File No. 763.72119/117
The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 20, 8.15 a. m.]
1489. To the Secretary and President:
The talk about possible peace is very guarded and hesitating. Sir Edward Grey, who I think talks to me with unusual freedom, in a long unofficial conversation yesterday left the impression on my mind that until something definite came direct from Berlin there could be nothing worth discussing. There have been six “offers” of peace, more or less vague, that have come indirectly to some one of the Allies, and these have not been frank or open. They were regarded either as dishonorable or as mere tricks to deceive the United States unless it should be a direct open proposal. Sir Edward reminded me that, whereas Englishmen in the United States become Americans, many Germans in the United States remain Germans and carry on their struggle there against England. Hence the sale of passports, recently unearthed, to German subjects. Hence the trick played with the ship Sacramento. Hence Breitung’s purchase of the Dacia. Hence Bartholdt’s bill in Congress to forbid export of munitions. Hence many other acts by Germans in the United States that are part and parcel of Germany’s war against England. He did not in the least imply any criticism of our Government. But he made it perfectly clear that he regards the United States as one of the bases from which the Germans carry on the [Page 7] war in spite of our Government’s neutrality and in spite of the sympathy or most Americans for the Allies. They cannot buy arms there, but use the weapons of an organized propaganda in efforts to relieve England’s economic pressure on Germany. These are reasons why anything that comes out of the United States arouses suspicion.
The dangerous mood of public opinion about which I telegraphed you yesterday is largely caused by the British public’s inability to make the distinction which Grey makes between the acts of our Government and the acts of Germans in the United States. When they seem to coincide, as in the cases of the Sacramento and the Dacia, British public opinion becomes inflammable. It continues to see what it regards as German influence in the prohibition of [publication] for thirty days of ship manifests.
I send you this as an effort to explain why the recently universally friendly public opinion here has become exceedingly suspicious and is fast becoming angry. People say that those Germans in America who are not Americans in fact, even if some of them be so in form, are using their base of war in the United States in such ways as to nullify American neutrality.
All this has so far had no open influence on this Government but it is inevitable that it should have some effect on some members of the Government. When therefore General French was eager to know whether peace talk was merely a trick worked through the German war base in the United States, he reflected the practically universal suspicion in and out of official life.