No. 23.

Mr. Bayard to Mr. Lee.

Sir: Your telegram, dated the 4th instant, and your dispatch, No. 127, of the 6th instant, have duly informed me of the final and deliberate decision of the Government of Austria-Hungary, communicated to you by Count Kalnoky in your interview with him on the 4th instant, not to receive the Hon. Anthony M. Keiley as the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of this Government.

The reasons or causes which are avowed to have led the Government of Austria-Hungary to this conclusion may be found in the correspondence heretofore exchanged, and it is not my design to restate the straightforward efforts of the United States to send a competent and worthy representative of American interests and feelings near the Government of Austria-Hungary.

It may, however, be proper here to note that the United States never pressed Mr. Keiley upon Austria Hungary, nor have they insisted upon his acceptance. His Imperial and Royal Majesty’s Government, on learning of Mr. Keiley’s appointment, stated certain objections, and invited the Government of the United States to admit their sufficiency by withdrawing its envoy.

This course would have raised no difficulty had the objections presented been such that the President could have recognized their pertinency and force, and, of his own executive action, annulled the appointment.

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But the disinclination to accept Mr. Keiley was placed by Austria-Hungary on grounds which could not be admitted by the President, with due regard to the provisions of the Constitution, nor be held by him to constitute any disability under our law or custom. The President’s freedom of action being thus barred by the Austrian presentment of the case, no alternative remained, the status having been duly made known by us, but to await from the Imperial and Royal Government a positive announcement of its purposes with regard to the acceptance or rejection of Mr. Keiley, and this announcement has at last been; definitely communicated to you.

Nations, like individuals, are the proper guardians of their own self-respect and honor, and the people of the United States must decide upon their acceptance of the novel conditions of diplomatic intercourse which have been set up and insisted upon by Austria-Hungary in the case of Mr. Keiley.

By no act of mine nor with my consent can the Government of the United States be placed in an attitude of supplication for favor, or become a petitioner for recognition on terms prescribed by any foreign power, and this expression meets the full approval of the Executive.

There is, therefore, and can be, no suggestion of expostulation or protest by us against the unprecedented action of the Government of Austria-Hungary.

All that has been said and written by us has been designed to make it clear that, as between the revocation of Mr. Keiley’s appointment by this Government and his rejection as an envoy by that of His Imperial and Royal Majesty, the responsibility of the final decision must rest with the latter, which, having now signified its determination and accomplished its object, must abide the result.

International comity, as understood and practiced by the United States, is substantial and sincere, and applies to the public interests of Governments and to the vast concerns embraced and controlled by governmental action. It is not the intention of the Government of the United States, as it cannot be the wish of the people of this country from whom the power of administration is derived, to allow the important and dignified objects which diplomatic intercourse was designed to promote to be lost sight of or subordinated to the prejudices and caprices of a limited social circle.

We recognize the necessity of high personal character and intelligence in the envoys of the United States, and their possession of perfect amity and good faith towards the Government and people to whom they are sent. No breach of social conventions on their part is contemplated, neither is personal immorality to be condoned. Individual worth and competency are tests by which their fitness is to be measured. Judged by this indispensably high standard, no breath of imputation against Mr. Keiley’s good fame is discoverable.

Whilst this Government concedes as freely as it exercises the right to refuse to receive an envoy, yet when that right is so exaggerated and expanded as to become a virtual claim of the function of selection as well as of rejection we must demur.

On the face of Count Kalnoky’s telegram to the Austro-Hungarian minister at this capital, in the communications, both written and verbal, made to me by Baron von Schaeffer, and in the reports by Mr. Francis of his interview with Mr. Szögyényi at the foreign office and your own report in full of Count Kalnoky’s statements to you in your final interview with him on this subject, two facts appear: First, that the alleged race and religious faith of the wedded wife of an envoy of the United [Page 40] States is held a cause of his rejection; and, further, that objections by a third party—“a friendly power”—are necessary to be removed in order to allow a proper reception to be extended.

These conditions are simply intolerable, and are, in the case of the United States, not only inhibited by the plain letter and undying spirit of our constitution of government, but are inconsistent with that decent self-respect which forbids a nation of sixty millions of freemen to accept the position of a diplomatic dependency of the “friendly power” whose behests appear to have been acquiesced in and carried out by Austria-Hungary in the present instance.

