File No. 763.72/8475b

The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate ( Stone)

My Dear Senator Stone : In accordance with your request it gives me pleasure to send you enclosed a confidential memorandum regarding the inadvisability of a declaration of war by the United States against Turkey and Bulgaria at the present time.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing
[Enclosure 1]

The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate ( Stone)

Memorandum Regarding the Inadvisability of a Declaration of War by the United States against Turkey and Bulgaria at the Present Time


There has been no request, or even suggestion, made to this country by the Entente that the United States declare war against Turkey and Bulgaria.

For various reasons, among which may be cited the following, the necessity does not at this time exist for such declaration. If, at a later date, such action should become advisable and necessary for the successful carrying out of the war it will be very seriously considered.

For manifest reasons at the present time there can be no question of any direct military operation by the United States against Turkey. The question of the advisability of a declaration of war by the United States against Turkey must therefore be considered, first, from the standpoint of the moral effect of such declaration, and second, from the standpoint of the indirect damage to Turkey and the United States which would naturally and probably result from such declaration.

Considering the second of these questions first, it should be remembered that Turkish interests in the United States are very insignificant, while the interests of the United States in Turkey are very large. The importance of the American missionary and educational institutions in Turkey are too well known to require a detailed description in this memorandum. It will be sufficient to say that during the past hundred years the American missionary societies have expended over $20,000,000 in Turkey, and that the present value of the American missionary property (mainly used for educational [Page 449]purposes) in Turkey amounts to several millions of dollars. In the event of war between the United States and Turkey, all this property would be destroyed or confiscated.

The Department is in recent receipt of letters from prominent American citizens acquainted with the situation in Turkey calling its attention to the great personal danger to the Americans in Turkey if the United States should declare war against Turkey before the missionaries and other American citizens could leave that country. At the present time the American institutions in Turkey are being fairly well treated. A recent despatch to the Department from one of its consular officers contains the following extract:

Mr. W. W. Peet, long prominent in the American Bible Society work at Constantinople, tells me that he has had a letter from Turkey as recently dated as September 10. This letter tells him that the American schools are opening up and that Turkish children are entering same in numbers. Mr. Peet adds that the time is now past where there may be any fear that Turkish Government will take over the very valuable college and school property. I was surprised to learn from him that before the war as many as 50,000 children and students attended schools and colleges under American auspices. This is a big leaven in the right direction and this leaven seems to be at work again.1

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

To recur to Mr. Peet’s conversation and I regard what he gives as his opinion as entitled, in the light of his long residence and knowledge of Turkey, to great respect, Mr. Peet says that he feels convinced that Turkey will not enter the war against America—that the situation will not become worse in a general way in Turkey.

There is practically nothing to fear from the activities of the Turkish subjects in the United States; the vast majority of the Turkish subjects in the United States are Christians, Syrians, Assyrians, and Armenians. The number of real Turks in the United States is very limited. The report of the Immigration Commission published in 1911 states that only 12,954 true Turks came to America from Turkey during the twelve years from 1899 to 1910 inclusive.

It is well known that a great deal of friction between the Turks and Germans is being developed at the present time. In a despatch dated December 23, 1916, from the American Ambassador at Constantinople it is stated:

It is quite true that, at present, German diplomatic support is almost sure to doom a negotiation to failure. In fact, of late, officials of the German Embassy have been appealing to us for assistance in their attempts to wring definite concessions from the Government. For, at present, they feel themselves comparatively helpless, because the Turkish answer to any real pressure brought to [Page 450]bear, in a controversy concerning non-military matters, is always a covert threat to end the alliance and make a separate peace with the Entente powers. Hence Germany, now engaged in a life and death struggle, is comparatively powerless.

Even the warring party in Turkey is divided into two factions; and while it is reported that Enver Pasha and his followers are strongly pro-German, Talaat Bey is at the head of a party who are only concerned with the interests of Turkey and are beginning to look with suspicion upon German ambitions. It is thought that a declaration of war against Turkey by the United States, unless the United States is in a position to strike Turkey, will have the tendency to strengthen the German influence in that country.

