File No. 763.72/9564

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp ) to the Secretary of State


3615. The public interest during the past week may be said to have been almost equally divided between the [progress] of the great battle in the north and the publication of the letter of Emperor Charles to his brother-in-law Prince Sixte de Bourbon, in which he was asked to deliver his message of a possible conciliation to President Poincaré. Concerning the latter subject, I wish before reporting thereon to first verify some very interesting information which I expect to be able to communicate to the Department tomorrow. It may be sufficient at the moment to say in reference thereto, that the whole affair may have not only the most important bearing upon the political conditions here, but as already has been seen by the exchange of letters and telegrams between Emperor Charles and Emperor William, the most important influence upon the Central Powers. With the exception of a doubt raised in one or two of the Paris papers, the press is unanimously behind M. Clemenceau for the part he played in giving publicity to this famous letter. The Premier will give an explanation of the affair in the Chamber on next Wednesday. I believe interesting developments are bound to follow.

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Between feelings of most marked depression and a rekindled hope, the British and French communiqués of the battle have been read with the greatest interest during the past week. Perhaps the most discouraging feature of such communiqués, and one which seems to most impress itself on the public mind, is the fact that each has recorded some advance by the enemy. Everybody has come to recognize that the north end of the battle front, defended by the English troops, is in grave danger. The most hopeful prospect of the English Army being enabled soon to definitely resist any further advances seems to be in the constant reinforcement of large consignments of troops from England, for only the marked superiority in numbers of the German troops seems to have accounted for their success thus far. General Haig’s stirring appeal to his armies, which appeared in yesterday’s papers, while by its tone confirming the gravity of the situation, yet has inspired a most encouraging hope. I would say that among the better informed, there has come a settled conviction that, until an arrival of large accessions of American troops, the best that may be expected by the Allies is to hold substantially their present positions against the enemy. Such an accomplishment coming at the end of next few weeks would, in the judgment of many, prove very disastrous to the morale of the German people at home. Such a result might go much further to clarify a situation, at present so completely obscured and so impenetrable in its outlook, than the armies of either side could accomplish.

One who would seek the truth is all the more baffled by the great divergence of statements issued in the communiqués of the Allies and those of the Germans. This applies not only to estimates of the losses sustained in the present great battle but also as to those occasioned by the submarine, and particularly of aeroplanes brought down over the lines. In the latter item I have seen the estimated totals of loss in a given week almost exactly reversed in these official communiqués. Confidentially, a former high French military commander is my authority for the statement that many of the Allied communiqués have fallen short of a truthful narrative of actual conditions growing out of this offensive.

The daily visitation of the shells from long range cannon and frequent night attacks of the air raiders have failed to produce that panic among the people here which the enemy had expected. While some of the losses from both means of destruction have been deplorable in their magnitude, yet I am sure the people of Paris are prepared to endure much more of danger with equal equanimity. Their eyes are turned constantly to the north as the source from [Page 215] which their own protection must come. Supreme confidence is felt in General Foch to keep all his lines intact. Out of this commander’s courage and resourcefulness many have come to believe that such a countermove may soon be made against the enemy as to greatly weaken his hold on the positions which his advance, made during the first few days of the offensive, had won for him.

Except these great military events now following each other in such rapid succession, and the portent of certain important political occurrences, above briefly referred to for a future telegram, there is nothing else of importance to report for the week’s happenings. It may be noted that the increasingly [rigorous] enforcement of the use of bread cards and limitation of certain foods have brought to the Parisians a source of deprivation not before experienced.