The Secretary of State to the German Ambassador ( Bernstorff )

No. 1183]

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of October 18 last, advancing reasons why in your opinion this Government should withdraw its request for the recall of the Imperial German Consul at Seattle.

The subject has received the most careful consideration of the Department in the light of the information contained in your note and its enclosures. It appears that the Imperial Consul issued a public proclamation on August 2, 1914, summoning German subjects in his district who were liable to military duty to return to Germany and that in response to that proclamation August Krüger reported and wrote to the Imperial Consul for instructions as to the course he should pursue. To the reply which was sent him by the Imperial Consul was added the words, in the language of your translation:

It will be your own affair (“duty”) to free yourself in some possible manner if it should become necessary. The Imperial authority cannot intercede in this behalf.

These additional instructions appear to have been occasioned by Mr. Krüger’s inquiry whether the Imperial Consul could arrange his release from the army of the United States in which he was serving and were addressed to him as a member of the Sixty-third Company, Coast Artillery Corps, at Fort Worden, Washington. On the 7th of September Krüger disappeared and is believed to have deserted.

While the Department is entirely willing to accept your excellency’s translation of the response to Krüger’s inquiry it fails to perceive that the gravity of the Imperial Consul’s course is hereby greatly lessened. The fact is admitted, and the documents before the Department establish it, that the Imperial Consul, knowing Krüger’s status as a member of the military forces of the United States, addressed him and informed him that it would be his own affair or duty to free himself if possible from the military service of this country. It does not appear to be material in what language the instructions were conveyed. The fact that they were conveyed with the knowledge that Krüger was enlisted in the service of this Government, which is shown by the address in which the communication was sent, is sufficient. Moreover, the communication of September 2, 1914, to Krüger, a copy of which accompanied your note, although instructing him to continue his present occupation until further notice, appears to show conclusively that the Imperial Consul contemplated that when the appropriate time should arrive Krüger would in some manner sever his connection with the United [Page 927] States Army in order to respond to the demands of the German Government, and this view is strengthened by the reply to Private Karl Letsch which you quote to the effect that the question of his release from the service of the United States would be investigated at the proper time.

Therefore, the Department regrets that it cannot bring itself to agree with your conclusions in regard to this incident. If the act of the Imperial Consul does not constitute, it closely approaches, a serious offense under the laws of the United States and must be regarded as an abuse of the confidence of this Government. I shall, therefore, be glad to learn at your early convenience that the Consul has been recalled.

Accept [etc.]

W. J. Bryan