File No. 763.72119/1434
The Chargé in Switzerland ( Wilson) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 6, 6.27 a.m.]
2769. Since my telegram 2536, January 30,1 Theodore K. Shipkoff has laid continued siege to George D. Herron and myself. Herron informed me yesterday that Shipkoff had come to tell him that he was leaving for Sofia shortly to see King Ferdinand. He states that Bulgaria is daily growing more terrified of Germany and more fearful of military and economic domination; he reiterates the true friendship for America in Bulgaria. He declares that “America can best judge Bulgaria if she wants [to]” and that “Bulgaria wants to play America’s game if she knows what it is.” Bulgaria, according to Shipkoff, is excluded from making a separate peace alone for fear of punishment by Germany, but if there is even a chance of Austria taking such action, provided it is action which is satisfactory to America, Bulgaria earnestly desires to join Austria in that action.
Shipkoff to all appearances has been much moved by his various talks with Herron and declares that he is convinced that there are greater things for a nation than the expansion of her frontiers and that he will earnestly labor to make Bulgaria fulfill the role in the Balkans that the United States is attempting to fulfill for Europe. He has the conviction that they themselves should endeavor to make concessions with Servia in a manner satisfactory to both.
All of the foregoing Shipkoff will urge upon Ferdinand and he states that though his Sovereign is far from perfect he believes that, feeling these things passionately himself, he will be able to instill the same belief in Ferdinand. He explained to Herron that many people in Switzerland knew that a meeting had taken place between Lammasch and Herron but that of what transpired at the meeting he is of course ignorant. He informed Herron, however, that there was only one reason which would induce a man of Lammasch’s standing and influence with the Emperor to talk to an enemy subject and that was the hope of arranging a basis of peace. He most earnestly begged Herron to give him, for his Sovereign’s information, some indication of what is going on between America and Austria so that his Sovereign could proceed to his estates in Hungary, unostentatiously meet Emperor Charles, and if necessary come to Switzerland incognito to meet an American to learn the President’s views himself. He also begged that Herron, in a purely personal capacity, would address a letter to Ferdinand which Shipkoff would carry to [Page 148]Sophia, in which Herron would point out to Ferdinand his views as explained to Shipkoff: that the continent of Europe was menaced with a situation of universal Bolsheviki, Prussian domination, or both; that such a situation if it transpired would leave England and America face to face with Germany in an endless war to the death; that it might be generations before the struggle ended in which the whole of European civilization would disappear in the whirlpool. To avoid such a situation there was only one means, to loyally and frankly accept the President’s declarations and to make peace on that basis, by such action leaving Germany a moral outcast even (by its?) allies, which could not fail to open the eyes of the German people.
I have requested Herron to say to Shipkoff that this is a very serious matter and that therefore he needs time, perhaps a week, to think over, in order to delay Shipkoff’s departure so that some answer may be had from the Department in advance even if it is an answer which indicates that the American Government desires to do nothing in this case.
May I ask permission to express my views on this question. Lammasch’s message was furnished to Herron in the strictest confidence. I do not therefore believe we are at liberty to reveal it but I do feel that an unusual opportunity is being here offered, that Shipkoff should not go back discouraged in his point of view. I therefore believe that it would be appropriate for Herron to assure him of the deep and enthusiastic sympathy which America would feel towards an entente [attempt] by Bulgaria to solve its difficulties on the basis of the President’s proposal and to do it immediately. I wish to recommend that Herron inform him that information of anything that might be going on could doubtless be obtained from his Austrian ally if his King should frankly and loyally approach the Emperor with a statement of how Bulgaria feels, how desirous they are to cooperate in any efforts toward peace, and invite his confidence.
I should also recommend that I be authorized to give Shipkoff, through another channel than Herron, the same message for Bulgaria as that contained in your 1500, February 15,1 for Austria to relieve apprehension on economic grounds since Shipkoff has often emphasized the menace [to] Bulgaria of being obliged to borrow from Germany.
It is not necessary to believe that Shipkoff or his King would be actuated entirely by such ideas as he is now professing. It is very probably an adroit effort on the latter’s part to gain for himself American sympathy, but I do believe that whatever his character [Page 149]heretofore [he is] a patriotic Bulgarian and firmly convinced that Bulgaria must go to some means to free itself from German influence. I request that the Department will state its views also, concerning which or advisability of which I am skeptical, of a letter from Herron to Ferdinand with any suggestions as to what might be included therein. Permit me to again emphasize the urgent need for haste if anything is to be done in this matter since to delay Shipkoff unduly would be proof that the Government, and not a private American citizen, is acting.