File No. 763.72119/1437
The Chargé in Switzerland ( Wilson) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 7.]
Sir: In order that the Department may have a picture as complete as possible of the conversations between Professor Lammasch and Professor George D. Herron reported in my various telegrams between January 31 and February 6,5 together with the circumstances surrounding these conversations, I have the honor to report herewith the events from the beginning in detail.[Page 83]
As was doubtless the case in all neutral countries, after the delivery of Count Czernin’s speech and his direct address to President Wilson, the atmosphere in Switzerland was electric with rumors and discussion of the probability either of further steps being taken by Austria through diplomatic channels or special agents, or of similar steps being taken by the United States. Persons who had or were supposed to have connection with this Legation were carefully watched and every movement discussed, and every important visitor who arrived from the Central Powers increased the tension.
On or about January 25 it was learned that a meeting of important Catholic members of the Governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary, together with certain dignitaries of the Church from those countries, was to be held in Zurich for the discussion of questions which peculiarly affected Catholic interests. The names mentioned in this connection were Dr. Lammasch, the Hungarian prelate from Budapest, Giesswein, and Erzberger, most prominent member of the Centrum Party of the Reichstag.
It is unnecessary to give the Department information concerning Dr. Lammasch, as his reputation as an expert on international law is well known. I believe, however, that it is due to Dr. Herron to explain that he has been forced into this matter, and that his prominence in this connection comes through no desire or effort of his own. Before the war Dr. Herron was an intimate friend of Professor Foerster of Munich, and of many other persons prominent in intellectual life in the Central Powers. He was known and trusted by them so that, while America was still neutral, it was most natural that when any of these men came to Switzerland, they called on Dr. Herron in Geneva to discuss international matters as seen through their eyes and to obtain from him the point of view with which America regarded the European cataclysm. The publication by Dr. Herron of his book entitled Woodrow Wilson and the World’s Peace, and the distribution of this book in Switzerland and Germany, led people to believe that he was an intimate friend of the President and in close and continual touch with him. When America entered the war, therefore, members of the various committees, with which Geneva is crowded, representing the subject races, called on Dr. Herron to explain the aspirations of the different units and to beg him to use his influence with the President to recognize their separate causes. The Department will remember that in August last the Legation reported by telegraph a conversation of Professor Foerster, reporting an interview which he had just had with Emperor Charles in Vienna.1 This conversation was held with Dr. Herron. Professor Foerster returned to Vienna subsequently, [Page 84]having been much impressed with Dr. Herron’s personality and views, [and] spoke of him to Dr. Lammasch, which rendered it natural that when the latter desired to deliver a message directly to the President without treating with a neutral or Allied diplomat he should turn to Dr. Herron as a means of transmission.
The series of events opened on January 28 when Baron de Jong van Beek en Donk (erroneously spelled “Jongh” in former telegrams), formerly Director of the Ministry of Justice in Holland and at present General Secretary of the Association for a Durable Peace, called at the Legation. In my absence at the moment he was received by Mr. Dulles, Second Secretary, to whom he showed a telegram from Vienna despatched by Kommerzialrat Meinl, concerning whom the Department is already informed. The telegram reads in translation as follows:
Please bring it about that my friends [sic] in Geneva report immediately on the basis of my personal assurance that the offer is entirely sincere and in earnest, and that a speedy answer to Vienna on the part of Herron’s chief would have an extraordinarily happy effect. Acknowledge the receipt of this telegram. Meinl.
The telegram needs some explanation; the “friend” referred to is Dr. Herron, the “offer” is Czernin’s speech, and “Herron’s chief” is naturally President Wilson. Mr. Dulles asked Baron Jong what he thought of Meinl and was informed that Meinl was a personal friend of the Emperor and generally understood to be a political opponent of Czernin’s. Dr. Jong felt that this latter fact made his statement in regard to Czernin’s message of especial weight. A copy of the telegram was retained in the Legation.
(It seems advisable to report here an event that occurred some days later in the Swiss Foreign Office in a conversation with Mr. Parravicini, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The latter suddenly asked me whether I knew Baron Jong van Beek en Donk, to which I replied that he had called at the Legation, but that I was out and had not met him. Mr. Parravicini then informed me that Baron Jong had declared that he had been commissioned by the Legation to obtain certain information from Austria-Hungary. Mr. Parravicini added that it was not an espionage case, but that the information which he declared he was trying to obtain for the Legation related to political matters. I replied that the Legation had given Baron Jong no such commission and I could not understand his making such a declaration.)
On the afternoon of the following day, Tuesday the 29th, Dr. Herron telephoned me from Geneva and informed me in a guarded way that Baron Jong had given him a message of great interest, and that he, Dr. Herron, would reach Berne on Thursday evening, the [Page 85]31st, for a meeting concerning which he would give me the details on arrival.
On the succeeding day, the 30th, Colonel Godson, the military attaché, informed me that he had learned from Colonel Pageot, the military attaché of the French Embassy, that he had heard that a meeting was under discussion between Professor Herron and Professor Lammasch, and he urged upon Colonel Godson to insist on the utmost discretion in this matter as public opinion in Italy was in an extremely nervous state in view of the political tension. That the British service was also aware of this matter I also learned, since on reaching Geneva on Tuesday, the 29th, Baron Jong had shown the telegram above quoted and discussed the possible meeting with Dr. Herron in the presence of Commander Whitall and Mr. Edwards, special agents of the British Government.
On Thursday evening, the 31st, Dr. Herron reported to me the results of a series of conversations with Baron Jong, of which I informed the Department in my telegram No. 2544.1 Baron Jong was presumably acting as the mouthpiece of Professor Lammasch, who at that time was confined to his bed in Zurich. The rough outlines of the plan which was subsequently developed in detail by Lammasch himself were then reported, and the principles for which the Emperor and Dr. Lammasch stood in Austria-Hungary. He also reported the distrust with which the Emperor and Professor Lammasch regarded Czernin, and spoke of the Emperor’s offer to Lammasch of the premiership, but was apparently mistaken in declaring that the latter intended to accept this post.
