowledge. I thought it best, therefore, to get the full diplomatic advantage from the new situation, and took it upon myself, on September 1st, to publish my instructions. This exercise of initiative got me a reprimand from Berlin, but I attained my object none the less, in that I avoided any immediate danger of war.
Concerning these negotiations the following correspondence took place with Berlin:
"Cedarhurst, August 30th, 1915.
"I have tried to wire reports to your Excellency by the route placed at our disposal, and inform you as to the progress of the negotiations between myself and Mr. Lansing over the Arabic incident. In consequence of the instructions given to me and the information given by your Excellency to the Associated Press in Berlin, the general situation here has taken a turn for the better. The prospect of war is becoming more remote; there are signs of returning confidence on the Stock Exchange, and I have even succeeded in inducing the Press to see things in a more reasonable light.
"Thus up to the present, everything seems to be going well, and a rupture of diplomatic relations appears once more to be indefinitely postponed. None the less, our difficulties are really much greater than at the time of the Lusitania incident. The American Government's intentions are undoubtedly peaceful, and the case of the Arabic, involving as it did the loss of only two American lives, may be said to be in itself comparatively unimportant. There are other factors, however, to be considered. Both the Government and the people are beginning to have shrewd suspicions, which for reasons of policy they refrain from expressing at present, that we cheated the United States in the matter of the Lusitania, that we spun out the discussion as long as possible, and then replied to President Wilson's last and most peremptory Note, by torpedoing the Arabic. I am convinced that Mr. Lansing, who is an able lawyer, and as a result of his American training alive to every possible move of an opponent, expects us to follow the same policy over the matter of the Arabic. He has thus no great confidence in our good faith, though the President, I am told, is more optimistic, his friend House having informed him that his policy of the 'freedom of the seas' commands general assent in Berlin. The facts of the situation, then, are that the President will not permit any procrastination in the negotiations over the Arabic affair, for should no more satisfactory conclusion be reached now than was the case after the Lusitania incident, Wilson would forfeit the respect of his countrymen, and would have no other resource but to forego his cherished design with what face he might, or else break off diplomatic relations with Germany. There can be no doubt in the minds of any who are well versed in American affairs that he would elect for the latter course. The Spanish-American War arose out of just such a situation.
"The following conclusions result from the above: I gather from the Berlin reports of the Associated Press that your Excellency has decided to settle the present dispute with the United States on the lines which I have respectfully suggested to you. If this be so I urge the utmost expedition in the matter, that confidence here may be restored, and the way opened for negotiations with England. It is not so much a matter of making apologies or giving explanations, but rather of making a full statement to this Government as to the instructions given to our submarine commanders. If we can prove by this means that after the Lusitania incident, orders had been given to attack no passenger ships while negotiations with the United States were going on, or to do so only under certain conditions, all outstanding questions could be solved without difficulty."
(2) CIPHER DISPATCH
"Berlin, September 10th, 1915.
"Daily Telegraph of September 2nd publishes what purports to be extract from your aforesaid letter to Mr. Lansing, informing him of instructions issued to submarine commanders. Extract ends as follows:
"'I have no objection to your making any use you please of the above information.'
"If Daily Telegraph has reproduced your letter correctly, above statement is contrary to instructions, which authorized you only to give information confidentially to American Government. Premature publication in American Press places us in difficult position here, especially as no official report of actual contents of your communication to Mr. Lansing has reached us. I beg that you will kindly furnish an explanation.
(3) CIPHER REPORT
"Cedarhurst, October 2nd, 1915.
"Reference your wire No. A 129 of September 10th, I ask your Excellency to be kind enough to pardon me for having taken upon myself to act on my own responsibility over the submarine question. The position at the end of August rendered some action to pacify public opinion imperative, if a breach were to be avoided. Owing to the difficulties of communication with Berlin I could do nothing but acquaint Mr. Lansing with a portion of my instructions concerning the case of the Lusitania—the only ones which had then reached me. I at once reported my action to your Excellency in my wireless message, No. 179, and in a previous telegram, No. 165, and requested approval of my action; probably these messages have been delayed in transit, or have not reached Berlin. In further explanation, I may add that in this country, confidential matter, in the European sense, does not exist, and such matter can never be kept a secret from the Press. Sometimes I have been able to come to an agreement with the Government over the wording of their communiques to the Press; that is one of the great advantages of conducting the negotiations on the spot. Had the whole American Press entirely refused to accept our official explanations, nothing further could have been done with the Government."
While my negotiations with Mr. Lansing in Washington for a simultaneous settlement of the Arabic and Lusitania questions were still in progress, a memorandum was handed to Mr. Gerard, the American Ambassador in Berlin which purported to justify the action of the offending submarine commanders. Thus the situation once more became acute. The contents of this document were as follows:
"On August 19th a German submarine held up the English steamer Dunele about sixty miles south of Kinsale, and having ordered the crew to leave the ship, were about to sink it by gun-fire when the commander observed a large steamer heading directly towards him. This latter, which afterwards proved to be the Arabic, bore no ensign, or other marks of neutrality, and was thus obviously an enemy. Approaching nearer, she altered her original course, and again made directly for the submarine thus leading the commander of the latter to suppose that she was about to attack and ram him. In order to parry this attack, the submarine dived and fired a torpedo which struck the ship. The submarine commander observed that those on board got away in fifteen boats.
