The Evidence in the Case
by James M. Beck
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Herr von Jagow replied that he expected "un peu d'emotion," on the part of Servia's friends, but that he counted upon their giving Servia good advice.

"I do not doubt," I then said, "that Russia will make an effort in Belgrade to bring the Cabinet to make what concessions are acceptable, but if you ask something of one, why not ask it of the other? And if it be expected that advice will be given in Belgrade, is it not legitimate to expect that on the other hand advice will also be tendered to Vienna?"

The Secretary of State allowed himself to say that that would depend on circumstances, but, recovering himself immediately, declared that the matter must be localized. He asked me if really I considered the situation serious. "Assuredly," I replied, "for, if what is going on has been pondered over, I do not understand why people have cut their bridges behind them."[47]

[Footnote 47: French Yellow Book, No. 30.]

The Yellow Book throws further light upon the extraordinarily petty finesse, with which the chancelleries of Berlin and Vienna attempted to take a snap judgment upon the rest of Europe. We learn from Exhibit No. 55 that Count Berchtold had given to the Russian Ambassador at Vienna, prior to the issuance of the ultimatum, an express assurance "that the claims against Servia would be thoroughly acceptable," and that upon this assurance Count Schebeko had left Vienna on a leave of absence. During his absence and at a time when the President of the French Republic, the French Premier, and its Minister of Foreign Affairs were far distant from Paris and on the high seas, the ultimatum was issued, and, as we have seen, Count Berchtold immediately betook himself to Ischl and remained there until the expiration of the brief time limit in the ultimatum.

The same policy was pursued with reference to other Ambassadors, for when France instructed its representative in Vienna "to call the attention of the Austrian Government to the anxiety aroused in Europe, Baron Macchio stated to our Ambassador that the tone of the Austrian note and the demands formulated by it permitted one to count upon a pacific denouement."[48]

[Footnote 48: French Yellow Book, No. 20.]

In the same communication, in which this information is embodied, we gain the important information that "in the Vienna Diplomatic Corps the German Ambassador recommends violent resolutions whilst declaring ostensibly that the Imperial Chancellery is not wholly in agreement with him on this point."

Pursuant to the same ostrich policy, the German Secretary of State, as we have previously seen (ante, pp. 71-75), gave to both the French and English Ambassadors the absence of Count Berchtold at Ischl as an excuse for the failure of Germany to get any extension of the time limit, and not only did he assure them repeatedly and in the most unequivocal way that the German Foreign Office had no knowledge of, or responsibility for, the Austrian ultimatum, but when on July the 25th the Russian Charge requested a personal appointment with von Jagow in order to present his country's request for such an extension, the German Secretary of State only gave "him an appointment at the end of the afternoon, that is to say, at the moment when the ultimatum will expire," and in view of this illusory appointment the Russian Charge (M. Bronewsky)

sent, with all speed, a written note to the Secretary of State, in which he pointed out that the delay of the communication made by Austria to the Powers rendered the effect of the communication illusory, since it did not give the Powers time to become acquainted with the facts alleged before the expiry of the ultimatum. He insisted very urgently on the necessity of extending it, if one had not in view the creation of a great crisis.[49]

[Footnote 49: French Yellow Book, No. 42.]

Thus in Berlin and Vienna by concerted action the representatives of England, France, and Russia were evaded until the time limit for Servia had expired.

Contrast with this petty finesse the spirit with which Sazonof attempted to reach an agreement with the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg on July 26th, as set forth in the report of the French Ambassador at St. Petersburg, under that date. He says:

The Minister for Foreign Affairs continues with praiseworthy perseverance to seek means to bring about a peaceful solution. "I shall show myself ready to negotiate up to the last instant," he said to me.

It is in this spirit that he has asked Count Szapary[50] to come and see him for a "frank and loyal explanation." In his presence M. Sazonof discussed the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, article by article, showing clearly the insulting character of the different clauses. "The intention which inspired this document," he said, "is legitimate if you pursue no other aim but the protection of your territory against the agitation of Servian anarchists, but the step to which you have had recourse is not defensible." He concluded, "Take back your ultimatum, modify its form, and I will guarantee the result."[51]

[Footnote 50: The Austrian Ambassador.]

[Footnote 51: French Yellow Book, No. 54.]

Upon one phase of Germany's foreign policy in this crisis the French Yellow Book naturally throws more light than the other publications. I refer to the attempt of Germany to coerce France into a position of neutrality, or possibly to secure from it some definition of its attitude, which would compromise its relations with Russia. The Yellow Book charges that the German Ambassador, under the pretext of securing an authorized statement to the press to allay public excitement, thus attempted to compromise France. The documents go far to suggest this possibility but are not wholly convincing.

The German Ambassador on July the 24th, the very day that the ultimatum reached the chancelleries of Europe, and on the day when von Jagow untruthfully claimed that it had first reached Berlin, called upon the French Minister for Foreign Affairs and read to him a formal note, of which he was unwilling to leave a copy, although he characterized it as a note of importance.

It may be here noted that on more than one occasion in this diplomatic crisis the German representatives were unwilling to leave a copy of the diplomatic messages which they orally communicated.

In his memorandum the French Minister for Foreign Affairs says:

The German Ambassador especially directed my attention to the last two paragraphs of his note before he read it. He indicated that in them lay the chief point. I took note of the actual text, which is as follows: "The German Government considers that the present question is a matter to be settled exclusively between Austria-Hungary and Servia, and that the Powers have the greatest interest in restricting it to the two interested parties. The German Government ardently desires the localization of the conflict, since by the natural play of alliances any intervention by another Power would have incalculable consequences."

I remarked to the German Ambassador that just as it appeared to be legitimate to call for the punishment of all those concerned in the crime of Serajevo, on the other hand it seemed difficult to require measures which could not be accepted, having regard to the dignity and sovereignty of Servia; the Servian Government, even if it was willing to submit to them, would risk being carried away by a revolution.

I also pointed out to Herr von Schoen[52] that his note only took into account two hypotheses: that of a pure and simple refusal or that of a provocative attitude on the part of Servia. The third hypothesis (which would leave the door open for an arrangement) should also be taken into consideration; that of Servia's acceptance and of her agreeing at once to give full satisfaction for the punishment of the accomplices and full guarantees for the suppression of the anti-Austrian propaganda so far as they were compatible with her sovereignty and dignity.

[Footnote 52: The German Ambassador.]

I added that if within these limits the satisfaction desired by Austria could be admitted, the means of obtaining it could be examined; if Servia gave obvious proof of goodwill it could not be thought that Austria would refuse to take part in the conversation.

Perhaps they should not make it too difficult for third party Powers, who could not either morally or sentimentally cease to take interest in Servia, to take an attitude which was in accord with the wishes of Germany to localize the dispute.

Herr von Schoen recognized the justice of these considerations and vaguely stated that hope was always possible. When I asked him if we should give to the Austrian note the character of a simple mise en demeure, which permitted a discussion, or an ultimatum, he answered that personally he had no views.[53]

[Footnote 53: French Yellow Book, No. 28.]

On the following day the German Ambassador again called at the French Foreign Office and protested against an article, which had appeared in a Paris newspaper and which had characterized his communication of the preceding day as the "German menace." The German Ambassador again gave an unequivocal assurance

that there was no agreement between Austria and Germany over the Austrian note, of which the German Government was ignorant, although the German Government had subsequently approved it on receiving communication of it at the same time as the other Powers.[54]

[Footnote 54: Ibid., No. 36.]

The hardihood of this statement, in view of the fact that on the preceding day, simultaneously with the service of the ultimatum, the threatening demand had been delivered by Germany to the leading European chancelleries that the quarrel between Austria and Servia must be localized, is apparent. Baron von Schoen, the German Ambassador, then denied that his suggestion of "incalculable consequences," if the dispute were not localized, was a "menace." This statement, repeated by German diplomats in other capitals, approaches the ludicrous. The first military power of Europe formally advises other nations that unless they waive their legitimate claims and interests, "incalculable consequences" will follow, and it is gravely suggested that this is not a "menace."

On the following day Baron von Schoen made two visits at the French Foreign Office and assured the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs that

Germany was on the side of France in the ardent desire for the maintenance of peace, and she earnestly hoped that France would use her influence in a soothing manner in St. Petersburg.

