File No. 763.72/11349

The Minister in Belgium ( Whitlock ) to the Secretary of State


140. Count de Torring has sent a long letter to Peltzer, Belgian Minister at Berne, in which he says that having conferred with Hertling and Von Hintze he is in a position to state that Germany has no intention to impose any charge or to make any propositions that would offend the honor of the Belgian Nation or Army. The German Government has declared repeatedly that it is ready to reestablish the complete independence of Belgium. After the end of the war Germany will reestablish Belgium in its former situation; she will make no claim on Belgian territory, either in Europe or in Africa. Belgium will recover her complete political and economic independence. Germany is willing that Belgium return to her former situation as a neutral power and besides she leaves to the Belgian Government the liberty to decide whether the international relations of Belgium shall be established on the old basis or whether Belgium shall have complete liberty of movement. The wish of Germany is that a means be found that will permit the reestablishment of those friendly relations that existed between Belgium and Germany before the war and if possible to make them in time more solid and intimate. In the economic domain Germany has no intention to impose on Belgium any prejudicial condition. In this domain complete commercial liberty must be assured. As an economic war would not be in the interest of either Belgium or of Germany the German Government proposes that the commercial treaty in force before the war between Belgium and Germany be maintained for several years after the war.

As the word “pawn” recently employed by the Chancellor has received a false interpretation abroad, it is explained as follows: The German Government does not demand any security from Belgium; it will be satisfied with a declaration that Belgium will undertake to intervene with the Allied Governments for the restitution of the German colonies.

As to the Flemish question, the German Government might desire that Belgium after the war seek a solution of the Flemish question that would give satisfaction to certain interested circles and that an amnesty be accorded to Flemish activists.

Hymans, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, before replying to this letter would be pleased to have the views of the American Government as well as those of Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan, and makes the following observations: [Page 304]

Torring, while claiming no mandate will be forwarded [sic] Imperial Government, says he is in a position to make known its intentions and believes that he has fully set them forth. His declarations of principle deserve attention. They seem to indicate a tendency to approach an equitable solution of the Belgian question and are therefore a step in advance but they are followed by propositions which in fact impede the application of these principles and impose limitations on the exercise of Belgian liberty. The suggestion that an amnesty be accorded Belgians who have compromised themselves in the Flemish activist movement constitutes an evident intrusion in Belgium’s internal affairs.

The proposal to restore the treaty of commerce of 1904 with its favored nation clause for several years after the war would hinder Belgium in her commercial relations with the Allies. While Germany seems disposed to recognize in principle Belgium’s right to political and commercial independence the suggestions tend to restrain the application of these principles and are not in accord with the demands expressed by the Belgian Government in its note to the Pope1 which constitute an indispensable basis of a just peace so far as Belgium is concerned. The declarations regarding the independence of Belgium and the integrity of her territory are conditional. They are subordinated to an obligation on the part of Belgium to intervene with the Allies for the restitution of Germany’s colonies. Nothing is said about reparations and indemnities.