I have already mentioned to the Department in my telegram above cited the incident of Count Pálffy’s desire to be put in touch with Dr. Herron, as it is highly probable that his sudden and persistent efforts were not unrelated to the principal matter in hand. Professor Herron was acquainted with a Mr. Rudolf Kommer, an Austrian of supposedly liberal views, correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung and Neue Freie Presse of Vienna, and formerly correspondent of the New York Evening Post. Mr. Kommer informed Dr. Herron that Count Pálffy was anxious to make his acquaintance and urged Dr. Herron to meet him, as it would give Dr. Herron the opportunity of interpreting to a responsible and intelligent Austrian the ideals which actuated President Wilson. Dr. Herron provisionally refused this request, as he did not feel that it was appropriate or discreet that he should have any connection whatever with a member of the Austrian Legation regularly assigned to this country. In a subsequent conversation I informed Dr. Herron that I was in full accord with his position in this [Page 86]matter, and I sincerely hoped that he would maintain this attitude. On the 27th of January Mr. Kommer, however, sent a telegram from Berne to Geneva, informing Dr. Herron that he and Count Pálffy would call that evening, as the matter was of the utmost importance. Dr. Herron requested a Swiss friend to meet them and reiterate courteously his refusal to receive them. Count Pálffy and Mr. Kommer spent the night in Geneva and made repeated efforts on the following day to persuade Dr. Herron both by telephone and through third persons to receive them.
Mr. York-Steiner, who is known to any members of the staff of the former American Embassy in Vienna who may be in Washington called on the 2d of February on business connected with the sale of Austrian ships to Phelps Brothers of New York through the agency of Ferruccio Schiavon of Lucerne. Mr. York-Steiner is one of the directors of the Austro-Amerikana Line. In conversation with Mr. Dulles, Mr. York-Steiner, who had on previous occasions stated that he was a personal friend of Lammasch and who had also brought to the Legation’s attention that Dr. Lammasch was then in Switzerland, inquired whether I would see Professor Lammasch. Mr. Dulles replied that this was a matter which he could not discuss. Mr. York-Steiner then inquired who Dr. Herron was, thereby showing that he too had some knowledge that a meeting was contemplated between Professor Lammasch and Dr. Herron. Mr. Dulles replied that Professor Herron was a personal friend of mine, whose opinions were valued, that he was a man of discretion, but that he had no official position or any connection with the United States Government.
After describing Baron Jong’s report of Professor Lammasch’s views, Professor Herron informed me on the same Thursday night that a meeting had been arranged at Professor Lammasch’s request, so that there could be no question in the mind of President Wilson that the message was not authentic or accurate, so that Professor Lammasch with his own lips could give a thorough statement of the Emperor’s beliefs. The place of meeting was to be in the château of a friend of Dr. Lammasch, a German named Von Muehlon, in château Hofgut in the town of Guemlingen [Gümligen], near Berne. I have subsequently made discreet inquiries in regard to Von Muehlon and find that he is recognized by all who know him as a man of most unusual personality and capabilities. All who come in contact with him are impressed with his clearness of mind and purity of faith and belief in the future of a regenerated Germany. He is apparently a man who started with no advantages, and entirely by his own ability became one of the directors of Krupp, and then, with the whole German world open before him, still in his youth, gave it all up for’ his; conviction that Germany was profoundly wrong in this struggle and a menace to civilization.[Page 87]
Some days before these events a man resembling Dr. Herron was knocked down in front of Dr. Herron’s house, his papers were rifled as he lay unconscious, and the assailants fled without stealing anything. The attack was obviously an attempt against Professor Herron, who has been for months past shadowed in his every move. It was therefore clear that in as momentous a matter as this, which the Pan-Germans would have such tremendous interest in interrupting, all precautions must be taken to insure Dr. Herron’s safety both in coming from Geneva and in visiting Guemlingen. It was therefore arranged that an interned British sergeant should accompany him from his house in Geneva to the house of his father-in-law in Berne, where he passed Saturday night. The sergeant acted as guard through the entire trip, although dressed in civilian clothes. In order to avoid all risks in proceeding to Guemlingen, the military attaché and Lieutenant Dewald, both armed, accompanied Dr. Herron in my automobile, which had been closed to prevent the recognition of any of these persons. Professor Herron got out at the door, the other two did not descend, so that there was no risk of their being seen. The car then continued and returned some three hours later and brought Dr. Herron back to his father-in-law’s house.
Professor Herron returned on Sunday afternoon from his interview, and I requested him to give me a statement of what passed in the presence of a stenographer, so that I might be able to report the matter as completely as possible. I have already sent to the Department in my despatch No. 2321, of February 4,1 the verbatim copy of this report. In order to make this document complete, the report is again inserted.
When I got home, so as to try to be sure that I wouldn’t forget anything, I made some notes from memory so as to get everything. So I will just follow these because I have got it here in consecutive order.
Well, to begin with, I made it perfectly clear to Lammasch that I had no kind of official mandate, either actual or implied; that he must have that perfectly clear; that I had come at his invitation because he was a friend of a special friend of mine, Professor Foerster; that we wanted to talk it over. Of course he replied then as a matter of courtesy that he had no official mandate, which he proceeded to disprove right away. He told me just how he had come solely for the purpose of this interview. The Emperor, urged on by the Empress, was getting more and more anxious for a change, and they wanted to find some way of getting a confidential message through to President Wilson that would not be known by Germany or, naturally, their other allies. So, not going into details, Professor Foerster is a very generous and loyal friend, and has spoken often about me in an exaggerated way, and so they concluded that the thing to do was to get the interview with me. Of course it is all [Page 88]helped by this irrepressible rumor that I have told you about. So that this actually is directly what the Emperor wants to get through confidentially to President Wilson, and Secretary Lansing, of course, and by as narrow a channel as possible so as few as possible shall know of it.
This interview began with the fate of the world hanging on building some kind of a bridge between Vienna and Washington, and considering the way to build that bridge. I told him then that it was best for him to talk and make all of his propositions and let me get clearly before me just what he had to propose, or, as he assured me over and over again, that he was really speaking as the Emperor, and then I would say whatever I felt I could say afterwards. So I simply listened to his presentment of the case.
First—as to Czernin’s message. He said quite frankly that Czernin was not to be trusted; that Czernin, although he wanted to be liberal in a sense, had no less the Prussian mentality, and was under the influence of Prussia; and that the Emperor personally forced Czernin to make that speech, and also exacted from him a promise that the speech should be transmitted formally to President Wilson from Austria. It was so started and Germany stopped it. Didn’t permit it to go out. Germany never told them so, but they know. I said that I only knew what was said yesterday in the papers; that Secretary Lansing said it had not officially reached them. He said he was afraid not, and that Germany didn’t probably transmit it. The only possible way to transmit it was through Holland or Denmark, or up that way, and Germany failed to transmit it that way. The Emperor told Czernin very flatly that he must make that speech or resign and give way to somebody that would make it. The speech was a pale and halting presentation of the way the Emperor wanted himself to have it said. It was a case of force majeure. So much for that point.
I brought in there the question about the possibility of his forming a Ministry himself in case some kind of an understanding, or some kind of a preliminary understanding, were effected with Washington. He said—no, he wouldn’t do that under the circumstances; the difficulties would be too great, but he would probably become Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the new order of things came. He said that he was personally well acquainted with Secretary Lansing.
Next, getting more definite. The whole heart of the Emperor is in effecting a great change in the constitution of the Monarchy, in getting extricated from Prussian hegemony, and in getting a reorientation, especially with America. He said that the Emperor is honest in this and determined in it, and that he is especially backed up by the Empress, whom he describes as extraordinarily clever and forcible.
The plan which Professor Lammasch has worked out with the Emperor then is this: That first President Wilson would make a public address of some kind in recognition of Czernin’s address as indicating some sort of preparedness on the part of Austria toward peace. He can address whomever he pleases—the Senate, a labor union, or the high heavens, so long as he makes a public recognition. Then the next move would be that the Emperor himself would write a long letter to the Pope, at the same time publishing the letter to the [Page 89]world, in which he would set forth as far as he can under existing circumstances (you will see later what those circumstances are) the desire for the integration and separate development of the people within the bounds of the Austrian Monarchy. He would have to say this in principle rather than geographic details.
Second. The desire for mutual disarmament and the society of nations, exactly as proposed by President Wilson, with the additional statement that if the peace congress would begin with these principles instead of the geographic details, then the questions of the old frontiers would lose their significance and would be easier for arrangement. That is, if the society of nations should be established, and the principle of disarmament agreed upon, every people everywhere, throughout the world, or at least within the society of nations, should have the right of choice of self-government, or at least autonomy. If the principle were made so that it included, well for instance, by implication, Ireland as well as the Irredenta, then it didn’t become so important as to what particular governmental center the different groups of people belong. That if they would begin with these principles, then the questions of Alsace-Lorraine, of the Irredenta and all other questions would be easier of negotiation. You can see that there is plenty of room for illusion there, but I am only reporting the Emperor’s proposition which he would include in the proposition to the Pope. That would be the second part of the plan.
Then follows Professor Lammasch’s scheme for the new Austria which is to integrate, to put together, all the different peoples of Austria, each in separate states. He would group all the Yugo-Slavs that are in the bounds of the Austrian Empire into a new state. That includes Croatia, Slavonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, into one single state. I know what your questions are. And he would group all the Poles into another state; the Austrians into another state; Transylvania into another; the Magyars or Hungarians strictly speaking into another state; the Italians left within the bounds of the Empire into a province, into an independent province, making Trieste an international port, something like the old free cities.
But this new Austria cannot be created by virtue of any power that the Emperor, or Professor Lammasch or their friends now possess. America must help us to do this. How? As a preface to his answer to “How”, we, and I am always speaking of “we” as “Austria”, have two great enemies. They are the Magyars, the Hungarians proper, who dominate the whole Empire and whose power is so great that we can do nothing. Our second great enemy, I think maybe equal enemy, is Prussia, who because of our internal situation establishes practically a hegemony over us. America must save us from these two enemies. But how? By making it the explicit requirement or condition of peace that Austria shall give integration and autonomy to all the existing national groups within the boundaries of the Austrian Empire.
I naturally said—But this is quite in contradiction to Czernin. Do you mean to say that you would permit us to dictate as to the internal construction of your Empire? His reply was extraordinary:—We will not only permit you, we beg you. The Emperor will embrace you. I could hardly believe my own ears. Then [Page 90]follows next: If America will make those explicit conditions of peace to us, we will accept them. We will then confront Germany with the demand that she make peace, and that we accept those conditions. Germany dare not refuse. Of course, I naturally said, What if Germany refuses? First, Germany dare not refuse, and here came out a secret which he remembered very well but probably wanted me to infer it. If Germany refuses, Bavaria and Württemberg and all South Germany will refuse and join us, and, therefore, Germany dare not refuse. It will result in the instant breaking up of Germany. Still, I pressed the question—if she does? Then as a last resort Austria will separate and make her own peace.
He asked me then—of course, this was two hours long and I am giving you the naked outline—he asked me then for a frank reply to all this, and I said, of course, you understand I only express my personal opinion, but it is now half past twelve o’clock and we have been together more than two hours, and I would prefer to think over this over night, Professor Lammasch, before I should tell you what I personally think, and then it is getting late and you are tired and ought to rest, and immediately he said, then we will arrange tomorrow for the same hour, if you will, and to that I agreed. He said the house was at our disposal.
Having finished his actual statement of what Lammasch proposed, Professor Herron continued and gave me an outline of his impressions of the speaker and of the Emperor as reflected by Dr. Lammasch, and of how the proposal appealed to him, coming as he did fresh from its effects.
Now going on from there. I don’t feel that I can stop here even now. I must say what I think while it is on my mind, because I wouldn’t want to have the responsibility of reporting and presenting all this without, however worthless it might be, saying how it appears to me. I must do that, because you see I gather this from the whole trend of everything. First of all, Austria is not playing Germany’s game. Of that I am sure. I am sure that she is trying to use America to get free of Germany. On the other hand she is playing Austria’s game, and playing it for all she is worth. Secondly, she is playing the Pope’s game. Behind all this nationality conversation that comes out, and he used the expression two or three times—a dream of the young Emperor encouraged in every way by the Pope to restore again in a modernized form the Holy Roman Empire. That I saw as of that the whole pattern was being woven, and I saw it all.
Now Professor Lammasch himself has the motive of: (1) to save Austria; (2) he has a very paternal feeling toward his pupil, toward the young Emperor personally. And that enters into it much more than an outlook upon the condition of the world as a whole so far as Professor Lammasch personally is concerned. That is a kind of a parenthesis.
Now going on again into the Emperor’s dream. He sees that the old order passeth, and that whatever the future is it must be by some sort of seizure of the new order. He sometimes used to me the words of the Emperor. I was forced to feel this even though [Page 91]I wanted to feel something else. I went searching for a door as for hidden treasure. My whole attitude was of one wanting to see a door through which a possibility of building a bridge could be seen. But the whole attitude of the Emperor and even of Professor Lammasch, if you submit it to any kind of searching analysis, is that of wanting to capture and use the new order, and not to serve the new order. There is as much difference between the two as between heaven and hell, or black and white. It is the old method by which Constantine adopted Christianity and destroyed it; by which the Roman Catholic Church adopted St. Francis. It is the old method that has prevailed throughout history. And then this idea of handing out in a paternal way as of a benevolent autocrat liberties of a kind to peoples, thereby binding them by better chains, chains with more gold even, to the throne seemed to me simply reactionism masquerading. I asked him many questions, but after all it was not the interest of these people, it was not actually a true vision of the new order, it was an attempt to really establish a benevolent autocracy in place of the old Habsburg autocracy. In other words across this golden bridge between Vienna and Washington it seemed to me that Austria wouldn’t be walking into the future, but America would be walking into the past. That is the picture that came to me in the course of his presentation. And then finally I couldn’t even with Professor Lammasch see anything but an almost greedy, evil, or in one sense parochial point of view. Good man that he is, I couldn’t see that he understood, that there was anything that indicated he understood the program which President Wilson had presented to the world of wanting, of literally making the world a world of democratic peoples, of free, self-governing peoples. I couldn’t see that either he or the Emperor, as he presented it, had grasped that with mentality, that after all it was only a somewhat glorified and yet no less masquerading and sordid self-preservation that they were seeking for.
