File No. 763.72119/2424

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


2255. The Austrian note to the President requesting an armistice and peace terms reached the Italian Government Monday but only appeared in the late editions of press last night with an official Stefani comment prepared in office of Premier before he left for Paris. Comment is to following effect:

[Page 432]

Communiqué emphasizes great similarity between alleged reform and concessions granted by Hapsburgs to the oppressed nationalities, both being prompted by self-interest. Demands whether “rights of the people” admitted by Andrássy signifies same as liberation of nationalities in Hungary. Adds that Austria’s note has more submissive tone but doubts whether Andrássy, [statesman] of Hungary, until recently so submissive to Germany, is sincere in his desire for armistice without awaiting “outcome of other negotiations.” Communiqué points out the fact that these poses of Central Empires are intimately connected with their serious military condition, and reminds public of Emperor Charles’ statement in [omission] but now to fleet and army. Communiqué emphasizes the fact that Hapsburgs are making every effort to bolster up diplomatic, military, and administrative branches of the Empire and reminds the public that Austria-Hungary has always consisted of an administration and an army rather than a state either federal or national. It is therefore necessary, as with last German proposals, that conditions of armistice be settled in such a way that the conditions in themselves contain the guarantees of peace.

The foregoing appears the general opinion as reflected in the papers today; meantime the papers are full of unexpectedly successful Italian offensive.

A private Reuter telegram from London a day or two ago stated that there was reason to believe an Italian offensive would not encounter great resistance. This however proved otherwise and the stout resistance met at first caused much apprehension here in military circles lest flood in the Piave destroying pontoon bridges might prevent reenforcements being sent across. This anxiety now relieved in view of apparently diminishing resistance of Austrians and successful advance.

In this connection member of Government informs me that last night’s French communiqué, stating that Italian offensive can be seen took place only when Austria, worn out, had asked armistice, has aroused intense indignation here, and that a few such innuendoes will upset all that has been accomplished.

I learn a wireless message from Poland was picked up yesterday addressed to the Italian General Headquarters saying Austro-Hungarian forces would retire without destroying roads, railroads or bridges if allowed to retire unmolested. As message was unofficial, military operations continuing with greatest vigor.

Nelson Page