The Turks, so far as is known, have no troops on the western front, and have few if any effective submarines. The danger of direct conflict between the forces of the United States and those of Turkey is, therefore, very small.

As a final observation it might be added that if we should declare war against Turkey, the Turks would be likely to retaliate by fresh massacres on the Christians and Jews in the Turkish Empire.


The wisdom of a declaration of war by the United States at the present time against Bulgaria would be even more doubtful than would be the wisdom of a declaration of war by the United States against Turkey.

The Bulgarian race has always been extremely friendly toward the United States. Robert College at Constantinople is often referred to by Bulgarians as “the Cradle of Bulgarian Liberty.” The Bulgarian Minister to the United States was for more than thirty years a professor at Robert College, and he has always been very friendly disposed toward both the United States and the Entente powers.

The Bulgarian interest in this war is a purely local one, the Bulgarians are merely fighting out their old feud with the Serbians. The Bulgarians not only have no interest in the German plans for world conquests but on the contrary they are already beginning to appreciate the dangers of German domination. There are no Bulgarian troops on the western frontier and Bulgaria has no submarines; there is, therefore, no danger of any direct conflict between the American and Bulgarian forces.

It is difficult to see how a declaration of war by the United States against Bulgaria at the present moment would in any way, directly or indirectly, tend to assist in the bringing about of a victory for the United States and the Entente.

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Moreover, the Bulgarian Minister in Washington has no communication whatsoever with his own Government or with any of the Bulgarian representatives in neutral countries. He has no pouch service, and cipher messages are not permitted to be exchanged by him with anyone.

[Enclosure 2]

The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate ( Stone)

Notes on Arguments Why the United States Should Not Declare War against Turkey and Bulgaria Just at Present

(N. B. There are some repetitions in this memorandum on account of the fact that three parties have been quoted as authorities for the statements made.)

1. The question should be considered from the practical rather than the sentimental standpoint.

2. In case of a declaration of war against Turkey and Bulgaria these countries can inflict injuries upon American citizens and American interests while the United States can do nothing to injure Bulgaria or Turkey except indirectly, and we are indirectly fighting against these countries without a formal declaration of war against them.

3. American educational and missionary societies have large interests in Turkey. Mr. William W. Peet, who is acting as the representative in Washington of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and for the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, makes the following statement on behalf of these organizations:

The work of the Americans in Turkey and Bulgaria of an educational, missionary, and benevolent character has been built up during the last hundred years. It had at the time of the outbreak of the war assumed an important place in the civilizatiton of those countries. An expenditure of American money in educational and missionary plants amounting to approximately twenty million dollars had been made. In the development of this work hundreds of educated American men and women have devoted the best years of their lives resulting in the building up of a strong American influence which still remains potent. At the time of the breaking of diplomatic relations with Turkey upwards of three hundred Americans were employed in this work in the Turkish Empire and fifty or sixty in Bulgaria. Upon the departure of the Ambassador from Constantinople, although a part of the American missionary force left Turkey owing to the impossibility of carrying on all departments of their work under existing conditions, nearly one hundred American citizens, [Page 452]men and women, remained in order to keep open such schools as it was possible to maintain, to retain possession of their large and valuable properties, but above all to continue the work of relief in which all Americans were actively employed for the Christian races (Armenians, Greeks, and Syrians) who had been the victims of Turkish oppression and cruelty. By special arrangement it became possible to continue this work of charity and benevolence so long as the Americans remain in charge of it. In Bulgaria and also in Constantinople, Smyrna, Beirut, as well as in some interior localities, the American schools, including such well-known institutions as Robert College, the American College for Girls in Constantinople, the American University in Beirut, the International College in Smyrna, continue as in normal times with largely increased attendance.

