The Ambassador in Italy (Fletcher) to the Secretary of State

No. 542

Sir: With reference to my telegram No. 119 of July 22, 5 p.m. and No. 121 of July 27, 4 p.m., and to the Department’s No. 91 of July 25, 1 p.m., concerning the expulsion by the Italian Government of Mr. George Seldes, correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, I have the honor to report as follows:

[Page 365]

On June 4th last the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Grandi, addressed a personal letter to me, the translation of which is herewith enclosed,8 stating that Mr. Seldes had sent to his paper on the previous evening a telegram, a copy of which was enclosed9 which the Italian Government considered as being of an alarmist nature. The letter added that while the Italian Government wished the foreign correspondents to enjoy all freedom of action, it considered it a duty to urge against sending unnecessarily alarmist reports. The report of Mr. Seldes above referred to was a summing up of events attendant upon the killing of Matteotti10 and stating that matters would reach a crisis on June 10th, the first anniversary of the assassination. His report further stated that all Italy was excited, that a clash was expected and that many wondered whether Parliament would be a scene of bloodshed.

The substance of this letter was made known to Mr. Seldes who promptly addressed a letter of explanation to Mr. Grandi, thereby temporarily relieving the Embassy of further action in the matter.

On July 18th, however, I received a second and far more drastic communication from the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, stating that in view of certain recent telegrams sent by Mr. Seldes to his paper he could no longer be considered as persona grata in Italy. He therefore requested that I so inform Mr. Seldes, in order that he might understand the situation and leave without a definite writ of expulsion being served on him by the police. A translation of Mr. Grandi’s letter together with Mr. Seldes reports which were objected to are herewith enclosed.11

Acting upon this letter from Mr. Grandi, I immediately sent for Mr. Seldes and communicated the contents of the letter, furnishing him with a copy of it. Mr. Seldes accepted the decision with little comment but on leaving my office he conferred with his colleagues of the American Press who, shortly after in a jointly signed note to me, requested that I make an appointment for them to meet Mr. Grandi.

At my next visit to the Foreign Office I made this request of Mr. Grandi, and was informed by him that he was willing to receive the American correspondents provided they made no protest concerning the expulsion of Mr. Seldes. He explained further that his purpose in writing to me concerning Mr. Seldes was to have me convey to him a hint that he was no longer persona grata and that he should leave Italy, thus relieving the Italian Government of the necessity of taking more drastic measures. I replied that if the Italian Government [Page 366] had definitely decided upon the expulsion of Mr. Seldes, I would again inform him. I urged, however, that he should be given time to make proper arrangements for his departure, to which Mr, Grandi agreed, stipulating that he would be given ten days from the 25th of July, but that if he had not left Italy by that time the Italian Government would be compelled to adopt other measures.

On the day following my interview with Mr. Grandi, he received the American Press correspondents. I have been given no report of this meeting but no change of purpose as regards Mr. Seldes’ expulsion was made known. I therefore again informed Mr. Seldes that he must prepare to go, which he agreed to do. He said, however, that he would like to have a definite order or request to leave which he could show to his Chief. Accordingly, this request was made today by a member of the Embassy staff to the Chief of the Press Section of the Foreign Office, who stated that a written document would be given to Mr. Seldes.

Mr. Seldes has today informed me that he proposes to leave Italy on July 29th for Paris, en route to Vienna where he has been transferred by his paper.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Henry P. Fletcher
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not enclosed with the despatch.
  3. Opposition deputy alleged to have been murdered by Fascists in June 1924.
  4. Not printed.