File No. 763.72/7819
The Consul at Amsterdam ( Mahin) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 21.]
Sir: I have the honor to submit a report on certain conditions and sentiments in the Netherlands, mainly due to the entrance of the United States into the war. I should hesitate about making this report were it not for the concluding paragraph of General Consular Instruction No. 536, of July 21, 1917, on “Political Events of Interest in Foreign Countries,” where justification may be inferred from this direction:
Especial attention should be paid to the effect of American participation in the war and the attitude toward the belligerency of the United States, adverse or otherwise.
Merely as explanatory, I would say that six years’ official residence in Holland has brought me into acquaintanceship, intimate in some cases, with many Dutch people, of divers classes, from which has naturally been gained a clear knowledge of the sentiments prevailing in private, official, and commercial circles.[Page 1148]
From the beginning of the war up to a year ago, the sentiment of fully three-fourths of the Dutch people was evidently pro-Ally. This preponderance was probably even greater in Amsterdam and vicinity and along the Belgian border, where the people had personal knowledge of German atrocities. The principal financial, commercial, and professional people of Amsterdam were pro-Ally, and also the masses of the people. If a pro-German was found, it was usually he or she who had family connections in Germany, or more important business or professional relations with Germany than with the Allied countries. Occasionally it would be a person whose affairs other than with Germany had suffered from the British blockade and censorship. Army officers generally inclined toward Germany from admiration of its remarkable organization. But where sentiment was unaffected by personal considerations, and was based solely upon ideals of right and wrong and justice and humanity, it was always, so far as I could perceive, pro-Ally.
During the past year, a sentiment rather anti-English has been developing because of severe British restrictions, particularly upon Dutch shipping. More indignation has been apparent against this, at times, than against the ruthless destruction of Dutch ships, with loss of life, by the Germans. When asked why they were more indignant over a smaller than over a greater offense, the Dutch would reply that they expected anything from the Germans, but did not expect harsh treatment from the British, whom they regarded as friends.
The entrance of the United States into the war was not received by the Dutch people with general approval. Some greeted it with enthusiasm, but more, among them ardent friends of the Allies, expressed fear that it would increase the difficulties with which Holland was contending. The results, in their opinion, have justified that fear. The detention of Dutch ships and of Dutch passengers in American harbors and the reported refusal of the American authorities to permit the export of any foodstuffs to Holland and even to grant coal to ships returning from Dutch colonial and other ports, together with the announcement that the Dutch commission sent to the United States has failed to secure any concessions whatever, have led to very severe criticism by people from whom but a few months ago was heard only ardent expressions in favor of the Allies. One of Holland’s foremost men … has just told me that the present severe methods were turning the people toward Germany. Assuming this to be true, and Germany aware of it, the opportunity of that country is manifest. It could be so generous in granting supplies of coal and iron and in pledging safety to Dutch shipping that, opposed to the presumed hostility of England and of the United [Page 1149] States in particular, it would seem to be a staunch friend in sore need, and might be able to secure concessions of serious consequence to the Allies. One hears, in talk, that the Scheldt might be opened to the Germans, and that they might even be granted special privileges at the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. One hears the belief expressed with angry indignation that English influence is controlling the United States, and that Lord Northcliffe is “making trouble for Holland” during his sojourn in the United States. Mention is heard of the rupture of diplomatic relations and even of war with the United States, and the remark is not uncommon that Holland is being “forced into the arms of Germany.”
Large manufacturers have told the writer that they would prefer to be entirely independent of Germany and receive all their supplies from England and the United States, but that this was rendered impossible by those countries themselves. One of these manufacturers states that a cargo of iron for which he has urgent need is detained at New York on one of the Dutch ships. This manufacturer, one of the most important in Holland, was formerly strongly pro-Ally. Now his expressed sentiments, while not distinctly pro-German, are materially changed. It is presumable that he is representative of many other manufacturers.
It is peculiarly unfortunate that the worst sufferers from the present severe regulations have been strong friends of the Allies from the beginning of the war.
Everywhere, now, one hears not merely surprise and regret at the attitude of the United States, but also indignant denunciation. It is asked what Holland has done to deserve such treatment. It is said that this country must have coal and iron from Germany, because it cannot obtain them elsewhere, and that it must pay therefor with foods from its surplus products, but that the quantity of the foods which it sends to Germany in a whole year would scarcely feed the people of that country one day. It is also recalled that at the time of the American Revolution the Dutch were most friendly to the struggling colonies; that they supplied them freely with money, and also with a warship built at Amsterdam; and that Holland was the first country to recognize the independence of the colonies and the first to receive a Minister from the new Republic. It is also declared that the present treatment of Holland by the United States is in direct conflict with its own expressions of solicitude for the freedom and fair treatment of the small nations, and that among its announced objects in entering the war to insure those rights to such nations. This opinion as to the inconsistency of the United States appears to be so strong that no amount of argument that it is erroneous and based upon mistaken premises produces any visible effect.[Page 1150]
On the whole, the present situation as regards the relations between Holland and the United States is really critical. I do not, of course, presume to suggest anything, but only to point out facts and to quote opinions which are freely and generally expressed, not only by the average Dutch citizen, but also by persons of great influence and of high position.
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