Who's Who - Constantin Dumba

Constantin Dumba Dr Constantin Theodor Dumba - commonly referred to as Dr Dumba - served as Austria-Hungary's Ambassador to the United States from 1913-15.

Dumba's period as imperial Ambassador to President Woodrow Wilson's administration (starting in May 1913) was nothing if not eventful, at least once broke out in Europe in August 1914.  Two scandals engulfed Dumba during 1914-15.  The first involved a policy adopted in Vienna granting 'rehabilitation' to former Austro-Hungarian citizens who lived abroad and who had avoided their period of mandatory military service - so long as they agreed to serve with the Austro-Hungarian army for the duration of the war.

Dumba attempted to present the policy - endorsed by Emperor Franz-Josef I - as a perfectly practical one.  However it flew in the face of U.S. policy strictly forbidding U.S. citizens (of whatever duration) from actively taking sides in the First World War, thus endangering America's official policy of neutrality.

Dumba had some cause for sympathy however.  It was certainly the case that American sympathy for the Central Powers cause was regarded with greater disfavour than a similar degree of fervour for the Entente Powers.

The second scandal which swept over Dumba was altogether more serious however.  In the so-called "Dumba Affair" of 1915 he sent a despatch to the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office outlining his own role in the espionage scandal which had resulted in the effective expulsion of German Ambassador Count Bernstorff and military attaché Franz von Papen.

Dumba's despatch was intercepted in England: uproar followed in Washington.  President Wilson requested that Austria-Hungary recall their Ambassador and send a replacement.  He therefore set sail for Rotterdam on 5 October 1915 and was replaced by von Tarnow.

It cannot be said that the Austro-Hungarian government subsequently handled the Dumba Affair with any great dexterity.  Upon Dumba's return to Vienna he was promptly ennobled - ostensibly for performing his duties in Washington under difficult circumstances since 1914; but British newspapers seized upon this as clear evidence that Dumba's government was rewarding him for espionage.

Dumba subsequently wrote a defence of his actions in his memoirs published in 1932.

"Coffin Nails" was a term used by British soldiers to describe cigarettes.

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