The Belgian Minister ( Cartier ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: With reference to preceding communications concerning the attitude of the Belgian Government towards the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, I beg to transmit to you the enclosed Memorandum, defining the Belgian Government’s policy in the Luxemburg question.

I have made a rough translation of the original document, which was drawn up in French, and I herewith take the liberty to enclose it.

I beg to remain [etc.]

E. de Cartier
[Page 437]

The Belgian Government has the honor to recall the attention of the Government of the United States to the note which the King’s Government transmitted to the United States Government, in August 1917, concerning the question of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.4

After calling to mind the long centuries of common history uniting Luxemburg and Belgium and after referring to the enforced separation, in spite of the wishes of the population of both countries—a separation brought about solely for the advantage of Prussia—the note of the Belgian Government claimed the restitution of this former province of Belgium, in case the independence of the Grand Duchy should not be maintained on account of Germany’s violation of the treaty of 1867.5

Subsequent events have convinced the Belgian Government that a return to the “status quo ante bellum” is impossible in the case of Luxemburg.

The status quo ante bellum is impossible because it would definitively hand over the Grand Duchy to German influence which is contrary to the wishes of the people of Luxemburg.

The status quo ante bellum is also impossible because a continuation or re-establishment of a state of affairs which would subject the Grand Duchy to foreign influence would constitute a grave danger to Belgium.

The entrance of the Grand Duchy into the Zollverein had, ever since 1842, given Germany a considerable economic influence in the Grand Duchy.

This economic influence was added to the political influence which was due to the presence of a German garrison in Luxemburg.

The Grand Duchy was only relieved of this garrison in 1866 [1867], by virtue of the treaty of London, which however left the country neutralized, disarmed, and completely open to German penetration.

Later on, the convention of 18726 still further facilitated this penetration by handing over the most important railways of Luxemburg to German Imperial administration.

The accession to the throne in 1890 of a German dynasty, foreign to the country, accentuated this tendency which was strongly reinforced during the war and of which the most recent manifestations [Page 438] have been the visit of Chancellor Count Hertling, soon followed by the announcement of the proposed union between the reigning family of the Grand Duchy and the chief of the German army in Flanders, Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria.

Notwithstanding the policy of complacency and various actions which practically delivered the country and the direction of its affairs to German influence, the people of Luxemburg have no wish to be made subservient to such German influence.

Since the invasion of 1914, to which the international status of Luxemburg did not allow effective opposition to be made, the internal political life of Luxemburg has been greatly perturbed. Governments have followed one another without being able to have their authority accepted and internal disputes have reached a stage of acuteness without precedent.

Both the Government and the dynasty have been the object of the most violent criticism. It was only at the cost of a permanent internal crisis that the Government of Luxemburg succeeded in keeping up the fiction of maintaining a neutral attitude between the German invader, to which it was in fact subjected, and the nations associated against Germany.

To leave without redress the wrong done by the enemy in violating the Treaty of 1867, or to re-establish (after four years of occupation during which Germany has been the master of Luxemburg) a status quo determined by the Treaty of 1867, by the Treaty of 1872 and by the German Customs Union, would be to decide that the Grand Duchy should be for the future, definitively and irrevocably, a dependency of Germany.

It can be maintained with certitude that the people of Luxemburg would rise against the idea of such a situation.

The separation from Belgium in 1839, with its inevitable consequence of delivering the people of Luxemburg to Prussia, has brought about a grave menace to the existence of Belgium.

Belgium could never accept a state of things which, under the guise of neutrality, would maintain a center of hostile influence on her borders in a contiguous country bound to Belgium by the closest ties of common interest.

The political separation enforced upon Belgium and the Grand Duchy against the wishes of the inhabitants has enfeebled both countries without, however, disassociating their destinies.

During the two crises which shook Western Europe in the course of the past fifty years, Belgium and Luxemburg shared the same fate. Their territory which had been respected by Prussia in 1870 were both invaded in 1914 in consequence of military strategy.

[Page 439]

The frontier between the Grand Duchy and Belgium is one hundred and ten kilometers in length; this frontier is longer than that between Belgium and Rhenish Prussia. The Treaty of 1867 had done away with the immediate menace of the presence of German troops in Luxemburg, only to replace it by the new menace of a door open to aggression against Belgium.

Luxemburg, unprotected on account of its disarmed neutrality and whose railroads were controlled by the Germans, was in fact a point of concentration and a means of easy access for an army invading Belgium.

The roads of Luxemburg lead into Belgium. They were not used by the Prussian Army in 1870, but the German invaders followed them in their onrush towards France, through Belgium, in 1914; a large part of the German hordes which invaded Belgium in 1914 had previously crossed neutral Luxemburg.

Deprived of the strategic position of Luxemburg which commands access to the southeastern part of Belgium, the Belgian army was unable to protect the Belgian province of Luxemburg and the right bank of the Meuse.

These military reasons, in addition to the considerations of policy and sentiment set forth in the note of the Belgian Government delivered in 1917, show that Belgium would seriously compromise her future security if she did not ask the revision of the international status of Luxemburg.

The violation of Germany of the guaranteed neutrality of Belgium, has shaken to its foundations the whole system established in 1839.7 Therefore, the Belgian Government considers that the bases on which rested the guarantees of existence of the Belgian state must be revised.

The Belgian Government is convinced that the new guarantees which must be obtained in order to establish the future security of Belgium on a more solid foundation, are in perfect harmony with the interests of the Luxemburgers.

The solution of the question lies in the free reunion of both populations.

As to the modality of this reunion, Belgium, who has throughout the centuries upheld the right of peoples to determine their own destinies and has always claimed such right for herself will submit the question to the freely expressed will of the two populations.

The Belgian Government, remembering the sympathy with which the Government of the United States received its first memorandum on the subject, relies upon the kind assistance of the Powers associated [Page 440] with Belgium to aid in the realization of these objects which are of such vital and sacred importance to her.

  1. The translation is filed separately under 763.72119/2683.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For French text of this treaty, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lvii, p. 32.
  4. For German text of this treaty, see P. Ruppert, Le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg dans ses relations internationales: Recueil des traités, etc. (Luxembourg, 1892), p. 105.
  5. For texts, in French, of the treaties signed Apr. 19, 1839, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xxvii, pp. 990–1003.