File No. 711.5914/14

Minister Egan to the Assistant Secretary of State

Sir: I am about to send to the Department what seems to me a very important and very audacious suggestion. It is a résumé and synthesis of propositions made, not hastily but very seriously, to me by persons of importance here. It would mean, if carried into effect, the acquisition on our part of both Greenland and the Danish West Indies. The West Indies do not, as you will observe, appear in the propositions which I have gathered for you, but they might be made to appear. Greenland is, as you know, a Danish monopoly. It has never been exploited, although the Norwegians are clever enough to see its possibilities, as they already see what might be done with a lesser opportunity in Iceland.

Greenland is looked on by the Danes very much as our people formerly looked on Alaska. The Government here is so much occupied with internal economic and political differences in Denmark that it gives very little attention to the development of the resources of Greenland, which is practically terra incognita.

The position of Germany in the Far East will soon, it seems to me, become untenable. I say this, with all due respect to the better information and the result of experience always at hand in the Department. It appears that if the Russian-Japanese-Chinese combination grows, we shall badly need an ally in the Philippine Islands.

The Russians, outside the court and the bureaucracy, insist that their alliance with Japan is only a matter of self-defense. They say that American and English feeling has not been with them and their only safety is to make terms with their late opponent, Japan. The synthesis which I am preparing for you implies nothing less than a cession of Mindanao to Denmark, for which Denmark will give us Greenland and (after certain pourparlers) the Danish West Indies. [Page 562] (Denmark having the right to cede Mindanao to Germany in return for Northern Schleswig.)

You may ask whether I consider this proposition feasible or not. I can only answer, that I have been so much engaged in discovering what is really in men’s minds over here that I have become, perhaps, a little too concentrated to take that broad view which is a habit with you, who are constantly facing many great questions and therefore it would be unreasonable for me to make an answer, that would imply a larger experience than I have.

I hold myself responsible for the analysis of the German Far East condition, but I offer the report, which I shall send you on Thursday, as only a synthesis of existing tendencies. I assure you that it represents the desires and the opinion of some of the best minds in Denmark, and some of them most highly placed. I write this, as I have said, in advance, that in the midst of so many important preoccupations, you may single out the coming synthesis of suggestions for particular attention.

I shall ask for a month’s leave of absence, with permission to visit America, in March or April, 1911, when, if the synthesis is considered at all by the Secretary of State, I shall be very glad to throw any light in my power upon the conditions that surround it.

I have [etc.]

Maurice Francis Egan


If one carefully considers what has taken place in the Far East, since the treaty of Portsmouth was concluded between Russia and Japan in 1907, then one can not avoid seeing that Russia has entirely altered her policy in the East, and her aim seems now to be, in conjunction with Japan, and probably also later on with China, to try to monopolize the political, financial and mercantile affairs of the Far East.

The three agreements which have been concluded between Russia and Japan since the Portsmouth treaty was signed, can not be misunderstood; they abandon the whole of Korea, a country half the size of Japan, to Japan, to be absorbed and digested, at leisure, and by them Manchuria is to all intents and purposes arranged to be the happy hunting ground of both nations until such time when they, without great and aggressive opposition from China, as the owner of Manchuria, and from America and other nations, with vested rights and interest in “the open door policy” in Manchuria, can agree upon a plan of partition of the spoil.

If China has agreed to this partition of Manchuria, as she doubtless in time must, unless support is given her, then her time will have come to be accepted into the triple alliance of the East, viz.: Russia, Japan and China; Tonquin is at present “protected” by France, but it will surely prove impossible for France to keep it, when Japan consents to give China free hands there as compensation for Manchuria. On the whole, there can be no doubt, but that the present position of France in the Far East soon will become impossible, for she has not the surplus population, and her sons have not the colonizing qualities which are absolutely necessary should her stay there be lengthened. The ancient, and, in their way, highly cultivated kingdoms in the East, which France, without any provocation, despoiled and oppressed through greater force and superior armament, will one day rise against her, as Japan already has risen against contempt and abuse, and they will be backed by a continent.

As to England, the ally of Japan, her present position seems most difficult. She has by her support of Japan, during the war with Russia, helped to raise the yellow race from its long lethargy and made it aware of its own power, and she now stands perplexed and amazed at the result she has helped to achieve. The yellow spectre is out of the box, and can not be conjured into it again; it now threatens to turn against its liberators and supporters.

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On the other hand the enormous and important trade of England in Korea, in Manchuria and partly in China, is threatened, so that British merchants already are warning their Government against the danger there lies in the action of its allies to the trade and shipping of Great Britain in one of the most important markets of the world.

On the other hand, Japan is the ally of England, and England rules the Empire of India, containing about 250 millions inhabitants, proud, clever and brave people, as yet peacefully governed by England; but the yellow spirit is also in them evidently awakening, and they may become troublesome. Should they one day rise against England, as they have risen before, and should England require assistance to maintain her supremacy, then Japan is by treaty bound to send her excellent army to the assistance of her ally,—an assistance which may become of vital importance to England, both physically and morally; physically through the fighting power of the Japanese soldier, and morally by India’s knowing that the yellow race is keeping her in her fetters. Placed in this dilemma, the position of England seems difficult, for she can not give strong support to her trade and shipping in the north-east of Asia, without crossing the plans of her ally, and that would naturally cause ill feeling; whilst the interest of England in India demands that the good feelings of Japan are preserved. It is, however, not difficult to foresee that in the meantime the power of India will prevail. There remains then only one great European Power whose interest in east Asia runs parallel with those of America, and that is Germany. America and Germany are both great and industrial countries with a rapidly increasing population, and for both countries it is of the utmost importance that the immense market of eastern Asia shall not be closed to their manufactures, or in any way be interfered with, and neither of them could for a moment tolerate a policy which eventually would exclude them from the market of Korea and Manchuria, and weaken them in the other markets of east Asia.

