File No. 763.72119/813

The Minister in Switzerland ( Stovall) to the Secretary of State


1556. Text of President Wilson’s message to Pope transmitted your August 29, 11 a.m.,1 received after Havas Agency had cabled text to press. Havas text differs in such essential and important [Page 187] points that I deem it desirable to cable the Department full text as translated from the French and German papers which are published in Switzerland:

While sympathizing with the appeal which the Pope has just addressed to the belligerent nations, I venture to say that it would be folly for us to enter upon the path of peace as he invites us, if that path would not conduct us straight to the object which he seeks. Our reply must have as a basis tangible facts and nothing else. It is manifest that no part of the Pope’s program can be happily realized unless there takes place beforehand and above all the absolute reestablishment of the status quo ante and before our enemies bring us strong and sufficient guarantees for the future.

The object of this war, I say it here because it is absolutely true, is to free the people and to liberate them from the menace of a formidable militarism put at the service of an irresponsible Government which, after having secretly planned to dominate the world, has not recoiled for the realization of its plan before the respect due to treaties any more than it has before the principle of international law and honor which have been so long venerated by civilized nations.

This Government animated only by a will to accomplish its sinister design has chosen its hour, and then began to strike with ferocity and without mercy. It has not let itself be stopped by any consideration of justice or pity. It has burst all bounds of morality which have built up dikes to barbarity. It has spilled floods of blood upon the entire old Continent, not only the blood of soldiers but the blood of women and children and of poor defenseless people.

To-day the enemy of four-fifths of the human race is baffled but not yet vanquished. The odious militarism against which we fight is still upright. Truly it could not represent really the aspirations of the German people but it is [their ruthless] master. To treat with it in accord with the suggestion in the plan of the papal peace would be to give it a renewal of force, a sort of consecration, which would mean to place the Allies in the necessity of forming a permanent league of nations against the German people. This would be to abandon forever the German people to the sinister influences and to the tendencies devised for humanity of which the German Government has so often given us proof. Can peace be based upon the restoration to power of the German militaristic Government, or on the word of honor that it could engage in a peace of understanding and conciliation? The statesmen who have the responsibility of directing the policy of their countries must realize now that no peace can rest with security on political and economic relations based on privileges accorded certain nations to the detriment of others.

The American people have actually suffered the most considerable wrongs from the German Government. However the United States is not considering exercising reprisals against the German people itself, because a low desire for vengeance does not animate it. The Americans believe that the future peace should rest upon the rights of peoples little and big, who should enjoy equal liberty and security [Page 188] in an absolute measure and to whom no one could question the right of governing themselves. It is necessary also that the right be recognized for the people to arrange common economic agreements. This right no one considers contesting to the German people itself, if it resigns itself to accepting a regime of equality and not seek to dominate other nations, as it seeks to do to-day. Such is the fundamental basis of any project of peace. It must rest upon a deep and ardent faith of all the interested peoples and not on the word of an ambitious and intriguing Government opposing itself to a group of free people. This project we have studied profoundly with our Allies. We are decided to pursue the application of it until the end. We do not seek any material advantage of any sort. I must proclaim this still another time. We believe that the truly insupportable wrongs that the brutal spirit of domination of the German Government has caused us must be repaired, but we do not understand that it should be to the detriment of the sovereignty of any people. How could we wish that since we have entered into the war precisely to assure the defense of the feeble against the strong? The dismemberment of empires or the creation of egotistic economic leagues of other peoples we repudiate also with energy, but we repudiate as well any unenduring basis of peace.

The durable peace which we desire must be founded on justice, loyalty and categorical respect for the rights of humanity. We cannot regard the word of those who govern Germany as offering us sufficient guarantees for a durable state of affairs. So that we may believe in it, it must be sustained by so evident a manifestation of the will and designs of the German people that it can justify its acceptance without reserve by other peoples. Without such guarantees, in the present condition of affairs, no man and no nation can give its confidence to a treaty concluded with the German Government even if it establishes suitable basis of an accord for an agreement for disarmament, if it replaces by a system of arbitration the confidence while she is military force and even also if it contains formal agreements in view of the reconstitution of nations. We should then await some new and evident demonstration of real intention which animates the peoples constituting the Central Empires. Nothing could be possible before that.

God grant that this evidence can be produced soon and in this manner render to all people the confidence that they had before in the engagements which bind nations to each other and thus hasten the possibility of concluding peace!

My action in this matter has been confined to handing true text to Swiss agencies which I did after Havas text had been set up and before publication. In view of the fact that alterations of such serious nature apparently made in transmission through Allied press I await instructions as to further action. Strassburger Post and Frankfurter Zeitung just received contain full and correct translation of note received through Holland.

  1. Not printed; see telegram of Aug. 27 to the Ambassador in Great Britain, No. 5348, ante, p. 177.