"According to his instructions, the German commander was authorized to attack the Arabic without warning, and without allowing time for the rescue of her crew, in case of an attempt at flight or resistance. The action of the Arabic undoubtedly gave him good grounds for supposing that an attack on him was intended. He was the more inclined to this belief, by the fact that a few days before, on the 14th, he had been fired at from long range by a large passenger steamer, apparently belonging to the British Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which he saw in the Irish Sea, but which he had made no attempt to attack or hold up.
"The German Government deeply regrets that loss of life should have resulted from the action of this officer, and it desires that these sentiments should be conveyed more particularly to the Government of the United States, as American citizens were among the missing. No obligation to make compensation for the damage done can, however, be admitted, even on the hypothesis that the submarine commander mistook the intentions of the Arabic. In the event of an insoluble difference arising on this point between the German and American Governments, the German Government suggests that the matter in dispute should be referred to the Hague Tribunal as a question of international law, in accordance with Article 38 of the Hague convention for the peaceful solution of differences between nations; but it can do so only with this reservation, that the arbitrator's award shall not have the validity of a general decision as to the international legality or otherwise of the German submarine warfare."
The following three reports or telegrams dispatched by me to the Imperial Chancellor describe the situation in Washington at this juncture:
"Washington, September 14th, 1915.
"Lansing has given me permission to wire you by this route, without the messages being seen by him; he will also forward your Excellency's reply, and from this it appears to be the Government's view, that any further exchange of Notes, the subsequent publication of which, in both countries, would merely involve further misunderstandings, is bound to lead to a breach. It considers the present system of confidential negotiations with me as the only promising method of arriving at an agreement. The memorandum on the Arabic is not understood here, and in so far as it is understood, is considered to be a manifestation of German bad faith—a sign that we may perhaps give way in principle, but will always in practice seek to evade our obligations thus incurred.
"Lest this telegram should, by its length, give offence to the British, Mr. Lansing is forwarding the evidence in the Arabic case to Mr. Gerard for transmission to your Excellency; he is himself quite convinced that the submarine commander was not compelled in self-defense to torpedo the Arabic, and that his action in so doing was therefore unjustified. He hopes that your Excellency will after study of the evidence, agree with him in this.
"To obtain full and complete agreement it is first of all necessary that I should be empowered to publish in full those instructions given to our submarine commanders in so far as these were not given in my previous summaries on the matter. If we still consider ourselves bound to maintain that the officer concerned in the Arabic case was only obeying orders, we can never hope to come to an agreement, for no one can possibly feel any confidence in the sincerity of our intentions. In the meantime I shall try to reach a settlement on the matters now in dispute by means of arbitration. Finally, the question of compensation must, in accordance with my instructions for the Lusitania case, be referred to the Hague Tribunal.
"I am quite certain that if we fail to reach an agreement, severance of diplomatic relations cannot but follow.
"Lansing will not reply to the Arabic memorandum, and, as I said before, will conduct the diplomatic exchanges on this matter only through me. He considers this as the only possible course on the ground that Wilson and I are alike committed to the policy of 'the freedom of the seas.'
"Finally, I may observe that everyone here would be much gratified if we could see our way to extend the scope of our latest instructions to our submarines so as to include all merchant shipping. It is argued that these vessels are slow moving and could easily be warned; the advantage of acting without warning is only of importance in the case of swift passenger ships, which we have, none the less, undertaken not to attack without notice. The suggested proposal, therefore, could not harm us; it would, on the other hand, make us very popular here and give the United States a very strong position in her negotiations with England. Of course, I may be able to effect an agreement without this. The main point in dispute is the verdict on the action of the commander in the Arabic case, because this involves the whole question of our good faith. Anyway, there is no doubt whatever that a second Arabic case is bound to result in war."
(2) CIPHER TELEGRAM
"Cedarhurst, September 22nd, 1915.
"As position is still very difficult, I am carrying on conversations in strict confidence through personal friend of Wilson's. Request, therefore, that no directions be sent as regards question of responsibility for Arabic incident, till your Excellency hears again from me. Lansing at present gone on leave. Personally I do not believe that I shall manage to secure International Commission of Inquiry. According to present view, main point of dispute is question of disavowing action of submarine commander. I hope, however, that after reviewing American evidence, your Excellency will be able to find formula for such disavowal, agreeable to both Governments, especially if I can get concurrence of Wilson before press gets hold of it. Request, therefore, that American correspondents in Germany be told nothing more than that American evidence being carefully gone into in Berlin."
(3) CIPHER REPORT
"Cedarhurst, September 28th, 1915.
"The negotiations about the submarine campaign are at a standstill at present. From the fact that Lansing has not been recalled from leave and that President Wilson does not seem over-eager to give an opinion on the proposals which I have put forward for his consideration, I consider myself justified in concluding that the Americans do not consider the situation to be any longer critical. Even the Press is no longer agitated, as in all recent cases of attack by German submarines. Their commanders have acted quite in accordance with our assurances. Under these circumstances Mr. Wilson may possibly fall in with our proposal that the particular case of the Arabic should be dealt with by an International Commission of Inquiry. In any case, some means must be found of finishing once for all with the Arabic and Lusitania incidents; only then shall we be in a position to see whether President Wilson will keep his word, and take energetic measures vis a vis England.
