Carl W. Ackerman to Colonel House


Carl W. Ackerman to Colonel House


Carl W. Ackerman




1918 February 4


Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson Papers, 1786-1957


My dear Colonel House

American Legation
Berne, Switzerland
February Fourth.

This letter is intended as a report on the political situation in Germany and the Central Powers. On January 28th, I asked the Legation to send you a long telegram on this subject but because the wires were "crowded" it could not be sent in the form I had written it and I do not know how it reached you.

The address of the President, in which he stated the fourteen conditions of peace, has had the greatest effect upon the political situation within the enemy countries of any public address delivered since the United States has been a belligerent. It was successful in the following ways:
1. It separated absolutely, and I think permanently, the people and the Liberals from the Annexationists, the Military Leaders and the War Industrial magnates;
2. It forced the Austro-Hungarian Government to recognize the peace movement in that country and cemented the Dual Monarchy to the German Liberal party;
3. It gave more momentum to the revolutionary movement, which is under way in Germany, than the Russion revolution;
4. It increased the possibilities of success for the present confidential negotiations which are taking place with Bulgaria, and
5. It made a tremendous impression upon the small European neutrals.

I need not go into detail in regard to these points because you have undoubtedly received through the Department full information regarding the strikes, the fight over Count Hertling's reply and the dispute between Vienna and Berlin.

After Mr. Wilson's speech was printed in the Swiss papers, Dr. Louis Schulthess, a friend of mine, saw President Calonder, of the Swiss Republic and the latter stated that "Now it is clear that the United States is fighting for an ideal; that the United States has nothing to gain by fighting except permanent peace."At the same time President Calonder commissioned Dr. Schulthess, a former attache of the Swiss Legation in Washington, to study the question of a League of Nations and report on what part Switzerland could play in the formation of such an organization.

In my telegram of January 28th, I suggested that the President reply to Count Hertling and Count Czernin in order to force the issue of peace on our terms, which are essentially the terms of the German and Austrian people, or of war on Count Hertling's terms.

I believe that we should adopt a firm, determined and uncompromising attitude toward Count Hertling on the ground that he voiced the sentiments of the German War party, which wants to continue the war, and on the ground that he did not speak for the people.

I suggested that we assume a different attitude toward Vienna for the purpose of attempting to widen the gap between the two belligerents.

Since I made these suggestions I have concluded that it was fear of revolution more than anything else which prompted Count Czernin to aim his remarks at the President and say that Austria-Hungary considered the President's terms as possible basis for discussions. I believe our aim should be to strengthen the peace party in Vienna and Budapest so as to force Count Czernin to ask the United States, officially, to make peace between the Dual Monarchy and the Entente. Unless the Austrian government succeeds in getting food from Russia we may have an opportunity to talk separate peace with that country.

The situation within Germany and Austria-Hungary, to my mind, is the following:If there is not peace, or a great military victory, there will be a revolution. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that there are three possible developments: 1. Peace; 2. Reformation; 3. Revolution, because I do not believe the German army and navy will be able to decisively defeat the United States and the Allies this year.

The war has reached the decisive period. To my mind, the problem facing the United States is this:How far can the United States go in encouraging the peace movement and the reform forces within Central Europe without weakening the determination of the Allies to fight until a just peace can be concluded.

The solution is: War, relentless war with armies and speeches against the German War government but peace with the democratic, or reform, peace forces.

Colonel Edward M. House.

Original Format



House, Edward Mandell, 1858-1938




Carl W. Ackerman, “Carl W. Ackerman to Colonel House,” 1918 February 4, WWP22235, World War I Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.