The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: In my various communications addressed to you and Mr. Polk and Mr. Phillips from here, I have written nothing about the Jewish question which in our conferences in Washington appeared to us as the only stumbling block in the way of negotiating a commercial treaty.

My former letter expressed surprise over Mr. Sazonoff’s remark that Russia would negotiate no more commercial treaties at this time. In the course of his conversation, after remarking twice or more that the treaty had been denounced by America, he said casually that he did not know why it had been denounced. Thereupon I broke into the conversation and asked him if he meant literally what he said, and when he repeated it I told him why the treaty had been abrogated by President Taft, thinking that might turn his attention to the Jewish question. He brushed it aside, however, and went on to talk about something else. That was the only mention of the Jewish question in my conference of an hour and twenty-five minutes with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I did not think it advisable to broach the Jewish question again; nor was the question touched upon at all in my talk with Minister of the Interior Stürmer, who is also President of the Council of Ministers. He talks English very badly, however, and most of our conference was translated by Secretary Dearing who accompanied me.

I am told by Harper who, as you know, accompanied me to Petrograd, and who has many friends and acquaintances here, that he had been informed that it was about decided that the Jewish Pale of residence will not be abolished until after the close of the war; when he talked to me in America he seemed confident that the Pale would be abolished [Page 314]in the very near future. It seems that the army, which has great influence in Russia now, is skeptical about the loyalty of the Jews to the Russian cause. If that is true, the extension of greater privileges to the Jews will not be made very soon. The army influence appears to be exerted on the liberal side; it was on their advice that the Emperor went in person for the first time to open the Duma Feb. 27/Mar. 7. The army is very much in evidence here; soldiers are drilling by thousands in the streets every day, and the Emperor reviewed between thirty and forty thousand soldiers on the Champs de Mars May 1. At the Russian ballet which I saw last evening a large proportion of the men in the audience were in uniform.

I had a long and very satisfactory talk on Monday last with Montgomery Schuyler who was in charge of the inspection of prison camps here for several months; . . . He is here now representing the New York Times. He seems disposed to second my efforts to promote direct commercial relations between our country and the Russian people, and agreed with my opinion that British influence is being most aggressively exerted to prevent it. I see evidences of that influence, or hear of such, almost every day. Very few of the Russians, however, approve of it as there is a deep-seated resentment against any country occupying to Russia the relation which Germany held before the war. I shall do what I can to encourage such a sentiment. In my talk yesterday with Baron Korff, Master of Ceremonies, who will be in attendance on the Emperor when he receives me tomorrow, I again advocated direct commercial relations without any intermediary, and he was in full accord with such policy.

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I was called upon this morning by Mr. William P. Simms who has come to Petrograd as a representative of the United Press of America, for the purpose of establishing an office of that Association here. He has been its representative in Paris for six or seven years past, and is very familiar with conditions in France. He tells me confidentially that the conference held in Paris not a great while ago between representatives of the Allies cemented still more closely the bonds between them, and that at that conference a plan was made to have an advance made upon German forces simultaneously by all of the allied armies. It is reported that 20,000 Russian troops were landed at Marseilles some days ago and that others are en route there. A large number of Russian troops are passing through Petrograd daily; of course, no one knows their destination. Discipline camps are stationed throughout the city and in the suburbs where new men are being drilled. The Emperor spends most of his time at the front; he told me that he was in haste to receive me because he was going [Page 315]to return to the front on Sunday,—I saw him on Friday. I am still endeavoring to ascertain more about the economic conference to be held in Paris between the Allies on May 19; that must be Russian time which, according to our calendar, will be June first, because the representatives from Russia have not yet left for Paris.

M. Viviani, ex-Premier of France, arrived here last Saturday, but his arrival was not given to the public prints; in fact, when he cleared from England in a man of war, it was announced that he was going to return to France. This information was imparted to me by Mr. Simms who came into Petrograd on the same train with M. Viviani.

Sincerely yours,

David R. Francis