862.001W64/71: Telegram

The Chargé in the Netherlands ( Gunther ) to the Acting Secretary of State

6521. American Mission 302. The French Chargé d’Affaires6 delivered before 3 p.m. on Saturday last to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a note a copy of which I have only now been able to procure. A translation follows herewith.

“I have the honor to deliver to Your Excellency, in the name of the Allied and Associated Powers, the following communication: ‘The Allied and Associated Powers desire, in the interests of peace, to draw the attention of the Government of the Netherlands to the case of ex-Emperor and of the ex-Crown Prince of Germany who at the beginning of last November sought a refuge on Netherlands territory. The Allied and Associated Governments have been much perturbed by the rumors which have been repeatedly spread of late regarding the eventuality that the heir of the Crown of Germany, who is a fighting officer of high rank, should in violation of the laws of war escape from the neutral country in which he is interned. They confidently expect that it will not be permitted that the international obligations should be violated in this case, as also in the infinitely more important case of the ex-Emperor. The latter is not [Page 655] only a German officer who has escaped into neutral territory, he was also the potentate whom the whole world, with the exception of Germany, holds to be guilty of having unchained the war and having conducted it according to methods of studied barbarism.

According to the stipulations of the peace treaty which is on the point of being signed with Germany, his conduct will be made the object of judicial prosecution. But he still represents the military party the influence of which has brought about the ruin of his country and has been for humanity the cause of infinite suffering. His escape would react to the credit of this military party and revive declining hopes as [it] would threaten a peace acquired with great difficulty and which even now is not definitely assured. To allow this escape would be an international crime which could not be pardoned to those who would have contributed to it through their negligence or their complicity.

The Allied and Associated Powers are convinced that these considerations will spontaneously commend themselves to the Government of the Netherlands, but they desire to add that in case the latter felt that in the present circumstances the safekeeping of the ex-Emperor carries with it responsibilities more irksome than it is in a position to assume the Allied and Associated Powers are disposed to assume this burden and thereby relieve a neutral state of an ungrateful task which it has not sought but the execution of which constitutes a most weighty obligation.[’] Signed, Clemenceau.[”]

The communication reached the French Chargé d’Affaires in the form of a telegram signed Clemenceau and as originally worded, he informs me, referred to the escape of the Crown Prince as an accomplished fact. The sentence containing that statement Monsieur Prevost altered as above.

May I request that I be informed whether this communication was sent with your knowledge and approval and if so what attitude you wish me to take in the premises. I cannot but feel that this step was ill advised at the present juncture and fear that the tone of the communication will only serve to make our position in the matter more difficult later on. In its form and choice of expression it certainly does not betray allowance made for the psychology of the Dutch.

  1. Fernand Prévost.