Mr. Tripp to Mr. Gresham.

No. 50.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 39, of date October 13 last, in reference to Edgar W. Mix, and I herewith submit for your consideration the subsequent correspondence between this legation and Mr. Mix in reference to his claim against the Government of Austria-Hungary for damages occasioned by his arrest.

You are of course cognizant of the fact that the municipal and governmental regulations in force in the fortified cities of Europe are very, and perhaps under the conditions obtaining here, necessarily strict, and on Mr. Mix’s own showing, in my judgment, he fails to make a case favorable to his right of action against the Government, but, as I am informed from other sources, Mr. Mix, to put the matter mildly, was very imprudent, and he would have little show of recovery in a private action for damages against the local officers. Therefore, not regarding this a case in which the claimant had a cause of action upon the showing made by himself, I have not deemed it necessary to set out for your consideration the facts as claimed by the municipal officers of Przemysl further than such claim appears in the note of the ministry of foreign affairs in the correspondence already submitted.

I have, etc.,

Bartlett Tripp.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 50.]

Mr. Mix to Mr. Tripp.

Dear Sir: As you will remember, I had occasion to telegraph you from Przemysl on the 14th of September regarding my imprisonment there on the charge of being a spy. I also wrote you as soon as I was liberated, stating that directly I returned, to Paris I would make claims through the American minister against the Austrian Government for damages.

I have only just returned, after a business trip to Odessa. I returned by way of Berlin and have visited the American minister here, who informs me that the incident having occurred outside of his territory I must address you with regard to it.

I left Paris on September 7 on my business visit to Odessa, passing by way of Milan, Venice, and Vienna. I left Vienna on the night of September 12, having purchased a through ticket of Messrs. Cook & Co. I took the 10 o’clock train from Vienna. On the way from Krakan I had occasion once or twice to step out of the train as it stopped at the stations and photograph some curious costumes of the country. Arrived at Przemysl I did the same. The train stops at this point not more than two minutes, and I had barely stepped out of the car before a detective approached me and demanded what I had and what I was doing. I tried as best I could to make him understand, and showed him my photographing apparatus, also my ticket direct through to Odessa, and on his demand showed him my passport. This did not seem to satisfy him and he ordered me to get out of the train and accompany him. This I did with what hand baggage I had in the car. My overcoat, unfortunately, was in the dining car, and as soon as I had stepped out of the train it rolled off.

I was conducted into a room in the depot, and the commissaire of police summoned. I was here searched from head to foot and all the papers in my baggage examined. As I speak neither Polish nor German I could not make myself understood until a gentleman was summoned who spoke French. I presented the case very plainly to him, and told him what I was doing, where I came from, and where I was going, and all the incidents of my voyage, and gave them the most detailed explanation of all papers and documents which I had about me.

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My passport was in perfect order, and had been visaed by the Russian consul in Paris before my departure, this formality being necessary in order to cross the Russian frontier. It may be that the signature of the Russian consul caused them to suspect me of being a Russian spy.

My explanation in the depot was not apparently sufficient, and I was conducted to the commissaire of police. There my papers were again searched by two or three individuals, and I gave every explanation they demanded.

They called in a lawyer with whom I could converse, and he made out a statement in Polish as to who I was, where I came from, where I was going, and the object of my visit.

Up to this time everything looked as though I had given perfectly satisfactory explanations, and that I would be liberated before night. I had been arrested at noon. However, I would add that the commissaire of police was about half intoxicated, and I had occasion when I got out of prison to talk with the lawyer who had been present during my first examination, and he corroborated my opinion in this respect.

The commissaire, after the departure of the lawyer who had drawn up my statement, began a sort of cross-examination in German, of which I practically understood nothing, and he denied permission to an employé of the office, who understood some French, to make any interpretation for me. I comprehended sufficient German, however, to understand that the commissaire believed that I understood German perfectly, and was only pretending that I did not understand.

They then began sealing up my papers, which naturally told me that I would be detained some little time longer. I immediately began asking permission to telegraph to my company in Paris, and also to you. All such permission was denied, even after my repeated demands.

I was sent to prison about 5 o’clock, and locked up with a lot of criminals, after having had everything which I had in my pockets taken from me. I was not allowed to take anything, neither my traveling robe.

