File No. 763.72/11952
The Chargé in Great Britain ( Laughlin) to the Secretary of State
[Received 9.35 p.m.]
3191. There was a noticeable feeling of relief when the President officially transmitted his correspondence with the German Government to Great Britain and France and intimated that the next rejoinder must come from the concerted action of all the nations opposing the Central Powers. While the country as a whole felt that the President’s demands would be in accord with those of Great Britain, there was a good deal of anxiety lest the series of notes between Germany and the United States should involve the Allies in unforeseen complications and possibly if too prolonged weaken [Page 414] the morale of the army and the people at home. During the last two weeks events have followed each other with such rapidity that the press and people are quite unable to appreciate their significance. The widely advertised reforms in the German Government, the resignation of Ludendorff, and the statement that Germany merely waits to be informed of the armistice terminations are treated very sceptically. There is a tendency everywhere to distrust all optimistic statements and people as a rule refrain from expressing such opinions although many no doubt feel more confident than they are willing to admit. There is a strong but numerically small party who call for unconditional surrender. The Pacifist “Peace At Once” Party is hardly heard and its organs have contented themselves for the most part with expressing satisfaction with the existing situation.
I notice a disposition among some in higher official quarters to shrink from the idea of the suppression of the Hohenzollern dynasty and even of the abdication of the present Emperor. Those who show such feelings seem inclined to think it would be better in the long run to deal with a thoroughly chastened and fettered Hohenzollern Government than to begin anew with an unknown quantity. The majority of the people are waiting to see what course events will take and refrain from expressing their opinions too forcibly. The country is more desirous of an early peace than it wishes to show and, while unwilling to give up any of the advantages which have been won so far and united in demanding a complete and unquestioned victory including the acknowledgment of the Allies’ war aims, the nation would probably be willing to accept [forego?] the triumph of an absolute dictated peace and the satisfaction obtainable from a complete humiliation of the German people if the war could be shortened thereby. It is not probable, however, that the Government will recant any of its war aims which, while somewhat indefinite as officially pronounced, are fairly clear in the popular mind. Nor will the nation shrink from a prolonged prosecution of the war should such a course prove to be necessary, but should an early peace prove to be unobtainable the general disappointment will be far more keen than will be immediately apparent, and the natural reaction might weaken the morale of the country to a noticeable extent.
Mr. Balfour’s speech at the luncheon of the British colonial representatives, in which he stated that Great Britain could never consent to the return of the German colonies, has been generally approved although without great enthusiasm. In some quarters this pronouncement is looked upon as premature; it was, however, inevitable that he should make some statement on this matter at such a gathering [Page 415] and equally inevitable, considering the well-known views of the British Minister, that it should take the form it did. There is a rumor that if Holland should enter the war or give valuable aid to the Allies the German colonies might be handed over to her, but I attach no importance to this further than that it indicates a disposition to find a solution of the question along the line of no annexations. The press today comments enthusiastically upon the visit of Prince Higashi Fushimi, to whose mission considerable importance is attached. It is looked upon as a further guarantee of close cooperation between Great Britain and Japan both during the present war and afterwards and as a formal approval of the Anglo-Japanese alliance which the press unites in praising.
A statement on economic policy after the war promised in Parliament by the Prime Minister is being awaited with great interest. The French Government has sent to Great Britain Monsieur de Boysson, a controller general of armies, to obtain British machinery for French territory being evacuated by the Germans. He has asked that war restrictions as to priorities be relaxed as much as possible because of the serious problem of providing employment for French workmen in these districts. This is a problem which may soon be deserving of very serious attention. The threatened strike of South Wales coal miners to begin November 18 would be nothing short of a calamity in view of the present acute shortage of coal. The way the Government handles this matter may be watched carefully for the next two weeks.