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Break With United States
NHANCELLOR VON BETHMANN U HOLLWEG delivered an important
address in the Reichstag on Feb. 27, reviewing Germany's position as affected by the intensified submarine war. fare and the action of the United States in breaking off diplomatic relations with the Imperial Government. Discussing the attitude of neutrals the Chancellor said:
One step further than that taken by European neutrals has been taken (as is known) by the United States of America. President Wilson, after receiving our note of Jan. 31, brusquely broke off relations with us. No authentic communication about the reasons which were given for his step reached me. The former United States Ambassador here in Berlin communicated only in spoken words to the State Secretary of the Foreign Office of breaking off relations, and asked for his passports. This form of breaking off relations between great nations living in peace is probably without precedent in his. tory.
All official documents being lacking, I am forced to rely upon doubtful sources--that is, upon the Reuter office's version of the contents of the message, sent by President Wilson on Feb. 3 to Congress. In this version the President is reported to have said that our note of Jan. 31 suddenly and without previous indication intentionally withdrew the solemn promises made in the note of May, 1916. To the United States Government, therefore, no choice compatible with dignity and honor was left other than the way which had been announced in its note of April 20, 1916, covering the case if Germany should not wish to give up her submarine method.
If these arguments are correctly reported by Reuter, then I must decidedly protest against them. For more than a century friendly relations between us and America have been carefully promoted. We honored them-as Bismarck once put it as an heirloom from Frederick the Great. Both countries benefited by it, both giving and taking.
Since the beginning of the war, things have changed on the other side of the waters. Old principles were overthrown.
On Aug. 27, 1913, during the Mexican troubles, President Wilson in a solemn message to Congress declared that he intended to follow the best usage of international law by a prohibition of the supplying of arms to both Mexican parties at war against each other. One year later, in 1914, these usages apparently were no longer considered
good. Countless materials of war have been supplied by America to the Entente, and while the right of the American citizen to travel without hindrance to Entente countries and the right to trade without hindrance with France and England, even through the midst of the battlefield, even the right of such trade as we had to pay for with German bloodwhile all these rights were jealously guarded, the same right of American citizens toward the Central Powers did not seem to be as worthy of protection and as valuable.
They protested against some measures of England which were contrary to international law, but they submitted to them. Under conditions of this kind objection as to lack of respect makes a strange impression.
With equal decisiveness I must protest against the objection that we, by the manner in which we withdrew the assurances given in the note of May 4, offended the honor and dignity of the United States. From the very beginning we had openly and expressly declared that these assurances would be invalid under certain conditions.
The Chancellor then recalled the last paragraph of the note of May 4, 1916, which he read verbatim, the last clause. being: “Should the steps taken by the Government of the United States not attain the object it desires, namely, to have the law of humanity followed by all the belligerent nations, the German Goyernment would then be facing a new situation, in which it must reserve to itself complete liberty of decision."
The Chancellor then continued: As to the American answer given to the German note, it was so absolutely contrary to what we in our note had said clearly and without any possibility of misunderstanding, that a reply on our part would have changed nothing as to the standpoints maintained by both sides. But nobody, even in America, could doubt that already long ago the conditions were fulfilled upon which, according to our declaration, depended our regaining full liberty of decision.
England did not abandon the isolation of Germany, but, on the contrary, intensified it in the most reckless fashion. Our adversaries were not made to respect the principles of international law, universally recognized before the war, nor made to follow the laws of humanity. The freedom of the seas, which America wanted to restore, in co-operation with us, during the war, has been still more completely destroyed by our adversary, and America has not hindered this. All this is common knowledge.
Even at the end of January England issued a new isolation declaration for the North Sea, and in this period, since May 4, nine months had passed. Could it then be surprising that on Jan. 31 we considered that the freedom of the seas had not been reestablished and that we drew our conclusions from this? But the case extends beyond that of formal importance. We, who were ready for peace, now by mutual understanding fight for life against an enemy who from the beginning put his heel upon the recognized laws of nations. The English starvation blockade, our peace offer, its rebuke by the Entente, the war aims of our enemies purporting our destruction, and the speeches of Lloyd George are known also in America.