We could take advantage of this situation and make separate peace with Austria. Of that I am sure. I am also sure that if we did it, in the end the last state of the world might be worse than the first, but we would betray, and without meaning to, the hopes of all these peoples of the world that are looking to us. Even in this conversation it came out that not in the whole history of the world has the world looked to a nation as it new looks to America. Looks to us, it trusts us. It looks to us to make good our platform of a world democracy and people in fellowship with each other. And so the world has never looked to a man as it now looks to President Wilson and has never trusted a man as it trusts President Wilson. And I came away feeling what I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to find an open door, you see. I came away feeling that with all that I had in hand at that moment—we must let Austria wait, we must keep on. We really would destroy by this compromise, if we come to a measure of compromise, that faith that is rising in the hearts of all these peoples in the world, and I have been thinking ever since I left him that, terrible as it is, and I tell you ever since I have seen you last I have sweated blood every night over this, to say that it is real if it costs all these millions of our lives and actually breaks up and smashes the old world, and makes a new one, it is [Page 92]worth it. I came away with the feeling that this is a case of Satan appearing as an angel. You know the old expression. This is what I am saying to you. I haven’t said anything to him.
This statement finished the formal portion of the report. I thereupon questioned Dr. Herron, and shall report his answers as taken down by the stenographer, merely summarizing my questions.
I asked him first what he intended to tell Professor Lammasch when he returned. His answer follows:
I didn’t eat; I went alone to be quiet and think out what I should say to him because, of course, I wanted to say it to you first, you see. This is what I have in mind to say to him, as how it looks to me, representing nobody but myself, of course.
“I will express to you, Professor Lammasch, the frank opinion of how this looks to me. First—If the Emperor really wants the confidence of America and of our President, and can cooperate with America upon the basis of the President’s total program, not merely this last speech, for a world of free and democratic peoples, let him prove it first by his own initiative in his own Empire. He cannot put his moral responsibility for this initiative upon someone else, not upon President Wilson, not upon anyone. Let him act first and then ask help afterwards.
“Second—Instead of appealing to President Wilson [for] help, if he believes in this new world, let him throw himself upon his own people. He has a constitutional right under his autocratic government to make the proclamation to all his people, announcing to them that he wishes each group to consider itself free, to form itself according to its own affiliations; not that he is handing down something to these people, but that he is taking his hands off these people, and giving them the right to say what they want. He can say that he is at their service to form a federation, and he will remain their presidential Emperor, but let him throw himself upon these people, and instantly without any asking, I am sure, he would have the unanimous acclaim of the American people. This was the second thing I have to say to him.
“But even in an apparently benevolent way he cannot ask us to help him to impose a new and better autocratic order upon these people. He must act first.”
And then in conclusion I shall try to point out to him to try to put before the Emperor that if he would do the complete thing, if he would really take a complete step, not try to bargain with somebody, but take this bold initiative, he has got an opportunity that hasn’t come to a ruler in at least two thousand years. He can take the moral leadership of Europe. He can put himself here in Europe on the same platform that President Wilson stands on in America, and that not in all history of Christianity has such a ruler had such an opportunity, and he won’t have it long. Here is a door open to him. I will try to impress it on Professor Lammasch, just as I have presented it to you, and Professor Lammasch is going straight from here tomorrow night to the Emperor, try to bring this whole thing up into some higher plane where it realty becomes [Page 93]a question of a new public morality in the world, of a new organization of people with each other, and show him that he has not a chance to save the Austrian Empire, not to serve his dynasty, but to really serve humanity, and to really take the lead to ending the war. Try to make him catch that. That is what I would say to him. It may be very foolish, but that is what I would try to impress upon him.
But I would also try to show Professor Lammasch the inherent immorality of asking us to make Austria be good. I am putting it like that; or Austria to invite us to make her be good because she has no power to herself. I am only telling you in this manner. But if she can’t propose a course of freedom and righteousness because it is freedom and righteousness and take this of her own initiative, she would have no power to carry out her bargain if she made a bargain. But I said to him—you know, Professor Lammasch, I suppose, that your allies are not true to you; that Germany would welcome your disintegration tomorrow, even to establishing a Bolsheviki in your Empire in order that she might come in and take possession of you. Oh,—he said,—I know all that. I said—You know even that Bulgaria would make a separate peace, if she could. He said—Is that true? I said—Yes, I know personally that it is true. He said—May I tell the Emperor that? That Bulgaria is trying to make a separate peace right now? I thought it was a good thing that they should know what is going on behind their backs. I only presented it as a personal fact, and thought it wise to sow the seeds of distrust, to encourage the seeds of distrust between Austria and her allies. I didn’t give him any particulars. (No gentleman’s name was mentioned?) No, nor was it said that I spoke as a participant in the conference or negotiations. Nothing of our report was mentioned. It was merely to sow the seeds. The more trouble you can make between those allies the better. But it didn’t reveal anything else.
I asked him who was present, and he informed me that the conversation between Lammasch and himself had been entirely without witnesses, that Baron Jong van Beek en Donk was in Hofgut, as was Von Muehlon, but that both had retired and left them alone.
I pointed out to Dr. Herron that Baron Jong had reported that Lammasch was going to accept the Premiership, whereas Lammasch had stated differently. Dr. Herron’s reply follows:
Yes. He has actually been offered it. He says the reason is not only his health, but having had absolutely no political connections at his age, having lived a wholly academic life, that it would be practically impossible that he could make the thing workable, but that he does feel that he could handle and carry through the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under this regime and in that capacity represent Austria at the table of peace.