I was locked up until 10 o’clock the next morning, when I was taken before the jailer and obliged to pay for a dinner which I had eaten in the dining car and had not yet paid for at the moment of my arrest. Having again an opportunity for asking for permission to telegraph, I repeated my request, but was greeted with a refusal. I then asked for a lawyer, whom I succeeded in obtaining. The lawyer happened to be the one who had been present at my first examination at the commissaire of police, and I got him to procure permission from the commissaire of police and procureur-general to telegraph both to you and to my company at Paris. I was not, however, even permitted to see the telegrams which were sent, but was obliged to pay for them.

It was not until I had been locked up forty-eight hours that a telegram was received by the procureur general from the minister of the interior at Vienna, ordering them to set me free, that I was given my liberty. No excuse or apology whatever was made by any official.

The delay caused by my imprisonment, which lasted two days, and the loss of time caused by not being able to make the train connection to Odessa, caused me to lose, in all, just three days of time. This caused me a very great prejudice, as I had a very important affair on hand in Odessa.

The same delay also caused a very great prejudice both to my company in Paris and Berlin.

My camera had been taken away on the first day of my imprisonment and given to a photographer for developing. The developed plates were present during one of my examinations before the procurer, and there was nothing about them whatever which could excite the least suspicion that I was taking photographs of fortifications or acting as a spy. I may add here that the camera was broken in the hands of the photographer.

After my release it was impossible for me to find any trace of my overcoat, although I made inquiries at all the stations along the road to the Russian frontier, and also wrote to the railway company on the matter.

All in all, I consider my net losses, covering the overcoat, camera, telegrams, and lawyer, amount to 500 francs. Over and above this, I naturally desire to make very heavy claims for damages, as the news of my imprisonment was telegraphed all over the world and appeared in all American as well as European papers, and caused me considerable damage in that respect.

I therefore ask you to make claims against the Austrian Government for the sum of 100,000 francs, and I would request you to inform me what steps I should take to impress my claim.

This matter has been taken up by the newspapers, and since my return to Paris I have been approached by several, asking for details of the matter. I replied that I did not care to make any public statement until I had communicated with you and had made my claim for damages.

Yours, etc.,

E. W. Mix.
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[Inclosure 2 in No. 50.]

Mr. Tripp to Mr. Mix.

Dear Sir: I have your favor of October 6 in reference to your imprisonment in Galicia, and your claim for damages for your loss of property, detention, etc.

In reply I am obliged to say that I do not feel justified in making a claim on the part of the United States against the Austrian Government for damages in this case, although as I can see you have suffered great wrong and insult as well as pecuniary loss; yet the fault seems to have been rather that of the blundering officials than of the Government itself; and the principal officers of the Austro-Hungarian Government, who must be regarded as its representatives, rather than the offending local officers, as soon as their attention was called to the matter, acted very promptly in ordering your discharge. A government can only be held responsible when it sanctions the action of its officials, done in violation of law; it ought not to be held responsible for unauthorized acts which it promptly disowns upon being cognizant thereof; the responsibility in such case falls upon the offending official. Your remedy lies in a private action against the municipal officers who committed the outrage upon you willfully or through overzeal in the performance of a supposed duty.

I have examined your case with some care and I am rather disposed to commend, than to criticise, the Government of Austria-Hungary for its action in the matter, and I do not feel that it is a case in which our Government would be justified in bringing the matter to the attention of the Austro-Hungarian Government by way of complaint for the acts of its subordinate officers, which it promptly condemned.

There is another feature in the case that should not be overlooked in considering your claim for damages even against the local officers. Przemysl is a fortified town, and it is a high offense in that province to take any pictures of its fortifications or immediate surroundings. You, a stranger, were found taking pictures, and while in fact you were innocent of any intentional wrong, it might be found that there were reasonable grounds for suspicion in the mind of a very vigilant officer (ambitious of notice) that your conduct was not prompted wholly by desire for pleasure and amusement.

Should the facts develop a sufficient apparent ground for action on the part of a zealous officer, having no apparent reason for committing a wilful wrong, it would be a sufficient defense, even in a private action, especially in a court presumably, as such must be, not inclined to be unfriendly to the Government which created it, and toward the officers acting in its behalf.

This, however, is but a suggestion on my own part for consideration of yourself and the counsel you may employ, for my official duty ends with the determination that the case is not one in which the Government I represent ought itself to intervene.

It is pleasant to note the kind expression of thanks on the part both of yourself and employers for my action in your behalf, and I trust I may be permitted to remain,

Yours, etc.,

Bartlett Tripp.