"The Anglo-French Loan Commission, assisted by their agency, the Morgan group, are working at high pressure. Stories of Allied victories in Europe are sedulously spread abroad in order to enlist the support of public opinion. Despite these efforts the commission found Chicago so invincibly hostile that they were compelled to proceed there in person, but they will probably, in any case, manage to raise a loan, as the Morgan group are quite strong enough for the purpose. The rate of interest they are demanding is very high, as up till now they have financed all English purchases here. By these means, they are, no doubt, making considerable profits, but in order to secure them, they will, of course consolidate their floating debt and unload it on to the public. The only question is to what extent they will be able to do this. Opinion varies as to the size of England's present debt; a prominent banker here, in close touch with the Morgan group, estimated the total to 500,000,000 dollars; if this estimate is correct, a loan of 500,000,000 dollars would only just cover the liabilities hitherto existing.
"The Morgan group certainly had to make two great concessions: first, that the proceeds of the new loan shall not be employed for the purchase of munitions, and second, that Russia shall be excluded from the loan; only by these means could they overcome the opposition of the German-Americans and the Jews. Our Jewish friends here are in no easy position. Their action, or rather inaction, takes the form of what is commonly known as 'egg-dancing,' or 'pussyfooting'; they wish to stand well with all sides, but have not the courage of their convictions, and are very anxious to make money. All this is very easily understood, when one remembers the ambiguous position of these gentlemen. A regular devil's dance around the 'Golden calf' is now going on here. All the European Governments are coming to buy in the American market, and usually paying double for their goods, as they only purchase what they urgently need. One lesson we may learn for future reference from the present state of affairs, and that is that we must not allow ourselves again to be left to the tender mercies of the German-Jew bankers here. After the war, we must have branches of our large banks in New York just as we have in London. All evidence goes to show that New York will then be the center of world-finance, and we should, therefore, take all steps to act on this assumption as soon as possible."
The Foreign Office in Berlin, who naturally wished to avoid a rupture with the United States, accordingly dispatched to me the following telegraphic instructions:
"We have no doubt that in this instance submarine commander believed Arabic intended to ram and had every reason for such belief. However, German Government prepared to give credence to sworn evidence of English officers of Arabic and agree that in reality no such intention existed.
"Attack of submarine thus was unfortunately not in accordance with instructions; communication to this effect will be made to commander. German Government is for sake of final settlement by friendly agreement prepared without admission of responsibility from point of view of international law, to give indemnification for death of American citizens. Your Excellency is empowered to notify American Government of above, and to negotiate with them in case of acceptance concerning amount of compensation, subject to our concurrence. Confidently expect that incident will thus be finally liquidated, as above is limit of possible concessions."
"The American Government during verbal negotiations with me on this matter considered it essential that a phrase expressing Germany's disapproval of the commander's action should be incorporated in the explanation which I proposed to publish. I was not sure whether I was really authorized by the above instructions to comply with this condition, but in view of the fact that it was the only hope of avoiding a breach and further delay in the negotiations would profit us nothing, as we were bound to make some sort of reply to the American demand within a certain definite time, I acted once more on my own responsibility and gave the following explanation to Mr. Lansing:
"The Government of his Majesty the Kaiser, in its orders with which I previously made you acquainted, has so framed its instructions to its submarine commanders as to avoid any repetition of incidents such as that of the Arabic. According to the report of the officer who sank the Arabic and his sworn evidence, together with that of his crew, this commander believed that the Arabic intended to ram the submarine. On the other hand, the Imperial Government does not desire to call in question the good faith of the English officers of the Arabic, who have given evidence on oath that the Arabic had no intention of ramming. The action of the submarine was therefore contrary to orders, and the Imperial Government both disapproves of it and regrets it. A communication to this effect has been made to the officer in question. Under these circumstances my Government is prepared to give compensation for the lives of American subjects drowned, to their great regret, in the Arabic. I am empowered to discuss with you the amount of this compensation."
The above explanation finally resolved the second crisis. The German naval authorities naturally complained of my action, as the "disapproval" stuck in their throats, and I was once more taken to task—a matter which weighed little with me. For I felt that my interpretation of the instructions from the Foreign Office was the only one which could have saved us from war, and that now the road was open for the final settlement of the Lusitania incident and the discussion of the great question of "the freedom of the seas." The outlook for us was most promising. Opinion in America as a result of the solution of the Arabic question was once more favorable to us. A leading American paper, the New York Sun, said at this time in its leading article:
"The successful issue of the conversations with Germany over the submarine campaign cannot fail to be of benefit to an nations, as a proof of the possibilities of diplomacy as against war. It has been a personal triumph for both the participants, President Wilson and Count Bernstorff."
The position of both men has been much strengthened thereby, and what they have already achieved is no doubt only a presage of still greater results in the future.
The following four reports to the Foreign Office deal with the settlement of the Arabic case:
"Cedarhurst, October 6th, 1915.
"The settlement of the Arabic case reported to your Excellency in my wire, has caused great satisfaction in all circles here. Of course a few avowedly Anglophile papers, such as the New York Herald and the New York Tribune, reveal the cloven hoof, and are clearly disappointed that a rupture of diplomatic relations between America and Germany has been averted; for the rest, at no time since the outbreak of war have we had such a good Press as at this moment.
