Part 2 out of 5
Fresh telegrams pass between the Kaiser and the Tsar.
Germany presents ultimatum to Russia demanding that her mobilization
should cease within 12 hours.
Germany presents an ultimatum to France asking her to define her
attitude in case of a Russo-German war.
English bankers confer with the Government about the financial
Aug. 1. Saturday. Sir E. Grey protests against detention of English
ships at Hamburg.
Orders issued for general mobilization of French army.
Orders issued for general mobilization of German army.
Aug. 2. Sunday. Germans invade Luxemburg.
Sir E. Grey gives France an assurance that the English fleet will
protect the North Coast of France against the German fleet.
Germans enter French territory near Cirey.
Aug. 3. Monday. Italy declares itself neutral, as the other members of
the Triple Alliance are not engaged in a defensive war.
Germany presents an ultimatum to Belgium.
Sir E. Grey makes an important speech in the House of Commons.
Aug. 4. Tuesday. Germans enter Belgian territory.
Britain presents an ultimatum to Germany demanding an answer by
The Prime Minister makes a speech in the House of Commons, practically
announcing war against Germany and explaining the British position.
Aug. 6. Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia.
Aug. 11. The French Ambassador at Vienna demands his passport.
Aug. 12. Great Britain declares war on Austria-Hungary.
[Footnote 25: Extracts are printed in the German version of the German
White Book (pp. 28-31) from an Austrian official publication of July 27.
We print the extracts (the original not being accessible in this
country) in Appendix IV.]
[Footnote 26: Full text _infra_ in Appendix I (German White Book, pp.
18-23); more correctly in _Correspondence respecting the European
Crisis_, No. 4, Count Berchtold to Count Mensdorff, July 24; but the
differences between the two versions are immaterial for our present
[Footnote 27: See the communication to England in _Correspondence_, No.
[Footnote 28: _Correspondence_, No. 9, Note communicated by the German
Ambassador, July 24.]
[Footnote 29: _Correspondence_, No. 6, Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 30: _Correspondence_, No. 13, Note communicated by Russian
Ambassador, July 25.]
[Footnote 31: _Correspondence_, No. 17, Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 32: For text of Servian note see _infra_ Appendix I (German
White Book, pp. 23-32). The Austrian comments also are given there.]
[Footnote 33: _Correspondence_, No. 42, Sir F. Bertie to Sir E. Grey,
July 27; _ibid_. No. 49, Sir E. Grey to Sir R. Rodd, July 27.]
[Footnote 34: _Correspondence_, No. 43. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 35: German White Book, p. 46 (_infra_ in Appendix I). The Tsar
to His Majesty, July 30.]
[Footnote 36: _Correspondence_, No. 45. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey.]
[Footnote 37: Austria declined conversations on July 28
(_Correspondence_, No. 93); but for conversations of July 31 see
_Correspondence_, No. III; of August I, see Appendix V.]
[Footnote 38: _Correspondence_, No. 70 (I). M. Sazonof to Russian
Ambassador at Berlin, July 28.]
[Footnote 39: _Correspondence_, No. 72. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 40: German White Book, pp. 43, 45 (in Appendix I, _infra_).]
[Footnote 41: _Correspondence_, No. 76. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 42: German White Book, p. 42, Exhibit 17 (_infra_, Appendix
[Footnote 43: _Correspondence_, No. 105 (Enclosure 3), July 30.]
[Footnote 44: German White Book, p. 7; the date of the warning seems to
be July 27.]
[Footnote 45: German White Book, p. 40, Exhibit II.]
[Footnote 46: _Ibid_. p. 9.]
[Footnote 47: _Ibid_. p. 10.]
[Footnote 48: _Correspondence_, No. 85. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 49: _Ibid_. No. 101. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, July 30.]
[Footnote 50: _Correspondence_, No. 123. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen,
[Footnote 51: _Ibid_. No. 105. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 30.]
[Footnote 52: _Ibid_. No. 119. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 31.]
[Footnote 53: _Ibid_. No. 114, 120, 122.]
[Footnote 54: _Ibid_. No. 148. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, Aug. 2.]
[Footnote 55: _Ibid_. No. 153. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, Aug. 4.]
[Footnote 56: _Ibid_. No. 159. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, Aug. 4]
NEGOTIATORS AND NEGOTIATIONS
For purposes of reference the following list of _dramatis personae_ may
GREAT BRITAIN: King George V, _succ_. 1910.
_Foreign Secretary_: Sir Edward Grey.
_Ambassadors from France_: M. Paul Cambon.
_Russia_: Count Benckendorff.
_Germany_: Prince Lichnowsky.
_Austria_: Count Albert Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein.
_Belgium_: Count A. de Lalaing (_Minister_).
RUSSIA: Emperor Nicholas II, _succ_. 1894.
_Foreign Secretary_: M. Sazonof.
_Ambassadors from Great Britain_: Sir George Buchanan.
_France_: M. Paleologue.
_Germany_: Count Pourtales.
_Austria_: Friedrich Count Szapary.
FRANCE: Raymond Poincare, _President, elected_ 1913.
_Premier_: M. Viviani.
_Acting Foreign Secretary_: M. Doumergue.
_Ambassadors from Great Britain_: Sir Francis Bertie.
_Russia_: M. Isvolsky.
M. Sevastopoulo (_Charge d'Affaires_).
_Germany_: Baron von Schoen.
_Austria_: Count Scezsen.
GERMANY: Emperor William II, _succ_. 1888.
_Imperial Chancellor_: Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg.
_Foreign Secretary_: Herr von Jagow.
_Ambassadors from Great Britain_: Sir Edward Goschen.
Sir Horace Rumbold (_Councillor_).
_Russia:_ M. Swerbeiev.
M. Bronewsky (_Charge d'Affaires_).
_France:_ M. Jules Cambon.
_Austria_: Count Ladislaus Szoegyeny-Marich.
AUSTRIA-HUNGARY: Emperor Francis Joseph, _succ_. 1848.
_Foreign Secretary_: Count Berchtold.
_Ambassadors from Great Britain_: Sir Maurice de Bunsen.
_Russia_: M. Schebesco.
M. Kondachev (_Charge d'Affaires_).
_France_: M. Crozier.
_Germany_: Herr von Tschirscky-und-Boegendorff.
ITALY: King Victor Emmanuel III, _succ_. 1900.
_Foreign Secretary_: Marquis di San Giuliano.
_Ambassador from Great Britain_: Sir Rennell Rodd.
BELGIUM: King Albert, _succ_. 1909.
_Minister of Great Britain_: Sir Francis Villiers.
SERVIA: King Peter, _succ_. 1903.
_Minister of Great Britain_: C.L. des Graz.
D.M. Crackanthorpe (_First Secretary_).
_Russian Charge d'Affaires_: M. Strandtmann.
_Germany's attitude to Austria and Russia_.
From the very beginning of the conversations between the Powers on the
assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Serajevo, and on the
Austrian note to Servia, the German Government took up the attitude that
it was a 'matter for settlement between Servia and Austria alone.'
Subsequently in their White Book they endeavoured to show that the
Servian agitation was part of Russian propagandism. In the
negotiations, the cardinal point of their observations is that Russia is
not to interfere in this matter, although M. Paul Cambon pointed out
that 'Russia would be compelled by her public opinion to take action as
soon as Austria attacked Servia'.
After the presentation of the Austrian note to Servia, Germany continued
to maintain the position that the crisis could be localized, and to
reject Sir Horace Rumbold's suggestion that 'in taking military action
in Servia, Austria would dangerously excite public opinion in
At Vienna Sir Maurice de Bunsen, the British Ambassador, was very
frankly told by the German Ambassador that Germany was shielding Austria
in the Servian business:--
'As for Germany, she knew very well what she was about in backing up
Austria-Hungary in this matter.... Servian concessions were all a
sham. Servia proved that she well knew that they were insufficient
to satisfy the legitimate demands of Austria-Hungary by the fact
that before making her offer she had ordered mobilization and
retirement of Government from Belgrade.'
M. Sazonof, the Russian Foreign Minister, seems to have divined this
policy of Germany pretty soon:--
'My interviews with the German Ambassador confirm my impression that
Germany is, if anything, in favour of the uncompromising attitude
adopted by Austria. The Berlin Cabinet, who could have prevented the
whole of this crisis developing, appear to be exercising no
influence upon their ally.... There is no doubt that the key of the
situation is to be found at Berlin.'
When at the beginning of August the crisis had led to war, it is
interesting to observe the opinions expressed by high and well-informed
officials about German diplomacy. M. Sazonof summed up his opinion
'The policy of Austria had throughout been tortuous and immoral, and
she thought she could treat Russia with defiance, secure in the
support of her German ally. Similarly the policy of Germany had been
an equivocal and double-faced policy, and it mattered little whether
the German Government knew or did not know the terms of the Austrian
ultimatum; what mattered was that her intervention with the Austrian
Government had been postponed until the moment had passed when its
influence would have been felt. Germany was unfortunate in her
representatives in Vienna and St. Petersburg; the former was a
violent Russophobe who had urged Austria on, the latter had reported
to his Government that Russia would never go to war.'
And Sir Maurice de Bunsen on the same day wrote that he agreed with his
Russian colleague that
'the German Ambassador at Vienna desired war from the first, and his
strong personal bias probably coloured his action here. The Russian
Ambassador is convinced that the German Government also desired war
from the first.'
Sir Maurice does not actually endorse this opinion concerning the
attitude of the German Government, but there can be no doubt that this
general attitude was most pernicious to the cause of European peace, and
that if the German Government had desired war they could scarcely have
acted more efficiently towards that end. No diplomatic pressure was put
upon Vienna, which under the aegis of Berlin was allowed to go to any
lengths against Servia. Over and over again the German diplomats were
told that Russia was deeply interested in Servia, but they would not
listen. As late as July 28th the German Chancellor himself refused 'to
discuss the Servian note', adding that 'Austria's standpoint, and in
this he agreed, was that her quarrel with Servia was a purely Austrian
concern with which Russia had nothing to do'. Next day the German
Ambassador at Vienna was continuing 'to feign surprise that Servian
affairs could be of such interest to Russia'. But in their White
Book, in order to blacken the character of Russia, the Germans remark
that they 'were perfectly aware that a possible warlike attitude of
Austria-Hungary against Servia might bring Russia into the field'.
