Memorandum by the Secretary of State 19
The Chargé d’Affaires of Poland20 came in upon my invitation. After some preliminary conversation, I proceeded to say to him that the governments and the peoples of our two countries have been genuine and traditional friends and that I was sure neither would in any circumstances reasonably conceivable engage in any act or utterance that might give serious concern, much less offense, to the other; that in the light of this most agreeable relationship I did feel constrained to very earnestly call the attention of the Polish Government to certain [Page 408] acts of arrest and imprisonment of American citizens, either when they were not guilty of any violation of Polish law or where they were entirely ignorant of it and could not ascertain the law through lack of ability to understand the Polish language. I said that the people of the United States prize beyond measure those invaluable and inalienable rights of personal liberty which give a citizen placed under arrest the opportunity to consult counsel and the right to bail, which rights were the result of long struggle; and that, therefore, it was scarcely conceivable to the people of this country that an American citizen would be arrested, thrown in jail and kept incommunicado for ten days, or that one of the finest, highest class, American educators like Mrs. Atkinson of Minnesota, would or could be arrested, thrown into a common jail and confined there for 48 hours, when literally no offense had been committed; and that other cases of arrest and summary imprisonment would be occurring with increasing frequency in connection with some recent very stringent Polish law or regulation in regard to the transfer of money in and out of Poland. I said that I had not received the full facts as to most of these published cases of arrest and imprisonment, but that I was expecting them from day to day; that if aggravated cases of imprisonment of our leading citizens, like Mrs. Atkinson, or imprisonment incommunicado over a period of one or two weeks, should be carried much further by Polish officials it would not be possible to explain away the manner in which the Polish law was thus being administered to the American public, and that a wave of serious criticism would sweep over this country against both this Government and the Polish Government; that, therefore, in our accustomed spirit of genuine friendship I felt that each of our Governments would be thoroughly disposed to confer, with a view to ascertaining whether the Polish Government could not remedy this situation without material delay, to the extent that abuses or unfair practices being carried on by customs or frontier officials of the Polish Government might be discontinued. I further stated that the very fact the two peoples and the two Governments are on such close friendly relations suggested to me that this step of adjustment should be taken at an early stage, so as to run the very minimum of risk of any disagreeable feelings being created between the two countries; and that, therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if the Chargé should feel disposed to communicate at once with his Government, setting out fully the views I had expressed.
He replied in the most friendly and agreeable tone, expressing his approval of my purpose and his desire to cooperate to clear up the situation. He said that doubtless some of the subordinate customs officials of his Government were over-zealous in carrying out this very stringent law. He then concluded by saying that he had already communicated [Page 409] to his Government the press publication in this country as to some of the cases of arrests and that he would at once send a full communication to his Government detailing our conversation. He showed every disposition to cooperate.