File No. 763.72/6631

The Liberian Consul General at Baltimore ( Lyon) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to submit in connection with my interview, as per instructions, and to enclose a memorandum giving Liberia’s account of the several incidents leading up to the severance of diplomatic relations between her and the Imperial German Government for your careful and respectful consideration.

Liberia’s Impression

Liberia has always had reasons to believe that both England and France desired to draw her into the war for the purpose of having her included in their great program of German commercial exclusion from Africa, after the war. Liberia’s impression has been more recently emphasized by official interviews with the representatives at the Capital.

Liberia’s Sympathies

The sympathies of Liberia have always been with the Allies. In fact Liberia could never wish for German success in the face of German treatment of her on numerous occasions as well as her treatment of the native races in Africa. Liberia has studiously kept out of the war because she believed that it was a white man’s war for supremacy in the world. She resisted strenuously every effort made to get her into it until the United States, her only real friend, decided to go in and sent her, in common with the other neutrals, her circular letter which is here incorporated:

[Here are inserted a note of the American Minister to the Liberian Secretary of State, February 5, 1917, enclosing a copy of the circular telegram of February 3, ante, page 108; and the reply of the Liberian Secretary of State, summarized in the Minister’s telegram of February 6, ante, page 458.]

In the circular, the United States Government took the step she felt forced to take; and even here Liberia remained neutral. But when the United States declared war against the Imperial German Government, then Liberia felt that she was bound to carry out her promise to sever diplomatic relations with the Imperial German Government, the common enemy of human liberty.

Liberia Relies upon the Strong Arm of the United States

Liberia in taking action in accord with the United States reminded the United States concerning her impotent condition either [Page 480] to render military aid to the United States or to defend herself against the superior forces of the Imperial German Government during and after the war, and would therefore rely upon the strong arm of the United States to protect her against the eventualities accruing from such a course.

Equivalent to a “Quid Pro Quo”

It was quite natural, and indeed logical, for Liberia to assume that since the United States had suggested the course, which Liberia afterwards adopted, that that fact in itself was equivalent to a quid pro quo, in so far as the United States and Liberia were concerned. The action, therefore, which was taken by Liberia was based upon this logical interpretation, and Liberia felt and still feels that the United States is in a better position to get from the powers concerned the necessary guaranties for her future safety.

Public Opinion Divided in Liberia

Liberian public opinion was divided on the Government’s course.

Some were of the opinion that before severing diplomatic relations with the Imperial German Government the Liberian Government should require a guaranty from the United States Government of future protection from German retaliation and indemnities.
Others were of the opinion that the Liberian Government should act on the suggestion of the circular letter of the President of the United States without any formal guaranty or expressed quid pro quo, since the United States had been extending protection to Liberia in many of her diplomatic tangles with European nations. Now was the time for Liberia to manifest faith in the integrity of the United States Government.

The Latter Opinion Prevailed

The latter opinion, therefore, prevailed that Liberia should fulfil her promise and pool her fortunes with the United States. Liberia also remembered that she was accused of being pro-German, and feared that the least hesitancy on her part might be construed by both England and France as pro-German sentiment, hence she decided to act upon the circular letter. But before doing so a conference with the Allied representatives was held; Liberia was represented by the Secretary of State. At this conference Liberia made known her decision to the Allied representatives, and asked them, for reasons, to make the fact known to their respective Governments for instructions.

[Page 481]

The Allied Instruction to Their Representatives in Liberia

Legation of the United States of America,
Monrovia, Liberia, May 7, 1917.

Honorable C. D. B. King,
Secretary of State,

Sir: We, the undersigned, have the honor to respectfully request that you arrange an audience for us and the captain of His Brittanic Majesty’s Royal Navy with the President of the Republic of Liberia at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday, May 8, 1917, at 10.30 o’clock in the forenoon of said day, whereby we may advise the Liberian Government to perfect its decision to sever relations with Germany, in obedience to instructions so to do from our respective Governments, which have been cabled to us upon our requests following the conference to which we were bidden by you at the State Department April 20, 1917.

We desire also on the occasion of said audience to bring to the attention of the Liberian Government matters, which we deem to be a logical corollary to the severance of said relations, in the form of proposals, a copy of which is herewith enclosed for your advance consideration and examination.

With assurances [etc.]

James L. Curtis
American Minister Resident

E. Baret
French Chargé d’Affaires

M. Y. H. Parks
Acting British Consul-General

The Proposals of the Allied Representatives

At a conference held at the American Legation, May 6, 1917, at 4.30 p.m.

  • Present: French Chargé d’Affaires
  • Captain Armstrong, H. B. M. R. N.
  • Acting British Consul-General
  • American Minister Resident

The consensus prevailed that the following proposals should be broached to the Liberian Government as the advice of said conferees:

That the German Consul be notified that relations are severed between Liberia and Germany.
That simultaneously a thorough search be made of the homes and place of business of all German subjects resident here, and arms and ammunition of all description found therein be confiscated by Liberia.
That the British war vessel with its marines render such assistance as specifically requested by the Government of Liberia.
That all German subjects should be removed from Liberia.
That safe-conduct for the German Consul from Liberia to his home be requested from the Allied powers.
That the names of German subjects willing to leave Liberia as interned civilian non-combatants be secured by the Liberian Government [Page 482] and also the names of those unwilling to go under such an arrangement, in order to facilitate any further action that exigencies may suggest to Liberia.
A reasonable time be allowed German subjects to arrange their business affairs, to wit: not less than two weeks.