"History alone will be in a position to say whether the settlement of the Arabic case really prevented a war with the United States or not; but your Excellency knows my views that without this settlement a conflict must eventually have become inevitable. I respectfully submit that the preservation of peace alone was a sufficient motive to induce us to come to terms; but you also know that this was by no means my sole object. I wished also to induce the Government of the United States to take energetic proceedings against England, with the object of translating into fact its idea of the freedom of the seas. I trust we shall not be disappointed in this regard, and I shall, certainly, leave no stone unturned to keep Mr. Wilson on the right path. Whatever may be one's personal opinion of the President, whether one believes him to be really neutrally-minded, or not, his great services to the cause of peace cannot be denied. A Republican President would certainly not have stood up, as he has done, against the united forces of anti-Germanism represented by Wall Street, the Press, and so-called Society.
"At the present moment it looks as if the American Government are ready to let the Lusitania matter drop altogether, provided we agree to refer the question of compensation to the Hague Tribunal after the war. The general belief here is that judicial proceedings are out of the question during the continuance of hostilities. At least I gather as much, indirectly, of course, from one of the President's friends."
"Cedarhurst, October 15th, 1915.
"I much regret that owing to a mistake on the part of the State Department, your Excellency was not earlier informed of the settlement of the submarine question. Mr. Lansing left my letter, which should have accompanied the telegram, in his writing-table by mistake, for which oversight he afterwards apologized to me. The Imperial Embassy was in no way to blame.
"The importance attached by the President, from the very first, to those main points on which we were unable to make concessions rendered the task of arriving at an agreement by no means an easy one. Thus on three of the most important points no agreement has been reached and over these we must, for the present, draw the veil. Only a few of the most rabid of the pro-English papers venture openly to reproach President Wilson with having achieved nothing but the security of passenger-ships, but all Americans are prepared to admit in confidence that the Government has completely departed from its original position.
"The three important questions still in dispute, as mentioned above, are the following:
"(1) The German Government's responsibility for American lives lost in the torpedoing of British Ships.
"(2) The responsibility for the payment of compensation for the American lives so lost.
"(3) The American demand that all merchant ships should be warned by our submarines before being attacked.
"This demand was at first so worded as to imply that submarines, like other warships, had only the right of search.
"The Government, realizing that we could not make concessions on the above three points, had to be content with our admission that the case of the Arabic should be regarded as exceptional. This very fast rendered it impossible to reach a similar settlement in the case of the Lusitania, in which no error on the part of the submarine commander concerned could be adduced. However, the Government seemed to be only too satisfied to have come so well out of their difficulties, and have no wish to raise any further obstacles because of the Lusitania incident. This matter, as I have already had the honor to report, may now well be left to drag on indefinitely, and can be referred in the end to the Hague Tribunal after the war. Our Press should, therefore, be warned that further discussion of the controversy between Germany and America over the submarine campaign is undesirable."
"Cedarhurst, October 20th, 1915.
"Your Excellency's last wireless requested me to render a report on the settlement of the Arabic question. I have already complied with these instructions, and the documents are now on their way to you, and should have reached you. However, it may be advisable to explain briefly the more important points of the matter.
"From the date of the sinking of the Lusitania, America has always been on the verge of breaking off diplomatic relations with us. The German people, I am convinced, have no idea of the full danger of the situation, at least, if one may judge from our Press. On two occasions we were compelled to sacrifice individuals in order to avoid a breach, Dernburg and Dumba being our scapegoats. Their mistakes would under normal circumstances have been overlooked, but their removal was at the time necessary in order to give the American Government the opportunity of showing its strength without breaking off diplomatic relations with us.
"As I have more than once explained in my reports, no solution of the Lusitania question, agreeable to the Americans, could be found, so long as we were not prepared to admit the responsibility of the Imperial Government for the disaster, or its obligation to make reparation, and so long as our views on the principles of submarine warfare differed from those held by the American Government.
"By dint of drawing out the negotiations as long as possible, and by the employment of all my persuasive powers, I succeeded in tiding over the moment of acute tension. Then came the incident of the Arabic. My laboriously constructed diplomatic edifice came tumbling about my ears, and things looked blacker than ever. The American Government regarded the Arabic incident most seriously, believing as they did that it was typical of the whole German policy vis-a-vis America. They argued that either the whole affair had been prearranged as a manifestation of our intention to have our own way in the matter of submarine warfare, or else it was a blunder which could be dealt with in the ordinary course of diplomacy. Negotiation became possible when your Excellency notified this Government that satisfaction would be given in the event of the submarine commander being proved to have acted contrary to his instructions. Further negotiations followed on this basis, and it was finally agreed that we should admit the exceptional nature of the Arabic case, without yielding our ground on the main points. Such agreement would have been impossible had President Wilson adhered to his previous position, but he wished to have done with the whole business, and could only do so by throwing dust in the eyes of the American public. He hoped by these means to get rid of the Lusitania incident unostentatiously, and told me, through one of his personal friends, 'to let it drift.' The idea at the back of his mind is that it shall be left to an international tribunal sitting after the war, to decide whether we shall pay compensation or not.
"The only really important question as regards the settlement of the Arabic case, is whether it is worth while for us to risk a rupture of relations with the United States, for the sake of this affair. I still persist in my opinion, that it would infallibly have led us into a new war."