I could fully understand it if the United States, as a protector of international law, should have bartered for its re-establishment in equal fashion with all the belligerents, and, if desiring to restore peace to the world, had taken measures to enforce the end of the bloodshed. But I cannot possibly consider it a vital question for the American Nation to protect international law in a one-sided fashion, only against us.
Our enemies, and American circles which are unfriendly toward us, thought that they could point out an important difference beetween our course of action and that of the British England, they have satisfied themselves, destroys only material values, which can be replaced, while Germany destroys human lives, which are impossible to replace.
Well, gentlemen, why did the British not endanger American lives? Only because neu.
tral countries, and especially America, voluntarily submitted to the British orders, and be. cause the British, therefore, could attain their object without employing force.
What would have happened if Americans had valued unhampered passenger and freight traffic with Bremen and Hamburg as much as that with Liverpool and London? If they had done so, then we should have been freed from the painful impression that, according to America, a submission to British power and control is compatible with the essential character of neutrality, but that it is incompatible with this neutral policy to recognize German measures of defense.
Gentlemen, let us consider the whole question. The breaking off of relations with us and the attempted mobilization of all neutrals against us do not serve for the protection of the freedom of the seas proclaimed by the United States. These actions will not promote the peace desired by President Wilson. They must, consequently, have encouraged the attempt to starve Germany and to multiply the bloodshed.
We regret the rupture with a nation which by her history seemed to be presdestined surely to work with us, not against us. But since our honest will for peace has encountered only jeering on the part of our enemies, there is no more “ going backward." There is only “going ahead” possible for us.
Adverting to peace discussions, the Chancellor pointed out that the German Nation, in the Reichstag's last vote granting new war credits, demonstrated to the whole world its readiness to continue the struggle until its enemies were
Ambassador Gerard's Difficulties
in Leaving Berlin
T INITED STATES AMBASSADOR ger. Each message bore across its face
GERARD received official notice a stamp showing that it was an official
of the break with Germany at 8 message sent by the duly accredited repo'clock Sunday evening, Feb. 4. On resentative of the American Government. Monday he made formal application for But the telegraph office refused to rehis passports, going in person to For- ceive those messages. Some one in the eign Secretary Zimmermann. The Am- German Government recognized by the bassador's orders from Washington in- officials of the Government telegraph cluded certain instructions regarding the office had notified that office not to acaction of American Consuls in Germany. cept for transmission any further mesTelegrams were prepared in the usual sages from officials of the American code transmitting these instructions to Embassy. these Americans. These messages were Later the telephone connection of the sent to the telegraph office in the embassy was broken, his telegrams customary way by an embassy messen were not delivered, and the embassy
mail failed to be delivered. When this “It was at that meeting that Mr. state of affairs dawned upon the Am- Gerard denounced the way in which he bassador he proceeded to take precau- had been treated by the German Govtions. He personally burned or destroyed ernment, and received in explanation a all code books and ciphers or other means statement of Count Montgelas that the of confidential communication. Every German Government was as yet in ignoconfidential letter, telegram, or other rance of what had happened to Count form of communication in the embassy von Bernstorff in America. But it was files went into the fire under Mr. only the censorship of the German GovGerard's direction.