America’s position in the Far East has been immensely strengthened by the acquisition of the Hawaii Islands and of the Philippines; possessions which are expensive, but which are absolutely necessary for America, in order that she through all time may be able to maintain her position as the “Great Power” on the Pacific, and in order that she may be able to secure for her industries, which become of more and more importance to her as her population increases, their due share of the great market in east Asia.

Germany has, as already mentioned, great interests at stake in east Asia, and these are threatened as those of the United States, but Germany has not, as she is situated now, the same prospect of being able to protect them in the long run as the United States has. The only foothold which Germany has in east Asia, where her ships and people can now seek protection is Kiao Chou in the northeast corner of China. The place is valuable enough under present circumstances but the territory is very small and is rented from China under a yearly lease. The time, however, will come when the “lease” will expire and the China of that time may refuse to renew the lease, and what then? In a very short time China will become a very important military power and to defend Kiao Chou against her, surrounded as it is on all sides by Chinese territory, would require enormous preparations and fortifications and soldiers out of all proportion to the size of the place. And still it is an absolute necessity for Germany to have a place in the Far East where she can safeguard her vital interests in the East, and where her people and ships can rely upon finding shelter and protection in time of trouble; but for these purposes her colonies in New Guinea and her other islands are too distant.

It seems that the interests of America and Germany are the same in eastern Asia, where neither of them wish to encroach on the territory of the natives, but where both of them wish to keep the “open door” and the “fair faced policy” in force. It seems only natural that, if these two countries came to an understanding with regard to the protection of their common interests, back to back, they would represent a force great and powerful enough to secure quiet and peaceful developments of affairs in east Asia.

Some few years ago England gave back to China, of her own accord, and to the great satisfaction of China, the harbor of Waihaiwai, which England had rented from China for use as a naval station, in the same way as Germany holds Kiao Chou.

If Germany were to do the same before her lease expires and give Kiao Chou back to China, it would surely do much to establish confidence and create the most friendly relations between Germany and China and it will save Germany much trouble and immense expense in the future.

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But in order for Germany to be able to do this, it would be necessary for her to acquire another place, where she, with advantage and security could establish herself and where she could remain in undisturbed and undisputed possession.

For this purpose the southern group of the Philippines, consisting of the Islands of Mindanao, Palauan and some small islands south of these, would seem to be eminently suitable. These islands are about 35,000 English square miles in area and very fertile and prosperous. They have good harbors and a central position in east Asia, and they would form a most excellent basis for a strong German position in the East, not too far away for mutual support from the great naval station which America is establishing at Manila.

Being islands and large enough to support themselves, the southern group of the Philippines would be easy of defence and of administration, and as they have never belonged to any of the sovereign natives of Asia, neither China nor Japan, nor any other Asiatic Power has any claim on them. If the southern group of the Philippines therefore could be acquired in a friendly way, from the present possessors of them, they could be held in security and safety forever by Germany as her station in the East.

The southern group of the Philippines, as well as the rest of the Philippines, however, are in the possession of the United States of America.

If, however, the United States should be of the opinion that it would be to her own interest and in the interest of the peace of the East and in the Pacific, that Germany should work hand in hand with her in east Asia, the following proposal could, perhaps, be acceptable to both countries and form a basis for an arrangement, whereby the interest of America as well as of Germany would be benefited, and whereby also, all tension, friction and unfriendly feeling between Germany and Denmark, consequent upon the last war, could be brought to a satisfactory and permanent conclusion.

The proposal is:

That Denmark should surrender to the United States of America all her enormous possessions in Greenland, estimated to be more than 800,000 English square miles in area.
The United States of America should in return give over to Denmark the southern group of the Philippines, consisting of the Islands of Mindanao, Palauan and the small islands south of these.
Denmark should then surrender to Germany all her rights to the southern group of the Philippines as she received them from America.
Germany should then in return for the southern group of the Philippines, give back to Denmark that part of the province of Schleswig which lies north of a line along the middle of “Slien,” along Dannevirke to “Trenen,” following that river to where it joins “Eideren” and then following that river to the point where it flows into the North Sea.

That part of the province of Schleswig to be given back to Denmark would comprise about 2,400 English square miles, or only about 1/15 part of the area of the islands of the southern group of the Philippines to be surrendered to Germany by Denmark.

The possession of Denmark in Greenland to be ceded to the United States would exceed more than 30 times the area of the islands of the southern group of the Philippines, that is to say, that Denmark would in exchange for the above-mentioned part of the province of Schleswig, give territory in Greenland of over 300 times larger an area.

Or, in other words, Denmark would, in exchange for a part of Schleswig, only 2,400 English square miles in area, give to America territory in Greenland as large as about one-fourth of the total area of the United States of America, or a territory as large as the whole of Mexico, or about 2½ times the size of Alaska.