"Washington, 1st November, 1915.
"Your Excellency's last wire on the matter of the submarine campaign raises two points of the highest importance.
"First, as to Wilson's policy of the 'freedom of the seas;' this has been the idea underlying all our recent negotiations over the submarine warfare. Our agreement with this policy has been constantly emphasized in all my conversations with leading men here; but it is of course necessary carefully to choose our moment for the public declaration of our agreement with Wilson's point of view, as people here naturally fear that if England believes us to be behind any agitation for the freedom of the seas she will resist it all the more firmly. I respectfully recommend, therefore, that we should leave Mr. Wilson to carry on his present controversy with England, for the present at all events, unaided. We shall lose nothing by so doing, and if an opportunity comes for our participation, we can make use of it.
"After this expression of opinion, let me pass on to the second point I have always clearly stated here, that we reserve to ourselves full liberty of decision, if England refuses to receive our advances. At present, now that the Arabic case has been recognized as exceptional, this 'freedom' is only being encroached upon from one direction as we have undertaken not to sink passenger ships without warning, etc. By this undertaking we must abide, unless we wish to go to war with the United States of America. Any future destruction of passenger ships with Americans on board, especially if such took place without warning, and with the approval of the Imperial Government, would inevitably cause a rupture."
The political sky in the United States was thus becoming more propitious day by day; but our enemies' exertions for the purpose of undermining the present friendly relations, redoubled in proportion. The German Embassy became the chief object of attack, owing to the fact being clearly realized by our foes, that so long as its influence in Washington political circles remained unimpaired, no rupture of diplomatic relations could be hoped for. Entente diplomacy left no stone unturned which could be of service against us; lies, robbery, personal defamation, gossip, were all used to discredit us.
The conduct of a British officer on duty in Washington affords a good example of the unscrupulous policy of our foes. According to the evidence of Dr. Fuehr, this gentleman, now holding a high position in London, attempted in the early months of 1916 to corrupt a messenger of our Press Bureau in New York, one Alfred Hoff, whose daily duty it was to take newspaper cuttings to Councillor Albert's office. Two of his people stopped this boy in the street and invited him to the British Consular offices; here he was received by the Captain himself, who showed him a bag filled with bank notes and promised him a liberal reward, if he would undertake to obtain some letters from Dr. Fuehr's desk. Hoff pretended to fall in with this suggestion, but at once informed his employer of the incident. The Captain then made a second effort to bribe Hoff by the promise of a money reward for every document from the Press Bureau, and also a ride in a motor for the letters which it was his duty to take from the Bureau to the German Embassy at Cedarhurst, during the coming summer. One of the British agents told Hoff that he would be well paid if he handed over the letters of Dr. Fuehr, which he often used to seal and frank, and also certain other documents of a specially confidential nature. Dr. Fuehr finally put an end to this unsavory episode, which had been fully investigated by private detectives, by publishing a detailed account of the whole affair in the Hearst papers. At the same time he brought the matter before the Public Prosecutor, who, however, was unwilling to interfere in the matter unless it should be further discussed in the Press. This limited comprehension of duty Dr. Fuehr could hardly be expected to agree with.
During my encounters at this time with the Entente, I entirely lost any respect I may previously have felt for their moral character, which was reputed to be so high. I came then to realize that we could expect nothing better from them in the hour of our defeat, than a Peace of Versailles, which would make of no account all their earlier loftier professions. We, in Washington, were therefore, in duty bound, to strain every nerve to avert such a catastrophe to our country. Unfortunately the activities of the agents dispatched from home invariably deranged our plans in a most unfortunate manner, and, while affording our foes the desired opportunities for damaging our cause, achieved nothing of advantage in compensation. The English Secret Police, and all the detective agencies of the United States which were in their pay, were always at our heels, endeavoring to establish some collusion on the part of the German Embassy in these isolated cases of sabotage. However, all this subterranean plotting and counter-plotting was but so much lost labor. It was the decision on the policy of continuing or not continuing the submarine campaign which finally turned the scale.
At the beginning of August one of these agents managed to steal a portfolio of documents from Councillor Albert while he was traveling on the New York elevated railway, and its contents were published in the World from the 15th of August onwards. We always thought the perpetrator of this theft was an Entente agent, but it now appears from Senator Frelinghuysen's evidence before the Senate Committee of Enquiry on 13th July, 1919, that the guilty individual was really a member of the American Secret Police. It would certainly have been an unheard-of thing for an American agent to have robbed a member of the diplomatic corps and sold the proceeds of his deed to the Press. Probably what really happened was that the man was in the pay of the Entente. The investigations at the Senate Committee disclosed a number of cases of corruption and theft which the agents of the Entente did not scruple to use in their efforts to compromise and discredit the German Embassy; so this supposition is in itself by no means improbable. The affair was merely a storm in a tea-cup; the papers as published afforded no evidence of any action either illegal or dishonorable; otherwise the American Government would certainly have demanded the recall of Albert as they did later in other cases. The Press manufactured a considerable sensation out of the contents of the portfolio, but generally speaking the efforts of the Entente in this affair proved completely without effect.