ernment which was preventing the reThe situation following is thus de ceipt of full authentic news from the scribed by a staff correspondent of THE
United States, and it was inconceivable New York TIMES:
that Washington was preventing von “ Officials of the Foreign Office and
Bernstorff from communicating with his
Government if he desired to do so. the War Office made more or less open efforts to cajole or induce American
“It was in response to Count Montnewspaper correspondents to remain in gelas's presentation of the proposed proBerlin after Mr. Gerard had gone. There tocol that Mr. Gerard stated that he was an extraordinarily interesting ses
could not be 'sandbagged’ into signing sion with Herr Zimmermann, the Foreign
such a document. It was in reply to a Secretary, at the Foreign Office on the further suggestion by Count Montgelas Sunday evening when news of the
that favorable action by Mr. Gerard rupture in relations was first received. upon the German proposal would faEmphasis was then laid by him upon the
cilitate the withdrawal of newspaper German interpretation of the old treaty
correspondents and other Americans of 1799 between Prussia and the United from Germany that Mr. Gerard vigorStates, and the vigor of his expression
ously declared he would sit right where of hope that Germany would be able to
he was until Christmas if his companegotiate with Mr. Gerard for reaffirma- triots were not permitted to withdraw tion of that treaty and its specific appli- along with him. cation to existing conditions gives a clear “Moreover, the American Ambassador line on the motive for what was to occur pointed out that it was in practical fact so promptly to Mr. Gerard. Again on an act of war for Germany to refuse to Tuesday evening, when the correspond- permit Americans to withdraw from the ents met Colonel Hafeton of the Military country under the circumstances. There Staff, at military press headquarters, had been no declaration of war by the they received a renewed and emphasized United States, only a rupture of diploimpression of the importance with which matic relations. Under every consideraGermans regarded their efforts to pro- tion and any interpretation of legal or cure extended application of that old moral right, Germany had no ground treaty to pending relations with the whatever for interference in such withUnited States.
drawal. It was at this interview also
that Mr. Gerard referred to efforts of Interview with Montgelas
the German Government to get his con“ It was while the correspondents were sent to the proposed protocol as an atreceiving their lecture from the military tempt to blackmail him. staff that evening that Mr. Gerard received a call from Count Montgelas,
Garbled News from America Chief of the American Affairs Division “ Berlin was without authoritative of the Foreign Office. It was at that news from the United States. Nothing interview that Count Montgelas submit was coming through but criminally false ted to Mr. Gerard a draft of the protocol stuff, carried by a news association proposed by Germany by way of reaffir- which seemed bent on doing everything mation and emendation of the old Prus- in its power to accentuate the trouble sian treaty.
between the United States and Germany.
These dispatches purported to describe the confiscation of the German ships in American waters by the American Gov. ernment.
“I had filed several dispatches for THE NEW YORK TIMES reporting these events and describing the mischievous character of these dispatches. Whether any of them got through or not I do not yet know, but I do know that on Thursday morning, when the tension in Berlin had become acute, I received a message from the managing editor of THE TIMES giving explicitly the situation in the United States and setting forth exactly the status of the German ships in American waters and their crews. I showed this message immediately to. Ambassador Gerard, who said it was most important and urged that the widest possible publicity be given it. Thereupon I went at once to the Foreign Office and showed the message to one of the Under Secretaries.
“ The effect was instantaneous. The message was taken at once to Secretary Zimmermann and sent by the Foreign Office to a German news agency, with the result that it was published that afternoon in all newspapers, and again the next morning.
“ There was noticeable immediately a decided rise in the German official temperature. The attitude toward Americans and their departure from Germany was markedly friendly.
" It was not until Friday afternoon that the first passports were delivered, and those did not include Gerard's. His came Saturday morning. Some of the party who left Berlin on the train with him that evening did not receive their passports until 5 o'clock that afternoon. Despite the modification of the attitude following the receipt of The New YORK TIMES dispatch, the decision to permit Americans to leave was not made until some time Friday afternoon. On Thursday evening, however, Gerard received a call from another member of the Foreign Office staff, the apparent purpose being to endeavor to smooth out the unpleasant impressions, also to see if something could not be done, even at that late date, on the important matter of that old
Prussian treaty, with its astounding joker, about the safe conduct for German ships to be furnished by the American Government in case of war between the two countries.”
