File No. 763.72119/2265

The Ambassador in Italy ( Page) to the Secretary of State


2191. The press, certainly reflecting general opinion of public, has been expressing much mystification at postponement of President’s reply to Austria and beginning to discuss with increasing possibilities [positiveness?] Italy’s right to have her claims as contained in London pact and her rights referred to in point 9 of President’s fourteen points considered and established. Papers have published declaration made by Mr. Balfour that London pact touching Italy’s claims will be absolutely respected, also that Pichon had stated that claims of Italy would be given as much attention and importance as the question relating to Alsace-Lorraine. Further, they are beginning to discuss imperative importance of arriving at definite agreement on essential points before declaring armistice and [starting] discussion of peace terms.

Corriere delta Sera of 19th in leading editorial firmly declares that Entente before entering into peace negotiations must formulate its peace program and give exact interpretation to fourteen points of President and to avoid opening peace discussion with any enemy without having first decided between themselves arrangement of Europe, thus preventing tremendous weapon being placed in hands of enemy in discord among Allies concerning such arrangement. It cites recent article London Times [with] which it declares itself in agreement and points out the intolerable effect of Allies having their representatives argue and bargain with insidious and disloyal enemy diplomats concerning peace conditions as formerly done at Congress[es] of Vienna and Berlin where seeds of present catastrophe were sown. Precise conditions of peace should be determined beforehand by Allies and presented to enemy for acceptance without change and not for discussion.

Attention is called to peril of vagueness of fourteen points, now the only foundation on which to discuss peace, and the possibility of different interpretations not only by enemy but by Allies. It asks, “Does Germany give full acceptance in her interpretations of eighth and thirteenth points? Does Austria recognize necessity of her dissolution in tenth point, and finally, is ninth point clear enough to [Page 376] Italians to tranquilize them?” It asserts that in the mixed zones clearly recognized lines of nationality [are] not to be found, so recourse must be had to unbiased interpretation of statistics, considering also that historic and geographical reasons mark regions belonging to one state. It declares Italy entered war on strength of London treaty which settles her rights and asks, “Do the United States recognize the treaty or not?” Declares Italy cannot be content with semiofficial assurances and does not wish to tremble at [peace] congress nor wish [it] to end in terrible disillusion to her. It admits that nothing compromised so far and Italy convinced that President will give Austria-Hungary an answer satisfactory to Italy but that there is no time to lose.

It then refers to telegram from New York to effect that although President has replied twice to Germany without consulting Allies it will not be misunderstood in Europe as he had at his disposal résumé of decisions of Entente Premiers at Paris conference and adds that “this is all very well, but what part is Italy taking in all this? America has been of inestimable moral and material help to Italy and without America the war would be lost but the President, whose figure rises to the greatest heights of history, does not request us in exchange to [become] the absolute arbiter of our destinies.” It then proceeds: “It is our business to place before him a clear formulation of what we ask after so much suffering without exceeding the bounds of justice which we intend to respect.”

Finally it closes declaring that Italy should be represented at Washington not by diplomats but by high political personalities even perhaps by those responsible for this Government, and declaring that Italy is dumb because she is not firmly resolved to bring about the liberation of the peoples oppressed by Austria and Turkey and because she had no clear ideas of what must be done for Russia, Poland and the Balkan populations. The difficulties, which it admits are imposing, are not eliminated by putting off their solution and in the discussion with the enemy they will become more perilous.

Nelson Page