Both stories cannot be true: the German Government have, not for the
last time in the history of these negotiations, to choose between
ineptitude and guilt; the ineptitude of not recognizing an obvious fact,
and the guilt of deliberately allowing Austria to act in such a way that
Russia was bound to come into the field.
When Austria presented her ultimatum, Sir Edward Grey did all he could
to obtain the good offices of Russia for a conciliatory reply by Servia,
and to persuade the German Government to use influence with Austria so
that she should take a friendly attitude to Servia. On the day of the
presentation of the Austrian note he proposed to Prince Lichnowsky, the
German Ambassador, the co-operation of the four Powers, Germany, France,
Italy, and Great Britain, in favour of moderation at Vienna and St.
Petersburg, and when the Austrians rejected the Servian reply he took
the important step of proposing that the French, Italian, and German
Ambassadors should meet him in conference immediately 'for the purpose
of discovering an issue which would prevent complications'. The
proposal was accepted with alacrity by the French and Italian
Governments. The German Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Jagow,
on the other hand, was unable or unwilling to understand the proposal,
and Sir Edward Goschen seems to have been unable to impress its real
character upon the Government of Berlin. For Herr von Jagow, on receipt
of the proposal, informed the British Ambassador, Sir Edward Goschen,
that the conference suggested
'would practically amount to a court of arbitration and could not in
his opinion be called together except at the request of Austria and
Russia. He could not therefore fall in with it.'
Sir Edward Goschen not unnaturally pointed out that
'the idea had nothing to do with arbitration, but meant that
representatives of the four nations not directly interested should
discuss and suggest means for avoiding a dangerous situation'.
Herr von Jagow spoke in the same sense to the French and Italian
Ambassadors, who discussed the matter with their British colleague. Some
doubt seems to have arisen in their minds as to the sincerity of the
German Secretary of State's loudly expressed desire for peace; but,
giving him the benefit of the doubt, they concluded that the objection
must be to the 'form of the proposal'. 'Perhaps', added Sir Edward
Goschen, 'he himself could be induced to suggest lines on which he would
find it possible to work with us.' The next day the same idea was
pressed by Sir Edward Grey upon Prince Lichnowsky:--
'The whole idea of mediation or mediating influence was ready to be
put into operation by any method that Germany could suggest if mine
was not acceptable.'
But owing to German dilatoriness in this matter, events had by then gone
so far that the very gravest questions had arisen for this country.
With the refusal of the German Government to propose a form of mediation
acceptable to themselves before graver events had occurred, the first
period of the negotiation comes to an end. The responsibility of
rejecting a conference, which, by staving off the evil day, might have
preserved the peace of Europe, falls solely on the shoulders of Germany.
The reasons advanced by Herr von Jagow were erroneous, and though Dr.
von Bethmann-Hollweg, the Imperial Chancellor, was more conciliatory and
sympathetic, it may be noted that the German White Book continues to
misrepresent Sir Edward Grey's proposal as a conference on the
particular question of the Austro-Servian dispute, and not on the
general situation of Europe.
In the period that follows come spasmodic attempts at negotiation by
direct conversations between the parties concerned, with no advantage,
but rather with the growth of mutual suspicion. Down to August 1st both
Sir Edward Grey and M. Sazonof were busy trying to find some formula
which might be accepted as a basis for postponing hostilities between
the Great Powers. And here it may be well to point out that Prince
Lichnowsky seems to have been left in the dark by his chiefs. On July
24th, the day after the Austrian note was presented, he was so little
acquainted with the true state of affairs, that speaking privately he
told Sir Edward Grey 'that a reply favourable on some points must be
sent at once by Servia, so that an excuse against immediate action might
be afforded to Austria'. And in the matter of the conference, on the
very day that Herr von Jagow was making his excuses against entering the
proposed conference, Prince Lichnowsky informed Sir Edward Grey, that
the German Government accepted in principle mediation between Austria
and Russia by the four Powers, reserving, of course, their right as an
ally to help Austria if attacked. The mutual incompatibility of the
two voices of Germany was pointed out from Rome, where the Marquis di
San Giuliano, the Italian Foreign Minister, attempted a reconciliation
between them, on information received from Berlin, that 'the difficulty
was rather the "conference" than the principle'. But we may ask
whether Herr von Jagow's reply to Sir Edward Goschen does not really
show that the whole principle of a conference was objected to, seeing
that he said that such a 'conference was not practicable', and that 'it
would be best to await the outcome of the exchange of views between the
Austrian and Russian Governments'. But, if it was not the principle
that was objected to, but only the form, where are we? We can do nothing
else but assume that the German Government objected to the terms
employed by Sir Edward Grey, and that for the sake of a mere quibble
they wasted time until other events made the catastrophe inevitable.
Impartiality will have to judge whether such action was deliberate or
not; whether in this case also it is crime or folly which has to be laid
at the door of the German Government.
The proposed conference having been rejected by Germany, an attempt was
then made by several Powers to invite Austria to suspend military
action. Although Count Mensdorff, the Austrian Ambassador in London, had
made on July 25th a distinction between military preparations and
military operations, and had urged that his Government had only the
former then in view, it was reported two days later from Rome that there
were great doubts 'whether Germany would be willing to invite Austria to
suspend military action pending the conference'. Even if she had been
willing to do so, it is very doubtful whether, in view of the Austrian
declaration of war against Servia on July 28th, and the simultaneous
Austrian decree for general mobilization, the position of Europe could
have been improved, for on July 29th that declaration was followed by
news of the Russian mobilization of the southern districts of Odessa,
Kiev, Moscow, and Kazan.
Now the German Secretary of State had argued that 'if Russia mobilized
against Germany, latter would have to follow suit'. On being asked what
he meant by 'mobilizing against Germany', he said that
'if Russia mobilized in the South, Germany would not mobilize, but
if she mobilized in the north, Germany would have to do so too, and
Russian system of mobilization was so complicated that it might be
difficult exactly to locate her mobilization. Germany would
therefore have to be very careful not to be taken by surprise.'
This was on July 27th, and it cannot be said to have been unreasonable.
But when on July 29th Russia mobilized the southern districts no grounds
for German mobilization had yet been provided. No secret was made about
this mobilization by the Russian Ambassador at Berlin, but it is
perhaps as well to point out here the remark made by Sir George
Buchanan, the British Ambassador at St. Petersburg, about the language
used by his German colleague concerning the mobilization of the four
southern districts: 'He accused the Russian Government of endangering
the peace of Europe by their mobilization, and said, when I referred to
all that had recently been done by Austria, that he could not discuss
such matters.' It would perhaps be rash to assume that the German
Ambassador, Count Pourtales, used such language to his home Government,
for there is no evidence of it in the German White Book. What dispatches
appear there from the German Embassy at St. Petersburg are refreshingly
honest. The military attache says, 'I deem it certain that mobilization
has been ordered for Kiev and Odessa'. He adds: 'it is doubtful at
Warsaw and Moscow, and improbable elsewhere'.
There was therefore, according to the evidence produced by the Germans
themselves, no mobilization 'against Germany'. The only thing that looks
at all like hostile action is contained in the news sent by the Imperial
German Consul at Kovno on July 27th, that a 'state of war'
(_Kriegszustand_) had been proclaimed in that district. But this is a
very different thing from mobilization; it was almost bound to follow in
the northern provinces of the Empire as the result of mobilization
elsewhere. At any rate the Consul at Kovno announced it on July 27th
before any Russian mobilization at all had taken place, and the fact
that Germany did not instantly mobilize shows that at the end of July
that Government did not consider _Kriegszustand_ in Kovno to be
equivalent to 'mobilization against Germany'.
Opinion in Berlin seems to have been that Russia would not make war.
Perhaps there was no real fear that Russia would take an aggressive
attitude, for many people believed that 'Russia neither wanted, nor was
in a position to make war'. This attitude of mind was known and
deplored in Rome, where the Marquis di San Giuliano said 'there seemed
to be a difficulty in making Germany believe that Russia was in
earnest'. Such an opinion seems to have been shared by Count
Pourtales, who on July 29 reported that the German Government were
willing to guarantee that Servian integrity would be respected by
Austria. This was held to be insufficient, as Servia might thus become
an Austrian vassal, and there would be a revolution in Russia if she
were to tolerate such a state of affairs. The next day the Russian
Minister for Foreign Affairs told the British and French Ambassadors
'that absolute proof was in the possession of the Russian Government
that Germany was making military and naval preparations against
Russia--more particularly in the direction of the Gulf of Finland'.
After this, is it difficult to see how German statesmen regarded the
situation? Russia, in their eyes, was playing a game of bluff, and
strong measures against her were in the interest of Germany. But, though
under no illusion as to German preparations, M. Sazonof offered on July
30 to stop all military preparations if Austria 'would eliminate from
her ultimatum to Servia points which violate the principle of the
sovereignty of Servia'. 'Preparations for general mobilization will
be proceeded with if this proposal is rejected by Austria,' wrote Sir
George Buchanan. The next day he reported to Sir Edward Grey that
all attempts to obtain the consent of Austria to mediation had failed,
and that she was moving troops against Russia as well as against
Face to face therefore with war against another Power, Russia ordered a
general mobilization. This was answered on the same day by a
proclamation of _Kriegsgefahr_ at Berlin, 'as it can only be against
Germany that Russian general mobilization is directed'.
Thus on Friday, July 31st, the situation had come to be this, that
Russia, feeling herself threatened by the military preparations of
Austria and Germany, decided to issue orders for a general
mobilization. Meanwhile Sir Edward Grey still clung to the hope that
mediation with a view to safeguarding Austrian interests as against
Servia might yet be accepted. But his efforts were useless, for
Germany had launched an ultimatum (July 31) to Russia, demanding
demobilization. As Sir Edward Goschen pointed out, the demand was made
'even more difficult for Russia to accept by asking them to demobilize
in the south as well'. The only explanation actually vouchsafed was
that this had been asked to prevent Russia pleading that all her
mobilization was only directed against Austria. Such a quibble, when
such interests are at stake, seems to call for severe comment.