I replied to this suggestion that Russia was moderate, that she had committed no act throwing doubt upon her moderation, and that we were in agreement with her in seeking for a peaceful solution of the struggle. It therefore appeared to me that in counterpart Germany should act in Vienna, where the efficacy of her action was sure, with a view to avoiding military operations tending to the occupation of Servia.

The Ambassador having pointed out to me that that was irreconcilable with the position adopted by Germany, "that the question only concerned Austria and Servia," I said to him that mediation in Vienna and St. Petersburg might be made by the four Powers who were less directly interested in the matter.

Baron von Schoen then sheltered himself behind his lack of instructions on this point, and I told him that in these circumstances I did not feel able to act in St. Petersburg alone.

Our conversation concluded with the renewed assurance by the Ambassador as to the peaceful intentions of Germany, who, he declared, was with France on this point.[55]

[Footnote 55: French Yellow Book, No. 56.]

The incident now followed, which suggested to the French Foreign office a subtle attempt of Germany to compromise the relations of France with Russia by imputing disloyalty to the former. On his second visit a few hours later, Baron von Schoen desired the French Foreign Office to give to the public a statement with reference to the preceding interview, and suggested the following, which he dictated to the French official:

"The German Ambassador and the Minister of Foreign Affairs had a further interview in the course of the afternoon, during which they examined, in the most friendly spirit and with a feeling of pacific solidarity, the means which might be employed for the maintenance of general peace."

The Acting Political Director at once replied: "Then, in your mind, everything is settled, and you give us the assurance that Austria accepts the Servian note, or will be willing to converse with the Powers with regard to it?"

The Ambassador appeared to be taken aback, and made a vigorous denial. It was therefore pointed out to him that if nothing had changed in the negative attitude of Germany, the terms of the suggested "note to the Press" were excessive, and likely to give French opinion a false feeling of security by creating illusions as to the actual situation, the dangers of which were but too evident.[56]

[Footnote 56: French Yellow Book, No. 57.]

It is not surprising that the French Foreign Office looked askance at these German suggestions of "pacific solidarity" with France, which contrasted so strangely with Germany's refusal to work for peace and its sinister menaces to other countries. France's suspicion that Baron von Schoen was thus attempting to compromise its loyalty in the eyes of Russia cannot be said to be without some foundation, although it is as reasonable to assume that these professions of the German Ambassador were only an incident to the general plan of lulling France and its allies into a false sense of security. Here again the full truth can only be ascertained when Germany is willing to submit to the scrutiny of the world the records of its Foreign Office.

On July 26th, M. Jules Cambon had an interview with the German Secretary of State and earnestly supported Sir Edward Grey's suggestion that a conference be called in which England, France, Germany, and Italy should participate for the preservation of peace. This interview is at once so dramatic, and almost prophetic, that it justifies quotation in extenso:

To Cambon's proposition, von Jagow replied, as he did to the British Ambassador, that he could not accept a proposal to charge the Italian, French, and German Ambassadors with the task of seeking, with Sir Edward Grey, a means of solving the present difficulties, for that would be to establish a regular conference to deal with the affairs of Austria and Russia. I replied to Herr von Jagow that I regretted his response, but that the great object, which Sir Edward Grey had in view, was above a question of form, and what was important was the association of England and France with Germany and Italy in laboring for peace; that this association could show itself in common action in St. Petersburg and Vienna; that he had frequently expressed to me his regret at seeing the two groups of alliances always opposed to each other in Europe, and that here he had an opportunity of proving that there was a European spirit, by showing four Powers belonging to the two groups acting in common agreement to prevent a struggle. Herr von Jagow evaded the matter by saying that Germany had her engagements with Austria. I pointed out that the relations of Germany with Vienna were no more close than those of France with Russia, and that it was he himself who raised the question of the two opposed groups of alliances.

The Secretary of State then said that he did not refuse to act with a view to avoiding an Austro-Russian conflict, but that he could not intervene in the Austro-Servian conflict. "One is the consequence of the other," I said, "and it would be well to prevent the creation of any new state of affairs calculated to bring about the intervention of Russia."

As the Secretary of State persisted in saying that he was obliged to observe his engagements with regard to Austria, I asked him if he had pledged himself to follow Austria everywhere blindfold, and if he had made himself acquainted with the Servian reply to Austria, which had been handed to him that morning by the Servian Charge d'Affaires. "I have not yet had time," he said. "I regret it," I replied. "You will see that except on points of detail Servia has yielded completely. It would seem, however, that since Austria has obtained the satisfaction, which your support procured her, you might to-day advise her to be content, or to examine with Servia the terms of the Servian reply."

As Herr von Jagow did not answer me clearly, I asked him if Germany wanted war. He protested energetically, saying that he knew that that was my idea but that it was completely incorrect. "You must then," I replied, "act in consequence. When you read the Servian reply, weigh the terms with your conscience, I beg you in the name of humanity, and do not personally assume a portion of the responsibility for the catastrophe, whose preparation you are allowing." Herr von Jagow protested again, adding that he was ready to join England and France in any common effort, but that some form must be found for this intervention which he could accept and that the Cabinets should agree among themselves upon the matter. "Moreover," he added, "direct conversations between Vienna and St. Petersburg are begun and are proceeding. I expect much good of them, and I have hope."[57]

[Footnote 57: French Yellow Book, No. 74.]

In his solemn injunction to von Jagow "in the name of humanity" to weigh the terms in his conscience, Cambon struck a loftier note than any of the diplomatic disputants. Macaulay has said that the "French mind has always been the interpreter between national ideas and those of universal mankind," and at least since the French Revolution the tribute has been deserved.

He, who carefully and dispassionately reads the diplomatic correspondence which preceded the war, must be impressed with the different point of view of the two groups of disputants. Both the written and oral communications of the German and Austrian representatives failed to suggest at any time a note other than one of selfish nationalism. We search in vain for the most distant recognition of the fact that the world at large had any legitimate interest in the controversy. The insistent note, which Austria sounded, was that its interests required its punitive action against Servia, even though the peace of the world were thereby sacrificed, and that of Germany repeated with equal insistence that its "closest interests" summoned it to the side of Austria.

In marked contrast to this spirit of national selfishness is the repeated admonition of Sir Edward Grey that the whole question should be considered in its "larger aspects," thereby meaning the peace and welfare of Europe; while the Czar, with evident sincerity, suggested to the Kaiser that "with the aid of God it must be possible to our long tried friendship to prevent the shedding of blood," and proposed a reference of the question to the Hague. Similarly the appeal of Jules Cambon to von Jagow, "in the name of humanity" was more than the ordinary exchange of diplomatic views. Von Jagow's conception of his duty is shown by the fact that he had taken a position involving "incalculable consequences" without even reading the Servian reply.

Cambon approved himself a worthy "yoke fellow in equity" with Sir Edward Grey, and no loftier tone was sounded by any participant in this great controversy, unless we except Goschen's solemn statement to von Bethmann-Hollweg in the equally dramatic interview, which succeeded the rupture of relations between England and Germany, when Goschen stated that "it was so to speak a matter of life and death for the honor of Great Britain that she should keep her solemn engagement to do her utmost to defend Belgium's neutrality if attacked," and added, "that fear of consequences could hardly be regarded as an excuse for breaking solemn promises."



The Kaiser now appears upon the scene with a fatal result to the peace of Europe. One fact in this controversy is too clear for dispute. When peace proposals were still under consideration and some slight progress had been made by the eleventh-hour consent of Austria on July 31 to discuss with Russia the merits of the Servian question, the Kaiser—like Brennus with his vae victis—threw his sword into the trembling scales and definitely turned the balance against the peace of the world.

Was it a reluctant Caesar who thus crossed the Rubicon, at whose fateful margin he had stood at other crises of his peaceful reign without destroying that peace?

Our information is still too meager to justify a satisfactory answer at this time. Not only are the premises in dispute, but the inferences from admitted premises are too conflicting.

At the time the Austrian Archduke was murdered the Kaiser was in Berlin, and he at once showed an intense interest in the event and in all that it portended. It was officially announced that he planned to attend the funeral in Vienna, but later the world was advised that he had suffered a "chill," which would prevent such attendance. Perhaps it was a diplomatic chill. He then left for Norway, where he remained in the enjoyment of his annual holiday until the evening of July 26th, when he suddenly returned to his Capitol.

