File No. 763.72119/1555

The Chargé in Denmark ( Grant-Smith ) to the Secretary of State


2134. The exchange of denials between M. Clemenceau and Count Czernin relative to certain peace feelers probably finds its origin in the time-honored German maneuver to provoke an opponent into taking the ostensible initiative. It would seem [probable] that the true story will be found to bear a striking resemblance to certain tentatives of a similar nature of which this Legation was the object during the month of January last and which only the inadequacy of the clerical force prevented me from reporting at the time.

Herr Westfried, an Austrian Jew, an explosives contractor to the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry, whose wife is said to be the daughter of a New York German-American banker, has been resident in Copenhagen more or less continuously during the past two years. He caused it to be intimated to me that he desired to speak with some one in this Legation relative to the invitation of a discussion between Austria-Hungary and the United States of the terms of a possible peace. Pursuant to my instructions, Lieut. John A. Gade, acting naval attaché, met Westfried, who states that if the United States would send a responsible person to Copenhagen the Austro-Hungarian Government would send some one of equal rank to confer with him. He alleged that as a result of his endeavors Sir Francis Hopwood had come here in February of last year on behalf of the British Government, but that owing to the jealous hostility of the Austro-Hungarian Legation nothing had come of it.

In reply he was informed that before I would consent to refer the matter to Washington compliance with two conditions would be [Page 204] indispensable: (1) the production of documentary evidence of his authority to act, and (2) satisfactory assurances that Austria-Hungary was prepared to make a separate peace. The matter was dropped there where, as expected, it has since rested. Suspicious as ever of everything emanating from the Central Empires, I [felt] incredulous of Westfried’s authority to negotiate. He could produce no documentary evidence of his bona fides but was rich in assurances and did his utmost to persuade us to lay the matter before the Government at Washington. Had he succeeded in this with satisfactory issue he could have gone to Vienna with something tangible to bargain with.

He would have found the Ballplatz eagerly receptive of a proposal for a conference the initiative for which would have ostensibly been, taken by the Government of the United States. Westfried has unquestionably had a backstairs correspondence on the subject with certain persons of influence at Vienna who in my opinion encouraged his activities if they did not instigate them. Decorated if successful, easily disavowed if not, Westfried is undoubtedly but one of a large band of agents of the Central Powers whose members lie in wait for credulous enemies who will further their endeavors to coax some one of the Allies to the council table.

The British Minister, Sir R. Paget, confirmed my impressions and denies that Sir F. Hopwood had come to Copenhagen on the mission alleged although he listened incidentally to what Herr Westfried had to say.

I am reliably informed that Westfried is now in Holland supposedly operating in conjunction with the Austrian military attaché with whom he is alleged to be on close terms. I am therefore repeating this telegram to Garrett for his information.