The Ambassador in Italy (Page) to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: I have written a letter to Mr. Lansing by the pouch which leaves this evening,87 enclosing two interesting papers; one a secret report by an English authority on the German propaganda and influence in Italy,—the other a Memorandum of a Secret or quasi-Secret Convention signed on the 21st of April, “Rome’s Natal Day”, between the Italian Government and a certain Colonel Stefanik, representing the Czech-Slav Council, as it is called.

This paper will, I think, interest you as may the observations which I have made on it to the Secretary.

I am also sending with a covering despatch, a document typewritten in French88 containing what I suppose may be termed the aspirations of Montenegro, which I am really sending for you, as I think it will also interest you. It was handed me yesterday by the King of Montenegro himself as I was leaving him after a call on him in return for a call which he had made on me the afternoon before. He arrived here two or three days since on a visit to his daughter the Queen, which is the first visit which he has made to Italy, as when he passed through here on his way to France on the collapse of Montenegro he did not leave the special train on which he travelled from Brindisi through Italy, although the train remained in Rome over night. He was visited at the station both in the evening and early morning by the Queen, and, as I recall it, by the King also—I think the King was in Rome at that time—but the King of Montenegro did not leave the [Page 123] Station. It was said at the time that this was to prevent political complications of one kind or another, but gossip also had it that the numerous guards which guarded the train that night served another purpose also.

On the present occasion, however, the King is paying a visit to the Queen of Italy at the Villa Savoia, and he left his cards on both the British Ambassador and myself. I suppose also on some of the other Ambassadors. On my return visit to him I found him to be a strong, vigorous, clear-headed, and, I think, shrewd old gentleman, with his mind very definitely set on aiding Montenegro. He brought up the subject of the charge laid against him of a deal with Austria, and denied it with great earnestness, crossing himself by way of an oath to affirm his innocence of any such idea. He declared that his hope and the hope of his people is in America, the champion of Liberty and of Democracy. He asked me to do all in my power to commend his country and people to this great American champion of free peoples, and he used the phrase that his country threw itself into the arms of America. I said in reply that our people and you who represent them have great sympathy and appreciation with and of all free peoples, and that it would give me pleasure to repeat his conversation to you, but that, of course, all such matters as those to which he adverted rest with our Government at home and its chosen representative, and it would be manifestly out of my province to make any declaration touching matters which rested with you. It was just as I was leaving, that he picked up the paper which related to Montenegro’s aspirations which I am sending and asked me to send it to you. This I am doing for your information, as I feel sure you will find it interesting. I asked him about his stay in France, saying that I supposed he had found it very pleasant and he replied: “Oh, yes, it is very pleasant there and the French have been very kind to me.”—I think he rather indicated that he was referring to the past rather than to the present, for, he added “There are too many Servians about me, and the Servians do not like me. They hate my country and want to absorb it.”

I give you the foregoing items because I think they throw a certain light on his present situation. It is said here that his arrangements made in secret with Austria have placed him under suspicion of nearly all the Allied Powers and I have heard the criticism made that he got a great deal of money from the British and French, who have rather resented this. Perhaps he remembers that wise saying of Solomon that the rich have many friends.

My own idea is that he is, as I have said, a vigorous and shrewd old Statesman who knows the full value of the cards in his hand [Page 124] and intends to use them to win his game, if it be possible, and I believe that what he has in mind is to save his people and his House, and, if possible, to better their condition.

By-the-by he informed me that he is sending a Minister to Washington whom he spoke of as one of the first men in Montenegro and he mentioned with satisfaction that he had been a General. He evidently desired to impress me with the fact that this Minister is a man on whom he greatly relies.

Having said so much, I can only repeat in closing that Balkan Politics are too muddy for me to know what lies underneath.

My telegrams have given as full information as to the situation here at present as I possess, so I will not go into this at present, except to say that the gossip about the rivalries of Nitti and other Members of the Cabinet who are in control continues. Orlando has just returned from the meeting of the Premiers in France. He and Sonnino appear to have drawn somewhat closer together of late, possibly in view of what is said to be Nitti’s ambition, to become the ruling Member of the Cabinet. Orlando knows that Sonnino has no ambition to take his place and Sonnino knows that Orlando does not want his, but both are said to feel that Nitti is their rival and would take either place. This Nitti denies. He said to me—evidently referring to this report—that he could not and would not under present conditions leave the Treasury Ministry. It is even said by Nitti’s enemies that he is trying to make terms with both the Clericals and the Socialists. This seems to have some foundation, and I should not be surprised to see him making all the friends he can, but I feel very sure that his idea is rather to lead them in the defense of Italy through the prosecution of the war to a just peace than to yield to any views which they might have contrary to this end.

Believe me [etc.]

Thos. Nelson Page
  1. Not printed.
  2. Neither printed.