File No. 763.72119/2268

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

[Telegram—Extract]

5266. German political. The German press considered the President’s answer to the first German note satisfactory and pointed out that for the first time a German peace offer was not immediately rejected. Press has satisfied itself with stating that the Alsace-Lorraine question must be settled so as to cause no new wounds and it has attempted to show that the German parts of the old Kingdom of Poland were now largely settled by Germans who outnumbered the Poles. The Conservative press alone considered the President’s first note as unacceptable and stated that the demand for the evacuation of the occupied territories amounted to a demand to surrender.

The publication of the Chancellor’s letter to Hohenlohe threatened a new crisis which was avoided by the Chancellor’s statement to the inter-party committee that he would resign if his person proved an obstacle to peace, and that he had written letter to rid himself of the undesired support of Hohenlohe. The Socialists, who were his chief critics, have stated that there is no objection to his remaining in office at present. I am reliably informed that the [National] Liberals would be glad to sacrifice the Chancellor if they could find some one to take his place. There has been increased discussion of the responsibility for America’s entrance into the war and the radical papers demand information from the Government regarding a peace offer to the President in the late autumn of 1916, which failed because of the opposition of the military and the increased severity of the submarine warfare. The Conservatives have held meetings to protest [against] the Government’s peace policy but at the present their opposition does not seem important.

The constitutional changes proposed by the new Government have passed the Federal Council and will be submitted to the Reichstag. They are:

(1)
A provision allowing members of the Reichstag to accept salaried Government offices:
(2)
A provision that war can be declared only with the consent of Federal Council and Reichstag, unless the frontiers or the coasts have been attacked;
(3)
A provision that treaties of peace and treaties affecting the Empire must have the consent of the Federal Council and the Reichstag.

An “imperial proclamation” has ordered that the military authorities can make no regulations under the “state of siege” without the consent of the Chancellor. The forced resignation of Von Dallwitz, Conservative governor of Alsace-Lorraine, and the appointment of Schwander, the Mayor of Strassburg, appears indicative of the new Government’s more liberal policy towards Alsace-Lorraine. The appointment of Delbrück to succeed Von Berg as chief of the Emperor’s private Cabinet places another office in the hands of the new Government. The prominent Progressive Haussmann has been appointed a Minister without portfolio and will be a member of the War Council.

The increasing unrest of the people is indicated by the decisions of the Governments of Saxony and Anhalt to liberalize their electoral laws. The reported defection of the radical and Bolshevik [Spartacists], an entire group under Mehring, from the Independent Socialist Party is also of interest as showing the unrest in the proletariat.

The Emperor has ordered the courts to carry out amnesty which will embrace all political offenders whose offenses were not felonious or infractions of military discipline.

So far as it is available the German press has been disappointed over the President’s second note and calls upon the Entente not to drive the German people to desperation. The influence of the Entente on the President is stated to be the reason for its more severe tone, in the brief extracts of the German press so far available.

I learn from reliable German Republican sources that they are in possession of information that the present democratization of Germany and the demand for an armistice are the work of Ludendorff, who desires to save his army from a catastrophe. These circles point out that the Reichstag was not consulted before the answer to the President’s note, and that even main committee was not called, but that the only consultation of the people were the discussions with the party leaders. It is the belief of these circles that as soon as Ludendorff has safely brought his army and material to Germany, he will suppress the present quasi-democratic Government, whose peace step he has suffered only to deceive, the President and to gain time. They demand the calling of a German national assembly to draft a new Constitution and they state that there can be no real change in the German Government until the Allies are on German soil and can force the retirement of the present Reichstag, which [Page 375]contains all those who caused the war. They also [believe] that the result of the President’s answer to the second German note will be an increasing [severity] of military government in Germany.

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Stovall