The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: In a conversation which I had with Mr. Root at luncheon on the 9th he asked me if I had seen the address issued by the Stevens Commission. I said that I had not. The following day he sent me a copy which I enclose.

I fear Mr. Stevens is assuming an authority and giving the Commission a diplomatic character which neither possess. I call your particular attention to the portion of the address marked in red,24 by which he pledges the United States to do certain things, a pledge he had no power to make.

The pledge having been given I think that it would be unwise to repudiate it as the Russian people and Russian Government might misconstrue any repudiation of the Commission’s promise. At the same time it would seem advisable I think for Stevens to be told, preferably by you as the Commission is not a diplomatic one, that he has no authority to carry on negotiations or enter into agreements for the United States.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing
[Page 340]

Message to the People of Russia From the United States Railway Advisory Commission 25

The United States Railway Advisory Commission is accredited by the State Department of the United States to its ally Russia. The object of the Commission is, as has been stated, to advise with and to assist in every practicable way in the handling of the grave transportation problems which the war against a common enemy has thrust upon the railways of Russia. It seems fitting that upon this, the anniversary of our natal day of Independence, this Commission should convey to the people of Russia a message declaring not only its purpose but also something as to what it has accomplished and which it is believed will cheer the nation and convince it that the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with its great ally in the prosecution to a successful conclusion of the war against the venomous enemy of democratic freedom.

The Commission has been in Russia about five weeks. During this time it has met with the officials of the Russian Railways and has discussed fully and freely the various problems confronting the railways. It has been met everywhere and at all times with the utmost spirit of cordiality and cooperation on the part of those officials. It has found, what was no surprise to it, that as masters of technique the Russian railway officials have no superiors in the world. It has found that in many ways their practices are among the best and that from a basic standpoint the Russian railways are intrinsically sound—backed as they are by the enormous latent resources and the vast population of this wonderful country. At the same time, it believes that a judicious mingling of the best Russian and American railway practices will be of great benefit to the railways of Russia, and in this belief your officials are in hearty accord and have given their approval to the following suggestions made by this Commission.

An improved system of train operation, a better divisional organization, whereby closer supervision can be maintained, and a revision of engine runs whereby a greater capacity of each engine and car can be obtained, resulting in an improvement in the movement of traffic. The construction of locomotive erecting shops at Vladivostok where the immense number of locomotives coming from the United States can be erected and put into service much more speedily than has been the practice heretofore.

The working day and night of all locomotive repair shops so that the great number of out of repair locomotives may be reduced and [Page 341]that they may be put into service where they are so urgently needed. That the “per diem” rate, or charges of one railway against another for the use of cars, be doubled, and that also the charge for holding cars for loading or unloading be doubled. This to insure prompt handling and release of cars in a reasonable time. That a Supply Department under a General Storekeeper be installed, who shall be responsible for the maintenance and distribution of the vast amount of material and supplies needed for the operation and maintenance of the roads, the duties of such officer to include the reclamation of worn material and the reissuing of such as may be found serviceable.

But the great imperative immediate necessity which confronts the railways of Russia to enable them not only to maintain its armies at the front, but also to support in comfort its civil population, who equally with its soldiers are fighting the great battle for freedom, is a great increase in the number of locomotives and freight cars. On this point the Commission are entirely in accord with the railway officials and with the Russian people. To the end that this absolutely necessary want shall be supplied as quickly as can be done, this Commission has cabled the Administration at Washington advising the immediate construction of 2500 locomotives and 40,000 freight cars to be added to the equipment of the Russian railways. This means, of course, an extension of credit by the United States to Russia of some 750,000,000 millions [sic] of roubles. This matter has no commercial aspect for the Commission has pledged what to it is dearer than family or life itself, the good faith and honor of its country.

The Commission has under further consideration the furnishing of raw material, tools and shop machinery to any extent that may be found advisable after careful consideration with the Russian officials, and stands ready to aid [with] its advice and counsel in any and all matters it may be requested.

In closing it desires to express its hearty appreciation of the aid given it by the efficient Minister of Ways of Communication and his staff of able assistants. It knows that in their hands the future of the Russian railways is secure and it believes with the aid and material assistance which the United States is giving to its great Ally, that Russia will continue to sustain its part in the desperate struggle for freedom which is now convulsing the World.

The United States Railway Advisory Commission to Russia
  1. Fifth paragraph, sentence beginning “To the end that.”
  2. Filed separately under file No. 861.77/151½.