Evidently his return was unexpected, for we learn from a telegram from Sir H. Rumbold to Sir Edward Grey, dated July 26th, that,

the Emperor returned suddenly to-night and [the German] Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs says that the Foreign Office regrets this step which was taken on His Majesty's own initiative. They fear that His Majesty's sudden return may cause speculation and excitement.

As the refusal of Austria to accept the Servian reply and its severance of all diplomatic relations with that country had already thrown the entire world into a state of feverish anxiety, it is difficult to understand why the German Foreign Office should have felt that the very natural return of the Kaiser to his Capitol at one of the greatest crises in the history of his country and of the world should be regarded as giving rise to "speculation and excitement," especially as the President of the French Republic was hastening back to Paris.

The Under-Secretary of State's deprecation of the Kaiser's return suggests the possibility that the German Foreign Office, which had already made substantial progress in precipitating the crisis, did not wish the Kaiser's return for fear that he might again exert, as in the Moroccan crisis, his great influence in the interests of peace.

It felt that it had the matter well in hand, but never before did a foreign office blunder so flagrantly and with such disastrous results. From beginning to end every anticipation that the German Chancellor had was falsified by events. This discreditable and blundering chapter of German diplomacy is enough to make the bones of the sagacious Bismarck turn in his grave.

As appears from Sir M. de Bunsen's dispatch to Sir Edward Grey, dated July 26th, it was the confident belief of the German diplomats that "Russia will keep quiet during the chastisement of Servia," and that "France too was not at all in a position for facing the war."[58]

[Footnote 58: English White Paper, No. 32.]

When the full history of this imbroglio is written, it will probably be found that the extensive labor troubles in St. Petersburg, the military unpreparedness of Russia and France, and the political schism in England, then verging to civil war, had deeply impressed both Vienna and Berlin that the dual alliance could impose its will upon Europe with reference to Servia without any serious risk of a European war.

While for these reasons Germany and Austria may not have regarded such a war or the intervention of England therein as probable, yet the dual alliance recognized from the outset such a possibility. The uncertainty as to the Kaiser's attitude with respect to such a war may therefore explain the "regret," with which the German Foreign Office witnessed his sudden and uninvited return.

On his return the diplomatic negotiations, which had commenced with an allegro con brio, for a time changed under the baton of the Imperial Conductor into a more peaceful andante, until the Kaiser made one of his characteristically sudden changes of purpose and precipitated the war by an arrogant ultimatum to Russia, which that country could not possibly accept without a fatal sacrifice of its self-respect and prestige as a nation.

If it be true—and the future may demonstrate it—that this war was planned by Germany at least as far back as the Moroccan crisis, then the Kaiser's responsibility for the commencement of the quarrel cannot be doubted. It is inconceivable that the German Foreign Office could pursue for three years the policy of precipitating a European war without the knowledge and consent of the "Over War Lord."

When full data are accessible as to the importations by Germany in advance of the war, as to its withdrawal of foreign credits and placing of foreign loans, its sales of stocks by influential investors, and its importations on the eve of the war of horses and foodstuffs, a strong circumstantial case may be developed of a deliberate purpose to retrieve the Moroccan fiasco by an audacious coup which would determine the mastery of Europe. The levy in 1913 of an extraordinary tax upon capital, which virtually confiscated the earnings of the German people for military purposes, adds much support to this contention. According to Giolitti, the former Italian Premier, Austria sounded Italy in August, 1913, as to its willingness to participate in a war against Servia.[59]

[Footnote 59: Giolitti Speech, Italian Chamber, Dec. 5, 1914.]

The inferences to be drawn from the Kaiser's personality are somewhat conflicting. Like all self-centered and highly neurotic personalities, his nature is essentially a dual one. This does not mean that he is in any sense a hypocrite, for one of the engaging features of his attractive personality has been the candor and sincerity which have marked nearly all his public acts. He has shown himself to be a man of opposite moods, and conflicting purposes, having almost as many public poses as he has costumes, and a strong desire to play as many varied roles as possible on the stage of the world. Like Bottom in the Midsummer Night's Dream, he would play all parts from the "roaring lion" to the shrinking Thisbe.

The ruler who sent a sympathetic message to Kruger as an insult to England is he who shortly thereafter gratuitously submitted to Queen Victoria military plans for the subjugation of the Boers.

The ruler, who sent the Panther to Agadir, later restrained his country from declaring war against England, when Lloyd George threw down the gauntlet in his Mansion House speech in the Moroccan crisis.

As preacher, the Kaiser exalted within sight of the Mount of Olives the precepts of Christian humility, and yet advised his soldiers, on their departure to China, to "take no prisoners and give no quarter." The most affable and democratic monarch on occasion will in another mood assume the outworn toggery of mediaeval absolutism. A democratic business monarch, and as such the advance agent of German prosperity, he yet shocks the common sense and awakens the ridicule of the world by posing as a combination of Caesar and Mahomet.

The avowed champion of Christianity, who has preached with the fervor of Peter the Hermit against the Yellow Race, he has nevertheless, since this war began, instigated the Sultan of Turkey to proclaim in the Moslem world a "holy war" against his Christian enemies.

Pacific and bellicose by turns the monarch, who throughout his whole reign has hitherto kept the peace of the world, has yet on slight pretext given utterance to the most warlike and incendiary statements.

How is it possible to draw any inference from such a personality, of whom it could be said, as Sydney Smith once said of Lord John Russell, that

there is nothing he would not undertake. I believe he would perform an operation for stone, build St. Peter's, assume (with or without ten minutes' notice) the command of the Channel Fleet, and no one would discover from his manner that the patient had died, that St. Peter's had tumbled down, and that the Channel Fleet had been knocked to atoms.

We should therefore dismiss all inferences suggested by his complex personality and should judge him by what he did from the time that he suddenly arrived in Berlin on July 26th, until the issuance by his direct order of the fatal ultimatum to Russia.

Before proceeding to analyze the very interesting and dramatic correspondence, which passed between the rulers of Germany, England, and Russia—doubly interesting because of the family relationship and the unusual personal and cousinly intimacy of these dispatches—it is well to inquire what the Kaiser could have done that would have immediately avoided the crisis and saved the situation. So far as the published record goes, he did not send a single telegram in the interests of peace to his illustrious ally, the Emperor Francis Joseph.

Let us suppose that he had sent the following:

I have just returned to Berlin and find Europe on the verge of war. I sympathize entirely with you and your country in its demands upon Servia. I agree with you that the Servian reply is not satisfactory. In accordance with the obligations of our alliance, I shall in any event support with the full power of the German sword the cause of Austria. Servia has by its reply admitted its responsibility for the murder of the Archduke and has unreservedly accepted certain of your demands, and as to others has agreed to submit them either to The Hague Tribunal for arbitration, or to a concert of Powers. You will decide whether Austria is satisfied to accept either of these suggestions, but as England, France, and Russia have asked that time be granted to consider a peaceful and satisfactory solution of the difficulty, and as the questions reserved by Servia can be used as the basis for further discussion without prejudice to the rights of Austria, and as it is to the interest of every country and the entire world that its peace should not be broken unnecessarily, I shall be gratified if you can agree that a reasonable time shall be granted as a matter of courtesy to Russia, England, and France, in order that it may be determined upon due consideration whether it is not possible to preserve peace without sacrificing in any respect the legitimate demands of Austria, which have my full sympathy and support.


Would the Austrian Emperor, himself a noble-minded and peace-loving monarch, have refused this reasonable request? A little time, a little patience and some forbearance for the rights of other States and the youth of Europe need not have perished. Again, "the pity of it."

In its place the following correspondence took place between the Kaiser on the one hand and the Czar and King George on the other. It is so dramatic that it justifies quotation in extenso.

On the night of July 28th, the Kaiser sent the following dispatch to the Czar:

I have heard with the greatest anxiety of the impression which is caused by the action of Austria-Hungary against Servia. The unscrupulous agitation which has been going on for years in Servia has led to the revolting crime of which Archduke Franz Ferdinand has become a victim. The spirit which made the Servians murder their own King and his consort still dominates that country. Doubtless You will agree with me that both of us, You as well as I, and all other sovereigns, have a common interest to insist that all those who are responsible for this horrible murder shall suffer their deserved punishment.

On the other hand I by no means overlook the difficulty encountered by You and Your Government to stem the tide of public opinion. In view of the cordial friendship which has joined us both for a long time with firm ties, I shall use my entire influence to induce Austria-Hungary to obtain a frank and satisfactory understanding with Russia. I hope confidently that You will support me in my efforts to overcome all difficulties which may yet arise.[60]

[Footnote 60: German White Paper, No. 20. The Capitals to the pronouns follow the original correspondence.]

