Emily Greene Balch to the Editor of the New York Times, October 29, 1921

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130 Prince Street, Boston 30, Mass.
October 29, 1921.

↑To the Editor of the N.Y. Times

Dear Sir:↓

To the Editor of the New York Times,

Dear Sir,

I hope that you will allow me to urge upon your special ↑attention a matter which is being↓ lost in the shuffle because so much else is pressing on the attention of Congress but which is hurting our reputation in Europe as well as injuring our material interests by ruining the chance of Austria's business recovery.

So far Congress has not agreed, as the seventeen other creditors of Austria have now done, to allow our claims for payment by her to stand after the proposed credits which England and France are ready to grant for setting Austrian production on its feet again.

It does not appear that there is any intention on the part of the U.S. Government to refuse to take this action but without powerful outside pressure it is hard to get the matter put through. It is only such a great organ of public opinion as the TIMES that can press for an early decision with any chance of success. There is no Austrian ambassador to speak for her at Washington and such Americans as are especially well informed are often precluded, for one reason or another, from going before the public in the matter. For instance the liquidator of Austrian-Hungarian property in the U.S., to whom I went yesterday to verify my information at some point, cannot push this matter in the papers ↑since↓ [rest of line cut off] ↑over↓ [page 2] [appear] in fine print in the correspondence columns of some daily or weekly but this is no good. What is necessary is a follow-up campaign in the TIMES ITSELF. The New Republic had one vigorous paragraph (in its issue of October 12, page 169) and I saw one N.Y. [editorial] saying that of course the U.S. would be lenient in regard to her claims against Austria.

All this is absolutely inadequate there must be a sustained campaign if anything is to be accomplished.

As regards the point that America may be trusted to be a lenient creditor it is to be noted that for the new credits which England and France are ready to grant under the League of Nations scheme the priority of [earlier] claims must be LEGALLY WAIVED. These countries cannot ask for money to send to Austria which another creditor however generously disposed has the [LEGAL] RIGHT to seize for the satisfaction of its own claims.

It is further to be noted that this waiving of our priority means not only no financial sacrifice on our part but absolutely the reverse. As things are now Austria can never pay. If her business is set going her chance of doing so ultimately is at least better.

I enclose a copy of a letter (not for publication) from Mr. Eliot Wadsworth Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Since the bill has passed the House but [there] is still a long road ahead I fear during which Austria may go to perdition and drag her neighbors with her. A business letter of October 9 from Vienna which was shown me yesterday was filled with the dread of what may occur at any moment. At that time a crown (normally worth about twenty cents and last July worth about 500 to the dollar) was worth way over three thousand to the dollar, and no one knows when the crash will come nor what sort of a crash it will be. The comic papers crack jokes about the waste paper basket being the place to keep one's money. Thinking people cannot conceive why the United States is ready to pour out millions for Austrian relief yet is not enough interested in Austria's recovery which would make philanthropy unnecessary to agree to a purely formal renunciation of claims or rather waiving of their prior status. [page 3]

It was hard to get France, Italy, [Czechoslovakia] and other creditors, feeling ruined themselves and many of them embittered by old grudges against Austria to waive their [priority] claims but all have done so. No one foresaw that from month to month the whole scheme, so conservative, so well [matured], so imperatively necessary not only to Austria but to the reconstruction of world business, would be hung up because the United States alone would not agree.

As I said, I fear we are in now for an indefinite extension of delay. First the bill may hang fire in Congress. Then when the proposed Commission has been appointed and gets to work it will have before it the whole vast and contentious question of how to deal with the whole body of War Debts and this relatively small question of our priority claims upon Austria for food stuffs and other values received, is likely to be pushed aside. Yet at any moment things may happen which will make it too late to help.

If the TIMES will decide to take up this matter and push it [till it] secures action it will be doing something that not only may save the lives of a starving people but will redound to America's credit as to its own. There is today no one fact which so damages us in European eyes as our failure to act in this matter.

If, as I hope, the TIMES becomes the champion of this cause may I make a suggestion? Namely that you have a competent representative in Washington see people in the Treasury Department and in the State Department and of course in Congress also and decide after talking the situation over with them on what is the best procedure to advocate. Is it even now possible to get the single question of waving priority claims against Austria pulled out of the heap and dealt with speedily by itself? Or is it now too late for this procedure? In this case how can the securing of the Commission be speeded up and how can the Commission when appointed be induced to act first and separately on the Austrian priority matter?

Besides Mr. [Eliot] Wadsworth, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury I am [page 4] [informed] that a thoroughly well informed person in the State Department -- Mr. Percy Blair.

For myself I have no relation to the question but a humanitarian one. My work kept me in Vienna during four months out of the last seven and what is happening there is real and near to me instead of the unreal and remote that is all.

Yours sincerely, [page 5]

↑he is seeking [compassion?] action in the claim of his clients.↓

It does not [illegible]

I, or some one else better known, might write a letter or letters which might [illegible]