War between the three empires seemed now inevitable, for though the
Emperor of Russia and the German Emperor had exchanged telegrams each
imploring the other to find a way out of the difficulty, and each saying
that matters had gone so far that neither could grant the other's
demands, the officials at Berlin were now taking up the position
that 'Russia's mobilization had spoilt everything'. This attitude is
as inexplicable as it proved disastrous. For it appears that on July 31
Austria and Russia were ready to resume conversations. The Austrians,
apparently alarmed at the prospect of a general war, were ready to
discuss the substance of the Austrian ultimatum to Servia, and Russia
announced that under certain conditions 'she would undertake to preserve
her waiting attitude'. Having issued her ultimatum to Russia,
Germany naturally mobilized, but what kind of diplomacy is this in
which, with the principals both ready to negotiate, a third party issues
an ultimatum couched in such terms that a proud country can give but one
The sequence of events seems to be as follows. Austria mobilized against
Servia. Russia, rightly or wrongly, took this as a threat to herself,
and mobilized all her southern forces against Austria. Then Germany
threatened to mobilize unless Russia ceased her military
preparations--an inexcusable step, which increased Russia's
apprehensions of a general war, and made a general Russian mobilization
inevitable. If Russia was the first to mobilize, she took this step
in consequence of German threats. We repeat that in spite of the three
empires taking this action, discussion was still possible between Russia
and Austria, and might have had good results. In fact, the situation
was not irretrievable, if Germany had not rendered it so by issuing her
ultimatum to Russia. Once again we may ask, was this crime or folly?
_Germany's attitude to France._
We must now turn our eyes to the West of Europe, and observe the
diplomacy of Germany with regard to France and Great Britain. On the
27th of July we are told that the German Government received 'the first
intimation concerning the preparatory measures taken by France: the 14th
Corps discontinued the manoeuvres and returned to its garrison'.
Will it be believed that, except for the assertion 'of rapidly
progressing preparations of France, both on water and on land', this
is the only shred of evidence that the Germans have produced to prove
the aggressive intentions of France? And it may be worth while to point
out that on July 29, when the German White Book says that Berlin heard
of the 'rapidly progressing preparations of France', the French
Ambassador at Berlin informed the Secretary of State that 'they had done
nothing more than the German Government had done, namely, recalled the
officers on leave'.
The very next day the French Government had 'reliable information that
the German troops are concentrated round Thionville and Metz ready for
war', and before July 30th German patrols twice penetrated into
French territory. With great forbearance the French Government
withdrew its troops ten kilometres from the frontier; and, although
German reservists had been recalled from abroad 'by tens of thousands',
the French Government had not called out a single reservist. Well might
the French Minister for Foreign Affairs say 'Germany has done it'.
Having thus invaded France before July 30th, the German Government
presented an ultimatum (July 31) demanding what were the French
intentions, and on August 1st the French Government replied that it
would consult its own interests.
_The Question of British Neutrality_.
Even then, nothing had happened to bring this country into the quarrel.
If Germany were making war primarily on Russia, and France were only
involved as the auxiliary of Russia, Germany would have acted rapidly
against Russia, and would have stood on the defensive against France;
and England would not have been dragged into war. The question of
British neutrality first appears in the British White Book on July 25th,
when Sir Edward Grey, in a note to Sir George Buchanan, said: 'if war
does take place, the development of other issues may draw us into it,
and I am therefore anxious to prevent it'. Two days later he wrote
'I have been told by the Russian Ambassador that in German and
Austrian circles impression prevails that in any event we would
stand aside ... This impression ought, as I have pointed out, to be
dispelled by the orders we have given to the First Fleet ... not to
disperse for manoeuvre leave. But ... my reference to it must not be
taken to mean that anything more than diplomatic action was
On the 29th the question of our neutrality was seriously discussed at
both the Courts of St. James and Berlin independently. Sir Edward Grey,
in an interview with Prince Lichnowsky, told him 'he did not wish the
Ambassador to be misled ... into thinking we should stand aside'.
Developing this, Sir Edward Grey solemnly warned the German Ambassador
'there was no question of our intervening if Germany was not
involved, or even if France was not involved, but if the issue did
become such that we thought British interests required us to
intervene, we must intervene at once, and the decision would have to
be very rapid.... But ... I did not wish to be open to any reproach
from him that the friendly tone of all our conversations had misled
him or his Government into supposing that we should not take
Before the news of this had reached Berlin the Imperial Chancellor had
made his notorious 'bid for British neutrality' on July 29:--
'He said it was clear, so far as he was able to judge the main
principle which governed British policy, that Great Britain would
never stand by and allow France to be crushed in any conflict there
might be. That, however, was not the object at which Germany aimed.
Provided that neutrality of Great Britain were certain, every
assurance would be given to the British Government that the Imperial
Government aimed at no territorial acquisitions at the expense of
France, should they prove victorious in any war that might ensue.
'I questioned his Excellency about the French colonies, and he said
he was unable to give a similar undertaking in that respect. As
regards Holland ... so long as Germany's adversaries respected the
integrity and neutrality of the Netherlands, Germany was ready to
give His Majesty's Government an assurance that she would do
likewise. It depended on the action of France what operations
Germany might be forced to enter upon in Belgium, but when the war
was over, Belgian integrity would be respected if she had not sided
This request was at once repudiated (July 30) by the British
'His Majesty's Government cannot for one moment entertain the
Chancellor's proposal that they should bind themselves to neutrality
on such terms.
'What he asks us in effect is to engage to stand by while French
colonies are taken and France is beaten so long as Germany does not
take French territory as distinct from the colonies.
'From the material point of view the proposal is unacceptable, for
France, without further territory in Europe being taken from her,
could be so crushed as to lose her position as a Great Power and
become subordinate to German policy.
'Altogether apart from that, it would be a disgrace for us to make
this bargain with Germany at the expense of France, a disgrace from
which the good name of this country would never recover.
'The Chancellor also in effect asks us to bargain away whatever
obligation or interest we have as regards the neutrality of Belgium.
We could not entertain that bargain either.
He continued by saying that Great Britain must keep her hands absolutely
free and hinted at some scheme for preventing anti-German aggression by
the Powers of the Triple _Entente_:--
'If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present crisis
safely passed, my own endeavour will be to promote some arrangement
to which Germany could be a party, by which she could be assured
that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against her or
her allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately
... The idea has hitherto been too Utopian to form the subject of
definite proposals, but if this crisis ... be safely passed, I am
hopeful that the relief and reaction which will follow will make
possible some more definite rapprochement between the Powers than
has been possible hitherto.'
Thus two points were made clear: we were seriously concerned that France
should not be crushed, and that the neutrality of Belgium should not be
violated. It is interesting to note how this extremely serious warning
was received by Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg:--'His Excellency was so taken
up with the news of the Russian measures along the frontier ... that he
received your communication without a comment.'
But the text of the reply was left with him, so that he could scarcely
complain that no warning had been given to him.
With the data at our disposal, it is not possible to make any deduction
as to the effect which this warning had upon Berlin; but it may be
remarked that at Rome that day, the Marquis di San Giuliano told Sir
Rennell Rodd that he had
'good reason to believe that Germany was now disposed to give more
conciliatory advice to Austria, as she seemed convinced that we
should act with France and Russia, and was most anxious to avoid
issue with us.'
As this telegraphic dispatch was not received till the next day, it is
not impossible that the Italian Minister gave this information to Sir
Rennell Rodd late in the day, after having received news from Berlin
sent under the impression made by Sir Edward Grey's warning.
Such an impression, if it ever existed, must have been of short
duration, for when the British Government demanded both of France and
Germany whether they were 'prepared to engage to respect neutrality of
Belgium so long as no other Power violates it', the French gave an
unequivocal promise the same day, while the German answer is a
'I have seen Secretary of State, who informs me that he must consult
the Emperor and the Chancellor before he can possibly answer. I
gathered from what he said that he thought any reply they might give
could not but disclose a certain amount of their plan of campaign in
the event of war ensuing, and he was therefore very doubtful whether
they would return any answer at all. His Excellency, nevertheless,
took note of your request.
'It appears from what he said that German Government considers that
certain hostile acts have already been committed in Belgium. As an
instance of this, he alleged that a consignment of corn for Germany
had been placed under an embargo already.'
It was now clear that a violation of Belgian neutrality was a
contingency that would have to be faced, and Prince Lichnowsky was
warned the next day that 'the neutrality of Belgium affected feeling in
this country', and he was asked to obtain an assurance from the German
Government similar to that given by France:--
'If there were a violation of the neutrality of Belgium by one
combatant, while the other respected it, it would be extremely
difficult to restrain public feeling in this country.'
The Ambassador then, on his own personal responsibility and without
authority from his Government, tried to exact a promise that Great
Britain would remain neutral 'if Germany gave a promise not to violate
Belgian neutrality', but Sir Edward Grey was bound to refuse such an
offer, seeing that it left out of account all question of an attack on
France and her colonies, about which it had been stated already that
there could be no bargaining. Even the guarantee of the integrity of
France and her colonies was suggested, but again Sir Edward Grey was
bound to refuse, for the reasons he gave to Sir Edward Goschen in
rejecting what is now known as Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg's 'infamous
proposal', namely, that France without actually losing territory might
be so crushed as to lose her position as a Great Power, and become
subordinate to German policy. And if there should be still any doubt
about Sir Edward Grey's policy at this moment, we would refer to his
statement in the House of Commons on August 27. The important
points are that the offers of August 1 were made on the sole
responsibility of Prince Lichnowsky, and without authority from his
Government; that the Cabinet on August 2 carefully discussed the
conditions on which we might remain neutral, and that, on August 3, so
far was the German Ambassador from guaranteeing the neutrality of
Belgium that he actually had to ask Sir Edward Grey 'not to make the
neutrality of Belgium one of our conditions'. Whatever Prince Lichnowsky
may have said privately on August 1, the one fact certain is that two
days later the German Government were making no concessions on that
point; on the contrary they were asking us to withdraw from a position
we had taken up on July 30, four days before.
One more effort to preserve peace in Western Europe seems to have been
made by Sir Edward Grey. On the telephone he asked Prince Lichnowsky
whether, if France remained neutral, Germany would promise not to attack
her. The impression seems to have prevailed in Berlin that this was an
offer to guarantee French neutrality by the force of British arms, and
the German Emperor in his telegram to the King gave evidence of the
relief His Imperial Majesty felt at the prospect that the good relations
between the two countries would be maintained. Unfortunately for such
hopes, France had never been consulted in the matter, nor was there ever
any idea of coercing France into neutrality, and even the original
proposal had to be abandoned on consideration as unpractical.
