File No. 763.72119/2401

The Chargé in Denmark ( Grant-Smith) to the Secretary of State


3043. Osborne2 was last night visited by young German Liberal whom he knew in Berlin and who is known to Bullitt and from whom the Department has had various reports through the Legation at The Hague.3 He came evidently with the knowledge and consent of the present German Government in an effort to establish its bond as democratic and representative Government.

Osborne reports that the change in the man physically and in his ideas since he knew him in Berlin were far more significant and interesting than what he said, which in effect was only what the Government press has been claiming for the new regime. On this occasion he appeared not as the sincere exponent of a quasi-liberal-ism, but as one who had come to see the needs and demands of the people as the result of period of adversity and suffering. He was quite ready to admit that the present triumph of liberalism in Germany would never have been achieved without the military failures as a stimulus. The adherence to the new program on the part of many is pure opportunism, for instance, in the case of the National Liberals. The sincerity of the leaders of the new Government is proved by their including in their program far-reaching constitutional and administrative reforms which two months ago they would not advise, but for which they know there is a popular [Page 417] demand. Up to the present time these changes have been sincere. If more extreme reforms are adopted at this juncture, such as the declaration of a republic merely to impress the Entente, they would be insincere, as they would not represent the demands of the people now. The constitutional reforms which [it] is expected [will] now become law and which take the command of the army away from the Emperor, subordinate the military to the civil authorities, fix the responsibility of the Chancellor to the Reichstag and make his counter-signature necessary for the validity of the Emperor’s, etc., furnish the requisite legal guarantees for democratic development and deprive the militarists of all constitutional support. Such guarantees are, however, “scraps of paper” unless backed up by a popular will to make full use of them. That such a will exists is also indicated by the fact of the extensive amplification of what was originally the present Government’s program as the result of the people’s demands.

He maintained that the present Government’s willingness and ability to fight successfully the militarists is shown by the action of Prince Max in writing out his own resignation and sending word that he would insist upon its acceptance unless Ludendorff disappeared within 24 hours, and also by his instructions to all submarines to return to their bases. Prince Max was responsible many months ago for securing the dismissal of brutal prison camp commanders and since taking office the two most offensive of the commanding generals have been dismissed and also the Secretary of War, who was the protégé of Great Headquarters. The militarists can be reinstated only as a result of a coup d’état or popular desire, both of which are unthinkable after they have been discredited through experiences.

The Chancellor’s peace platform, he stated, was based on President Wilson’s sincerity and expressed sympathy for the German people. Prince Max’s strength and consequently his power of accomplishing his rational and cleansing work, varies according to the strength of the German people’s belief in the sincerity of the President. After his first answer was received, prestige of the President was tremendous, but his third was regarded as “lending his moral vocabulary to the claims of the French jingoes” and indicating that Germany was to make herself powerless to resist the will to destroy her of those Governments who signed the still unwarranted [unrepudiated?] secret treaties.1 Degrading terms of armistice would anticipate the work of the peace conference, as this would mean a dictated peace, and hence make impossible a “league of freely consenting [Page 418] free nations,” and will undermine and discredit the President’s peace program at the outset. He contended that Prince Max will stand discredited and can only resign or refuse the terms in spite of the overwhelming odds against Germany. But for the present the German people will be embittered permanently, since the belief that their freedom is won, and needs only to be extended and secured, exists not only in the present Government but also among such pre-war Radicals as Maximilian Harden, Theodore Wolff and the Independent Socialists who began their recent manifesto with “German militarism has received a blow from which it can never recover.”

(Informer returned Berlin this morning.)

  1. Lithgow Osborne, Second Secretary of the Legation.
  2. Kurt Hahn; see telegrams to the Legation in the Netherlands, No. 907, Jan. 11, and No. 2335, Nov. 4; from the Legation, No. 1880, Jan. 13, and No. 1974, Jan. 30; pp. 23, 459, 26, and 59, respectively.
  3. For the replies and treaties mentioned, see notes to the Swiss Chargé, Oct. 8 and Oct. 23, ante, pp. 343 and 381; and Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. I, pp. 493 et seq.