Mr. Keiley to Mr. Bayard.
Sir: My appointment of minister of the United States near the court of Austria-Hungary was communicated to me on the 2d of May, 1885, and on the 7th I sailed for my post, arriving at Cherbourg on the 17th and at Paris the following day. In the railway station at the latter city I was handed your telegram directing me not to proceed to Vienna until I had heard from you further, and I accordingly remained.
On the 7th of August I received a letter from Col. J. Fenner Lee, secretary of the legation of the United States at Vienna, and later in the same day a cablegram from yourself, announcing that the Austrian Government had finally refused to receive me; and conceiving it my duty to return at once to the United States, I secured passage on the earliest [Page 42] available steamer, sailing on the 15th and arriving in New York on the 26th, and proceeded the next day to Washington to possess myself of the details of the correspondence between the foreign offices of the respective Governments and to learn the attitude and purpose of the administration.
I am advised by you that it is not the design of my Government to recall me or to countenance in any other manner the extraordinary objection made by Austria to my reception, but that I am left free to pursue such course as my own judgment may indicate as appropriate.
That course is entirely clear. I cannot consent to accept the compensation of an office without discharging its duties, and I therefore hereby return to the President the commission with which he was pleased to honor me, and beg that you will, at the earliest moment, lay this communication before him.
Under other circumstances this note might be concluded here; but the position of the Government of Austria-Hungary in respect of this case involves questions of so grave a nature, concerns principles of American liberty so vital and elementary, and affect the rights, feelings, and interests of so large a segment of our people, that I may be pardoned for asking official consideration of the facts.
These will be best understood by a summary of the correspondence in the sequence of its dates.
On the 8th of May Count Kalnoky, the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, forwarded a telegram from Vienna to Baron von Schaeffer, the Austrian minister at Washington, which was communicated to you on the following day, by the latter, in a translation under his own signature. As the first announcement of Austria’s objection, expressed in language of her own choosing, and officially communicated by her most exalted representative, this dispatch must, of course, be regarded as the official statement of the position of that Government. In that communication the only syllable suggestive even of exception to myself is contained in this sentence:
The position of a foreign envoy, wedded to a Jewess by civil marriage, would be untenable and even impossible in Vienna.
This objection, thus announced with a certain bluntness, disdaining even the affectation of respect for modern ideas of freedom, is, as we shall see, repeated at every step of this correspondence with a persistence which discloses either the purpose of a deliberate and gross insult to the American people or a desire to mask under a false reason, avowed, though disreputable, a true reason too disreputable to be avowed. I say an insult to the American people, because in this, its first form of statement, as ever throughout this correspondence, it is proclaimed that in the official regard of Austria, Hebrew blood brands as with a leprosy, not only excluding all tainted with it from high honor at Austria’s hands, but disqualifying beyond remedy even the agents of other Governments who may have business with Austria, so fatal indeed, that even a marriage connection with it by a citizen of whatever blood or belief, unfits him for the representation of a foreign and friendly power at this imperial and royal court.
In the same dispatch Count Kalnoky formally requested that my departure for Vienna should be delayed, but as I had already sailed, your only recourse was to stop me in transit, as was done. Of this Baron von Schaeffer was informed, and he communicated the fact to his Government.[Page 43]
On the 16th of May he transmitted to you a second message from Count Kalnoky, in which that distinguished personage reiterated his threat of official ostracism in these words:
The new minister will find himself in a most painful position upon his arrival in Vienna.
To this, as well as to his first telegram, you made a full and formal reply on the 18th of May, calling attention to those principles of religous liberty and absolute civil equality embedded in our organic law which were invaded by this assumption, and deprecating the bigotry which stood ready to hazard international comity for reasons which the administration would not even condescend to discuss, and you called attention to the affront to American independence in the assumption, in substance, by a foreign power of a right to prescribe a religious test for an American office, and to the more offensive affront to the genius of our people in seeking cause for the disfranchisement of the citizen in the faith of his wife. In this dispatch you fortunately fixed the limits of the contention by designating this objection of bigotry as “the reason, and the only reason, given for the indisposition of the Government of Austria-Hungary to receive Mr. Keiley.”
On the 19th of May, Baron von Schaeffer acknowledged receipt of your answer and promised to forward it in original by that day’s post to Vienna, and on the 10th of June you were furnished with Count Kalnoky’s response, in which he restates his objection to my reception, declaring it now to be “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 by Vienna society which we judge desirable for the representative of the United States.”
In the same dispatch Count Kalnoky expressed the wish that “Mr. Keiley may not arrive in Vienna just now.”
The new objection is the announcement of the claim by Austria to sit in judgment upon the qualifications of an American minister, and to determine them by the opinions or prejudices of a third power in a matter in which that third power alone was interested; and is even more conspicuously an insult to the United States than the former objection. We shall also see significant evidence in the future correspondence that of this position, as of the other, Count Kalnoky has the grace to be ashamed.