Events now marched rapidly. While the Cabinet in London were still
discussing whether a violation of Belgian neutrality would be an
occasion for war, the news came of the violation of that of Luxemburg.
Sir Edward Grey informed M. Cambon that Lord Stanley and Lord
Clarendon in 1867 had agreed to a 'collective guarantee' by which it was
not intended that every Power was bound single-handed to fight any
Government which violated Luxemburg. Although this gross disregard by
the Germans of their solemn pledge did not entail the same consequences
as the subsequent violation of Belgian neutrality, it is equally
reprehensible from the point of view of international law, and the more
cowardly in proportion as this state is weaker than Belgium. Against
this intrusion Luxemburg protested, but, unlike Belgium, she did not
appeal to the Powers.
Two days later, August 4th, the King of the Belgians appealed to the
King for 'diplomatic intervention to safeguard the integrity of
Belgium'. The German Government had issued an ultimatum to the
Belgian, asking for
'a free passage through Belgian territory, and promising to maintain
the independence and integrity of the kingdom and its possessions at
the conclusion of peace, threatening in case of refusal to treat
Belgium as an enemy. An answer was requested within twelve
Sir Edward Grey instructed the British Ambassador to protest against
this violation of a treaty to which Germany in common with ourselves was
a party, and to ask an assurance that the demand made upon Belgium would
not be proceeded with. At the same time the Belgian Government was told
to resist German aggression by all the means in its power, as Great
Britain was prepared to join France and Russia to maintain the
independence and integrity of Belgium. On receipt of the protest of
Sir Edward Grey, it would seem that Herr von Jagow made one more
desperate effort to bid for British neutrality: 'Germany will, under no
pretence whatever, annex Belgian territory': to pass through Belgium was
necessary because the 'German army could not be exposed to French attack
across Belgium, which was planned according to absolutely unimpeachable
information'. It was for Germany 'a question of life and death to
prevent French advance'. But matters had gone too far: that day
(August 4) the Germans violated Belgian territory at Gemmenich, and
thereupon the British demand to Germany to respect Belgian neutrality,
issued earlier in the day, was converted into an ultimatum:--
'We hear that Germany has addressed note to Belgian Minister for
Foreign Affairs stating that German Government will be compelled to
carry out, if necessary by force of arms, the measures considered
'We are also informed that Belgian territory has been violated at
'In these circumstances, and in view of the fact that Germany
declined to give the same assurance respecting Belgium as France
gave last week in reply to our request made simultaneously at Berlin
and Paris, we must repeat that request, and ask that a satisfactory
reply to it and to my telegram of this morning be received here by
12 o'clock to-night. If not, you are instructed to ask for your
passports, and to say that His Majesty's Government feel bound to
take all steps in their power to uphold the neutrality of Belgium
and the observance of a treaty to which Germany is as much a party
The effect at Berlin was remarkable. Every sign was given of
disappointment and resentment at such a step being taken, and the
'harangue' of the Chancellor to Sir Edward Goschen, and his astonishment
at the value laid by Great Britain upon the 'scrap of paper' of 1839
would seem, when coupled with Herr von Jagow's desperate bid for
neutrality at the last moment, to show that the German Government had
counted on the neutrality of this country and had been deeply
disappointed. If these outbursts and attempts at the eleventh hour to
bargain for our neutrality were genuine efforts to keep the peace
between Great Britain and Germany, it is our belief that their origin
must be found in the highest authority in the German Empire, whom we
believe, in spite of petty signs of spitefulness exhibited since the war
broke out, to have been sincerely and honestly working in favour of
European peace, against obstacles little dreamt of by our countrymen.
But certain signs are not wanting that, in the lower ranks of the German
hierarchy, war with this country had been decided on, and that Sir
Edward Grey was not far wrong when he wrote to Sir Francis Bertie on
July 31, 'I believe it to be quite untrue that our attitude has been a
decisive factor in situation. German Government do not expect our
neutrality.' On what other grounds than that orders had been sent
out from Berlin can the fact be explained that the German Customs
authorities, three days before the declaration of war, began detaining
British ships, and compulsorily unloading cargoes of sugar from
British vessels? In the former case, indeed, the ships were ordered to
be released; in the latter case, of which the complaint was made
twenty-four hours later, the reply to inquiries was the ominous
statement that 'no information was to be had'.
This, however, is a digression from the main question. History will
doubtless attribute the outbreak of war between ourselves and Germany to
the development of the Belgian question, and, we are confident, will
judge that had it not been for the gratuitous attack made on a neutral
country by Germany, war with Great Britain would not have ensued on
August 4, 1914. The excuses put forward by the German Government for
this wanton outrage on international agreements are instructive. In
conversation with Sir Edward Goschen, neither Herr von Jagow nor the
Chancellor urged that the French had violated the neutrality; the
argument is purely and simply that the route by way of the Vosges is
difficult, time is everything, and it is a matter of life and death to
Germany to crush France as quickly as possible, in order that she may be
able to meet the Russians before they reach the German frontier. This
excuse does not seem to have been very satisfactory even to those who
put it forward, though it was indubitably the real reason; so vice paid
homage to virtue, and Herr von Jagow urged to Prince Lichnowsky that he
had 'absolutely unimpeachable information' that the German army was
exposed to French attack across Belgium. On the other hand, the
Chancellor, as late as August 4th, seems to have known nothing of any
such action by France; at any rate he made no mention of it in his
speech to the Reichstag:--
'We are now in a state of necessity, and necessity knows no law. Our
troops have occupied Luxemburg and perhaps are already on Belgian
soil. Gentlemen, that is contrary to the dictates of international
law. It is true that the French Government has declared at Brussels
that France is willing to respect the neutrality of Belgium, as long
as her opponent respects it. We knew, however, that France stood
ready for invasion. France could wait but we could not wait. A
French movement upon our flank upon the Lower Rhine might have been
disastrous. So we were compelled to override the just protest of the
Luxemburg and Belgian Governments. The wrong--I speak openly--that
we are committing we will endeavour to make good as soon as our
military goal has been reached. Anybody who is threatened as we are
threatened, and is fighting for his highest possessions, can only
have one thought--how he is to hack his way through.'
In this double-faced position of the German Government, we have an
example either of unsurpassed wickedness or of insurpassable folly. The
violation of Belgium must have been designed either in order to bring us
into the quarrel, or on the supposition that, in spite of treaties and
warnings, we should yet remain neutral. Yet the foolishness of such a
calculation is as nothing to that which prompted the excuse that Germany
had to violate Belgian neutrality because the French were going to do
so, or had done so. In such a case undoubtedly the wisest course for
Germany would have been to allow the French to earn the reward of their
own folly and be attacked not only by Belgium but also by Great Britain,
to whom not five days before they had solemnly promised to observe the
neutrality, and whom such a gross violation of the French word must
indubitably have kept neutral, if it did not throw her on to the side of
Germany. In regard to Belgium the Germans have indeed put forward the
plea that the French had already violated its neutrality before war was
declared. This plea has been like a snowball. It began with the
ineffective accusation that the French were at Givet, a town in French
territory, and that this constituted an attack on Germany, though how
the presence of the French in a town of their own could be called a
violation of their neighbour's neutrality it is difficult to see. From
that it has gradually grown into a more formidable story of the French
supplying a garrison to Liege. There can be little doubt that all these
attempts by Herr von Jagow to claim that the French violated Belgian
neutrality are another illustration of Swift's dictum to the effect that
'as universal a practice as lying is, and as easy a one as it seems', it
is astonishing that it has been brought to so little perfection, 'even
by those who are most celebrated in that faculty'.
_England and Servia_.
We have seen what attitude was taken by Germany in the crisis which
followed upon the Serajevo murders and more definitely upon the
presentation of the Austrian note. It is equally important, and to
English readers at least more interesting, to realize what attitude was
taken by England. Sir Edward Grey throughout maintained the position,
which he was so justly praised for adopting in 1912, that England had no
direct interest in Balkan disputes, but that it was her bounden duty to
prevent a European conflagration. He quickly saw, what Germany would not
see, that Russia was so much interested in Servia, for both political
and religious reasons, that any attempt by the Austro-Hungarian
Government to coerce Servia, to interfere with her territorial integrity
or independence as a sovereign state, would inevitably rouse Russia to
military action. For Russia had greater interests in the security of
Servia than Great Britain had in the security of Belgium. In each case
the Great Power was bound by honour and self-interest alike to interfere
to protect the smaller Power, but Russia was also bound to Servia by
racial and religious bonds. This being so, Sir Edward Grey set himself,
not as the German White Book says to localize the conflict, but to
prevent if possible a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Servia which
would inevitably involve Russia and probably other European powers. He
stated his policy with the greatest clearness in the House of Commons on
July 27th, but he had already acted on the lines of the policy which he
then explained. On July 24th he told Count Mensdorff that he would
'with the matter simply and solely from the point of view of the
peace of Europe. The merits of the dispute between Austria and
Servia were not the concern of His Majesty's Government.'
In similar language, but more fully, on the same day he told the German
'If the presentation of this ultimatum to Servia did not lead to
trouble between Austria and Russia, we need not concern ourselves
about it; but if Russia took the view of the Austrian ultimatum
which it seemed to me that any Power interested in Servia would
take, I should be quite powerless, in face of the terms of the
ultimatum, to exercise any moderating influence.'
Sir Edward Grey at once urged that the four Powers, Germany, Italy,
France, and Great Britain, should act together in the interests of peace
at the courts of St. Petersburg and Vienna. And he went further and
tried to induce Servia to 'express concern and regret' and to 'give
Austria the fullest satisfaction', 'if it is proved that Servian
officials, however subordinate, were accomplices in the murders at
Serajevo.' Further than that no British Foreign Minister could go;
Sir George Buchanan correctly explained the situation to M. Sazonof when
he laid stress on the need of the sanction of British public
opinion. Sir Edward Grey re-echoed this when he wrote:--
'I do not consider that public opinion here would or ought to
sanction our going to war over a Servian quarrel. If, however, war
does take place, the development of other issues may draw us into
it, and I am therefore anxious to prevent it.'
