File No. 763.72119/8155

The Chargé in Switzerland ( Wilson) to the Secretary of State


2544. Professor Lammasch of Vienna now in Zurich. Department doubtless familiar with his personality. He has been a devoted [Page 61] adherent of the idea of a democratized Austria based on confederation of autonomous units, each unit comprising one racial group. In other words, an adherent of the ideas stated in my 1476, August 21,1 noon, outlining Professor Foerster’s interview with Emperor Charles. Recommend Department reread that telegram. Lammasch has charged Baron Jong, Dutch pacifist, to deliver following message to Professor George D. Herron, urging that it be brought to the attention of President Wilson. Lammasch confined to his bed in Zurich with heart trouble so unable to deliver message in person. Message follows:

In August last, Emperor Charles offered Premier[ship] to Lammasch but latter refused saying that time was not ripe to put his ideas into execution. Emperor has again urged on Lammasch that he accept task of forming a cabinet. Latter stated that he could only accept under the explicit condition that Austria should not negotiate for peace through Prussia but should make a separate peace. The Emperor unreservedly accepted these conditions. The only thing which prevents Lammasch’s immediate acceptance [is] present condition of his health.

Lammasch has just received telegram from Meinl in Vienna (see my 2363, January 7, 9 p.m.2) stating that if President Wilson will make any public recognition of Czernin speech in addressing Senate or by any other means, commenting favorably on its tone, it can be counted on with absolute certainty that Austria will continue as follows: (1) She will make peremptory demands on Germany to change tone of Hertling’s address. (2) If Germany refuses to do this, Austria is prepared to break with Germany and make a separate peace with the Allies, through American [mediation].

Jong reports that Lammasch instructed him to tell Herron:

You may assure Herron that what you have told him of Meinl’s telegram is absolutely worthy of credence. While we do not trust Czernin absolutely we do trust the Monarch, who is prepared to grant all demands of Democratic Party and is prepared to break with Germany if latter refuses to make [peace] on basis President Wilson’s message. You can go the full length of pledging me to Herron. Do entreat him to get this to President Wilson for if he does it will save democracy in Europe.

Jong also reports that Lammasch states to him that what Meinl could put in a telegram was only one-tenth of the real truth and that [Page 62] real truth went infinitely beyond what would pass the censor. When questioned on details Jong indicated that there were two parties in Vienna: one represented by Lammasch with the views above indicated, and the other the reactionary court party including diplomatists and Government officers. The Emperor is prepared to throw over all his former associates and cast in his lot with a nation founded on consent of the governed.

In this connection it seems advisable to report that during the past three days Count Pálffy, member of Austrian Legation, has made repeated and determined efforts to get into conference with Herron and latter has consistently refused to, as he considered, as I do, inadvisable to get in touch with diplomats of enemy nation accredited here. It seems possible that Pálffy, member of aristocracy, has heard some hint of this matter and is endeavoring to ascertain what it amounts to.

When the strength of tradition and the influence of his education are considered, what the Emperor proposes to do seems almost unbelievable. That he, a young man, should cut loose from the German-Austrian circles who have always [depended] on the strength of Germany to maintain their [predominance] and reach out over them to rest his power [on the] consent of the people, would demand a [breadth of] view and a strength of character which would [make] me skeptical of the whole matter were it not that it [is coupled with] a man of such undoubted integrity as Lammasch.

In view of the prevailing uneasiness in Italy since President’s message, I suggest that if it appears advisable that the President should make any public declaration in sense indicated, France and England be consulted and assurances given and steps taken in advance to convince Italian Government of our good faith towards her in this proceeding. From members of French Embassy here and well-informed Swiss it appears possible that if Italy should hear without warning of any negotiations between America and Austria she might be tempted to hurriedly conclude a separate agreement with the latter power.

Lammasch is arranging for personal interview in a discreet way with Herron as soon as former’s health permits, in order confirm this matter from his own lips.

Does Department authorize me to inform French and British chiefs of mission of foregoing?

  1. Not printed; see despatch No. 1319, Aug. 27, 1917, Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. I, pp. 201205.
  2. Not printed.