The Entente agents, however, were more successful in their next attack, to which the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador fell a victim. Dumba had already in the winter of 1914-15 recommended to me the American war correspondent James Archibald, who had been at the Austro-Hungarian Front, as having German sympathies. Thereupon I also recommended this gentleman in Berlin, where he was granted all facilities. In the Summer of 1915 Archibald returned to America, to lecture on his experiences. As he was anti-Entente, these lectures brought us financial profit, and therefore we paid Archibald's traveling expenses. At the beginning of September, 1915, he went once more to Europe, and dined on the eve of his departure with Dumba and myself on the roof-garden of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York. By this means our personal connection with Archibald was openly recognized. The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, confiding in his character and his American nationality, gave him certain political reports which were not even in cipher, to take to Vienna. Archibald had also offered to take papers to Berlin for me. I, however, declined with thanks, as I scented danger, and I would have warned Dumba also, if I had known that he intended to entrust dispatches to Archibald. The English seized the latter in Kirkwall and took away all his papers.
Since then I have never set eyes on Archibald, and I could not help suspecting that there was something uncanny about the case. By arresting Archibald the English undoubtedly thought they would compromise me. I cannot prove that there was anything wrong with Archibald, but in all the circumstances he could easily have destroyed the papers, had he wished to do so. In the meanwhile a report was found among the dispatches of the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador transmitting to his Government a memorandum from the Hungarian journalist, Warm. In this note Warm recommended propaganda to induce a strike among the Hungarian workers in arms and munitions factories, and demanded money for this object.
The statement of Dumba's report that the Ambassador had shown the suggestion to Captain von Papen, who had thought it very valuable, was very compromising for us.
The German Military Attache was therefore placed in an awkward position; the letter contained several other blazing indiscretions. Thus, for instance, in one paper Dumba described President Wilson as self-willed, and von Papen in a letter to his wife spoke of the "imbecile Yankees."
As I previously mentioned, the position of the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador was much shaken by the Dumba-Bryan episode. His defence, that he had only forwarded the note of an Hungarian journalist, without identifying himself with it, was not favorably received by the American Government. A few days later his passport was presented to him; at the same time the Entente granted him a safe conduct.
Previous to his departure from New York similar scenes took place to those which followed the sinking of the Lusitania.
The Hotel St. Regis, in which the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador lived, was surrounded day and night by innumerable reporters.
When I called on him there to take leave of him, I had to make use of a back entrance to the hotel in order to avoid numerous impertinent questions. Dumba himself was followed at every step by reporters, who among other things often chased him for hours on end in motor-cars.
In the meanwhile Rintelen (mentioned in the fifth chapter) had been taken prisoner in England. Further, the case of Fay led to a disagreeable discussion in public, and lastly action was taken against the Hamburg-Amerika Line for supplying our squadron of cruisers with coal and provisions. Thus it was easy for the Entente agents to establish connection between these offenders and the Military and Naval Attaches of the German Embassy. How far these gentlemen were really implicated I did not know at the time, nor do I now. In this they must plead their own case. As far as I am concerned both gentlemen always denied that they in any way transgressed against the American law. It cannot, however, be denied that they were, in fact, compromised by their relations with these guilty parties; I do not think that anything beyond this can be authenticated.
Captain von Papen's reputation, therefore, suffered from the time of the Dumba-Archibald incident; both he and Captain Boy-Ed were constantly attacked in the anti-German Press, and accused of being behind every fire and every strike in any munition factory in the United States. The New York Herald and the Providence Journal took the leading parts in this business. At the same time a campaign was begun against the German-Americans, who were accused of being practically without exception disloyal citizens of the United States. All the various incidents, accusations, so-called conspiracies, etc., were grist to the Entente's mill, and were exploited to the full. Congress was about to assemble, and it was therefore to be expected that the Government would take steps to strengthen its position.
Mr. Lansing asked me on 1st December to call on him and informed me that the American Government had requested that von Papen and Boy-Ed should be recalled, as they were no longer personoe gratoe!
To my inquiry as to the reasons for this action, Lansing refused to reply; he merely remarked that any Government was within its rights in simply stating that a member of a diplomatic corps was not persona grata. In the course of further conversation, however, I discovered one thing at least, that Capt. Boy-Ed was supposed to have been conspiring with the Mexican General Huerta—an obviously baseless charge, considering that Boy-Ed had never made the acquaintance of the ex-President. It is true, however, that Rintelen had had dealings with Huerta, and it was known that Rintelen had received from Boy-Ed the sum of half a million dollars previously mentioned.
My first message—written in English—to Berlin on this affair ran as follows:
"Washington, 4th December, 1915.
"In an official Note of to-day's date American Government, as stated in previous conversations with me, request immediate recall of Military and Naval Attaches, on the ground of various facts brought to notice of Government, particularly implication of these Attaches in illegal and doubtful activities of certain individuals within United States. Government deeply regrets necessity for this step, and trusts Imperial Government will understand that no other course seems to them to be compatible with the interests of the two Governments and their reciprocal friendly relations."
I also telegraphed as follows to my Government on September 5th:
"Explanations of von Papen and Boy-Ed herewith as requested by Military and Naval Authorities:
"'State Department request my recall. Reasons for this given to Ambassador. Case of Stegler and my two supposed meetings with Huerta. Stegler case settled since March. Stegler in matter of his pass proved a liar. Had nothing to do with his transactions; not the least proof that I ever had; see my report No. 4605, March 20th, and others. I have never in my life met Huerta; I have never concerned myself with Mexican affairs in any way; I have never to my knowledge acted contrary to the interests or laws of the United States. Conjectures and absurd newspaper stories about me result of English influence and money. Must therefore request my recall be considered unjustifiable.