This telegram rings true, and fairly suggests a pacific attitude on the part of the Kaiser when he first took the helm on his return from Norway. Its weakness lies in the fact that the record, as presented by the German Government, does not disclose any communication which he sent to his Austrian ally in the interests of peace. We have the frequent assurances of the Kaiser to the Czar that he was exerting all his influence to induce his ally to come to a satisfactory understanding with Russia, but neither over the signature of the Kaiser nor over that of his Foreign Minister does the record show a single communication addressed to Vienna in the interests of peace.

The Czar did not fail to appreciate this, and his reply to the Kaiser rings quite as true and suggests the crux of the whole problem. It reads:

I am glad that You are back in Germany. In this serious moment I ask You earnestly to help me. An ignominious war has been declared against a weak country, and in Russia the indignation, which I fully share, is tremendous. I fear that very soon I shall be unable to resist the pressure exercised upon me and that I shall be forced to take measures which will lead to war. To prevent such a calamity as a European war would be, I urge You in the name of our old friendship to do all in Your power to restrain Your ally from going too far.[61]

[Footnote 61: German White Paper, No. 21.]

Who can deny the force of the sentence thus italicized? It was Austria which was the provocative factor. It was then bombarding Belgrade and endeavoring to cross the Danube into Servia. It had declared war, and brusquely refused even to discuss the question with Russia. It was mobilizing its army, and making every effort to make a speedy subjugation of Servia. If peace was to be preserved, the pressure must begin with Austria. If any question remained for peace parleys, the status quo must be preserved. Russia could not permit Austria to destroy Servia first and then discuss its justice.

Thereupon the Kaiser telegraphed the Czar as follows:

I have received Your telegram and I share Your desire for the conservation of peace. However I cannot—as I told You in my first telegram—consider the action of Austria-Hungary as an "ignominious war." Austria-Hungary knows from experience that the promises of Servia as long as they are merely on paper are entirely unreliable.

According to my opinion the action of Austria-Hungary is to be considered as an attempt to receive full guaranty that the promises of Servia are effectively translated into deeds. In this opinion I am strengthened by the explanation of the Austrian Cabinet that Austria-Hungary intended no territorial gain at the expense of Servia. I am therefore of opinion that it is perfectly possible for Russia to remain a spectator in the Austro-Servian war without drawing Europe into the most terrible war it has ever seen. I believe that a direct understanding is possible and desirable between Your Government and Vienna, an understanding which—as I have already telegraphed You—my Government endeavors to aid with all possible effort. Naturally military measures by Russia, which might be construed as a menace by Austria-Hungary, would accelerate a calamity which both of us desire to avoid and would undermine my position as mediator which—upon Your appeal to my friendship and aid—I willingly accepted.[62]

[Footnote 62: German White Paper, No. 22. See note, post., p. 189.]

The Kaiser's fatal error lies in the concluding paragraph of this telegram, in claiming that Russia should not take any military measures pending the Kaiser's mediation, although Austria should be left free not merely to make such preparations against Russia, but to pursue its aggressive war then already commenced against Servia. If the belligerents were expected to desist from military preparations, should not the obligation be reciprocal?

Later that night the Kaiser again telegraphed the Czar:

My Ambassador has instructions to direct the attention of Your Government to the dangers and serious consequences of a mobilization; I have told You the same in my last telegram. Austria-Hungary has mobilized only against Servia, and only a part of her army. If Russia, as seems to be the case according to Your advice and that of Your Government, mobilizes against Austria-Hungary, the part of the mediator, with which You have entrusted me in such friendly manner and which I have accepted upon Your express desire, is threatened if not made impossible. The entire weight of decision now rests upon Your shoulders. You have to bear the responsibility for war or peace.[63]

[Footnote 63: German White Paper, No. 23.]

To which the Czar replied as follows:

I thank You from my heart for Your quick reply. I am sending to-night Tatisheff (Russian honorary aide to the Kaiser) with instructions. The military measures now taking form were decided upon five days ago, and for the reason of defense against the preparations of Austria. I hope with all my heart that these measures will not influence in any manner Your position as mediator which I appraise very highly. We need Your strong pressure upon Austria so that an understanding can be arrived at with us.[64]

[Footnote 64: German White Paper, No. 23 A.]

Later the Czar again telegraphed the Kaiser:

I thank You cordially for Your mediation which permits the hope that everything may yet end peaceably. It is technically impossible to discontinue our military preparations which have been made necessary by the Austrian mobilization. It is far from us to want war. As long as the negotiations between Austria and Servia continue, my troops will undertake no provocative action. I give You my solemn word thereon. I confide with all my faith in the grace of God, and I hope for the success of Your mediation in Vienna for the welfare of our countries and the peace of Europe.

What more could the Kaiser reasonably ask? Here was an assurance from the ruler of a great nation, and his royal cousin, that on his "solemn word" no provocative action would be taken by Russia "as long as the negotiations between Austria and Servia continue" and this notwithstanding the fact that Austria had flouted and ignored Russia, had declared war against Servia and was then endeavoring to subjugate it quickly by bombarding its capital and invading its territory with superior forces.

It is true that the Czar did not order demobilization, and apart from his unquestioned right to prepare for eventualities in the event of the failure of the peace parleys, the Kaiser himself recognized in a later telegram that in the case of Germany when mobilization had once been started it could not be immediately arrested.

Simultaneously King George had telegraphed the Kaiser through Prince Henry as follows:

Thanks for Your telegram; so pleased to hear of William's efforts to concert with Nicky to maintain peace. Indeed I am earnestly desirous that such an irreparable disaster as a European war should be averted. My Government is doing its utmost suggesting to Russia and France to suspend further military preparations if Austria will consent to be satisfied with occupation of Belgrade and neighboring Servian territory as a hostage for satisfactory settlement of her demands; other countries meanwhile suspending their war preparations. Trust William will use his great influence to induce Austria to accept this proposal, thus proving that Germany and England are working together to prevent what would be an international catastrophe. Pray assure William I am doing and shall continue to do all that lies in my power to preserve peace of Europe.[65]

[Footnote 65: Second German White Paper.]

The fairness of this proposal can hardly be disputed. It conceded to Austria the right to occupy the capital of Servia and hold it as a hostage for a satisfactory adjustment of her demands and even to continue her military preparations, while all other nations, including Russia, were to suspend their military preparations. As the Kaiser precipitated the war because Russia would not cease its preparations for eventualities, King George's proposal, upon which neither the Kaiser nor his government ever acted, fully met his demands.

To this the Kaiser replied on July 31st:

Many thanks for kind telegram. Your proposals coincide with My ideas and with the statements I got this night from Vienna which I have had forwarded to London. I just received news from Chancellor that official notification has just reached him that this night Nicky has ordered the mobilization of his whole army and fleet. He has not even awaited the results of the mediation I am working at, and left Me without any news. I am off for Berlin to take measures for ensuring safety of My eastern frontiers where strong Russian troops are already posted.[66]

[Footnote 66: Second German White Paper.]

On its face this reply seems not unreasonable, but it must not be forgotten that Austria continued not only to bombard Belgrade but to mobilize its armies against Russia as well as Servia. Russia agreed to stop all military preparations, if Austria would consent to discuss the Servian question with a view to peace. Austria until the eleventh hour—when it was too late—refused even to discuss the Servian question and never offered either to demobilize or to cease its attack upon Servia. Germany upheld her in this unwarrantable course.

While in principle the Kaiser agreed with the King as to the method of adjustment, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the Kaiser ever made any suggestion to his ally that it should stop its operations against Servia after capturing Belgrade, and await the adjustment of the questions through diplomatic channels.

Thereupon King George sent a brief telegram, stating that he had sent an urgent telegram to the Czar urging this course. Later on July 31st the Kaiser sent the following telegram to the Czar:

Upon Your appeal to my friendship and Your request for my aid I have engaged in mediation between Your Government and the Government of Austria-Hungary. While this action was taking place, Your troops were being mobilized against my ally, Austria-Hungary, whereby, as I have already communicated to You, my mediation has become almost illusory. In spite of this, I have continued it, and now I receive reliable news that serious preparations for war are going on on my eastern frontier. The responsibility for the security of my country forces me to measures of defense. I have gone to the extreme limit of the possible in my efforts for the preservation of the peace of the world. It is not I who bear the responsibility for the misfortune which now threatens the entire civilized world. It rests in Your hand to avert it. No one threatens the honor and peace of Russia which might well have awaited the success of my mediation. The friendship for You and Your country, bequeathed to me by my grandfather on his death-bed, has always been sacred to me, and I have stood faithfully by Russia while it was in serious affliction, especially during its last war. The peace of Europe can still be preserved by You if Russia decides to discontinue those military preparations which menace Germany and Austria-Hungary.

