File No. 763.72/1134

The Minister in the Netherlands (Van Dyke) to the Secretary of State

No. 152]

Sir: The fall of Antwerp has been the principal event of the last week. Its first consequence was to throw upon the Netherlands the burden of caring for an enormous number of innocent and helpless Belgian refugees. This burden has been borne with an admirable generosity and human kindness by the Dutch Government and the Dutch people. I have ventured to express my sympathy with them in this humane task in the letter of which I enclose a copy herewith. There are now, I suppose, more than 400,000 Belgian refugees in the Netherlands, almost all of them in a state of extreme poverty and distress.

In regard to the political effect of the fall of Antwerp upon the situation, and its relation to the neutrality of the Netherlands, I [Page 123] enclose an article translated from the Nieuwe Courant, a Dutch newspaper, which seems to me to sum up the matter as well as possible in a case where so many unknown quantities are involved.1 The fact that the only practicable access of Antwerp to the sea lies through the Dutch waters of the Scheldt greatly complicates the situation. It is difficult to see how Antwerp could be used either for attack or for defense in any naval operation without violation of the neutrality of the Netherlands. So far as I am able to understand the matter at present, any such violation by any belligerent nation would probably be resisted by the Dutch by force of arms.

I must add that as yet I can see no positive sign that such a violation is intended; although, of course, there is much talk in unofficial quarters of its possibility. Meantime, peaceful communications are kept open, greatly to our advantage, both with Great Britain and with America.

I have [etc.]

Henry van Dyke
  1. Not printed.