Crowley in Washington
There was a comment on another thread that not much discussion has happened here in the wake of Spence’s book on Crowley’s espionage career. I agree and can’t understand why. I am fascinated by the prospect of Crowley being a spy, possibly for as long as fifty years, and was interested to find this article “QUESTION DICKINSON, AGENT OF VIERECK”
It provides some background context to Crowley’s work with The Fatherland in 1916. Whilst not strictly about Crowley, it indicates that he was working with people who advised and influenced the US government as it moved from neutrality to a war footing.
In 1919, a Senate committee investigating German propaganda read into their record a large number of letters from JJ Dickinson to George Sylvester Viereck dating from the period of American neutrality. These letters were signed “Josiah Wingate”, and according to Army Intelligence, were intended not for Viereck but for Dr Karl Fuehr, a US-based German propagandist, and thence transmitted by wireless to Berlin. JJ Dickinson was the Washington correspondent for The Fatherland and also a Captain in the army.
The first letter was written on 4 June 1916. The first thing Dickinson says is
“Please note by the above that I am now receiving my mail at the National Press Club instead of the Army and Navy Club as heretofore, the reason being that I find it more convenient to use the first-named club in doing my work than the latter.”
It is of interest that Crowley was in Washington at the National Press Club on 26 May 1916, losing a series of chess games. This was reported in the Washington Post on 28 May 1916 (Crowley’s movements are uncertain from this date until early December 1916, when he left New York for an eight week trip to New Orleans).
Dickinson’s first letter gives information “from an authoritative source” on President Wilson being appraised of Secretary Lansing’s insulting attitude towards the German-language press. He goes on to say that he predicts Lansing will shortly leave the Cabinet due to “failing health”, but in reality it will be because of the financial documents Dickinson has been promised of Lansing’s (presumably corrupt) financial dealings with the Mexican government.
Dickinson says he has spoken to several members of Congress, who were awaiting Viereck’s resolutions over “the Captain Gaunt affair”. These members of Congress had “read with interest your exposure of the Britisher and (who) hope that the subject matter may be so presented in resolutions that they can handle them in some form in Congress.”
In closing, Dickinson relates the immediate cause of the resignation of Secretary Bryan and speculates over Wilson being forced to remove his private secretary Joseph Tumulty. He asks Viereck of the matter: “What suggestions have you to make as to its handling?”
These letters continued regularly through to October 1916 and they all exhibit a similar intimate knowledge of the machinations of the Wilson government. I think they raise several questions. What role did Crowley play to Dickinson? Where was Crowley in the period May – December 1916? What was the Captain Gaunt affair? What was the exposure of the Britisher? et cetera