The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: I return the letter of Mr. Rand which you sent me from Cornish.2 I am afraid of the proposition. A commission of inquiry at this time would not be in position to deal [Page 8] with the question as impartially and independently as would be necessary to give the findings weight. I doubt if there is any other country besides our own which is at present in position to conduct a thorough investigation and announce the result and I do not believe it would be wise for us to do so. Such a conclusion to have weight would have to locate the blame and it would be impossible to fix the responsibility without arousing protest from the party charged with causing the war. According to the plan proposed “the commission of inquiry is not to publish these issues (or any other facts unearthed).” This is admission that publication might jeopardize the cause of mediation and who, after the experience we have had, would imagine that such a commission could investigate the cause of the war in secret or prevent the publication of the facts or findings?

The fifth paragraph in the proposition in Section B promises that all of the work will be in harmony with the policy of the Administration; how could this promise be kept insofar as it affects the foreign members of the commission? The sixth paragraph proposes the establishment of a Press Bureau “to counteract injurious rumors,” It seems to me that the end, however desirable, cannot be reached in this way. If the time comes for a renewal of the offer you have made, you can determine whether any other nations are at that time in position to join—that question could not be determined many days in advance for we know not how soon other European nations may be drawn into the war.

I venture to suggest, therefore, that the Niagara Section of The New York Peace Society be informed that the offer made is heartily appreciated and the spirit which prompted it warmly commended, but that the plan does not seem practicable at this time.

With assurances [etc.]

W. J. Bryan
  1. No copy of this letter found in Department files; see correspondence with Niagara Section of the New York Peace Society, p. 6.