Ambassador Gerard and his party, numbering about 100, first proceeded to Switzerland. At the Swiss frontier representatives of the Government received them, and they were hospitably entertained at Berne. Again at the French frontier they were officially received, and at Paris a formal reception was tendered by the Government. From Paris the party proceeded to Madrid. where the King held a long interview with the Ambassador, and thence to Corunna, at which port they embarked on the steamship Alfonso XIII., arriving at Havana, Cuba, without incident on March 5. The Ambassador left on the 10th for Key West, and reached Washington Wednesday, March 14. He was cordially greeted en route by committees representing the cities and States, and was officially received at Washington. The President was confined to his room by illness, but the Ambassador was closeted on Wednesday for several hours with Secretary of State Lansing.
Mr. Gerard reached New York Friday, March 16, and was enthusiastically welcomed by Reception Committees representing the State and the municipality. He studiously declined to make any public statement, holding that any references to his report should be made by the Government.
It is a curious coincidence that Mr. Gerard reached Washington on the same day and practically at the same hour that Count von Bernstorff arrived at Berlin.
Thanks of British Government Mr. Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, announced in the House of Commons after the diplomatic break between the United States and Germany on Feb. 3 that he had communicated to the United States Government, through Ambassador Walter H. Page, the following letter of thanks for the services of Ambassador James W. Gerard and his staff in caring for British interests at Berlin since the beginning of the war:
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency's note of the 4th
grateful for all that has been done by the United States diplomatic and Consular offi
informed me that diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the German Empire had ceased as from 2 P. M. on the 3d inst. I request that your Excellency will be good enough to convey to your Government an expression of the thanks of his Majesty's Government for the action taken by them in transferring the charge of British interests in Germany to the Netherland Minister at Berlin
I desire to take this opportunity of expressing to your Excellency his Majesty's Government's deep appreciation of the care and devotion with which the United States Government has taken charge of British interests in Germany since the outbreak of war. His Majesty's Government are fully conscious of the immense amount of work which the care of British interests has necessarily entailed upon the staffs of the United States Embassies in London and Berlin, and they feel that they cannot value too highly the promptitude and efficiency with which that work has invariably been performed, and the unfailing tact and courtesy shown by the members of your Excellency's staff in dealing with the care of German interests in this country.
His Majesty's Government are especially
war. There can be no doubt that their efforts have been the direct cause of a considerable improvement in the treatment of British prisoners, while the machinery devised for relief has, as far as possible, ameliorated the lot of those British subjects who, though not interned, have for various reasons been unable to leave Germany. His Majesty's Government fully realize that these results have not been achieved without much labor on the part of the American officials concerned, and, in some cases, in face of strenuous opposition on the part of the German authorities, and I can assure your Excellency that the work done by the representatives of the United States of America on behalf of British subjects in hostile hands will not readily be forgotten either by his Majesty's Government or by the British people.
I beg that your Excellency will accept personally, and convey to the members of your staff, this expression of the most cordial thanks of his Majesty's Government, and that you will also be so good as to ask your Government to express to Mr. Gerard his Majesty's Government's profound gratitude and recognition of their deep indebtedness to him and to his Excellency's staff.
The Alliance With Mexico and Japan Proposed
A N important phase growing out of A our rupture with Germany and
the subsequent drift toward war, (the main issues being treated fully in preceding pages,) was the uncovering of an anti-American alliance proposed by Germany with Mexico and Japan in the event the threatened war ensued.
The plot was revealed by the publication on March 1, 1917, of a letter dated Jan. 19, 1917, signed by the German Foreign Secretary and addressed to the German Minister. von Eckhardt. in Mex. ico City. The text of the letter is as follows:
Berlin, Jan. 19, 1917. On Feb. 1 we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted. In spite of this, it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.
If this attempt is not successful, we propose an alliance on the following basis with MexIco: That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general
financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. The detalls are left to you for settlement.
You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above in the greatest confidence as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the United States, and suggest that the President of Mexico, on his own initiative, should communicate with Japan suggesting adherence at once to this plan. At the same time, offer to mediate between Germany and Japan. .
Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make peace in a few months.
ZIMMERMANN. The revelation created a profound impression throughout the country. The immediate effect on Congress was the elimination of practically all opposition to the proposal then pending to authorize the President to proceed at once to arm American merchantmen against German submarines; it also crystallized the con