The issues thus raised are grave, and I will not now pursue their discussion, as they will in all probability be submitted to the representatives of the American people upon the meeting of the two Houses of Congress in December next.

While consideration of the merits is thus laid aside, two matters of detail and fact, which were stated by Count Kalnoky in his last interview with you on the 4th instant, require my attention in this instruction.

  • First. His excellency avers that his intention was to have had his views stated verbally to me by Baron von Schaeffer. I can only say, as to this, that whatever may have been his private intentions, the full copy of his telegram to Baron von Schaeffer, of May 8, was by the latter carefully translated and handed to me in writing, and that the objection to the religious faith of Mr. Keiley’s wife, which appeared in that telegram, was the main point of discussion between Baron von Schaeffer and myself, and was insisted upon by him against my earnest remonstrance and explanation that the President could not withdraw Mr. Keiley on such grounds. A month later, on the 11th of June, Baron von Schaeffer, in writing, communicated to me Count Kalnoky’s declaration “that his objections to said nomination remain in full force.”
  • Secondly. His excellency remarked to you that “he thought it undiplomatic to have intimated, without adducing some confirmatory proof, that Italy was influencing the decision of his Government.”

My desire to attain absolute truth in my relation of facts has certainly been greater than to excel in the periphrases of diplomacy, but his excellency must have been either unmindful or uninformed of the statements of his associate, Mr. Szögyényi, chief of section in the ministry for foreign affairs, made to Mr. J. M. Francis, then the United States minister, on June 16, at the foreign office, or he certainly would not have averred that my comment was not diplomatic.

On that occasion Mr. Szögyényi distinctly informed Mr. Francis that “a friendly Government, a near neighbor, had objected to him” (Mr. Keiley.) “as the United States representative at its court, and its views had found earnest expression here” (in Yienna) “since the President had named him as United States minister to Austria-Hungary.”

Mr. Keiley’s mission was the only object of that interview, and statements emanating from a source so authoritative can scarcely be held to need “confirmatory proof.”

It may not be superfluous in this connection to refer to the language of Count Kalnoky in his letter to Baron von Schaeffer, as communicated to me by the latter under date of May 19, as exhibiting the influence upon his intentions of the “friendly power” referred to, wherein he states his objections to the reception of Mr. Keiley as being “based upon want of political tact evinced on his part on a former occasion, in consequence of which a friendly power declined to receive him, and upon the certainty that his domestic relations preclude that reception of him [Page 41] by Vienna which we judge desirable for the representative of the United States.”

You are instructed to make known to Count Kalnoky the facts in regard to the communication of his telegraphic dispatch in writing, and its subsequent confirmation in Baron von Sehaeffer’s letter to me, and also the statement of Mr. Szögyényi to Mr. Francis in relation to the “earnest expression” at Vienna, of the wishes of a third party concerning the diplomatic relations of Austria-Hungary and the United States.

The personal and individual opinions of His Majesty the Emperor, to which Count Kalnoky made reference in your interview, we must of course hold to have been expressed by his distinguished minister.

I cannot close this instruction without referring to the remark addressed to you by Count Kalnoky, that “the antisemitic social feeling here [in Vienna] was a fact; that a person of proximate Semitic descent would be excluded both by the social and diplomatic circles of Vienna, and that fact was beyond the control of his Government.” This fact, if beyond the control of the Imperial and Royal Government, is equally beyond the cognizance of the executive power of this Republic, which could not admit a principle which, through the exclusion of “persons of proximate Semitic descent,” and others married to “persons of proximate Semitic descent,” would establish a religious test, and disfranchise from holding public office a very large and important body of our citizens.

It is a cause of astonishment that in an era of advanced civilization, in which musty prejudice and illiberal discrimination among religious sects and races of mankind are giving such gratifying proofs of their rapid extinction, when throughout the wide world the death of the venerable and philanthropic Mont en ore is so genuinely mourned, when the council of highest rank and most exclusive privilege of the British Empire is glad to enroll in its peerage a member of the noted house of Rothschild, that from so enlightened a Government as that of Austria-Hungary should proceed the declaration that “proximate Semitic descent” will be sufficient to proscribe individuals of admittedly blameless and virtuous personality from appearing at that court clothed in the representative character of a friendly power.

I am, &c.,