File No. 763.72119/1776

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


3884. My despatch 3544, June 22 [3519, June 17].1 De Fiori called again on Herron at Geneva and informed him that after his conversation with Herron he had returned to Munich instead of” to Berlin, as he had previously intended, and presented to Professor Foerster, the Bavarian Minister of War and the Bavarian Minister President, the memorandum of his conversations with Herron (practically identical to that submitted by despatch). De Fiori states that both these Bavarian officials later conferred with him stating they were much impressed with memorandum, believing that it represented genuine American opinion. They stated: “If war continues we will be defeated in the end. We must bring influence on Prussia towards conciliatory peace.”

De Fiori learned that copies of memorandum were furnished Ludendorff and Hertling, who in turn distributed additional copies [Page 277] to about all members of Reichstag. He states that he was summoned Berlin by telegraph but did not go.

According to De Fiori the memorandum was also laid before the King, Crown Prince of Bavaria, and Bavarian Cabinet, which debated whether discussion of peace was possible and subsequently indicated to De Fiori a tentative peace program which later submitted to Herron who had it taken down verbally. Program follows:

The restoration of Belgium; contracts concerning the liberty of German navigation on Scheldt and Rhine; elevation of Alsace-Lorraine to a free confederate state with complete home rule; equal free trade with France and Germany; contracts for the customary free exchange of coal, potash, and iron between Germany and France (personally I put here complete freedom of the press, of language and school, and in all national and political things). I attract your attention to the fact that the representation—that is, the parliamentary representation of the new German confederate state—would not stand on any other basis than it does now, because they have now already the direct right of vote for the Landtag in Alsace-Lorraine.

Self-administration for all the Austrian peoples, including the Germans, according to the principles agreed upon with Professor Lrammasch; self-administration for the Italian provinces, with Trieste as capital and free port; repeal of all existing different[ial] contracts in favor of Trieste, which are greatly to Italy’s damage; reorganization of the traffic of Trieste with Lombardy and Venice, like before 1859, wherewith Trieste would remain, and would have to remain, a completely Italian city. Under the term self-administration of Trieste, I understand also the political and police administration, so that the state and not the monarchy would have the right to hinder in any way the political intercourse with Italy. The political relations of the territory of administration of Trieste with Italy would therefore be taken same as those of the canton of Ticino with Italy. Self-administration for all non-Magyar peoples of Hungary.

Complete restoration of Servia, with free access to the Adriatic, perhaps Durazzo becoming a Servian port, and the Servian part of Albania given to Servia.

Restoration of Poland in full freedom and independence. I do not mean that Galicia should go to Poland, nor that Prussia should give Posen. (I avoid these questions on purpose, because they would create confusion. I personally and confidentially would say that it would be a great injustice to leave Posen with Prussia, if Posnanian Poland would not get complete self-administration like Alsace-Lorraine.) Poland should receive freedom of the flag on the Weichsel [Vistula] and [Memel], and a free access to the east sea, through Lithuania. Reopening of the peace of Bucharest and the peace of Brest-Litovsk.

All the Balkan questions should be referred to the peace conference for their final settlement. America should mediate between England and Germany in all questions of the colonies; also in all [Page 278] German-English questions of the Balkans, till a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at. (Return to the policy of contracts, which already before the war was on its best way.)

Disarmament; the society of nations.

De Fiori then stated to Herron: “Can you say to me that you believe President Wilson would be favorable to at least debating peace on these terms? We ask you, Doctor Herron, to give your opinion. If you think the President would be willing to discuss peace on this tentative program, Bavaria would try to round up other German states to bring pressure to bear on Prussia to end that Imperial Government should make formal peace offers in this sense. This program is not the last word. These terms may be called middle terms. We feel it is America which must umpire between England and Germany.”

Herron stated: “I cannot express an opinion; I must reflect. When I have arrived at answer I will send for you in Zurich.”

Herron stated to me that he shrank from assuming responsibility of giving his own views, even though requested, in view of magnitude of question. He stated to De Fiori, however: “If I could believe for one moment that as a result of such peace a new Germany would emerge, if I believed we could trust Germany loose in the-world without cutting her fangs, if I felt we could trust her word, I would give my life to open the door to peace. There are many reasons to make me wish to be convinced but I cannot achieve such conviction.”

Herron believes that it is possible to reconcile Muehlon’s statements [transmitted] in my cipher telegram 3774, June 26,1 concerning De Fiori, with latter’s statements of activity in Munich, since De Fiord’s immediate chief was Bavarian Minister of War. Herron feels also that De Fiori was speaking honestly and that Muehlon was somewhat mistaken in his characterization. It should be borne in mind however that few people can speak as authoritatively on such subject as Muehlon.

My feeling in the matter is that Ludendorff is searching the way sympathetic to America to put through his compromise program in case of failure on western front. It is also highly probable that Ludendorff thus makes use of Liberal elements so that on receipt of anticipated refusal from America it will be clearly demonstrated to Liberals that serious endeavor for peace was made and failed. These terms are more precise but not far different from Kühlmann’s statements in his first speech which raised a tempest in military party. [Page 279] Can it be assumed that the Bavarian Government could put through, a program on which the Prussian Government itself failed?

  1. Not printed; it transmits a 47-page account by Professor Herron of conversations with Doctor De Fiori, described as “a Bavarian, correspondent formerly connected with the Vienna Neue Freie Presse.
  2. Ante, p. 267.