However, matters were moving rapidly: the Servian reply was
presented on July 25; it was considered unsatisfactory by the
Austro-Hungarian Government, and the Minister, with the Legation-staff,
withdrew from Belgrade. Next day Sir Edward Grey proposed that a
conference of Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain should meet in
London immediately 'for the purpose of discovering an issue which would
prevent complications', and 'that all active military operations should
be suspended pending results of conference'. This proposal failed,
as has been explained in earlier pages (pp. 71-3), and on July 28th
Austria-Hungary declared war on Servia. Sir Edward Grey remained firm to
his original attitude of non-intervention, and told M. Cambon that 'the
dispute between Austria and Servia was not one in which we felt called
to take a hand'. And on the same day he declined to discuss with
Count Mensdorff 'the merits of the question between Austria and
No one can doubt that Sir Edward Grey's attitude was diplomatically
correct and consistent. It was also inspired by a genuine desire for
peace, and stands out in sharp contrast with the 'equivocal and
double-faced' policy of Germany, and with the obstinacy of Austria in
refusing to permit the Powers to mediate; for it was with truth that M.
Sazonof remarked that
'a refusal to prolong the term of the ultimatum would render
nugatory the proposals made by the Austro-Hungarian Government to
the Powers, and would be in contradiction to the very basis of
_Great Britain declines 'Solidarity' with Russia and France_.
There is however another question which involves the whole foreign
policy of Great Britain. Could Sir Edward Grey have prevented the war by
boldly declaring at once that England would support Russia and France,
if necessary by armed force? It was a policy urged on him from several
quarters, and it is possible that such action might have been
successful. It is to Sir Edward Grey's credit that he quietly but firmly
refused to take so hazardous and unprecedented a step. Let us examine
these proposals briefly. As early as July 24th M. Sazonof 'hoped that
His Majesty's Government would not fail to proclaim their solidarity
with Russia and France.' The French Ambassador at St. Petersburg
joined in the request, and M. Sazonof pointed out that
'we would sooner or later be dragged into war if it did break out;
we should have rendered war more likely if we did not from the
outset make common cause with his country and with France.'
On July 30th the President of the French Republic expressed his
'peace between the Powers is in the hands of Great Britain. If His
Majesty's Government announced that England would come to the aid of
France in the event of a conflict between France and Germany, as a
result of the present differences between Austria and Servia, there
would be no war, for Germany would at once modify her
Even more important was the opinion of the Italian Minister for Foreign
Affairs, whose country was a member of the Triple Alliance:--
'As Germany was really anxious for good relations with ourselves, if
she believed that Great Britain would act with Russia and France, he
thought it would have a great effect.'
Such opinions must, and do, carry great weight, but Sir Edward Grey and
the British Ambassadors were equally firm in withstanding them. Sir
George Buchanan at once told M. Sazonof that he
'saw no reason to expect any declaration of solidarity from His
Majesty's Government that would entail an unconditional engagement
on their part to support Russia and France by force of arms'.
On July 27th he met the proposal more directly by pointing out that, so
far from such a policy conducing to the maintenance of peace, it would
merely offend the pride of the Germans and stiffen them in their present
attitude. Two days later Sir Edward Grey pointed out to M. Cambon
'even if the question became one between Austria and Russia, we
should not feel called upon to take a hand in it. It would then be a
question of the supremacy of Teuton or Slav--a struggle for
supremacy in the Balkans; and our idea had always been to avoid
being drawn into a war over a Balkan question'.
That is one answer to the proposal, an answer based on history and on
Britain's foreign policy in past years. Sir Edward Grey had another
answer. It was to the effect that Germany could not, and ought to have
known she could not, rely on our neutrality. For when the Russian
Ambassador told him that an impression prevailed in German and Austrian
circles that in any event England would stand aside, he pointed out that
'this impression ought to be dispelled by the orders we have given
to the First Fleet, which is concentrated, as it happens, at
Portland, not to disperse for manoeuvre leave'.
The situation continued to develop unfavourably for the cause of peace
owing to the Austrian declaration of war on Servia, and the consequent
mobilizations in Russia, Germany, and France. On July 31st Sir Edward
'I believe it to be quite untrue that our attitude has been a
decisive factor in situation. German Government do not expect our
It is not quite clear that Sir Edward Grey's belief was justified.
England's attitude may have been an important factor in the situation,
but still in our opinion Sir Edward Grey was not only right in refusing
to commit England to a new Continental policy, but could not, with due
observance of constitutional usages, have taken any other course. Again,
it is doubtful whether the German Government did or did not rely on our
neutrality. The German Chancellor and the German Secretary for Foreign
Affairs later affected great surprise at our action. Germany, however,
as we have shown above (p. 82), had been plainly warned by Sir Edward
Grey on July 29th that she could not rely on our remaining neutral
under all circumstances.
Whether Sir Edward Grey was right or wrong in his estimate of Germany's
prudence is a small matter; what is important is that his action was
throughout perfectly straightforward and consistent. And unquestionably
he had a very difficult part to play. The near East was like a blazing
rick surrounded by farm buildings; Germany was, if not stirring up the
conflagration, certainly not attempting to pour water on the flames,
while Austria, possibly--and even probably with Germany's
knowledge, would allow no one to make the attempt.
It would have aided the Austrian cause more effectively in Europe and
elsewhere, if the Government had communicated 'the _dossier_
elucidating the Servian intrigues and the connexion between these
intrigues and the murder of 28th June', which it said it held at the
disposal of the British Government. For even Count Mensdorff
'admitted that, on paper, the Servian reply might seem to be
To judge whether the Servian reply was satisfactory, it was, and is,
necessary to examine the evidence on which the Austro-Hungarian
Government based the accusations formulated in its note of July 23rd.
But even assuming that the Austrian charges were true, as the German
White Book says they are, it is only a stronger reason for allowing
the Powers to examine this evidence; and it does not explain the
persistent refusal, until July 31st, to permit any
negotiations on the basis of the Servian reply.
Such being the situation, it is very difficult to see what more Sir
Edward Grey could have done to prevent the outbreak of war between
Austria-Hungary and Servia, which did inevitably, as he foresaw from the
first, drag in other nations. He urged Servia to moderation and even to
submission; he tried to induce the four Powers to mediate jointly at St.
Petersburg and Vienna; he proposed a conference of the four Powers to
prevent further complications; he did everything in his power to
restrain Russia from immediate armed support of Servia; he declined to
join Russia and France in eventual military action; and even up to the
violation of the neutrality of Belgium he still strove to avert the
horrors of war from Europe.
_Italy's comments on the situation_.
We have already shown (Chap. II) how Italy became a member of the Triple
Alliance, and how, in spite of its apparent frailty and of the somewhat
divergent aims of its members, that alliance has endured for thirty-two
years. It remains to consider what policy Italy adopted in the critical
situation created by the presentation of the Austro-Hungarian note to
Servia, and to appreciate the significance of that policy. It is
supremely significant that Italy, though a member of the Triple
Alliance, was not consulted about the terms of the Austrian note to
Servia; that she worked persistently side by side with England in
endeavouring to prevent an outbreak of war, and, when that failed, to
induce the states actually at war, or on the brink of war, to suspend
all military operations in order to give diplomatic intervention an
opportunity; and it is equally significant that, when the great war
broke out, Italy remained neutral, in spite of the pressure from her
allies and the tempting bait of a share of the spoil, which, it is said,
is even now being offered to her. This is but a bald description of
Italy's policy, but it can be substantiated in detail from official
documents. As early as July 25th the Italian Ambassador in a
conversation with Sir Edward Grey 'made no secret of the fact that Italy
was desirous to see war avoided', and he cordially approved the
idea of mediation by the four Powers. Two days later Italy again
approved the proposed conference of four to be held immediately in
London. The Italian Foreign Minister promised to recommend most strongly
to the German Government the idea of asking Russia, Austria, and Servia
to suspend military operations pending the result of the conference, and
went even further in undertaking to ask what procedure Germany thought
most likely to be successful at Vienna. He thought it very doubtful
whether Germany would consent to ask Austria to suspend military
operations, but made a further suggestion that
'Servia may be induced to accept note in its entirety on the advice
of the four Powers invited to the conference, and this would enable
her to say that she had yielded to Europe and not to Austria-Hungary
Next day the Marquis di San Giuliano called attention to a point in
Servia's reply to Austria which might form a starting-point for
mediation. On July 29th he tried to get over Germany's objection to
the idea of a 'Conference' by suggesting adherence to the idea of an
exchange of views in London. Next day he added to this the
practical suggestion that
'Germany might invite Austria to state exactly the terms which she
would demand from Servia, and give a guarantee that she would
neither deprive her of independence, nor annex territory.... We
might, on the other hand, ascertain from Russia what she would
accept, and, once we knew the standpoints of these two countries,
discussions could be commenced at once.'
Moreover the Italian Ambassador at Vienna, in the hope of pacifying
Russia, made the useful suggestion that Austria should
'convert into a binding engagement to Europe the declaration which
has been made at St. Petersburg to the effect that she desires
neither to destroy the independence of Servia, nor to acquire
All efforts to preserve peace proved futile; Germany delivered her
ultimatum to France and to Russia. Then arose the question, what was
Italy to do? The answer to this was given by the Italian Foreign
'The war undertaken by Austria, and the consequences which might
result, had, in the words of the German Ambassador himself, an
aggressive object. Both were therefore in conflict with the purely
defensive character of the Triple Alliance; in such circumstances
Italy would remain neutral.'
The German White Book says 'Russia began the war on us' and 'France
opened hostilities'; if these statements were true, Italy would
have been obliged, if she were to remain faithful to her engagements, to
take part in the war side by side with her colleagues of the Triple
Alliance. Impartial readers can draw their own conclusions.
_Austro-Hungarian note to Servia, and Servia's reply_.
On July 23rd the Austro-Hungarian Government presented an ultimatum to
Servia, demanding unconditional acceptance within 48 hours, an ultimatum
which the _Temps_ next day described as 'unprecedented in its arrogance
and in the extravagance of its demands'. Of it Sir Edward Grey said:--
'I had never before seen one State address to another independent
State a document of so formidable a character. Demand No. 5 would be
hardly consistent with the maintenance of Servia's independent
sovereignty, if it were to mean, as it seemed that it might, that
Austria-Hungary was to be invested with a right to appoint officials
who would have authority within the frontiers of Servia.'
It may be true, as the Austrian Ambassador explained, that the
Austro-Hungarian Government did not intend this step to be regarded as
an ultimatum, but as a _demarche_ with a time-limit.
