File No. 701.6311/190

The Ambassador in Austria-Hungary (Penfield) to the Secretary of State

No. 807]

Sir: Adverting to my cablegrams No. 889 of September 10,2 and No. 913 of September 24, on the subject of the recall of Doctor Dumba, I have now the honor to advise you that pursuant to instructions [Page 945] contained in your cablegram No. 910 of September 22, I requested an immediate interview for the evening of Friday, September 24, with the Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs. This I had at seven o’clock at the Foreign Office.

Baron Burian appeared to be in anything but an amiable mood, and had much to say expressive of his astonishment that the Washington Government sought to act in a matter so important on evidence brought forward by a foreign power that was one of Austria-Hungary’s enemies.

After many minutes’ patient listening, I was rewarded by a statement that my own bona fides were not questioned, and was further rewarded by receiving the Minister’s thanks for the courtesy of the Embassy in dispatching a telegram to Doctor Dumba in the cipher of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office.

When I spoke of your request for the Ambassador’s recall, the Minister had much to say against the condemnation of an official denied by circumstances from communicating his defense to the Government. The Minister plainly did not like the word “recall” whenever I used it, and in his conversation uttered such sentences as “called home for consultation,” “given leave of absence,” and the like. It was patent that Baron Burian meant arbitrarily to attach the word “withdrawn” to his Government’s action with reference to Doctor Dumba.

When I mentioned that Doctor Dumba had recently written of President Wilson with great license, and given the letter to the press, the Minister stated that the Ambassador had undoubtedly been “guilty of a grave diplomatic indiscretion,” and completed his sentence by saying that he would not be permitted to return to Washington. This yielding was what I had been seeking, and I then said, “Well, is not that recalling him in fact?”

Baron Burian admitted that it was.

Then producing a draft cablegram to you that had been prepared in anticipation by the Secretary of the Embassy, in which appeared the words “The Minister for Foreign Affairs assures me that Doctor Dumba’s recall is final,” I asked why, in the performance of my duty, it might not be dispatched at once to Washington. I read the proposed telegram to the Minister, who to my great satisfaction approved of it. To guard against any chance of misunderstanding hereafter, I placed the draft in his own hands and he carefully read the telegram aloud. He reiterated his approval of it, and an hour later the identical draft was encoded and dispatched to Washington.

The draft, with the circumstances attending the interview carefully noted on same, has been placed in the files of the Embassy.

The Minister expressed amazement that an honorable American should be subjected to the humiliation of being searched by British authorities when merely passing through England. To this I replied that at this time all travelers in belligerent countries are searched, and I related the experience of a connection of my own who had come from America to visit at the Embassy. This gentleman, a professor in a well-known college, was searched a few weeks since on entering Austria and several family letters addressed to my wife were taken from him at the frontier, which some days later [Page 946] were sent to Mrs. Penfield in the regular post. My relative, on returning, crossed Germany to embark at Copenhagen for New York. Notwithstanding the fact that he bore a polite statement written in German on the note paper of this Embassy, stating that he had been my visitor and was crossing Germany into Denmark to sail for home, he was stripped almost nude, made to remove shoes and socks, while his clothes and hand luggage were subjected to a search of the minutest character. An empty kodak was actually confiscated—and all this not on entering Germany, but on quitting the land. The Minister for Foreign Affairs had never heard of a proceeding like this, he assured me.

In this connection I want to say that the Baron Burian is a clever scholar, knowing well the shading and meaning of an English word or sentence as if English were his mother tongue.

The Minister made a point of mentioning the fact that his Ambassador in America had for a long time been practically cut off from all opportunity of communicating with his Government; to communicate anything of a confidential character seemed impossible. Baron Burian seemed to dwell upon this as an excuse for employing the opportunity of sending letters to him by an American of recognized position.

I must state that the failure of a telegram dispatched by this Embassy on September 13 to receive prompt expedition had an unfortunate influence on the situation. The military authorities having closed the Swiss frontier from the 6th to the 16th, this telegram, bearing an important message from the Austro-Hungarian Government to its Ambassador at Washington, was delayed by the Austrian censor from the 13th to the 16th, causing an interruption of communication at a delicate moment. This subject has been brought to the attention of the Department in more detail in my despatch No. 787 of September 24.1

It is the opinion of this Embassy that when Doctor Dumba returns to Vienna and has related the difficulties of sending telegrams and letters to his Ministry, Baron Burian may ask the Department of State if the Washington representatives of the Central powers enjoy facilities of communication equal to those of the representatives of the Allied powers.

As this despatch is being concluded, a note comes from Baron Burian, which will be cabled in code to you this evening. As the Austro-Hungarian Government has now complied in fact with your request (although not until eighteen days after the request was made, and without using the word “recall”) it would appear that the affair of Ambassador Dumba has reached its conclusion and this without straining the relations of amity between the Governments.

A copy of the Foreign Minister’s note, and translation thereof,2 accompany this despatch as enclosures.

I have [etc.]

Frederic C. Penfield
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Ante, p. 944.