That a suitable patrol of the city be ordered by the Liberian Government during the search and disarming of German subjects.

(a) Signal officers from the battleship are permitted to land for the purpose of communicating with the ship in case of any resistance being offered by the Germans to the carrying into effect of the suggestions made in paragraph 2.

Proposal No. 4

When the representatives of the three Allied powers advised that German subjects residing in Liberia should be deported, the questions “whereto” and “by whom” arose. Liberia has no concern as to where the Germans are sent, whether to France, England, or anywhere else. Her sole and only business is to see, as best she can, that their deportation does not entail on her future troubles. What Liberia wants is assurance and the Germans may be sent anywhere.

Liberia has not forgotten 1913, when for four months three German Warships were in her harbor making all sorts of demands on her for the trouble which they themselves had created in River Cess, at which time all the world was silent. Liberia contends, if it is desired that she take a step which will benefit the cause of the Allies, she is agreeable to taking that step if the Allies assure her that they will stand by her when demands will be made on her by Germany for having taken that step.

The Attitude of the Representatives of the Allied Powers

When the question “whereto” was put to the representatives of the Allied powers they did not answer. Subsequently they met Secretary King at the State Department and the French Chargé d’ Affaires informed the Secretary that he had received instructions that the Germans should be sent to France and that the British Government concurred in this. Secretary King then inquired of the British Consul and of the American Minister Resident if they had also received similar instructions and they replied in the negative. Secretary King then informed the Allied representatives that as the Liberian Government had received a joint note from the three of them advising the removal of the Germans, and had in turn addressed a note in reply to them jointly, inquiring where the Germans were to be removed to, he could make no reply for the Government of Liberia until he had heard from all of them, or at least from a majority of them, but assuring the French Chargé d’Affaires that he would take note of what he had said as to his Government’s instructions.

[Page 483]

What Happened on the Fifth of June

On the fifth of June, by appointment of the three representatives of the Allied powers, the Secretary of State met them. The French representative handed in his answer saying that his Government required the Germans to go to France, that is to say, all of mobilizable age (none are over 45), and that the ex-German Consul would be permitted to return to Germany via Holland or Scandinavia in a ship that would touch at an English port, in order that the right of search might be made, and that under no circumstance was he to touch French soil.

The British representative then read his, which stated that his Government had been advised that the French Government was making certain representations to the Liberian Government in reference to the Germans which they hoped would be complied with as speedily as possible.

The American Minister Resident, at this date, was still without instructions.

Liberia’s Reply to the Allied Representatives

Having heard from a majority of the Governments, Liberia replied that she was prepared to comply with the demands or requirements of the Allies, but was of the opinion that such an act would be construed as one of hostility and therefore would be prepared to do so when the three Governments, the United States, Great Britain, and France, assured her that they will not severally or jointly make peace with Germany without safeguarding her vital interests against German aggression after the war; and secondly, that after all the Germans have left Liberia, that Great Britain and her Allies remove the restrictions placed on Liberian commerce.

I am instructed that the Secretary of State convoked them and read Liberia’s decision to them jointly, and discussed it, and then gave each representative a copy, which they promised to submit to their respective Governments.

The State Department’s July 23 to Consul General Lyon

The State Department’s July 23 to Consul General Lyon completes the assurance which Liberia desired before attempting to carry out the proposals referred to. For the sake of record the Secretary’s letter is herein incorporated:

Meanwhile, it may be of interest to you to know that the Department of State received a memorandum from the British Embassy here, dated July 14, stating that as soon as the German subjects in Liberia shall have been carried away and the Liberian Minister of Foreign Affairs shall have stated that the German firms are being closed, the restrictions which were placed on the trade with Liberia [Page 484] will be cancelled, and that the Department cabled to the American Minister at Monrovia on July 18 that it regarded this assurance adequate and that he may, therefore, advise the Liberian Government that the Government of the United States sees no objection to Liberia’s taking the contemplated steps with regard to Germany.

I have [etc.]

William Phillips
Assistant Secretary

With Reference to Receiver Lange

It is Liberia’s opinion that the decision to remove Germans should not include Receiver Lange and the German doctor for reasons. The removal of Mr. Lange would put the board into the hands and control of England and France, a condition which threatens to nullify the American side of the loan agreement. If Lange is removed, Worley should be given a proxy in order to retain the balance of power.

Of Vital Importance to Liberia

That the Allies assure Liberia that they will not severally or jointly make peace with Germany without safeguarding Liberia’s vital interest against German aggression after the war.
Liberia is of the opinion that when the Germans are removed the next step will be a demand that the German cable property be handed over to England and France.
Liberia is unwilling that either England or France should assume control of the cable and wireless stations.
She is quite willing that the United States should take charge of these institutions rather than England or France.
In the event that the United States will not assume charge of these stations, then Liberia will take charge of them with the understanding that the United States will give its aid and assistance.
I am instructed to cable the Department’s answer to the foregoing.

I have [etc.]

Ernest Lyon