I inquired whether Lammasch had covered the question of the representation of the minorities actually mixed in among the various racial groups, whether for instance his plan would not be in [Page 94]Bohemia a mere ousting of the German hegemony with the substitution of the Czech hegemony; in other words, whether any system such as was formerly provided under our primary laws for the representation of minorities such as Scandinavian, Irish and others in our big cities, would be provided. Dr. Herron’s reply follows:
It would have to be a system of suffrage that would represent both. Of course, the Magyars will fight it to death, and he says they can’t do it except under compulsion, and that is how they come to invite a compulsion from America.
I then asked whether they desired the President to make a declaration specifying the necessity for a change in the internal government of Austria before or after the letter had been addressed to the Pope, as this matter was not clear in Dr. Herron’s declaration. His reply follows:
To succeed his letter to the Pope. All they ask now is that President Wilson shall give them a lead in the sense of saying that it looks as though Austria was ready to enter the society of nations, and to make peace. They don’t ask anything specific. He will simply say that Czernin made a speech and he will make something that is approximately as definite as Czernin’s, and then Czernin will probably be pulled out of it, and after that the Emperor takes it in hand himself, and then the Emperor will go as far as he dares go in his answer to the Pope, and then will be the time for President Wilson. There are four moves.
At the end I asked Dr. Herron whether he believed that the Emperor and Professor Lammasch were consciously playing a game, or whether they were utterly sincere in their determination. His reply follows:
I don’t think they are consciously playing a game. I don’t think they are deliberately playing a game in the sense of trying to entrap America, for instance. On the other hand, they are seeking to bargain with America. They want to get the price guaranteed before they deliver anything toward the new order. They are actuated by motives of different kinds, of self-preservation, to restore the hegemony of Austria among the German states. I implied it all along that if this came about Bavaria and Württemberg might come along. I inferred this.
It won’t exist if Austria takes the voluntary first step. Then it would put the whole thing upon a different basis, or at least it wouldn’t exist in any degree as it does now.
It is asking a faith of us which has no warrant yet in the past history of America, or scarcely in the political history of the world at all, and I would like to go beyond your question and say it is asking of us to take a step which might turn out to be without our foreseeing it and without Austria foreseeing it, and both of us being perfectly sincere, a stupendous camouflage, so to speak, on the part of Germany. I mean it might result in creating an atmosphere of [Page 95]peace in the world which would paralyze the resistance of the world, create an expectation in England, in France and America, and certainly in Italy, of peace, of thinking peace was on the way, and Germany [might] literally take advantage of that so that it would become a stupendous camouflage. It is a risk we take and which I have been thinking much of. I intended to speak of it and forget it. I think that it is a very great risk.
Finally Dr. Herron added a statement which he had forgotten to make in his formal report, that Professor Lammasch had proposed that Albania, which has no nationality, should be given to Serbia as a compensation, Montenegro to be free to do what it likes.
After Dr. Herron had finished reporting to me the interview with Professor Lammasch, he informed me that on leaving the latter’s presence, the owner of the house, Herr von Muehlon, had taken him into his library and had talked to him in a manner which I have reported in my telegram No. 2578, of February 5.1. The stenographer also took down in shorthand Dr. Herron’s report of this conversation. The report is transmitted as received, as the vigor and life in the words would be lost if it was attempted to put the statement into more formal shape.
When I went in Herr von Muehlon met me himself, took me into his library and said,—I am only acting as host here and I will assume that I don’t know what you and Professor Lammasch are going to talk about, although naturally I know why he comes. I would like to talk with you myself after he has gone. I said—Certainly, I will talk with you.
Now I must say a word about who he is. He was before the war a very important figure in the German Empire. His position seems a contradictory one. He was director of the Krupp Works, but four years before the war he resigned. He had become a believer in international disarmament. He attended the Hague Tribunal and worked there. He sought all sorts of channels for activity for making a change in Germany. He came to believe that the Prussian mentality was a menace of the world. He found he could do nothing with the Socialists because of their materialism which he found to be very sordid, and their depending on antique political methods. He could do nothing with the Kaiser. He resigned, but the Kaiser persuaded him to stay, and even the young Emperor joined in this persuasion. All this I know from Foerster.
And immediately the war broke out, he repudiated the whole action of Germany; put himself squarely against the Kaiser and all that had happened, and came and bought this château (in Switzerland) and has lived in absolute retirement ever since. That is the preliminary to the man.
Going on with this I must say that I haven’t met a man in Europe since the war began who had made upon me such an impression that he has. I have never met a German, not even Foerster, who made such an impression upon me. He is a very extraordinary man. The [Page 96]only man I have met in all Europe since this war began that soberly and seriously I could conceive of as having the capacity and character, both the brain and the heart, to do the great thing in the great crisis. I think he is the biggest man of the biggest size and understanding of any European I have met since the war began.
The things then that he wanted to present to me were these. He immediately said,—Of course, you don’t need to make any replies to me about Lammasch, and what he is here for. I know him well, and I know the Emperor well (Karl). I know all the Austrians well, and I know well what he is here for, and why they are trying to reach America, and I know all that is going on; and he showed me a telegram from Foerster, and said—I have received this telegram a half an hour before you came, of a great Catholic professor who is working for this ideal; who is coming to Switzerland to see you. Foerster sent it to me. He said—I know all that is going on, and I want to say to you that it is a great delusion, that neither the Emperor, nor Professor Lammasch, nor Professor Foerster, nor all of these men, good men as they are, can put it through. That is the first thing he said.
“I want to say another thing which is a reason for America holding on. Not until yesterday have I believed a revolution is possible in Germany.” He said—I have men straight from Germany. I tell you this in confidence, but you are at liberty to let it be known to your President through the necessary channels, of course; a revolution is preparing, is under way in Germany, and will be a real one. Just hold on long enough—he said—this is a revolution that is springing out of the earth. The Socialist leaders themselves have lost control of the working men. They are trying to prevent this revolution, but they can’t control it. He said—The revolution at last, I am glad to say, is at last under way in Germany. He said—It is coming right out of the soil as the French Revolution did. He said—I never would have said this before to-day, but to-day for the first time I am beginning to hope for Germany. He said—there will be other men talking to me in another room who will know nothing about your presence when you are here, and men of authority and men of high plans. I have few friends, but I have a few, but this is under way, and I don’t think the Kaiser or the Junkers will be able to prevent it now. It is really serious. And the Socialist leaders can’t prevent it. He said—The earth is trembling down beneath, and for that reason don’t compromise. Hold on!