A declaration of war on the part of the United States against the Governments of Bulgaria and Turkey would place the lives of the Americans remaining in those countries in jeopardy, would sacrifice the valuable properties which are still, to a large extent, employed for their normal uses, and would probably bring to an end the work of relief to which the benevolent people of America have so generously contributed, and which has been sustained in Turkey since the fall of 1915, resulting in the extermination of large numbers of surviving Christians all of whom are strongly pro-Ally in their sentiments. On the other hand, the American missionaries remaining in Turkey, as well as their supporters in America, would not be unwilling to assume any risk and submit to any sacrifice of life or property, if by so doing, the Allied cause could be advanced and the suffering races in Turkey could be saved. But it is doubtful if a declaration of war could be accompanied on the part of the American Government by any offensive acts which would in any way contribute to the weakening or the downfall of Turkey and Bulgaria or which would in any way increase the contributions which America is able to make to the cause of her allies. Moreover it is probable that a declaration of war unaccompanied by a prompt and strong offensive would in case of Turkey, at least, lead to a renewal of those acts of cruelty and oppression which have in the past shocked the whole world.

In addition to the above, it should be borne in mind that at least the Government of Bulgaria is already war-weary and is beginning to realize that her continuance in this struggle is solely for the benefit of Germany and is accompanied by a continual menace to her own territorial integrity. She is anxious to quit and is now reaching the position where the people and even the ruling classes do not care to make further contributions to the support of German militarism. A declaration of war would cement the loosening bond which binds this country to the German confederacy without any corresponding benefit to the cause of the Allies.

4. A declaration of war by the United States against Turkey might cost the lives of many thousands of Christians in Turkey.

5. There are considerable American business interests in Turkey.

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6. The growing bitterness between the Bulgarians and the Turks gives hope of serious trouble between these two races, if nothing new arises to make Turkey and Bulgaria forget their mutual animosities and to remind them of the common dangers which confront them. … It is not suggested that the United States should hold out any promises to Bulgaria or should at any time assist her in any way, but if Turkey and Bulgaria are reaching the point where their mutual animosity may make serious trouble for Germany we should not do anything which may tend to prevent such a result being arrived at.

Mr. E. B. Haskell, an American missionary who was born in Bulgaria and has spent most of his life in that country, has sent the Department a memorandum on “The Bulgaro-Turkish Alliance” in which he says inter alia:

To a multitude of Bulgarians the bitterest thing in this war is their alliance with the Turks.

I have been told by Bulgarian officers of several occasions on which the antipathy between them and their Turkish allies led to personal encounters, accompanied by bullets, in the Seres region.

If the present newspaper reports are true—as is likely—that Turkey has renewed her demands and that Germany is backing them with coercion, the result will be intense bitterness towards both in Bulgaria. A change of Ministry very possibly may follow, the consequence of which it would be useless to attempt to predict.

Since the second Balkan war a very catchy song has had the greatest vogue in Bulgaria of anything except Shumi Maritza, the national hymn. It is entitled Siyouznitzi Razboinitzi, or “Allies-Bandits,” and gives the Bulgarian estimate of her allies in the first Balkan war. It will be sung with increased vigor at present if one ally threatens to keep a district (Dobrudja) which Bulgaria regards as necessary to secure her northern boundary against Rumania, unless Bulgaria will give back to another ally what was ceded without any conditions and was a leading reason which her King gave her for forming an alliance with the abhorred Turk.

A report just received from Vice Consul Edelman contains the following statement relative to relations between Turks and Bulgarians:

The growing expansion of Bulgaria has caused great discontent in Constantinople. Turkish statesmen cannot forget that Bulgaria was induced to join the alliance on the condition of the cession of Turkish territory around Adrianople. In view of Bulgaria obtaining the Dobrudja, Turkey now demands the return of her ceded territory, as well as the Adrianople-Dedeagach Railway, and certain sections of Dedeagach, Kavalla, Drama and Seres.

Naturally these demands have not been entirely agreeable to Bulgaria, and have caused a wild outburst from the Sofia press, in which Turkey is reminded that her present favorable situation is due to Bulgaria, and her future tranquillity and salvation depends upon her maintaining her good relations with Bulgaria.

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7. Conditions are changing rapidly in the Near East and it is impossible to foretell what may happen in the immediate future. It will always be possible to declare war against Turkey and Bulgaria, but a declaration of war once made cannot be recalled. It would seem admissible to at least wait a little longer before such declaration.

  1. The following omission indicated in the original.