THE EUROPEAN ANARCHY
By G. Lowes Dickinson
1. INTRODUCTION Europe since the Fifteenth Century—Machiavellianism—Empire and the Balance of Power
2. THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE AND THE ENTENTE Belgian Dispatches of 1905-14.
3. GREAT BRITAIN The Policy of Great Britain—Essentially an Overseas Power
4. FRANCE The Policy of France since 1870—Peace and Imperialism—Conflicting Elements
5. RUSSIA The Policy of Russia—Especially towards Austria
6. AUSTRIA-HUNGARY The Policy of Austria-Hungary—Especially towards the Balkans
7. GERMANY The Policy of Germany—From 1866 to the Decade 1890-1900—A Change
8. OPINION IN GERMANY German "Romanticism"—New Ambitions.
9. OPINION ABOUT GERMANY Bourdon—Beyens—Cambon—Summary
10. GERMAN POLICY FROM THE DECADE 1890-1900 Relation to Great Britain—The Navy.
11. VAIN ATTEMPTS AT HARMONY Great Britain's Efforts for Arbitration—Mutual Suspicion
12. EUROPE SINCE THE DECADE 1890-1900
13. GERMANY AND TURKEY The Bagdad Railway
14. AUSTRIA AND THE BALKANS
16. THE LAST YEARS Before the War—The Outbreak of War
17. THE RESPONSIBILITY AND THE MORAL The Pursuit of Power and Wealth
18. THE SETTLEMENT
19. THE CHANGE NEEDED Change of Outlook and Change of System—An International League—International Law and Control
THE EUROPEAN ANARCHY
In the great and tragic history of Europe there is a turning-point that marks the defeat of the ideal of a world-order and the definite acceptance of international anarchy. That turning-point is the emergence of the sovereign State at the end of the fifteenth century. And it is symbolical of all that was to follow that at that point stands, looking down the vista of the centuries, the brilliant and sinister figure of Machiavelli. From that date onwards international policy has meant Machiavellianism. Sometimes the masters of the craft, like Catherine de Medici or Napoleon, have avowed it; sometimes, like Frederick the Great, they have disclaimed it. But always they have practised it. They could not, indeed, practise anything else. For it is as true of an aggregation of States as of an aggregation of individuals that, whatever moral sentiments may prevail, if there is no common law and no common force the best intentions will be defeated by lack of confidence and security. Mutual fear and mutual suspicion, aggression masquerading as defence and defence masquerading as aggression, will be the protagonists in the bloody drama; and there will be, what Hobbes truly asserted to be the essence of such a situation, a chronic state of war, open or veiled. For peace itself will be a latent war; and the more the States arm to prevent a conflict the more certainly will it be provoked, since to one or another it will always seem a better chance to have it now than to have it on worse conditions later. Some one State at any moment may be the immediate offender; but the main and permanent offence is common to all States. It is the anarchy which they are all responsible for perpetuating.
While this anarchy continues the struggle between States will tend to assume a certain stereotyped form. One will endeavour to acquire supremacy over the others for motives at once of security and of domination, the others will combine to defeat it, and history will turn upon the two poles of empire and the balance of power. So it has been in Europe, and so it will continue to be, until either empire is achieved, as once it was achieved by Rome, or a common law and a common authority is established by agreement. In the past empire over Europe has been sought by Spain, by Austria, and by France; and soldiers, politicians, and professors in Germany have sought, and seek, to secure it now for Germany. On the other hand, Great Britain has long stood, as she stands now, for the balance of power. As ambitious, as quarrelsome, and as aggressive as other States, her geographical position has directed her aims overseas rather than toward the Continent of Europe. Since the fifteenth century her power has never menaced the Continent. On the contrary, her own interest has dictated that she should resist there the enterprise of empire, and join in the defensive efforts of the threatened States. To any State of Europe that has conceived the ambition to dominate the Continent this policy of England has seemed as contrary to the interests of civilization as the policy of the Papacy appeared in Italy to an Italian patriot like Machiavelli. He wanted Italy enslaved, in order that it might be united. And so do some Germans now want Europe enslaved, that it may have peace under Germany. They accuse England of perpetuating for egotistic ends the state of anarchy. But it was not thus that Germans viewed British policy when the Power that was to give peace to Europe was not Germany, but France. In this long and bloody game the partners are always changing, and as partners change so do views. One thing only does not change, the fundamental anarchy. International relations, it is agreed, can only turn upon force. It is the disposition and grouping of the forces alone that can or does vary.
But Europe is not the only scene of the conflict between empire and the balance. Since the sixteenth century the European States have been contending for mastery, not only over one another, but over the world. Colonial empires have risen and fallen. Portugal, Spain, Holland, in turn have won and lost. England and France have won, lost, and regained. In the twentieth century Great Britain reaps the reward of her European conflicts in the Empire (wrongly so-called) on which the sun never sets. Next to her comes France, in Africa and the East; while Germany looks out with discontented eyes on a world already occupied, and, cherishing the same ambitions all great States have cherished before her, finds the time too mature for their accomplishment by the methods that availed in the past. Thus, not only in Europe but on the larger stage of the world the international rivalry is pursued. But it is the same rivalry and it proceeds from the same cause: the mutual aggression and defence of beings living in a "state of nature."
Without this historical background no special study of the events that led up to the present war can be either just or intelligible. The feeling of every nation about itself and its neighbours is determined by the history of the past and by the way in which that history is regarded. The picture looks different from every point of view. Indeed, a comprehension of the causes of the war could only be fully attained by one who should know, not only the most secret thoughts of the few men who directly brought it about, but also the prejudices and preconceptions of the public opinion in each nation. There is nobody who possesses these qualifications. But in the absence of such a historian these imperfect notes are set down in the hope that they may offer a counterpoise to some of the wilder passions that sweep over all peoples in time of war and threaten to prepare for Europe a future even worse than its past has been.
2. The Triple Alliance and the Entente.
First, let us remind ourselves in general of the situation that prevailed in Europe during the ten years preceding the war. It was in that period that the Entente between France, Russia, and England was formed and consolidated, over against the existing Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy. Neither of these combinations was in its origin and purpose aggressive.
And, so far as Great Britain was concerned, the relations she entered into with France and with Russia were directed in each case to the settlement of long outstanding differences without special reference to the German Powers. But it is impossible in the European anarchy that any arrangements should be made between any States which do not arouse suspicion in others. And the drawing together of the Powers of the Entente did in fact appear to Germany as a menace. She believed that she was being threatened by an aggressive combination, just as, on the other hand, she herself seemed to the Powers of the Entente a danger to be guarded against. This apprehension on the part of Germany, is sometimes thought to have been mere pretence, but there is every reason to suppose it to have been genuine. The policy of the Entente did in fact, on a number of occasions, come into collision with that of Germany. The arming and counter-arming was continuous. And the very fact that from the side of the Entente it seemed that Germany was always the aggressor, should suggest to us that from the other side the opposite impression would prevail. That, in fact, it did prevail is clear not only from the constant assertions of German statesmen and of the German Press, but from contemporary observations made by the representatives of a State not itself involved in either of the opposing combinations. The dispatches of the Belgian ambassadors at Berlin, Paris, and London during the years 1905 to 1914 show a constant impression that the Entente was a hostile combination directed against Germany and engineered, in the earlier years, for that purpose by King Edward VII. This impression of the Belgian representatives is no proof, it is true, of the real intentions of the Entente, but it is proof of how they did in fact appear to outsiders. And it is irrelevant, whether or no it be true, to urge that the Belgians were indoctrinated with the German view; since precisely the fact that they could be so indoctrinated would show that the view was on the face of it plausible. We see, then, in these dispatches the way in which the policy of the Entente could appear to observers outside it. I give illustrations from Berlin, Paris, and London.
On May 30, 1908, Baron Greindl, Belgian Ambassador at Berlin, writes as follows:—
Call it an alliance, entente, or what you will, the grouping of the Powers arranged by the personal intervention of the King of England exists, and if it is not a direct and immediate threat of war against Germany (it would be too much to say that it was that), it constitutes none the less a diminution of her security. The necessary pacifist declarations, which, no doubt, will be repeated at Reval, signify very little, emanating as they do from three Powers which, like Russia and England, have just carried through successfully, without any motive except the desire for aggrandizement, and without even a plausible pretext, wars of conquest in Manchuria and the Transvaal, or which, like France, is proceeding at this moment to the conquest of Morocco, in contempt of solemn promises, and without any title except the cession of British rights, which never existed.
On May 24, 1907, the Comte de Lalaing, Belgian Ambassador at London, writes:—
A certain section of the Press, called here the Yellow Press, bears to a great extent the responsibility for the hostile feeling between the two nations.... It is plain enough that official England is quietly pursuing a policy opposed to Germany and aimed at her isolation, and that King Edward has not hesitated to use his personal influence in the service of this scheme. But it is certainly exceedingly dangerous to poison public opinion in the open manner adopted by these irresponsible journals.
Again, on July 28, 1911, in the midst of the Morocco crisis, Baron Guillaume, Belgian Ambassador at Paris, writes:—
I have great confidence in the pacific sentiments of the Emperor William, in spite of the too frequent exaggeration of some of his gestures. He will not allow himself to be drawn on farther than he chooses by the exuberant temperament and clumsy manners of his very intelligent Minister of Foreign Affairs (Kiderlen-Waechter). I feel, in general, less faith in the desire of Great Britain for peace. She would not be sorry to see the others eat one another up.... As I thought from the beginning, it is in London that the key to the situation lies. It is there only that it can become grave. The French will yield on all the points for the sake of peace. It is not the same with the English, who will not compromise on certain principles and certain claims.
[Footnote 1: The alliance between Germany and Austria, which dates from 1879, was formed to guarantee the two States against an attack by Russia. Its terms are:—
"1. If, contrary to what is to be expected and contrary to the sincere desire of the two high contracting parties, one of the two Empires should be attacked by Russia, the two high contracting parties are bound reciprocally to assist one another with the whole military force of their Empire, and further not to make peace except conjointly and by common consent.
"2. If one of the high contracting Powers should be attacked by another Power, the other high contracting party engages itself, by the present act, not only not to support the aggressor against its ally, but at least to observe a benevolent neutrality with regard to the other contracting party. If, however, in the case supposed the attacking Power should be supported by Russia, whether by active co-operation or by military measures which should menace the Power attacked, then the obligation of mutual assistance with all military forces, as stipulated in the preceding article, would immediately come into force, and the military operations of the high contracting parties would be in that case conducted jointly until the conclusion of peace."
Italy acceded to the Alliance in 1882. The engagement is defensive. Each of the three parties is to come to the assistance of the others if attacked by a third party.
The treaty of Germany with Austria was supplemented in 1884 by a treaty with Russia, known as the "Reinsurance Treaty," whereby Germany bound herself not to join Austria in an attack upon Russia. This treaty lapsed in the year 1890, and the lapse, it is presumed, prepared the way for the rapprochement between Russia and France.
The text of the treaty of 1894 between France and Russia has never been published. It is supposed to be a treaty of mutual defence in case of an aggressive attack. The Power from whom attack is expected is probably named, as in the treaty between Germany and Austria. It is probably for that reason that the treaty was not published. The accession of Great Britain to what then became known as the "Triple Entente" is determined by the treaty of 1904 with France, whereby France abandoned her opposition to the British occupation of Egypt in return for a free hand in Morocco; and by the treaty of 1907 with Russia, whereby the two Powers regulated their relations in Persia, Afghanistan, and Thibet. There is no mention in either case of an attack, or a defence against attack, by any other Power.]
[Footnote 2: These were published by the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, and are reprinted under the title "Belgische Aktenstuecke," 1905-14 (Ernst Siegfried Mittler and Sons, Berlin). Their authenticity, as far as I know, has not been disputed. On the other hand, it is to be assumed that they have been very carefully "edited" by the German to make a particular impression. My view of the policy of Germany or of the Entente is in no sense based upon them. I adduce them as evidence of contemporary feeling and opinion.]
3. Great Britain.
Having established this general fact that a state of mutual suspicion and fear prevailed between Germany and the Powers of the Triple Entente, let us next consider the positions and purposes of the various States involved. First, let us take Great Britain, of which we ought to know most. Great Britain is the head of an Empire, and of one, in point of territory and population, the greatest the world has ever seen. This Empire has been acquired by trade and settlement, backed or preceded by military force. And to acquire and hold it, it has been necessary to wage war after war, not only overseas but on the continent of Europe. It is, however, as we have already noticed, a fact, and a cardinal fact, that since the fifteenth century British ambitions have not been directed to extending empire over the continent of Europe. On the contrary, we have resisted by arms every attempt made by other Powers in that direction. That is what we have meant by maintaining the "balance of power." We have acted, no doubt, in our own interest, or in what we thought to be such; but in doing so we have made ourselves the champions of those European nations that have been threatened by the excessive power of their neighbours. British imperialism has thus, for four centuries, not endangered but guaranteed the independence of the European States. Further, our Empire is so large that we can hardly extend it without danger of being unable to administer and protect it. We claim, therefore, that we have neither the need nor the desire to wage wars of conquest. But we ought not to be surprised if this attitude is not accepted without reserve by other nations. For during the last half-century we have, in fact, waged wars to annex Egypt, the Soudan, the South African Republics, and Burmah, to say nothing of the succession of minor wars which have given us Zululand, Rhodesia, Nigeria, and Uganda. Odd as it does, I believe, genuinely seem to most Englishmen, we are regarded on the Continent as the most aggressive Power in the world, although our aggression is not upon Europe. We cannot expect, therefore, that our professions of peaceableness should be taken very seriously by outsiders. Nevertheless it is, I believe, true that, at any rate during the last fifteen-years, those professions have been genuine. Our statesmen, of both parties, have honestly desired and intended to keep the peace of the world. And they have been assisted in this by a genuine and increasing desire for peace in the nation. The Liberal Government in particular has encouraged projects of arbitration and of disarmament; and Sir Edward Grey is probably the most pacific Minister that ever held office in a great nation. But our past inevitably discredits, in this respect, our future. And when we profess peace it is not unnatural that other nations should suspect a snare.
Moreover, this desire for peace on our part is conditional upon the maintenance of the status quo and of our naval supremacy. Our vast interests in every part of the world make us a factor everywhere to be reckoned with. East, west, north, and south, no other Power can take a step without finding us in the path. Those States, therefore, which, unlike ourselves, are desirous farther to extend their power and influence beyond the seas, must always reckon with us, particularly if, with that end in view, by increasing their naval strength they seem to threaten our supremacy at sea. This attitude of ours is not to be blamed, but it must always make difficult the maintenance of friendly relations with ambitious Powers. In the past our difficulties have been mainly with Russia and France. In recent years they have been with Germany. For Germany, since 1898, for the first time in her history, has been in a position, and has made the choice, to become a World-Power. For that reason, as well as to protect her commerce, she has built a navy. And for that reason we, pursuing our traditional policy of opposing the strongest continental Power, have drawn away from her and towards Russia and France. We did not, indeed, enter upon our arrangements with these latter Powers because of aggressive intentions towards Germany. But the growth of German sea-power drove us more and more to rely upon the Entente in case it should be necessary for us to defend ourselves. All this followed inevitably from the logic of the position, given the European anarchy. I state it for the sake of exposition, not of criticism, and I do not imagine any reader will quarrel with my statement.
Let us turn now to France. Since 1870 we find contending there, with varying fortunes and strength, two opposite currents of sentiment and policy. One was that of revanche against Germany, inspired by the old traditions of glory and hegemony, associated with hopes of a monarchist or imperialistic revolution, and directed, in the first place, to a recovery of Alsace-Lorraine. The other policy was that of peace abroad and socialistic transformation at home, inspired by the modern ideals of justice and fraternity, and supported by the best of the younger generation of philosophers, poets, and artists, as well as by the bulk of the working class. Nowhere have these two currents of contemporary aspiration met and contended as fiercely as in France. The Dreyfus case was the most striking act in the great drama. But it was not the concluding one. French militarism, in that affair, was scotched but not killed, and the contest was never fiercer than in the years immediately preceding the war. The fighters for peace were the Socialists, under their leader, Jaures, the one great man in the public life of Europe. While recognizing the urgent need for adequate national defence, Jaures laboured so to organize it that it could not be mistaken for nor converted into aggression. He laboured, at the same time, to remove the cause of the danger. In the year 1913, under Swiss auspices, a meeting of French and German pacifists was arranged at Berne. To this meeting there proceeded 167 French deputies and 48 senators. The Baron d'Estournelles de Constant was president of the French bureau, and Jaures one of the vice-presidents. The result was disappointing. The German participation was small and less influential than the French, and no agreement could be reached on the burning question of Alsace-Lorraine. But the French Socialists continued, up to the eve of the war, to fight for peace with an energy, an intelligence, and a determination shown in no other country. The assassination of Jaures was a symbol of the assassination of peace; but the assassin was a Frenchman.
For if, in France, the current for peace ran strong in these latter years, so did the current for war. French chauvinism had waxed and waned, but it was never extinguished. After 1870 it centred not only about Alsace-Lorraine, but also about the colonial expansion which took from that date a new lease of life in France, as it had done in England after the loss of the American colonies. Directly encouraged by Bismarck, France annexed Tunis in 1881. The annexation of Tunis led up at last to that of Morocco. Other territory had been seized in the Far East, and France became, next to ourselves, the greatest colonial Power. This policy could not be pursued without friction, and the principal friction at the beginning was with ourselves. Once at least, in the Fashoda crisis, the two countries were on the verge of war, and it was not till the Entente of 1904 that their relations were adjusted on a basis of give-and-take. But by that time Germany had come into the colonial field, and the Entente with England meant new friction with Germany, turning upon French designs in Morocco. In this matter Great Britain supported her ally, and the incident of Agadir in 1911 showed the solidity of the Entente. This demonstration no doubt strengthened the hands of the aggressive elements in France, and later on the influence of M. Delcasse and M. Poincare was believed in certain quarters to have given new energy to this direction of French policy. This tendency to chauvinism was recognized as a menace to peace, and we find reflections of that feeling in the Belgian dispatches. Thus, for instance, Baron Guillaume, Belgian minister at Paris, writes on February, 21, 1913, of M. Poincare:—
It is under his Ministry that the military and slightly chauvinistic instincts of the French people have awakened. His hand can be seen in this modification; it is to be hoped that his political intelligence, practical and cool, will save him from all exaggeration in this course. The notable increase of German armaments which supervenes at the moment of M. Poincare's entrance at the Elysee will increase the danger of a too nationalistic orientation of the policy of France.
Again, on March 3, 1913:—
The German Ambassador said to me on Saturday: "The political situation is much improved in the last forty-eight hours; the tension is generally relaxed; one may hope for a return to peace in the near future. But what does not improve is the state of public opinion in France and Germany with regard to the relations between the two countries. We are persuaded in Germany that a spirit of chauvinism having revived, we have to fear an attack by the Republic. In France they express the same fear with regard to us. The consequence of these misunderstandings is to ruin us both. I do not know where we are going on this perilous route. Will not a man appear of sufficient goodwill and prestige to recall every one to reason? All this is the more ridiculous because, during the crisis we are traversing, the two Governments have given proof of the most pacific sentiments, and have continually relied upon one another to avoid conflicts."
On this Baron Guillaume comments:—
Baron Schoen is perfectly right, I am not in a position to examine German opinion, but I note every day how public opinion in France becomes more suspicious and chauvinistic. One meets people who assure one that a war with Germany in the near future is certain and inevitable. People regret it, but make up their minds to it.... They demand, almost by acclamation, an immediate vote for every means of increasing the defensive power of France. The most reasonable men assert that it is necessary to arm to the teeth to frighten the enemy and prevent war.
On April 16th he reports a conversation with M. Pichon, in which the latter says:—
Among us, too, there is a spirit of chauvinism which is increasing, which I deplore, and against which we ought to react. Half the theatres in Paris now play chauvinistic and nationalistic pieces.
The note of alarm becomes more urgent as the days go on. On January 16, 1914, the Baron writes:—
I have already had the honour to tell you that it is MM. Poincare, Delcasse, Millerand and their friends who have invented and pursued the nationalistic and chauvinistic policy which menaces to-day the peace of Europe, and of which we have noted the renaissance. It is a danger for Europe and for Belgium. I see in it the greatest peril, which menaces the peace of Europe to-day; not that I have the right to suppose that the Government of the Republic is disposed deliberately to trouble the peace, rather I believe the contrary; but the attitude that the Barthou Cabinet has taken up is, in my judgment, the determining cause of an excess of militaristic tendencies in Germany.
It is clear from these quotations, and it is for this reason alone that I give them, that France, supported by the other members of the Triple Entente, could appear, and did appear, as much a menace to Germany as Germany appeared a menace to France; that in France, as in other countries, there was jingoism as well as pacifism; and that the inability of French public opinion to acquiesce in the loss of Alsace-Lorraine was an active factor in the unrest of Europe. Once more I state these facts, I do not criticize them. They are essential to the comprehension of the international situation.
We have spoken so far of the West. But the Entente between France and Russia, dating from 1894, brought the latter into direct contact with Eastern policy. The motives and even the terms of the Dual Alliance are imperfectly known. Considerations of high finance are supposed to have been an important factor in it. But the main intention, no doubt, was to strengthen both Powers in the case of a possible conflict with Germany. The chances of war between Germany and France were thus definitely increased, for now there could hardly be an Eastern war without a Western one. Germany must therefore regard herself as compelled to wage war, if war should come, on both fronts; and in all her fears or her ambitions this consideration must play a principal part. Friction in the East must involve friction in the West, and vice versa. What were the causes of friction in the West we have seen. Let us now consider the cause of friction in the East.
The relations of Russia to Germany have been and are of a confused and complicated character, changing as circumstances and personalities change. But one permanent factor has been the sympathy between the governing elements in the two countries. The governing class in Russia, indeed, has not only been inspired by German ideas, it has been largely recruited from men of German stock; and it has manifested all the contempt and hatred which is characteristic of the German bureaucracy for the ideals of democracy, liberty, and free thought. The two Governments have always been ready to combine against popular insurrections, and in particular against every attempt of the Poles to recover their liberty. They have been drawn and held together by a common interest in tyranny, and the renewal of that co-operation is one of the dangers of the future. On the other hand, apart from and in opposition to this common political interest, there exists between the two nations a strong racial antagonism. The Russian temperament is radically opposed to the German. The one expresses itself in Panslavism, the other in Pangermanism. And this opposition of temperament is likely to be deeper and more enduring than the sympathy of the one autocracy with the other. But apart from this racial factor, there is in the south-east an opposition of political ambition. Primarily, the Balkan question is an Austro-Russian rather than a Russo-German one. Bismarck professed himself indifferent to the fate of the Balkan peoples, and even avowed a willingness to see Russia at Constantinople. But recent years have seen, in this respect, a great change. The alliance between Germany and Austria, dating from 1879, has become closer and closer as the Powers of the Entente have drawn together in what appeared to be a menacing combination. It has been, for some time past, a cardinal principle of German policy to support her ally in the Balkans, and this determination has been increased by German ambitions in the East. The ancient dream of Russia to possess Constantinople has been countered by the new German dream of a hegemony over the near East based upon the through route from Berlin via Vienna and Constantinople to Bagdad; and this political opposition has been of late years the determining factor in the relationship of the two Powers. The danger of a Russo-German conflict has thus been very great, and since the Russo-French Entente Germany, as we have already pointed out, has seen herself menaced on either front by a war which would immediately endanger both.
Turning once more to the Belgian dispatches, we find such hints as the following. On October 24, 1912, the Comte de Lalaing, Belgian Ambassador to London, writes as follows:—
The French Ambassador, who must have special reasons for speaking thus, has repeated to me several times that the greatest danger for the maintenance of the peace of Europe consists in the indiscipline and the personal policy of the Russian agents. They are almost all ardent Panslavists, and it is to them that must be imputed the responsibility for the events that are occurring. Beyond a doubt they will make themselves the secret instigators for an intervention of their country in the Balkan conflict.
On November 30, 1912, Baron de Beyens writes from Berlin:—
At the end of last week a report was spread in the chancelleries of Europe that M. Sazonov had abandoned the struggle against the Court party which wishes to drag Russia into war.
On June 9, 1914, Baron Guillaume writes from Paris:—
Is it true that the Cabinet of St. Petersburg has imposed upon this country [France] the adoption of the law of three years, and would now bring to bear the whole weight of its influence to ensure its maintenance? I have not been able to obtain light upon this delicate point, but it would be all the more serious, inasmuch as the men who direct the Empire of the Tsars cannot be unaware that the effort thus demanded of the French nation is excessive, and cannot be long sustained. Is, then, the attitude of the Cabinet of St. Petersburg based upon the conviction that events are so imminent that it will be possible to use the tool it intends to put into the hands of its ally?
What a sinister vista is opened up by this passage! I have no wish to insinuate that the suspicion here expressed was justified. It is the suspicion itself that is the point. Dimly we see, as through a mist, the figures of the architects of war. We see that the forces they wield are ambition and pride, jealousy and fear; that these are all-pervasive; that they affect all Governments and all nations, and are fostered by conditions for which all alike are responsible.
It will be understood, of course, that in bringing out the fact that there was national chauvinism in Russia and that this found its excuse in the unstable equilibrium of Europe, I am making no attack on Russian policy. I do not pretend to know whether these elements of opinion actually influenced the policy of the Government. But they certainly influenced German fears, and without a knowledge of them it is impossible to understand German policy. The reader must bear in mind this source of friction along with the others when we come to consider that policy in detail.
Turning now to Austria-Hungary, we find in her the Power to whom the immediate occasion of the war was due, the Power, moreover, who contributed in large measure to its remoter causes. Austria-Hungary is a State, but not a nation. It has no natural bond to hold its populations together, and it continues its political existence by force and fraud, by the connivance and the self-interest of other States, rather than by any inherent principle of vitality. It is in relation to the Balkan States that this instability has been most marked and most dangerous. Since the kingdom of Serbia acquired its independent existence it has been a centre drawing to itself the discontent and the ambitions of the Slav populations under the Dual Monarchy. The realization of those ambitions implies the disruption of the Austro-Hungarian State. But behind the Southern Slavs stands Russia, and any attempt to change the political status in the Balkans has thus meant, for years past, acute risk of war between the two Empires that border them. This political rivalry has accentuated the racial antagonism between German and Slav, and was the immediate origin of the war which presents itself to Englishmen as one primarily between Germany and the Western Powers.
On the position of Italy it is not necessary to dwell. It had long been suspected that she was a doubtful factor in the Triple Alliance, and the event has proved that this suspicion was correct. But though Italy has participated in the war, her action had no part in producing it. And we need not here indicate the course and the motives of her policy.
Having thus indicated briefly the position, the perils, and the ambitions of the other Great Powers of Europe, let us turn to consider the proper subject of this essay, the policy of Germany. And first let us dwell on the all-important fact that Germany, as a Great Power, is a creation of the last fifty years. Before 1866 there was a loose confederation of German States, after 1870 there was an Empire of the Germans. The transformation was the work of Bismarck, and it was accomplished by "blood and iron." Whether it could have been accomplished otherwise is matter of speculation. That it was accomplished so is a fact, and a fact of tragic significance. For it established among Germans the prestige of force and fraud, and gave them as their national hero the man whose most characteristic act was the falsification of the Ems telegram. If the unification could have been achieved in 1848 instead of in 1870, if the free and generous idealism of that epoch could have triumphed, as it deserved to, if Germans had not bartered away their souls for the sake of the kingdom of this world, we might have been spared this last and most terrible act in the bloody drama of European history. If even, after 1866, 1870 had not been provoked, the catastrophe that is destroying Europe before our eyes might never have overwhelmed us. In the crisis of 1870 the French minister who fought so long and with such tenacity, for peace saw and expressed, with the lucidity of his nation, what the real issue was for Germany and for Europe:—
There exists, it is true, a barbarous Germany, greedy of battles and conquest, the Germany of the country squires; there exists a Germany pharisaic and iniquitous, the Germany of all the unintelligible pedants whose empty lucubrations and microscopic researches have been so unduly vaunted. But these two Germanies are not the great Germany, that of the artists, the poets, the thinkers, that of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Leibnitz, Kant, Hegel, Liebig. This latter Germany is good, generous, humane, pacific; it finds expression in the touching phrase of Goethe, who when asked to write against us replied that he could not find it in his heart to hate the French. If we do not oppose the natural movement of German unity, if we allow it to complete itself quietly by successive stages, it will not give supremacy to the barbarous and sophistical Germany, it will assure it to the Germany of intellect and culture. War, on the other hand, would establish, during a time impossible to calculate, the domination of the Germany of the squires and the pedants.
The generous dream was not to be realized. French chauvinism fell into the trap Bismarck had prepared for it. Yet even at the last moment his war would have escaped him had he not recaptured it by fraud. The publication of the Ems telegram made the conflict inevitable, and one of the most hideous and sinister scenes in all history is that in which the three conspirators, Bismarck, Moltke, and Roon, "suddenly recovered their pleasure in eating and drinking," because, by publishing a lie, they had secured the certain death in battle of hundreds and thousands of young men. The spirit of Bismarck has infected the whole public life of Germany and of Europe. It has given a new lease to the political philosophy of Machiavelli; and made of every budding statesman and historian a solemn or a cynical defender of the gospel of force. But, though this be true, we have no right therefore to assume that there is some peculiar wickedness which marks off German policy from that of all other nations. Machiavellianism is the common heritage of Europe. It is the translation into idea of the fact of international anarchy. Germans have been more candid and brutal than others in their expression and application of it, but statesmen, politicians, publicists, and historians in every nation accept it, under a thicker or thinner veil of plausible sophisms. It is everywhere the iron hand within the silken glove. It is the great European tradition.
Although, moreover, it was by these methods that Bismarck accomplished the unification of Germany, his later policy was, by common consent, a policy of peace. War had done its part, and the new Germany required all its energies to build up its internal prosperity and strength. In 1875, it is true, Bismarck was credited with the intention to fall once more upon France. The fact does not seem to be clearly established. At any rate, if such was his intention, it was frustrated by the intervention of Russia and of Great Britain. During the thirty-nine years that followed Germany kept the peace.
While France, England, and Russia waged wars on a great scale, and while the former Powers acquired enormous extensions of territory, the only military operations undertaken by Germany were against African natives in her dependencies and against China in 1900. The conduct of the German troops appears, it is true, to have been distinguished, in this latter expedition, by a brutality which stood out in relief even in that orgy of slaughter and loot. But we must remember that they were specially ordered by their Imperial master, in the name of Jesus Christ, to show no mercy and give no quarter. Apart from this, it will not be disputed, by any one who knows the facts, that during the first twenty years or so after 1875 Germany was the Power whose diplomacy was the least disturbing to Europe. The chief friction during that period was between Russia and France and Great Britain, and it was one or other of these Powers, according to the angle of vision, which was regarded as offering the menace of aggression. If there has been a German plot against the peace of the world, it does not date from before the decade 1890-1900. The close of that decade marks, in fact, a new epoch in German policy. The years of peace had been distinguished by the development of industry and trade and internal organization. The population increased from forty millions in 1870 to over sixty-five millions at the present date. Foreign trade increased more than ten-fold. National pride and ambition grew with the growth of prosperity and force, and sentiment as well as need impelled German policy to claim a share of influence outside Europe in that greater world for the control of which the other nations were struggling. Already Bismarck, though with reluctance and scepticism, had acquired for his country by negotiation large areas in Africa. But that did not satisfy the ambitions of the colonial party. The new Kaiser put himself at the head of the new movement, and announced that henceforth nothing must be done in any part of the world without the cognizance and acquiescence of Germany.
Thus there entered a new competitor upon the stage of the world, and his advent of necessity was disconcerting and annoying to the earlier comers. But is there reason to suppose that, from that moment, German policy was definitely aiming at empire, and was prepared to provoke war to achieve it? Strictly, no answer can be given to this question. The remoter intentions of statesmen are rarely avowed to others, and, perhaps, rarely to themselves. Their policy is, indeed, less continuous, less definite, and more at the mercy of events than observers or critics are apt to suppose. It is not probable that Germany, any more than any other country in Europe, was pursuing during those years a definite plan, thought out and predetermined in every point.
In Germany, as elsewhere, both in home and foreign affairs, there was an intense and unceasing conflict of competing forces and ideas. In Germany, as elsewhere, policy must have adapted itself to circumstances, different personalities must have given it different directions at different times. We have not the information at our disposal which would enable us to trace in detail the devious course of diplomacy in any of the countries of Europe. What we know something about is the general situation, and the action, in fact, taken at certain moments. The rest must be, for the present, mainly matter of conjecture. With this word of caution, let us now proceed to examine the policy of Germany.
The general situation we have already indicated. We have shown how the armed peace, which is the chronic malady of Europe, had assumed during the ten years from 1904 to 1914 that specially dangerous form which grouped the Great Powers in two opposite camps—the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. We have seen, in the case of Great Britain, France, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, how they came to take their places in that constellation. We have now to put Germany in its setting in the picture.
Germany, then, in the first place, like the other Powers, had occasion to anticipate war. It might be made from the West, on the question of Alsace-Lorraine; it might be made from the East, on the question of the Balkans. In either case, the system of alliances was likely to bring into play other States than those immediately involved, and the German Powers might find themselves attacked on all fronts, while they knew in the latter years that they could not count upon the support of Italy.
A reasonable prudence, if nothing else, must keep Germany armed and apprehensive. But besides the maintenance of what she had, Germany was now ambitious to secure her share of "world-power." Let us examine in what spirit and by what acts she endeavoured to make her claim good.
First, what was the tone of public opinion in Germany during these critical years?
[Footnote 1: Emile Ollivier, "L'Empire Liberal."]
8. Opinion in Germany.
Since the outbreak of the war the pamphlet literature in the countries of the Entente has been full of citations from German political writers. In England, in particular, the names and works of Bernhardi and of Treitschke have become more familiar than they appear to have been in Germany prior to the war. This method of selecting for polemical purposes certain tendencies of sentiment and theory, and ignoring all others, is one which could be applied, with damaging results, to any country in the world. Mr. Angell has shown in his "Prussianism in England" how it might be applied to ourselves; and a German, no doubt, into whose hands that book might fall would draw conclusions about public opinion here similar to those which we have drawn about public opinion in Germany. There is jingoism in all countries, as there is pacifism in all countries. Nevertheless, I think it is true to say that the jingoism of Germany has been peculiar both in its intensity and in its character. This special quality appears to be due both to the temperament and to the recent history of the German nation. The Germans are romantic, as the French are impulsive, the English sentimental, and the Russians religious. There is some real meaning in these generalisations. They are easily to be felt when one comes into contact with a nation, though they may be hard to establish or define. When I say that the Germans are romantic, I mean that they do not easily or willingly see things as they are. Their temperament is like a medium of coloured glass. It magnifies, distorts, conceals, transmutes. And this is as true when their intellectual attitude is realistic as when it is idealistic. In the Germany of the past, the Germany of small States, to which all non-Germans look back with such sympathy and such regret, their thinkers and poets were inspired by grandiose intellectual abstractions. They saw ideas, like gods, moving the world, and actual men and women, actual events and things, were but the passing symbols of these supernatural powers; 1866 and 1870 ended all that. The unification of Germany, in the way we have discussed, diverted all their interest from speculation about the universe, life, and mankind, to the material interests of their new country. Germany became the preoccupation of all Germans. From abstractions they turned with a new intoxication to what they conceived to be the concrete. Entering thus late upon the stage of national politics, they devoted themselves, with their accustomed thoroughness, to learning and bettering what they conceived to be the principles and the practice which had given success to other nations. In this quest no scruples should deter them, no sentimentality hamper, no universal ideals distract. Yet this, after all, was but German romanticism assuming another form. The objects, it is true, were different. "Actuality" had taken the place of ideals, Germany of Humanity. But by the German vision the new objects were no less distorted than the old. In dealing with "Real-politik" (which is the German translation of Machiavellianism), with "expansion," with "survival of the fittest," and all the other shibboleths of world-policy, their outlook remained as absolute and abstract as before, as contemptuous of temperament and measure, as blind to those compromises and qualifications, those decencies, so to speak, of nature, by which reality is constituted. The Germans now saw men instead of gods, but they saw them as trees walking.
German imperialism, then, while it involves the same intellectual presuppositions, the same confusions, the same erroneous arguments, the same short-sighted ambitions, as the imperialism of other countries, exhibits them all in an extreme degree. All peoples admire themselves. But the self-adoration of Germans is so naive, so frank, so unqualified, as to seem sheerly ridiculous to more experienced nations. The English and the French, too, believe their civilization to be the best in the world. But English common-sense and French sanity would prevent them from announcing to other peoples that they proposed to conquer them, morally or materially, for their good. All Jingoes admire and desire war. But nowhere else in the modern world is to be found such a debauch of "romantic" enthusiasm, such a wilful blindness to all the realities of war, as Germany has manifested both before and since the outbreak of this world-catastrophe. A reader of German newspapers and tracts gets at last a feeling of nausea at the very words Wir Deutsche, followed by the eternal Helden, Heldenthum, Heldenthat, and is inclined to thank God if he indeed belong to a nation sane enough to be composed of Haendler.
The very antithesis between Helden (heroes) and Haendler (hucksters), with which all Germany is ringing, is an illustration of the romantic quality that vitiates their intelligence. In spite of the fact that they are one of the greatest trading and manufacturing nations of the world, and that precisely the fear of losing their trade and markets has been, as they constantly assert, a chief cause that has driven them to war, they speak as though Germany were a kind of knight-errant, innocent of all material ambitions, wandering through the world in the pure, disinterested service of God and man. On the other hand, because England is a great commercial Power, they suppose that no Englishman lives for anything but profit. Because they themselves have conscription, and have to fight or be shot, they infer that every German is a noble warrior. Because the English volunteer, they assume that they only volunteer for their pay. Germany, to them, is a hero clad in white armour, magnanimous, long-suffering, and invincible. Other nations are little seedy figures in black coats, inspired exclusively by hatred and jealousy of the noble German, incapable of a generous emotion or an honourable act, and destined, by the judgment of history, to be saved, if they can be saved at all, by the great soul and dominating intellect of the Teuton.
It is in this intoxicating atmosphere of temperament and mood that the ideas and ambitions of German imperialists work and move. They are essentially the same as those of imperialists in other countries. Their philosophy of history assumes an endless series of wars, due to the inevitable expansion of rival States. Their ethics means a belief in force and a disbelief in everything else. Their science is a crude misapplication of Darwinism, combined with invincible ignorance of the true bearings of science upon life, and especially of those facts and deductions about biological heredity which, once they are understood, will make it plain that war degrades the stock of all nations, victorious and vanquished alike, and that the decline of civilizations is far more plausibly to be attributed to this cause than to the moral decadence of which history is always ready, after the event, to accuse the defeated Power. One peculiarity, perhaps, there is in the outlook of German imperialism, and that is its emphasis on an unintelligible and unreal abstraction of "race." Germans, it is thought, are by biological quality the salt of the earth. Every really great man in Europe, since the break-up of the Roman Empire, has been a German, even though it might appear, at first sight, to an uninstructed observer, that he was an Italian or a Frenchman or a Spaniard. Not all Germans, however, are, they hold, as yet included in the German Empire, or even in the German-Austrian combination. The Flemish are Germans, the Dutch are Germans, the English even are Germans, or were before the war had made them, in Germany's eyes, the offscouring of mankind. Thus, a great task lies before the German Empire: on the one hand, to bring within its fold the German stocks that have strayed from it in the wanderings of history; on the other, to reduce under German authority those other stocks that are not worthy to share directly in the citizenship of the Fatherland. The dreams of conquest which are the real essence of all imperialism are thus supported in Germany by arguments peculiar to Germans. But the arguments put forward are not the real determinants of the attitude. The attitude, in any country, whatever it may be called, rests at bottom on sheer national vanity. It is the belief in the inherent superiority of one's own civilization, and the desire to extend it, by force if need be, throughout the world. It matters little what arguments in its support this passion to dominate may garner from that twilight region in which the advanced guard of science is labouring patiently to comprehend Nature and mankind. Men take from the treasury of truth what they are able to take. And what imperialists take is a mirror to their own ambition and pride.
Now, as to the ambitions of this German jingoism there is no manner of doubt. Germans are nothing if not frank. And this kind of German does want to conquer and annex, not only outside Europe but within it. We must not, however, infer that the whole of Germany has been infected with this virus. The summary I have set down in the last few pages represents the impression made on an unsympathetic mind by the literature of Pangermanism. Emerging from such reading—and it is the principal reading of German origin which has been offered to the British public since the war—there is a momentary illusion, "That is Germany!" Of course it is not, any more than the Morning Post or the National Review is England. Germans, in fact, during recent years have taken a prominent place in pacifism as well as in imperialism. Men like Schuecking and Quidde and Fried are at least as well known as men like Treitschke and Bernhardi. Opinion in Germany, as in every other country, has been various and conflicting. And the pacific tendencies have been better organized, if not more active, there than elsewhere, for they have been associated with the huge and disciplined forces of the Social-Democrats. Indeed, the mass of the people, left alone, is everywhere pacific. I do not forget the very important fact that German education, elementary and higher, has been deliberately directed to inculcate patriotic feeling, that the doctrine of armed force as the highest manifestation of the State has been industriously propagated by the authorities, and that the unification of Germany by force has given to the cult of force a meaning and a popularity probably unknown in any other country. But in most men, for good or for evil, the lessons of education can be quickly obliterated by the experience of life. In particular, the mass of the people everywhere, face to face with the necessities of existence, knowing what it is to work and to struggle, to co-operate and to compete, to suffer and to relieve suffering, though they may be less well-informed than the instructed classes, are also less liable to obsession by abstractions. They see little, but they see it straight. And though, being men, with the long animal inheritance of men behind them, their passions may be roused by any cry of battle, though they are the fore-ordained dupes of those who direct the policy of nations, yet it is not their initiative that originates wars. They do not desire conquest, they do not trouble about "race" or chatter about the "survival of the fittest." It is their own needs, which are also the vital needs of society, that preoccupy their thoughts; and it is real goods that direct and inspire their genuine idealism.
We must, then, disabuse ourselves of the notion so naturally produced by reading, and especially by reading in time of war, that the German Jingoes are typical of Germany. They are there, they are a force, they have to be reckoned with. But exactly how great a force? Exactly how influential on policy? That is a question which I imagine can only be answered by guesses. Would the reader, for instance, undertake to estimate the influence during the last fifteen years on British policy and opinion of the imperialist minority in this country? No two men, I think, would agree about it. And few men would agree with themselves from one day or one week to another. We are reduced to conjecture. But the conjectures of some people are of more value than those of others, for they are based on a wider converse. I think it therefore not without importance to recall to the reader the accounts of the state of opinion in Germany given by well-qualified foreign observers in the years immediately preceding the war.
[Footnote 1: As I write I come across the following, cited from a book of songs composed for German combatants under the title "Der deutsche Zorn":—
Wir sind die Meister aller Welt In allen ernsten Dingen, * * * * * Was Man als fremd euch hoechlichst preist Um eurer Einfalt Willen, Ist deutschen Ursprungs allermeist, Und traegt nur fremde Huellen.]
9. Opinion about Germany.
After the crisis of Agadir, M. Georges Bourdon visited Germany to make an inquiry for the Figaro newspaper into the state of opinion there. His mission belongs to the period between Agadir and the outbreak of the first Balkan war. He interviewed a large number of people, statesmen, publicists, professors, politicians. He does not sum up his impressions, and such summary as I can give here is no doubt affected by the emphasis of my own mind. His book, however, is now translated into English, and the reader has the opportunity of correcting the impression I give him.
Let us begin with Pangermanism, on which M. Bourdon has a very interesting chapter. He feels for the propaganda of that sect the repulsion that must be felt by every sane and liberal-minded man:—
Wretched, choleric Pangermans, exasperated and unbalanced, brothers of all the exasperated, wretched windbags whose tirades, in all countries, answer to yours, and whom you are wrong to count your enemies! Pangermans of the Spree and the Main, who, on the other side of the frontier, receive the fraternal effusions of Russian Pan-Slavism, Italian irredentism, English imperialism, French nationalism! What is it that you want?
They want, he replies, part of Austria, Switzerland, Flanders, Luxemburg, Denmark, Holland, for all these are "Germanic" countries! They want colonies. They want a bigger army and a bigger navy. "An execrable race, these Pangermans!" "They have the yellow skin, the dry mouth, the green complexion of the bilious. They do not live under the sky, they avoid the light. Hidden in their cellars, they pore over treaties, cite newspaper articles, grow pale over maps, measure angles, quibble over texts or traces of frontiers." "The Pangerman is a propagandist and a revivalist." "But," M. Bourdon adds, "when he shouts we must not think we hear in his tones the reverberations of the German soul." The organs of the party seemed few and unimportant. The party itself was spoken of with contempt. "They talk loud," M. Bourdon was told, "but have no real following; it is only in France that people attend to them." Nevertheless, M. Bourdon concluded they were not negligible. For, in the first place, they have power to evoke the jingoism of the German public—a jingoism which the violent patriotism of the people, their tradition of victorious force, their education, their dogma of race, continually keep alive. And, secondly, the Government, when it thinks it useful, turns to the Pangermans for assistance, and lets loose their propaganda in the press. Their influence thus waxes and wanes, as it is favoured, or not, by authority. "Like the giant Antaeus," a correspondent wrote to M. Bourdon, "Pangermanism loses its force when it quits the soil of government."
It is interesting to note, however, that the Pangerman propaganda purports to be based upon fear. If they urge increased armaments, it is with a view to defence. "I considered it a patriotic duty," wrote General Keim, "in my quality of president of the German League for Defence, to demand an increase of effectives such that France should find it out of the question to dream of a victorious war against us, even with the help of other nations." "To the awakening of the national sentiment in France there is only one reply—the increase of the German forces." "I have the impression," said Count Reventlow, "that a warlike spirit which is new is developing in France. There is the danger." Thus in Germany, as elsewhere, even jingoism took the mask of necessary precaution. And so it must be, and will be everywhere, as long as the European anarchy continues. For what nation has ever admitted an intention or desire to make aggressive war? M. Bourdon, then, takes full account of Pangermanism. Nor does he neglect the general militaristic tendencies of German opinion. He found pride in the army, a determination to be strong, and that belief that it is in war that the State expresses itself at the highest and the best, which is part of the tradition of German education since the days of Treitschke. Yet, in spite of all this, to which M. Bourdon does full justice, the general impression made by the conversations he records is that the bulk of opinion in Germany was strongly pacific. There was apprehension indeed, apprehension of France and apprehension of England. "England certainly preoccupies opinion more than France. People are alarmed by her movements and her armaments." "The constant interventions of England have undoubtedly irritated the public." Germany, therefore, must arm and arm again. "A great war may be delayed, but not prevented, unless German armaments are such as to put fear into the heart of every possible adversary."
Germany feared that war might come, but she did not want it—that, in sum, was M. Bourdon's impression. From soldiers, statesmen, professors, business men, again and again, the same assurance. "The sentiment you will find most generally held is undoubtedly that of peace." "Few think about war. We need peace too much." "War! War between us! What an idea! Why, it would mean a European war, something monstrous, something which would surpass in horror anything the world has ever seen! My dear sir, only madmen could desire or conceive such a calamity! It must be avoided at all costs." "What counts above all here is commercial interest. All who live by it are, here as elsewhere, almost too pacific." "Under the economic conditions prevailing in Germany, the most glorious victory she can aspire to—it is a soldier who says it—is peace!"
The impression thus gathered from M. Bourdon's observations is confirmed at every point by those of Baron Beyens, who went to Berlin as Belgian minister after the crisis of Agadir. Of the world of business he says:—
All these gentlemen appeared to be convinced partisans of peace.... According to them, the tranquillity of Europe had not been for a moment seriously menaced during the crisis of Agadir.... Industrial Germany required to live on good terms with France. Peace was necessary to business, and German finance in particular had every interest in the maintenance of its profitable relations with French finance. At the end of a few months I had the impression that these pacifists personified then—in 1912—the most common, the most widely spread, though the least noisy, opinion, the opinion of the majority, understanding by the majority, not that of the governing classes but that of the nation as a whole (p. 172).
The mass of the people, Beyens held, loved peace, and dreaded war. That was the case, not only with all the common people, but also with the managers and owners of businesses and the wholesale and retail merchants. Even in Berlin society and among the ancient German nobility there were to be found sincere pacifists. On the other hand, there was certainly a bellicose minority. It was composed largely of soldiers, both active and retired; the latter especially looking with envy and disgust on the increasing prosperity of the commercial classes, and holding that a "blood-letting would be wholesome to purge and regenerate the social body"—a view not confined to Germany, and one which has received classical expression in Tennyson's "Maud." To this movement belonged also the high officials, the Conservative parties, patriots and journalists, and of course the armament firms, deliberate fomenters of war in Germany, as everywhere else, in order to put money into their pockets. To these must be added the "intellectual flower of the universities and the schools." "The professors at the universities, taken en bloc, were one of the most violent elements in the nation." "Almost all the young people from one end of the Empire to the other have had brought before them in the course of their studies the dilemma which Bernhardi summed up to his readers in the three words 'world-power or decadence.' Yet with all this, the resolute partisans of war formed as I thought a very small minority in the nation. That is the impression I obstinately retain of my sojourn in Berlin and my excursions into the provinces of the Empire, rich or poor. When I recall the image of this peaceful population, journeying to business every week-day with a movement so regular, or seated at table on Sundays in the cafes in the open air before a glass of beer, I can find in my memories nothing but placid faces where there was no trace of violent passions, no thought hostile to foreigners, not even that feverish concern with the struggle for existence which the spectacle of the human crowd has sometimes shown me elsewhere."
A similar impression is given by the dispatch from M. Cambon, French Ambassador to Berlin, written on July 30, 1913. He, too, finds elements working for war, and analyses them much as Baron Beyens does. There are first the "junkers," or country squires, naturally military by all their traditions, but also afraid of the death-duties "which are bound to come if peace continues." Secondly, the "higher bourgeoisie"—that is, the great manufacturers and financiers, and, of course, in particular the armament firms. Both these social classes are influenced, not only by direct pecuniary motives but by the fear of the rising democracy, which is beginning to swamp their representatives in the Reichstag. Thirdly, the officials, the "party of the pensioned." Fourthly, the universities, the "historians, philosophers, political pamphleteers, and other apologists of German Kultur." Fifthly, rancorous diplomatists, with a sense that they had been duped. On the other hand, there were, as M. Cambon insists, other forces in the country making for peace. What were these? In numbers the great bulk, in Germany as in all countries. "The mass of the workmen, artisans and peasants, who are peace-loving by instinct." Such of the great nobles as were intelligent enough to recognize the "disastrous political and social consequences of war." "Numerous manufacturers, merchants, and financiers in a moderate way of business." The non-German elements of the Empire. Finally, the Government and the governing classes in the large southern States. A goodly array of peace forces! According to M. Cambon, however, all these latter elements "are only a sort of make-weight in political matters with limited influence on public opinion, or they are silent social forces, passive and defenceless against the infection of a wave of warlike feeling." This last sentence is pregnant. It describes the state of affairs existing, more or less, in all countries; a few individuals, a few groups or cliques, making for war more or less deliberately; the mass of the people ignorant and unconcerned, but also defenceless against suggestion, and ready to respond to the call to war, with submission or with enthusiasm, as soon as the call is made by their Government.
On the testimony, then, of these witnesses, all shrewd and competent observers, it may be permitted to sum up somewhat as follows:—
In the years immediately preceding the war the mass of the people in Germany, rich and poor, were attached to peace and dreaded war. But there was there also a powerful minority either desiring war or expecting it, and, in either case, preparing it by their agitation. And this minority could appeal to the peculiarly aggressive form of patriotism inculcated by the public schools and universities. The war party based its appeal for ever fresh armaments on the hostile preparations of the Powers of the Entente. Its aggressive ambition masqueraded, perhaps even to itself, as a patriotism apprehensively concerned with defence. It was supported by powerful moneyed interests; and the mass of the people, passive, ill-informed, preoccupied, were defenceless against its agitation. The German Government found the Pangermans embarrassing or convenient according as the direction of its policy and the European situation changed from crisis to crisis. They were thus at one moment negligible, at another powerful. For long they agitated vainly, and they might long have continued to do so. But if the moment should come at which the Government should make the fatal plunge, their efforts would have contributed to the result, their warnings would seem to have been justified, and they would triumph as the party of patriots that had foretold in vain the coming crash to an unbelieving nation.
[Footnote 1: "L'Enigme Allemande," 1914.]
[Footnote 2: See "L'Allemagne avant la guerre," pp. 97 seq. and 170 seq. Bruxelles, 1915.]
[Footnote 3: A Frenchman, M. Maurice Ajam, who made an inquiry among business men in 1913 came to the same conclusion. "Peace! I write that all the Germans without exception, when they belong to the world of business, are fanatical partisans of the maintenance of European peace." See Yves Guyot, "Les causes et les consequences de la guerre," p. 226.]
[Footnote 4: See French Yellow Book, No. 5.]
10. German Policy, from 1890-1900.
Having thus examined the atmosphere of opinion in which the German Government moved, let us proceed to consider the actual course of their policy during the critical years, fifteen or so, that preceded the war. The policy admittedly and openly was one of "expansion." But "expansion" where? It seems to be rather widely supposed that Germany was preparing war in order to annex territory in Europe. The contempt of German imperialists, from Treitschke onward, for the rights of small States, the racial theories which included in "German" territory Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries, may seem to give colour to this idea. But it would be hazardous to assume that German statesmen were seriously influenced for years by the lucubrations of Mr. Houston Stewart Chamberlain and his followers. Nor can a long-prepared policy of annexation in Europe be inferred from the fact that Belgium and France were invaded after the war broke out, or even from the present demand among German parties that the territories occupied should be retained. If it could be maintained that the seizure of territory during war, or even its retention after it, is evidence that the territory was the object of the war, it would be legitimate also to infer that the British Empire has gone to war to annex German colonies, a conclusion which Englishmen would probably reject with indignation. In truth, before the war, the view that it was the object of German policy to annex European territory would have found, I think, few, if any, supporters among well-informed and unprejudiced observers. I note, for instance, that Mr. Dawson, whose opinion on such a point is probably better worth having than that of any other Englishman, in his book, "The Evolution of Modern Germany," when discussing the aims of German policy does not even refer to the idea that annexations in Europe are contemplated.
So far as the evidence at present goes, I do not think a case can be made out for the view that German policy was aiming during these years at securing the hegemony of Europe by annexing European territory. The expansion Germany was seeking was that of trade and markets. And her statesmen and people, like those of other countries, were under the belief that, to secure this, it was necessary to acquire colonies. This ambition, up to a point, she was able, in fact, to fulfil, not by force but by agreement with the other Powers. The Berlin Act of 1885 was one of the wisest and most far-seeing achievements of European policy. By it the partition of a great part of the African continent between the Powers was peaceably accomplished, and Germany emerged with possessions to the extent of 377,000 square miles and an estimated population of 1,700,000. By 1906 her colonial domain had been increased to over two and a half million square miles, and its population to over twelve millions; and all of this had been acquired without war with any civilized nation. In spite of her late arrival on the scene as a colonial Power, Germany had thus secured without war an empire overseas, not comparable, indeed, to that of Great Britain or of France, but still considerable in extent and (as Germans believed) in economic promise, and sufficient to give them the opportunity they desired to show their capacity as pioneers of civilization. How they have succeeded or failed in this we need not here consider. But when Germans demand a "place in the sun," the considerable place they have in fact acquired, with the acquiescence of the other colonial Powers, should, in fairness to those Powers, be remembered. But, notoriously, they were not satisfied, and the extent of their dissatisfaction was shown by their determination to create a navy. This new departure, dating from the close of the decade 1890-1900, marks the beginning of that friction between Great Britain and Germany which was a main cause of the war. It is therefore important to form some just idea of the motives that inspired German policy to take this momentous step. The reasons given by Prince Buelow, the founder of the policy, and often repeated by German statesmen and publicists, are, first, the need of a strong navy, to protect German commerce; secondly, the need, as well as the ambition, of Germany to play a part proportional to her real strength in the determination of policy beyond the seas. These reasons, according to the ideas that govern European statesmanship, are valid and sufficient. They are the same that have influenced all great Powers; and if Germany was influenced by them we need not infer any specially sinister intentions on her part. The fact that during the present war German trade has been swept from the seas, and that she is in the position of a blockaded Power, will certainly convince any German patriot, not that she did not need a navy, but that she needed a much stronger one; and the retort that there need have been no war if Germany had not provoked it by building a fleet is not one that can be expected to appeal to any nation so long as the European anarchy endures. For, of course, every nation regards itself as menaced perpetually by aggression from some other Power. Defence was certainly a legitimate motive for the building of the fleet, even if there had been no other. There was, however, in fact, another reason avowed. Germany, as we have said, desired to have a voice in policy beyond the seas. Here, too, the reason is good, as reasons go in a world of competing States. A great manufacturing and trading Power cannot be indifferent to the parcelling out of the world among its rivals. Wherever, in countries economically undeveloped, there were projects of protectorates or annexations, or of any kind of monopoly to be established in the interest of any Power, there German interests were directly affected. She had to speak, and to speak with a loud voice, if she was to be attended to. And a loud voice meant a navy. So, at least, the matter naturally presented itself to German imperialists, as, indeed, it would to imperialists of any other country.
The reasons given by German statesmen for building their fleet were in this sense valid. But were they the only reasons? In the beginning most probably they were. But the formation and strengthening of the Entente, and Germany's consequent fear that war might be made upon her jointly by France and Great Britain, gave a new stimulus to her naval ambition. She could not now be content with a navy only as big as that of France, for she might have to meet those of France and England conjoined. This defensive reason is good. But no doubt, as always, there must have lurked behind it ideas of aggression. Ambition, in the philosophy of States, goes hand in hand with fear. "The war may come," says one party. "Yes," says the other; and secretly mutters, "May the war come!" To ask whether armaments are for offence or for defence must always be an idle inquiry. They will be for either, or both, according to circumstances, according to the personalities that are in power, according to the mood that politicians and journalists, and the interests that suborn them, have been able to infuse into a nation. But what may be said with clear conviction is, that to attempt to account for the clash of war by the ambition and armaments of a single Power is to think far too simply of how these catastrophes originate. The truth, in this case, is that German ambition developed in relation to the whole European situation, and that, just as on land their policy was conditioned by their relation to France and Russia, so at sea it was conditioned by their relation to Great Britain. They knew that their determination to become a great Power at sea would arouse the suspicion and alarm of the English. Prince Buelow is perfectly frank about that. He says that the difficulty was to get on with the shipbuilding programme without giving Great Britain an opportunity to intervene by force and nip the enterprise in the bud. He attributes here to the British Government a policy which is all in the Bismarckian tradition. It was, in fact, a policy urged by some voices here, voices which, as is always the case, were carried to Germany and magnified by the mega-phone of the Press. That no British Government, in fact, contemplated picking a quarrel with Germany in order to prevent her becoming a naval Power I am myself as much convinced as any other Englishman, and I count the fact as righteousness to our statesmen. On the other hand, I think it an unfounded conjecture that Prince Buelow was deliberately building with a view to attacking the British Empire. I see no reason to doubt his sincerity when he says that he looked forward to a peaceful solution of the rivalry between Germany and ourselves, and that France, in his view, not Great Britain, was the irreconcilable enemy. In building her navy, no doubt, Germany deliberately took the risk of incurring a quarrel with England in the pursuit of a policy which she regarded as essential to her development. It is quite another thing, and would require much evidence to prove that she was working up to a war with the object of destroying the British Empire.
What we have to bear in mind, in estimating the meaning of the German naval policy, is a complex series of motives and conditions: the genuine need of a navy, and a strong one, to protect trade in the event of war, and to secure a voice in overseas policy; the genuine fear of an attack by the Powers of the Entente, an attack to be provoked by British jealousy; and also that indeterminate ambition of any great Power which may be influencing the policy of statesmen even while they have not avowed it to themselves, and which, expressed by men less responsible and less discreet, becomes part of that "public opinion" of which policy takes account.
[Footnote 1: Published in 1908.]
[Footnote 2: See, e.g., Dawson, "Evolution of Modern Germany," p. 348.]
[Footnote 3: Some of these are cited in Buelow's "Imperial Germany," p. 36.]
[Footnote 4: See "Imperial Germany," pp. 48, 71, English translation.]
11. Vain Attempts at Harmony.
It may, however, be reasonably urged that unless the Germans had had aggressive ambitions they would have agreed to some of the many proposals made by Great Britain to arrest on both sides the constantly expanding programmes of naval constructions. It is true that Germany has always opposed the policy of limiting armaments, whether on land or sea. This is consonant with that whole militarist view of international politics which, as I have already indicated, is held in a more extreme and violent form in Germany than in any other country, but which is the creed of jingoes and imperialists everywhere. If the British Government had succeeded in coming to an agreement with Germany on this question, they would have been bitterly assailed by that party at home. Still, the Government did make the attempt. It was comparatively easy for them, for any basis to which they could have agreed must have left intact, legitimately and necessarily, as we all agree, the British supremacy at sea. The Germans would not assent to this. They did not choose to limit beforehand their efforts to rival us at sea. Probably they did not think it possible to equal, still less to outstrip us. But they wanted to do all they could. And that of course could have only one meaning. They thought a war with England possible, and they wanted to be as well prepared as they could be. It is part of the irony that attaches to the whole system of the armed peace that the preparations made against war are themselves the principal cause of war. For if there had been no rival shipbuilding, there need have been no friction between the two countries.
"But why did Germany fear war? It must have been because she meant to make it." So the English argue. But imagine the Germans saying to us, "Why do you fear war? There will be no war unless you provoke it. We are quite pacific. You need not be alarmed about us." Would such a promise have induced us to relax our preparations for a moment? No! Under the armed peace there can be no confidence. And that alone is sufficient to account for the breakdown of the Anglo-German negotiations, without supposing on either side a wish or an intention to make war. Each suspected, and was bound to suspect, the purpose of the other. Let us take, for example, the negotiations of 1912, and put them back in their setting.
The Triple Alliance was confronting the Triple Entente. On both sides were fear and suspicion. Each believed in the possibility of the others springing a war upon them. Each suspected the others of wanting to lull them into a false security, and then take them unprepared. In that atmosphere, what hope was there of successful negotiations? The essential condition—mutual confidence—was lacking. What, accordingly, do we find? The Germans offer to reduce their naval programme, first, if England will promise an unconditional neutrality; secondly, when that was rejected, if England will promise neutrality in a war which should be "forced upon" Germany. Thereupon the British Foreign Office scents a snare. Germany will get Austria to provoke a war, while making it appear that the war was provoked by Russia, and she will then come in under the terms of her alliance with Austria, smash France, and claim that England must look on passively under the neutrality agreement! "No, thank you!" Sir Edward Grey, accordingly, makes a counter-proposal. England will neither make nor participate in an "unprovoked" attack upon Germany. This time it is the German Chancellor's turn to hang back. "Unprovoked! Hm! What does that mean? Russia, let us suppose, makes war upon Austria, while making it appear that Austria is the aggressor. France comes in on the side of Russia. And England? Will she admit that the war was 'unprovoked' and remain neutral? Hardly, we think!" The Chancellor thereupon proposes the addition: "England, of course, will remain neutral if war is forced upon Germany? That follows, I presume?" "No!" from the British Foreign Office. Reason as before. And the negotiations fall through. How should they not under the conditions? There could be no understanding, because there was no confidence. There could be no confidence because there was mutual fear. There was mutual fear because the Triple Alliance stood in arms against the Triple Entente. What was wrong? Germany? England? No. The European tradition and system.
The fact, then, that those negotiations broke down is no more evidence of sinister intentions on the part of Germany than it is on the part of Great Britain. Baron Beyens, to my mind the most competent and the most impartial, as well as one of the best-informed, of those who have written on the events leading up to the war, says explicitly of the policy of the German Chancellor:—
A practicable rapprochement between his country and Great Britain was the dream with which M. de Bethmann-Hollweg most willingly soothed himself, without the treacherous arriere-pensee which the Prince von Buelow perhaps would have had of finishing later on, at an opportune moment, with the British Navy. Nothing authorizes us to believe that there was not a basis of sincerity in the language of M. de Jagow when he expressed to Sir E. Goschen in the course of their last painful interview his poignant regret at the crumbling of his entire policy and that of the Chancellor, which had been to make friends with Great Britain, and then through Great Britain to get closer to France.
Meantime the considerations I have here laid before the reader, in relation to this general question of Anglo-German rivalry, are, I submit, all relevant, and must be taken into fair consideration in forming a judgment. The facts show clearly that Germany was challenging as well as she could the British supremacy at sea; that she was determined to become a naval as well as a military Power; and that her policy was, on the face of it, a menace to this country; just as the creation on our part of a great conscript army would have been taken by Germany as a menace to her. The British Government was bound to make counter-preparations. I, for my own part, have never disputed it. I have never thought, and do not now think, that while the European anarchy continues, a single Power can disarm in the face of the others. All this is beyond dispute. What is disputable, and a matter of speculative inference, is the further assumption that in pursuing this policy Germany was making a bid to destroy the British Empire. The facts can certainly be accounted for without that assumption. I myself think the assumption highly improbable. So much I may say, but I cannot say more. Possibly some day we may be able to check conjecture by facts. Until then, argument must be inconclusive.
This question of the naval rivalry between Germany and Great Britain is, however, part of the general question of militarism. And it may be urged that while during the last fifteen years the British Government has shown itself favourable to projects of arbitration and of limitation of armaments, the German Government has consistently opposed them. There is much truth in this; and it is a good illustration of what I hold to be indisputable, that the militaristic view of international politics is much more deeply rooted in Germany than in Great Britain. It is worth while, however, to remind ourselves a little in detail what the facts were since they are often misrepresented or exaggerated.
The question of international arbitration was brought forward at the first Hague Conference in 1899. From the beginning it was recognized on all sides that it would be idle to propose general compulsory arbitration for all subjects. No Power would have agreed to it, not Great Britain or America any more than Germany. On the other hand, projects for creating an arbitration tribunal, to which nations willing to use it should have recourse, were brought forward by both the British and the American representatives. From the beginning, however, it became clear that Count Muenster, the head of the German delegation, was opposed to any scheme for encouraging arbitration. "He did not say that he would oppose a moderate plan of voluntary arbitration, but he insisted that arbitration must be injurious to Germany; that Germany is prepared for war as no other country is, or can be; that she can mobilize her army in ten days; and that neither France, Russia, nor any other Power can do this. Arbitration, he said, would simply give rival Powers time to put themselves in readiness, and would, therefore, be a great disadvantage to Germany." Here is what I should call the militarist view in all its simplicity and purity, the obstinate, unquestioning belief that war is inevitable, and the determination to be ready for it at all costs, even at the cost of rejecting machinery which if adopted might obviate war. The passage has often been cited as evidence of the German determination to have war. But I have not so often seen quoted the exactly parallel declaration made by Sir John (now Lord) Fisher. "He said that the Navy of Great Britain was and would remain in a state of complete preparation for war; that a vast deal depended on prompt action by the Navy; and that the truce afforded by arbitration proceedings would give other Powers time, which they would not otherwise have, to put themselves into complete readiness." So far the "militarist" and the "marinist" adopt exactly the same view. And we may be sure that if proposals are made after the war to strengthen the machinery for international arbitration, there will be opposition in this country of the same kind, and based on the same grounds, as the opposition in Germany. We cannot on this point condemn Count Muenster without also condemning Lord Fisher.
Muenster's opposition, however, was only the beginning. As the days went on it became clear that the Kaiser himself had become actively opposed to the whole idea of arbitration, and was influencing Austria and Italy and Turkey in that sense. The delegates of all the other countries were in favour of the very mild application of it which was under consideration. So, however, be it noted, were all the delegates from Germany, except Count Muenster. And even he was, by now, so far converted that when orders were received from Germany definitely to refuse co-operation, he postponed the critical sitting of the committee, and dispatched Professor Zorn to Berlin to lay the whole matter before the Chancellor. Professor Zorn was accompanied by the American Dr. Holls, bearing an urgent private letter to Prince Hohenlohe from Mr. White. The result was that the German attitude was changed, and the arbitration tribunal was finally established with the consent and co-operation of the German Government.
I have thought it worth while to dwell thus fully upon this episode because it illustrates how misleading it really is to talk of "Germany" and the "German" attitude. There is every kind of German attitude. The Kaiser is an unstable and changeable character. His ministers do not necessarily agree with him, and he does not always get his way. As a consequence of discussion and persuasion the German opposition, on this occasion, was overcome. There was nothing, in fact, fixed and final about it. It was the militarist prejudice, and the prejudice this time yielded to humanity and reason.
The subject was taken up again in the Conference of 1907, and once more Germany was in opposition. The German delegate, Baron Marschall von Bieberstein, while he was not against compulsory arbitration for certain selected topics, was opposed to any general treaty. It seems clear that it was this attitude of Germany that prevented any advance being made beyond the Convention of 1899. Good reasons, of course, could be given for this attitude; but they are the kind of reasons that goodwill could have surmounted. It seems clear that there was goodwill in other Governments, but not in that of Germany, and the latter lies legitimately under the prejudice resulting from the position she then took. German critics have recognized this as freely as critics of other countries. I myself feel no desire to minimize the blame that attaches to Germany. But Englishmen who criticize her policy must always ask themselves whether they would support a British Government that should stand for a general treaty of compulsory arbitration.
On the question of limitation of armaments the German Government has been equally intransigeant. At the Conference of 1899, indeed, no serious effort was made by any Power to achieve the avowed purpose of the meeting. And, clearly, if anything was intended to be done, the wrong direction was taken from the beginning. When the second Conference was to meet it is understood that the German Government refused participation if the question of armaments was to be discussed, and the subject did not appear on the official programme. Nevertheless the British, French, and American delegates took occasion to express a strong sense of the burden of armaments, and the urgent need of lessening it.
The records of the Hague Conferences do, then, clearly show that the German Government was more obstinately sceptical of any advance in the direction of international arbitration or disarmament than that of any other Great Power, and especially of Great Britain or the United States. Whether, in fact, much could or would have been done, even in the absence of German opposition, may be doubted. There would certainly have been, in every country, very strong opposition to any effective measures, and it is only those who would be willing to see their own Government make a radical advance in the directions in question who can honestly attack the German Government. As one of those who believe that peaceable procedure may and can, and, if civilization is to be preserved, must be substituted for war, I have a right to express my own condemnation of the German Government, and I unhesitatingly do so. But I do not infer that therefore Germany was all the time working up to an aggressive war. It is interesting, in this connection, to note the testimony given by Sir Edwin Pears to the desire for good relations between Great Britain and Germany felt and expressed later by the same Baron Marschall von Bieberstein who was so unyielding in 1907 on the question of arbitration. When he came to take up the post of German Ambassador to Great Britain, Sir Edwin reports him as saying:—
I have long wanted to be Ambassador to England, because, as you know, for years I have considered it a misfortune to the world that our two countries are not really in harmony. I consider that I am here as a man with a mission, my mission being to bring about a real understanding between our two nations.
On this Sir Edwin comments (1915):—
I unhesitatingly add that I am convinced he was sincere in what he said. Of that I have no doubt.
It must, in fact, be recognized that in the present state of international relations, the general suspicion and the imminent danger, it requires more imagination and faith than most public men possess, and more idealism than most nations have shown themselves to be capable of, to take any radical step towards reorganization. The armed peace, as we have so often had to insist, perpetuates itself by the mistrust which it establishes.
Every move by one Power is taken to be a menace to another, and is countered by a similar move, which in turn produces a reply. And it is not easy to say "Who began it?" since the rivalry goes so far back into the past. What, for instance, is the real truth about the German, French, and Russian military laws of 1913? Were any or all of them aggressive? Or were they all defensive? I do not believe it is possible to answer that question. Looking back from the point of view of 1914, it is natural to suppose that Germany was already intending war. But that did not seem evident at the time to a neutral observer, nor even, it would seem, to the British Foreign Office. Thus the Count de Lalaing, Belgian Minister in London, writes as follows on February 24, 1913:—
The English Press naturally wants to throw upon Germany the responsibility for the new tension which results from its proposals, and which may bring to Europe fresh occasions of unrest. Many journals consider that the French Government, in declaring itself ready to impose three years' service, and in nominating M. Delcasse to St. Petersburg, has adopted the only attitude worthy of the great Republic in presence of a German provocation. At the Foreign Office I found a more just and calm appreciation of the position. They see in the reinforcement of the German armies less a provocation than the admission of a military situation weakened by events and which it is necessary to strengthen. The Government of Berlin sees itself obliged to recognize that it cannot count, as before, on the support of all the forces of its Austrian ally, since the appearance in South-east Europe of a new Power, that of the Balkan allies, established on the very flank of the Dual Empire. Far from being able to count, in case of need, on the full support of the Government of Vienna, it is probable that Germany will have to support Vienna herself. In the case of a European war she would have to make head against her enemies on two frontiers, the Russian and the French, and diminish perhaps her own forces to aid the Austrian army. In these conditions they do not find it surprising that the German Empire should have felt it necessary to increase the number of its Army Corps. They add at the Foreign Office that the Government of Berlin had frankly explained to the Cabinet of Paris the precise motives of its action.