In this extraordinary document the Austro-Hungarian Government
A. That Servia should publish on the front page of its 'Official
Gazette', and in the 'Official Bulletin' of the Army, and should
communicate to the Army as the order of the day a declaration
(1) condemning Serb propaganda against Austria-Hungary;
(2) regretting that Servian officers and functionaries participated in
(3) promising to proceed with the utmost rigour against persons who may
be guilty of such machinations.
B. That Servia should undertake
(1) to suppress any publication inciting to hatred and contempt of
(2) to dissolve the society styled Narodna Odbrana and similar societies
and to confiscate their means of propaganda;
(3) to eliminate from public instruction in Servia all teachers and all
methods of instruction responsible for fomenting opinion against
(4) to remove from the military service and from the administration all
officers and functionaries guilty of such propaganda, whose names and
deeds the Austro-Hungarian Government reserved to itself the right of
(5) to accept the collaboration in Servia of representatives of
Austria-Hungary in the suppression of the subversive anti-Austrian
(6) to take judicial proceedings against accessories to the Serajevo
plot, with the co-operation of Austro-Hungarian delegates;
(7) to proceed immediately to the arrest of Major Voija Tankositch and
of Milan Ciganovitch, a Servian State employe, who have been compromised
by the results of the inquiry at Serajevo;
(8) to stop co-operation of Servian authorities in illicit traffic in
arms and explosives, and to dismiss and punish those officials who
helped the perpetrators of the Serajevo crime;
(9) to explain the unjustifiable utterances of high Servian officials,
at home and abroad, after the Serajevo crime.
On July 25th the Servian reply was presented to the
Austro-Hungarian Government. Even to a reader with Austrian sympathies
this reply seems to go a long way towards meeting the demands. The
Servian Government agreed
A. that Servia should, as demanded, publish a declaration
(1) condemning all propaganda which may be directed against
(2) regretting that, according to the communication from the Imperial
and Royal Government, Servian officers and officials participated in the
(3) promising to proceed with the utmost rigour against all persons who
are guilty of such acts.
B. That Servia would undertake
(1) to introduce a provision into the press law providing for the most
severe punishment of incitement to hatred and contempt of
Austria-Hungary and to introduce an amendment to the Constitution
providing for the confiscation of such publications;
(2) to dissolve the Narodna Odbrana and similar societies;
(3) to remove at once from their public educational establishments all
that serves or could serve to foment propaganda, whenever the
Austro-Hungarian Government furnish them with facts and proofs of this
(4) to remove from military service all such persons as the judicial
inquiry may have proved to be guilty of acts directed against the
territorial integrity of Austria-Hungary;
(5) though they do not clearly grasp the meaning or the scope of the
demand, to accept the collaboration of Austro-Hungarian officials so far
as is consistent with the principle of international law, with criminal
procedure and with good neighbourly relations;
(6) to take judicial proceedings against accessories to the Serajevo
plot; but they cannot admit the co-operation of Austro-Hungarian
officials, as it would be a violation of the Constitution and of the law
of criminal procedure;
(7) On this they remark that Major Tankositch was arrested as soon as
the note was presented, and that it has not been possible to arrest
Ciganovitch, who is an Austro-Hungarian subject, but had been employed
(on probation) by the directorate of railways;
(8) to reinforce and extend the measures for preventing illicit traffic
of arms and explosives across the frontier;
(9) to give explanations of the remarks made by Servian officials, as
soon as the Austro-Hungarian Government have communicated the passages
and as soon as they have shown that the remarks were actually made by
the said officials.
The Austro-Hungarian Government regarded this reply as unsatisfactory
and inadequate; they withdrew their Minister from Belgrade the same
evening, and on July 28th declared war on Servia. Meanwhile they
published a long official explanation of the grounds on which the
Servian reply was considered inadequate; in it they criticized and found
unsatisfactory every single article of the reply, except that to demand
No. 8. It is not worth while to analyze the whole of this; one sample
may be sufficient. Sir Edward Grey commented on demand No. 5 and pointed
out that it
'would be hardly consistent with the maintenance of Servia's
independent sovereignty, if it were to mean, as it seemed that it
might, that Austria-Hungary was to be invested with a right to
appoint officials who would have authority within the frontiers of
Obviously he was in doubt about the meaning and scope of this demand,
and the next was equally vague. The Servian reply to these two demands
was necessarily guarded: yet the Austro-Hungarian Government treated
this as deliberate misrepresentation:--
'The international law, as well as the criminal law, has nothing to
do with this question; it is purely a matter of the nature of state
police which is to be solved by way of a special agreement. The
reserved attitude of Servia is therefore incomprehensible, and on
account of its vague general form it would lead to unbridgeable
'If the Servian Government misunderstands us here, this is done
deliberately, for it must be familiar with the difference between
"enquete judiciaire" and simple police researches. As it desired to
escape from every control of the investigation which would yield, if
correctly carried out, highly undesirable results for it, and as it
possesses no means to refuse in a plausible manner the co-operation
of our officials (precedents for such police intervention exist in
great number), it tries to justify its refusal by showing up our
demands as impossible.'
It would have been fairer to Servia to assume that there had been a
genuine misunderstanding, and that the explanation here given by Austria
might prove satisfactory to Servia, as the Italian Minister for Foreign
Affairs suggested. The persistent refusal of Austria-Hungary to
permit any discussion on the basis of the Servian reply goes far to
justify Sir Maurice de Bunsen's impression
'that the Austro-Hungarian note was so drawn up as to make war
inevitable, that their Government are fully resolved to have war
with Servia, that they consider their position as a Great Power to
be at stake, and that until punishment has been administered to
Servia it is unlikely that they will listen to proposals of
[Footnote 57: _Correspondence respecting the European Crisis_, No. 2.
Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 22, 1914.]
[Footnote 58: German White Book, p. 4.]
[Footnote 59: _Correspondence_, No. 10. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie,
[Footnote 60: _Correspondence_, No. 18. Sir H. Rumbold to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 61: Ibid. No. 32. Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E. Grey, July 26.
See also German White Book, p. 5.]
[Footnote 62: Ibid. No. 54. M. Sazonof to Count Benckendorff, July
15/28, 1914 (communicated by Count Benckendorff, July 28).]
[Footnote 63: _Correspondence_, No. 139. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 64: _Ibid_. No. 141. Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E. Grey, August
[Footnote 65: _Ibid_. No. 71. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 28.]
[Footnote 66: _Correspondence_, No. 94. Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 67: German White Book, p. 4 (see _infra_ Appendix I).]
[Footnote 68: _Ibid_. No. 36. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, Sir H.
Rumbold, and Sir R. Rodd, July 26.]
[Footnote 69: _Correspondence_, No. 43. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 70: _Ibid_. No. 60. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 28.]
[Footnote 71: _Ibid_. No. 84. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, July 29.]
[Footnote 72: p. 8 and Exhibit 12 (see _infra_ Appendix I).]
[Footnote 73: _Correspondence_, No. 11. Sir E. Grey to Sir II. Rumbold,
[Footnote 74: _Correspondence_, No. 46. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen,
[Footnote 75: Ibid. No. 80. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey, July 29.]
[Footnote 76: Ibid. No. 43. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 27.]
[Footnote 77: Although the German White Book attempts to make out that
Russia mobilized on July 26th, it produces no evidence more satisfactory
than the information of the German Imperial attache in Russia, whose
account of the Russian military preparations supports only in part the
allegations made at Berlin. See German White Book, Exhibits 6 and 7;
also _Correspondence_, No. 78, Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 29.
For the Austrian decree of general mobilization, see the Russian Orange
Book No. 47 (_infra_ in Appendix VI).]
[Footnote 78: _Correspondence_, No. 43. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 79: _Ibid_. No. 76. The same to the same, July 29.]
[Footnote 80: _Correspondence_, No. 78. Sir George Buchanan to Sir E.
Grey, July 29, 1914.]
[Footnote 81: German White Book, p. 38, and Exhibit No. 7, July 26.]
[Footnote 82: _Correspondence_, No. 71. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
July 28. See also quotation in _Times_ of July 29, p. 8, col. 2, from
the _Militaer-Wochenblatt_: 'The fighting power of Russia is usually
over-estimated, and numbers are far less decisive than _moral_, the
higher command, armaments.... All military preparations for war, of
whatever sort, have been taken with that attention to detail and that
order which marks Germany. It can therefore be said, without
exaggeration, that Germany can face the advent of grave events with
complete calm, trusting to God and her own might.']
[Footnote 83: _Correspondence_, No. 80. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey, July
[Footnote 84: _Ibid_. No. 97. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 30.
Cf. Russian Orange Book, Nos. 61, 62 (_infra_ in Appendix VI).]
[Footnote 85: _Ibid_.]
[Footnote 86: _Correspondence_, No. 97. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 87: _Ibid_. No. 113. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 31.]
[Footnote 88: _Ibid_.]
[Footnote 89: _Ibid_. No. 112. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 31.]
[Footnote 90: _Ibid_. No. 113, _ut sup_. On August 1 _The Times_
published a semi-official telegram from Berlin, dated Eydtkuhnen, July
31, that 'the second and third Russian cavalry divisions are on the
frontier between Wirballen, Augustof, and Allenstein'.]
[Footnote 91: _Ibid_. No. 111. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, July 31.]
[Footnote 92: _Ibid_. No. 121. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 31.]
[Footnote 93: See German White Book, pp. 12 and 13, and Exhibits 20, 21,
22, 23, 23a (see _infra_ Appendix I).]
[Footnote 94: _Correspondence_, No. 121. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 95: _Ibid_. Nos. 131, 133, 135.]
[Footnote 96: Russian Orange Book, No. 58 (_infra_ Appendix VI).]
[Footnote 97: _Ibid_. No. 133. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, August 1,
encloses a telegram of July 31, to the effect that 'The Austro-Hungarian
Ambassador declared the readiness of his Government to discuss the
substance of the Austrian ultimatum to Servia. M. Sazonof replied by
expressing his satisfaction, and said it was desirable that the
discussions should take place in London with the participation of the
[Footnote 98: German White Book, p. 8.]
[Footnote 99: _Ibid_. p. 9, Exhibit No. 17.]
[Footnote 100: _Correspondence_, No. 76. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
July 29: 'His Excellency denied German Government had done this.
Nevertheless it is true.']
[Footnote 101: Ibid. No. 99. Sir F. Bertie to Sir E. Grey, July 30.]
[Footnote 102: _Correspondence_. Enclosure 3 in No. 105. French Minister
for Foreign Affairs to M. Cambon.]
[Footnote 103: _Ibid_.]
[Footnote 104: German White Book, p. 48 (see _infra_, Appendix I).]
[Footnote 105: _Correspondence_, No. 138. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 106: _Correspondence_, No. 24. Sir E. Grey to Sir G. Buchanan,
[Footnote 107: _Correspondence_, No. 47. Sir E. Grey to Sir G. Buchanan,
[Footnote 108: _Ibid_. No. 89. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, July 29.]
[Footnote 109: _Correspondence_, No. 85. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
July 29 (received July 29).]
[Footnote 110: _Ibid_. No. 101. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, July 30.]
[Footnote 111: _Correspondence_, No. 109. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 112: _Ibid_. No. 106. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey, July 30.]
[Footnote 113: _Correspondence_, No. 114. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie
and Sir E. Goschen, July 31.]
[Footnote 114: _Ibid_. No. 125. Sir F. Bertie to Sir E. Grey, July 31.]
[Footnote 115: _Ibid_. No. 122. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 31.
It may be observed that by the Hague Convention of 1907, Belgium was
bound to impose this embargo after the ultimatum of Germany to Russia
[Footnote 116: _Correspondence_, No. 123. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen,
[Footnote 117: _The Times_, August 28, 1914, p. 9, cols. 5 and 6.]
[Footnote 118: See _The Times_, August 27, 1914. The Imperial Chancellor
telegraphed to Prince Lichnowsky: 'Germany is ready to take up the
English proposal if England guarantees with her forces the absolute
neutrality of France in a Russo-German conflict.... We promise that the
French frontier shall not be passed by our troops before 7 p.m. on
Monday, August 3, if England's consent is given in the meantime.']
[Footnote 119: _Correspondence_, No. 148. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie,
[Footnote 120: _Correspondence_, No. 147. Minister of State, Luxemburg,
to Sir E. Grey, August 2.]
[Footnote 121: _Ibid_. No. 153. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, August
[Footnote 122: _Ibid_.]
[Footnote 123: _Ibid_. No. 155. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Villiers, August
[Footnote 124: _Correspondence_, No. 157. German Foreign Secretary to
Prince Lichnowsky, August 4.]
[Footnote 125: _Ibid_. No. 159. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, August
[Footnote 126: _Correspondence_, No. 116, July 31.]
[Footnote 127: _Ibid_. Nos. 130, 143, 145.]
[Footnote 128: _Ibid_. Nos. 149, 150, August 2 and 3.]
[Footnote 129: _The Times_, August 11, p. 5, col. 1.]
[Footnote 130: _Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting_
[Footnote 131: p. 6.]
[Footnote 132: _Correspondence_, No. 5. Sir E. Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen,
[Footnote 133: _Ibid_. No. 10. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 24.
Cf. No. 24, Sir E. Grey to Sir G. Buchanan, July 25: 'The sudden,
brusque, and peremptory character of the Austrian _demarche_ makes it
almost inevitable that in a very short time both Russia and Austria will
have mobilized against each other.']
[Footnote 134: _Ibid_. No. 12. Sir E. Grey to Mr. Crackanthorpe, July
[Footnote 135: _Ibid_. No. 6. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 24:
'I said ... direct British interests in Servia were _nil_, and a war on
behalf of that country would never be sanctioned by British public
[Footnote 136: _Correspondence_, No. 24. Sir E. Grey to Sir G. Buchanan,
[Footnote 137: See note at the end of this chapter.]
[Footnote 138: _Correspondence_, No. 36. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie,
[Footnote 139: _Ibid_. No. 87. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 29.]
[Footnote 140: _Ibid_. No. 91. Sir E. Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen, July
[Footnote 141: _Ibid_. No. 13. Note communicated to Sir E. Grey by the
Russian Ambassador, July 25.]
[Footnote 142: _Correspondence_, No. 6. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 143: _Ibid_.]
[Footnote 144: _Ibid_. No. 99. Sir F. Bertie to Sir E. Grey, July 30.
Cf. No. 119, Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 31.]
[Footnote 145: _Correspondence_, No. 80. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 146: _Ibid_. No. 6. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 24.]
[Footnote 147: _Ibid_. No. 44. Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 27:
'Their (sc. the German) attitude would merely be stiffened by such a
menace, and we could only induce her (sc. Germany) to use her influence
at Vienna to avert war by approaching her in the capacity of a friend
who was anxious to preserve peace.']
[Footnote 148: _Ibid_. No. 87. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 29.]
[Footnote 149: _Correspondence_, No. 47. Sir E. Grey to Sir G. Buchanan,
[Footnote 150: _Ibid_. No. 116. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 31.]
[Footnote 151: _Ibid_. No. 89. Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Goschen, July 29.]
[Footnote 152: _Correspondence_, No. 95. Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E.
Grey, July 30: 'Although I am not able to verify it, I have private
information that the German Ambassador knew the text of the Austrian
ultimatum to Servia before it was despatched, and telegraphed it to the
German Emperor. I know from the German Ambassador himself that he
endorses every line of it.']
[Footnote 153: But see Appendix IV.]
[Footnote 154: _Correspondence_, No. 4, p. 8.]
[Footnote 155: _Ibid_. No. 48. Sir E. Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen, July
[Footnote 156: pp. 3 to 5 and Exhibits 1 and 2 (see _infra_ Appendix
[Footnote 157: _Correspondence_, No. 61, Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E.
Grey, July 28; No. 78, Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 29; No. 96,
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E. Grey, July 30.]
[Footnote 158: _Correspondence_, No. 110, Sir E. Grey to Sir G.
Buchanan, July 31; No. 137, Sir E. Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen, August 1.]
[Footnote 159: _The Times_, September 3, p. 7. For Italy's ignorance of
the contents of the Austrian note, see App. V.]
[Footnote 160: _Correspondence_, No. 29. Sir E. Grey to Sir R. Rodd,
[Footnote 161: _Ibid_. No. 49. Sir E. Grey to Sir R. Rodd, July 27.]
[Footnote 162: _Ibid_. No. 57. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey, July 27. Cf.
No. 78, Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, July 29.]
[Footnote 163: _Correspondence_, No. 64. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey,
July 28. Cf. _supra_, p. 99.]
[Footnote 164: _Ibid_. No. 80. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey, July 29. Cf.
No. 92, Sir E. Grey to Sir R. Rodd, July 29.]
[Footnote 165: _Ibid_. No. 106. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey, July 30.]
[Footnote 166: _Ibid_. No. 79. Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E. Grey, July
[Footnote 167: _Ibid_. No. 152. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, August 3.]
[Footnote 168: p. 15 (see Appendix I _infra_).]
[Footnote 169: p. 16 (_ibid._).]
[Footnote 170: _Correspondence_, No. 5. Sir E. Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen,
July 24. The text is also given in the German White Book (pp. 18-23),
which will be found in Appendix I.]
[Footnote 171: _Ibid_. No. 14. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 25.]
[Footnote 172: _Ibid_. No. 4. Communicated by Count Mensdorff, July 24.]
[Footnote 173: _Correspondence_, No. 39. Communicated by the Servian
Minister, July 27. See also German White Book (pp. 23-32), _infra_ in
[Footnote 174: German White Book, pp. 24 _et sqq_.; see _infra_ Appendix
[Footnote 175: _Correspondence_, No. 5. Sir E. Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen,
[Footnote 176: German White Book, pp. 29 _et sqq_.; see _infra_ Appendix
[Footnote 177: _Correspondence_, No. 64. Sir R. Rodd to Sir E. Grey,
[Footnote 178: _Ibid_. No. 41. Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir E. Grey, July
THE NEW GERMAN THEORY OF THE STATE
The war in which England is now engaged with Germany is fundamentally a
war between two different principles--that of _raison d'etat_, and that
of the rule of law. The antagonism between these two principles appeared
in our own internal history as far back as the seventeenth century, when
the Stuarts championed the theory of state-necessity and the practice of
a prerogative free to act outside and above the law in order to meet the
demands of state-necessity, and when Parliament defended the rule of law
and sought to include the Crown under that law. The same antagonism now
appears externally in a struggle between two nations, one of which
claims a prerogative to act outside and above the public law of Europe
in order to secure the 'safety' of its own state, while the other stands
for the rule of public law. The one regards international covenants to
which it has pledged its own word as 'scraps of paper' when they stand
in the way of _salus populi_; the other regards the maintenance of such
covenants as a grave and inevitable obligation.
Taught by Treitschke, whom they regard as their great national
historian, and whose lectures on _Politik_ have become a gospel, the
Germans of to-day assume as an ultimate end and a final standard what
they regard as the national German state. 'The state', says
Treitschke, 'is the highest thing in the external society of man: above
it there is nothing at all in the history of the world.' There is here
no room for comity of nations; for a _societas totius humani generis_;
for international law in any true sense. What really exists is the
exclusive state--_der geschlossene Staat_--and in another sense than
that of Fichte. This state is rigorously national: it excludes all
foreign words from its vocabulary, and it would fain exclude all foreign
articles from its shores in order to found a real 'national' economy
such as List preached. Further, in the teaching of Treitschke this
exclusive state is, 'as Machiavelli first clearly saw', essentially
power: _der Staat ist Macht_. It may be defined as 'the public might for
defence and offence'. As the highest duty of the individual is
self-perfection, the highest duty of the state is self-preservation; and
self-preservation means power. 'To care for its power is the highest
moral duty of the state.' 'Of all political weaknesses that of
feebleness is the most abominable and despicable: it is the sin against
the Holy Spirit of Politics.' This may seem the mere worship of might,
and it is in effect nothing else than the mere worship of might; but we
should misrepresent Treitschke if we did not add that power is not
conceived by him as mere or bare power. The power of the state is
precious and ultimate because the state is a vehicle of culture: the
armed sword of the German state is precious because that state is the
_colporteur_ of German culture. And thus Treitschke holds that
Machiavelli, the great apostle of might, is only wrong in so far as he
failed to see that might must justify itself by having a content, that
is to say, by being used to spread the highest moral culture. It is
naturally assumed by German nationalists that this is German culture.
Two results flow from this philosophy, one negative, the other positive.
The negative result is the repudiation of any idea of the final
character of international obligation; the other is the praise of the
glory of war.
