Memorandum by Mr. William R. Castle, Jr., Division of Western European Affairs, Department of State


Memorandum on the Appointment of an American Representative on the Teschen Plebiscite Commission

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On March 6th Mr. Polk signed a letter to the President26 on the subject, asking whether he wished to appoint an American representative on this commission.

On April 20th Mr. Colby signed a second letter to the President26 requesting a decision on the subject of the appointment of an American Commissioner.

During these months the Plebiscite Commission, with a British, French, Italian and Japanese member, had been organized and had taken up the administration of the Teschen area with 1,200 Allied troops. Serious strikes and riots had occurred and both the Poles and the Czechs were carrying on intensive propaganda. The situation was becoming daily more complicated and explosive, partly through the fact that the Inter-Allied Commission had not sufficient troops to enforce its regulations and partly because of the inherent difficulties of carrying out a plebiscite in one of the most thickly populated districts in Europe.

By the end of April it looked as though the late appointment of an American representative on a commission which had already been functioning for some months would be unwise. Mr. Gibson on his return from Poland strongly endorsed this opinion. He pointed out that an American joining the Commission at this stage could not be fully cognizant of the work already done; that he would be [Page 39] forced to make decisions on insufficient knowledge; that the old members of the Commission would be only too glad to make the new American member shoulder the blame for all unpopular decisions, and that the American member would undoubtedly be made Chairman of the Commission in accordance with the understanding in Paris and would therefore be compelled to assume the responsibility whereas he would be really in a weaker position than his colleagues because he would have no troops back of him.

This information was summarized in a new letter to the President with the suggestion that under the circumstances it might be wiser that the United States should not appoint a representative at this time. This letter was not sent but a few days later the Secretary wrote to the President telling him what Mr. Gibson thought and adding a few names for consideration should the President still desire to appoint someone on the commission.27

The President answered that he wished an appointment to be made.

During the last few days the situation in Teschen has become acute and the Commission has even found it necessary to declare martial law. This being so, it would seem essential to refer the matter once more to the President, pointing out strongly the danger that would be involved in appointing an American on the commission under the circumstances, since his task would be almost impossible and since this country would inevitably be blamed by Poland or Czechoslovakia or both, for any decisions taken in the past or to be taken in the future.

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W. R. C[astle], Jr.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. This letter and the President’s reply not found in Department files.