"'No illegal action can be laid to my charge; demand for recall unjustified. Importance of military interests of our enemies here renders necessary effective representation of Central Powers, so long as America officially neutral. Therefore it should be insisted on that American Government secure safe-conduct for my successor.
In view of the approaching session of Congress, the Government, on December 5th, published the fact that they had demanded the recall of the Attaches. This fact, with slight foundation for the American Government's suspicions, made a bad impression in Berlin; I went therefore, to see Mr. Lansing on December 8th, and obtained from him this letter:
"As I have already stated, the demand for recall of the two Attaches of your Embassy was made as a result of the careful investigation of a number of facts and circumstances, which convinced this Government that they could no longer consider these two officers as personoe gratoe, and that their continued residence in the United States was, therefore, no longer compatible with diplomatic propriety. This being the considered and deliberate view of this Government, it would seem that the mere fact of Captains von Papen and Boy-Ed being no longer acceptable, should have been sufficient justification for their immediate recall by the German Government without further discussion. The expectations of the United States Government, in this respect, were in accordance with all diplomatic precedent in cases where such requests have been made, and there seemed to be, therefore, no reason why this demand should have been kept a secret. It is regretted that the Imperial Government should have regarded the publication of the American request as an act of discourtesy towards itself. The United States Government does not share this view of its action, and, therefore, cannot be expected to express its regret for having acted as it has done.
"This Government is surprised that the Imperial Government should not have complied at once with its request for the recall of the two Attaches, who are no longer personoe gratoe here. It seems to me obvious that whatever may have been the reasons for such request, it is for this Government, and not for the German Government, to say whether the charges alleged against the members of a German diplomatic mission appear sufficiently well-founded to justify action such as that now taken. In other words, the causes of the demand are legitimate and sufficient, as being based on suppositions or suspicions of undesirable activities on the part of these two officers.
"In any case, the fact remains, that Boy-Ed and von Papen are no longer acceptable to this Government.
"As I already apprised you by word of mouth, and in my letter of 4th of this month, the relations of the two Attaches with individuals who participated in illegal and questionable activities, are established. The names of von Wedell, Rintelen, Stegler, Buroede, Archibald and Fay may be mentioned as some of those who have transgressed against our laws. I could also name other men and cite other examples of their activities, but as these are at present the object of an official inquiry, I, by this means, should only prevent the arrest of those who violated our laws and still continue to violate them.
"Although I have already said that this Government does not want to do anything further than to request the recall of Boy-Ed and von Papen, since they are no longer personoe gratoe, I, nevertheless, do not desire to go beyond the above declaration; so that your Government may be in a position to institute an inquiry into the manner of dealing with your Attaches, should it wish to do so. If I should go into further details on this matter I might interfere with the inquiry which is now being taken up by this Government, dry up very valuable sources of information, and thus hinder the course of justice. On the other hand there might thus be raised other grounds for suspicion, serving rather to disturb than to improve the present friendly relations between the two countries. I need not tell your Excellency, that it is the sincere wish of this Government to avoid difficulties of this kind, so far as may be consistent with its dignity and its responsibilities."
Besides dispatching a copy of the above letter, I wired to Berlin on 8th December, as follows:
"Convinced that Rintelen is the main cause of the Attaches' recall. Immediate categorical disavowal is absolutely necessary. Only possible connection with us is matter of 500,000 dollars, received from the Naval Attache and demanded for the exportation of goods."
Thereupon I received the following wireless message in English:
"You are empowered to disclaim connection with Rintelen, who had no orders to do anything whatsoever, which was an offence against the American law.
The peculiar relations of the Naval and Military Attaches with the Embassy had, even in times of peace, often led to diplomatic difficulties. For instance, it has often happened to us and to other countries to have to recall Military or Naval Attaches for spying. The diplomatic standing of the head of the Mission would not generally be affected thereby, but, in view of the passions of wartime, and the general tension of nerves, I realized that I might be compromised by the demand for the recall of the Attaches. I questioned Lansing outright on this point, and added that I should immediately hand in to my Government my resignation, if I was considered to be myself "tarred with the same brush." The Secretary of State assured me that I was by no means involved, and that I should not on any account give up my post, since I had to carry on the momentous negotiations now in course, and the American Government had full confidence in me. Under the circumstances I saw no reason why the enforced recall of the Attaches should have any further results, and I was confirmed in this view a few days later when House repeated to me Lansing's assurance with even greater emphasis. His exact words were as follows:
"You must not dream of going home before peace is declared. You are the one tie that still binds us to Germany. If this tie should break, war would be inevitable."
Both Attaches returned to Berlin under safe-conduct from the Entente at the end of December, 1915. Their offices were taken over by their representatives, but only for the purpose of settling up any outstanding matters.
At the beginning of 1916, there was in the United States no single German organization which merited the name of "propaganda." Thus no activities which could compromise us in any way ensued henceforward.
The political situation had become so serene that we had no need for propaganda. The pacifist elements in the United States did this work for us. The only question was as to whether we would remain really at one with them, or whether we meant to persist in submarine warfare, which must inevitably lead us into war.
President Wilson opened Congress on 7th December, 1915, with a message, in which he set forth the new programme for national defence. "Preparedness" became the order of the day in the United States. The message demanded that the Army and Navy should be increased, and added:
"The urgent question of our mercantile and passenger shipping is closely connected with the problem of national supply. The full development of our national industries, which is of such vital importance to the nation, pressingly calls for a large commercial fleet. It is high time to make good our deficiencies on this head and to restore the independence of our commerce on the high seas."
In this message may be recognized the second important point in the Presidential programme for the next election. "Peace and Preparedness" was to be the battle-cry of the Democratic Party. The Mexican imbroglio of 1913-14 had proved that the armed forces of the United States were unequal even to the demands of a comparatively small campaign; and the American Government, for lack of means, had been unable to impose its will on Mexico. Now the European War stirred all imaginations and offered a favorable occasion for overcoming the prejudices of the pacifist section against military armaments. It was not so long since the song "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier," was sung with fervor all the land over; but now events had too clearly proved the powerlessness of any but well-armed nations even to follow their own lines of policy; and the necessity of a mercantile marine of their own grew daily clearer to the people of the United States. Hitherto the Americans had always found enough of foreign vessels for the transport of their goods, had found it cheaper to make use of these facilities than to supply their own under the conditions existing in the States. Now, however, the shortage of merchant tonnage was acute, and American goods were piled roof high in all the warehouses of New York harbor. It was clear that now or never was the time to seize the chance afforded by the war of persuading Congress to sanction the provision of a strong Army and Fleet.
The Presidential message also touched on the "conspiracies," but without any mention of the German Embassy's supposed share in them. The period of these so-called "conspiracies" thus closed with a sharp reprimand addressed by Mr. Wilson to the German-Americans, and with my official recommendation to the Germans in the United States to abstain from all forms of illegal action. The after-effects of this period, however, may be traced in the subsequent lengthy trials of the various offenders. I cannot be sure that since the beginning of 1916, not one single incident which could be comprised under the term "conspiracy" came to light; but these trials and Entente propaganda kept the recollection of such affairs alive, and the American war propaganda service had no difficulty subsequently in retelling the old tales which, but for the entry of the United States into the war, would have passed into oblivion.
The paragraphs of the message dealing with this subject ran as follows:
"We are at peace with all the nations of the world, and there is reason to hope that no question in controversy between this and other Governments will lead to any serious breach of amicable relations, grave as some differences of attitude and policy have been and may yet turn out to be. I am sorry to say that the gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered within our own borders. There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags, but welcomed by under our generous naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of America, who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our Government into contempt, to destroy our industries wherever they thought it effective for their vindictive purposes to strike at them, and to debase our politics to the uses of foreign intrigue. Their number is not great as compared with the whole number of those sturdy hosts by which our nation has been enriched in recent generations out of virile foreign stocks; but it is great enough to have brought deep disgrace upon us and to have made it necessary that we should promptly make use of processes of law by which we may be purged of their corrupt distempers.
"But the ugly and incredible thing has actually come about and we are without adequate federal laws to deal with it. I urge you to enact such laws at the earliest possible moment, and feel that in doing so I am urging you to do nothing less than save the honor and self-respect of the nation. Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy must be crushed out. They are not many, but they are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them at once. They have formed plots to destroy property, they have entered into conspiracies against the neutrality of the Government, they have sought to pry into every confidential transaction of the Government in order to serve interests alien to our own. It is possible to deal with these things very effectually. I need not suggest the terms in which they may be dealt with."
The message, up to a point, maintained an impartial attitude, for it not only blamed the German-Americans but continued in the following words, aimed solely at the many Americans in London and Paris who disapproved of Wilson's policy of peace and neutrality:
"I wish that it could be said that only a few men, misled by mistaken sentiments of allegiance to the governments under which they were born, had been guilty of disturbing the self-possession and misrepresenting the temper and principles of the country during these days of terrible war, when it would seem that every man who was truly an American would instinctively make it his duty and his pride to keep the scales of judgment even and prove himself a partisan of no nation but his own. But it cannot. There are some men among us, and many resident abroad who, though born and bred in the United States and calling themselves Americans, have so forgotten themselves and their honor as citizens as to put their passionate sympathy with one or the other side in the great European conflict above their regard for the peace and dignity of the United States. They also preach and practise disloyalty. No laws, I suppose, can reach corruptions of the mind and heart; but I should not speak of others without also speaking of these and expressing the even deeper humiliation and scorn which every self-possessed and thoughtfully patriotic American must feel when he thinks of them and of the discredit they are daily bringing upon us."
About the turn of the year 1915-16, the severance of diplomatic relations between the American and Austro-Hungarian Governments had become imminent. The Italian liner Ancona was torpedoed on November 7th in the Mediterranean Sea by an Austro-Hungarian submarine and went down before all the passengers could succeed in escaping; many lives were lost, American citizens being among them. In consequence, the Washington Government dispatched to Vienna a Note couched in far stronger terms than any it had yet sent; demanding that the action should be admitted to be unlawful and inexcusable, that compensation should be made, and that the officer responsible should be punished for his deed, which would be branded by the whole world as inhuman and barbarous, and would incur the abhorrence of all civilized nations.