In this fair-spoken message we unhappily find no suggestion that Austria would stop its mobilization, or its military operations against Servia. The untenable position of the Kaiser, to which he adhered with fatal consistency to the end, was that Austria should be given the full right to mobilize against Russia as well as Servia, and that his ally should even be permitted to press its aggressive operations against Servia by taking possession of its capital and holding it as a ransom. In the meantime Russia should not make any military preparations, either to move effectually against Austria in the event of the failure of negotiations, or even to defend itself.

The Kaiser's suggestion did not even carry with it the implication that Germany would stop the military preparations that it was then carrying on in feverish haste, so that the contention of the Kaiser, however plausibly it was veiled in his telegram, was that Germany and Austria should have full freedom to prepare for war against Russia, while Russia was to tie its hands and await the outcome of further parleys, with Austrian cannon bombarding Belgrade.

In this correspondence the Kaiser displayed his recognized ability as a writer and speaker, for in this rapid-fire exchange of telegrams the Kaiser was easily the better controversialist.

He assumed the role of a disinterested party, who, at the request of a litigant, agrees to become an impartial mediator. He was neither. The Czar had not asked him to be a mediator, although in the later telegrams the Russian monarch accepted that term. The Czar in his first telegram had asked the Kaiser as a party to the quarrel "to restrain your ally from going too far." The Kaiser, having adroitly accepted a very different role, promptly shifts the responsibility upon the Czar of embarrassing the so-called "mediation." This enabled him to assume the attitude of "injured innocence" and very skillfully he played that part.

This at least is clear that in this correspondence the Kaiser was either guilty of insincerity or he betrayed a fatal incapacity to grasp the essentials of the quarrel. I prefer the latter construction of his conduct. Against the bellicose efforts of his Foreign Office and his General Staff, I believe that for dynastic reasons he strove for a time to adjust the difficulty, but his egomania and his life-long habit of personal absolutism blinded him to the fact that he was taking an untenable, indeed an impossible, position, in contending that Russia should effectually tie its hands while Germany and Austria should be left free to prepare for eventualities. Had there been a breathing spell and the Kaiser had had more time for reflection, possibly the unreasonableness of his contention would have suggested itself, but he found on his sudden return from Norway that his country, through the fatuous folly of its military party, was almost irrevocably committed to war. Probably he did not dare to reverse openly and formally its policy. His popularity had already suffered in the Moroccan crisis. This consideration and the histrionic side to his complex personality betrayed him into his untenable and fatal position.

The Kaiser has hitherto been regarded as a man of exceptional ability. Time and the issue of this war will tell. The verdict of history may be to the contrary. The world for a time may easily confuse restless energy and habitual meddling with real ability, but its final verdict will go far deeper. Since the Kaiser dropped his sagacious pilot, Germany's real position in the world has steadily weakened. Then it was the first power in Europe with its rivals disunited. The Kaiser has united his enemies with "hoops of steel," driven Russia and England into a close alliance, forced Italy out of the Triple Alliance, and as the only compensation for these disastrous results, he has gained the doubtful cooperation of moribund Turkey, of which he is likely to say before many months are over: "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

In the meantime, Germany was not idle in its preparations for eventualities.

The Kaiser and his counsellors were already definitely planning for the war, and were taking steps to alienate England from her Allies and secure her neutrality. To insure this, the German Chancellor, having visited the Kaiser at Potsdam, sent for the British Ambassador, and made the following significant offer:

[67]I was asked to call upon the Chancellor to-night. His Excellency had just returned from Potsdam.

[Footnote 67: Sir E. Goschen.]

He said that should Austria be attacked by Russia a European conflagration might, he feared, become inevitable, owing to Germany's obligations as Austria's ally, in spite of his continued efforts to maintain peace. He then proceeded to make the following strong bid for British neutrality. He said that it was clear, so far as he was able to judge the main principle which governed British policy, that Great Britain would never stand by and allow France to be crushed in any conflict there might be. That, however, was not the object at which Germany aimed. Provided that neutrality of Great Britain were certain, every assurance would be given to the British Government that the Imperial Government aimed at no territorial acquisitions at the expense of France, should they prove victorious in any war that might ensue.

I questioned his Excellency about the French colonies, and he said that he was unable to give a similar undertaking in that respect. As regards Holland, however, his Excellency said that, so long as Germany's adversaries respected the integrity and neutrality of the Netherlands, Germany was ready to give his Majesty's Government an assurance that she would do likewise. It depended upon the action of France what operations Germany might be forced to enter upon in Belgium, but when the war was over Belgian integrity would be respected if she had not sided against Germany.

His Excellency ended by saying that ever since he had been Chancellor the object of his policy had been, as you were aware, to bring about an understanding with England; he trusted that these assurances might form the basis of that understanding which he so much desired. He had in mind a general neutrality agreement between England and Germany, though it was, of course, at the present moment too early to discuss details, and an assurance of British neutrality in the conflict which the present crisis might possibly produce, would enable him to look forward to a realization of his desire.

In reply to his Excellency's inquiry how I thought his request would appeal to you, I said that I did not think it probable that at this stage of events you would care to bind yourself to any course of action and that I was of opinion that you would desire to retain full liberty.[68]

[Footnote 68: English White Paper, No. 85.]

While the German Foreign Office was thus endeavoring to keep England neutral, its army was on the move against France. This does not rest upon vague allegation, but upon the detailed specifications in a communication from the French Foreign Office, which the French Ambassador in London submitted to Sir Edward Grey on July 31st. Its significance is apparent when it is remembered that simultaneously the Kaiser was invoking the Czar to demobilize his armies, and cease military preparations.

The German army had its advance posts on our frontiers yesterday (Friday). German patrols twice penetrated on to our territory. Our advance posts are withdrawn to a distance of 10 kilometers from the frontier. The local population is protesting against being thus abandoned to the attack of the enemy's army, but the Government wishes to make it clear to public opinion and to the British Government that in no case will France be the aggressor. The whole 16th Corps from Metz, reinforced by a part of the 8th from Treves and Cologne, is occupying the frontier at Metz on the Luxemburg side. The 15th Army Corps from Strassburg has closed up on the frontier. The inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine are prevented by the threat of being shot from crossing the frontier. Reservists have been called back to Germany by tens of thousands. This is the last stage before mobilization, whereas we have not called out a single reservist.

As you see, Germany has done it. I would add that all my information goes to show that the German preparations began on Saturday, the very day on which the Austrian note was handed in.[69]

[Footnote 69: English White Paper, No. 105 "Austrian" obviously means "Servian."]

In reply to the suggestion of the German Chancellor as to the neutrality of England, Sir Edward Grey advised the English Ambassador on July 30th, as follows:

His Majesty's Government cannot for a moment entertain the Chancellor's proposal that they should bind themselves to neutrality on such terms.

What he asks us in effect is to engage to stand by while French colonies are taken and France is beaten so long as Germany does not take French territory as distinct from the colonies.

From the material point of view such a proposal is unacceptable, for France, without further territory in Europe being taken from her, could be so crushed as to lose her position as a great Power, and become subordinate to German policy.

Altogether apart from that, it would be a disgrace for us to make this bargain with Germany at the expense of France, a disgrace from which the good name of this country would never recover.

The Chancellor also in effect asks us to bargain away whatever obligations or interest we have as regards the neutrality of Belgium. We could not entertain that bargain either.

Having said so much, it is unnecessary to examine whether the prospect of a future general neutrality agreement between England and Germany offered positive advantages sufficient to compensate us for tying our hands now. We must preserve our full freedom to act as circumstances may seem to us to require in any such unfavorable and regrettable development of the present crisis as the Chancellor contemplates.

You should speak to the Chancellor in the above sense, and add most earnestly that one way of maintaining good relations between England and Germany is that they should continue to work together to preserve the peace of Europe; if we succeed in this object, the mutual relations of Germany and England will, I believe, be ipso facto improved and strengthened. For that object His Majesty's Government will work in that way with all sincerity and goodwill.

And I will say this: If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present crisis safely passed, my own endeavor will be to promote some arrangement, to which Germany could be a party, by which she could be assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against her or her allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately.

This letter will give Sir Edward Grey lasting glory in the history of civilization. Its chivalrous fairness to France needs no comment, but its most significant feature is the concluding portion, in which the English Foreign Minister suggested to Germany that if peace could be preserved, England stood ready to join with Germany in an alliance which would have insured all the great European nations against any aggressive war on the part of either of them.

It was, in fact, the "United States of Europe" in embryo. It was the one solution possible for these long-continued European wars—essentially civil wars—namely an alliance by the six great Powers,—a merger of the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente,—whereby any aggressive act on the part of any one of them would be prevented by the others. What an infinite pity that the imprudent act of the Kaiser, and the mad folly of his advisers probably made a fair trial of this most hopeful plan for the unification of Europe an impossibility for another century!

In order that Germany should have no excuse whatever to declare war on account of Russia's preparations, the Russian Foreign Minister saw the German Ambassador in St. Petersburg on July 30th, and then offered on behalf of Russia to stop all military preparations, provided that Austria would simply recognize as an abstract principle that the Servian question had assumed the character of a question of European interest. As this proposal fully met the demands of the Kaiser with respect to the cessation by Russia of military preparations, the conversation as reported by the English Ambassador at St. Petersburg to Sir Edward Grey on July 30th deserves quotation in extenso:

French Ambassador and I visited Minister for Foreign Affairs this morning. His Excellency said that German Ambassador had told him yesterday afternoon that German Government were willing to guarantee that Servian integrity would be respected by Austria. To this he had replied that this might be so, but nevertheless Servia would become an Austrian vassal, just as, in similar circumstances, Bokhara had become a Russian vassal. There would be a revolution in Russia if she were to tolerate such a state of affairs.

M. Sazonof told us that absolute proof was in possession of Russian Government, that Germany was making military and naval preparations against Russia—more particularly in the direction of the Gulf of Finland.

German Ambassador had a second interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs at 2 A.M., when former completely broke down on seeing that war was inevitable. He appealed to M. Sazonof to make some suggestion which he could telegraph to German Government as a last hope. M. Sazonof accordingly drew up and handed to German Ambassador a formula in French, of which the following is a translation:

"If Austria, recognizing that her conflict with Servia has assumed character of question of European interest, declares herself ready to eliminate from her ultimatum points which violate principle of sovereignty of Servia, Russia engages to stop all military preparations."

Later in the day, at the suggestion of Sir Edward Grey, the Russian Foreign Minister still further modified in the interests of peace the proposition upon which Russia was willing to cease all military preparations.

If Austria consents to stay the march of her armies upon Servian territory, and if, recognizing that the Austro-Servian conflict has assumed the character of a question of European interest, she admits that the great Powers examine the reparation which Servia could accord to the Government of Austria-Hungary without injury to her rights as a sovereign State and to her independence—Russia undertakes to maintain her expectant attitude.

It will be noted that this formula implied that Servia owed some reparation to Austria, and it did not bind Austria to accept the judgment of the Powers as to the character of such reparation.

It simply conceded to the Powers the opportunity to "examine"—not the original controversy between Austria and Servia—but what reparation could be made without a compromise of sovereignty and independence. Austria did not bind itself to do anything except to stay the advance of her army into Servia, while Russia agreed to desist from further preparations or mobilization.

Could the offer have been more liberal? In face of this assurance, how can the Kaiser or Germany reasonably contend that it was the mobilization of the Russian army which precipitated the war.

In the meantime Sir Edward Grey was working tirelessly to suggest some peace formula, upon which the Powers could agree. His suggestions for a conference of the four leading Powers of Europe, other than Russia and Austria, had been negatived by Germany on the frivolous pretext that such a conference was "too formal a method," quite ignoring the fact that its very formality would have necessarily given a "cooling time" to the would-be belligerents. Thereupon Sir Edward Grey urged that,

the German Government should suggest any method by which the influence of the four Powers could be used together to prevent war between Austria and Russia. France agreed. Italy agreed. The whole idea of mediation or mediating influence was ready to be put into operation by any method that Germany could suggest if mine was not acceptable. In fact, mediation was ready to come into operation by any method that Germany thought possible if only Germany would "press the button" in the interests of peace.[70]

[Footnote 70: English White Paper, No. 84.]

Later in the day Sir Edward again repeated his suggestion to the German Ambassador in London and urged that Germany should,

propose some method by which the four Powers should be able to work together to keep the peace of Europe. I pointed out, however, that the Russian Government, while desirous of mediation, regarded it as a condition that the military operations against Servia should be suspended, as otherwise a mediation would only drag on matters and give Austria time to crush Servia. It was of course too late for all military operations against Servia to be suspended. In a short time, I supposed, the Austrian forces would be in Belgrade, and in occupation of some Servian territory. But even then it might be possible to bring some mediation into existence, if Austria, while saying that she must hold the occupied territory until she had complete satisfaction from Servia, stated that she would not advance further, pending an effort of the Powers to mediate between her and Russia.

The only reply that England received to this reiterated request that Germany take the lead in suggesting some acceptable peace formula was set forth in a dispatch from Sir E. Goschen from Berlin to Sir Edward Grey:

I was informed last night that they (the German Foreign Office) had not had time to send an answer yet. To-day, in reply to an inquiry from the French Ambassador as to whether the Imperial Government had proposed any course of action, the [German] Secretary of State said that he felt that time would be saved by communicating with Vienna direct, and that he had asked the Austro-Hungarian Government what would satisfy them. No answer had, however, yet been returned.

The Chancellor told me last night that he was "pressing the button" as hard as he could, and that he was not sure whether he had not gone so far in urging moderation at Vienna that matters had been precipitated rather than otherwise.[71]

[Footnote 71: See English White Paper, No. 84.]

The Court of Public Opinion unfortunately is not favored in the German White Paper with the text of its communication on this subject to Vienna, nor is it given any specifications as to the manner in which the German Chancellor "pressed the button."

What the world knows without documentary proof is that Austria continued its military preparations and operations and that Russia then ordered a general mobilization. The only assurance which Russia received from Austria as a result of the alleged "pressing of the button" is set forth in the following dispatch from the Russian Ambassador at Vienna to Sazonof, dated July 31st:

In spite of the general mobilization I continue to exchange views with Count Berchtold and his collaborators. All insist on the absence of aggressive intentions on the part of Austria against Russia and of ambitions of conquest in regard to Servia, but all equally insist on the necessity for Austria of pursuing to the very end the action begun and of giving to Servia a serious lesson which would constitute a certain guarantee for the future.

This was in effect a flat refusal of all mediatory or otherwise pacific suggestions, for the right of Austria to crush Servia by giving it "a serious lesson"—what such a lesson is let Louvain, Liege, and Rheims witness!—was the crux of the whole question.

Concurrently Sir Edward Goschen telegraphed to Sir Edward Grey that Germany had declared that day the "Kriegsgefahr" and that the German Chancellor had expressed the opinion that "all hope of a peaceful solution of the crisis" was at an end. The British Ambassador then asked the Chancellor,—

whether he could not still put pressure on the authorities at Vienna to do something in the general interests to reassure Russia and to show themselves disposed to continue discussions on a friendly basis. He replied that last night he had begged Austria to reply to your last proposal, and that he had received a reply to the effect that Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs would take the wishes of the Emperor this morning in the matter.[72]

[Footnote 72: English White Paper, No. 112.]

Here again the world is not favored with the text of the message, in which the Chancellor "begged Austria to reply," nor with that of the Austrian Foreign Minister's reply.

While these events were happening in Berlin and London, the Russian Ambassador in Vienna advised Sazonof "that Austria has determined not to yield to the intervention of the powers and that she is moving troops against Russia as well as Servia."[73]

[Footnote 73: English White Paper, No. 113.]

Russia thereupon, on July 31, ordered a general mobilization of her army.

Concurrently with these interviews, the English Ambassador in Vienna had a conversation with the Austrian Under-Secretary of State and

called his attention to the fact that during the discussion of the Albanian frontier at the London Conference of Ambassadors the Russian Government had stood behind Servia, and that a compromise between the views of Russia and Austria-Hungary resulted with accepted frontier line. Although he[74] spoke in a conciliatory tone, and did not regard the situation as desperate, I could not get from him any suggestion for a similar compromise in the present case. Count Forgach is going this afternoon to see the Russian Ambassador, whom I have informed of the above conversation.[75]

[Footnote 74: The Austrian Under-Secretary of State.]

[Footnote 75: English White Paper, No. 118.]

Notwithstanding all these discouragements and rebuffs, Sir Edward Grey, that unwearying friend of peace, still continued to make a last attempt to preserve peace by instructing the British Ambassador in Berlin to sound the German Foreign Office, as he would sound the Russian Foreign Office,

whether it would be possible for the four disinterested Powers to offer to Austria that they would undertake to see that she obtained full satisfaction of her demands on Servia, provided that they did not impair Servian sovereignty and the integrity of Servian territory. As your Excellency is aware, Austria has already declared her willingness to respect them. Russia might be informed by the four Powers that they would undertake to prevent Austrian demands from going the length of impairing Servian sovereignty and integrity. All Powers would of course suspend further military operations or preparations.

He further instructed Sir Edward Goschen to advise the German Foreign Office that he, Sir Edward Grey, had that morning proposed to the German Ambassador in London,

that if Germany could get any reasonable proposal put forward, which made it clear that Germany and Austria were striving to preserve European peace, and that Russia and France would be unreasonable if they rejected it, I would support it at St. Petersburg and Paris, and go the length of saying that, if Russia and France would not accept it, his Majesty's Government would have nothing more to do with the consequences; that, otherwise, I told the German Ambassador that if France became involved we should be drawn in.[76]

[Footnote 76: English White Paper, No. 111.]

What, then, was the position when the last fatal step was taken? The Czar had pledged his personal honor that no provocative action should be taken by Russia, while peace parleys were in progress, and the Russian Foreign Minister had agreed to cease all military preparations, provided that Austria would recognize that the question of Servia had become one of European interest, and that its sovereignty would be respected.

On July 31st, Austria for the first time in the negotiations agreed to discuss with the Russian Government the merits of the Servian note. Until this eleventh hour Austria had consistently contended that her difficulty with Servia was her own question, in which Russia had no right to intervene, and which it would not under any circumstances even discuss with Russia. For this reason it had refused any time for discussion, abruptly declared war against Servia, commenced its military operations, and repeatedly declined to discuss even the few questions left open in the Servian reply as a basis for further peace parleys.

As recently as July 30th, the Austrian Government had declined or refused any "direct exchange of views with the Russian Government."

But late on July 31st, a so-called "conversation" took place at Vienna between Count Berchtold and the Russian Ambassador, and as a result, the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg was instructed to "converse" with the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs. This important concession of Austria was conveyed to Sazonof by the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg, who expressed

the readiness of his Government to discuss the substance of the Austrian ultimatum to Servia. M. Sazonof replied by expressing his satisfaction and said it was desirable that the discussions should take place in London with the participation of the Great Powers.

M. Sazonof hoped that the British Government would assume the direction of these discussions. The whole of Europe would be thankful to them. It would be very important that Austria should meanwhile put a stop provisionally to her military action on Servian territory.[77]

[Footnote 77: English White Paper, No. 133.]

It is important to note that Austria's change of heart preceded by some hours the Kaiser's ultimatum to Russia. The former took place some time during the day on July 31st. The latter was sent to St. Petersburg on the midnight of that day. It must also be noted that while Austria thus agreed at the eleventh hour to "discuss the substance of the ultimatum," it did not offer to suspend military preparations or operations and this obviously deprived the concession of its chief value.[78]

[Footnote 78: See Addendum, p. 191-2.]

The cause and purpose of Austria's partial reversal of its policy at present writing can be only a matter of conjecture. When Austria publishes its correspondence with Germany, we may know the truth.

Two theories are equally plausible:

Austria may have taken alarm at the steadfast purpose of Russia to champion the cause of Servia with the sword. If so, its qualified reversal of its bellicose attitude may have induced the war party at Berlin to precipitate the war by the ultimatum to Russia. In that event, Germany's mad policy of war at any cost is even more iniquitous.[79]

[Footnote 79: See Addendum, p. 190, et seq.]

The supposition is equally plausible that Austria had been advised from Berlin that that night Germany would end all efforts to preserve the peace of Europe by an ultimatum to Russia, which would make war inevitable. The case of Germany and Austria at the bar of the world would be made morally stronger if, at the outbreak of hostilities, the attitude of Austria had become more conciliatory. This would make more plausible their contention that the mobilization of Russia and not Austria's flat rejection of all peace overtures had precipitated the conflict.

This much is certain that the Kaiser, with full knowledge that Austria had consented to renew its conferences with Russia, and that a ray of light had broken through the lowering war clouds, either on his own initiative or yielding to the importunities of his military camarilla, directed the issuance of the ultimatum to Russia and thus blasted the last hope of peace.

On midnight of July 31st, the German Chancellor sent the following telegram to the German Ambassador at St. Petersburg:

In spite of still pending mediatory negotiations, and although we ourselves have up to the present moment taken no measures for mobilization, Russia has mobilized her entire army and navy; in other words, mobilized against us also. By these Russian measures we have been obliged, for the safeguarding of the Empire, to announce that danger of war threatens us, which does not yet mean mobilization. Mobilization, however, must follow unless Russia ceases within twelve hours all warlike measures against us and Austria-Hungary and gives us definite assurance thereof. Kindly communicate this at once to M. Sazonof and wire hour of its communication to him.

At midnight the fateful message was delivered. As Sazonof reports the interview:

At midnight the Ambassador of Germany declared to me, by order of his Government, that if within twelve hours, that is at midday of Saturday, we did not commence demobilization, not only in regard to Germany but also in regard to Austria, the German Government would be forced to give the order of mobilization. To my question if this was war the Ambassador replied in the negative, but added that we were very near it.

It will be noted by the italicized portion that Germany did not restrict its demand that Russia cease its preparations against Germany, but it should also desist from any preparations to defend itself or assert its rights against Austria, although Austria had made no offer to suspend either its preparations for war or recall its general mobilization order.

The twelve hours elapsed and Russia, standing upon its dignity as a sovereign nation of equal standing with Germany, declined to answer this unreasonable and most arrogant demand, which under the circumstances was equivalent to a declaration of war.

Simultaneously a like telegram was sent to the Ambassador at Paris, requiring the French Government to state in eighteen hours whether it would remain neutral in the event of a Russian-German war.

The reasons given for this double ultimatum are as disingenuous as the whole course of German diplomacy in this matter. The statement that Germany had pursued any mediatory negotiations was as untrue as its statement that it had taken no measures for mobilization. Equally disingenuous was the statement with respect to the Kriegsgefahr (state of martial law), for when that was declared on July 31st, the railroad, telegraph, and other similar public utilities were immediately taken over by Germany and the movement of troops to the frontier began.

After the fateful ultimatum had thus been given by Germany to Russia, the British Ambassador, pursuant to the instructions of his home office, saw the German Secretary of State on July 31st, and urged him

most earnestly to accept your [Sir Edward Grey's] proposal and make another effort to prevent the terrible catastrophe of a European war.

He [von Jagow] expressed himself very sympathetically toward your proposal, and appreciated your continued efforts to maintain peace but said it was impossible for the Imperial Government to consider any proposal until they had received an answer from Russia to their communication of to-day; this communication, which he admitted had the form of an ultimatum, being that, unless Russia could inform the Imperial Government within twelve hours that she would immediately countermand her mobilization against Germany and Austria, Germany would be obliged on her side to mobilize at once.

I asked his Excellency why they had made their demand even more difficult for Russia to accept by asking them to demobilize in the south as well. He replied that it was in order to prevent Russia from saying that all her mobilization was only directed against Austria.[80]

[Footnote 80: English White Paper, No. 121.]

The German Secretary of State also stated to Sir E. Goschen that both the Emperor William and the German Foreign Office

had even up till last night been urging Austria to show willingness to continue discussions, and telegraphic and telephonic communications from Vienna had been of a promising nature, but Russia's mobilization had spoiled everything.

Here again it must be noted that the telegraphic communications from Vienna have not yet been published by the Austrian Government, nor by the German Foreign Office in its official defense.

Sir Edward Grey's last attempt to preserve peace was on August 1st, when he telegraphed to Sir E. Goschen:

I still believe that it might be possible to secure peace if only a little respite in time can be gained before any great power begins war.

The Russian Government has communicated to me the readiness of Austria to discuss with Russia and the readiness of Austria to accept a basis of mediation which is not open to the objections raised in regard to the formula which Russia originally suggested.

Things ought not to be hopeless so long as Austria and Russia are ready to converse, and I hope that the German Government may be able to make use of the Russian communications referred to above in order to avoid tension. His Majesty's Government are carefully abstaining from any act which may precipitate matters.[81]

[Footnote 81: English White Paper, No. 131.]

At that time the twelve-hour ultimatum to Russia had already expired, but the British Ambassador saw the German Secretary of State on August 1st, and, after submitting to him the substance of Sir Edward Grey's telegram last quoted,

spent a long time arguing with him that the chief dispute was between Austria and Russia, and that Germany was only drawn in as Austria's ally. If, therefore, Austria and Russia were, as was evident, ready to discuss matters and Germany did not desire war on her own account, it seemed to me only logical that Germany should hold her hand and continue to work for a peaceful settlement. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that Austria's readiness to discuss was the result of German influence at Vienna, and, had not Russia mobilized against Germany, all would have been well. But Russia, by abstaining from answering Germany's demand that she should demobilize, had caused Germany to mobilize also. Russia had said that her mobilization did not necessarily imply war, and that she could perfectly well remain mobilized for months without making war. This was not the case with Germany. She had the speed and Russia had the numbers, and the safety of the German Empire forbade that Germany should allow Russia time to bring up masses of troops from all parts of her wide dominions . The situation now was that, though the Imperial Government had allowed her several hours beyond the specified time, Russia had sent no answer. Germany had, therefore, ordered mobilization, and the German representative at St. Petersburg had been instructed within a certain time to inform the Russian Government that the Imperial Government must regard their refusal to answer as creating a state of war.[82]

[Footnote 82: English White Paper, No. 138.]

It will thus be seen that although Germany was urged to the very last to await the result of the conferences, which had just commenced with some slight promise of success between Austria and Russia, it nevertheless elected to declare war against Russia and thus blast beyond possible recall any possibility of peace. Its justification for this course, as stated in the interview with the German Secretary of State last quoted, was that it did not propose to forego its advantage of speed as against the advantage of Russia's numerical superiority. For this there might be some justification, if Russia had shown an unyielding and bellicose attitude, but apart from the fact that Russia had consistently worked in the interests of peace, Germany had the express assurance of the Czar that no provocative action would be taken while peace conferences continued. To disregard these assurances and thus destroy the pacific efforts of other nations, in order not to lose a tactical advantage, was the clearest disloyalty to civilization. In any aspect, Germany could have fully kept its advantage of speed by inducing its ally to suspend its aggressive operations against Servia, for in that event Russia had expressly obligated itself to suspend all military preparations.

As the final document in this shameful chapter of diplomacy, there need only be added the telegram, sent by the German Chancellor to his Ambassador at St. Petersburg on August 1, 1914, in which war was declared by Germany against Russia on the ground that while Germany and Austria should be left free to pursue their aggressive military preparations, Russia should, on the peremptory demand of another nation, cease the mobilization of its armies even for self-defense. It reads:

The Imperial Government has endeavored from the opening of the crisis to lead it to a pacific solution. In accordance with a desire which had been expressed to him by His Majesty the Emperor of Russia, His Majesty the Emperor of Germany in accord with England had applied himself to filling a mediatory role with the Cabinets of Vienna and St. Petersburg, when Russia, without awaiting the result of this, proceeded to the complete mobilization of her forces on land and sea. As a consequence of this threatening measure, motived by no military "presage" on the part of Germany, the German Empire found itself in face of a grave and imminent danger. If the Imperial Government had failed to safeguard herself against this peril it would have compromised the safety and the very existence of Germany. Consequently the German Government saw itself forced to address to the Government of His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, an insistence on the cessation of the said military acts. Russia, having refused to accede to (not having thought it should reply to), this demand, and having manifested by this refusal (this attitude) that its action was directed against Germany, I have the honor to make known to your Excellency the following:

His Majesty the Emperor, My August Sovereign, in the name of the Empire, taking up the challenge, considers himself in a state of war with Russia.

The feverish haste with which this fatal step was taken, is shown by the fact that the German Ambassador could not even wait to state whether Russia had refused to answer or answered negatively. This war—thus begun in such mad haste—is likely to be repented of at leisure.

A few hours before this rash and most iniquitous declaration was made the Czar made his last appeal for peace. With equal solemnity and pathos he telegraphed the Kaiser:

I have received your telegram. I comprehend that you are forced to mobilize, but I should like to have from you the same guaranty which I have given you, viz., that these measures do not mean war, and that we shall continue to negotiate for the welfare of our two countries and the universal peace which is so dear to our hearts. With the aid of God it must be possible to our long tried friendship to prevent the shedding of blood. I expect with full confidence your urgent reply.

This touching and magnanimous message does infinite credit to the Czar. Had the Kaiser been as pacific, had he been inspired by the same enlightened spirit in the interests of peace, had he been as truly mindful of the God of nations, whom the Czar thus invoked, it would have been possible to prevent the "shedding of blood," which has now swept away after only three months of war the very flower of the youth of Europe.

To this the Kaiser replied:

I thank You for Your telegram. I have shown yesterday to Your Government the way through which alone war may yet be averted. Although I asked for a reply by to-day noon, no telegram from my Ambassador has reached me with the reply of Your Government. I therefore have been forced to mobilize my army. An immediate, clear and unmistakable reply of Your Government is the sole way to avoid endless misery. Until I receive this reply I am unable, to my great grief, to enter upon the subject of Your telegram. I must ask most earnestly that You, without delay, order Your troops to commit, under no circumstances, the slightest violation of our frontiers.

In this is no spirit of compromise; only the repeated insistence of the unreasonable and in its consequences iniquitous demand that Russia should by demobilizing make itself "naked to its enemies," while Germany and Austria, without making any real concession in the direction of peace, should be permitted to arm both for offense and defense.

There were practical reasons which made the Kaiser's demand unreasonable. Mobilization is a highly developed and complicated piece of governmental machinery, and even where transportation facilities are of the best, as in Germany and France, the mobilization ordinarily takes about two weeks to complete. In Russia, with limited means of transportation, it was impossible to recall immediately a mobilization order that had gone forward to the remotest corners of the great Empire. The record shows that the Kaiser himself recognized this fact, for in a telegram which he sent on August 1st to King George, with respect to the possible neutralization of England, the Kaiser said:

I just received the communication from Your Government offering French neutrality under the guarantee of Great Britain. Added to this offer was the inquiry whether under these conditions Germany would refrain from attacking France. On technical grounds My mobilization, which had already been proclaimed this afternoon, must proceed against two fronts east and west as prepared; this cannot be countermanded because, I am sorry, Your telegram came so late. But if France offers Me neutrality which must be guaranteed by the British fleet and army, I shall of course refrain from attacking France and employ My troops elsewhere. I hope that France will not become nervous. The troops on My frontier are in the act of being stopped by telegraph and telephone from crossing into France.[83]

[Footnote 83: No such offer had been made. The Kaiser's error was due to a misunderstanding, which had arisen quite honestly between Sir Edward Grey and the German Ambassador in London. King George promptly corrected this misapprehension of the Kaiser.

See also Addendum, p. 192.]

If it were impossible for the Kaiser, with all the exceptional facilities of the German Empire, to arrest his mobilization for "technical" reasons, it was infinitely more difficult for the Czar to arrest immediately his military preparations. The demand of Germany was not that Russia should simply cancel the mobilization order. It was that Russia should "cease within twelve hours all warlike measures," and it demanded a physical impossibility.

In any event, mobilization does not necessarily mean aggression, but simply preparation, as the Czar had so clearly pointed out to the Kaiser in the telegram already quoted. It is the right of a sovereign State and by no code of ethics a casus belli. Germany's demand that Russia should not arm to defend itself, when its prestige as a great European power was at stake and when Austria was pushing her aggressive preparations, treated Russia as an inferior, almost a vassal, State. Its rejection must have been recognized by the Kaiser and his advisers as inevitable, and, on the theory that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts, it must be assumed that the Kaiser in this mad demand at that time desired and intended war, however pacific his purposes may have been when he first took the helm.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse