The Charles Pergler Papers comprise 1.5 linear feet of material consisting of correspondence, legal documents, clippings, ephemera, diaries and other materials arranged in 39 folders in 1 box.
Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.
Charles Pergler (1882-1954) was a major figure in the Czechoslovakian independence movement in the United States at the time of the First World War; he served in the Czechoslovakian foreign service and as a member of that government's parliament. He eventually settled down to teach law in Washington, D. C.
Charles Pergler was born Karel Pergler in 1882 in Liblin, Bohemia, at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Pergler's family immigrated to Chicago in 1890 where he graduated from high school. After the death of his father in 1896, he and his mother moved back to Bohemia, where Charles eventually ended up in Prague. In Prague Pergler worked as a clerk in a small press firm, and he soon became involved with the Democratic Socialist and the anti-Austrian movements taking place there. This may have been the most important period in Pergler's intellectual development, and he writes about it in an essay of his life (Folder 33). In 1903 Pergler decided to return to the United States for a while in order to study law and to get involved in the Socialist and Czech nationalist movements there.
In Chicago Pergler began working at Spravedlnost, a local Czech language newspaper, and in 1905 began courses at Kent College of Law. After receiving his LL.B. from Kent in 1908, Pergler moved to Howard County, Iowa where he practiced law until 1917. During this period Pergler was active in the movement "to free peoples oppressed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire," which accellerated at the outbreak of the First World War. In this collection Pergler's correspondence from 1915 to 1918 shows him especially active in lobbying efforts to plead the Bohemian cause, especially in the form of keeping an active eye on the American English and Czech language presses, and later as the head of the newly formed Slav Press Bureau (founded in May, 1918). We also see Pergler's close involvement in the Bohemian National Alliance and the Bohemian Chapter of the Socialist Party of America.
In October, 1918 the Czechoslovak Republic proclaimed its independence, and Charles Pergler was appointed the first Ambassador to the United States from the new state. At this point Pergler did much to keep the state alive during the final year of the First World War by keeping in close contact with the U. S. Senate and working out loans to Czechoslovakia from the United States.
In 1920 Pergler became Czechoslovakia's first Ambassador to Japan. Among other projects, Pergler was to work with the Soviet government on the release of Czech prisoners of war still being held in Chita and Vladivostock in Siberia. During Pergler's year in Tokyo, however, a scandal emerged which would trouble Pergler for the rest of his career in Czechoslovakian government. Antonin Novak, an assistant to the delegation to Japan, began embezzling large sums of money from the embassy's budget. When Prague telegrammed Pergler to fire Novak and have him sent back to Prague, Novak intercepted the communications, preventing Pergler from knowing Prague's position on the issue. In March, 1921 Novak left Tokyo for the United States with a large sum of money from the Czech embassy, and Pergler did not know about the fraud until after Novak had departed. Pergler was immediatley relieved of his position, and his pension as a retired member of the foreign service was taken away.
Pergler returned to Washington, D. C. and studied law at American University, where he obtained his LL.M. in 1924. He then became the Washington Representative for the Czechoslovak National Council of America until 1927. After further work at the National University College of Law in Washington, Pergler received an honorary LL.D. from the University in 1928.
In 1929 Pergler returned to Prague and was elected to Czechoslovakia's parliament, in which he served from 1929 to 1931. Pergler soon ran into disagreement with Tomas Masaryk, the President of the Republic, and Eduard Benes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs who had fired Pergler nearly ten years before from the ambassadorship to Japan. Pergler was shocked by the censorship imposed by Masaryk and Benes in Prague and began to lead an inquiry into the source of Masaryk and Benes' sudden wealth after the First World War. Pergler was removed from the parliament in 1931, but was immediatley elected to the Prague city council. At this point Masaryk and Benes had Pergler expelled from Czechslovakia, claiming that he was not rightfully a citizen of the country because of his time spent in the United States and claiming that Pergler had lied about his place of birth. A set of legal documents in Czech in this collection show Pergler's battle in the Czechoslovak courts attempting unsuccessfully to reclaim his rights while he was living in Washington, D. C. (Folder 34).
From 1933 to 1936, Pergler was dean of the School of Economics and Government at National University, and later the dean of the National University College of Law (now the National Law Center at George Washington University), from 1936 to 1946. He was also a lecturer at Catholic University of America and American University in constitutional law. Pergler then worked as Special Advisor to the Military Government, Korea from 1946 to 1948. Charles Pergler wrote a number of books during his lifetime, most of which were on Czechoslovakian history or international law: "The Czechslovak State" (1919), "Towards the National State" (1920?), "America in the Struggle for Czechoslovak Independence" (1926) and "The American Constitutional System" (1929) all in Prague; and "Judicial Interpretation of International Law" in the United States" (1928) in the U. S. He also contributed to a number of law journals and reviews. Charles Pergler died in Washington, D. C. in August, 1954.
1 Linear Feet (1 box)
Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository