Why We Are At War (2nd Edition, revised)
by Members of the Oxford Faculty of Modern History
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With an Appendix of Original Documents including the Authorized English Translation of the White Book issued by the German Government

Second Edition Revised (fourth impression) containing the Russian Orange Book





We are not politicians, and we belong to different schools of political thought. We have written this book to set forth the causes of the present war, and the principles which we believe to be at stake. We have some experience in the handling of historic evidence, and we have endeavoured to treat this subject historically. Our fifth chapter, which to many readers will be the most interesting, is founded upon first-hand evidence—the documents contained in the British White Book (Parliamentary Paper, Cd. 7467; hereafter cited as Correspondence respecting the European Crisis), and the German White Book, which is an official apology, supplemented by documents. The German White Book, as being difficult of access, we have printed in extenso. It exists in two versions, a German and an English, both published for the German Government. We have reproduced the English version without correcting the solecisms of spelling and expression. From the English White Book we have reprinted, in the second appendix, a small selection of the more significant documents; many more are quoted in the body of our work.

Our thanks are due to Sir H. Erle Richards, Chichele Professor of International Law and Diplomacy; and to Mr. W.G.S. Adams, Gladstone Professor of Political Theory and Institutions, for valuable suggestions and assistance.

The sole responsibility for the book rests, however, with those who sign this Preface.

Any profits arising from the sale of this work will be sent to the Belgian Relief Fund, as a mark of sympathy and respect for the Belgian nation, and especially for the University of Louvain.


Preface to Second Edition

By the courtesy of His Excellency the Russian Ambassador we are now able to print in an appendix (No. VI) those documents contained in the Russian Orange Book which have not been already published in the German and the British White Books. In the light of the evidence afforded by the Russian Orange Book, we have modified one or two sentences in this edition.

21 September, 1914.





Belgian neutrality—The origin of Belgium—England and the smaller Powers—The Treaty of 1839—Belgium's independence and neutrality.—The neutrality of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg—Its origin—The Treaty of 1867—The collective guarantee.—The strategic importance of Belgium—German plans long suspected.



Introduction—The Triple Alliance—Bismarck's dismissal—French colonial advance—-Germany's demands for compensations—The Anglo-French agreement concerning Morocco—German objections—England and Russia—The Agadir incident—Anglo-French exchange of notes—Disputes in the Balkans—The 'Boulanger Law' of 1886—Count Caprivi's law of 1893—Franco-Russian entente—German military preparations—France's response—Russia's reorganization—England's Army and Navy.

Note. Abstract of Anglo-French Agreement on Morocco.



Estrangement of Russia and Germany—Austria and the Balkans—German penetration through the Balkans—Servia and Russia—Germany and the Slavs—Russia and England.



Diary of the Events leading to the War.



Dramatis personae. Sec. Germany's attitude to Russia and Austria—Presentation of the Austrian Note to Servia—Germany shields Austria—Conduct of Germany considered—Sir Edward Grey proposes mediation, and then a Conference of Four Powers—Germany's objections to a 'Conference'—Direct conversations between the Powers—Austria invited to suspend military action—Mobilization; on whom does responsibility lie?—War inevitable. Sec 2. Germany's attitude to France—Germany accuses France of military preparations—Germany invades France. Sec 3. The question of British neutrality—Possibility of England being involved—Germany warned—German 'bid for British neutrality'—England's refusal—France agrees, and Germany refuses, to respect Belgian neutrality—Prince Lichnowsky and Sir Edward Grey—Neutrality of Luxemburg violated—Germany demands a free passage through Belgium—Sir Edward Grey protests—Belgium invaded—England's ultimatum—The Imperial Chancellor urges necessity of Germany's action. Sec 4. England and Servia—Sir Edward Grey realizes Russia's interest in Servia—He is only concerned for the peace of Europe—He urges mediation—He proposes a Conference. Sec 5. Great Britain declines 'solidarity' with Russia and France—Proposals by MM. Sazonof and Poincare—England's refusal—Was it wise?—The Austrian dossier. Sec 6. Italy's comments on the situation—Significance of Italy's position—Italy's endeavours to prevent war—Italy's declaration of neutrality.

Note. Abstract of Austro-Hungarian note to Servia, and Servians reply.



The principles of raison d'etat and the rule of law—Treitschke's teaching—The results of this philosophy—Contempt for public law—The glorification of war—The philosophy pagan—Its adoption by Prussian soldiers and Government—A plea for Prussia—England fights for law.










1648 Jan. The Treaty of Munster. Oct. The Treaty of Westphalia. 1713 April. The Treaty of Utrecht. 1772 First Partition of Poland. 1783 William of Nassau becomes Grand Duke of Luxemburg. 1788 July. The Triple Alliance of England, Holland, and Prussia. 1789 The French Revolution begins. 1792 Nov. 6. Battle of Jemappes. French Conquest of the Austrian Netherlands and Liege. Nov. 19. French decree offering 'freedom to all nations'. Dec. 15. Compulsory freedom declared. 1793 Jan. Second Partition of Poland. Feb. 1. Declaration of War by France against England and Holland. 1795 Third Partition of Poland. 1801 Feb. 9. The Treaty of Luneville. France guarantees the independence of Holland (then called 'Batavian Republic'). 1802 Mar. 27. The Treaty of Amiens. 1803 Mar. 13. Napoleon's famous interview with Lord Whitworth. May 12. Declaration of War by England against France. 1814 Mar. 1. The Treaty of Chaumont. May 30. The First Peace of Paris. Sept. 29. Opening of the Congress of Vienna. 1815 Mar-June. The Hundred Days. May 31. Belgium and Luxemburg placed under the Prince of Orange as King of the United Netherlands. Nov. 20. The Second Peace of Paris. 1830 Revolutions in France (July) and in Belgium (Aug.). 1830-1878 Servia autonomous. 1831 Nov. 15. Independence and Neutrality of Belgium guaranteed by England, Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia. 1839 April 19. Final recognition of the Independence and Neutrality of Belgium by the above-named Powers. 1867 May 11. European guarantee of the Neutrality of Luxemburg. Declaration by Lord Stanley and Lord Clarendon. 1870 Aug. 9. Independence and Neutrality of Belgium again guaranteed by Germany and France. 1871 May 10. The Treaty of Frankfort. 1872 The Dreikaiserbund; Alliance of Russia, Germany, and Austria. 1875 Threatened attack on France by Germany prevented by Russia and England. 1878 The Treaty of Berlin. Proclamation of Servian Independence under King Milan. 1879 Secret Treaty between Germany and Austria. 1883 Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy. 1885 Formation of United Bulgaria. War between Bulgaria and Servia. 1886 Peace between Bulgaria and Servia. 1890 Fall of Bismarck. Cession of Heligoland to Germany. 1891 Beginning of an understanding between Russia and France. 1893 Caprivi's Army Act. 1896 Germany begins to show aggressive tendencies in the field of Colonial Expansion. Treaty between England and France regarding their interests in Indo-China. Definite Alliance between Russia and France. 1898 Reconquest of the Sudan. Tsar's rescript for an International Peace Conference. 1899 Anglo-French Agreement respecting Tripoli. June. First Peace Conference at the Hague. New German Army Act. 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The Peace of Vereeniging closes the South African War. 1903 Revolution in Belgrade. 1904 April. The Treaty of London between England and France with regard to North Africa. 1905 Mar. Visit of the German Emperor to Tangier. June. Germany demands the dismissal of M. Delcasse. Aug. The Treaty of Portsmouth between Russia and Japan. Renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. German Army Act. Sept. France agrees to the holding of the Algeeiras Conference. 1907 Agreement between Russia and England concerning Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet. June-Oct. Second Peace Conference at the Hague. 1908 Young Turk Revolution in Constantinople. Oct. Annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria. German Navy Law. 1909 Mar. Servia declares she will no longer protest against the annexation of Bosnia by Austria. 1909 Mr. Asquith's speech on necessity for increasing the Navy. 1910 The Potsdam interview between the Tsar and the Kaiser. 1911 European Crisis over the question of Morocco, followed by a closer Anglo-French entente. German Army Act. 1912 Sensational German Army Bill. War in the Balkans. Nov. 26. German Navy construction estimates L11,416,700. Dec. 29. Peace Conference of Balkan States with Turkey broken off. 1913 Jan. 17. M. Poincare elected French President. Jan. 23. The Young Turkish Party overthrow the Government at Constantinople. May 26. Peace made between Turkey and the Balkan States. May 28. The New German Army Bill passes the Budget Committee of the Reichstag. June 20. Universal military service in Belgium. June 26. Conference between the French President, the French Foreign Minister, and Sir Edward Grey. June 30. Bulgaria is attacked by Servia and Greece. New German Army Bill. July. Roumania attacks Bulgaria. The Turks re-occupy Adrianople. New Russian Army Bill. French Army Bill. Aug. 6. The Treaty of Peace between Bulgaria, Servia, Greece, and Roumania. Sept. 22. The Treaty of Peace between Bulgaria and Turkey. Oct. 20. Servia at Austria's demand abandons Albania. Austrian War Fund increased. 1914 Attacks by the German Press upon France and Russia.




The kingdom of Belgium is a comparatively new creation, but the idea of a Belgian nation is older than the kingdom. Historically and geographically the kingdom has no doubt an artificial character; its boundaries have been determined by the Great Powers and cut across the ancient provinces of the Netherlands. And it must be added that its population is heterogeneous both in race and language. These facts, however, in no sense diminish the legal rights of Belgium as a nation. She is a sovereign state by the same charter as Italy or Greece; and for the convenience of Europe she has been solemnly declared a neutral state, endowed with special privileges but burdened with corresponding obligations. While those privileges were maintained—and they have been rigidly maintained for more than eighty years—the Belgian people punctually fulfilled their obligations; and, because they have declined to betray Europe by becoming the dependant of a powerful neighbour, or by participating in the violation of European public law, their country is a wilderness of smoking ruins.

In the tremendous and all but crushing ordeal of August, 1914, Belgium has proved that she possesses other titles to existence and respect than those afforded by treaties, by the mutual jealousies of neighbours, or by the doctrines of international law. She has more than satisfied the tests which distinguish the true from the fictitious nationality. Those who have hitherto known Belgium only as a hive of manufacturing and mining industry, or as a land of historic memories and monuments, are now recognizing, with some shame for their past blindness, the moral and spiritual qualities which her people have developed under the aegis of a European guarantee. It is now beyond dispute that, if Belgium were obliterated from the map of Europe, the world would be the poorer and Europe put to shame. The proofs which Belgium has given of her nationality will never be forgotten while liberty has any value or patriotism any meaning among men. We cannot do less than echo the general sentiment of admiration for a constancy to national ideals which has left Belgium at the mercy of Huns less forgivable than those of Attila. But the case against her oppressor is not to be founded solely or mainly on her peculiar merits. In a special sense it rests upon the legal rights and duties with which she has been invested for the convenience of her neighbours and for the welfare of the European state system. It was in their interest, rather than her own, that the Great Powers made her a sovereign independent state. As such she is entitled, equally with England or with Germany, to immunity from unprovoked attack. But the Powers which made her a sovereign state, also, and for the same reasons of convenience, made her a neutral state. She was therefore debarred from consulting her own safety by making alliances upon what terms she would. She could not lawfully join either of the two armed camps into which Europe has fallen since the year 1907. And, if she had been as contemptible as she is actually the reverse, she would still be entitled to expect from England and from every other of her guarantors the utmost assistance it is in their power to give. In fighting for Belgium we fight for the law of nations; that is, ultimately, for the peace of all nations and for the right of the weaker to exist.

* * * * *

The provinces which now constitute the kingdom of Belgium—with the exception of the bishopric of Liege, which was until 1795 an ecclesiastical principality—were known in the seventeenth century as the Spanish, in the eighteenth as the Austrian, Netherlands. They received the first of these names when they returned to the allegiance of Philip II, after a short participation in the revolt to which Holland owes her national existence. When the independence of Holland was finally recognized by Spain (1648), the Spanish Netherlands were subjected to the first of the artificial restrictions which Europe has seen fit to impose upon them. The Dutch monopoly of navigation in the Scheldt was admitted by the Treaty of Muenster (1648), and Antwerp was thus precluded from developing into a rival of Amsterdam. In the age of Louis XIV the Spanish Netherlands were constantly attacked by France, who acquired at one time or another the chief towns of Artois and Hainault, including some which have lately come into prominence in the great war, such as Lille, Valenciennes, Cambray, and Maubeuge. The bulk, however, of the Spanish Netherlands passed at the Treaty of Utrecht to Austria, then the chief rival of France on the Continent. They passed with the reservation that certain fortresses on their southern border were to be garrisoned jointly by the Dutch and the Austrians as a barrier against French aggression. This arrangement was overthrown at the French Revolution. The French annexed the Austrian Netherlands and Liege in November, 1792; and immediately afterwards threw down a gauntlet to England by opening to all nations the navigation of the Scheldt. This, and the threatened French attack on Holland, her ally, drew England into conflict with the Revolution; for, first, Antwerp in French hands and as an open port would be a dangerous menace; and secondly, the French had announced a new and anarchic doctrine hostile to all standing treaties: 'Our reasons are that the river takes its rise in France and that a nation which has obtained its liberty cannot recognize a system of feudalism, much less adhere to it'.[1] The answer of William Pitt, which in effect declared war upon the Revolution, contains a memorable statement of the attitude towards public law which England held then, as she holds it to-day: 'With regard to the Scheldt France can have no right to annul existing stipulations, unless she also have the right to set aside equally the other treaties between all Powers of Europe and all the other rights of England and her allies.... England will never consent that France shall arrogate the power of annulling at her pleasure and under the pretence of a pretended natural right, of which she makes herself the only judge, the political system of Europe, established by solemn treaties and guaranteed by the consent of all the Powers'.[2]

This was not our attitude in the case of Belgium only. It was an attitude which we adopted with regard to all the minor Powers of Western Europe when they were threatened by Napoleon. On precisely the same grounds England defended in 1803 the independence of Holland, a commercial rival if an old political ally, and of Switzerland, where she had no immediate interests to protect. By the Treaty of Luneville (February, 1801) France and Austria had mutually guaranteed the independence of the Batavian Republic and the right of the Dutch to adopt whatever form of government seemed good to them. In defiance of these stipulations Napoleon maintained a garrison in Holland, and forced upon her a new Constitution which had been prepared in Paris (November, 1801). Identical stipulations had been made for the Helvetian Republic and had been similarly violated. Early in 1803 England demanded that the French should evacuate Holland and Switzerland: to which Napoleon replied that 'Switzerland and Holland are mere trifles'. His interview with the English Ambassador on March 13, 1803, has many points of resemblance with the now famous interview of August 4, 1914, between Sir Edward Goschen and Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg. The First Consul then, like the Imperial Chancellor to-day, was unable, or professed himself unable, to understand why Great Britain should insist upon the observance of treaties.

To return to Belgium. It became apparent in the Napoleonic Wars that Belgium and Holland were individually too weak to protect themselves or the German people against an aggressive French Government. The allies therefore, in the year 1813, handed over to Holland the Austrian Netherlands and the bishopric of Liege in order 'to put Holland in a position to resist attack until the Powers could come to its aid'. This arrangement was ratified at the Treaty of Chaumont (1814). As there was no government or visible unity in the Belgian provinces after the retirement of the French, the union with Holland, originally suggested by Lord Castlereagh, seemed reasonable enough. It gave the Belgians the great privilege of freely navigating the Scheldt. It was confirmed at the Congress of Vienna, and the new kingdom of the United Netherlands was declared neutral by the common consent of the Powers.

But the events of the years 1815-1830 proved conclusively that this union was unsatisfactory to the Belgian population. The Belgians complained that they were not allowed their just share of influence and representation in the legislature or executive. They resented the attempt to impose the Dutch language and Dutch Liberalism upon them. They rose in revolt, expelled the Dutch officials and garrisons, and drew up for themselves a monarchical and parliamentary constitution. Their aspirations aroused much sympathy both in England and in France. These two countries induced the other Great Powers (Austria, Prussia, Russia) to recognize the new kingdom as an independent neutral state. This recognition was embodied in the Treaty of the Twenty-Four Articles signed at London in October, 1831; and it was not too generous to the aspirations of Belgian nationality. Since the Belgians had been defeated in the field by Holland and had only been rescued by a French army, they were obliged to surrender their claims upon Maestricht, parts of Luxemburg, and parts of Limburg. Some time elapsed before this settlement was recognized by Holland. But at length this last guarantee was obtained; and the Treaty of London, 1839, finally established the international status of Belgium. Under this treaty both her independence and her neutrality were definitely guaranteed by England, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia.

We have recently been told by the Imperial Chancellor that the Treaty of 1839 is nothing but 'a scrap of paper'. It is therefore desirable to point out that Bismarck made full use of it in 1870 to prevent England from supporting the cause of France. It was with this object that he published the proposal alleged to have been made to him by the French representative, Benedetti, in 1866, that Prussia should help France to acquire Belgium as a solace for Prussian annexations in Northern Germany. Then, as now, England insisted upon the Treaty of 1839. The result was that, on the instance of Lord Granville, Germany and France entered into an identic treaty with Great Britain (Aug. 1870) to the effect that, if either belligerent violated Belgian territory, Great Britain would co-operate with the other for the defence of it. The treaty was most strictly construed. After the battle of Sedan (Sept. 1870) the German Government applied to Belgium for leave to transport the German wounded across Belgian territory. France protested that this would be a breach of neutrality and Belgium refused.

Such is the history of the process by which Belgium has acquired her special status. As an independent state she is bound by the elementary principle of the law of nations, that a neutral state is bound to refuse to grant a right of passage to a belligerent. This is a well-established rule, and was formally affirmed by the Great Powers at the Hague Peace Conference of 1907. The fifth Article of the Convention [3] then drawn up respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in War on Land runs as follows:—

'A neutral power ought not to allow on its territory any of the acts referred to in Articles 2 to 4'.

Of the Articles thus specified the most important is No. 2:—

'Belligerents are forbidden to move across the territory of a neutral power troops or convoys, either of munitions of war or supplies'.

By the Treaty of London the existence of Belgium is contingent upon her perpetual neutrality:—

'ARTICLE VII. Belgium within the limits specified in Articles I, II, and IV shall form an independent and perpetually neutral state. It shall be bound to observe such neutrality towards all other states'.[4]

It is unnecessary to elaborate further the point of law. That, it seems, has been admitted by the Imperial Chancellor before the German Reichstag. What is necessary to remember is that, in regard to Belgium, Germany has assumed the position which the Government of the French Revolution adopted towards the question of the Scheldt, and which Napoleon adopted towards the guaranteed neutrality of Switzerland and Holland. Now, as then, England has special interests at stake. The consequences of the oppression or the extinction of the smaller nationalities are bound to excite peculiar alarm in England. In particular she cannot forget how she would be menaced by the establishment of a militarist state in Belgium. But since in England's case the dangers and uncertainties of a state of things in which Might is treated as Right are particularly apparent, it is only to be expected that she should insist with special emphasis upon the sanctity of treaties, a sanctity which in the long run is as necessary to the strongest nation as to the weakest. If treaties count for nothing, no nation is secure so long as any imaginable combination of Powers can meet it in battle or diplomacy on equal terms; and the stronger nations must perforce fight one another to the death for the privilege of enslaving civilization. Whether the progress of such a competition would be a trifling evil, whether the success of any one among such competitors would conduce to the higher interests of humanity, impartial onlookers may debate if they please. England has answered both these questions with an unhesitating negative.


Under existing treaty law the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg stands for all practical purposes in the same legal position as its northern neighbour; and the ruler of Luxemburg has protested against the German invasion[5] of her territory no less emphatically than King Albert, though with less power of giving expression in action to her just resentment. If the defence of Belgium has appealed more forcibly to the ordinary Englishman, it is because he is more familiar with the past history of Belgium and sees more clearly in her case the ultimate issues that are involved in the German violation of her rights. As the following narrative will show, the neutrality of Luxemburg was guaranteed in the interests and at the instance of the Prussian state, as a protection against French aggression. The legal case could not be clearer, and it might perhaps be asked why the attack on Luxemburg, which preceded that on Belgium, was not treated by this country as a casus belli. England's attitude towards Luxemburg is that which she has consistently adopted towards those smaller states of Europe which lie outside the reach of naval power. It is an attitude which she has maintained in the case of Servia even more clearly than in that of Luxemburg. England holds herself bound to exert her influence in procuring for the smaller states of Europe equitable treatment from their more powerful neighbours. But the duty of insisting upon equitable treatment falls first upon those Powers whose situation enables them to support a protest by effective action. Just as Servia is the special concern of Russia, so Luxemburg must look to France in the first instance for protection against Germany, to Germany if she is assailed from the French side. In either case we should hold ourselves bound to exercise our influence, but not as principals. Any other course would be impossibly quixotic, and would only have the effect of destroying our power to help the states within our reach.

* * * * *

The Grand Duchy of Luxemburg was a revival of an ancient state which had lost its existence during the French Revolution. Although it was placed under the rule of the King of the Netherlands, a descendant of its former sovereign, it was not incorporated in his kingdom, but retained its own identity and gave to its ruler the secondary title of Grand Duke of Luxemburg. The position it occupied after 1815 was in some ways anomalous; for lying as it did between the Meuse and the Rhine, and possessing in the town of Luxemburg a fortress whose natural strength some competent critics reckoned as second only to that of Gibraltar among the fortresses of Europe, it was considered to be an indispensable link in the chain of defences of Germany against French aggression. Not being able to trust the Dutch to hold this great fortress against the French, the Congress of Vienna laid down as a principle that all land between the Meuse and the Rhine must be held by Prussian troops on behalf of the newly formed Germanic Confederation. Thus Luxemburg was held by Prussian troops on behalf of this foreign confederation, and over this garrison the only right allowed to the Grand Duke, the sovereign of the country, was that of nominating the governor.

This strange state of affairs was not modified by the Belgian Revolution of 1830; for though more than half the Grand Duchy threw in its lot with Belgium to form the modern province of Belgian Luxemburg, the Grand Duchy, confined to its modern limits, still contained the great fortress with its garrison of Prussian troops. It is not surprising that, under these circumstances, the Grand Duchy joined the Prussian Zollverein, and so drew nearer to Germany, in spite of the independent character of its inhabitants, who have strenuously resisted any attempt at absorption into Germany. France naturally continued to cast envious eyes upon the small state with the powerful citadel, but no opportunity presented itself for reopening the question until 1866.

In that year Napoleon III had anticipated that the war between Prussia and Italy on one side and Austria and the small German states on the other would be long and exhausting, and would end in France imposing peace on the weary combatants with considerable territorial advantage to herself. His anticipation was entirely falsified; the war lasted only seven weeks and Prussia emerged victorious and immensely strengthened by the absorption of several German states and by the formation of the North German Confederation under her leadership. This, the first shattering blow which the French Emperor's diplomatic schemes had received, led him to demand compensation for the growth of Prussian power, and one of his proposals was the cession of Luxemburg to France.

This suggestion had some legal plausibility quite apart from the question of the balance of power. For the Prussian garrison held Luxemburg in the name of the German Confederation, which had been destroyed by the war of 1866; and, the authority to which the garrison owed its existence being gone, it was only logical that the garrison should go too. After much demur Count Bismarck acknowledged the justice of the argument (April, 1867), but it did not by any means follow that the French should therefore take the place vacated by the Prussians. At the same time the fortress could not be left in the hands of a weak Power as a temptation for powerful and unscrupulous neighbours. The question of Luxemburg was therefore the subject discussed at a Congress held in London in the following May.

Here the Prussians showed themselves extremely politic and reasonable. Realizing that, with the advance of artillery, the great rock-fortress no longer had the military value of earlier days, they not only raised no objections to the evacuation of Luxemburg by their troops, but in the Congress it was they who proposed that the territory of the Grand Duchy should be neutralized 'under the collective guarantee of the Powers'.[6] A treaty was therefore drawn up on May 11, 1867, of which the second article ran as follows:—

'The Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, within the Limits determined by the Act annexed to the Treaties of the 19th April, 1839, under the Guarantee of the Courts of Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia, shall henceforth form a perpetually Neutral State.

'It shall be bound to observe the same Neutrality towards all other States.

'The High Contracting Parties engage to respect the principle of Neutrality stipulated by the present Article.

'That principle is and remains placed under the sanction of the collective Guarantee of the Powers signing as Parties to the present Treaty, with the exception of Belgium, which is itself a Neutral State'.[7]

The third article provided for the demolition of the fortifications of Luxemburg and its conversion into an open town, the fourth for its evacuation by the Prussian garrison, and the fifth forbade the restoration of the fortifications.

Such then was the treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Luxemburg, which was proposed, it may be observed, by Prussia herself; but, until the treaty was broken by the very Power which had proposed the neutrality, only one incident need be noted in the history of the country, namely, the part it played in the war of 1870-1. On December 3, 1870, Count Bismarck issued from Versailles a circular to the Prussian Ambassadors, calling attention to the fact that both the French and the Luxemburgers had violated the neutrality of the Grand Duchy, mainly by giving facilities for French soldiers to return to France. Precautions were taken by the Prussian Government on the frontier to prevent such abuses occurring in the future, and as no violation of the neutrality of Luxemburg was committed by the Prussians, the neutral co-guarantors were satisfied with the Prussian attitude, and the subject dropped. At the end of the war, M. Thiers vainly attempted to obtain Luxemburg as compensation for the loss of Metz.

In accordance with the Family Compact of 1783, the Grand Duchy passed on the death of the late King of Holland to Prince William of Nassau, on whose death the present Grand Duchess succeeded to her father's throne.

There is one point in the Treaty of 1867 which calls for special comment. The neutrality of the Grand Duchy is 'placed under the collective guarantee of the Powers signing'. The phrase originally proposed by Count Bismarck was 'the formal and individual guarantee of the Powers,' and it was altered at the instance of the English Foreign Minister, Lord Stanley. The phrase actually adopted was suggested by the Russian diplomat, Baron Brunnow, and was accepted both by England and by Prussia. Lord Stanley's objection had been based upon the fear that England might incur an unlimited liability to assist Luxemburg single-handed if all other Powers failed to meet their obligations. In other words, Luxemburg might have been used as the infallible means of dragging us into every and any war which might arise between Germany and France. From that danger we were protected by Lord Stanley's objection; as the case stands the treaty gives us, in his own words, 'a right to make war, but would not necessarily impose the obligation,' should Luxemburg be attacked. To this doctrine a reference will be found in the British White Paper (No. 148), where Sir Edward Grey informs M. Cambon of 'the doctrine' concerning Luxemburg, 'laid down by Lord Derby and Lord Clarendon in 1867'. It may also be observed that two of the co-guarantors of the Treaty of 1867, namely Italy and Holland, have also not thought it necessary to make the violation of Luxemburg a casus belli.


It is evident to all who study closely the map of France that her eastern frontier falls into two sharply contrasted divisions, the north-eastern which reaches from the sea to the valley of the Sambre, and the south-eastern which extends from that river to, and along the Swiss boundary. The former is flat country, easy for military operations; the latter is mountainous, intersected with many deep valleys. After the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, the French set to work to rectify artificially the strategical weakness of their frontier; and in a chain of fortresses behind the Vosges Mountains they erected a rampart which has the reputation of being impregnable. This is the line Belfort, Epinal, Toul, Verdun. A German attack launched upon this line without violating neutral territory would have to be frontal, for on the north the line is covered by the neutral states of Belgium and Luxemburg, while on the south, although the gap between the Vosges and the Swiss frontier apparently gives a chance of out-flanking the French defences, the fortress of Belfort, which was never reduced even in the war of 1870-1, was considered too formidable an obstacle against which to launch an invading army. A rapid advance on Paris was therefore deemed impossible if respect were to be paid to the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg, and it was for this purely military reason that Germany has to-day violated her promises to regard the neutrality of these states. This was frankly admitted by Herr von Jagow to Sir Edward Goschen: 'if they had gone by the more southern route they could not have hoped, in view of the paucity of roads and the strength of the fortresses, to have got through without formidable opposition entailing great loss of time'.[8]

In the case of Belgium a very easy road was afforded into French territory up the Valley of the Meuse, past Liege and thence into France past Namur and through what is known as the Gap of Namur. A German army could debouch into France through this gap the more easily inasmuch as the French, relying on the neutrality of these two states, had not strongly fortified the frontier from the sea to Maubeuge. Moreover, as the country to the west of the Sambre was very easy country for manoeuvring and furnished with good roads and railways, it was reckoned that the formidable French lines to the south could be turned in this manner, and the German army could march upon Paris from the north-east.

As to Luxemburg, plainly it could not in such a scheme remain neutral. It would lie between the two wings of the German army, and controlling as it did the roads to Brussels, Metz, and Aix-la-Chapelle, it could not be allowed to cause such inconvenience as to prevent easy communication between one portion of the German army and another.

That such a plan was contemplated by the Germans has been for some years past a matter of common knowledge in England; and it has been also a matter of common opinion that the attempt to execute this plan would involve the active resistance of the British forces, to whom the duty was supposed to have been assigned of acting on the left flank of the French opposing the entry of the Germans from Belgian territory. The plea therefore that has been put forward that the British have now dealt the Germans 'a felon's blow' can only be put forward by persons who are either ignorant or heedless of what has been a matter of casual conversation all over England these last three years; and Sir Edward Grey himself was so convinced that the German Government knew what the consequences of a violation of Belgian neutrality would be that he informed Sir Francis Bertie on July 31st that the 'German Government do not expect our neutrality'.[9] There has been no secret about it whatever. It is incredible that the excitement and surprise of the Imperial Chancellor on the receipt of the ultimatum of August 4th should have been genuine, seeing that it involves miscalculation or misinformation entirely incompatible with what we know of the thoroughness of German methods. At the time of the Agadir crisis the military situation was the same, and the German War Office knew quite well what our part would then have been. Surprise at such action on our part in 1914 is little else than comedy, and can only have been expressed in order to throw the blame of German aggression on to the shoulders of Great Britain.

This argument that Great Britain has taken the aggressive falls to the ground entirely when it is confronted with the hard facts of chronology. Far from attacking the Germans, we were so anxious to keep the peace that we were actually three days late in our mobilization to join the French on their left wing; and had it not been for the defence offered by Liege, our scruples would have gravely imperilled the common cause. For it was not until we were certain that Germany had committed what was tantamount to an act of war against us, by invading the neutral state of Belgium, that we delivered the ultimatum which led to the war.


[Footnote 1: Cam. Mod. Hist. viii 301.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid. 304.]

[Footnote 3: Printed by A. Pearce Higgins, The Hague Peace Conferences, pp. 281-9.]

[Footnote 4: The entire treaty will be found in Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty, vol. ii, pp. 979-98.]

[Footnote 5: Correspondence respecting the European Crisis, (Cd. 7467), No. 147. Minister of State, Luxemburg, to Sir E. Grey, Aug. 2.]

[Footnote 6: Edward Hertslet, The Map of Europe by Treaty, vol. iii, p. 1806, no. 406. 'Proposal of Prussia of Collective Guarantee by Powers of Neutrality of Luxemburg, London, 7th May, 1867.']

[Footnote 7: Hertslet, ut sup., vol. iii, p. 1803. The High Contracting Powers were Great Britain, Austria, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia, and Russia.]

[Footnote 8: Dispatch from His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin respecting the rupture of diplomatic relations with the German Government (Cd. 7445), Miscellaneous, no. 8, 1914.]

[Footnote 9: Correspondence respecting the European Crisis, p. 62, no. 116. July 31, 1914. See also infra pp. 82 et seqq.]



Even at the risk of being tedious it is essential that we should sketch in outline the events which have produced the present grouping of belligerent states, and the long-drawn-out preparations which have equipped them for conflict on this colossal scale. To understand why Austria-Hungary and Germany have thrown down the glove to France and Russia, why England has intervened not only as the protector of Belgium, but also as the friend of France, we must go back to the situation created by the Franco-German War. Starting from that point, we must notice in order the formation of the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, of the Dual Alliance between France and Russia, of the Anglo-French and the Anglo-Russian understandings. The Triple Alliance has been the grand cause of the present situation; not because such a grouping of the Central European Powers was objectionable, but because it has inspired over-confidence in the two leading allies; because they have traded upon the prestige of their league to press their claims East and West with an intolerable disregard for the law of nations. Above all it was the threatening attitude of Germany towards her Western neighbours that drove England forward step by step in a policy of precautions which, she hoped, would avert a European conflagration, and which her rivals have attempted to represent as stages in a Machiavellian design to ruin Germany's well-being. These precautions, so obviously necessary that they were continued and expanded by the most pacific Government which England has seen since Mr. Gladstone's retirement, have taken two forms: that of diplomatic understandings, and that of naval preparations. Whichever form they have taken, they have been adopted in response to definite provocations, and to threats which it was impossible to overlook. They have been strictly and jealously measured by the magnitude of the peril immediately in view. In her diplomacy England has given no blank cheques; in her armaments she has cut down expenditure to the minimum that, with reasonable good fortune, might enable her to defend this country and English sea-borne trade against any probable combination of hostile Powers.

Let us consider (1) the development of the diplomatic situation since 1870, (2) the so-called race of armaments since 1886.

The Treaty of Frankfort (May 10, 1871), in which France submitted to the demands of the new-born German Empire, opened a fresh era of European diplomacy and international competition. The German Empire became at once, and has ever since remained, the predominant Power in Western Europe. The public opinion of this new Germany has been captured to no small extent by the views of such aggressive patriots as Treitschke, who openly avowed that 'the greatness and good of the world is to be found in the predominance there of German culture, of the German mind, in a word of the German character'. The school of Treitschke looked for the establishment of a German world-empire, and held that the essential preliminary to this scheme would be the overthrow of France and England. But until 1890, that is to say so long as Prince Bismarck remained Chancellor, no such ambitious programme was adopted by the German Government. Bismarck was content to strengthen the position of the Empire and to sow disunion among her actual or suspected enemies. In 1872 he brought about a friendly understanding with Austria and Russia, the other two great Powers of Eastern Europe, the so-called Dreikaiserbuendnis, which was designed to perpetuate the status quo. But the friendship with Russia quickly cooled; it received a sharp set-back in 1875, when the Tsar Alexander II came forward rather ostentatiously to save France from the alleged hostile designs of Germany; it was certainly not improved when Bismarck in his turn mediated between Russia and her opponents at the Congress of Berlin (1878). On the other hand, a common interest in the Eastern Question drew closer the bonds between Germany and Austria. The latter felt herself directly menaced by the Balkan policy of Russia; the former was not prepared to see her southern neighbour despoiled of territory. Hence in 1879 was initiated that closer union between Germany and Austria which has been so largely responsible for the present situation. The Treaty of 1879, which was kept secret until 1887, was purely defensive in its character; but the terms showed that Russia was the enemy whom both the contracting Powers chiefly feared. Neither was bound to active measures unless the other should be attacked by Russia, or any Power which had Russian support. In 1882 the alliance of the two great German Powers was joined by Italy—a surprising development which can only be explained on the ground of Italy's feeling that she could not hope for security at home, or for colonial expansion in the Mediterranean, so long as she remained in isolation. The Triple Alliance so constituted had a frail appearance, and it was hardly to be expected that Italy would receive strong support from partners in comparison with whose resources her own were insignificant. But the Triple Alliance has endured to the present day, the most permanent feature of the diplomatic system of the last thirty-two years. Whether the results have been commensurate with the sacrifices of sentiment and ambition which Italy has made, it is for Italy to judge. On the whole she has been a sleeping partner in the Alliance; its prestige has served almost exclusively for the promotion of Austrian and German aims; and one of its results has been to make Austria a formidable rival of Italy in the Adriatic.

Meanwhile the remaining Great Powers of Europe had continued, as Prince Bismarck hoped, to pursue their separate paths, though England was on friendly terms with France and had, equally with Russia, laboured to avert a second Franco-German War in 1875. After 1882 the English occupation of Egypt constituted for some years a standing grievance in the eyes of France. The persistent advance of Russia in Asia had in like manner been a source of growing apprehension to England since 1868; and, for a long time after the Treaty of Berlin, English statesmen were on the watch to check the growth of Russian influence in the Balkans. But common interests of very different kinds were tending to unite these three Powers, not in any stable alliance, even for mutual defence, but in a string of compacts concluded for particular objects.

One of these interests was connected with a feeling that the policy of the principal partners in the Triple Alliance, particularly that of Germany, had become incalculable and was only consistent in periodic outbursts of self-assertiveness, behind which could be discerned a steady determination to accumulate armaments which should be strong enough to intimidate any possible competitor. The growth of this feeling dates from the dismissal of Prince Bismarck by the present Kaiser. Bismarck had sedulously courted the friendship of Russia, even after 1882. He entered in fact into a defensive agreement with Russia against Austria. While he increased the war strength of the army, he openly announced that Germany would always stand on the defensive; and he addressed a warning to the Reichstag against the 'offensive-defensive' policy which was even then in the air, though it was still far from its triumph:—

'If I were to say to you, "We are threatened by France and Russia; it is better for us to fight at once; an offensive war is more advantageous to us," and ask for a credit of a hundred millions, I do not know whether you would grant it—I hope not.'[10]

But Bismarck's retirement (1890) left the conduct of German policy in less cautious hands. The defensive alliance with Russia was allowed to lapse; friction between the two Powers increased, and as the result Germany found herself confronted with the Dual Alliance of France and Russia, which gradually developed, during the years 1891-6, from a friendly understanding into a formal contract for mutual defence. There is no doubt that this alliance afforded France a protection against that unprovoked attack upon her eastern frontier which she has never ceased to dread since 1875; and it has yet to be proved that she ever abused the new strength which this alliance gave her.

It is only in the field of colonial expansion that she has shown aggressive tendencies since 1896; and even here the members of the Triple Alliance have never shown serious cause for a belief that France has invaded their lawful spheres of interest. Her advance in Morocco was permitted by Italy and Spain; her vast dominion in French West Africa has been recognized by treaties with Germany and England; in East Africa she has Madagascar, of which her possession has never been disputed by any European Power; her growing interests in Indo-China have impinged only upon an English sphere of interest and were peacefully defined by an Anglo-French Agreement of 1896. France has been the competitor, to some extent the successful competitor, of Germany in West Africa, where she partially envelops the Cameroons and Togoland. But the German Government has never ventured to state the French colonial methods as a casus belli. That the German people have viewed with jealousy the growth of French power in Africa is a notorious fact. Quite recently, on the eve of the present war, we were formally given to understand that Germany, in any war with France, might annex French colonies[11]; and it is easy to see how such an object would reconcile the divergent policies of the German military and naval experts.

Up to the eve of the present war Great Britain has consistently refused to believe that Germany would be mad enough or dishonest enough to enter on a war of aggression for the dismemberment of colonial empires. German diplomacy in the past few weeks has rudely shattered this conviction. But up to the year 1914 the worst which was generally anticipated was that she would pursue in the future on a great scale the policy, which she has hitherto pursued on a small scale, of claiming so-called 'compensations' when other Powers succeeded in developing their colonial spheres, and of invoking imaginary 'interests' as a reason why the efforts of explorers and diplomatists should not be allowed to yield to France their natural fruits of increased colonial trade. It is not our business to impugn or to defend the partition of Africa, or the methods by which it has been brought about. But it is vital to our subject that we should describe the methods by which Germany has endeavoured to intimidate France at various stages of the African question. The trouble arose out of a Moroccan Agreement between England and France, which was the first definite proof that these two Powers were drifting into relations closer than that of ordinary friendship.

In 1904 England and France settled their old quarrel about Egypt. France recognized the English occupation of Egypt; England, on her side, promised not to impede the extension of French influence in Morocco. It was agreed that neither in Egypt nor in Morocco should there be a political revolution; and that in both countries the customs tariff should make no distinction between one nation and another. This compact was accompanied by a settlement of the old disputes about French fishing rights in Newfoundland, and of more recent difficulties concerning the frontiers between French and English possessions in West Africa.[12] The whole group formed a step in a general policy, on both sides, of healing local controversies which had little meaning except as instruments of diplomatic warfare. The agreement regarding Egypt and Morocco is distinguished from that concerning West Africa and Newfoundland in so far as it recognizes the possibility of objections on the part of other Powers. It promised mutual support in the case of such objections; but not the support of armed force, only that of diplomatic influence.

At the moment of these agreements Count Buelow told the Reichstag that Germany had no objection, as her interests were in no way imperilled by them. Later, however, Germany chose to regard the Moroccan settlement as an injury or an insult or both. In the following year the Kaiser made a speech at Tangier (March, 1905) in which he asserted that he would uphold the important commercial and industrial interests of Germany in Morocco, and that he would never allow any other Power to step between him and the free sovereign of a free country. It was subsequently announced in the German Press that Germany had no objection to the Anglo-French Agreement in itself, but objected to not having been consulted before it was arranged. This complaint was met, on the part of France, by the retirement of M. Delcasse, her Minister of Foreign Affairs, and by her assent to an International Conference regarding Morocco. The Conference met at Algeciras, and German pretensions were satisfied by an international Agreement.[13] It is to be observed that in this Conference the original claims of Germany were opposed, not only by Russia, from whom she could hardly expect sympathy, but even by Italy, her own ally. When Germany had finally assented to the Agreement, her Chancellor, in flat contradiction with his previous utterance 'that German interests were in no way imperilled by it', announced that Germany had been compelled to intervene by her economic interests, by the prestige of German policy, and by the dignity of the German Empire.

The plain fact was that Germany, soon after the conclusion of the Anglo-French agreements, had found herself suddenly delivered from her preoccupations on the side of Russia, and had seized the opportunity to assert herself in the West while Russia was involved in the most critical stage of her struggle with Japan. But this war came to an end before the Convention of Algeciras had begun; and Russia, even in the hour of defeat and internal revolutions, was still too formidable to be overridden, when she ranged herself beside her Western ally.

Of the part which England played in the Moroccan dispute there are different versions. What is certain is that she gave France her diplomatic support. But the German Chancellor officially acknowledged, when all was over, that England's share in the Anglo-French Agreement had been perfectly correct, and that Germany bore England no ill-will for effecting a rapprochement with France. Still there remained a strong impression, not only in England and France, that there had been on Germany's part a deliberate intention to test the strength of the Anglo-French understanding and, if possible, to show France that England was a broken reed.

It is not surprising that under these circumstances England has taken, since 1906, the precaution of freeing herself from any embarrassments in which she had previously been involved with other Powers. In 1905 she had shown her goodwill to Russia by exercising her influence to moderate the terms of the settlement with Japan. This was a wise step, consonant alike with English treaty-obligations to Japan and with the interests of European civilization. It led naturally to an amicable agreement with Russia (1907) concerning Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet, the three countries which touch the northern borders of our Indian Empire. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that this agreement was of a local character, exactly as was that with France; that our friendly understandings with France and with Russia were entirely separate; and that neither related to the prosecution of a common policy in Europe; unless indeed the name of a policy could be given to the precaution, which was from time to time adopted, of permitting consultations between the French and English military experts. It was understood that these consultations committed neither country to a policy of common action.[14] England was drifting from her old attitude of 'splendid isolation'; but she had as yet no desire to involve herself, even for defensive purposes, in such a formal and permanent alliance as that which had been contracted by Germany, Austria, and Italy.

But her hand was forced by Germany in 1911. Again the question of Morocco was made to supply a pretext for attacking our friendship with France. The German occupation of Agadir had, and could have, only one meaning. It was 'fastening a quarrel on France on a question that was the subject of a special agreement between France and us'.[15] The attack failed in its object. War was averted by the prompt action of the British Government. Mr. Asquith[16] announced that Great Britain, in discussing the Moroccan question, would have regard to British interests, which might be more directly involved than had hitherto been the case, and also to our treaty obligations with France. Somewhat later Mr. Asquith announced that if the negotiations between France and Germany did not reach a satisfactory settlement, Great Britain would become an active party to the discussion.[17] The nature of British interests were appropriately defined by Mr. Lloyd George in a Guildhall speech as consisting in the peace of the world, the maintenance of national honour, and the security of international trade.[18] The last phrase was a significant reference to the fact that Agadir, though valueless for commercial purposes, might be invaluable to any Power which desired to molest the South Atlantic trade routes. No one doubted then, or doubts to-day, that England stood in 1911 on the brink of a war which she had done nothing to provoke.

The situation was saved in 1911 by the solidarity of England and France. Two Powers, which in the past had been separated by a multitude of prejudices and conflicting ambitions, felt at last that both were exposed to a common danger of the most serious character. Hence a new phase in the Anglo-French entente, which was cemented, not by a treaty, but by the interchange of letters between the English Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Sir Edward Grey) and the French Ambassador in London (M. Paul Cambon). On November 22, 1912, Sir Edward Grey[19] reminded M. Cambon of a remark which the latter had made, 'that if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, it might become essential to know whether it could in that event depend on the armed assistance of the other.' Sir Edward Grey continued:—'I agree that if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, or something that threatened the general peace, it should immediately discuss with the other whether both Governments should act together to prevent aggression and to preserve peace, and, if so, what measures they would be prepared to take in common. If these measures involved action, the plans of the General Staffs would at once be taken into consideration, and the Governments would then decide what effect should be given to them.'

M. Cambon replied on the following day that he was authorized to accept the arrangement which Sir E. Grey had offered.[20]

The agreement, it will be seen, was of an elastic nature. Neither party was bound to co-operate, even diplomatically, with the other. The undertaking was to discuss any threatening situation, and to take common measures if both agreed to the necessity; there was an admission that the agreement might result in the conduct of a joint defensive war upon a common plan. Such an understanding between two sovereign states could be resented only by a Power which designed to attack one of them without clear provocation.

The date at which these notes were interchanged is certainly significant. In November, 1912, the Balkan Allies were advancing on Constantinople, and already the spoils of the Balkan War were in dispute. Servia incurred the hostility of Austria-Hungary by demanding Albania and Adriatic ports; and the Dual Monarchy announced that it could never accept this arrangement. Behind Servia Austrian statesmen suspected the influence of Russia; it was, they said, a scheme for bringing Russia down to a sea which Austria regarded as her own preserve. Austria mobilized her army, and a war could hardly have been avoided but for the mediation of Germany and England. If England had entertained the malignant designs with which she is credited in some German circles, nothing would have been easier for her than to fan the flames, and to bring Russia down upon the Triple Alliance. The notes show how different from this were the aims of Sir Edward Grey. He evidently foresaw that a war between Austria and Russia would result in a German attack upon France. Not content with giving France assurance of support, he laboured to remove the root of the evil. A congress to settle the Balkan disputes was held at London in December, 1912; and it persuaded Servia to accept a reasonable compromise, by which she obtained commercial access to the Adriatic, but no port. This for the moment pacified Austria and averted the world-war. To whom the solution was due we know from the lips of German statesmen. The German Chancellor subsequently (April 7, 1913) told the Reichstag:—

'A state of tension had for months existed between Austria-Hungary and Russia which was only prevented from developing into war by the moderation of the Powers.... Europe will feel grateful to the English Minister of Foreign Affairs for the extraordinary ability and spirit of conciliation with which he conducted the discussion of the Ambassadors in London, and which constantly enabled him to bridge over differences.'

The Chancellor concluded by saying: 'We at any rate shall never stir up such a war'—a promise or a prophecy which has been singularly falsified.

It is no easy matter to understand the line of conduct which Germany has adopted towards the great Slavonic Power on her flank. Since Bismarck left the helm, she has sometimes steered in the direction of subservience, and sometimes has displayed the most audacious insolence. Periodically, it is to be supposed, her rulers have felt that in the long run the momentum of a Russian attack would be irresistible; at other times, particularly after the Russo-Japanese War, they have treated Russia, as the Elizabethans treated Spain, as 'a colossus stuffed with clouts.' But rightly or wrongly they appear to have assumed that sooner or later there must come a general Armageddon, in which the central feature would be a duel of the Teuton with the Slav; and in German military circles there was undoubtedly a conviction that the epic conflict had best come sooner and not later. How long this idea has influenced German policy we do not pretend to say. But it has certainly contributed to her unenviable prominence in the 'race of armaments' which all thinking men have condemned as an insupportable, tax upon Western civilization, and which has aggravated all the evils that it was intended to avert.

The beginning of the evil was perhaps due to France; but, if so, it was to a France which viewed with just alarm the enormous strides in population and wealth made by Germany since 1871. The 'Boulanger Law' of 1886 raised the peace footing of the French army above 500,000 men, at a time when that of Germany was 427,000, and that of Russia 550,000. Bismarck replied by the comparatively moderate measure of adding 41,000 to the German peace establishment for seven years; and it is significant of the difference between then and now that he only carried his Bill after a dissolution of one Reichstag and a forcible appeal to its successor.

France must soon have repented of the indiscretion to which she had been tempted by a military adventurer. With a population comparatively small and rapidly approaching the stationary phase it was impossible that she could long maintain such a race. In 1893 Count Caprivi's law, carried like that of Bismarck after a stiff struggle with the Reichstag, raised the peace establishment to 479,000 men. Count Caprivi at the same time reduced the period of compulsory service from three years to two; but while this reform lightened the burden on the individual conscript, it meant a great increase in the number of those who passed through military training, and an enormous increase of the war strength. The Franco-Russian entente of 1896 was a sign that France began to feel herself beaten in the race for supremacy and reduced to the defensive. In 1899 the German peace strength was raised to 495,000 for the next six years; in 1905 to 505,000. On the second of these occasions the German Government justified its policy by pointing out that the French war strength was still superior to that of Germany, and would become still stronger if France should change the period of service from three years to two. The German law was announced in 1904; it had the natural effect. The French Senate not only passed the new law early in 1905, but also swept away the changes which the Lower House had introduced to lighten the burden of annual training upon territorial reserves. France found her justification in the Moroccan episode of the previous year.

This was not unreasonable; but since that date France has been heavily punished for a step which might be taken to indicate that Revanche was still a feature of her foreign policy. Since 1886 her utmost efforts have only succeeded in raising her peace establishment to 545,000 (including a body of 28,000 colonial troops stationed in France), and her total war strength to 4,000,000. In the same period the peace establishment of Germany was raised to over 800,000, and her total war strength of fully trained men to something like 5,400,000. It is obvious from these figures that a policy of isolation has long ceased to be possible to France; and that an alliance with Russia has been her only possible method of counterbalancing the numerical superiority of the German army, which is certainly not less well equipped or organized than that of France.

This Russian alliance of France has been the only step in her continental policy which could be challenged as tending to overthrow the European balance. Undoubtedly it is France's prime offence in German eyes; and her colonial policy has only been attacked as a pretext for picking a quarrel and forcing on a decisive trial of strength before the growth of Russian resources should have made her ally impregnable.

Let us now look at the German military preparations from a German point of view. The increases of the last twenty years in military expenditure and in fighting strength have been openly discussed in the Reichstag; and the debates have usually run on the same lines, because the Government up to 1912 pursued a consistent policy, framed for some years ahead and embodied in an Army Act. The underlying principle of these Army Acts (1893, 1899, 1905, 1911) was to maintain a fairly constant ratio between the peace strength and the population. But the war strength was disproportionately increased by the Caprivi Army Act of 1893, which reduced the period of compulsory service from three years to two. The hardly-veiled intention of the German War Staff was to increase its war resources as rapidly as was consistent with the long-sufferance of those who served and those who paid the bill. It was taken as axiomatic that an increasing population ought to be protected by an increasing army. National defence was of course alleged as the prime consideration; and if these preparations were really required by growing danger on the two main frontiers of Germany, no German could do otherwise than approve the policy, no foreign Power could feel itself legitimately aggrieved.

Unfortunately it has been a maxim of German policy in recent years that national independence means the power of taking the aggressive in any case where national interests or amour-propre may prompt it. The increase of the German army, either in numbers or in technical efficiency, seems to be regularly followed by masterful strokes of diplomacy in which the 'mailed fist' is plainly shown to other continental Powers. Thus in 1909, at the close of a quinquennium of military re-equipment, which had raised her annual army budget from L27,000,000 to L41,000,000, Germany countenanced the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and the Herzegovina, and plainly told the authorities at St. Petersburg that any military action against Austria would bring Russia into a state of war with Germany. It was a startling step; radix malorum we may call it, so far as the later development of the continental situation is concerned. Russia withdrew from the impending conflict in 1909, but it is improbable that she has ever forgiven the matter or the manner of the German ultimatum.

In 1911 followed the episode of Agadir, which was clearly an attempt to 'force a quarrel on France.' But in 1911 Germany realized that her military calculations had been insufficient, if she wished to continue these unamiable diplomatic manners. It was not a question of self-preservation; it was a question, as the German Chancellor told the Reichstag, of showing the world that 'Germany was firmly resolved not to be pushed aside.' Hence the sensational Army Bill of 1912, necessitated, as the Government told the Reichstag, by the events of 1911. The Russian peril could hardly be described as imminent. The Prussian Minister of War said publicly in 1911 that 'there was no Government which either desired or was seeking to bring about a war with Germany.' Russia had recently taken steps which, at Berlin, perhaps, were read as signs of weakness, but elsewhere were hailed as proofs of her desire for general peace. M. Isvolsky, the supposed champion of Balkan ideals, had retired from office; his successor, M. Sazonof, had accompanied the Czar to the Potsdam interview (1910); the outstanding disputes of Germany and Russia over their Persian interests had been settled by agreement in 1911.

But the German Army Bill of 1912 was followed by Russia's intervention in the Balkans to secure for Servia at least commercial access to the Adriatic. This compromise, ostensibly promoted and belauded by German statesmanship, only increased the determination of the German Government to 'hold the ring' in the Balkans, to claim for Austria the right of settling her own differences with Servia as she would, and to deny Russia any interest in the matter. In 1913 came the supreme effort of the German General Staff: an Army Act for raising the peace strength by instalments until it reached 870,000, and for the eventual provision of a war strength of 5,400,000 men. This enormous increase was recommended 'by the unanimous judgement of the military authorities' as being 'necessary to secure the future of Germany.' The Chancellor warned the Reichstag that, although relations were friendly with Russia, they had to face the possibilities involved in the Pan-Slavist movement; while in Russia itself they had to reckon with a marvellous economic development and an unprecedented reorganization of the army. There was also a reference to the new law for a return to three years' service which France was introducing to improve the efficiency of her peace establishment. But it was obvious that Russia was the main preoccupation. Germany had forced the pace both in the aggrandizement of her military strength and in the methods of her diplomatic intercourse. Suddenly she found herself on the brink of an abyss. She had gone too far; she had provoked into the competition of armaments a Power as far superior to Germany in her reserves of men as Germany thought herself superior to France. It was not too late for Germany to pause. On her future behaviour towards other Powers it depended whether the Bill of 1913 should be taken as an insurance against risks, or as a challenge to all possible opponents.

The other Powers shaped their policy in accordance with Germany's example. In France, on March 4, the Supreme Council of War, having learned the outline of the German programme, decided to increase the effective fighting force by a return to the rule of three years' service. Before the German Bill had passed (June 30), the French Prime Minister announced (May 15) that he would of his own authority keep with the colours those who were completing their second year's service in the autumn. The French Army Bill, when finally passed (July 16), lowered the age limit for commencing service from twenty-one to twenty, and brought the new rule into force at once. A few weeks earlier (June 20) Belgium introduced universal military service in place of her former lenient system. In Russia a secret session of the Duma was held (July 8) to pass a new Army Budget, and the term of service was raised from three to three and a quarter years. Austria alone provided for no great increase in the numerical strength of her army; but budgeted (October 30) for extraordinary naval and military expenditure, to the extent of L28,000,000, to be incurred in the first six months of 1914. Thus on all sides the alarm was raised, and special preparations were put in hand, long before the crisis of 1914 actually arrived. It was Germany that had sounded the tocsin; and it is difficult to believe that some startling coup was not even then being planned by the leaders of her military party.

We have been told that, whatever the appearance of things might be, it was Russia who drove Germany to the extraordinary preparations of 1913; that Germany was arming simply in self-defence against a Slavonic Crusade. What are the facts? Economically Russia, as a state, is in a stronger position than the German Empire. In 1912 we were told that for the past five years the revenue of Russia had exceeded expenditure by an average sum of L20,000,000 per annum. The revenue of Russia in 1913 was over L324,000,000; she has budgeted for L78,000,000 of military expenditure in 1914, of which some L15,000,000 is emergency expenditure. The total revenue of the German Empire in 1913 was L184,000,000; she has budgeted for a military expenditure in 1914 of L60,000,000. To adopt the usual German tests of comparison, Russia has a population of 173 millions to be defended on three land-frontiers, while Germany has a population of 65 millions to be defended on only two. The military efforts of Russia, therefore, have been made on a scale relatively smaller than those of Germany.

We must, however, add some further considerations which have been urged by German military critics; the alleged facts we cannot test, but we state them for what they may be worth. The reorganization of the Russian army in recent years has resulted, so we are told, in the grouping of enormously increased forces upon the western frontier. The western fortresses also have been equipped on an unparalleled scale. New roads and railways have been constructed to accelerate the mobilization of the war strength; and, above all, strategic railways have been pushed towards the western frontier. Thus, it is argued, Russia has in effect gone behind the Potsdam Agreement of 1910, by which she withdrew her armies to a fixed distance behind the Russo-German frontier. We confess that, in all this, while there may have been cause for watchfulness on the part of Germany, we can see no valid cause for war, nothing that of necessity implies more than an intention, on the part of Russia, not to be brow-beaten in the future as she was in 1909 and 1912.

These military developments did not escape English notice. They excited endless speculation about the great war of the future, and the part which this country might be asked to bear in it. Few, however, seriously supposed that we should commit ourselves to a share in the fighting upon land. The problem most usually discussed in this connexion was that of preparation to resist a sudden invasion from abroad. Was it possible to avoid compulsory service? Was the Territorial Force large enough and efficient enough to defend the country if the Expeditionary Force had gone abroad? Great Britain was infinitely better equipped for land warfare in August, 1914, than she had ever been in the nineteenth century. But her Expeditionary Force was a recent creation, and had been planned for the defence of India and the Colonies. In practice the country had clung to the 'Blue Water' policy, of trusting the national fortunes entirely to the Navy. The orthodox theory was that so long as the Navy was kept at the 'Two Power' standard, no considerable invasion of the British Isles was possible.

But from 1898 the programmes of the German Navy Laws constituted a growing menace to the 'Two Power' standard, which had been laid down as our official principle in 1889, when France and Russia were our chief European rivals at sea. That France or Russia would combine with Germany to challenge our naval supremacy was improbable; but other states were beginning to build on a larger scale, and this multiplied the possible number of hostile combinations. That Germany should wish for a strong fleet was only natural. It was needed to defend her foreign trade, her colonial interests, and her own seaports. That Germany should lay down a definite programme for six years ahead, and that the programme should become more extensive at each revision, was no necessary proof of malice. But this country received a shock in 1900, when the programme of 1898 was unexpectedly and drastically revised, so that the German Navy was practically doubled. England was at that moment involved in the South African War, and it was hard to see against whom the new fleet could be used, if not against England. This was pointed out from time to time by the Socialist opposition in the Reichstag. The orthodox official reply was that Germany must be so strong at sea that the strongest naval Power should not be able to challenge her with any confidence. But the feeling of the semi-official Navy League was known to be violently hostile to England; and it was obvious that the German navy owed its popularity to the alarmist propaganda of that league.

It was impossible for English statesmen to avoid the suspicion that, on the sea as on land, the Germans meant by liberty the right to unlimited self-assertion. Common prudence dictated close attention to the German Navy Laws; especially as they proved capable of unexpected acceleration. The 'Two Power' standard, under the stress of German competition, became increasingly difficult to maintain, and English Liberals were inclined to denounce it as wasteful of money. But, when a Liberal Government tried the experiment of economizing on the Navy (1906-8), there was no corresponding reduction in the German programme. The German Naval Law of 1906 raised the amount of the naval estimates by one-third; and German ministers blandly waved aside as impracticable a proposal for a mutual limitation of armaments.

In 1909 this country discovered that in capital ships—which now began to be considered the decisive factor in naval warfare—Germany would actually be the superior by 1914 unless special measures were taken. The British Government was awakened to the new situation (it arose from the German Naval Law of 1908), and returned unwillingly to the path of increasing expenditure. The Prime Minister said that we regretted the race in naval expenditure and were not animated by anti-German feeling; but we could not afford to let our supremacy at sea be imperilled, since our national security depended on it (March 16, 1909). The 'Two Power' standard was dropped, and the Triple Alliance became the object of special attention at the Admiralty. The First Lord said on March 13, 1911, that we should make our navy superior to any foreign navy and to any probable combination which we might have to meet single-handed. In practice this meant a policy of developing, in the matter of Dreadnoughts, a superiority of sixty per cent, over the German navy; this, it was officially explained in 1912, had been for some years past the actual Admiralty standard of new construction (Mr. Winston Churchill, March 18, 1912).

But even this programme had to be stiffened when the year 1912 saw a new German Navy Bill which involved an increased expenditure of L1,000,000 annually for six years, and had the effect of putting nearly four-fifths of the German navy in a position of immediate readiness for war. Earlier in the year the British Government had announced that, if the German policy of construction were accelerated, we should add to our programme double the number which Germany put in hand; but if Germany relaxed her preparations we should make a fully proportionate reduction. The German Bill came as an answer to this declaration; and it was followed in this country by supplementary estimates on naval account, amounting to nearly a million pounds; and this was announced to be 'the first and smallest instalment of the extra expenditure entailed by the new German law.' The new British policy was maintained in 1913 and in 1914, though in 1913 the First Lord of the Admiralty made a public offer of a 'naval holiday,' a suspension of new construction by mutual consent. The Imperial Chancellor responded only by suggesting that the proposal was entirely unofficial, by asking for concrete proposals, and by saying that the idea constituted a great progress; and his naval estimates in 1913 were half a million higher than those of 1912.

From these facts, viewed in their chronological order, it is clear that on sea as on land Germany has set the pace. Thirty years ago the German navy did not enter into England's naval calculations. For the last six years, if not for a longer period, it has been the one navy which our Admiralty felt the necessity of watching from year to year, and indeed from month to month. It is the first time for more than a hundred years that we have had to face the problem of 'a powerful homogeneous navy under one government and concentrated within easy distance of our shores.'

On German principles we should long ago have adopted the 'offensive-defensive.' We have been at least as seriously menaced by Germany at sea as Germany has been menaced by Russia upon land. But we can confidently say that in the period of rivalry our fleet has never been used as a threat, or turned to the purposes of an aggressive colonial policy. Rightly or wrongly, we have refused to make possible intentions a case for an ultimatum. We have held by the position that only a breach of public law would justify us in abandoning our efforts for the peace of Europe.


Abstract of Anglo-French Agreement on Morocco.

In April, 1904, England and France concluded an agreement for the delimitation of their interests on the Mediterranean littoral of North Africa. The agreement included five secret Articles which were not published until November, 1911. The purport of the Articles which were published at the time was as follows. By the first Article England stated that she had not the intention of changing the political state of Egypt; and France declared that she would not impede the action of England in Egypt by demanding that a term should be fixed for the British occupation or in any other way. By the second Article France declared that she had not the intention of changing the political state of Morocco; and England recognized that it appertained to France, as the Power conterminous with Morocco, to watch the tranquillity of this country and to assist it in all administrative, economic, financial, and military reforms which it required, France promised to respect the customary and treaty rights of England in Morocco; and by the third Article England made a corresponding promise to France in respect of Egypt. By the fourth Article the two Governments undertook to maintain 'the principle of commercial liberty' in Egypt and Morocco, by not lending themselves in either country to inequality in the establishment of Customs-duties or of other taxes or of railway rates. The sixth and seventh Articles were inserted to ensure the free passage of the Suez Canal and of the Straits of Gibraltar. The eighth declared that both Governments took into friendly consideration the interests of Spain in Morocco, and that France would make some arrangements with the Spanish Monarchy. The ninth Article declared that each Government would lend its diplomatic support to the other in executing the clauses relative to Egypt and Morocco.[21] Of the secret Articles two (Nos. 3 and 4) related to Spain, defining the territory which she was to receive 'whenever the Sultan ceases to exercise authority over it,' and providing that the Anglo-French agreement would hold good even if Spain declined this arrangement. Article 1 stipulated that, if either Government found itself constrained, by the force of circumstances, to modify its policy in respect to Egypt or Morocco, nevertheless the fourth, sixth, and seventh Articles of the public declaration would remain intact; that is, each would under all circumstances maintain the principle of 'commercial liberty,' and would permit the free passage of the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar. In Article 2 England, while disclaiming any intention to alter the system of Capitulations or the judicial organization of Egypt, reserved the right to reform the Egyptian legislative system on the model of other civilized countries; and France agreed on condition that she should not be impeded from making similar reforms in Morocco. The fifth Article related to the Egyptian national debt.


[Footnote 10: Quoted from Headlam's Bismarck, p. 444.]

[Footnote 11: Correspondence respecting the European Crisis (Cd. 7467), No. 85. Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey, July 29, 1914. See infra, Appendix II.]

[Footnote 12: For these agreements see The Times, April 12, 1904, and November 25, 1911. See note at end of this chapter.]

[Footnote 13: White Paper, Morocco No. 1 (1906).]

[Footnote 14: Correspondence, No. 105 (Enclosure 1). Sir E. Grey to M. Cambon, November 22, 1912. See Appendix II.]

[Footnote 15: Correspondence, No. 87. Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Bertie, July 29, 1914.]

[Footnote 16: Times, July 7, 1911.]

[Footnote 17: Times, July 27, 1911.]

[Footnote 18: Times, July 22, 1911.]

[Footnote 19: Correspondence, p. 57 (Enclosure 1 in No. 105). See Appendix II.]

[Footnote 20: Ibid. p. 57 (Enclosure 2 in No. 105).]

[Footnote 21: Times, April 12, 1904.]



Until the year 1890 Russia and Germany had been in close touch. Dynastic connexions united the two imperial houses; and the common policy of repression of Polish nationality—the fatal legacy of the days of Frederic the Great and Catharine II—united the two empires. National sentiment in Russia was, however, always anti-German; and as early as 1885 Balkan affairs began to draw the Russian Government away from Germany. In 1890 Bismarck fell; and under William II German policy left the Russian connexion, and in close touch with Austria embarked on Balkan adventures which ran counter to Russian aims, while Russia on her side turned to new allies.

The new direction of Russian policy, which has brought the aims of the Russian Government into close accord with the desires of national Slav sentiment, was determined by Balkan conditions. Bismarck had cherished no Balkan ambitions: he had been content to play the part of an 'honest broker' at the Congress of Berlin, and he had spoken of the Bulgarian affair of 1885 as 'not worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier.' William II apparently thought otherwise. At any rate Germany seems to have conducted, for many years past, a policy of establishing her influence, along with that of Austria, through South-Eastern Europe. And it is this policy which is the fons et origo of the present struggle; for it is a policy which is not and cannot be tolerated by Russia, so long as Russia is true to her own Slav blood and to the traditions of centuries.

After Austria had finally lost Italy, as she did in 1866, she turned for compensation to the Balkans. If Venetia was lost, it seemed some recompense when in 1878 Austria occupied Bosnia and the Herzegovina. Hence she could expand southwards—ultimately perhaps to Salonica. Servia, which might have objected, was a vassal kingdom, the protege of Austria, under the dynasty of the Obrenovitch. As Austria might hope to follow the line to Salonica,[22] so Germany, before the end of the nineteenth century, seems to have conceived of a parallel line of penetration, which would carry her influence through Constantinople, through Konieh, to Bagdad. She has extended her political and economic influence among the small Slav states and in Turkey. In 1898 the King of Roumania (a Hohenzollern by descent) conceded direct communication through his territories between Berlin and Constantinople: in 1899 a German company obtained a concession for the Bagdad railway from Konieh to the head of the Persian Gulf. In a word, Germany began to stand in the way of the Russian traditions of ousting the Turk and ruling in Constantinople: she began to buttress the Turk, to train his army, to exploit his country, and to seek to oust Russia generally from South-Eastern Europe.

In 1903 the progress of Austria and Germany received a check. A blood-stained revolution at Belgrade ousted the pro-Austrian Obrenovitch, and put in its place the rival family of the Karageorgevitch. Under the new dynasty Servia escaped from Austrian tutelage, and became an independent focus of Slav life in close touch with Russia. The change was illustrated in 1908, when Austria took advantage of the revolution in Turkey, led by the Young Turks, to annex formally the occupied territories of Bosnia and the Herzegovina. Servia, which had hoped to gain these territories, once a part of the old Servian kingdom, was mortally offended, and would have gone to war with Austria, if Russia, her champion under the new dynasty, could only have given her support. But Russia, still weak after the Japanese war, could not do so; Russia, on the contrary, had to suffer the humiliation of giving a pledge to the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg that she would not support Servia. That humiliation Russia has not forgotten. She has saved money, she has reorganized her army, she has done everything in her power to gain security for the future. And now that Austria has sought utterly to humiliate Servia on the unproved charge (unproved, in the sense that no legal proof was offered)[23] of complicity in the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Russia has risked war rather than surrender her protection of a Slav kingdom. Slav sentiment imperatively demanded action in favour of Servia: no government could refuse to listen to the demand. The stake for Russia is not merely the integrity of Servia: it is her prestige among the Slav peoples, of which she is head; and behind all lies the question whether South-Eastern Europe shall be under Teutonic control, and lost to Russian influence.

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