He said—I say to you in Germany, I have suffered for Germany; I am German of the Germans; I have renounced everything. The Kaiser would have given him anything. He had anything he wanted in Germany, but, he said, this is what I want to say: America must keep on for the sake of Germany, and for the sake of the world. Either Germany will ruin humanity, or Germany must be made to repent. He said—There is a spirit in Germany and it has been growing. The whole nation had become obsessed with it, and we were a nation gone mad; that is what is going on out in the world, and the world doesn’t understand it, and I have for ten years seen that my country would be the ruin of humanity. The only thing that can save us is, first, a military defeat, no matter at what cost, and it must be at the hands of America, or better, [Page 97]but even that won’t do us any good except as a prelude to a repentance of our own; as breaking the way to it. He said—We must change the whole heart of Germany. The German people are like sheep. They have never had any mental development in spite of the fact that the world takes our side. If the master say—Go here, they go here; if he say—Go there, they go there. It would be better for us that we should be absolutely made subject and that the Allies should literally govern us for ten years, and then he went on to say—a peculiar thing for a German to say—you know, the commonest French workman is a more intelligent man than the ablest German professor. He has more mentality, more individuality than the ablest German professor. And he said—These people, possessed as they are by these leaders, having been drilled into them that this thing is so, have run amuck the world. He said—Go on and the revolution will take place.
Well, finally, every one of these people who come, Professor Lammasch, even to some degree Professor Foerster, who is my bosom friend, he said, are trying to prevent Germany from having to face the naked truth about her own responsibility in this matter. And he said—Germany is lost and she will yet drag the world down if she isn’t made to face the naked fact of her own responsibility for what she has done, and be made to make it good. Germany must be made not only to surrender Belgium, but by an act of restitution of the wrongs she has done so far as humanly possible make that confession of wrong. She must be made to restore Alsace-Lorraine as the symbol of a wrong she has done years ago. She must be made to do that to France. Germany must be made to face this retribution; to face the naked truth. That was his statement.
Then came the supplementary article. You see the speech that Hertling has made—trying to put the responsibility off on the Allies. On the 15th day of July, 1914, Helfferich came to me and presented me the whole program for this war, and said to me—Now we have arranged that Austria will do this. She will present an impossible ultimatum to Serbia. This was on the 15th of July, before the war. He outlined the whole program to me of how it was arranged between Germany and Austria, and it was then that he resigned and immediately washed his hands of everything. Now he says that the German people are fed with this idea and they don’t know it. I have written out a complete statement, he said, for my own sake, to be left to posterity, of exactly what happened in this interview between Helfferich and myself on the 15th of July. He said—I was willing to take all the consequences of having that published in Germany, and there is not a paper or person will dare be responsible for speaking or publishing it in Germany. He said it ought to come to be made known in Germany first. Then I said, when would you be willing to give that statement to me to be forwarded to the President? He reflected a moment and said—I will give that statement to you to be forwarded to the President with the understanding that he keeps it confidential until I have made still an effort which I am trying to make even now, to have this published before the German people. Give me still an opportunity. If I fail, then I will release the President from his confidence, and he may publish it to the world. He said here is the [Page 98]thing absolutely, and I am prepared to back it up. I think that he decided to operate upon this ground, that something might happen in the end, after all, and he liked to have it where the truth was secret. That came out in our conversation. You understand perfectly that he is fully aware that he takes his life in hand in this.
The man himself I must say made a tremendous impression upon me. He is not more than forty years of age. You would be impressed just as much as I.
He said—You don’t need to make great offensives, to make even great demonstrations; just hold fast; don’t let Germany break through. Just let the German people see that Germany can’t go on. You don’t need to make such great sacrifices; you don’t need to make offensives; but you do need to make walls of defense.
Dr. Herron and I discussed at some length the observations which he proposed to make on Professor Lammasch’s statement. It is needless to reiterate the arguments used; I took the position that the practical difficulties of what Professor Herron was asking were nearly insuperable and more than could be demanded of human nature. At the end I begged him earnestly to make a complete statement to Professor Lammasch, not only telling the whole truth as to his lack of any connection with the American Government, but more important still, to convince Professor Lammasch of that truth, so that he would know that the decision still rested exclusively with the Government of the United States and the proposal was without prejudice whatever the views of Dr. Herron. This Dr. Herron assured me he would do, and this I am persuaded he did thoroughly, as shown by his report of the next meeting.
The same precautions as to Dr. Herron’s visit were taken for the next meeting, and upon returning from Guemlingen he at once reported to me and made his statement for the second time in the presence of myself and a stenographer. The verbatim report follows, on which my telegram No. 2582, of February 6,1 was based.
I went to him and said,—At first I want to make clear the exact situation, Professor Lammasch. I have transmitted as literally and accurately as possible the whole of our conference of yesterday to our Minister, to transmit to President Wilson as you requested. But of course you must understand I cannot even attempt to guess for you what his decision will be. About that I have absolutely nothing to say. You must understand that in this case I am only acting as a reporter of what is taking place. You must know that I have no idea whatever of what he will say. I don’t want you to imply anything that is apart from anything I may say personally.
I then said,—Professor Lammasch, you have asked me to speak to you frankly as to my personal feeling about your offer. I must be frank. You are my superior in years, in wisdom, in eminence and authority, and I say what I say in all humility, but I must say to you what I think you can do since you have asked me.[Page 99]
We discussed at length yesterday the probable situation of Europe in a little while if the war continues, and I want to unfold that a little more as it looks to me. Europe is trembling in this position: The danger of Bolsheviki revolution, or, or and, in the midst of that, a Prussian domination of Europe. Then in the end America would be face to face with one or the other European condition. That is a possibility. In any case the thing that appalls me here in Europe is the utter lack of leadership. No man has really risen to the occasion, and the nations of Europe are greatly in need of such a man. The nations are really driven by a kind of a blind fatalism, except Germany, who knows exactly what she wants, and it is possible that the abyss awaits you all and you may go into it. There is all the more reason for considering what can be done.
Then the next point is that they are all driven because they are bound up with an obsolete diplomacy, a diplomacy which is absolutely inadequate to act in the present situation. You are all of you hanging about the musty doors of Vienna in 1815, and you don’t realize the conditions of to-day. And there is no use in trying to solve the problems by methods that are really archaic, and archaic because they are Machiavellian. The time has come when righteousness is the only thing that is practicable, and you ought to see that as a man of experience.
And going on with that, a still more appalling thing is that each of these nations, especially those related to you, are unable to get any point of view that is not essentially medieval or parochial. You don’t any of you seem able to consider Europe as a whole, to say nothing of humanity, and you are all losing your lives in trying to save them, whereas if one of you could really rise up and consider yourself as a part of the whole and make some act of renunciation, you would be saving yourself.
