Mr. Delaplaine to Mr. Evarts.
Vienna, May 10, 1877. (Received May 28.)
Sir: In my dispatch No. 62, of the 5th instant, I had the honor to communicate to you in extenso the speech of Minister-President Tisza, in the Hungarian Diet, in response to the interpellation of the member Somssich. He omitted on that occasion to reply to the inquiry relative to the navigation of the Danube, which is now interrupted by the war, and greatly to the detriment of the commercial interests of Austria, and more especially Hungary. Yesterday, however, the minister-president delivered a supplementary address solely upon that theme, which I deem proper to present to you, as a requisite completion of his explanations.
His discourse was as follows:
In the first place, I must briefly mention what the situation of the Danube is when viewed from the point of international treaties, because naturally it is only upon the basis of the same that judgment can be formed upon the measures already pursued and in future to be pursued.
I consider this so much the more necessary, because the matter has been on various sides so apprehended as if the Danube itself and the circuit of the same had been in the international treaties declared as neutral, which is absolutely not the fact.
It was indeed in the closing protocol of the Vienna congress of 1815 for the first time declared that free navigation should prevail upon such rivers whose banks should form the boundaries of several states. This principle was in 1856 applied to the Danube.
In the year 1871, however, it was in the London protocol declared that the buildings and settlements constructed by the international Danube commission, as well as the persons called to the technical and administrative manipulation, should be regarded as neutral; yet the neutralization of the Danube stream was never and nowhere declared, but the principle declared in the year 1815 was so applied that upon those rivers which touch the boundary of several states navigation should be free from their sources to the sea.
Since matters so stand from the standpoint of international law, a neutral power cannot be called upon to intermeddle for one or the other or against both belligerent powers in those dispositions which belong to war measures allowed by international law.
Inasmuch as the belligerent states are bound to respect the international guaranteed rights of neutral powers and their subjects, so has also no single neutral power the right to intermeddle with such acts of the belligerent powers as by international law are allowed in case of war.
But while I declare this, I must at the same time declare that not only the Hungarian Government, but also the common ministry for foreign affairs, on one side, fully comprehends and feels what great and important interests of the monarchy are connected with the free navigation of the Danube, while, on the other side, it comprehends and feels also its right and the duty resting upon it with regard to the conservation of free navigation of the Danube, imposed not only by the interests of the state, but also by its position as one of the guaranteeing powers, and therefore the government has viewed it as its task to work in such a manner that the interruption of free navigation, in consequence of the war, may not extend, either in circuit or in time, further than circumstances may render absolutely necessary.
The government views further as its task, to obtain guarantees so that as soon as this absolute necessity ceases all hinderances to the free navigation of the Danube may be removed. It views it further as its task, to work so that nothing may happen which can prejudice the free navigation of the Danube in the future, and whereby, after the cessation of the causes already stated, the free navigation of the Danube can be rendered either doubtful or imperiled, or narrowed more than in accordance with treaties. In this respect, even before the offering of the interpellation, a demand on the part of the common ministry for foreign affairs was addressed to St. Petersburg and Constantinople, and that ministry believes itself justified in hoping that it will receive from both sides a fully tranquillizing response in the matter.
What the government will do later—the close of the inquiry touches also this point— to that naturally no answer can now be given.
The government can only indicate how far it is conscious of its duty. It can indicate [Page 33]what it has done; what it will further do will depend upon the further development of matters, and especially upon the result of the reclamation which has been raised. I beg that this answer may be accepted.
The Tagblatt, a Vienna journal of radical character, and professing notoriously Turcophile opinions, in an article entitled “The Danube between two fires,” maintains that it is indispensable that the Danube should become an Austrian stream. The following remarks are therein included:
The national sentiment in Hungary demands war in favor of Turkey. A war for the freedom of the Danube would have a very different meaning, a practical meaning, would possess a really political aim, and express an idea truly Austrian. We can comprehend that Austria-remains neutral during the present conflict, but it is impossible that she should remain also neutral at the conclusion of peace, and that solely on account of the Danube. It is an Austrian river, and should be recognized as such. In order to attain this aim there exists but a single measure, and that is, the annexion of the banks of the Danube, that thereby the monarchy, once for all, may be protected against events such as those of which the lower course of the river has become the theater. Roumania is not a bulwark sufficiently strong to maintain the freedom of the Danube as we desire it. The existence of Roumania is not compromised by the war; it will be by the treaty of peace only. Austria should not tolerate in future a state of affairs which might arrest from one moment to another the circulation upon the river. Neither under the protectorate of Turkey, nor under that of Russia, nor as a soi-disant independent state, can Roumania offer to us a guarantee against the return of events which to-day paralyze our commerce and our industry, and imperil even the force of the monarchy.
It is absolutely necessary that all this should be changed; that the Lower Danube should present a picture wholly different from that exhibited to-day, and that, in one word, it should become an Austrian river.
I would remark, in conclusion, that the Vienna press generally acquiesces in the opinions expressed by Minister-President Tisza, in the Hungarian Diet.
I have, &c.,