« AnteriorContinuar »
peace than the ladder of war, which will eventually fall on our own heads."
Moreover, Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg has declared before the Commission of the National Assembly that he had expressed to Mr. Gerard the hope that the President would now take steps to bring about the restoration of peace.
When, at that time, Colonel House was discussing with me the German reservation in the Note of the 4th May, in connection with the questions of the “Freedom of the Seas” and peace, he said that the circumstances were then such that the President no longer possessed the power to compel England to observe international law. England would only give way before the menace of war. In view, however, of the state of natural feeling in the United States, and the development of trade relations between America and the Entente, war with England was out of the question. On the other hand, Mr. Wilson possessed the power to bring about peace, because on this question he could rely on the support of the majority of the American nation. When the time was ripe, the President would take the desired steps, but a neutral act of this nature would be cried down by the very active Entente party in the United States as pro-German, and could only be carried through if the national feeling towards Germany took a more friendly turn. It was, therefore, necessary that there should be a period of lull, during which Germany should possibly not be discussed at all. The approaching hot season and the usual exodus of political personages from Washington to the country would offer a favorable opportunity to let all negotiations rest, especially as, after the settlement of the Sussex question, no new incidents were to be expected. Colonel House's remarks accurately reflected the actual position in the United States at the time. I could not but express my agreement, and felt no doubt that the American mediation would begin in the late summer. After our giving way on the submarine question, in order to avoid a break with the United States, I regarded it as certain that we would not directly bring about the rupture which had just been averted with such difficulty by reopening the unrestricted submarine campaign, for in view of the American ultimatum of the 18th April, 1916, there was no alternative.
I should like to take this opportunity of making clear that I always regarded American mediation as the only possible way out of the war. I had no faith in the submarine campaign as likely to save the situation, because the entry of the United States into the war would more than outweigh all the advantages that the submarines could bring us. On the other hand, I was convinced that, if the American Government established a peace conference, this would be sure to lead to peace itself. It could not be imagined that, in view of the nations' need of peace, such a conference could break up without having reached any result. Moreover, after the meeting of a conference, the United States would no longer be in a position to enter the war, because American public opinion would not have allowed it. But without the help of the United States, the Entente could not win. It resolved itself, therefore, into a question of the skill of our negotiators to ensure a tolerable peace for us, as the result of the conference. Diplomatic negotiations have a way of ending owing to general weariness, in which case the party which holds the best cards secures the greatest advantages. If this happened, we should have the advantage of the position as our military gains would give us a strong lever in the negotiations.
Here I may touch on another question which was en
gaging my attention at that time. Since the Lusitania catastrophe I had adopted the principle, and put it into practice as far as possible, of leaving the propaganda to our American friends, who were in a position to get an earlier hearing than we, and in any case understood the psychology of the Americans better than the Imperial German agents. Indeed, the words “German propagandist” had already become a term of abuse in America. We were reproached there with being too indulgent, while in Germany the opposite criticism was levelled at us. In spite of the difficulty of the situation, however, there were Americans of German and other origin, who had the courage openly to champion our cause and to swim against the stream. Among others, a “Citizens' Committee for Food Shipments” was formed, whose activities spread through the whole country, and were avowedly pro-German. A special function of the committee with Dr. von Mach as executive chief, was a month of propaganda throughout the country, with the object of obtaining the means to supply the children of Germany with milk. The English control of the post even led to the bold plan of building a submarine to run the milk through the English blockade. The propaganda was very vigorously attacked by the greater part of the American Press, but pursued its course unafraid, collected money, submitted protests to the State Department against the attitude of the Entente, and so on.
Dr. von Mach succeeded in bringing the matter to the notice of the President who actively interested himself in it, and promised to see that the milk should pass the English blockade and reach Germany in safety. Accordingly, the State Department instructed the American Embassy in Berlin to issue a statement. Meanwhile, the well-known American journalist, McClure, returned from a tour of investigation in Germany, where he had been supported in every way by the German Government departments. He gave a very favorable account of the milk question, as of the feeding of infants in general, and this gave rise to the first disagreeable controversy. Mr. McClure took up an unyielding attitude. Unfortunately, however, the State Department then published an equally favorable report, which, coming from the American Embassy and published with the approval of the Foreign Office in Berlin, caused the complete collapse of Dr. von Mach. This incident made a very painful impression in America, and led to a series of bitter attacks on Dr. von Mach and the whole movement, which was thus exposed in a most unfortunate light. The favorable report on the milk question was drawn up by a Dr. E. A. Taylor, and definitely confirmed, and, indeed, inspired, by the German authorities.
I mention this incident to show that our propaganda was not by any means made easier by Germany, although our Press Bureau repeatedly brought up this very question in Berlin. This movement was particularly dear to us, because the Americans are most easily won over when an appeal is made to their humanity. Moreover, the favorable reports on the question of supplies in Germany did not coincide in any way with our defence of the submarine campaign as an act of reprisal. This method of propaganda from home lost us our best argument. Even to-day the majority of Americans certainly have no idea how many children have been murdered by the blockade.
At the time of which I am speaking occurred also the much discussed Bolo affair. It is quite astonishing how many lies were told before the commission of inquiry of the American Senate with regard to this affair. Among others, hotel servants, chauffeurs, etc., were sworn, and gave evidence that I had met Bolo in the apartments of Mr. Hearst. True, I have often visited Mr. Hearst, which goes without saying, as he was the only important newspaper proprietor who maintained a neutral attitude throughout the war. I did not, however, meet Bolo, either there or anywhere else; I have never made his acquaintance, or even seen him in the distance. I heard his name for the first time when he was brought up for trial in Paris.
If the statements made before the commission of inquiry are to be relied on in any point at all, it is to be assumed that Bolo first came to America to arrange a combine between the Journal and the Hearst Press. This combine was to support the cause of Pacifism after the war. Who Bolo's principal was I do not know, but so much seems to be established, that he was connected with the Journal. Apparently, Bolo wanted to sell shares in this paper to Mr. Hearst, in order to acquire funds for the Pacifist agitation. This theory seems justified since Bolo, on the voyage to America, got into touch with Mr. Bartelli, Hearst's representative in Paris. The latter did fall in with Bolo's ideas.
Later—whether intentionally or not I do not knowBolo met the co-proprietor of the firm Amsinck and Co., Herr Pavenstedt, who was one of the most respected, if not the most respected, Imperial German in New York, and intimately acquainted with all the members of the Embassy. Herr Pavenstedt, who as a private citizen was not in a position to accept Bolo's suggestions, then travelled to Washington to lay the matter before me. He gave me to understand that a French acquaintance of long standing, for whose good faith he could vouch, had come to America to raise funds for a Pacifist agitation in France. He said that national feeling in that country had reached a point which promised success for such a movement, if the prospect could be held out of a peace by negotiation. Herr Pavenstedt said that he could not,