Then I took up the peace and discussed the peace that he had proposed the day before and tried to show him that it was really founded in unrighteousness and immorality, that it was based upon barbary and not based upon any sense of a nation really trying to do right, of a nation really trying to be just both to the people within its borders and to the people without its borders, and that we had reached a point that no matter how much the world had to suffer, whether we called it evolution or not, we would not get out of this spirit until we had a peace based upon justice between nations, that would involve the fellowship of nations; that we might have righteousness without peace, but never peace without righteousness. “Not even with your proposal; good man as you are, and great as you are, you do not seem to have risen to any really great conception of the opportunity of Austria. Do you permit me to say that?” He said,—Yes.
Then I came to my application.—Can’t you persuade your Emperor, can’t you present this to him, you, with your intimacy with him, and you are supposed to have more influence on him than anyone else? He replied,—I think I have.—Why can’t you go back to him now and try to present to him just what I am presenting to you? Present to him first Europe and its situation as I have presented it to you, and then his opportunity to take a great historical initiative, not to try to save Austria, but to really try to save Europe. He has an opportunity which a ruler has not had in two thousand years to [Page 100]really use initiative. He won’t have it long. The door is open now, but it will be closed soon if he doesn’t take it. Can’t you persuade him to take it? Can’t you persuade him not to take tentative steps, but to do the utmost, to take the really great initiative in this moment? It is a time when we have to have done with what is merely probable. I can recall to you as a university man that when Plato finished his “Doctrine of Probabilities”, he concluded with the observation that we must always remember that the improbable was the greatest of probabilities. And this is the time when something that would seem fantastic and a great act of daring, it is only that which can save Europe from catastrophe, from a long war with America, or perhaps both. If you can put this vision of his opportunity before him for a great spiritual leadership here in Europe, appeal to the higher sort of ambition, show him what a toy the crown of Poland would be if it could be added to him as compared with this act of daring, how all these things are trifles. And show him this, that if he goes half way, he will probably fail. If he goes the whole way, he may succeed. And even if he fails, that failure will be a greater success and have a greater influence on humanity and on his own ultimate destinies than any success he could achieve by any kind of crown.
He raised the question now as to particulars of all these nationalities.—You wanted yesterday to reduce the geographical details to the background, as incidental. They are not incidental. Those are the symbols of the whole thing.
But what can we do with the Italians?—he asked.—Couldn’t you create of the Irredenta an Italian province, giving to Trieste the University that it wants, and giving this Italian state or province autonomy without any string to it at all; home rule to govern itself, and asking it to remain within the Empire for a while and try it, but agreeing that after five or ten years of this experiment they should have a plebiscite to decide what they wish? Can’t you do that?
It seemed a tremendous venture to him, but he admitted that it might be done. He said he would propose it. He admitted it as a possibility. Then again I emphasized,—Try it, but don’t half try it. Go the whole length of the thing. Do it completely with the utmost spiritual daring and completeness, have him throw himself absolutely upon his people, but don’t play with anything so big as this. Don’t bargain with it. You can’t drive a bargain with a big political division. You must absolutely seize it and identify yourself with it. Say to him, Professor Lammasch, and you ought to be able to do this, you who are not only a professor but an apostle almost of the Catholic Church, that the very faith would enable the Emperor to do this, the very faith on your part to urge him to do it would in itself almost warrant its fulfillment. And his people will respond, I am sure. I believe they would respond to this where they would not respond to half of it.
And then I said in conclusion that if he would take this step, that if he would act first and then appeal to America afterwards, the whole of America would rise up and acclaim him, not only Wilson but the entire nation would acclaim him and support him to the end. He would not need to bargain; he would not need to ask America. The whole America as with one great voice would join him.[Page 101]
He really was pretty much stirred up about it, was rather torn up by the roots. “Almost thou persuadest me.” He waited a little and he said,—Yes, (he gave me his hand) I will do my best. I will try it now to go to him and present just what you have presented here.—He said I should admit the difficulty of his years and of his caution, and then I replied to that—But you see the thing that is most imprudent and incautious to-day in such a crisis as this is to be cautious. You have got to transcend all the limits of the known experience of Europe. You have got to make a new experience.
Next he raised the difficulties and began to enumerate them one after another. Then I pointed out to him—You never see the difficulties of staying where you are. You are in this impasse. There is not a man in Europe who really knows what to do. Could any difficulties be greater than the difficulties of the present moment and the situation you are in? Are not the difficulties of trying to keep your present course really vastly more perilous than any difficulties of the new initiative that I have proposed?—He admitted that they were after all. Then I said,—I appeal to you as an eminent Christian in the Catholic Church. Why is it, Professor Lammasch, that when it comes to the concrete you people really have no faith in the practicability of righteousness and justice? You speak of faith, but it is always in the abstract. When it gets down to the concrete it is only the devil you believe is practical. Why trust Machiavelli as being practical and not trust Christ and his Apostles as practical?—He had to acknowledge the pertinency of the question. It was to try to get him to turn around and see the other side.—Why consider the difficulties of the initiative and not consider the insurmountable difficulties of remaining just where you are?
Then he said,—But why could not the Pope take this initiative instead of Vienna?—I replied: It is not a question of your religious faith. It would have absolutely no value. In the first place you must remember that America in a large percentage is Protestant, not Catholic, that by proposing that the Pope take the initiative you are only adding a lot more complications and difficulties to those that already exist. There will be no objection among the Allies if the Emperor, as a Catholic Emperor, takes this initiative. That is a different matter. It must be a nation or the leader of a nation that takes this initiative.
He saw the point. He only put it forward, I saw, to feel what kind of response I would give him.
Then he raised this question, which I had dwelt so much upon, that Austria must ask first, but was there any objection to the President after all making just some kindly recognition of what Czernin had said, even though he himself did not trust Czernin and quite admitted that Czernin in the last analysis would be under the influence of Germany, and then the Emperor act according to the program that I had proposed? I said that I could see no possible objection to that, if the President decided to do it. Of course it was for him to decide. But in my personal opinion, if this was a prelude to the great action of the Emperor, by all means, if my advice were to count for anything, I should certainly not only advise but urge such action. I made clear that I was expressing my personal opinion, that I could not decide at all, that I could say what I thought [Page 102]personally, but that might have no effect at all. It was for the President to decide. But with that understanding I said that I could see no objection to such action, that I saw every reason for his so doing as a predicate to the great action of the Emperor.
This was the final question and we sat both of us quite quietly for a little while, and apparently he parted with something almost approaching a sacramental feeling about the matter, as with a resolution. His face was quite lighted up, and he said that he would go back and try to bring about this action.
Professor Lammasch begs that if President Wilson decides to give this cue, it be done at the earliest possible moment, because it will have perhaps a very decided effect upon the terrible chemical offensive which the Germans are proposing. If he gives the cue and then Austria can respond and something is under way, if it did nothing else, it would limit the vitality of the offensive a little.