The instability of purpose betrayed in a request that I should not arrive in Vienna “just now,” contained in a dispatch adding objections to those which Count Kalnoky had already declared would make my position at Vienna “impossible,” seemed to indicate the dissatisfaction of Austria with her own case and an unwillingness on the part of her minister to face the responsibility of his extraordinary claim; but determined as you were that this controversy, at once so profitless and so unpleasant, should be speedily settled, you instructed Mr. Francis, the American minister in office at Vienna, to request of the Austrian Government an early and definite decision.
Meanwhile you had received from Mr. Francis a dispatch covering the details of an interview with Mr. Szögyényi, chief of section in the ministry of foreign affairs at Vienna, held on the 17th of June, in which that confidential and high officer cited the objections “which a friendly Government and near neighbor” had opposed to me, adding that its views had “found earnest expression at Vienna.”
This formal statement, in connection with Count Kalnoky’s objection, [Page 44] justified the suspicion that Austria was insulting the United States to please Italy, and you desired Mr. Francis to call that matter also to the attention other minister.
On the 25th of July, Mr. Francis laid the whole matter fully before the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, and left with him a memorandum of the position of the United States in detail, to which Count Kalnoky promised a reply as soon as he could confer with Baron von Schaeffer, then on his way to Vienna.
On the 3d of August, this response was formally communicated to Colonel Lee, the American chargé, and was transmitted by him to you in a full dispatch, dated August 6, at the same time cabling to you the conclusion of Austria not to receive me.
In this interview Count Kalnoky informed Mr. Lee that his first dispatch to Baron von Schaeffer was designed to be verbally communicated to you; that the anti-Semitic feeling in Vienna was so decided that a person of proximate Semitic descent would be equally excluded by both the social and diplomatic circles of that city; that as to the intervention of Italy, he regarded it undiplomatic in the American Secretary of State to advert to it without confirmatory proof; but that in point of fact he had not even been approached by the Italian minister on that subject. Finally, that Austria would not receive an American minister obnoxious to the objections presented to me.
With respect to the intervention of Italy, not only has the press of Vienna enjoying the reputation of semi official authority, openly avowed that my rejection was an evidence of the disposition of Austria to placate Italy, but both Count Kalnoky and his chief of section, with as much, directness of statement as is permitted to diplomacy, admitted the same to be true.
If Count Kalnoky, in affirming that the Italian minister had not approached him on this subject, merely meant to say that Italy’s objection, though made, was not presented through a particular channel, he simply illustrated the proverbial insincerity of diplomatic intercourse. If, however, he meant to deny that Italy’s objection was presented in any way, he accentuates the insult to the United States, since he confesses, that, in order to propitiate that power, he shut the door of the-Austrian court in the face of an American minister for a cause which Italy herself did not deem of sufficient gravity to suggest.
But the great abjection, maintained throughout, repeated in every communication, varied in expression as if to present it in every form of offense, is the proclamation that no matter what his character, qualification, or public services, no American citizen of Hebrew race or creed, and no American citizen of whatever race who commits the crime, in Austria’s eyes, of marrying a Hebrew wife, shall be received in diplomatic circles in Vienna, or permitted to represent the interests of the United States at the Austrian court.
That is to say, Austria claims the right (1) to prescribe a religious test for office in the United States; (2) to determine what creed shall constitute the disqualification.
It is difficult to determine whether the citizen is more outraged by the first or the Republic insulted by the second.
Certain it is until the Constitution of the United States is altered to meet Austria’s views in this behalf there is no fit place or appropriate function for an American minister at Vienna.
The doctrine is elementary that the mutual independence and sovereignty of states demand that all tree nations shall have power, with or without cause, to decline to receive a particular envoy. A nation may, [Page 45] since all things are possible to stupidity and malevolence, declare that it will receive no minister whose hair is not red, and the only permissible resentment is the withdrawal of all intercourse. So a nation may decline to receive a particular envoy, without assignment of cause, and under diplomatic law, without conveying offense. When, however, it declines to avail itself of its right to decide such a question by a simple sic volo, and proceeds to give reasons, it submits to the jurisdiction of reason and invites judgment on the rightfulness of its course.
Justice to its own people and protection of their rights are the first obligations of every Government; and in this case but one course seems adequate to the vindication of the one and the maintenance of the other.
Austria’s claim is not an exercise of the power of rejection. It passes far beyond this, and in substance amounts to a demand of the privilege of selection, an infringement of the liberty and an affront to the dignity of the United States, such as no power could accord without humiliation or assent to without public shame.
There can be no question that this assumption of an Austrian veto of Presidential appointments will, as it ought to, arouse the resentment and encounter the rebuke of every American citizen in whose breast that pride of country which is the essence of patriotism has place.
Nor will that resentment be less decided from the circumstance that the race and religion thus proscribed have won their place with the foremost of the earth by an eminence in statesmanship and finance, in arts and letters, which has conquered the inherited intolerance of centuries, and the further circumstance that the blow which wounded them pierced also the most ennobling relation of human society.
I have, &c.,