_Salus populi suprema lex_; and to it all international 'law' so called
must bend. The absolute sovereignty of the state is necessary for its
absolute power; and that absolute sovereignty cannot be bound by _any_
obligation, even of its own making. Every treaty or promise made by a
state, Treitschke holds, is to be understood as limited by the proviso
_rebus sic stantibus_. 'A state cannot bind its will for the future over
against other states.' International treaties are no absolute
limitation, but a voluntary self-limitation of the state, and only for
such time as the state may find to be convenient. The state has no judge
set over it, and any 'legal' obligation it may incur is in the last
resort subject to its own decision--in other words, to its own
repudiation. That the end justifies the means (in other words, that
the maintenance of the German Empire as it stands justifies the
violation of an international obligation) 'has a certain truth'. 'It is
ridiculous to advise a state which is in competition with other states
to start by taking the catechism into its hands.' All these hints of his
master were adopted and expanded by Bernhardi, the faithful disciple of
Treitschke, whose Berlin lectures were attended in the last quarter of
the nineteenth century by soldiers and officials as well as by students.
There is no such thing, Bernhardi feels, as universal international law.
'Each nation evolves its own conception of Right (_Recht_): none can say
that one nation has a better conception than another.' 'No
self-respecting nation would sacrifice its own conception of Right' to
any international rule: 'by so doing it would renounce its own highest
ideals.' The ardent nationalism which will reject foreign words and
foreign wares will reject international law as something 'foreign'.
Again, Bernhardi makes play with the proviso _rebus sic stantibus_; and
this, curiously enough, he does in reference to Belgium. Things are
altered in Belgium, and therefore the plighted word of Germany may no
longer be binding. 'When Belgium was proclaimed neutral, no one
contemplated that she would lay claim to a large and valuable region of
Africa. It may well be asked whether the acquisition of such territory
is not _ipso facto_ a breach of neutrality.'
But it is the glorification of war--war aggressive as well as war
defensive--which is the most striking result of the doctrine of the
all-sufficing, all-embracing national state. In the index to
Treitschke's _Politik_, under the word War, one reads the following
headings--'its sanctity'; 'to be conceived as an ordinance set by God';
'is the most powerful maker of nations'; 'is politics _par excellence_'.
Two functions, says Treitschke, the state exists to discharge; and these
are to administer law, and to make war. Of the two war, since it is
politics _par excellence_, would appear to be the greater. War cannot be
thought or wished out of the world: it is the only medicine for a sick
nation. When we are sunk in the selfish individualism of peace, war
comes to make us realize that we are members one of another. 'Therein
lies the majesty of war, that the petty individual altogether vanishes
before the great thought of the state.' War alone makes us realize the
social organism to which we belong: 'it is political idealism which
demands war.' And again, 'what a perversion of morality it were, if one
struck out of humanity heroism'(_Heldentum_)--as if _Heldentum_ could
not exist in peace! 'But the living God will see to it that war shall
always recur as a terrible medicine for humanity.'
Thus the idealization of the state as power results in the idealization
of war. As we have seen that the state must be 'power' in order to
preserve itself at all, we now find that it must be a war-state to
preserve itself from 'sickness'. If it does not fight, individualism
will triumph over the social organism; heroism will perish out of the
world. Hence Bernhardi writes: 'the maintenance of peace never can or
may be the goal of a policy'. War, war--the 'strong medicine', the
teacher of heroism, and, as Bernhardi adds to Treitschke, the inevitable
biological law, the force that spreads the finest culture--war is the
law of humanity. And this war is offensive as well as defensive--
primarily, indeed, offensive. For the growing nation must preserve
all its new members in its bosom: it must not let them slip away
by emigration to foreign soils. It must therefore find for itself
colonies; and since the world is already largely occupied, it must find
them by conquest from other powers. Treitschke already cried the
watchwords--'Colonies!' 'Sea-power to gain colonies!' Treitschke already
designated England as the object of German attack, and began to instil
in Germany a hatred of England. England blocked the way to the growth of
Germany from a European into a World-power; Germany, to preserve intact
for German culture the surplus of the growing population, must be a
World-power or perish. And besides, England was a 'sick' state--a sham,
The whole philosophy seems paganism, or rather barbarism, with a moral
veneer. It seems barbarism, because it brings us back to the good old
days when mere might was right. Bernhardi, speaking of the right of
conquest of new territory inherent in a growing people, tells us that in
such cases 'might is at once the supreme right, and the dispute as to
what is right is decided by the arbitrament of war', which gives a
'biologically just decision'! And he expresses wonder and surprise at
those who think that 'the weak nation is to have the same right to live
as the powerful and vigorous nation'. In a word, then, might is right.
The doctrine has in itself a rude barbaric simplicity: what is utterly
revolting in the neo-Germanic presentment is its moral veneer--the talk
of war as the fruit of 'political idealism' and the expression of the
'social organism': the talk of 'historical development' as invalidating
supposed 'rights' like the neutrality of Belgium; above all, the talk of
power as 'the vehicle of the highest culture'. Treitschke, a stern
Protestant, seeks to reconcile the doctrine with Christianity; but the
doctrine is all the same pagan. It is the worship of brute force
disguised as _Heldentum_, and of vicious cunning disguised as political
morality: it is a mixture of Nietzsche and of Machiavelli. It is a
doctrine of the omnipotence of the super-nation, which 'to maintain its
state', as Machiavelli said, 'will go to work against faith and charity
and humanity and religion', and which will stride ruthlessly to war when
'the day' comes. And when it goes to war, all the veneer of culture
goes. 'Have a care', Mommsen once said, 'lest in this state, which has
been at once a power in arms and a power in intelligence, the
intelligence should vanish, and nothing but the pure military state
should remain.' Mommsen's warning has come true in August, 1914. By
their fruits ye shall know them. The fruits of _Heldentum_ are Louvain
smoking in ashes to the sky.
It has seemed worth while to describe this philosophy of life, because
it is not only the philosophy of a professor like Treitschke, but also
that of a soldier like Bernhardi; and not only so, but it is the
philosophy of the Prussian Government. Even the Imperial Chancellor
himself used this doctrine (with some qualms, it is true) to justify
Germany in 'hewing its way' through Belgium. Let us only remember, in
justice to a great people, that it is not really the doctrine of
Germany, but rather the doctrine of Prussia (though Treitschke will tell
us that Germany is 'just merely an extended Prussia'). And let us
remember, in extenuation of Prussia, that she has suffered from two
things--geographical pressure springing from her mid-European situation,
and an evil tradition of ruthless conquest perpetuated by her
Hohenzollern rulers since the days of the Great Elector, and especially
since Frederic the Great. Geographical pressure on all sides has made
Prussia feel herself in a state of chronic strangulation; and a man who
feels strangled will struggle ruthlessly for breath. To get breathing
space, to secure frontiers which would ease an intolerable pressure,
Frederic the Great could seize Silesia in time of peace in spite of his
father's guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction, and could suggest the
partition of Poland. Frontier pressure thus led to ruthless conquest
irrespective of rights; and that tradition has sunk deep. It has been
easier for England, an island state in the West exempt from pressure, to
think in other terms: it has been possible for Russia, secure in the
East, to think, and to think nobly (as the present Tsar has done), of
international obligation. Nor is it an accident that sees England and
Russia united in the common cause of Europe to-day--that sees both
championing the cause of small nations, one in the East, the other in
But in whatever way we may excuse Prussia we must fight Prussia; and we
fight it in the noblest cause for which men can fight. That cause is the
public law of Europe, as a sure shield and buckler of all nations, great
and small, and especially the small. To the doctrine of the almightiness
of the state--to the doctrine that all means are justified which are, or
seem, necessary to its self-preservation, we oppose the doctrine of a
European society, or at least a European comity of nations, within which
all states stand; we oppose the doctrine of a public law of Europe, by
which all states are bound to respect the covenants they have made. We
will not and cannot tolerate the view that nations are 'in the state and
posture of gladiators' in their relations one with another; we stand for
the reign of law.
Our cause, as one would expect from a people that has fought out its own
internal struggles under the forms of law, is a legal cause. We are a
people in whose blood the cause of law is the vital element. It is no
new thing in our history that we should fight for that cause. When
England and Revolutionary France went to war in 1793, the cause, on the
side of England, was a legal cause. We fought for the public law of
Europe, as it had stood since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. We did
not fight in 1870, because neither France nor Germany had infringed the
public law of Europe by attacking the neutrality of Belgium, but we were
ready to fight if they did. A fine cartoon in _Punch_, of August, 1870,
shows armed England encouraging Belgium, who stands ready with spear and
shield, with the words--'Trust me! Let us hope that they won't trouble
you, dear friend. But if they do----' To-day they have; and England has
drawn her sword. How could she have done otherwise, with those
traditions of law so deep in all Anglo-Saxon blood--traditions as real
and as vital to Anglo-Saxon America as to Anglo-Saxon England;
traditions which are the fundamental basis of Anglo-Saxon public life
all the world over? America once fought and beat England, in
long-forgotten days, on the ground of law. That very ground of law--that
law-abidingness which is as deeply engrained in the men of Massachusetts
to-day as it is in any Britisher--is a bond of sympathy between the two
in this great struggle of the nations.
To Germans our defence of public law may seem part of the moral
hypocrisy of which in their view we are full. What we are doing, they
feel, is to strike at Germany, our competitor for 'world-empire', with
its dangerous navy, while Germany is engaged in a life and death
struggle with France and Russia. We too, they feel, are Machiavellians;
but we have put on what Machiavelli called 'the mantle of superstition',
the pretence of morality and law, to cover our craft. It is true that we
are fighting for our own interest. But what is our interest? We are
fighting for Right, because Right is our supreme interest. The new
German political theory enunciates that 'our interest is our right'. The
old--the very old--English political theory is, 'The Right is our
interest'. It is true that we have everything to gain by defending the
cause of international law. Should that prevent us from defending that
cause? What do we not lose of precious lives in the defence?
This is the case of England. England stands for the idea of a public law
of Europe, and for the small nations which it protects. She stands for
her own preservation, which is menaced when public law is broken, and
the 'ages' slow-bought gain' imperilled.
(Treitschke's _Politik_, lectures delivered in Berlin during the years
1875 to 1895, was published in two volumes in 1899. General Bernhardi's
book, _Deutschland und der naechste Krieg_, was published in 1911, and
has been translated into English under the title _Germany and the Next
War_. See also J.A. Cramb, _England and Germany_, 1914.)