Again on leaving Dr. Lammasch, Herr von Muehlon requested Dr. Herron to give him a further half hour. Professor Herron’s report of this conversation follows herewith.
Dr. Muehlon asked me to stay and talk with him again after the professor had gone, and of course in a sense this is going to quench the hope to some extent. He began by saying,—Each of these men that come to you from Austria and Germany, they all insist on seeing you alone, and I think it is my duty to tell you to keep in mind that these men, the very best of them, say different things in different situations. Even if they analyze this, they won’t mean to do it. They do it nevertheless. Even Professor Foerster, who is almost my bosom friend, does it. Now Professor Lammasch will say to you that he is here for this one thing only, to speak with you. Don’t tell me what he said, I am just supposing. Well, let us say it is the principal thing. But after all he also has had a meeting with Erzberger and with all the great Catholic prelates in Zurich, and there had serious things to consider as well. Let it be even though he did come to you as a result of his conference with Meinl and the Emperor, and Foerster, as he says, that he came for this sole purpose, that he is talking to you. For the moment it is psychologically true, but you must remember after all, Mr. Herron, that Professor Foerster is a German and Professor Lammasch is an Austrian. Don’t forget it. Professor Foerster, my good friend, whom I love, will come to Geneva and he will listen to you, and he will say one thing and he will admit one thing. He will go to Vienna and talk with the Emperor, and he will say to the Emperor, “You must see that Germany gives up Alsace-Lorraine, because that is the difficulty on account of which Europe has gotten into this situation.” But he will go to Berlin and meet Hertling or the Emperor, and he will never breathe a word about Alsace-Lorraine. In spite of himself Professor Foerster will say one thing to you, and because you are honest with him he will be honest with you. But he will go back to Vienna and say entirely different things to the Emperor, which fit in with what he thinks the Emperor would want, and the same in Berlin. Don’t forget that Austria and Germany have got to be brought to repentance, and it is only [Page 103]America that can bring them to repentance. And don’t forget that these men are in this psychological atmosphere, they are a part of this thing that has to be brought to face the truth. And there is no repentance and there is no hope for Austria until they are brought up face to face with the truth.
And then I stood up at the window, and I was astonished to see what appeared to be a prelate going out of the house with Lammasch to his automobile.—Who is that?—I said.—Oh, you may well ask who is that,—he said,—and you will see well into all that is going on. That is the great Catholic prelate of Budapest, who is working more than any one else through the Emperor and Professor Lammasch and others for the restoration of the Catholic Empire. He has been here in the house in another room while this interview was going on. I wanted you to know it because you will see what is taking place. I was in Berlin when the war began, and on every side you could hear it said: “The first thing that we must do is to get the Pope. He would perhaps naturally be on the side of the French, but we must get him with political reasons. We must buy him with promises.” You cannot believe the millions that were sent and the influence that was used on the Vatican to get in its influence before the Allies. Von Bülow, Erzberger, Cardinal … went to Rome. They made vast promises to the Pope. They got the Pope before the Allies ever thought of him. Please remember that, and please let that be known to Washington.
In the course of this discussion, and during the days which I have just described, I learned that telegrams had been exchanged between Baron Jong van Beek en Donk in Switzerland and Kommerzialrat Meinl in Vienna. These telegrams do not form strictly speaking a portion of the conversations between Professor Lammasch and Dr. Herron, but contribute to the general questions and doubtless also have had their weight on the mind of the Emperor. The following is a translation of a telegram which was despatched from Switzerland to Meinl:
Legal counsel desires me to say that his personal opinion is that you should inform the director-in-chief of the business in which we are interested that he and those who are advising him are conducting affairs in a way that will, legal counsel fears, lead to bankruptcy and a dissolving or the concern.
The present is an opportunity which will probably never occur again to reorganize and reconstruct business on co-operative lines.
This could, he believes, be done only if the director-in-chief made a public declaration to the shareholders that they would in future have equal control of the business with the debenture holders and the preference shareholders.
This declaration must be made not in vague and general terms but in full detail and specify clearly the way in which each branch of the business should be managed in future: the extent of the powers of the local managers and the manner of their selection as well as their powers in the central management should be most fully explained.[Page 104]
Confidence is the basis of all commercial operations and not written contracts. The shareholders have lost confidence in the director-in-chief and in his board of management; other firms have also lost confidence in your firm and until this confidence is re-established on all sides business relations will be with great difficulty continued. The first step is to establish firmly the co-operation with and confidence of the shareholders. This done, the confidence of firms who have done business with you will be easier to win than at present.
We strongly recommend that the director-in-chief should personally throw himself upon the honor and good faith of the shareholders, withholding nothing, but giving everything. In this way, he will win the confidence and respect of the whole business world and win for himself among his shareholders a position which every other director-in-chief would envy and endeavor very shortly to imitate,—a circumstance which would save your business and save other business in which you are interested.
Substituting Herron for “legal counsel,” the Emperor for “director-in-chief,” the Government of the Dual Monarchy for the “business,” and the people of the Dual Monarchy for the “shareholders”, it is readily comprehensible. This telegram passed the censor, because a reply has been received by Baron Jong from Meinl, which reads in German as follows:
Geschaeft wird unserseit zuerlaessig durchgefuehrt was den en-freulichen effekt haben wird dass andere general Versammlung analoges Geschaeft verlangt wofuer wir derselben vorher Option gesichert haben koenten.
I also quote herewith the best translation that I can make out of it:
Business being reliably carried on by us which will have the pleasant effect that other general meeting will demand an analogous business for which we might have answered [assured] it an option beforehand.
From this it is not clear whether Meinl entirely seized the idea presented. The fact that he uses the words “business being reliably carried on” is probably an indication that affairs in Vienna are tending towards the realization which these men desire.
In closing this report I have only to explain a little more fully than I did in my telegram No. 2583, of February 6,1 why I felt it essential to take the French Ambassador and the British Minister into my confidence in this connection to some extent. I have stated above the fact that they had heard that these conversations were to take place, as I knew on Wednesday, the 30th, that the French had somehow learned of it, and later, after despatching my first telegram, that the British also had become aware of it. In view of this situation and the fact that if I made no declaration most alarming [Page 105]reports might have gone to Paris and London and these two men might have lost all confidence in the frankness of our relations, it seemed essential to inform them in strictest confidence at least that I was aware that an informal meeting was to take place and that Dr. Herron had consented to be present merely to report anything that Dr. Lammasch might want to say, but that he was not the bearer of any message from my Government.
I have [etc.]