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Full text of "Reflections on the world war"

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TH. VON BETH MANN HOLLWEG 
German Imperial Chancellor from 1909-1917 



Rischgitz 



REFLECTIONS ON 
THE WORLD WAR 



TH. VON 

BETHMANN HOLLWEG 

TRANSLATED BY 

GEORGE YOUNG 

(Formerly Secretary of Legation) 




PART I 




THORNTON BUTTERWORTH, LTD. 

62 ST. MARTIN'S LANE, LONDON 



5(5 

/3 




First Published in Great Britain, Oct. 1920 



FOREWORD 

THE conditions of peace have been published while 
this work is in the press. The world has never yet 
seen so appalling an apparatus for the oppression of 
a vanquished nation. This peace is the crowning 
of the work that began with the creation of the 
Entente. The Paris findings have more than abun- 
dantly confirmed the views advanced in the following 
pages. I find nothing to alter there. 

Th. v. B. H. 

HOHENFINOW, 

May, 1919. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTORY 9 

Germany's Foreign Position in 1909 Iswolski's Ill-will 
Hostile Feeling in Russia Quieter Position in France 
Jules Cambon King Edward " Peacemaker " Results 
of Encirclement View of Neutrals Grey and the 
Entente Aggressive Tendencies of the Franco-Russian 
Alliance King Edward and Delcasse Grey's Illusions 
Fleet Construction and Oriental Policy Weakness of 
Triplice Italy's Deviations Summary Position of 
Emperor His View of Germany's Mission His 
Pacifism Caricatures of Emperor Confused Internal 
Situation Collapse of the Block and its Consequences 
Embitterment of Parties and Ill-feeling in the Country 
Conservative self-seeking Radical extravagances 
Effect Abroad Chancellor and Parties Catch Majori- 
ties Practical Work Chancellor and Social Democracy 
Labour Movement Social Democracy obstructive 
Middle Classes aggressive Reaction of Internal on 
External Politics Parliament and Foreign Affairs 
Pan -Germans and Parties Pan -German Propaganda 
Entente Chauvinism " Germaniam esse delendam." 



CHAPTER II 

FRENCH DIFFICULTIES . . ... .31 

March to Fez Failure of Algeciras Act Kiderlen-Waechter 
Panther Lloyd George's Menaces German Excite- 
ment Emperor's Attitude German Aims Treaty of 
1911 Debate in Reichstag Bassermann Politics and 
Industry Crown Prince and Heydebrand The Reckon- 
ing. L' impatience des realisations " Minor Franco- 

yli B 2 



viii CONTENTS 



PAGE 

German Arrangements Suspense of Main Questions 
French Chauvinism Poincar6 and Nationalism 
Cambon's Volte-face French Renaissance Minority 
Influence French Socialism Alsace -Lorraine. 



CHAPTER III 

OVERTURES TO ENGLAND . . . , . 44 

First Efforts Emperor's Hopes English Ambassador's 
Scepticism Morocco Crisis English Statesmen : 
Asquith, Grey, Haldane Naval Questions Confidential 
Conversations Sir Ernest Cassel Haldane's Mission 
Berlin Negotiations Prospects of Agreement Various 
Formulae Naval Programme English Friendliness 
Criticism of the English Admiralty German apprehen- 
sions Insufficient Offers Collapse of Negotiations 
England and the Entente Balance of Power German 
Fleet and Foreign Affairs Asia Minor and Africa 
Anglo-French Military Agreements Grey's Attitude 
Paris Visit Anglo -Russian Naval Negotiations 
German Warning Grey's Reticences Russian Encou- 
ragement Count Benckendorff Pacifists and Chau- 
vinists The Intrusive German English Undercurrents. 



CHAPTER IV 

TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA ... 68 

Tripoli and the Triplice France mauvais coucheur Triplice 
prolonged Italy's Duties Italy's Unreliability Tur- 
key's Dangers Balkan Alliance Russian Patronage 
Bolshevist Publications Bulgar-Serb Secret Treaty 
Tsar as Arbitrator War Peril 1912 Russian Trial 
Mobilisation English and French Accomplices Poin- 
care's Belligerency The Balkans and the Concert 
Emperor's Prudence War Menace averted Balkan 
Re-alignment Serbian Self-confidence Breathing 
Space Relations with Austria Germany as Mediator 
Potsdam Agreement Sassonow and Kokowzow 
German Military Mission Sassonow's Distrust Sasso- 
now's Silences Sassonow's Turkish Views Straits 
Question Protocol of 1914 Prospects of European 
War Militarism of Entente Press Russia and the 
War War in Sight. 



CONTENTS ix 






CHAPTER V 

PAOK 

RETROSPECT 86 

Political Demoralisation Germany and Prussia Party 
Politics Policy of Compromise with Difficulties 
Foreign Difficulties National Defence in 1913 Naval 
Policy Alsace-Lorraine Imperial Constitution Zabern 
Foreign Views of Germany Pharisees Abroad True 
Centre of Disturbance Facts of European Policy 
Entente Action Superiority of Hostile Coalition 
Grounds for Anxiety Apprehension of the Emperor 
French Yellow Book. 



CHAPTER VI 

OUTBREAK OF WAR 101 

Future of Austria-Hungary Pan-German Imprudences 
Pan-Slav Propaganda Austria and the Entente Pan- 
Slavism in the Balkans The Archduke's Plans Serajevo 
Assassination Russia's Responsibility The Russian 
Council of July 24 Grey and Russia German Mediation 
Grey's Failure at St. Petersburg German Isolation 
Principles of German Policy Possibilities of German 
Policy Potsdam Council Wilhelm and Franz Josef 
Relations with Austria Austrian Ultimatum Austria 
and Serbia Prospects of Mediation Grey's Proposals 
Pressure on Austria Pacifism of Emperor War 
Preparations of Russia Mobilisation Controversies 
Russia responsible for the War German Declaration of 
War Military Pressure French Influence Cambon 
and Grey French Intrigues Position on Western 
Frontier Invasion of Belgium Conflict of Political 
and Military Interests Belgian Question Grey's Atti- 
tude Asquith's Formulae Lloyd George's speech 
Bonar Law's Letter Goschen and the Scrap of Paper 
Eleventh Hour Negotiations. 



CHAPTER VII 

CONCLUSION 162 



REFLECTIONS ON THE 
WORLD WAR 



INTRODUCTORY 



WHEN Prince Billow on leaving office in July, 1909, 
turned over to me the business of the Imperial 
Chancellery, he gave me, in various lengthy conversa- 
tions, a review of the foreign relations of Germany. 
This review may be summed up broadly in the 
statement that our relations with Russia and France 
being entirely correct, the attitude of England alone 
gave any cause for anxiety ; but that it would be 
possible with careful handling to establish confidential 
relations with England also. 

My own impression was that the general ill-will 
that had been excited against us among the Great 
Powers of Europe, other than our allies, by King 
Edward's policy of encirclement was as bad as it ever 
had been. Iswolski, who was responsible for the 
foreign policy of Russia, lost no opportunity of giving 
the most violent expression to his irreconcilable 

9 



INTRODUCTORY 



dislike of Count Aehrenthal and the latter's method 
of conducting Austro-Hungarian policy. Even the 
devotion and determination with which the Russian 
Ambassador, Count Osten-Sacken, the type of the 
sound diplomat of the old school, threw himself 
personally into the maintenance of the traditional 
friendship between Russia and Germany could deceive 
no one as to the fact that more influential forces in 
St. Petersburg were carrying their hostility to the 
Monarchy of the Danube over to its ally, Germany. 
Our attitude in the Bosnian crisis of 1908-09 had, 
as a matter of fact, been intended to offer the Russian 
Cabinet a way out of the cul-de-sac that it had got 
into, and had actually done so. But this attitude 
had been considered as an affront to Russian national 
feeling, and Russia had become more and more accus- 
tomed to regarding Germany as the principal obstacle 
to the realisation of its ambitions for exclusive control 
of the Balkans and of Constantinople. 

Our relations with France were for the time being 
undisturbed. The Morocco economic convention 
concluded in February, 1909, seemed likely to avoid 
further friction, provided it were properly enforced. 
Moreover, the French Government of the day was 
obviously anxious to prevent noisy demonstrations 
of the revanche agitation. Monsieur Jules Cambon, 
the French Ambassador in Berlin, repeatedly assured 
me that more confidential relations between the 
two Governments were indispensable. He had a 

10 



GERMANY'S FOREIGN POSITION 

lively recollection of the serious disturbances to which 
our relationship had been exposed in 1905. He knew 
the character of his fellow-countrymen too well not 
to recognise that the enforced resignation of Delcasse 
had then inflicted a grievous wound on Gallic pride, 
and that this wound had in no way been healed, even 
though the result of the Algeciras Conference had been 
eminently satisfactory for France. He was also 
bound in honour to recognise that neither 1870 
nor Alsace-Lorraine were forgotten, and that longing 
for reparation of the injuries then suffered constituted 
an element in French policy dominating all more 
ephemeral events and calculated to cause the most 
momentous developments whenever the situation 
became in any way difficult. 

In England, King Edward was at the zenith of his 
power. English politicians very generally lauded 
him as the great " peacemaker," and emphatically 
rejected all suggestions that the associations with 
France and Russia entered into by England aimed 
at a political encirclement of Germany still less any 
military enterprise. Lord Haldane, in a speech made 
on the 5th of July, 1915, had expressly declared that 
any such opinion was without foundation and contrary 
to the fact. In this he was to some extent right and 
to some extent wrong. That King Edward, or to 
express it more correctly the official British policy 
behind him, had planned any military enterprise 
against us, is in my opinion not the case. But 

11 



INTRODUCTORY 



to deny that King Edward aspired to and attained 
our encirclement is mere playing with words. The 
fact of the matter was that the communications 
between the two Cabinets were confined essentially 
to the dispatch of such formal business as was 
required by the mutual relations of two States not at 
war with one another. Further, that Germany found 
itself opposed by a combine of England, Russia and 
France in all controversial questions of World policy. 
Finally, that this combine not only raised every 
obstacle to the realisation of German ambitions, but 
also laboured systematically and successfully to 
seduce Italy from the Triple Alliance. You may call 
that " encirclement," " balance of power," or what you 
will ; but the object aimed at and eventually attained 
was no other than the welding of a serried and supreme 
combination of States for obstructing Germany, by 
diplomatic means at least, in the free development of 
its growing powers. This is the view taken of this 
policy not only among chauvinist critics but also in 
strictly pacifist circles, both in England, in Germany, 
and among neutral observers. Seeing that during 
this war the Entente has taken Belgium to its arms 
as its protege, and enthusiastically welcomed it to its 
ranks as a fellow champion for right and justice, it 
can scarcely ignore the opinion of Belgian diplomats 
to the above effect. Their verdict exposes the various 
stages of encirclement in the light of the most damna- 
tory evidence, and is even more convincing perhaps 

12 



RESULTS OF ENCIRCLEMENT 

than the numerous English witnesses who proclaimed 
at every opportunity the unfriendly and even hostile 
tendencies of the Entente Cordiale in respect of 
Germany. 

We may learn much in this connection from the 
significance attached to the position of England in the 
new alignment of the Great Powers by the most 
respected English statesmen without distinction of 
party. Sir Edward Grey had declared as early as 
1905, when the Liberal Party were about to take over 
the Government, that a Liberal Cabinet would main- 
tain the foreign policy of the former Government. 
He added that he aspired to better relations with 
Russia, and that it was desirable not to oppose an 
improvement in the relations with Germany, but on 
the condition that such improvement would not 
prejudice English friendship with France. There 
you have it an understanding with Germany, but 
only in so far as French friendship permits, and later 
Russian friendship becomes also a condition that 
is the guiding principle of English policy from the end 
of the period of " splendid isolation " right up to the 
war. And this principle was a serious matter for 
Germany. England was well aware that the eyes of 
France were steadfastly fixed upon Alsace-Lorraine, 
and could hear the deep notes of the revanche motif 
sounding ever through the harmonies of Russo -French 
fraternisation. England knew well the conditions in 
respect of improvement of armaments and develop- 

13 



INTRODUCTORY 



ment of strategic railways against Germany that 
France imposed on its ally, Russia, in return for almost 
every loan. In a word, England was at least in as 
good a position as ourselves to see right through the 
hostile tendencies of the Franco-Russian Alliance to the 
war that had already once loomed up behind them. 
No one could therefore be surprised at the anxiety 
with which German eyes followed every development 
of this English policy. Indeed, King Edward himself, 
the founder of the policy of encirclement, latterly 
gave more than one unmistakable indication as to 
how he wished to have his work regarded. The 
signal signs of favour that he accorded so energetic 
a worker for revanche as Monsieur Delcasse on the 
occasion of his fall in the spring of 1906, could not 
but dissipate any doubt as to the real spirit of the 
friendship uniting France and England. 

(Sir Edward Grey refrained, as far as he personally 
was concerned, from showing any actually unfriendly 
feeling against Germany. It is even questionable 
whether he himself recognised the full force of the 
aggressive tendencies of the Franco-Russian policy. 
Probably he considered it his task to water down these 
tendencies to the requirements of English policy. 
There is good reason to think indeed that his plans 
did not exclude the possibility of a rapprochement 
in certain respects with Germany, and that he con- 
sidered such a rapprochement as reconcilable with 
the maintenance of a closer relationship with France 

14 



SITUATION IN 1909 



and Russia. His attitude seems to have been more 
complex than that of the French and Russian states- 
men. Through his subtle brain ran various threads 
of political thought which possibly did not all lead 
to the more obvious objects of the Entente. 

I do not intend to go into the question whether 
Germany could have given a different turn to these 
developments of world policy if it had responded in 
the first years of the century to the English attempts 
at a rapprochement and had modified accordingly its 
naval programme. In the year 1909, the situation 
which I am broadly attempting to describe here was 
based on the fact that England had firmly taken its 
stand on the side of France and Russia in pursuit 
of its traditional policy of opposing whatever Con- 
tinental Power for the time being was the strongest ; 
and that Germany held fast to its naval programme, 
had given a definite direction to its Eastern policy, 
and had, moreover, to guard against a French antago- 
nism that had in no wise been mitigated by its policy 
in later years. And if Germany saw a formidable 
aggravation of all the aggressive tendencies of Franco- 
Russian policy in England's pronounced friendship 
with this Dual Alliance, England on its side had 
grown to see a menace in the strengthening of the 
German fleet and a violation of its ancient rights 
in our Eastern policy. Words had already passed 
on both sides. The atmosphere was chilly and 
clouded with distrust. 

15 



INTRODUCTORY 



Under these conditions the position of Germany 
was all the more precarious, seeing that the Triple 
Alliance had lost much of its internal solidarity, even 
if externally it seemed still to hold good. This was 
not so, however, as between us and Austria-Hungary, 
where the closest understanding prevailed. We had 
got to know at Algeciras the limitations beyond which 
the diplomatic support of Austria-Hungary would 
not go. But Italy, after coming to an understanding 
with the Western Powers over Morocco and Tripoli 
through Visconti Venosta, was more and more clearly 
drawing closer to France ; while its ambitions in the 
Balkans, even when they were in association with 
the Monarchy of the Danube and in antagonism to the 
Balkan nationalist movements, could not bring any 
real warmth into their relationship. A Foreign 
Minister like Prinetti could scarcely still be con- 
sidered as a loyal exponent of the old Triple Alliance 
policy. Besides, preoccupations with its interests 
in the Mediterranean obliged Italy to look to England ; 
to say nothing of the formidable prospect with which 
it was faced in the case of hostilities with England 
as its insular position put it quite at the mercy 
of the English fleet. The attitude of Italy at the 
Algeciras Conference and during the Bosnian crisis was 
sufficiently suggestive of the real state of the case. 
Its flirtations with the Entente had led to dangerous 
intimacies. 

The external situation in the summer of 1909 may 

16 



ANTAGONISM TO GERMANY 



then be impartially summed up as follows : England, 
France and Russia were associated in close coalition. 
Japan was affiliated through its English alliance. 
The grave controversies of earlier times between j jfr~ 
England and France or England and Russia had \ 
been got rid of by agreements from which each party 
had received material advantages. Italy, whose 
Mediterranean interests had brought differences j 
between it and the Western Powers but had also ^ 
brought it into dependence on them, had been steadily \ 
drawing closer to their group. The cement that 
bound the whole structure of the coalition together 
was the community of interest between the associated i Jf ^ 
Powers created by the British policy of do ut des and \ 
by the conflict of each separate Power with Germany. 
The fundamental antagonism to Germany of the 
Franco-Russian Alliance had been aggravated in the 
case of France by the first Morocco crisis and in the 
case of Russia by the Bosnian crisis ; in the latter 
case, be it observed, with gross ingratitude for our 
attitude during Russia's war with Japan. Japan, 
for its part, of course, resented the attitude we had 
taken at Shimonoseki. Finally the economic hostility 
of England to its German competitor had been given 
an acutely political character by our naval policy. 
And consequently Germany had, in my opinion, to W 
endeavour to reduce the main danger that it could not 
entirely remove (that danger being the alliance of 
France with Russia), by getting English support of 

17 c 



I 



INTRODUCTORY 



this Dual Allliance restricted as far as possible. This 
made it necessary for us to try to come to an under- 
standing with England. 

The Emperor was entirely in agreement with this 
policy and even described it to me in more than one 
discussion as the only possible procedure and the one 
that he himself would pursue with every personal 
means in his power. 

****** 
The Emperor was very profoundly impressed by 
our beleaguered position. On the various occasions 
that he proclaimed the world power of Germany with 
characteristic eloquence and with a confidence inspired 
by the unanticipated aggrandisement of his country, 
he did so in the desire to encourage that country to 
new efforts and to raise it from its daily round by the 
stimulus of his enthusiastic temperament. He wanted 
to see his people strong and steadfast ; but Germany's 
mission, a matter of religious conviction with him, 
was to be a mission of labour and of peace. That 
this labour and this peace should not perish through 
the perils that encompassed it about was his most 
constant care. Again and again has the Emperor 
told me that his journey to Tangiers in 1904, which 
he well knew must involve us in dangerous compli- 
cations, had been undertaken against his own will 
and on the insistence of his political advisers ; and 
that he had made the utmost use of his personal 
influence for a friendly settlement, of the Morocco 

18 



THE EMPEROR'S POLICY 



crisis of 1905. His attitude during the Boer War 
and during the Russo-Japanese War was founded 
similarly on a desire for peace. And certainly a 
bellicose ruler would not have lacked opportunities 
for military adventures. At that time German critics 
were in the habit of asserting that too frequent 
protestations of our peaceful intentions were less 
conducive to peace than an inducement to the Entente 
to pursue a modification of the status quo. This 
consideration is unquestionably of weight in an 
imperialistic age which calculates mainly in terms of 
material power, and only incidentally contemplates 
the maintenance of peace. Such an age was the last 
decade before the war, and it is possible that such 
considerations explain more than one pronouncement 
of the Emperor in which German military power was 
strongly accentuated. Certainly expressions of this 
character did not tend to relax the general tension 
which was straining international relations. But the 
general unrest in the world was really rooted in that 
Balance of Power which divided Europe into two 
camps, anxiously watching each other and armed to 
the teeth. Besides, the Ambassadors of the Great 
Powers knew the Kaiser personally well enough to be 
able to see clearly that his intentions were really 
entirely peaceable. Nothing but a want of honesty 
which can only be explained by the state of mind 
created during the war could have presented to the 
world the odious caricature of a tyrant lusting for 

19 c 2 



INTRODUCTORY 



war, world-power and carnage. The fate that has 
befallen the Emperor in this inexpressible mis- 
representation of a personality profoundly penetrated 
by the ideal of peace is perhaps the greatest tragedy 
of history. Only those who, like myself, had been 
for years in confidential communication with the 
Emperor, and had experienced the passionate desire 
with which he sought a peaceable solution in that 
fatal summer of 1914, can realise how his suffering 
over the fall of Germany must have been embittered 
by these outrages against a sentiment so deeply felt 
and so founded on Christian conviction. 

****** 
The internal situation in Germany was very con- 
fused at the time of my entry into office. Prince 
Billow's policy of governing through a parliamentary 
block had had an indubitable success, in that it had 
drawn progressive liberalism for a time at least from 
its unprofitable position in uncompromising opposition 
and had thereby broadened the basis of Government 
policy. But co-operation with the Progressive party 
had throughout been disliked by the Conservatives 
on practical as well as on personal grounds. And 
the Centrum, although it was in closer touch with the 
Right through countless common interests, found 
itself nevertheless combining with Social Democracy 
in opposition a position imposed on it by the block 
elections but properly resented by it. Perhaps a 
better result would have been reached if the Govern- 

20 



INTERNAL SITUATION 



ment had dealt earlier with the opposition of the 
Centrum as a purely transitory development. The 
dissolution of the Block had made the dislocation of 
parties worse than before it had arisen. The Right, 
relieved at being free from association with the 
Progressive party, was disposed to give more decisive 
expression than ever to extreme Conservative views, 
especially in the Prussian Landtag. The middle- 
class Left was bitterly disappointed at having failed 
in its hope of exercising more influence over policy, 
and was consequently being drawn again into the 
wake of the opposition. Social Democracy had been 
perceptibly weakened by the block elections but had 
only been hardened thereby in its intransigence. 
Only the Centrum had gained any advantage. Thanks 
to adroit leadership which held together the Conser- 
vative and Democratic forces included in its ranks, 
and thanks to prudent tactics that avoided every 
premature issue, it had regained a position that 
corresponded more closely than any other to that 
policy of the line of least resistance imposed by 
general conditions. 

This general accentuation of party lines found 
plentiful encouragement in public opinion outside 
Parliament. It is almost impossible to-day to under- 
stand how the fight could have raged so bitterly over 
such a matter as the income tax with its quite moderate 
burdens, and how fundamental principles of German 
family morality could have been used as weapons in 

21 



INTRODUCTORY 



such a fray. The resistance, especially of the Con- 
servatives, was in this, as in other questions, utterly 
shortsighted, and did much to damage the party in 
the country, especially in so far as it relied on the 
support of the elements constituting the Landlords' 
Association. The reproach that the Conservatives in 
opposing the tax were trying to save their own pockets 
was too obvious not to be eagerly exploited by the 
agitation in the masses. And if the Centrum was 
made to pay less heavily for its refusal of the income 
tax it was probably because it adopted a less hostile 
attitude towards Prussian electoral reform. The 
rigid refusal of the Conservatives to renounce the 
class electoral system that had favoured their party 
so remarkably throughout the course of our national 
development, showed up their policy in its true colours 
of self-seeking class-interest. And this was aggra- 
vated by their refusal to accept an income tax that 
certainly hit landed property harder than other 
capital. 

The party Press, of course, did its best towards 
broadening the split instead of towards bridging it 
gradually. The victory of reaction over reform for 
the fate of the block policy and the fall of Prince 
Biilow were very generally so represented was made 
by social democratic and democratic papers the 
subject of passionate outpourings over the general 
backwardness of our political conditions, which was 
assumed to be due to their dependence on an all 



COLLAPSE OF THE BLOCK 



powerful squirearchy. Nor was it sufficiently con- 
sidered how such exaggerations would miss their 
mark and create erroneous misconceptions abroad. 
As the years went on I was constantly receiving com- 
plaints from Germans who knew the real state of 
affairs at home and saw the reflection of these 
statements abroad. It would not be going too far 
to say that the campaign of hate and contempt 
directed against us by the enemy during the war has 
drawn its munitions from this source as much as 
from Pan-Germanism. 

I, personally, had to suffer as much as anyone from 
the confusion of our internal political conditions. No 
party wished to expose itself to the reproach of pro- 
moting Government policy. This was enough in 
itself to counteract all attempt to form a solid parlia- 
mentary majority. In any case differences of political 
conviction would have made it impossible for me to 
bring my general policy into conformity with that of 
the parties who eventually carried through fiscal 
reform. And on the other hand, policy on the lines 
of Social Democracy and progress was even less a 
practical possibility. The only solution was to 
manufacture a majority as occasion arose ; and as a 
matter of fact it proved to be possible to carry through 
all the Government's proposals in course of time and 
in acceptable form by this procedure, with the excep- 
tion of the electoral reform of Prussia. And this even 
including such drastic legislation as the Constitution 

23 



INTRODUCTORY 



of Alsace-Lorraine, the Insurance Act and the great 
Army Bills. A critic, if without party prejudice, 
will admit that Imperial legislation on the whole 
acquired by this procedure a character, possibly open 
to criticism on party principles, but in closer 
conformity with the manifold requirements of the 
moment than could have been provided by a legislature 
on a purely party basis. 

In general my efforts to put Government before 
party, which were the subject of so much criticism 
and contumely, had an ultimate object that I con- 
sidered as the principal goal of my internal policy 
and attainable by this method alone. There could 
be no question to anyone who studied the matter 
without prejudice that Social Democracy combined 
its bitter struggle against historic fact and its countless 
Utopias, all alike economically and politically im- 
possible, with important objects which were not only 
inspired by idealism but also adapted to the political 
and economic development of its world. Its followers, 
which it counted in millions, were principally recruited 
from a working-class which could claim to have done 
great things in the way of productive activities, and 
which was kept under very strict discipline by the 
economic organisations of the trades unions and the 
political organisations of the party. Only an erro- 
neous conception of the limitations of Government 
authority could cause anyone to suppose that such a 
power as this could be coerced by repressive measures. 

24 






CHANCELLOR AND PARTIES 

The desire prevailing in various regions of the middle- 
class to keep Social Democracy permanently in the 
position of open hostility to the Realm and to the 
Government, even perhaps to drive it still further into 
such hostility, was not practical politics. It could 
not be reconciled with the responsibilities of a policy 
such as mine of a conservative and constructive 
character. I had already expressed my conviction 
to the contrary as Minister of the Interior when I, 
on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the German 
Labour Congress, declared that the adaptation of the 
Labour movement to the existing order of Society 
was the most important task of the times. And not 
long after I repeatedly and emphatically argued in 
the same sense when bringing forward the Labour 
Councils Act, a piece of legislation that unfortunately 
came to nothing. During the war I have firmly 
followed the same line, if possible with even stronger 
emphasis. 

There were continuous and considerable obstacles 
to every attempt to induce gradually the Social 
Democratic party to take a positive as distinct from 
a negative part in governmental responsibility. The 
negative attitude of Social Democracy towards Money 
Grants and Army Bills, its terroristic extravagances 
in wage disputes, its professions of internationalist 
tendencies, and its constant and most damaging 
attacks upon the Monarchy, made every statesman 
suspect to the mass of the middle-class who did not 

25 



INTRODUCTORY 



combat Social Democracy. The middle-classes had 
become partly convinced and partly accustomed to 
consider that the combating of Social Democracy at 
all times and on all occasions was the first requirement 
of sound statesmanship. The spirit of Bismarck was 
always being invoked and that, too, although the 
most uncompromising adherents of his anti-Social 
Democratic policy could not possibly have ignored 
the change in conditions since his time. And if the 
Social ^Democrats themselves might excuse their 
bitterness by pointing to the persecutions that they 
had endured under the Act against Socialism, and to 
many a hard word in subsequent years, yet it was 
they themselves who played into the hands of their 
opponents and made it difficult to protect them from 
demands against them dictated by the spirit of auto- 
cracy and forced as exceptional legislation. 

The confused and fluid condition of parties was 
most unfavourable to the conduct of foreign affairs. 
The external position of Germany, as I have described 
it, was far too serious to allow it to indulge in the 
luxury of heated internal conflicts which would be 
welcomed by an unfriendly foreign public opinion as 
evidence of weakness. For although political life 
requires an emancipated criticism both of men and of 
matters, yet a reckless extravagance in this respect 
must eventually run the risk of giving the appearance 
of political immaturity. And it is impossible to give 
the interests of a country effective representation 

26 



NATIONALIST POINT OF VIEW 

abroad without an esprit de corps sufficient to bridle 
a contumelious criticism. 

The German people had taken long in learning to 
give foreign problems that attention that was re- 
quired by the entry of Germany into world policy. 
That is the impression that one gets from reading 
the annual debate of their representatives in the 
Reichstag on the Foreign Office vote. Many of the 
speeches on this occasion, speeches that were bound 
to make and did make bad blood abroad to no purpose, 
cannot but make us wonder whether the perils of our 
external situation were sufficiently realised in these 
discussions of our foreign policy ; even though on 
the other hand such perils were frequently over- 
estimated on the occasion of debates of Army Bills. 
The people as a whole showed no inclination for 
Chauvinistic impulses. The public read neither 
Nietzsche nor Bernhardi. And as the candidly mate- 
rialist tendencies of the day found ample activity and 
satiety in a fabulous business prosperity, the public 
had no thought for conquest or for empire; while 
this fundamental current of opinion was expressed 
with sufficient accuracy in the policy of the various 
parties in spite of the nationalist campaign of some 
of their leaders. It must be admitted that Social 
Democracy was largely to blame if the nationalist 
point of view was often expressed in extreme forms 
conducive of violent conflicts and culminating in 
undesirable confrontations of national and anti- 

27 



INTRODUCTORY 



national parties. For Social Democracy, whose in- 
ternationalist point of view, whose opposition to 
armaments, and whose acceptance of the principle 
of arbitration constituted a programme that was in 
itself quite logical, pressed these international pro- 
clivities in season and out. The Pan-German propa- 
ganda also made its contribution to the conflict. 

However untrue may be the view that obtained 
general acceptance abroad during the war that the 
German character finds its true expression in Pan- 
Germanism, it was none the less becoming evident in 
1909 that the Pan-German movement had already 
begun to get a firm footing among the Conservatives 
and National Liberals. But this did not react upon 
the policy of the Government. Soon after my 
entry into office I had occasion to give a sharp repulse 
to an offensive of the Pan-German Association. I 
was to learn later, on the occasion of the Morocco 
crisis in 1911, and during the attempts to come to 
an understanding with England, to what extent 
parties who had a strong position in the Prussian 
administration, in the Army, in the Navy, and in 
big business, and who had been affected with Pan- 
German ideas, could and would embarrass the conduct 
of foreign policy. I do not mean that Conservatives 
and National Liberals carried on a campaign that 
contemplated war. But they could not deny them- 
selves gestures that could be interpreted by ill- 
disposed persons as challenges. And they em- 

28 



PAN-GERMANISM 



barrassed my efforts to eliminate the friction surfaces 
in foreign affairs by reproaching me with weakness. 
Their favourite appeals to Bismarck were all the 
more effective in that his successors were powerless 
before the picture of the hero thus presented, even 
when they believed that his political methods were 
being completely misrepresented and that the differ- 
ence in conditions deprived comparisons with his policy 
of all value. 

The increasing approximation of the point of view 
of the Conservative and National Liberals in a Pan- 
German direction had its cause in movements of 
both internal and external policy. The ominous 
materialisation of the vital interests of public life 
which has been the characteristic of the last generation 
was to have its effect also in party politics. And 
just as this materialism was expressed in the case 
of the Conservatives by the dominating influence 
of the Landlords' Association and its associate 
interests, so it was in the case of the National Liberals 
and the captains of industry. And yet no party 
could do entirely without those ideal impulses that 
had once directed it exclusively. Consequently those 
political circles came almost involuntarily together 
whose patriotism was the noisiest ; and it seemed 
inadvisable to the best party traditions to let them 
get a start in the profession of a nationalist point 
of view. Justifiable excitement at the challenge 
from abroad as the policy of encirclement was 

29 



INTRODUCTORY 



regarded by the public generally was a powerful 
stimulus to opinion. And I cannot assert too em- 
phatically that these efflorescences of Pan-Germanism. 

^, were to no small extent the effect of the passionate 
explosions of Chauvinism in the countries of the 
Entente. But this Chauvinism, unlike that of 
Germany, had its source in the official policy of these 
Powers. And this element in the situation retains 
its intrinsic importance independently of the fact 
that Pan-German ideas had gone far to turn German 
heads and were used with such fatal effect by our 
enemies for the discrediting of us Germans. But 
* if we for our part were guilty of an excessive national 
i exuberance, yet the cry from the other camp that 

iC>. rang in the ears of a listening world Germania 
delenda came from the soberest commercial calcu- 
lation. No doubt that made it all the more effective. 



30 



II 

DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

WHEN in the spring of 1911 the French Ambassador, 
Monsieur Jules Cambon, notified me of the proposed 
march against Fez, he could not conceal a certain 
embarrassment. This new deviation of French 
policy was indeed rather too obvious a contradiction 
of the desire for undisturbed relations between the 
two countries of which I had been so often assured. 
The Act of Algeciras had led to a signal success 
secured for France by the Entente Cordiale. French 
policy had ever since been endeavouring to free itself 
by a process of protracted and persistent penetration 
from the restrictions then imposed upon it. But 
now a strong step was to be taken towards a 
Protectorate, and international engagements were to 
be shelved. No one in Paris could have believed 
that we, in view of our political engagements of 1905 
and of our material interests in Morocco, which were 
second only to those of France, could let pass in 
silence a forward move of so arbitrary a character 
which had been in no way provoked by us. But the 

31 



DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

gentlemen of the Quai d'Orsay in no way responded 
to our demand that the Act of Algeciras which had 
been annulled by this French action should be re- 
placed by a new understanding as to the respective 
rights of the two countries. Herr von Kiderlen- 
Waechter, who was at that time Secretary of State, 
was perhaps the ablest diplomat that Germany had 
had of late. But during the long comparative 
inactivity of his post in the Balkans he had been out 
of touch with the essential problems of our policy 
and had been summoned too late to authoritative 
co-operation at headquarters. There he came to 
the conclusion eventually that France could not 
even be brought to negotiate except by drastic 
means. That is how the much debated dispatch of 
the Panther to Agadir came about. It was no more 
than a notification that France would not be allowed 
to ignore our desire for a thorough discussion, forced 
upon us by the dilatory procedure of the Cabinet 
at Paris. It was a defensive rejoinder to an aggressive 
action on the part of France. A third factor in the 
situation that was as indicative of its cause as it was 
determinative of its subsequent course appeared in 
the notorious speech of Lloyd George, which revealed 
the menacing attitude of England towards Germany.* 

* Lloyd George spoke on the 21st of July, 1911, at a Mansion 
House Banquet. After reviewing the benefits of peace and the 
historic role of England, he continued : " But if a situation were to 
be forced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the 
surrender of the great and beneficent position Britain has won 

32 



PANTHER 



* These factors must be borne in mind if you are 
not to misunderstand the significance of this crisis 
for the course conditions were taking throughout 
the world. The surprise of the " Panther's spring " 
came at first as a shock. But those Powers that 
allowed of arbitrary action on the part of France 
while they accused Germany of disturbing the peace 
of the world for protesting against it, must never- 
theless have known well that if we had intended a 
military menace of France we should have chosen 
a very different method from the mooring of a small 
gunboat in the port of Agadir. German policy 
gave ample evidence by holding firmly to the course 
that it had laid down for itself, that it had been 
concerned from the very commencement with nothing 
more than an agreement by arbitration as to the 
differences that had arisen in France. 

The masterful language of Lloyd George could 
not but cause a violent excitement in Germany. 
England therein laid claim in terms to that very 
world-empire that we were later to be hypocritically 

by centuries of heroism and achievement, by allowing Britain to 
be treated where her interests were vitally affected as if she were of 
no account in the Cabinet of Nations, then I say emphatically that 
Peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great 
country like ours to endure." The Ambassador, Count Wolff 
Metternich, was thereupon instructed to call the attention of Sir 
Edward Grey forcibly to this provocation on the part of Mr. Lloyd 
George, adding that we had never intended to dispose in any way 
as to the rights or interests of England ; that such intention only 
existed in English imagination ; but that threats and warnings would 
only encourage Germany to hold fast to its own good right. 

33 D 



DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

accused of aspiring to. Any war was declared to 
be justified that Great Britain might wish to wage 
to secure recognition of its supremacy. What a 
curious contrast to the effusions that have become 
popular during the war as to the equal rights of nations 
and the unlimited love of peace of England herself. 
It was simply impossible to damp down the excite- 
ment in Germany. Distrust of England had of late 
bitten too deep owing to King Edward's policy. 
And the consequent bitterness was not confined to 
political circles that could be accused of Chauvinist 
sympathies or to so-called Militarists, but whole 
strata of society were affected where peace alone 
lay nearest to the heart of everyone. The Emperor, 
although subjected to much personal pressure, never 
for a moment allowed himself to be seduced from his 
firm line of action during these thunderous weeks. 
And I was able to pursue a policy of negotiation in 
complete agreement with the Foreign Office that 
finally led to the Treaty of the 4th of November, 1911. 
The drastic criticism to which this Treaty was 
subjected in the Reichstag seems to me to have 
been highly impolitic. These violent attacks on a 
man who had helped to dispel a deadly danger aroused 
abroad an erroneous suspicion that the outbreak 
of the catastrophe would have been more welcome. 
If, on the other hand, the intention was to convey 
a warning to England, then it was a mistake not to 
see that such strong language in public sessions of 

34 



TREATY OF 1911 



Parliament would have the opposite effect on English 
minds than that which was desired. We should 
have known better from our experiences in 1902, 
when the cold correctness observed during Chamber- 
lain's abortive rapprochement satisfied public opinion 
in Germany but seriously offended it in England.* 

In this way my policy of keeping the conflagration 
away from the accumulated explosives was perhaps 
unintentionally but quite unmistakably frustrated. 
We can see what an unsound estimate was being made 
of conditions from the remarkable opinions of the 
deputy Bassermann, who was looked upon as the 
authority in foreign affairs of his party. He con- 
sidered that we should have made the gravity of 
the situation clear to the French when they refused 
to treat with us, not merely through the Panther, 
but by military action " that should be undertaken 
on our Western frontier seeing that all disputes 
with France leading to war were settled in Europe 
and not in Africa." 

Ridicule at the alleged worthlessness of the Treaty 
of the 4th of November should moreover have been 
kept within bounds. This was prompted no doubt 
by the disappointed ambitions of industrial circles. 
Even before the crisis they had never wearied in 
their efforts to keep the Morocco question going be- 
fore the Reichstag by means of their rapidly growing 
influence there, especially among the National 

* Session of the Reichstag in January, 1902. 

35 D 2 



DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

Liberals. And they had endeavoured to make use 
of national policy in the interest of particular in- 
dustrial enterprises by a publicity campaign supported 
by considerable funds. No doubt there were justifi- 
able complaints of French ill-treatment and trickery 
against the activities of German industry in Morocco 
in violation of the economic convention of 1909. 
But in these quarters no one seemed to take into 
account sufficiently, either during the course or after 
the conclusion of the crisis of 1911, that we were 
acting under force of circumstances owing to our 
general position in the then existing alignment of 
Powers. Nor did they ever reflect as they should 
have that a heavy liability had been laid on us that 
had to be liquidated. 

One incident is worthy of mention as illustrative 
of the personal point of view of the Emperor. In 
the session of the Reichstag of the 9th of November 
the Crown Prince, who had come under Pan-German 
influence, had ostentatiously applauded certain Jingo 
expressions of individual deputies. In order to 
mitigate as far as possible the effect of this as a 
demonstration, the Emperor summoned me that 
same evening before the Reichstag rose and allowed 
me to make representations to the Crown Prince 
who was present. In these representations I struck 
the same note of dissent as that in my speech next 
day in the Reichstag against the deputy von Heyde- 
brand. So decidedly and so drastically did the 

36 






CROWN PRINCE AND HEYDEBRAND 

Emperor approve of a policy directed to the smoothing 
away of world disputes.* 

The final and historical outcome of this second 

* On the 29th of October, Herr von Heydebrand at a Con- 
servative Meeting in Breslau complained in very strong language 
of the decline of German prestige and of the grandiose " impudence " 
of the English Ministry. If even a Liberal Ministry that was 
looked on as pacific in England could shake its fist in our face and 
declare that it alone had to give orders to the world, that was 
very hard upon us who had 1870 behind us. The situation was so 
serious that he could not consider it his patriotic duty to overthrow 
the German Government before the eyes of the world. The Con- 
servatives had, however, never left the Government in any doubt 
that the Conservative party would take its stand behind the Govern- 
ment to a man whenever the latter thought proper to take action 
for the honour and power of the German Empire. In the Session 
of the 9th of November, Herr von Heydebrand had struck an even 
more war-like note and had violently attacked the Government : 
" What secures us peace is not these compliances, these under- 
standings and agreements, but our own good sword and the feeling ^ 
that the French must rightly have, that we hope to see a Govern- 
ment ready not to let the sword rust when the right moment comes." 
In reply to my remarks on the speech of Lloyd George, Herr von 
Heydebrand said : " When we hear a speech that we must consider 
as a threat, as a challenge, as a humiliating challenge it is not so 
easy to pass over it as after dinner speechifying. Such incidents," 
he went on, " had like a flash in the dark shown the German people 
where was the foe. The German people now knows that when it 
seeks foreign expansion and a place in the sun such as* is its right 
and its destiny, where it has to look to for permission to do so or 
not. We Germans are not accustomed to that and cannot allow 
it, and we shall know how to answer. When the time comes the 
German people will know what sort of an answer to give." I 
replied to these expressions on the following day as forcibly as the 
general situation required, and summed up my counsels of prudence 
in the following phrase : " that strength need not brandish the sword." 
Herr von Kiderlen then showed in a speech to the Budget Commission 
that was immediately given to the Press that we had in no way 
transacted with the honour of Germany in the matter of Mr. Lloyd 
George's speech. 

37 



DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

Morocco crisis seems to me still to have been that 
France received a striking proof how confidently it 
could count on English support in all disputes with 
Germany even when British interests were only 
indirectly affected. 

Certainly the provocative policy of France in 
Morocco was by no means universally approved by 
French politicians. " L'impatience de realisation," 
as a witty Frenchman described this policy, was 
not to the taste of those who had been labouring 
for a gradual weighting of the balance against the 
Central Powers, and who were upset by the hasty 
procedure in Morocco. Moreover, a small group 
of politicians and financiers were by no means ill 
disposed towards the idea of the co-operation of 
German capital in certain specific enterprises. In- 
dustrial relations already existed and could be ex- 
tended. But even the supporters of such plans took 
care to point out that the main issue between the 
two people was still open. A European settlement 
must, inevitably, come sooner or later, and if meantime 
one could make one's minor political and commercial 
arrangements as occasion arose, yet the scheme of 
a general understanding must be turned down as often 
as it came up. And the amenities that leading 
Frenchmen were accorded in Germany, especially 
on the part of the Emperor, were merely taken note 
of at best with courtesy but always without confidence. 
The main current was not to be diverted. It led 

38 



POINCARE AND NATIONALISM 

straight towards Chauvinism. The Cabinet that had 
concluded the Morocco agreement, and had thereby 
sacrificed inconsiderable colonial interests, was forced 
to resign. One was not at ease with these men 
who had negotiated with Germany. 

The new Premier, with the help of the Nationalists, 
had made no concealment of his anti-German 
tendencies. Raymond Poincare deliberately made 
a point of emphasising that he was from the Lorraine 
border. All his pronouncements breathed national- 
ism, and their effect in Alsace-Lorraine was plain 
enough. But of course M. Poincare did not see any 
reason why he should not harvest the proceeds of 
his predecessors' labours in the Morocco Protectorate. 
Before all, however, he worked for the military 
strengthening of the Entente. His principal service, 
as French writers will no doubt recognise, was the 
establishment of allied assistance in the Grey-Cambon 
exchange of Notes ; and the simultaneous naval 
agreements by which a large part of the British 
Navy was transferred to the North Sea fall into the 
same category. When M. Poincare was promoted 
in January, 1913, to the Presidency of the Republic 
by quite a considerable majority, it was evident that 
Chauvinistic developments had made great progress. 
It was openly admitted that this Presidential election 
was determined by considerations of foreign politics. 
France was prepared for heavy sacrifices under the 
leadership of her new President. While still Premier, 

39 



DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

M. Poincare* had, as was confidently asserted, re- 
turned from his journey to Russia pledged to introduce 
Three Years' Service. He had made up his mind to 
get the very utmost possible out of France in the 
way of military preparations. He found that his 
Socialist Premier was just as willing to accompany 
him on this road as was his closer associate, M. 
Barthou. It was the Cabinet of the latter who 
carried through the Three Years' Service Act at 
about the same time that the Reichstag voted the 
last great Army Bills. Without sufficiently con- 
sidering the calamities that would fall even on the 
victors, he prepared the ground for war by helping 
to create the conjuncture that threatened peace. 

I could from the first plainly recognise the echo 
of the new trend taken by the French Press on the 
accession to power of M. Poincare" whenever I had 
a conversation with M. Cambon. The Ambassador 
had up till then gone on ringing the changes on the 
theme that personal contact between the leading 
statesmen, such as he himself would gladly bring 
about, might do much towards leading the relations 
of both countries on to the lines of a mutual under- 
standing such as he himself desired. The peaceable 
solution of the tedious Morocco negotiations was 
undoubtedly largely due to his being always patient 
and generally prepared to help. But from now on the 
Ambassador was visibly changed. I heard no more 
of procedure by personal contact. And when the 

40 



FRENCH RENAISSANCE 



Ambassador visited me after one of his frequent 
trips to Paris, while he remained amiable as ever, 
he would become monosyllabic in spite of an epigram- 
matic and exquisite French wit whenever the con- 
versation turned upon public opinion in France. 
Everything was avoided that could suggest that the 
Poincare Ministry was guided by the same spirit of 
reconciliation that he had always been prepared to 
proclaim when the previous Cabinet was in office. 

No one certainly could deceive themselves as to 
the alteration in the French character in the years 
preceding the War. It would be no exaggeration 
to describe this time as a very apparent renaissance 
of the nation after its collapse in 1870. Our last 
Military Attach6 in Paris, Herr von Winterfeld, 
called our attention unceasingly to the obvious 
improvement of the Army that only reflected the 
increased efficiency of the whole people. Perhaps 
profounder preoccupation with the true nature of 
our western neighbour was not general enough 

long us, and we therefore could not do full justice 
the real transformation that was taking place 

ihind certain coarse and crude manifestations of 
the Boulevard spirit. That Chauvinistic passions 
should have sprung up from the reinforcement of the 
general vitality of a nation with such proud military 
traditions as the French was only a phenomenon 
common to all similar historical developments. The 
debacle of 1870 could not be forgotten, and revenge 

41 



DIFFICULTIES WITH FRANCE 

for military defeat was a feeling ever present to a 
people that was perhaps not directly seeking ven- 
geance. It was certainly not the case that the loss of 
Alsace-Lorraine had destroyed French peace of mind. 
The idea of winning back the lost provinces no 
doubt smouldered continuously in the neighbouring 
Departments. But in the rest of France the public 
would not have gone on rejecting a real under- 
standing with us on account of this question, provided 
those in power at Paris had pursued such a policy. 
But as the latter turned ever further and more 
firmly away from Germany, under the guidance of 
M. Poincare*, either out of patriotic conviction or 
from fear of losing power in the conflict of parties 
the public on their side had to follow them. For 
nowhere in the world probably is the power of an 
ambitious minority greater than in France. The 
French themselves have before the war admirably 
exposed this political peculiarity. 

French Socialism, moreover, could not combat 
with success such nationalist activities. I have 
never forgotten an illustration in the popular Figaro 
dating from the first Morocco crisis in which a 
piou-piou confronts Socialism represented as an 
old woman agitator with the words " old woman, 
you are wasting your time, your day is over." This 
gives an idea of the weapons with which Chauvinism 
could work against Socialism in France, a country 
that has always prided itself on being in the fore- 

42 






FRENCH SOCIALISM 



front of social movement. The war-like ambition 
of the nation as a whole was the all-powerful factor. 
Could a turn of the tide be seen in the events of 
1914 ? The elections to the Chamber of the 26th 
of April had, it is true, given a safe majority for the 
Three Years' Service, but the elections in May had 
been a complete success for the Socialists. As 
Jaures wrote in VHumanite, they were a declaration 
against " the unbridled calumnies of nationalism 
and reaction." And on the 16th of July the French 
Congress of Socialists voted a resolution that was to 
be referred to the Vienna International Socialists' 
Congress. This resolution demanded, after referring 
to pronouncements of the Alsace Social Democrats 
and of the German Social Democratic Congress in 
Vienna, " that Alsace-Lorraine should be given 
autonomy, in the conviction that thereby the Franco- 
German rapprochement indispensable to the peace 
of the world would be greatly facilitated." But 
the world went on its own way over the dead body 
of Jaures. M. Poincare was not concerned with i 
rapprochement or autonomy. He was going to take i *j 
Alsace-Lorraine. And Sukhomlinoff and Co. were 
to help him to do it. 



43 



Ill 

OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 

ENDEAVOURS to combat the mistrust that burdened 
our relationship with England by opening up ne- 
gotiations on particular subjects date from the very 
beginning of my Chancellorship. The Emperor had 
the personal impression that prospects in England 
were not entirely unfavourable. Accordingly in the 
first days of August, 1909, I began conversations 
bearing on the Naval question with the Ambassador, 
Sir Edward Goschen. I found the Ambassador on 
the whole doubtful of success, and subsequently got 
the impression that, although his grandfather had 
been a German, he was not working with any deep 
,ji, \ fervour for a real rapprochement between the two 
countries. He was in any case much more chilly 
than his predecessor at the Court of Berlin, Sir 
Frank Lascelles, who advocated the idea of a better 
understanding with conviction. The long-drawn- 
out negotiations did not lead to the desired con- 
clusion, in the first place because the Cabinet in 

44 



SIR EDWARD GREY 






London did not seem themselves to have an interest 
in making them succeed, and in the second place 
because no formula could be found that would satisfy 
the Naval authorities on either side. 

After the storm had blown over that had lowered 
heavy with war ever since the intervention of the 
English Government in the Morocco settlement, 
various quarters in England also set to work to 
reckon up the profits and losses of the policy hitherto 
followed. A small group of Liberal politicians entered 
into very active opposition against Sir Edward 
Grey's conduct of foreign affairs. They demanded 
a thorough reconsideration of the policy of the 
English Cabinet which, if continued, must increasingly 
imperil the peace of the world. A good illustration 
of this period will be found in an article in the Nation, 
an English weekly that was earnestly trying to \ . 
counteract bellicose tendencies, and that was the 
centre of a circle of advocates of an understanding, 
who were not without insight and importance. 
" The closing of the Moroccan incident," said this 
paper in October, 1911, " has restored us our freedom 
of action." The relations between the two rivals, 
the article went on, must become cordial and con- 
fidential before it would become possible to discuss 
the restriction of the naval programme. And this 
would depend on the capacity of German and English 
diplomacy to work together in the interests of the 
future. " We have come to the point of seeing 

45 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



Germany everywhere as Germany everywhere sees 
England, and that always in an attitude of hostility 
and distrust." 

One went so far in these circles as to demand the 
retirement of Sir Edward Grey, a demand that was 
in any case quite hopeless, as the trio, Asquith, Grey 
and Haldane, were quite inseparable in the Cabinet. 
These three Liberal Imperialists, as they were called 
as late as 1916 by a personal follower of Lord Haldane, 
received steady support from Lloyd George in all 
decisive questions of foreign policy. The new First 
Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, was also 
a firm supporter of theirs. And yet in the autumn 
of 1911 the undercurrent of opinion in the country 
seems to have convinced the Cabinet that a serious 
attempt at improving Anglo-German relations must 
be undertaken. The country had seen with alarm 
how close to the brink of the abyss of war it had been 
led, and the mass of the English people did not want to 
have anything to do with war any more than did the 
masses in France or in Germany. It was recognised 
on the other side of the Channel that the profound 
agitation in Germany had not been artificially excited, 
but was the result of an antagonism between the 
two countries that had been driven into an acute 
phase by Lloyd George's speech. And English eyes 
were not closed to those further consequences that 
might result from the agitation for an increase of 
Naval armaments that was being carried on by large 

46 



NAVAL SUPREMACY : WORLD TENSION 

sections of the German public. But it was just these 
tensions between the public opinion of both countries 
that hampered realisation of that policy of under- 
standing that they themselves had forced to the 
front. In Germany, on the one hand, all those who 
considered a reinforcement of our fleet as of vital 
importance for the security of the country loudly 
called for a new naval programme. In England, 
on the other, where Naval supremacy was con- 
sidered as a matter of life or death, the imminent 
necessity of a disagreeable increase of taxation for 
the Navy was anticipated by the argument that if the 
German fleet was increased Anglo-German relations 
could not improve. English Ministers in their 
speeches took the line that England would stick at 
nothing in order to retain its former superiority in 
spite of any German increase of naval armament. 
And thus from the very beginning the desire for a 
rapprochement was intwined with cross threads from 
both sides that it was very difficult to disentangle. 

# * * * * 

In the first days of December, 1911, the Emperor 
gave his assent to the policy of approaching English 
statesmen. The guiding principle was to be the 
re-establishment of a political understanding as a 
preliminary to all agreements on particular subjects. 
The general tension throughout the world originated 
indeed in the certainty of English support enjoyed 
by a Franco-Russian policy through whose ultimate 

47 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



objects we were endangered. True, it was asserted 
on the English side that England had never given 
France any reason to doubt that it would not support 
an unprovoked attack on Germany. Such declara- 
tions, however, given in camera caritatis, were not 
decisive. Just after France had received in the 
Morocco crisis a testimony of the firm friendship of 
England that had been trumpeted to the whole world, 
a gradual damping down of the revanche idea that had 
been rekindled under the leadership of Poincare was 
only to be hoped for if England provided some open 
and obvious proof of its determination to get upon 
a good footing with Germany. And only in relation 
with such proof did it seem to me possible to emanci- 
pate the naval question in Germany from the nervous 
strain to which it had been ultimately subjected 
by the existing alignment of Powers. 

A conversation that the German Ambassador 
arranged with Sir Edward Grey just before Christmas 
suggested that the prospects were not unfavourable. 
No later than the end of January the well-known 
English financier, Sir Ernest Cassel, arrived in Berlin, 
carefully avoiding calling attention to his journey. 
He handed the Emperor a Memorandum on the 
joint authority of Grey, Churchill and Lloyd George, 
of which the purport was approximately as follows : 
Acceptance of English superiority at sea no augmen- 
tation of the German naval programme a reduction 
as far as possible of this programme and, on the part 

48 






SIR ERNEST CASSEL 



of England, no impediment to our colonial expansion 
discussion and promotion of our colonial ambitions 
proposals for mutual declarations that the two 
Powers would not take part in aggressive plans or 
combinations against one another. 

Cassel returned with a reply that welcomed all 
steps towards an improvement in relations, and that 
declared our agreement with the proposals in question, 
subject to the reservation that in the naval question 
we took our stand upon the Naval Acts plus the 
Naval Bill already prepared. We suggested that 
an early visit of Sir Edward Grey would be desirable. 
Soon after we were informed through the same 
intermediary that Grey was willing to come to Berlin 
for personal negotiation in case the conclusion of 
an agreement seemed assured. We were further 
notified of the intention of the English Cabinet to 
send over the War Minister, Haldane, on a private 
mission for such negotiation. At a later stage of 
these unofficial preliminaries we let London know 
that concessions were possible in the matter of the 
Naval Bill, but only provided that we received 
simultaneous and satisfactory securities as to a 
friendly orientation of the English policy. 

On the 8th of February, Lord Haldane arrived in 
Berlin. Our long and confidential conversation was 
conducted on the most friendly lines and with great 
candour. Haldane asserted emphatically that persons 
in authority in England were working not only for 

49 E 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



an improvement but for a friendly reconstruction 
of relations. On the following day Haldane had 
an interview with the Emperor at which Admiral 
von Tirpitz was present. The understanding seemed 
already well under way. We made the concession 
that of the three ships in our Bill the first would 
not be required before 1913, the two others in 1916 
and 1919, and this seemed to satisfy the English 
Minister. In a private conversation he described 
himself as particularly pleased at the impressions 
he had received, and full of hope for the success of a 
development in world history such as he considered 
the newly-opened negotiation. 

On the German side an elaborate draft Treaty 
was drawn up centring on a definite declaration of 
neutrality between England and Germany. The 
formula was as follows : " Should one of the High 
Contracting Parties become involved in a war with 
one or more Powers, the other Contracting Party will 
at least observe a benevolent neutrality towards the 
Party involved in the war, and will use his utmost 
endeavours to localise the conflict." 

Haldane on his side proposed the following formula : 
" Neither Power will make or prepare to make 
any unprovoked attack upon the other or join in 
any combination or design against the other for 
purposes of aggression, or become party to any plan 
of naval or military enterprise alone or in combina- 
tion with any other Power directed to such an end." 

50 



HALDANE'S MISSION 



The rest of the draft Treaty was concerned with 
colonial questions in which Haldane made extensive 
offers in compensation for German concessions in the 
Bagdad Railway question. Besides an extension of 
the German colonial possessions in South-West 
Africa on the basis of an understanding as to the 
acquisition of Portuguese Angola, he contemplated 
also the handing over of Zanzibar and Pemba to 
Germany. 

The English Minister admitted in the course of 
discussions of these respective formulae that the 
obligation imposed by his proposal upon England was 
too weak, but he declared from the beginning that 
our formula went too far for him. He brought up 
some examples in order to illustrate this point of 
view. Should England attack Denmark in order to 
establish itself there, even if it were only to make a 
naval base or to exercise pressure over Denmark in 
any other way that would be inacceptable to Germany, 
Germany must keep its hands free ; or should Ger- 
many fall upon France, England in such a case could 
lot have its hands tied. And although I had no 
>on to doubt that Haldane had given the case 
of Denmark only as an academic example, yet he, 
in another connection on the same day, showed that 
he was apparently really afraid that we would break 
loose against France if we were sure of the neutrality 
of England. Certainly he did not again adopt 
this suspicious attitude towards me personally in 

51 E 2 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



the further course of our conversation a suspicion 
sufficiently contradicted by Germany's behaviour 
during the last generation. But he repeatedly 
asserted, and that too with great emphasis, that 
England's relations with France and Russia must 
under no conditions be prejudiced by closer con- 
nections with Germany. In all this I got the im- 
pression that Haldane was thoroughly well disposed. 
He tried to combine our formulae, and accepted the 
idea of benevolent neutrality with the reservation that 
only wars were concerned in which the party to the 
agreement could not be considered the aggressor. 

In respect of the naval question, which as I have 
said was dealt with in an interview between the 
Emperor, Admiral von Tirpitz and Lord Haldane 
with not unfavourable results, Haldane throughout 
admitted to me that we must bring in a Naval Bill 
and have a Third Squadron. The establishment of 
this Squadron would certainly compel England to 
maintain a larger North Sea Fleet, but that was a 
matter of indifference to England. The principal 
point was, in his opinion, that England should not 
be compelled to reply to German increases of Dread- 
noughts by building double. He recognised that 
English wishes for a slowing down of the three 
Dreadnoughts provided for in the Bill would be met 
if the years 1913, 1916 and 1919 were fixed on, but 
he could not say how the English Cabinet might 
judge in the matter, and he therefore put the question 

52 



BERLIN NEGOTIATIONS 



whether we could not give up all new building for 
the next few years. If we succeeded in concluding 
the " political agreement," relations would take on 
so friendly a form that an increase of building at a 
later date would not prejudice them. 

I did not enter into discussion of these technical 
questions but said that for my part, in so far as the 
political question was concerned, the scope of the 
" political agreement " would be decisive. 

On Sir Edward Grey meeting our Ambassador 
after Haldane's return, he expressed himself as highly 
satisfied. He had been, he said, " immensely im- 
pressed " by Haldane's report of his interview, and 
declared that he would further the good work with 
all his power ! He hoped that we should succeed 
in dissipating the war cloud over the two peoples. 
Everything else would depend on a careful examina- 
tion of our proposals. Public expressions of opinion in 
England were also friendly. Asquith made a sympa- 
thetic reference in the Commons, and Lord Crewe 
in the Lords, to the conversations that had been 
commenced, and the leaders of the Opposition, 
Bonar Law and Lord Lansdowne, gave cordial ex- 
pression to the wish for a better understanding. The 
English Press abstained from unfriendly comment, 
but all the same emphasised in many cases in no 
uncertain terms that absolute loyalty to the friendship 
with France must be a condition precedent of any 
association elsewhere. 

53 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



While Haldane had personally considered satis- 
factory our concessions in the Naval question, the 
English Admiralty came to a different conclusion 
after examining our Naval Bill that Haldane had 
brought with him. The Admiralty pushed into the 
background the question of the Dreadnoughts on 
which Haldane had laid the greatest stress, but raised 
the greatest objections to the rest of the Bill and es- 
pecially to the increase of personnel. They main- 
tained that if the Bill became law England would 
have to spend eighteen millions more on its fleet. 
Their deep distrust of the real or supposed plan of our 
Naval authorities was as unmistakable as the 
increasing anxiety in German naval circles lest our 
naval preparations be put a stop to. 

I, personally, had made up my mind to work for the 
limit of concession in the question of the Naval Bill, 
provided that I could find a compensating counter- 
weight in a political agreement. But this England 
would not give us. After tedious negotiations Sir 
Edward Grey at last conceded the following formula : 
" As the two Powers are mutually desirous of main- 
taining friendly and peaceable relations Britain 
declares that she will neither make nor join in any 
unprovoked attack upon Germany. Aggression upon 
Germany forms no part of any treaty or combination 
to which Britain is now a party nor will she become a 
party to any agreement that has such an attack for 
object." 

54 



ENGLISH NEUTRALITY 



This formula, which only secured us against un- 
provoked war-making on the part of England itself, 
but not against the participation of England in 
hostilities against Germany in the case of a Franco- 
Russian attack, could not effectively relieve the crisis 
in world conditions as then constituted. We there- 
fore proposed an additional clause, that England would 
of course maintain benevolent neutrality " should 
a war be forced upon Germany," but Sir Edward 
Grey roundly refused such an addition, and that, too, 
as he explained to our Ambassador, from fear lest it 
should imperil existing friendships with other Powers. 

That was the deciding point. 

It was characteristic of the English point of view 
as to peace and war that renunciation of a policy 
of unprovoked aggression should be considered an 
especial proof of friendship. And the reasons given 
for refusing our additional clause revealed the pos- 
sibility that England looked on as the outcome of 
the Franco-Russian Alliance and at the same time 
indicated the position which was taken up in the 
Entente Cordiale. Sir Edward Grey's anxiety was 
only justifiable if he believed that he must take into 
his political reckoning the forcing of a war by the 
friends of England, and if he held himself bound even 
in such an event to give his support to the Allied 
Powers. Failing such assumptions there was no 
obvious reason why a neutrality agreement so strictly 

55 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 

defined as the one we had proposed should have caused 
ill feeling in France and Russia. The difference 
between English and German policy was in this 
brought into strong relief. Germany wanted to 
relieve, or better still to remove, the antagonism 
between the existing groups of Powers. Success in 
these efforts of ours would have been as much in 
our own interest as to the advantage of world peace. 
England on the other hand was looking in the first 
place to the maintenance of its power group intact, 
and as this group had been drawn up in battle order 
against Germany, as was clear to the whole world, 
this envolved the keeping of this antagonism alive. 
England accepted the perpetual menace of the world 
peace that was necessarily involved in this policy 
as part of the business. This was its renowned policy 
of the Balance of Power. 

This is also the conclusion that will be come to by 
those who held the view, subsequently, as they 
believe, justified by the event, that the English 
statesmen were only making a show of negotiations 
in the Haldane mission so as to get rid of our Naval 
Bill. This conclusion has been encouraged of late 
by the English version of the matter made in defence 
of Haldane against English attacks. It amounts 
more or less to this, that it was Haldane' s task 
to keep Germany in a good temper while England 
completed its preparations for war.* 

* Harold Begbie, The Vindication of Great Britain, London, 1916. 

56 



BALANCE OF POWER 



I am the less concerned with arguing against an 
interpretation that runs quite counter to my personal 
impressions, in that it originates from a quarter 
notoriously in close touch with the former English 
Minister of War. For my part I still to-day incline 
to the view that we had to do with an honourable 
attempt to come to an understanding on the part 
of England. It failed because England was not 
willing to follow out this understanding into its 
logical consequences. An understanding with us 
meant that France and Russia must lose the certainty 
that they could continue to count upon the support 
of England in pursuing an anti-German policy. But 
that was just what England would not do and just 
what England could not do in view of its engage- 
ments, as is shown by the anxiety of Grey in respect 
to our additional clause as to neutrality. That 
is the real reason why the attempt at an understanding 
was wrecked. 

The naval question was an important but not a 
deciding factor. True, public opinion in both 
countries had become greatly inflamed over the 
conflict between the English claim to supreme sea 
power and German conviction of the vital necessity 
of a strong battle fleet. But German naval policy 
had already for years been exercising to exhaustion 
its full effect over the general principles of English 
policy. The Entente Cordiale had already been 
concluded with France in 1904, and with Russia at 

57 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



Reval in 1908. And since the military conferences 
between the French and English General Staff in 
1906. France had felt sure of England's military 
co-operation. 

Sir Edward Grey, as I have already said, had 
impressed on me the prior right of the friendship of 
the Dual Alliance in so emphatic and exceptional a 
manner since 1909 that I could have no doubts as 
to the determination to pursue this policy of associa- 
tion with the Dual Alliance, corresponding as it 
did with the political traditions of England, however 
ignorant I might be as to the exact content of the 
Entente agreements. But I could not have carried, 
or even effectively have advocated, an abandonment 
of the Naval Bill merely on the strength of the 
renunciation of an unprovoked policy of aggression 
conceded by the English Cabinet, and without a 
perceptible alteration of the general political situation. 
For there had been too much reason for the excite- 
ment at the attitude of England during the second 
Morocco crisis to allow of this. For this the conviction 
that a reinforcement of the battle fleet was absolutely 
indispensable to our national defence was too deeply 
rooted a conviction, as I even at that time personally 
believed, erroneous but widespread and well supported. 

It was perhaps a mistake that we underestimated 
the binding force of England's engagements with 
the Dual Alliance exhibited in the attitude of Sir 
Edward Grey, and consequently started negotiations 

58 



IMPROVED RELATIONS 



from too broad a base line. Perhaps nothing more 
than practical reconciliation of interests was possible, 
and we should have given up any immediate recon- 
struction of the existing alignment of Powers. While 
this would not have essentially improved our position 
for several years, yet it might have led in the course 
of some more or less protracted period to that relaxa- 
tion of tension that our beleaguered position had 
caused me to work for in all haste and even over 
hastily. From this point of view the introduction o^* r *'^ 
of the Naval Bill was a mistake, as being a move that 
embarrassed the relaxation that we had in view. 
At the time when the failure of the negotiations for 
a political agreement had had to be accepted as 
almost certain by us, Sir Edward Grey had said to 
Count Metternich that he hoped that in any case, 
even if no agreement could be arrived at, the Haldane 
Mission and the free and open exchange of views that 
it had brought about might serve as a basis for a more 
candid and confidential relationship in future. This 
expectation was, as a matter of fact, not only ratified 
in principle but realised in practice. Combined 
work became much easier than before, and much 
more fruitful, especially during the course of the 
Balkan wars in 1912-13 and on the Ambassadors' 
Conference in London. The improvement of re- 
lations was even clearer when we began to try to 
settle concrete disputes, leaving on one side all abstract 
political discussions. Herr von Jagow, who had 

59 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



succeeded to the conduct of Foreign Affairs, carried 
out this idea with great political acumen and with 
astute acceptance of the Fabian firmness with which 
English policy clung to the existing alignment of 
Powers. German and English interests had come into 
closest contact in Asiatic Turkey, where the Bagdad 
Railway enterprise had caused much disfavour and 
disquiet in England. Agreement as to these issues was 
of all the more importance in that it offered an oppor- 
tunity of coming to an arbitral settlement with 
France and Russia as to mutual interests in those 
countries. Jagow's plan provided, therefore, for the 
whole complex of questions over which we came into 
contact in Asia Minor, not only with England, but 
with the whole Entente Cordiale. In these negotia- 
tions England showed itself a hard bargainer as 
always, but well disposed. It was, moreover, quite 
ready to meet us when we again took up at about 
this time the African colonial question that had 
already been raised by Lord Haldane. The general 
agreement with which England met our desires for 
consolidation and expansion of our African colonial 
possessions provides a striking refutation of the 
audacious assertion that the Entente have now dared 
to put forward, and that England has so enthusi- 
astically pressed, that Germany was unworthy of 
holding Colonies. An agreement on Asia Minor 
questions was on the point of conclusion, and a 
Colonial agreement was already concluded, when 

60 



ASIA MINOR: AFRICA 



war broke out. The policy of agreements on particu- 
lar issues had proved itself practicable. 

During this time English policy, true to the 
principles that had been maintained during the 
Haldane mission, was busily engaged in making its 
friendship with the Dual Alliance weatherproof. In 
September, 1912, was concluded an Anglo-French 
Naval Convention under which the security of the 
Mediterranean was entrusted to France with its entire 
fleet, while England took over the protection of the 
North Coast of France. In November of that year, as be- 
came definitely known at the outbreak of war, Grey and 
Cambon exchanged those despatches that committed 
English policy thereafter irreparably and in writing. 

Sir Edward Grey has been at great pains to explain 
in his speech of the 3rd of August, 1914, that this 
exchange of Notes with Cambon did not bind England 
to take part in the World War. That is true enough. 
But all the same this correspondence had a very 
powerful practical effect. France had been for 
almost a decade united with England in the closest 
political friendship, and had received the most striking 
proofs of that friendship in the two Morocco crises. 
Since 1906 the two general staffs had in periodic 
discussions been deciding on behalf of their Govern- 
ments how the two armies could most effectively 
co-operate together in the case of a war with Germany. 
And if France could now bring it about, almost 
directly after the two Morocco crises and the menace 

61 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



of war created by Lloyd George's threatening speech, 
that the regular consultation of the two staffs should 
be authorised in writing and on a broad political 
basis, then France could properly draw no other 
conclusion than that it could count upon English 
support in the case of a war with Germany even if 
England nominally reserved its liberty of action as 
to participation in the war. The circumstances under 
which this correspondence between Grey and Cambon 
took place, like the verbal arrangements of 1906, 
gave its purport a force such as is lacking to many 
a treaty of alliance in which definite obligations have 
been formulated. It would not be just to Sir Edward 
Grey to question the assurances to which he gave 
such emphatic expression in the speech of the 3rd of 
August, that he had worked for peace during the 
Balkan war and had sought peaceable solutions even as 
late as July, 1914. But he is perhaps labouring under 
an unconscious self-deception in laying claim to credit 
for this as well as for his general policy. His policy 
of alliances that was so strongly marked in the military 
agreements, and that contemplated even the gravest 
possibilities, was calculated more than anything 
else to stiffen the backbone of the Dual Alliance. 
And every schoolboy in Europe knew that the objects 
of Franco-Russian policy were not friendly to Ger- 
many. The blindest hater of Germany could not 
deny that the uneradicated French demand for the 
re-acquisition of Alsace-Lorraine, and Russian 

62 



GREY'S ATTITUDE 



ambitions in the Balkans and Constantinople, could 
only be realised through war. 

In this way the Grey theory had the actual effect, 
which was aggravated by the activity of his colleagues, 
not of promoting peace but of precipitating war. 
Whatever view may be taken of the ultimate objects 
pursued by England, whether the prevailing intention 
was to render Germany compliant by diplomatic 
action to all British demands supported by recourse 
to the pressure of the Allied military prepon- 
derance or whether a war with Germany was looked 
upon as inevitable, the actual result in encouraging 
the aggressive tendencies inherent in the Dual Alliance 
cannot now be disputed. 

English policy was to take an even stronger line in 
the spring of 1914. I learnt about what then took 
place through the Russian documents that have 
since been published.* 

These documents established the fact that Russia 
had used the presence of Sir Edward Grey in Paris 
in April, 1914, on the occasion of the visit of the King 
and Queen of England, in order to bring about the 
conclusion of an Anglo-Russian Naval Convention 
through the intermediary of the French Government. 
The object of this was, as Count Benckendorff wrote 
to M. Sassonow, " to substitute something tangible 
for the altogether too abstract and pacific funda- 
mental idea of the Entente." It was also shown that 

* Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 18th 29th December, 1918. 

63 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



Grey readily accepted the Russian proposal that was 
warmly pressed on him by the French Government, 
and applied for and obtained the consent of the 
English Cabinet. Further, that by arrangement the 
military and naval authorities took over the negotia- 
tions while the Government stood on one side in order 
if necessary to be able to deny any political 
engagements. 

As soon as we heard of this we struck a warning 
note in a German paper, and instructed Prince 
Lichnowsky to indicate to Sir Edward Grey that we 
had reason to suspect disquieting developments. 
Grey, much annoyed that the truth as to this carefully 
kept secret had leaked out, made an involved and 
embarrassed statement in reply to a question in his 
own Parliament on the llth of June, in which he 
denied that the complete liberty of decision either of 
the Government or of Parliament had in any way 
been anticipated. But his real intention in this 
statement, as Count Benckendorff telegraphed to 
M. Sassonow the same day, was to disguise both the 
arrangements with France as also the negotiations 
that had been opened with Russia. 

The Naval Convention was as far as we know 
never concluded. The readiness of the English 
Cabinet, however, to conclude it was ample security 
for Russia as to the purpose and the point of view of 
England. Had not Russia just been pursuing under 
the eyes of England a stormy policy in respect to the 

64 



RUSSIAN POLICY 



Balkan wars which was nothing less than provocative 
of European complications ? Had not M. Sassonow 
only a few weeks before exploited the Liman Sanders 
question for an openly bellicose policy ? Even if 
Sir Edward Grey disapproved of the arbitrary 
activities developed in these matters by M. Sassonow, 
he was doing nothing less than inciting similar 
tendencies in Russia in giving glad assent to a Naval 
Agreement with Russia under pressure from France 
on the top of such proceedings. A Naval Agreement, 
moreover, which was to guarantee to Russia the 
English shipping required for the military invasion 
of Pomerania. As in the case of the exchange of 
Notes with Cambon, the proof of the pudding was in 
the eating, but this pudding was a bit too thick. 
We can read the complete contentment of Russia and 
France, who recognised that Grey could not conclude 
a formal alliance in view of English public opinion, 
in the report of Count Benckendorff to M. Sassonow 
as to the success of the English visit to Paris : " I am 
very doubtful whether a stronger guarantee for joint 
military operations in case of war could have been 
found than that provided by the spirit of this Entente 
as now revealed and as reinforced by existing military 
precautions." 

Sir Edward Grey had surrounded all military 
arrangements with France and Russia with the most 
absolute and anxious secrecy. He has himself told 
us that his own Cabinet was only informed of the 

65 F 



OVERTURES TO ENGLAND 



exchange of Notes with Cambon a considerable time 
afterwards. And that there should have been any 
secrecy at all allows us to conclude that English 
public opinion, that was of old unfavourable to any 
far-reaching political engagement, had an instinctive 
sense of the danger of war involved in all military 
agreements and did not at that time want war. 

The more difficult it is to get at the real opinion of 
a country and especially of a foreign country, the 
more careful one must be to avoid exaggeration. 
Clamorous Chauvinists and consolatory pacifists exist 
everywhere, and between them stands the great 
average mass that works in silence, that wants 
peace and will only agree to war when the safety and 
honour of its country are attacked. It would be as 
perverse to attribute bellicose tendencies to the English 
people from the crude and often staggeringly candid 
declarations of English Jingoes as it would be to 
accept as moral truth the Entente clamour as to 
the bloodthirstiness and barbarism of German Huns. 
But although the general mass kept silence when the 
Chauvinists trumpeted their hate and havoc about 
the world, or when pacifists preached a peaceable 
settlement, yet even they looked upon a Germany 
that kept on growing as an unwanted and troublesome 
intruder on the sanctity of British supremacy over the 
commerce and oceans of the world. This feeling, 
stronger in some quarters, weaker in others, gave the 
keynote of sentiment everywhere, in spite of the much 



i 



ENGLISH PUBLIC OPINION 



good business that many did with their cousins across 
the North Sea. This communis opinio was the base 
in the English people itself for a policy of ever closer 
friendship and association with France and Russia, 
and this association became so intimate that English 
statesmen could finally no longer refuse the fatal 
solicitations of their friends. 



67 F 2 



IV 

TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

WHILE we were still deep in negotiations with 
France as to Morocco, Italy laid hands on Tripoli. 
The Triple Alliance seemed to be on its last legs. 
The Entente camp made no concealment of its 
malicious satisfaction at Italy having taken a line 
which must, it was hoped, lead it away from its 
allies. There was nothing in the Triple Alliance 
itself to stand in the way of this Italian undertaking, 
for Italy was not bound to get our consent for action 
in Africa. But we had to see that Italy, in pursuing 
its African ambitions, did not come into conflict with 
the general interests of the alliance as comprised in 
the Treaty. And more than once during the Tripoli 
campaign occasions arose when it was difficult to 
keep Italy and Austria-Hungary in agreement. As 
the war in the Cyrenaica proceeded, Italy wanted to 
attack Turkey in Europe in order to force a decision. 
This caused a crisis in the question of the Balkan 
status quo as to which special conventions had for 
some time existed between Italy and Austria-Hungary. 

68 



VON KIDERLEN AT ROME 



More than once we had to intervene in order to prevent 
the differences between our allies from developing 
into a serious danger. 

In this the French were involuntarily of considerable 
assistance to us. I cannot say whether the Entente 
had especially instigated Italy to its Tripoli enterprise. 
But now that the Moroccan dispute had been peaceably 
settled France had no Jonger any particular interest 
in preventing a solution of the Tripoli affair. In any 
case, the two Western Powers had long recognised 
the reversion claimed by the Italians in this remnant 
of the Ottoman Empire, and a realisation of this 
reversion was undoubtedly a part of their general 
plan for the partition of the North African littoral. 
But the French were to prove that there is not 
always honour among thieves, for after carrying off 
their booty they tried to cut down the Italians' 
share. They made difficulties for the Italians at 
sea and about Tunis, and both in private and public 
worked against their establishment in Tripoli. They 
wanted to prevent the Italians from having too easy 
a success, and they feared Italian ambitions in Tunis. 

Thus it came about that Italy was again brought to 
recognise the uses of the Triple Alliance. On the 
Secretary of State, von Kiderlen, visiting Rome in 
January, 1913, he was received with the warmest 
cordiality. The King and the principal Ministers 
outdid each other in demonstrations of friendship, 
while military circles became expansive as to the 

69 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

enhanced military value of Italy for its allies, now 
that Tunis or even Egypt might be threatened from 
Tripoli and the Cyrenaica. The meeting of the 
Emperor with King Victor Emmanuel in March was 
no less reassuring, and the political conversations of 
the two Monarchs even more than usually harmonious* 
The King made no attempt to disguise his dissatisfac- 
tion at the French encroachments. So, when San 
Giuliano came to Berlin in November everything 
essential for the renewal of the Triple Alliance was 
easily arranged, and our success in effecting this 
renewal, soon after the end of the Tripoli campaign 
and two years before the official expiration of the 
Treaty, in spite of considerable opposition especially 
in Northern Italy, was due largely to Italy's experi- 
ences in its African enterprise. It looked as though 
the Triple Alliance might have a new lease of life. 
But it could not be restored to its original vigour, for 
Rome had involved itself in too many responsibilities. 
It had laid down all manner of lines not only with the 
Western Powers, but with Russia, too. We certainly 
had no detailed information how far Italy had gone 
with Russia at Racconigi only the latest Bolshevist 
revelations have shown us that Italy in October, 1909, 
had got Russian consent to its Tripolitan schemes 
by concessions as to the Straits question but even 
without such specific knowledge we felt that too 
much reliance was not to be placed on Italy. 

The Italian attack on Tripoli was a grave embar- 

70 



TRIPOLI AND THE TRIPLICE 

rassment of our relations with Turkey. The Entente 
Press lost no time and spared no trouble in impressing 
on the Turks the falsity of our friendship that could 
not even impose restraint on our allies. But the 
confidence enjoyed by the Secretary of State, von 
Kiderlen, and the Ambassador in Constantinople, 
von Marschall, was strong enough to stand the 
strain. Moreover, dangers were now threatening 
Turkey that quite dwarfed this fight for an African 
outpost. The Porte had no alternative but to come 
to terms with Italy as speedily as possible in order to 
defend itself against enemies nearer home and far 
more formidable. 

****** 
In February, 1912, the Balkan States began their 
preparations for a joint attack on Turkey. We got 
early indications as to what was going on, and in the 
course of the summer we had definite information 
that a Balkan alliance was concluded. We could also 
assume that Russia was backing it up. On M. 
Sassonow passing through Berlin the day that 
Montenegro declared war, Herr von Kiderlen remarked 
to him that patronising unruly Balkan peoples 
seemed a dangerous game, to which the Russian 
statesman could only reply that Russia had expressly 
prohibited the Balkan States from all aggressive 
action. Whatever the view may have been that the 
Prince of the Black Mountain took of this prohibition, 
Sassonow's reply at least conveys an admission that 

71 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

Russia had its finger in the pie. And at our meeting 
in Baltisch Port early in July, 1912, when M. Sassonow 
had pretended to discuss the whole political situation 
with me quite openly, he had not said a word about 
the plans of the Balkan States which he was then 
well aware of. Indeed, up to the very last Russia 
expressly denied to us the existence of any Balkan 
alliance under its leadership. The subsequent pub- 
lications of the Bolsheviks now show how deeply 
Russia was involved in the intrigues of this storm 
centre of Europe. 

One of these publications is the Serbo-Bulgar 
Alliance of March, 1912. A secret annexe to this 
treaty defines the part to be played by Russia in 
case of a war with Turkey as follows : " Should an 
agreement be reached as to military action Russia 
shall be informed, and should it raise no objection 
the allies shall thereupon proceed with the proposed 
military operations." And, further, " Should an 
agreement not be reached the matter will be submitted 
to the consideration of Russia ; the decision of Russia 
will be binding on both contracting parties." We 
see the hand of Russia throughout. The ultimate 
decision of all disputes was reserved to the Tsar. lie 
was to have the last word in partitions of territory 
after the war : " It is understood that both parties 
bind themselves to accept as a final frontier such line 
as H.M. the Tsar may think good to lay down." 

Similarly the other conventions between the Balkan 

72 



RUSSIA AND THE BALKANS 

States of this summer of 1912 were concluded under 
Russian auspices. And in their case also St. Petersburg 
was to have a hand in the division of the spoils. 
This all represented a long stride on the part of Russia 
towards the domination of the Balkans and the 
liquidation of Turkey in Europe, a stride taken in 
full consciousness that this Balkan War might lead 
to a European War. In November Sassonow wrote 
to Count Benckendorff in London that he considered 
the situation as most serious, and that possibly war 
was the best solution. 

The prevalent tendencies in Russia further appeared 
in incidents on our frontier that, if not of the first 
importance, were not without significance. In the 
summer of 1912 Russia arranged extensive test 
mobilisations in Poland without notifying us before- 
hand, and in defiance of convention. These caused so 
much alarm that we were compelled to make urgent 
representations. While, in September, the wife of the 
Grand Duke Nicholas, then attending the French 
manoeuvres, as representing the Tsar, made a demon- 
stration about the " lost provinces " that was loudly 
exploited by the French Press. 

It is, of course, obvious that Russia kept its French 
ally fully informed of its policy and participation in 
the Balkan imbroglio. But it also took into con- 
fidence its associate, England. M. Sassonow had 
communicated the general contents of the Serbo- 
Bulgar Treaty to England immediately on its con- 

73 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

elusion, and on the outbreak of war had followed this 
up with the full particulars and the programme for 
the partition of the spoils with the request that 
England should support the wishes of the Balkan 
peoples and of Russia. How this request was 
regarded in England we know not. But if subse- 
quently Sir Edward Grey undoubtedly laboured with 
us to guard the general peace of Europe against 
disturbance from the Balkan War, he was at least 
privy to the programme promoted by Russia that 
had turned the Balkans upside down and that might 
at any moment, against his will, set a match to the 
European magazine. 

In this whole Balkan crisis France took its stand 
most decidedly beside its Russian ally. M. Poincare 
gave M. Iswolski an express assurance in November 
that if . Russia went to war France would follow, 
because France knew well that Germany in this 
affair stood behind Austria. The same statement 
was made to the Italian Ambassador. The view 
taken by Russia itself of France's position appears 
in Count BenckendorfPs despatch to M. Sassonow 
of 25th February, 1913, in which the former thus 
describes the situation and reviews the crisis : " France 
had promised its military support without reserve, 
and was the only Power that would have seen war 
come without regret." 

It does not come within the scope of this work to 
review the various vicissitudes of the two Balkan 

74 



BALKAN CRISIS 



Wars. The sudden collapse of Turkey and the subse- 
quent collision between the victors caused the prime 
movers of the Balkan Alliance to lose control. The 
ambitious peoples of the Balkans were not such tame 
tools in the hands of the mighty as to let them at a 
word cut down their national aims or curb their 
racial hate. Even the Tsar's Ukaz was not strong 
enough to keep Serbs and Bulgars in check. The 
patronage of the Balkan Alliance had become for the 
time a thankless task, and the difficulty of directing 
the swift course of events was such that it seemed 
desirable to set going a sort of European concert. 
This general feeling of helplessness lasted, indeed, for 
some little time. The box of Pandora had been 
opened, but no one knew how to shut it again. The 
attempt that was at first made to work on the basis 
of the status quo came from an under-estimate of the 
pressure for political independence developed by the 
Balkan peoples and was soon abandoned. A pro- 
posal directed principally against Austria for a declara- 
tion of disinterestedness was shelved without serious 
trouble. Austria and Italy, putting aside their own 
rivalries, made a joint stand successfully against the 
partition of Albania proposed by the Balkan allies 
and supported by Russia. Although the independence 
of Albania thus brought about, and previously pro- 
vided for in a former agreement between the two 
Adriatic Powers, was regarded from the first as a 
purely fictitious solution of the question. If at 

75 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

times diplomatic methods seemed likely to fail, yet 
eventually the general desire prevailed not to allow 
matters at that moment to develop into a great 
European War. 

During the Balkan Wars the Kaiser adopted an 
attitude of the utmost caution, and confined himself 
to caring for the preservation of peace. I distinctly 
remember a long conversation in November in which 
the Kaiser declared positively that he would not 
allow of a march against Paris and Moscow on 
account of Durazzo and Albania. He could not 
answer to the German people for such a responsibility 
as that. We had at times to bring strong pressure to 
bear on Vienna to prevent matters being forced to 
the sword's point. This was not facilitated by the 
provocative proceedings of Russia that had begun 
military preparations as early as the spring of 1912. 
But we allowed of no doubt that in any case we took 
our stand firmly beside our ally, " in the case of an 
unexpected attack by a third party while acting in 
its own interest, by which its existence should be 
threatened." When in December I defined our 
position with these words in a speech in the Reichstag, 
while it caused lively displeasure in St. Petersburg, yet 
I produced the result I wanted. They felt themselves 
not ready to fight, and accordingly fell into line. 
Matters had broken out in the Balkans prematurely 
and they had to put on the brake a bit. 

This also led to the results of this premature action 

76 



KAISER'S PEACE EFFORTS 



not being wholly such as those behind it had hoped 
for. The founders of the Balkan Alliance had 
intended that it should effect, in the first place, the 
partition of European Turkey, and in the second, 
the protection of the Balkans against Austria. Russia, 
and one may perhaps say the Entente also, had 
intended that it should form a solid Balkan front 
against the Central Powers. This object was not as 
completely attained as had been intended. Never- 
theless, the scale had been heavily weighted against 
the Central Powers. Turkey had been vastly weak- 
ened and, besides Constantinople, only retained a 
scanty scrap of Europe. For the time the Entente had 
no object in depriving Turkey of this last remnant. 
Turkey could be left the post of " Gate-Keeper of the 
Straits." Moreover, in spite of its fearful losses, it 
had succeeded in gaining and keeping a modest 
success at the end of the war which had greatly 
restored its self-confidence. The hopes of Bulgaria 
had been dashed, and its belief in Russia cruelly 
disappointed. The army had furled its flags and 
awaited better days in deep detestation of its 
triumphant Serb rival and of the Roumanian that 
had put the finishing touch to its defeat. Serbia had 
made a great stride forward and could only realise 
its remaining ambitions by war with Austria-Hungary. 
It was already proceeding to prepare for this next 
step with enormously enhanced self-reliance. Rou- 
mania had got all and more than it had any use for 

77 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

on the side of Bulgaria and was in open conflict with 
Austria-Hungary. German diplomacy could do no 
more than deter it from bodily going over to the 
Entente. King Carol, though already weakened by 
age, constituted a personal guarantee for the main 
tenance of the old relationship. The aggrandisement 
acquired by Greece had greatly advantaged the 
dynasty at Athens, and had thereby augmented the 
factor friendly to Germany in a country that was, 
however, exposed at all times to the pressure of the 
Entente and little capable of effective resistance. 

Such was the general aspect of affairs after the 
conclusion of the Second Balkan War. There could 
be no doubt that the peace of Bukharest was merely 
a short breathing space. The Ambassadors' Con- 
ference in London that had served as the organ of the 
Powers for localisation of the conflagration had 
fulfilled its function for the moment. Outbreaks 
elsewhere had been beaten out successfully, but 
Europe all the same was left with the anxious feeling 
that the Balkan battles were merely the prelude and 
the preface of a more tragic drama. 

****** 

Published evidence shows that our efforts through- 
out the Balkan crisis to mediate between the vital 
interests of Austria and the ambitions of Russia were 
guided by the general policy followed by me from the 
first in our relations with our Austrian ally and our 
Russian neighbour. I certainly was convinced that, 

78 



GROUPING OF EUROPEAN POWERS 

in spite of the obvious rifts in the structure of the 
Austrian State, in spite of all declared or disguised 
sympathies of Slav constituents of the Monarchy 
with Russian Pan-Slavism, nevertheless the Bis- 
marckian Dual Alliance must under all conditions be 
maintained. Apart from all the movements that are 
expressed to-day in the entry of German Austria 
into the German Realm any idea of breaking up the 
alliance would have been madness, seeing that the 
Entente group was now so firmly consolidated that 
there could be no prospect of any sudden change 
there. Only in the case of England could there be 
any question as to whether the European Powers 
could be regrouped on entirely new lines. I have 
already attempted to show how and why an attempt 
in this direction failed. Russia was, however, bound 
to a France that could not turn its eyes from that void 
in the Vosges by an alliance that had become 
ingrained in the popular instincts, that was almost 
annually reinforced by financial bonds, and that had 
guided Russian activities for whole decades, both in 
diplomatic proceedings and in military preparations. 
True, M. Sassonow had, in the spring of 1914, thrown 
out the observation to a German financier whom he 
wished to interest in Russia that we should let Austria 
drop, in which case he would drop France. But 
even if German politicians had seen in this remark, 
characteristic of M. Sassonow, a real overture and not 
merely a ruse of ancien regime diplomacy, even so 

79 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

they would still have been forced to the conclusion 
that the Russian statesman was grossly deceived as 
to the extent of his own powers and the strength of 
his French fetters. The task of Germany in respect 
of Russia was necessarily reduced to managing 
Austria-Hungary in so far as good faith and good 
friendship would allow as in fact we repeatedly and 
successfully did during the Balkan crisis and to 
trying to make our position in St. Petersburg such that 
our offers of mediation would not be repudiated there 
should such become necessary. 

Of this character was the well-known Potsdam 
agreement of the 4th of November, 1910. As in our 
later negotiations with England, we were to arrange 
practical specific settlements of concrete matters in 
combination with a general political understanding. 
France and England, however, took good care that the 
agreement, though completed, should come to nothing. 
The comments of the French and English Press over 
the Potsdam meeting showed clearly the disagreeable 
surprise in official circles of both countries at any 
action that could affect their relationship to their 
ally and friend by altering the latter's relationship to 
Germany. Russia thereupon grew chilly again. All 
record in writing of the verbal agreement at Potsdam 
was avoided with the excuse that the Tsar's word was 
enough. The same thing repeated itself later when 
English intervention protracted and prejudiced our 
settlement with France over Morocco. 

80 



MILITARY MISSION AT CONSTANTINOPLE 

All the same the personal relations between the 
two Governments had improved, though this was of 
course not decisive in matters of high policy. The 
Tsar had always accorded me his personal confidence, 
and had repeatedly assured me that he would at all 
times and in all places use his influence for peace. 
And up to the winter of 1913-14 I had friendly per- 
sonal relations with M. Sassonow. But the Tsar was 
)weak and wavering, and M. Sassonow both irritable 
and suspicious. I believed I could place full con- 
fidence in the character of the Premier. Count 
Kokowzow, and I am still convinced that if he had 
remained longer in power Russian policy would have 
taken a different course in 1914. 

How excitable M. Sassonow could be, appeared in 
the autumn of 1913. Turkey's proposal for the 
establishment of a German military mission at 
Constantinople had been discussed verbally by the 
Emperor, in my presence, with the King of England, 
and with the Tsar without either of these monarchs 
making any objection. On the contrary, the proposal 
was accepted as merely a renewal of the earlier 
military mission of Golz Pascha and was taken as a 
matter of course. But Sassonow, whom I met in 
November in Berlin on his return from Paris, assumed 
from my not having discussed this affair with him 
that I had been trying to go behind his back. Of 
course there was no question of this. I took it for 
granted he was cognisant, and had no occasion to 

81 o 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

make this matter, which was already reaching its 
conclusion in technical military negotiations, the 
subject of political discussion. But M. Sassonow had 
the alarm sounded in the Press and forced the question 
into the plane of high politics. After personal dis- 
cussion with Count Kokowzow, who soon after passed 
through Berlin, and after meeting his wish that the 
head of the Mission should not be given active military 
command, I succeeded in so clearing up the matter 
that the Tsar expressly conveyed to Count Pourtales 
his satisfaction at its solution. This suspicion ill 
became Sassonow in view of his own reticence at 
Baltisch Port as to the Balkan developments he 
himself had set on foot. 

Although he knew through Count Kokowzow that 
I was prepared to meet the principal Russian objec- 
tion, Sassonow still maintained and insisted to the 
Tsar that Germany's policy as to the military mission 
had been tricky and designed to sap the solidarity of 
the Triple Agreement. He knew perfectly well that 
Russia could not oppose the military mission in 
principle. But he set everything in motion against 
the German Command in Constantinople. Early in 
1914 Sassonow seems to have submitted proposals to 
the Tsar which contemplated securing the support of 
France and England, and preparing for the possibility 
of serious military action. There seems already to 
have been question of an occupation of Turkish ports. 
Undoubtedly the possibility of a European War was 

82 



RUSSIA AND THE STRAITS 



considered. It is not known what decision the Tsar 
came to, and it is possible that Sassonow's plan was 
allowed to drop when, about this time, the Liman- 
Sanders question was adjusted. But how little this 
alleged distrust of German trickery, and how much 
more imperialist expansion was the main motive of 
Russian policy, is evident from the further course of 
events. The Russian Government were not satisfied 
with the solution of the military mission question 
expressly accepted by the Tsar, and continued to 
press preparations for the occupation of the Straits 
with cynical acceptance of the fact that such an 
operation could only form part of a general conflict. 

According to the protocol of a conference on the 
21st of February, 1914, published by the Bolsheviks, 
Sassonow declared roundly that it was not to be 
assumed that action against the Straits could be taken 
to the exclusion of a European war. The General 
Staff, moreover, agreed that a fight for Constantinople 
was only possible in case of a European war. None 
the less, plans for the " seizure of the Straits in the 
near future " so runs the protocol were discussed 
in detail. The Tsar approved of the comprehensive 
preparations agreed on. In the report of the discus- 
sions on the 21st of February that Sassonow submitted 
to the Tsar, with a memorandum on the 5th of March 
which the measures for seizure of the Straits were 
discussed, mention is made of the " expected crisis " 
rhich " possibly very soon " would give an oppor- 

83 G 2 



TRIPOLI BALKAN WARS RUSSIA 

tunity for settling the Straits question. Russia had 
the historical role of making itself mistress of the 
Straits. Everything indicated that it was for Russia 
to settle this question during a European war. The 
English and French fleets would in such an event 
hold in check the fleets of the Triple Alliance. But no 
further support for operations against the Straits 
could be counted on. The success of such operations 
would, of course, be closely bound up with inter- 
national conditions. " To prepare the ground for 
this was the immediate task of the calculated concen- 
tration of the Foreign Ministry of this question." 

All commentary is superfluous. Nothing has, so far, 
come to light as to further political preparations. But 
the excitement in St. Petersburg at an article which 
appeared in March, 1914, in the Kolnische Zeitung, 
and sounded a note of alarm at Russian military 
preparations, is only explicable as the result of a bad 
conscience. That France granted a large loan on 
condition of the construction of strategic railways on 
the German frontier is known. Noteworthy, also, is 
the hostile official attitude towards German trade. 
In March and June the Bourse Gazette published 
provocative articles by the War Minister, Sukhom- 
linow, as to the readiness of France and Russia for 
war. About the same time St. Petersburg was working 
with success at Paris for the binding of England more 
firmly to the Franco-Russian Alliance by military 
conventions. How far France and England were 

84 



WAR IN SIGHT 



cognisant of Russian designs on the Straits we do not 
know. But it was certainly not accidental that a 
large part of the French Press became openly bellicose 
in the spring of 1914. The St. Petersburg Cabinet had 
" calculated " on opening the floodgates of war so as 
to steer the Russian Ship of State into the Golden 
Horn on a high tide of blood. 



85 



V 

RETROSPECT. 

WHILE the storm clouds kept piling up on the 
horizon the political life of Germany was as though 
burdened with a strange oppression. Business was 
booming, the country districts competed in every sort 
of communal and social activity, employment was 
plentiful, and the general increase of prosperity was 
steadily improving the standard of life in the lower 
classes. Looking at the inventions and almost 
feverish energy of industry, at our flourishing agricul- 
ture, at the broadminded provisions for social welfare, 
one would have expected to hear in political life some 
echo of the self-satisfaction with which German suc- 
cesses were celebrated on every festal occasion. But, 
on the contrary, disgust and discontent spread a cloud 
of profound depression over a waste of party politics 
devoid of all progressive impulses. Such a phrase as 
" national demoralisation " reappeared from the 
vocabulary of the bad old times and the dark ages. 

This is no place for discussions as to how far the 
spiritual life of the nation had lost those idealist 
impulses that might have raised the soul of the people 

86 



PARLIAMENTARY CONTROL 



from mere material and mechanical conceptions. 
Enough that the dominant problems of internal and 
external policy, in so far as they transcended immediate 
material interests, in no way entered into the intellect- 
ual life of the nation. Such individual instances as 
there were of attachment to sound political principles 
were all outside the orbit of parliamentary life. 
Parliament itself moved still along the old grooves, 
and the Press presented its labours to the public 
rather so as to satisfy the demand for sensation than 
to serve the requirements of political education. 

Besides this, political life was suffering from the 
discomfort always caused by an overdue and artificially \ 
delayed development. 

The anomaly of declared conservatism in Prussian 
policy and declared liberalism in imperial policy 
became more and more detrimental to the relations 
between the Realm and the Constituent States, 
already strained over their respective fiscal responsi- 
bilities. At the same time the agitation for a radical 
reinforcement of parliamentary control over public 
business became more and more lively. In Prussia 
a sort of parliamentary system had been set going in 
practice in the control exercised by the Conservatives 
over the Government to the exclusion of the Left. 
The parliamentary idea in the Realm, on the other 
hand, was keenly contended for by a discontented 
Left. But it was rather a cause of disturbance than 
a practical procedure to attainable aims, seeing that 

87 



RETROSPECT 



no party majority was available that had any external 
consistency, still less any internal cohesion. I had 
hoped to clear away the main obstacle to sound 
progress by reforming the Prussian electoral system. 
But this reform was wrecked by the resistance of the 
Conservatives and their raiding tactics, as well as by 
difficulties that the National Liberals felt called on to 
raise in the interests of party politics. Moreover, the 
points on which the Bill broke down made any early 
re-introduction of it hopeless. Thus the leading 
political anomalies went on and became worse and 
worse. While the Left grumbled and girded at its 
disappointment, the Right was grimly angered at a 
policy that not only attacked its party power but, 
in its opinion, assaulted the whole position of Prussia. 
When and where I was originally credited with having 
said I wanted to break the stiff neck of Old Prussia, 
I know not. Anyway, I never said it. 

The Government was, of course, shot at from both 
sides like every unparliamentary Government driven 
to a policy of compromise. The Left thought its 
proper line was to apostrophise me abroad and at 
home as a reactionary obscurantist, while the Right 
abused me as a disguised democrat. The object of 
all this criticism was to some extent concealment of 
the critic's own incapacity. The Right knew better 
than anyone that an uncompromising conservatism 
was a practical impossibility, and the Social Demo- 
crats could be under no illusion but that a Chancellor 

88 






PARTY POLITICS 



after their own heart could not have kept office for a 
day. And no reliable working combination could be con- 
stituted from the remaining sections. The National 
Liberals at one time let themselves be seduced by 
big business, and Pan-German tempters at other times 
clung to the Liberal traditions of their glorious past. 
They were openly at variance with the Social Demo- 
crats. Progressives swung between the right wing of 
Social Democracy and the left wing of National 
Liberalism. The Centre, in touch with all parties, 
kept clear of all ties, and sometimes supported, some- 
times attacked, the Government. The much abused 
Left Centre acted under pressure of political circum* 
stances and of personal considerations. 

In Foreign Affairs there was no less conflict of 
opinion. Herr von Kiderlen was so highly lauded 
in the Pan-German Press for sending the Panther 
to Agadir, this being welcomed as indicating at last 
a stronger foreign policy ; while there arose so strong a 
demand in certain quarters for the annexation of 
Sherifian territory, that the sensationalism of this 
step became greatly exaggerated and its true signi- 
ficance seriously distorted. Justifiable excitement 
at English encroachment, and critical indictments of 
the meagre results of the Convention of the 4th of 
November that closed the Moroccan dispute, also, 
contained features that contributed to this impression. 
Declared distrust of England made my attempts at 
rapprochement unpopular and encouraged the naval 

89 



RETROSPECT 



agitation, while at the same time anxiety as to the 
Franco-Russian danger subjected me to reproaches 
of having neglected our land armaments, reproaches 
that in the course of the war became denunciations. 
fc The plain figures of the great armament proposals of 
1913 show how unfounded was this accusation. 
The most important augmentation of our armaments 
since foundation of the empire was this proposal that I 
put forward and pressed. The proposals were 
prepared under great pressure in record time and I 
accepted as a maximum what the military authorities 
considered indispensable. Their estimate of the dan- 
ger would be at least as high as mine. The proposals 
submitted to the Reichstag represented the War 
Minister's demands to the very last man, and were 
passed without reduction. The chief of the General 
Staff did certainly ask for more formations. But as 
the War Minister subsequently stated that the 
necessary personnel was not available, and that in 
such conditions these supplementary formations 
would be a weakness rather than a strength, the 
Kaiser in the last resort confirmed this view. More- 
over, General von Heeringen had all he could do to 
carry these military reinforcements against the claims 
that were being pressed by the navy. 

The Reichstag had since the first and fundamental 
Naval Act always shown itself generous to the fleet. 
Sea power cast a spell that many a critic, even of the 
smallest items in the Budget, could not resist. And 

90 



THE REICHSTAG AND THE FLEET 

in the country the further you were from the coast 
the brighter glittered the sea in the light of romance. 
The fleet was the pet of Germany, and seemed to em- 
body the energies and enthusiasms of the nation. 
In it the latest achievements of science and the most 
laborious organisation were proper subjects of admira- 
tion. The doubts of a small circle of experts as to 
whether we were on the right lines in building capital 
ships at all could make no headway against a fanatical 
journalism wholly in the service of the prevailing 
policy. Questionings as to the grave international 
embarrassment caused us by our naval policy were 
shouted down by a boisterous agitation. In the fleet 
itself it was not always clearly realised that a fleet is 
only an instrument of policy, not a political institution. 
The direction of the fleet had lain for years in the 
hands of a man who had arrogated to himself a 
political authority far beyond his functions, and who 
had had a lasting influence on the political point of 
view of an important circle. Whenever an issue 
arose between the naval authorities and the political 
administration, the public almost invariably supported 
the former. Arguments based on considerations of 
relative naval strengths could be swept aside as timid 
truckling to the foreigner. 

At times I could not avoid the impression that the 
foreign situation was not being sufficiently considered 
in relation also to questions that belonged properly to 
home politics. Thus the affairs of Alsace-Lorraine 

91 



RESTROSPECT 



were really of international importance, even if we 
had to assert ourselves on all occasions as master in 
our own house. The tone of irredentist circles there 
reflected accurately the tendency in Paris and in the 
Entente camp. If the tide ran strong in Alsace one 
might feel sure that in Paris the revanche feeling was 
running high, and that the English Press were showing 
a lively interest in the settlement of the question. 
This was noticeably the case in the spring of 1914 
Vwhen, as we know, the Russian Government were 
consciously and calculatedly working up a world war. 
The constitution for Alsace-Lorraine that had been 
elaborated mainly by the Secretary of State, Delbriick, 
with unfailing insight, and that was introduced in the 
Reichstag in 1911, was to be a stage on the road to- 
wards autonomy as a Federal State. Riper reflection 
suggests that a more rapid transition would have 
been better in view both of the internal and the 
external situation. But there were insuperable diffi- 
culties in the way, due mainly to the view that these 
provinces were and must remain the military glacis 
of Germany, and that all political ambitions of these 
communities must be subordinated to this requirement. 
The friction between this special strategic conception 
and general political considerations that had long 
hampered the administration of the provinces now 
resulted in an open row. And moreover the Conserva- 
tives preferred to look at the suffrage provisions of the 
proposed constitution rather in the light of their 

92 



ALSACE-LORRAINE 



partisan preference for the peculiar Prussian system 
than in that of the political interests of a Realm based 
on very different principles. They combated these 
liberal provisions with an eye to their possible and 
undesirable effect on future Prussian legislation. 

The conflict between the military and the political 
point of view came to the front in an even acuter form 
in the wretched Zabern incident. One can take 
whatever view one pleases as to what actually hap- 
pened in the Vosges hill- town, as to how it was handled, 
and as to the way it was settled, but neither side ever 
reflected that their respective resentments, however 
honest and honourable, would be reproduced for the 
malicious satisfaction of foreign observers in a 
highly regrettable form. 

Generally speaking, the spectacle presented by 
the internal conditions of Germany led to erroneous 
conclusions, even when there was no intentional 
misrepresentation. Our system of government was 
not only incomprehensible as such to countries under 
parliamentary regime, but the obstinate opposition 
of our democratically disposed parties engendered 
the unfounded suspicion that national policy was 
determined finally by the undemocratic parties. 
The excesses of Pan-Germans and Militarists all in 
the end went to discredit the Government and the 

jople as a whole. Undesirable manifestations of 
ectional feeling, such as Prussian arrogance towards 

mth Germany, no doubt contributed to confirm the 

93 



RETROSPECT 



conviction that M. Cambon had come to from studying 
his secret service reports, that German unity would 
collapse under the strain of war. The agitation for 
greater naval and military armaments was interpreted 
as a symptom of belligerent instincts, and the general 
discontent was considered evidence that the nation 
was novarum rerum cupida. 

It is contrary to every instinct to re-open our 
own old wounds now that the war has ended in a 
triumph of falsehood and a Peace signed and scaled 
by hate that peace which President Wilson intended 
should reconcile the peoples. Now, moreover, that 
the famine with which our enemy has mercilessly 
scourged a helpless Germany months after the end of 
the war reminds us that what we thought once was 
public right has long been submerged in war. But 
whoever still clings to the belief that mankind at 
some far future date will recover those ethical con- 
victions born of the centuries will as firmly reject 
summary and self-righteous in criminations by our 
enemies as he will renounce unreal and unworthy self- 
accusations. Such a one will care for nothing but 
the truth in so far as it can be humanly ascertained. 

It is, however, quite conceivable that even those 
of our opponents who succeeded in preserving un- 
biassed minds up to the war might have seen in our 
^conditions and in our conduct elements of disturbance 
that seemed to contradict our oft-repeated professions 
of pacific intentions. The rising power of Germany 

94 



INTRUSIVE GERMANY 



that had been already felt as troublesome in pacific 
competition as a challenge to claims for supremacy, 
might seem itself to betray lust for world dominion 
whenever a boyish and unbalanced ebullience pro- 
claimed that the German spirit could alone deliver 
the world from evil. In this way to use a vulgar 
expression we often got on the nerves of the World. .* 
An English political writer who, though on occasions 
personally abusive, on the whole avoided extravagant 
exaggerations, has well expressed this : " There 
was in the world only one menace to peace and that 
menace was the increasing population, the increasing 
prosperity, and the increasing unrest of the German 
Empire."* That the growing importance of Germany 
implied for many Englishmen a menace of war is 
true. But that German unrest sowed the seed of 
war in an otherwise peaceably disposed world is false. 
In previous pages I have endeavoured to extract 
such elements from the events of the years 1909 to 
1914 as determined the political situation in Europe. 
For this purpose I have also used documents that only 
came to our knowledge after outbreak of war. Where 
this has been done I have expressly said so. And this 
new material has only shown up more sharply what 
was already clear enough from what was known 
before. How, then, do the actual facts appear in respect 
of subsequent events, for our liability in respect of ^ 
words is certainly no heavier than that of our enemy. 

* Begbie, op. oit., p. 49. 
95 



RETROSPECT 



When and where was it that we Germans so behaved as 
to upset the World. Agadir ? However strongly you 
may condemn the "Panther spring," yet the Panther 
would not have been sent to Agadir if the French had 
not previously marched on Fez. What about the 
Naval Bill then ? Was it more provocative than 
Lloyd George's speech, and was it not just that 
speech which was most exploited in favour of the 
Bill ? Well, then, the great Army Bills ? Certainly 
they heated French opinion to boiling point, but even 
so we were far inferior in numbers to the Franco- 
Russian hosts to say nothing of the overwhelming 
superiority given them by the English Alliance. 
Even Lloyd George himself, whom no one would 
accuse of prepossession in favour of Germany, 
recognised before the war that Germany must have a 
very strong land army. And, finally, is it not 
f crediting us with an all too perverse duplicity to see in 
\ the attempted rapprochement that we initiated merely 
V a mask to conceal our mind for war. 

And now on the other side. Morocco, Tripoli and 
the Balkans everywhere the movements originated 
in, or were protected by, that combination of Powers 
that had associated against us before the war, or that, 
like Italy, was to * dissociate itself finally from us 
during the war. None of these movements were in 
the remotest degree provoked by Germany. But 
each of them drove Europe near, and by their reac- 
tions ever nearer, to the brink of destruction. Until 

96 






FOREIGN PHARISEES 



at last the Russian Government deliberately decided 
so to cultivate conditions in Europe that the seeds * 
of war it was sowing broadcast might take root. Facts 
such as these cannot be got round by any sophistry, 
and against them such unrest as can be brought home 
to Germany is as nothing in the balance. Whether the 
French lust of power, whether Italian sacro egoismo, 
whether Balkan land hunger, whether the lure of an 
imaginary Russian belief in a historical mission, 
was the main motive, in all alike the pursuit of 
national ambitions put the match to the magazine. 
The question of criminality is a question of causality. 
And it was the Entente Powers that piled the fuel forX 
the conflagration. Germany laid no faggot on the pyre. 
We in Germany have considered that the problem 
of criminality requires an answer to the question 
" Whether Germany had just cause for apprehen- 
sion ? " * The numerical inferiority of the armies of 
Austria-Hungary and Germany, for Italy and Rou- 
mania were not to be counted on, compared with 
those of the group of Powers associated against us is 
so evident that there is no need to waste words on it. 
And in relying on the better quality of our troops we 
to reckon with the obvious perils of our pent-in 
position as well as with the almost unlimited man-power 
of Russia. But in answering this question the political 
situation must count for even more than a comparison 

* Lecture of Prince Max von Baden, Heidelberg, 3rd of February, 
1919. 

97 H 



RESTROSPECT 



of armaments. On one side the failure of our attempt 
at an understanding, on the other the ever closer 
combination of the Entente with Franco-Russian 

/* ambitions that could only be realised by European 
War. Both these were the result of England's rigid 
adherence to its policy of the Balance of Power. And 
both, surely, were amply sufficient to justify anxiety 
the word apprehension is inapplicable even though 
the declared determination of Russia to force a war 

^ only obtained documentary proof when the war was 
already ending. How lightly the sword could be 
drawn had already been shown by the Russo-Japanese 
and Boer Wars, and still more recently in Tripoli and 
in the Balkans. From 1912, but especially and even 
more emphatically after 1913, the Kaiser was calling 
my attention to the coalition, like that of Kaunitz, 
that was being formed against us and that might at 
any moment fall upon us.* 

These utterances were not the result of momentary 
impulses, but of mature reflection. Since Bjorko, 
the Kaiser had had sufficient experience of Russian 
unreliability ; and he was much too hard hit by the 
failure of all his attempts at a rapprochement with 

* Prof. Schiemann has publicly reproached me with having 
concealed the danger of our position from the Kaiser. This is 
not so. I never attempted to deceive the Kaiser as to OUT diffi- 
culties. Also the confidential reports which Prof. Schiemann was 
officially responsible for translating brought the essential facts 
before the Kaiser. I certainly did ask the Kaiser to inform me of 
the authority for information thus communicated to him from this 
quarter, and he agreed to do so. 

98 



KAISER AND WAR 



England, in which his personal sentiments had been 
engaged, to be under any illusion at all as to the real 
situation. 

M. Jules Cambon, in a despatch of the 22nd of 
November, 1913, has reported an interview, communi- 
cated to him from a thoroughly reliable source, be- 
tween the Kaiser and the King of the Belgians in the 
presence of the Chief of the General Staff, von Moltke.* 
It is there reported that the Kaiser expressed his 
conviction that war with France was inevitable and 
must come sooner or later, and that the King drew 
therefrom the conclusion that the Kaiser was no 
longer a protagonist of peace. M. Cambon adds 
his own observations to the effect that he believes the 
Kaiser had by then been reconciled to opinions 
previously repugnant to him. This report has been 
much commented on by French war literature and has 
been used as evidence for the personal criminality of 
the Kaiser. While I personally have no knowledge of 
the interview in question I should not be in any way 
surprised if the Kaiser, with his impulsive tempera- 
ment, had made no attempt to conceal his conclusions 
from the King of the Belgians. But this amounted to 
nothing more than the expression of a personal 
opinion to which he had been brought by hard facts. 

* No. 6, French Yellow Book. According to French authority 
the source was King Albert himself. See Pierre Albin d'Agadir 
& Serajevo, p. 78. Reinach (Histoire de douze jours, p. 37) states 
that the Minister Beyena reported the conversation to Cambon on 
the Bang's orders. 

99 H 2 



RETROSPECT 



The inference drawn by M. Cambon, and apparently 
by King Albert himself, derogatory to the Kaiser's 
love of peace, was as unjustifiable as if one were to 
draw conclusions as to the ultimate decision that 
would be taken by the Kaiser after mature reflection, 
from the casual and often caustic marginal notes that 
he scribbled on documents at a first reading. If the 
military authorities were continually weighing the 
chances of war in relation to the constantly shifting 
* ratio of armaments that was no more than the proper 
duty of a general staff. But neither the Kaiser nor 
any of his political advisers ever contemplated a 
, preventive war as coming even within the remotest 
range of their responsibilities. 



100 



VI 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 

THE political literature of our enemies occupied 
itself long before the war with the future of Austria- 
Hungary. They openly discussed whether the Haps- 
burg Empire should be broken up or whether it 
should be preserved. That the death of the Emperor 
Francis Joseph would be an evil day for the Monarchy 
was an axiom shared by others besides our enemies. 
In Germany there were lively discussions as to what 
would then follow, and writers, especially those with 
Pan-German pens, occupied themselves with ambitious 
schemes for dividing up the estate without troubling 
as to the possible effect this might have abroad. 
Before the conclusion of the Entente Cordiale many 
voices had been raised in France in favour of detaching 
Austria-Hungary from the Triple Alliance, and of 
drawing her over to the Franco-Russian camp. With 
this end in view much clever work was done in Vienna 
against the German ally by exploiting Pan-German 
indiscretions and the sentiments of certain circles 
there that could not forget Koniggratz. If the Triple 

101 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



Alliance could be broken up, then the door would be 
bolted and barred against the much discussed advance 
of Germany in the East. And, as Austrian and 
Balkan Slavs penetrated more and more into the 
political publicity of the West, autonomist ideas again 
came to the front. These ideas took definite shape 
with the conclusion of the Triple Entente. The 
general principle of it was the support at all costs of 
-the Slav constituents of the Danube Monarchy. The 

^ Czechs were almost openly struggling to free them- 
selves from the State, and the South Slavs were in a 
perpetual ferment.* 

Every demand put forward by these centrifugal 
forces not only dislocated the solidarity of the Austro- 

fa Hungarian Federation but also undermined the whole 
position of the Central Powers. A natural and 
necessary complement of the Entente policy was 
concurrent support of the Slav Balkan States 
that had an interest in the destruction of the Danube 
Monarchy. The short-sighted economic policy fol- 
lowed by Austria-Hungary in regard to Serbia had 
given to the restless activities of the Russian Minister 

^ in Belgrade, Hartwig, a favourable opening for foment- 
ing hostility to the Hapsburg neighbour. While the 
Montenegrin country insignificant as it was, served 
as a well-subsidised provincial branch of the Pan- 

* A voluminous literature deals with these Slav movements. 
A brief review of them will be found in Ubersberger's supplement 
to the Teubner work, Germany and the World War. 

102 



AUSTRIA AND THE ENTENTE 

Slavic business centre on the Moskwa. Of course, this 
development had not followed a direct course. It was 
not so long ago since England had refused to be diplo- 
matically represented at Belgrade on account of the 
overthrow of the Obrenovitch dynasty by assassina- 
tion. But it became more and more the fashion for 
English and French politicians to bring back reports 
from their tours in the Slav territories of Austria- 
Hungary to the effect that the population were impa- 
tiently waiting the collapse of the Hapsburg Monarchy, 
that would be the consequence, it was hoped, of the 
death of the old Emperor. This view was eagerly 
accepted and energetically exploited in the political 
literature of the day. In the Slav territories them- 
selves, agitators were not content with the study of 
future possibilities, but prepared for direct action 
through the Press, through pamphlets, through 
meetings and societies. And with all this the position 
of the Slavs in the Monarchy was by no means a poor 
one. It was well known that the circle of the Heir 
Apparent was occupied with plans for a reconstruction 
of the State mechanism such as would allow of free 
developments to its Slav constituent. It is true that 
^hese plans assumed that the Monarchy would be 
able to develop enough vitality to recall the Slav 
populations to their loyalty to the Austrian State. And 
it was just this that Pan-Slavism and the Pan-Serb 
propaganda it supported was concerned with pre- 
venting. The Heir Apparent thereby became obnox- 

103 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



ious to many. He was generally supposed to be 
strong enough to get the various divergent forces 
again in hand. But this, again, brought to the front 
the primary conflict between Slav and German. 
Probably the community of economic interests might, 
in course of time, with careful handling, have gradually 
eliminated a race conflict that belonged to a ruder past. 
But the nationalism of the Austrian Slavs and their 
near relations in the Balkans remained dominant, and 
was driven into hostility to Germany because Russia 
A wished to recruit them for its policy of crippling 
Austria in the interests of its own expansion, while 
France and England saw in them a powerful instru- 
ment for holding down Germany by disintegrating its 
AUy. 

Thereupon, on the 28th of June, came the murder of 
Archduke Ferdinand in Serajevo. The bombs used 
by the assassins had been brought to Bosnia with the 
connivance of Serbian officers and officials, and the 
assassins themselves enjoyed the countenance of the 
Association Narodna Odbrana, supported by the 
Serbian Government, and working for the secession 
of the Serbian provinces from Austria-Hungary. 

This murder was the bloody signal that Greater 
Serbia believed its hour was come. But the fatal hour 
of the Danube Monarchy had also struck. For if it 
passively suffered this attempt to overthrow it from 
its status, then its final dissolution could not be long 
delayed. If, on the other hand, it determined to 

104 



SERAJEVO ASSASSINATION 



bring the Pan-Serb agitators to their senses, and if no 
third party interfered to prevent it doing so, then a 
conflagration would have been extinguished that was 
already attacking not only the House of Austria but 
the whole habitation of European society. At the 
same moment that any member of the Entente 
opposed this last and final effort of Austria-Hungary 
to preserve its integrity, at that moment the problem 
of Austria passed out of the region of abstract specula- 
tion into that of decisions that would alter the history 
of the world. 

It was for Russia to decide. Russian policy again 
had it in its power to find a peaceable solution of the 
Serbian issue. M. Sassonow had himself admitted in 
conversation with Count Pourtales that the Serbian 
Government had deserved a lesson, and a word from 
St. Petersburg would have sufficed to induce the Serbs 
to guarantee such satisfaction as would have contented 
Austria, and would have brought about a modus 
vivendi. While it would be all over with European 
peace if those in power at St. Petersburg had only 
ears for the commands of Russia's " historical mission," 
which, according to the ancient Pan-Slav formula, 
required not only the protection of the Balkan States 
but also the patronage of the Slav population of 
Austria. But we know to-day that a breach of the 
peace of Europe was just what M. Sassonow had in 
view because he wanted Constantinople, and therefore 
required a European War. This, and this alone, 

105 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



explains once for all every action of Russian policy 
in July, 1914. But even if M. Sassonow felt some 
compunction on seeing the war fiend descending in 
full view, to prepare the way for whom had been " the 
task of the calculated labours of his Ministry," yet 
none the less war was what he wrought. He, per- 
sonally, had been growing more and more favourable 
to the Pan-Slav ideal. Although he was well versed in 
Western culture he could be carried away by the idea 
of Holy Russia as the great, all-powerful, all-protecting 
' Mother of the Slav peoples. For this reason he 
could not effectively resist the violent pressure brought 
to bear on him to assert Slav authority on all occasions 
at all costs. But there was more to it than this. 
Both military and civil advisers had succeeded in 
persuading the Tsar in these critical days that he 
could only save his Crown and Empire if he could 
divert into war passions the growing discontent in 
his country, whether due to Pan-Slav excitement or 
Socialist resentment. Similar suggestions the 
experience of this war tempts one to say similar 
temptations of the devil may have misled every- 
where shortsighted and unprincipled persons in irre- 
sponsible quarters. But in Russia such persons were 
powers in high places. And those who influenced them 
were the determined adherents of the acquisition 
of Constantinople. It was to these war-hawks that 
M. Sassonow had handed himself over when he decided 
in consultation with them at that Conference of the 

106 



RUSSIA'S RESPONSIBILITY 



21st of February that Russia must seize the Straits, 
and could only do so at the cost of a European War. 

In order to set the ball a-rolling there was no need 
for the appeal of the Serbian Crown Prince to the 
generous heart of the Tsar. When he, on the 24th 
of July, implored the Tsar " to come with all speed 
to the help of Serbia " Sassonow had long decided 
the reply. On the same day a Russian ministerial 
council resolved to give Serbia military support. 
On the following day the necessary orders were got 
from the Tsar, and Sassonow was already trying in 
the French Embassy to assure himself of British 
support. Buchanan has reported this interview very 
fully, and records a statement by Sassonow that 
Russia would not hesitate at war if it could rely on 
France.* This proviso of the Russian Minister must 
be read in a strictly diplomatic sense. For M. 
Sassonow knew well enough when he said this to Sir 
G. Buchanan that M. Poincare", who as early as 1912 
" had contemplated war without regret," would 
most certainly co-operate. He only wanted to know 
what England thought, because he could not make 
war against the will of England. Great Britain, 
allied as it was with Japan, had certainly resources 
enough for forcing Russia to give up all thought of 
war. M. Sassonow would only venture to open wide 
the gate of war, whose lock he had already picked, 
provided he could count on an arrned England taking 
* Blue Book, No. 17. 
107 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



its stand in the deadly breach. Everything depended on 
the attitude of England. And what did England do ? 
The possibility of war that had, of course, at once 
presented itself to Sir E. Grey, had evoked from the 
English statesman strong expressions of abhorrence. 
He recognised that even from an English standpoint 
the Austro-Serbian dispute did not in itself require 
international treatment. If the ultimatum to Serbia 
did not lead to a collision between Austria and Russia 
FlCngland had no cause to trouble about it. But he 
(did nothing to localise the conflict. From the begin- 
ning he took it as a matter of course that Russia 
would intervene, and counted on this. No sooner 
had Russia made the cause of Serbia its own than he 
accepted this. And not only that. Not only did 
he fail to use any such strong language in St. 
Petersburg as might still have been effective, but, on 
the contrary, he plainly gave the Russian Cabinet to 
understand that he was unwilling to use such language. 
He told Prince Lichnowsky on the 24th of July that 
he felt that in view of the form of the Austrian 
ultimatum he was quite powerless to exercise a 
restraining influence over Russia. The English states- 
man even thought it necessary to inform M. Paul 
Cambon beforehand of his intention to make this 
communication to the German Ambassador. Did 
Sir E. Grey imagine that Cambon would enshrine 
this interesting communication in the secrecy of his 
heart ? Did he not know perfectly well that his 

108 



GREY AND INTERVENTION 



Russian colleague would have the benefit of it at 
once ? And that was all that Sassonow wanted to 
know. 

In regard to the Serbs, Grey carried his non- 
intervention so far as to instruct the Charg6 d'Affaires 
in Belgrade that, while recommending the Serbs to 
make concessions in certain formal points, he should 
otherwise advise them to answer as they might con- 
sider best in the interests of Serbia. The Pythian 
priestess gave no more encouraging message to 
Croesus. But the 27th of July clearly relieved the 
St. Petersburg authorities of their last doubts. On 
that day Grey informed the Russian Ambassador 
that the impression that England would in any case 
stand aside must be modified. The First Naval 
Squadron had been instructed not to disperse after 
the manoeuvres. That was a fairly strong encourage- 
ment. At the same time, Grey informed the Austrian 
Ambassador of the concentration of the Squadron, 
and added that England could not disperse its forces 
in view of the possibility of a war. That was an 
equally strong threat, even though Grey denied that 
it was such. But there must have been other addi- 
tional data relieving Russia of all remaining doubt 
as to England's attitude. The much quoted despatch 
of the Belgian Minister in St. Petersburg suggests 
this. M. de PEscaille writes on the 30th of July :.* 
To-day one is firmly convinced in St. Petersburg! 
that England will stand by France. " This support 

109 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



is a factor of the first importance, and has largely 
contributed to giving the war party the upper hand." 
And on the same day Renter's correspondent in 
St. Petersburg sent the much-discussed telegram to 
London that declared what an immense impression 
the sailing of the British fleet from Portland had 
made. This, in combination with pacific assurances 
from Japan, more than confirmed the firm decision 
of Russia to try the arbitrament of war. Thus did 
Sir E. Grey stultify his own and our attempts at 
mediation. 

In the preface to our White Book it is stated that 
England laboured " shoulder to shoulder " with us 
in the cause of peace. Our then imperfect knowledge 
of the English attitude permitted this conclusion, 
that has since been frequently exploited by English 
journalism as a German recognition of English 
pacifism. But if we wished to-day to maintain this 
view we should be refuted by the official publications 
of our opponents themselves, who have thrown quite 
a sufficient light on London's share in the diplomatic 
prelude to the war. 

Were our own attempts at mediation essentially 
hopeless ? When the crisis was at its acutest we had 
succeeded in bringing Vienna to declare expressly 
that it laid no claim to any Serbian soil, that it would 
not impair the Sovereignty of Serbia, and only pro- 
posed a temporary military occupation of Serbian 
territory. We earnestly advocated in Vienna the 

110 






GERMAN MEDIATION 



acceptance of the mediation desired by Grey, and in 
spite of the strongest pressure had failed. We had 
again restored direct conversations between Vienna 
and St. Petersburg. In this latter connection I 
myself said to Count Berchtold : " While we are quite 
ready to fulfil our treaty obligations, we must refuse 
to let ourselves be drawn into a World conflagration 
by Austria-Hungary, owing to the latter ignoring our 
advice." Our action in Vienna had been effective. 
But we could not save peace because St. Petersburg 
was recalcitrant. And St. Petersburg refused because 
England did not curb its bellicosity. There was no 
want of English demarches in St. Petersburg, for Grey 
did not desire war as such. But these never went 
beyond lukewarm lectures, and he allowed his advice 
to be neglected without protest. As the tide of 
militarism ran higher and higher in St. Petersburg 
he did nothing decisive to dam it. The various 
English measures for mediation had always presented 
the aspect of pressure on Vienna, while pressure on 
St. Petersburg such as that which we had applied in 
Vienna was conspicuous by its absence. That is the 
real reason why our mediation proved in practice to 
be hopeless. 

The procedure we had noticed in the Ilaldane 
mission was reproduced in the British attitude on 
this occasion. 

At that time England was seeking an understanding \ 
with Germany, but would not hear of anything that 

111 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



might aggrieve France, which was working in a vicious 
circle. Now Grey wanted to preserve peace, 
but only provided Russian ambitions were not 
affected, and that was even more of a reductio ad 
absurdum. As England had sown so must she reap. 
Sir E. Grey had tied his own hands by his ever deeper 
dependence on the Franco-Russian Alliance, and by 
fortifying that Alliance of his own free will with mili- 
tary conventions. He was no longer free. He 
clearly had the feeling that after such action his 
honour no longer allowed him to speak strongly to 
his friends on the Neva. 

Neither was Germany free. But it was not tied 
to the same extent. Even at the most critical moment 
our treaty relationship with Austria-Hungary had 
not hindered us from taking the most emphatic 
action to impose such moderation as was required 
in the interests of peace on our friends and allies. 
But had we any option as to whether we should 
leave Austria to its fate in so vital a question as this ? 
We had failed in drawing the poison fang of the 
Franco-Russian Alliance by coming to an understand- 
ing with England. England had clearly indicated 
I to that alliance that it would support its policy not 
f only diplomatically but militarily. The policy of 
/ the Alliance was bellicose. Poincare* was a repre- 
sentative of the revanche. Russia was setting itself 
to march on Constantinople, and its route lay through 
Berlin and Vienna. The Russian battalions were 

112 



GERMANY'S EXISTENCE THREATENED 



multiplied by French money from year to year. 
France had brought in three years' service under 
Russian pressure, and was neither able nor willing to 
go on enduring it for any length of time. Peaceable 
international co-operation was not the object of the 
Cabinets concerned. No angel of peace had laid the 
restless spirit of the Boer raid, of the Russo-Japanese 
War, of the Tripoli breach of the peace, of the Balkan 
conspiracy. The Great States were only occupied 
with self-seeking struggles for material power, and 
no murder en masse seemed too great for the acquisi- 
tion and assimilation of such power. German policy 
saw the existence of Germany as a Great Power 
balanced on the point of hostile bayonets. It saw 
its one reliable ally doomed to early destruction if 
denied the power of damaging the mines that had 
been driven under the foundations of its house. If 
this ally collapsed or deserted to the enemy's camp 
from the failure of its friends to protect its vital 
interests, then Germany would be completely isolated. 
It would be choked to death by a ring of enemies, 
banded together in a common campaign for World 
dominion by jealous dislike for a growing commercial 
rival, by Slav race hatred against Teutons, and by 
lowering ill-will against the victor of 1870. 

And that is the reason why German policy thought 
it proper to approve Austria's decision to take action 
against Serbia in the form of a renewed assurance of 
its adherence to the alliance. 

113 I 



r 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



I am well aware that in view of the subsequent 
course taken by the war such reasoning as this or 
indeed any line of argument at all can be waved 
aside. But those who arraign us reasonably and who 
are not merely out after scapegoats are entitled to ask 
why German policy was not so conducted as to avoid 
being placed on the horns of this dilemma. I think 
that this question largely over-estimates the freedom 
of action allowed us in our decisions of the last decade. 

f Germany also had fallen under the spell of the ideal 
of power then dominating the whole world. If we 
try to find out what was in Bismarck's mind we see 
that his constant concern as to his " cauchemar des 
Coalitions," as to Germany having reached the 
saturation point, and as to restraint in naval and 
colonial questions, all point to his realising the perils 
that encompassed a Germany that had, like all 
great empires of the World, been built up by force. 
Germany had thereafter grown in strength so exuber- 
antly, so precipitately, that it had been forced to 
take its place in World policy and been infected with 
the ideals of power peculiar to the period. This had 
launched it on a new course that no longer could steer 
clear of the reefs that Bismarck had given a wide 
offing. Our naval and our oriental policy are 
probably the most characteristic features of this new 
line. No German statesman would have been strong 
enough to put the helm over on a different course 
unless he could have assured his people that in all 

114 



GERMAN POLICY INEVITABLE 

human probability the great world conflicts in which 
Germany had become involved could be solved by 
peaceful negotiation and not by the sword. And 
the only way to this I keep on coming back to it 
was through an understanding with England. France 
was given up to its ideal of revanche, Russia to its 
historical mission in the Balkans and Straits, Austria 
to its internal difficulties, and none of these could 
take the lead. Germany and England seemed to me 
the only Powers free to act and that were not being 
driven by some fundamental force towards some 
particular change in the status quo. Lord Haldane 
will no doubt remember an evening at my house when 
I explained to him at length that a real understanding 
between our countries would guarantee peace and 
gradually guide the Powers away from the spectre 
of militarist imperialism to the opposite pole of a 
peaceable and amicable co-operation. But even he 
preferred the supremacy secured by British Dread- 
noughts and French friendship. 

But as Germany had thus been brought up short 
against an obstinate determination not to free the 
European system of coalitions of its military menace, 
but rather to augment and aggravate it, there was no 
question but that Germany could not pursue alone a 
road on which no one would accompany it. Germany 
had to look the brutal facts in the face, and recognise 
that the policy of the Cabinets was inspired by no 
great human principles, but that statesmanship 

115 I 2 



II 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



would or could aspire to nothing higher than staking 
its ambitions on the chances of war. German 
policy was thus forced to have recourse to palliatives 
in the hope that the imminent evil might ultimately 
be prevented by procrastination. But since it had 
been denied to Germany to give a more friendly 
character to the opposing Power Group, so now Ger- 
many was determined to do nothing that could weaken 
its own Group. And this was the final reason why 
alliance with the Danube Monarchy was the corner- 
stone of our policy. We had successfully saved this 
policy from being compromised by conflict with Russia 
raring the Balkan wars. We had even connived at 
the Russian designs on Constantinople by repeated 
assurances to the Russian Cabinet that we would make 
no difficulty in the Straits question, thereby main- 
taining our traditional policy of not allowing ourselves 
to be used as a cat's paw in this matter by those more 
directly interested.* 

* Russia raised this question in Berlin last in 1911 ; since when 
they had not again approached us as to their ambitions in the 
Straits. The St. Petersburg Cabinet had disavowed and subse- 
quently recalled their Ambassador at Constantinople, Tcharikow, 
who since 1911 had been pressing the opening of the Straits, and 
this on account of British opposition. His successor, M. de Qiers, 
in a long conversation in March, 1914, with the German Ambassador, 
explained his political programme, should he be called on to succeed 
M. Sassonow. This programme was based on a Russo-German 
rapprochement, and while guaranteeing Turkish territorial integrity 
was to go far to satisfy Russian ambitions there. Herr von 
Wangenheim was very sceptical as to this proposal, and with what 
justification has since been seen from the Bolshevik publications. 
M de Giera had indeed taken part in the much quoted Conference 

116 



POTSDAM COUNCIL 



Could we have answered the question by sacrificing 
Austria ? If Austria had fallen the Slav world 
would have secured the success of centuries. Such 
an uncontested conquest by Moscow would have 
inaugurated an epoch in which Russia would have 
pressed heavily on the West. Germany would only 
have survived the fall of Austria as a vassal to the 
Eastern potentate. The era of Nicolas I. would have 
been revived for us under Nicolas III. in somewhat 
different conditions. The oppressors of Germany 
could then have determined the day at their ease on 
which Germany should cease to exist as a Great Power. 

I consider such a capitulation would have been 
impossible. 

A legend that has been given wide circulation 
assigns the origin of the war to a Crown Council 
that the Kaiser is said to have held at Potsdam on 
the 5th of July, 1914. Even Germans have believed 
this fable, although our opponents, who would certainly 

of 21st of February, 1914, in which military action in the Straits 
was discussed, without, so far as the protocol shows, recording any 
dissentient view. That, at the very moment when the Tsar was 
ratifying Sassonow's schemes, he would have succeeded in getting 
his consent to a policy of preserving Turkey on the basis of a Russo- 
German understanding, seems little likely. If M. de Giers had 
been carrying on a policy of his own he could have been let drop 
as easily as was Tcharikow. And if, as successor to Sassonow, 
he had been faced with the question how he was to reconcile a policy 
of Russo -German rapprochement with an intimate relationship to 
the Western Powers, he would no doubt have reproduced the 
experience of Potsdam. This could not be put to the test because 
Sassonow remained in power arid put through his war policy. 

117 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



not have overlooked such a find, say nothing about 
such a Crown Council in their official publications. 
Moreover, any investigation, however slight, must 
have shown that the majority of those reported as 
having been present could not then have been at 
Potsdam or even in Berlin. 

As a matter of fact, what happened was this : 
On the 5th of July, 1914, Count Szogyenyi, Austrian 
Ambassador, after lunching with the Emperor, 
handed him an autograph letter of the Emperor 
Francis Joseph, together with a memorandum of his 
Government. This memorandum drew up a com- 
prehensive Balkan programme of a far-reaching 
character, in which the Russian schemes were to be 
checkmated by strong diplomatic counter moves. 
This policy looked for support to Bulgaria and Turkey 
as against a hostile Serbia, and instead of a Roumania 
that was no longer reliable. The object was a 
Balkan Alliance exclusive of Serbia under the aegis of 
the Central Powers. The Serajevo incident was 
adduced as evidence that the conflict between Austria 
and Serbia was irreconcilable, and that the Monarchy 
must reckon with an obstinate and aggressive hostility 
from Serbia. The Emperor's manuscript summarised 
the argument briefly, and suggested that the pacific 
policy of the Powers was threatened if the agitation 
in Belgrade was left to itself. The Kaiser received 
both documents with the remark that he could only 
reply after consulting his Chancellor. On the after- 

118 



KAISER AND FRANCIS JOSEPH 

noon of the same day the Kaiser received me and, 
the Under-Secretary of State, Zimmermann, who 
was representing the Secretary of State, von Jagow, 
then on leave. This was in the park of the new 
Palace at Potsdam. No one else was present. I 
had already made myself acquainted with the gist 
of the Austrian documents, a copy of which had been 
communicated to Herr Zimmermann. After I had 
reviewed their contents the Kaiser declared that he 
could not let himself be under any illusion as to the 
gravity of the position into which the Danube 
Monarchy had been brought by the Greater Serbia 
propaganda. It was not our business, however, to 
advise our ally what it must do in respect of the 
bloody deed at Serajevo. Austria-Hungary must 
settle that for itself. We must all the more abstain 
ffoinrany direct action or advice, as we must labour 
with every means to prevent the Austro-Serbian 
dispute developing into an international conflict. 
But the Emperor Francis Joseph must also be given 
to know that we would not desert Austria-Hungary 
in its hour of peril. Our own vital interests required 
the unimpaired maintenance of Austria. It seemed 
a good plan to stretch out a hand to Bulgaria, but this 
must be done without giving a slap in the face to 
Roumania. 

These views of the Kaiser corresponded with my 
own opinions. On my return to Berlin I received 
Count Szogyenyi and assured him that the Kaiser 

119 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



fully realised the danger of the Pan-Slav and Greater 
Serb propaganda. In respect of the attitude of 
Roumania and the efforts to establish a new Balkan 
Alliance against Austria-Hungary we were prepared 
to support Austrian attempts to win Bulgaria for the 
Triple Alliance. In Bukharest we should work for a 
friendly orientation of Roumanian policy. In the 
questions at issue between Austria and Serbia the 
Kaiser could take no line as they were outside his 
competence. But the Emperor Francis Joseph 
might feel every confidence that the Kaiser would 
take his stand loyally beside Austria in accordance 
with his treaty obligations and traditional friendship. 

On the 6th of July the Kaiser went on his northern 
journey, and replied from Bornholm on the 14th of 
July in the same sense to the Emperor's letter. And 
with this we may take leave of the legend of a Crown 
Council and the decisions taken there. No Crown 
Council was ever held. 

Further, it has been asserted that we used pressure 
to bring Austria to a warlike decision. This version 
has of late received colour from a despatch of the 
Bavarian Charge* d 5 Affaires, von Schoen, of the 18th 
of July, 1914, recently published by Kurt Eisner. 
I cannot, of course, say whether Herr von Schoen 
rightly understood the communications made to him 
by the Foreign Office and by other diplomatists. 
But I doubt it. Presumably he confused them with 
information he got from other sources. Our only 

120 



BAVARIAN REVELATIONS 



concern in this respect was that Vienna, if did decide to 
treat, should not come to weak and vacillating 
decisions. This would have made the situation worse, 
not better. But this in no way obscured the general 
line we followed, and that line is clearly indicated in 
the reply to Count Szogyenyi, and was never 
abandoned. 

We have been given to understand from other 
quarters, that after approving the Austrian action 
we should have taken over entire control of it. 
Especially are we reproached because Austria issued 
the Serbian ultimatum without our previous know- 
ledge, and without our having approved its contents. 
But I am still of opinion that we should have made 
a mistake if we had tried to avoid this reproach. 
Apart from the fact that the Vienna Cabinet had 
on previous occasions, and particularly during the 
Balkan wars, made us feel that we had prejudiced 
Austrian policy by our moderating interventions 
though such sentiments as between mutually depen- 
dent allies are undesirable yet this consideration 
was not of prime importance. But we must remember 
that we should have at once given an international 
scope to the Austro-Serbian dispute if we had con- 
verted the Austrian into an Austro-German action. . 
We should have lost thereby every possibility of 
localising the conflict, or failing that of mediating it 
internationally. For we should have been bound by 
the terms and by the form of an ultimatum that had 

321 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



been expressly approved, and we should have been 
debarred from the whole function of intervention 
that we did in fact discharge, and in which we should 
have succeeded had it not been cold-shouldered by 
the other side. Of course, we continually demanded 
that the Vienna Cabinet should keep us au courant. 
And that we gave carte blanche to the Ballhausplatz 
is only one of the myths that have blossomed so 
abundantly during the war. We did ascertain through 
Herr von Tschirschky the general lines of the demands 
that Austria was making on Serbia. Nor did we 
consider that we could disapprove them in principle. 
The text of the ultimatum was communicated to me 
by Herr von Jagow, who had received it late in the 
evening of the 28th of July, with the observation 
that he considered it too severe. He said the same 
to the Ambassador, and expressed to him dissatisfac- 
tion that by being notified so late we had been wholly 
deprived of all opportunity of expressing an opinion 
on so important a document. The Ambassador's 
information was indeed to the effect that the 
ultimatum had already been sent to Belgrade, where 
it was to be handed over the following morning and 
simultaneously published in Vienna. 

Those, then, are the facts. They refute the 
allegation advanced by the other side that we had 
collaborated in the ultimatum, and strengthened it 
wherever possible, and that in any case we had had 
cognizance of the document at a time when we could 

122 



SEVERITY OF ULTIMATUM 



have modified it either in form or in tenour. There 
is not a word of truth in all this. 

Was the ultimatum, then, too severe ? Accusers of 
Germany who appear to care for nothing but con- 
victing Germany of the guilt for the war deduce 
from this severity the bellicose intentions of the Central 
Powers. Other critics see in it at least the immediate 
cause of war, and Sir E. Grey, as already noted, 
observed to our Ambassador that the form of the 
ultimatum hindered him from pacifying St. Peters- 
burg. For my part, I deplored the severity of the 
ultimatum because it could give the impression that 
the Central Powers desired a world war. But in 
view of our mediatory activity no one could really 
remain under such an impression except at the 
instigation of an ill-will that seems to be inseparable 
from politics. Practically speaking, Austria could 
only master the Serbian danger if it handled it severely. 
Keeping on the gloves would only have encouraged 
the Greater Serbia propaganda and enraged Russia. 
It would have been better not to have put up a fist at 
all. Only a strong decision could check the dissolution 
of the Austrian Monarchy and, however paradoxical it 
may sound, also save the peace for any length of time. 

Was it then inevitable that an Austro-Serbian 
war must lead to a European War ? * 

* Prof. Hans Delbriick has written very much to the point in this 
question in the January and April numbers of the Prussian Year 
Book of 1919. 

123 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



This also is a question in which moral criminality 
and war causality are interwoven. Austria-Hungary 
made war on Serbia in order to ensure its own 
survival, and Germany covered its ally for the same 
reason. Both were acting under force of self- 
preservation. But when Russia fomented a world war 
out of the Serbian war, its motive was its assumed 
mission of protecting the Slavs and appropriating the 
Straits, wherein Russia was acting not for its self- 
preservation but for its expansion. The international 
anarchy in which we have hitherto lived and appar- 
ently must go on living, knows no moral code that 
allows of a final judgment as to the ethical virtue or 
viciousness of any particular political action. War is 
a last, but also a legitimate, resort for the realisation of 
national aims. I cannot say whether this view will 
allow of the bellicosity of Russia being acquitted as 
" moral " in view of the atrocities of this world war. 
But whoever recognises a movement for expansion as a 
moral motive for war must admit that a means to self- 
preservation must take ethical precedence of it, and 
if the statesman cannot base his calculations on the 
moral considerations entertained by his opponent, 
yet he cannot leave out of count altogether such 
considerations without which the life of communities 
is as inconceivable as that of individuals. And the 
following points cannot be overlooked in a review of 
the situation in July, 1914. 

Although we had at the time no knowledge of the 

124 



RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WAR 

Tsar's approval of the Sassonow proposals of Feb- 
ruary, 1914, yet we could not for a moment be in 
doubt as to the general tension of the European 
situation. Only the most immoderate and malicious 
criticism could accuse me of having stumbled blindfold 
to destruction. But all efforts for peace were bound 
to fail against the strong will to war of Russia a will 
that England could not soften. But was the road 
to peace blocked by political necessity had not 
Russia intentionally barred it ? The answer is that 
Russia had been deprived of every objective reason 
for war with the assurance given it as to the integrity 
of Serbia, and with the resumption of direct conver- 
sations, temporarily interrupted, between St. Peters- 
burg and Vienna. Both, as I have said, were due to 
our urgent counsels. If St. Petersburg had negotiated 
direct with Vienna on this basis, then it is hard to see 
why an understanding could not have been reached 
with the help of the English at St. Petersburg and of 
ourselves at Vienna, which might have been accepted 
by Russia without an insupportable loss of prestige. 
Sir E. Grey, too, considered that mediation was 
possible, even after an Austrian invasion of Serbia, 
provided Austria in so doing declared it would retain 
the occupied territory only until it had received 
satisfaction from Serbia, and also gave assurances 
that it would not advance further.* But if the 
view is held that Russia could brook no thwarting 
* Blue Book, No. 88. 
125 



\\ 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



whatever of its Balkan schemes, that we should have 
realised this, and should not therefore have supported 
Austria in its proceedings against Serbia this means 
really that Germany should have committed hara-kiri. 
I am not prepared to admit that the course we took 
can only be explained as a political miscalculation. 
But one confession I must make. And that is that 
when the crisis came on I assumed that even a Russian 
mind would shrink from taking that fearful plunge 
except under extreme necessity, and that I believed 
also that England, when faced with the final decision, 
would study the peace of the world before its own 
friendships. 

The point has been raised in respect of our mediation 
that we refused Grey's proposal for an Ambassadors' 
Conference in London. Different versions, emanating 
from hostile pens, have tried to make it appear that 
we in general opposed the mediating activities of the 
Powers. The most cursory glance at the documents 
will show at once that this was not so. A distinction 
must be made between the mediation proposals of 
the four Powers not directly concerned with the 
Serbian dispute England, France, Germany and 
Italy and the proposal for the summoning of an 
Ambassadors' Conference in London. The German 
Government from the first and throughout favoured 
proposals for general mediation. In this we took the 
view that it should take the form of mediation, not as 
between Vienna and Belgrade, but as between Vienna 

126 



GREY'S CONFERENCE PROPOSALS 

and St. Petersburg for the avoidance of a European 
War. But the proposal for an Ambassadors' Con- 
ference presented itself to us in the form of an English 
inquiry that contemplated a meeting of Sir E. Grey 
with the French, Italian and German Ambassadors 
in London for discussing what measures could be 
taken to guard against complications. This was 
equivalent to an intervention of the Great Powers 
hi the Austro-Serbian dispute. There are two 
passages, one in the English Blue Book,* and one in 
the French Yellow Book f that throw light on this 
scheme for intervention. While Grey has principally 
in mind joint pressure on St. Petersburg and Vienna, 
Paul Cambon is trying definitely to draw diplomatic 
action into mediation between Austria and Serbia. 
The opinion of the Russian Ambassador is thereupon 
sought, who approves of the attempt in this form. 
And if these preparatory preliminaries be examined, 
the view taken by us of the Ambassadors' Conference 
in London must be held to have been justified. * 
Namely, that it was an attempt of the Triple Entente I 
to bring the Austro-Serbian dispute before the tribunal! 
of Europe or rather before that of the Entente. For 
no one could suppose that the German member of the 
Conference could have made head against those of 
England and France, both in the Russo-Serb interest, 
and against the Italians. No impartiality could 
have been expected from such a tribunal, especially 
* Blue Book, No. 10. f Yellow Book, No. 32. 

127 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



at a moment when Russia was already making com- 
prehensive military preparations. The matter would 
merely have been protracted indefinitely, as Paul 
Cambon had said should be done so as to gain time 
by mediation in Vienna. But Austria was above all 
concerned with a prompt and precise settlement of 
the dispute. It would have been a heavy blow to 
the interests of our ally if we had participated in such 
an arbitration, as von Jagow rightly termed it, so 
long as Austria did not itself desire the interference 
of the Powers in its settlement with Serbia. We 
should only have been open to reproach if we had 
refused every offer of mediation. Whereas we did 
quite the contrary, as is shown by our urgent action in 
Vienna and by the Kaiser's telegram to the Tsar. 
While it was Grey himself who withdrew his proposal 
for a conference when we restored the direct exchange 
of opinion between St. Petersburg and Vienna, which 
it must be remembered Grey had expressly described 
as the best possible method.* Moreover, it must be 
observed that St. Petersburg also preferred discussion 
with Vienna to the Ambassadors' Conference. And 
when Grey later renewed his proposal for a mediation 
of the four Powers, as between Russia and Austria, 
we not only agreed but strove with all our power to 
get Vienna to accept it. Germany cannot therefore 
be accused of negligence. And if out of consideration 
for our ally we did not at once proclaim to the world 

* Blue Book, No. 67 
128 



PRESSURE ON AUSTRIA 



the strong pressure we were applying, we were all the 
more bound to observe such reticence in that nothing 
was made public as to similar emphatic action in St. 
Petersburg. There was indeed one difference. England 
never exercised, or never exercised enough, the great 
authority it enjoyed in St. Petersburg in order to create 
conditions suitable for mediation. It neglected to 
provide for the principal point, and that was complete 
suspension of military preparations. 

****** 
The Kaiser returned from his northern journey on 
the 27th of July. I had advised him to undertake 
this journey in order to avoid the attention that would 
have been aroused by his giving up an outing that he 
had for years been accustomed to take at this time 
of year. The French take the view that after the 
Kaiser's return there was a change for the worse in 
tone. I saw nothing of the kind, though I was in 
constant personal touch with the Kaiser. Quite the 
reverse ; he would not hear of any step being omitted 
that might be conducive to peace. Our strong 
pressure on Vienna corresponded with his, innermost 
conviction. The attempt personally to influence the 
Tsar and the King of England was the consequence 
of his own initiative. Of course, he was well aware 
of the weakness and vacillation of the Tsar, as well 
as of the constitutional position of the King of England 
that only allowed of any real influence to a personality 
of peculiar strength. But he wished to leave no road 

129 K 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



untried. It was incomprehensible to his deep and 
passionate love of peace that his cousins on the Russian 
and English thrones should not have the same sense 
of responsibility as himself, and be prepared to stake 
everything to stop the world catastrophe. As a 
matter of fact, his words did make a deep impression 
on the Tsar. They actually caused him to order the 
suspension of the general mobilisation that was 
already in progress as we now know from the 
Sukhomlinow trial. But the military authorities 
did not obey, but told the Tsar lies to the effect that 
his orders had been carried out. Then, on the morning 
of the 31st of July, Generals Sukhomlinow and 
Yanuschkewitsch, with the help of Sassonow, finally 
convinced the Tsar himself of the necessity of mobilisa- 
tion. To the best of my knowledge Sassonow made 
no attempt to counteract their representations. 
Our enemies deduce from the action that we took 
in respect of the Russian general mobilisation that 
we had originated and were responsible for the war. 
There are Germans who have associated themselves 
in this respect with our enemies. It is well known 
that other Germans are of opinion that we were 
certainly neither obliged to require that Russia should 
withdraw its mobilisation, nor to declare war, when our 
requirement was not fulfilled. 

Obviously there were only three different grounds 
conceivable for the Russian general mobilisation. 
Either Russia was bluffing in the belief that it could 

130 






RUSSIAN MILITARY MEASURES 

thereby subsequently curry favour with the Central 
Powers, or Russia believed itself to be threatened, or, 
finally, Russia wanted war. I do not see how there 
can be any other alternative. 

That it was a bluff seems only credible if Sassonow 
had no clear idea as to what must be the result of a 
mobilisation. But this seems contrary to all the 
evidence. I had already instructed Count Pourtales 
on the 26th of July to point out to Sassonow that 
preparatory military measures on the part of Russia 
would compel us to take counter-steps that would 
practically amount to the mobilisation of the army. 
But such mobilisation meant war. The Count at 
once carried out these instructions, and let no day 
pass without impressing on the Russian Minister the 
fearful responsibility involved in preliminaries to 
mobilisation. On the 29th of July I repeated the 
warning and stated that Germany would be forced 
to mobilise if the Russian measures for mobilisation 
were maintained, and that then a European war could 
scarcely be prevented. The English and French 
Governments also left Sassonow under no doubt as 
to how they themselves looked on mobilisation, 
although they certainly never said the word that 
might have stopped mobilisation. On the 25th of 
July Sir George Buchanan expressed to M. Sassonow 
" his earnest hope that Russia would not bring on war 
prematurely by mobilising," and, " further, did his 
best to urge the Minister to prudence, and to point 

131 K 2 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



out to him that if Russia mobilised Germany would 
not content itself with mobilisation and leaving 
Russia to mobilise, but would probably at once 
declare war." The language used by the French 
Government was perhaps not so plain, but quite 
sufficiently unmistakable. " It considered that it 
was desirable that Russia, in taking precautionary 
and defensive measures,* should not at once take any 
action that would give Germany a pretext for 
mobilising its forces either partly or wholly." 

Further, it must be assumed that M. Sassonow 
knew what the Tsar himself had ordered. In the 
Russian orders for mobilisation, 30th of September, 
1912, we find, " It is the Emperor's order that the 
notification of mobilisation should be equivalent to 
the notification of a state of war with Germany," 
and the following order lays down a general instruction 
for the troops on the North-west front : "As soon as 
concentration is completed we shall proceed to advance 
against the armed forces of Germany with the object 
of carrying the war on to their own territory." It 
has been positively asserted that this mobilisation 
order had been withdrawn. But, in any case, it shows 
that in St. Petersburg there had been for long a clear 
idea as to what mobilisation meant. It is therefore 
impossible to assume that M. Sassonow acted unwit- 
tingly, and therewith the theory of a bluff falls to the 
ground. 

* Blue Book, No. 17. Yellow Book, No. 101. 
132 



DATES OF MOBILISATION 



Did Russia mobilise, then, because it felt itself 
threatened ? Let us cast a glance at the different 
dates of mobilisation. On the 25th of July Serbia 
mobilised on receipt of the Austrian ultimatum, and 
on the same 25th of July a ministerial council, held 
in presence of the Tsar, " contemplated mobilisation 
of the 13th Army Corps intended for operations 
against Austria." This partial mobilisation was 
equivalent to a general mobilisation against the Aus- 
trian front, and was to be put in execution " as soon 
as Austria proceeded to take military action against 
Serbia." The Minister for Foreign Affairs was 
instructed and empowered " to determine the time of 
mobilisation."* It would seem, therefore, that Russia, 
from the very first moment, came to the support of 
Serbia against Austria by mobilisation at least, and, 
curiously enough, left the decision as to this military 
measure in the hands of the Foreign Minister. 

Monsieur Sassonow did actually put the decision of 
the ministerial council in force on the 29th of July 
after Austria had, on the day before, that is on the 
28th of July, declared a partial mobilisation that was 
however exclusively against Serbia and simultaneous 
with the declaration of war against Serbia. The 
respective strengths of the troops mobilised on the 
29th of July show that twenty-four Austro-Hungarian 
divisions were confronting thirty-nine Russian and 
fifteen Serbian, in all, fifty-four divisions. The 
"^Yellow Book, No. 50. 
133 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



Russo-Serb forces were therefore twice as strong as 
the Austrian. Up to five o'clock on the afternoon of 
the 1st of August, when Germany mobilised, the 
relative strengths were unchanged, at least on the 
Austrian side. Under these conditions, to assert that 
Russia ordered the mobilisation of its whole army, 
as it did at latest on the 30th of July, from appre- 
hension at the military menace directed against it 
is nothing less than absurd. At any rate, M. Sassonow 
explained the general mobilisation to Paris through 
the French Ambassador as being due " to the general 
mobilisation of Austria, and to the preparations for 
mobilisation that Germany has for six days secretly 
but uninterruptedly taken " ; while he explained it 
to London through the English Ambassador in similar 
though somewhat less strong terms.* Both these 
statements are incorrect. The Russian orders for 
mobilisation were publicly posted in the streets of 
St. Petersburg in the early morning of the 31st of 
July, while the Austrian mobilisation was first declared 
in the late morning of the 31st of July, and conse- 
quently some hours after the Russian mobilisation 
had been posted, and at least a night after it had been 
ordered. The assertion that Germany had for six 
days, that is since the 25th of July, secretly and 
uninterruptedly prepared for mobilisation is also an 
invention. We had only taken such precaution as 
other countries, and in some respects even less than 

* Yellow Book, No. 118. Blue Book, No. 113. 
134 



FALSE DATA 



they. We had recalled the fleet from Norwegian 
waters, even as England had kept together her fleet 
which would otherwise have been dispersed after the 
manoeuvres. We had, like France, recalled our troops 
from the training camps and from manoeuvres. We 
had stopped leave from certain Army Corps only, 
whereas France had cancelled all leave on the 27th of 
July. " Secret " mobilisations may be possible in vast 
Russia, but were simply out of the question in Ger- 
many, as the Russian military authorities must have 
very well known. Hundreds of thousands of men and 
thousands of horses and wagons cannot be " secretly " 
mobilised in a country with communications in the 
condition they are in in Germany.* 

This all shows clearly that the Russian Government 
based its order for a general mobilisation on false 
data, and it is impossible to believe that they could 
have unwittingly made use of such incorrect informa- 
tion as they produced in evidence of the alleged 

* Much later during the war St. Petersburg remembered an extra 
edition of the Berlin Lokalanzeiger of the 30th of July that falsely 
reported that the German Army had been mobilised. So far as 
could be ascertained from the official inquiry that was at once 
instituted, it appeared that employees of this paper had been 
instigated by quite unconscionable excess of professional zeal. 
The Secretary of State, von Jagow, at once informed the Russian, 
French and English Ambassadors that the report was false, and M. 
Swerbejew at once communicated this information to St. Petersburg. 
If the canard of the Lokalanzeiger had influenced the decisions of 
the Russian Government, we should certainly have found something 
about it in the official publications, and especially in the telegrams 
referred to above from the French and English Ambassadors to their 
Governments. But these latter make no mention of the incident. 

135 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



Austrian mobilisation. Scarcely anything could throw 
a clearer light on the real motives of those in power 
at St. Petersburg. 

It is obviously absurd to talk of military menace 
to Russia, and the Russian authorities will scarcely 
be able to maintain that our political attitude gave 
proof of an intention to go to war. M. Sassonow 
had more than once heard from our Ambassador that 
we had used strong pressure at Vienna in a mediatory 
sense, and he knew the text of the Kaiser's telegrams to 
the Tsar. The most suspicious could only have as- 
sumed that this was all done for the sake of appear- 
ances if our evil intention had been indicated in some 
unmistakable manner. But there was no such indica- 
tion. And as the Russian Government could not 
adduce any German or Austrian measures of a military 
character, just as little can they show any preparations 
on our part other than military. The German 
Government have indeed been reproached by Germans, 
not without ground, for having omitted to make such 
preparations. The assertion that Russia mobilised 
because it considered itself endangered is an invention 
that is without foundation in fact. 

There remains, then, only the third alternative open 
to the most critical observer. And this is that Russia 
mobilised because it desired war. The Russian 
mobilisation was ordered in spite of the fact that 
Vienna was ready to enter into direct conversations 
with St. Petersburg on the Serbian issue, in spite of the 

136 



RUSSIA DESIROUS OF WAR 



fact that Vienna had accepted the Grey mediation, 
in spite of the fact that Vienna had given assurances 
as to the integrity of Serbia, in spite of the fact that n 
Vienna was prepared not to go beyond such a tempo- 
rary occupation of a part of Serbian territory as 
England itself had considered acceptable, finally, in 
spite of the fact that Austria had only mobilised 
against Serbia and that Germany had not yet mobi- f 
lised at all. Consequently, when the telegraph brought T 
us news of the mobilisation on the morning of the 31st ^ 
of July, we could not be other than convinced that 
Russia desired war under all conditions. And the 
revelations that have subsequently been made as to 
the general plans of Sassonow, and the events preceding 
the Russian mobilisation, must, I think, be held to 
exclude all possible doubt, and to prove doubly and 
trebly that we were right in then thinking as we did. 
And that we were right also in not attributing any 
further controlling influence over the course of events 
in St. Petersburg to the solemn pledge of the Tsar 
that his troops would take no provocative action 
pending negotiations with Austria. 

* * * * * / * 

We were not in complete agreement among ourselves 
as to how we were to proceed officially. The War 
Minister, General von Falkenhayn, thought it was a 
mistake to declare war on Russia, not because he 
considered that war could be avoided after Russia 
had mobilised, but because he feared that the political 

137 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



effect would be prejudicial to us. The Chief of the 
General Staff, General von Moltke, was on the other 
hand in favour of declaring war, because our plan of 
mobilisation, providing for a war on two fronts, 
required that military actions be immediately taken, 
and because our hope of success against an enormous 
superiority in numbers was dependent on the extreme 
rapidity of our movements. I myself agreed with the 
view of General von Moltke. I was, of course, under 
no illusion as to the effect on the question of responsi- 
bility for the war that our declaration of war would 
have and actually did have. But it was impossible 
at a moment when the existence of the country was 
entirely dependent on military action to oppose the 
military arguments, quite reasonable in themselves, 
of that general who was responsible for military 
operations. The unanimity of the German people 
was in no way impaired by the declaration of war 
against Russia. 

It is well known that we have been reproached by 
other quarters in a contrary sense. The procrastina- 
tion in mobilisation and in beginning military opera- 
tions is said to have done us irremediable harm. Only 
military experts can judge whether a gain of two or 
three days would have been an important military 
advantage. But no one in his senses could maintain 
that through not having struck a few days earlier we 
lost the war, and that is really all that matters. The 
same reply can be made to the further reproach that 

138' 



GERMAN DECLARATION OF WAR 

we had made insufficient economic and financial 
preparations for war, and that, politically speaking, the 
war was badly staged. These criticisms, which have 
already been referred to, are not entirely unfounded. 
The experience of the war has shown that Germany 
should have kept in reserve a considerable store of 
cereals, food-stuffs and raw materials. There was 
indisputably some negligence in this not having long 
ago been seen to. But the omission could not be 
made good at short notice. Such preparations were 
quite impossible in view of the uncanny rapidity with 
which the crisis developed; that is to say, prepara- 
tions that could have been of any real relief to us in 
enduring a four years' war. The loss of the war could 
as little have been avoided by stopping exportation of 
wheat and the sailing of the few vessels, however 
important some of them were, as it could have been 
by importing such grain as we could have got hold of 
in the course of July, 1914. Such matters as these 
were in no way decisive in relation to the illimitable 
demands made on us during the war. Nor do I 
clearly see how a real war of defence can be staged. 
The cleverest management, and I am well aware that 
my own fell far short of that, could not have avoided 
doing things that might have been interpreted as the 
outcome of aggressive intentions, and that in our case 
would certainly have been so interpreted. And while 
anything of this sort would not only have been untrue 
to the facts, it might also have had fatal effects on our 

139 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



own internal resolution. I looked upon it as a 
moral responsibility to avoid both these dangers 
under all conditions the 4th of August showed 
eventually that my attitude was not wholly un- 
justified.* 

The role of France in the great tragedy of 1914 was 
conditioned by its alliance with Russia and by the 
revival of the revanche idea under the regime of M. 
Poincare. France had undoubtedly lost no time in 
promising unlimited loyalty and support to an allied 
Russia that had taken its stand behind Serbia imme- 
diately after the outbreak of the Serbian crisis. For 
as early as the 24th of July the Serbian Minister in St. 
Petersburg was able to proclaim triumphantly to our 
Ambassador that he would soon be convinced that it 
was not an Austro-Serbian but a European question 
that was on the order of the day. In this he was 
clearly echoing Russia, and M. Sassonow himself could 
hardly have used such brusque expressions about 
Vienna if he had had reason to fear a disavowal from 
Paris. No sign is to be found that France really 
damped down Russian excitement. The inclination 
originally shown by Viviani's representative to recog- 
nise the right of Austria to satisfaction from Serbia 
was transformed by a telegram from the Premier 
Viviani sent on his return journey from St. Petersburg 
into a decision to take sides with Serbia. 

* Our attitude towards Italy will be discussed when we come to 
deal with the war itself. 

140 



INFLUENCE OF FRANCE 



A distinct want of good will was shown from the 
very beginning in the unremitting efforts of France to / 
bring in question the genuineness of our efforts for 
peace, and to give rise to the suspicion that we were 
only using the Serbian affair as a pretext for falling 
upon France. M. Jules Cambon argued in all his 
despatches with his usual debating ability on the 
fallacious assumption that the fomenters of the war 
were to be sought in Berlin. The attempts that we 
made in Paris to bring about pacificatory action in 
St. Petersburg not only encountered a very profound 
distrust, but were at once reproduced in the Press in 
" distorted forms." Clearly the one anxiety of Paris 
was not to compromise itself with German diplomacy 
in the eyes of the Allies, not to appear to be a luke- 
warm ally, nor to cause disquiet in any way to its 
Russian partner. 

The French Cabinet at the same time considered 
that it was its principal task to help to bring about the 
entry of England into the war. Both English and 
French documents give a lively picture of the persis- 
tence and obstinacy that M. Paul Cambon showed in 
his negotiations with Sir E. Grey. However much 
Grey in these conversations maintained the fiction 
that England's hands were free, M. Cambon was so 
little discouraged thereby that in the end he succeeded 
in bending the English statesman. The pact was 
concluded when France at last, on the 1st of August, 
obtained the assurance that the English fleet would 

141 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



stop German vessels passing through the Channel, 
and would defend the French coast against German 
attacks. This was the moment in which England 
finally abandoned its neutrality and definitely bound 
itself. France had got what it wanted. 

The French Cabinet made use of another means in 
its canvassing for English support that in itself is 
very characteristic of its whole attitude in the crisis. 
That was I cannot express it otherwise want of 
veracity in its representation of what was actually 
happening. Not only M. Viviani, but also M. Poin- 
care*, personally and persistently maintained that 
Russian general mobilisation was the result of a 
universal Austrian mobilisation.* I have already 
^noted and the fact is notorious that the Russian 
mobilisation posters had already been read by every- 
one in the streets of St. Petersburg early in the morning 
of the 31st of July, while the Austrian mobilisation was 
only decided on several hours later. This was, indeed, 
just the point though the French Cabinet raised it in 
this fashion ; and the military attitude of Germany 
was dealt with by the French statesmen in as unfair a 
manner. I had instructed our Ambassador in Paris, 
Baron von Schoen, to point out to the French Govern- 
ment that a continuance of French military prepara- 
tions would force us to take steps for our defence. 
We should have to proclaim a state of war menace 
that would not necessarily imply mobilisation, but 

* Blue Book, No. 134. Yellow Book, No. 127. 
142 



GERMAN EFFORTS FOR PEACE 

must inevitably increase the tension. We still hoped, 
however, that peace could be preserved. M. Viviani 
misrepresents these instructions in his telegram of the 
1st of August to M. Paul Cambon by asserting that we 
had notified an early proclamation of a state of war 
menace, and under cover of this had begun mobilisation 
itself.* And on the 1st of August M. Viviani expressed 
his surprise to Baron von Schoen with reference to his 
notification of the German mobilisation, because 
Germany was taking such a step at a moment when a 
friendly exchange of views was still going on between 
Russia, Austria and the other Powers, f M. Viviani 
thereby admitted that diplomacy was still at work, 
with good prospects, and accused Germany of having 
arbitrarily disturbed this good work, although he 
knew perfectly well that this diplomatic action was 
due, before all, to the efforts of Germany, and that it 
was Russia that had interrupted it by mobilisation. 
When the Tsar himself, in his telegram to the Kaiser 
of the 29th of July, declared that he clearly saw that 
the military measures that were being forced on him 
by his entourage must lead to war, and when Sir E. 
Grey on the 30th of July recognised that the sus- 
pension of the Russian military measures offered the 
only, if exceedingly remote, chance of maintaining 
peace, then it is impossible to take it for granted that 
M. Viviani had not realised the significance of the 

* White Book, Annexe 17. Yellow Book, No. 127. 
t Yellow Book, No. 125. 

143 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



Russian mobilisation to which the German was 
merely a reply. 

Finally, it is particularly to be observed that M. 
Viviani, on being informed by Baron von Schoen of 
of our ultimatum to Russia at 7 in the evening of 
the 31st of July, thereupon pretended that he had no 
knowledge of the alleged complete mobilisation by 
Russia. Such innocent ignorance is simply inexpli- 
cable. It is evidence of a bad case to take refuge in 
falsification, and there can be no doubt as to the object 
for which the French Cabinet adopted such tactics. 
It was necessary to give the impression, even by 
questionable means, that the Russian general mobili- 
sation had been provoked by the Central Powers. Not 
only could the political manipulation of England be 
best forwarded thereby, but the reaction therefrom 
was badly required in France itself. 

The French peasant and workmen did not want to 
go to war for Serbia, and would not waste French 
blood for Russian ambitions in Constantinople. 
Possibly thoroughgoing Chauvinists would, in July, 
1914, not have shrunk from bringing war out of the 
blue for Alsace-Lorraine; but the French people would 
hardly have stood for this. However deep the idea 
of revanche was rooted, we should be wrong in believing 
it strong enough by itself for a war of offence. So far 
as I know, Paris is the one capital where, in July, 1914, 
there were street demonstrations against war. Wilson 
is to some extent right when he says in the 8th of his 

144 



FRENCH PUBLIC OPINION 



14 points that Alsace-Lorraine has imperilled the peace 
of the world for nearly half a century. The lost *7T 
provinces prevented the international atmosphere 
from ever clearing. They hung over it as a permanent 
storm cloud. But the thunderbolt itself came finally 
from elsewhere. It was the Russian authorities who 
were the passionate protagonists, the French were 
merely sympathetic seconds. The French people 
had therefore to be convinced that we were the 
truculent aggressors. That has reinforced the extra- 
ordinary energy with which France has fought through 
these cruel years of warfare. 

If the war had broken out in the East, Germany 
would have found itself in a most awkward position in 
the West. We could with certainty anticipate that 
France would not leave its Russian ally in the lurch. 
When the French Cabinet, on our inquiry, made the 
well-known reply that France would act as its own 
interests required, we had no choice but to declare 
war on France. And thereby we made ourselves appear 
as the aggressor, even though we believed we could 
adduce evidence of previous aggressions by French 
troops.* I do not think that we could have avoided 

* The German declaration of war referred to French frontier 
ncidents and aeroplane attacks. Reports of these air attacks 
proved to be false in many of the incidents enumerated. On the I 
other hand there can be no question that the frontier was first I 
violated by French troops, and that they were on German soil on the 
2nd of August, the day before the declaration of war. 

With a view to exciting public opinion the French Foreign Minister 
published in 1918 an extract from our instructions of the 31st of July 

145 L 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



being forced into this position. The rapidity of the 
military decisions to which we were constrained by the 
Russian mobilisation neither allowed us to adopt a 
passive strategy in respect of France, nor admitted of 
time for diplomatic transactions for the improvement 
of our political position. The aggression of Russia 
dictated to us our attitude as it is in the nature of an 
offensive to do. 



Our invasion of Belgium has been generally con- 
sidered as of crucial importance in the course of the 
universal catastrophe. Here, more than anywhere 
else, we are bound to consider the matter objectively. 
This applies to both friends and foes alike. 

Our military men, as far as I know, had had for 
long only one plan of campaign which was based on 
the unmistakable and unmistaken assumption that a 

calling on the German Ambassador in Paris for the surrender of 
Toul and Verdun as security in the unlikely event of the French 
Government declaring neutrality. It is well known that this part 
of our instruction was never carried out, and consequently never 
came to the knowledge of the French Government at that time. 
The question of security, consequently, had no effect on the course of 
events. If France had actually given a declaration of neutrality, we 
should have had to expect that the French army would have com- 
pleted their preparations in every detail under the protection of an 
apparent neutrality, so as the better to fall upon us at such time as 
* we might be deeply involved in the East. We had to have good 
1 guarantees against this, and military authorities considered that an 
1 occupation of Toul and Verdun for the war would have sufficed. 
I This military view had to be taken into account in instructing the 
* Ambassador. 

146 



INVASION OF BELGIUM 



war for Germany must be a war on two fronts. The 
plan of campaign was the most rapid offensive in the 
West, and, during its first period, a defensive in the 
East after the anticipated successes in the West 
attacks on a larger scale in the East. A strategy on 
these lines seemed to offer the only possibility of 
making head against the enemy's superior strength. 
But military opinion held that a condition of success 
for the Western offensive was passage through Belgium. 
Herein, political and military interests came into sharp 
conflict. The offence against Belgium was obvious, 
and the general political consequences of such an 
offence were in no way obscure. The chief of the 
General Staff, General von Moltke, was not blind to 
this consideration, but declared that it was a case of 
absolute military necessity. I had to accommodate 
my view to his. No observer who was in any way in 
his sober senses could overlook the immense peril 
of a war on two fronts, and it would have been too 
heavy a burden of responsibility for a civilian authority 
to have thwarted a military plan that had been 
elaborated in every detail and declared to be essential. 
For this would later have been looked on as the 
sole cause of any catastrophe that might supervene. 
It would appear that military circles are to-day 
discussing whether a fundamentally different strategy 
would not have been better. I am not concerned 
with expressing an opinion on this point ; but the 
experience of our Polish campaign of 1915 does not, I 

147 L 2 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



consider, admit of the conception that Russia, in the 
summer of 1914, would have met an offensive in such 
a manner as would have admitted of a successful 
defence by us against the French offensive that must 
have immediately followed. In any case, such points 
could not have induced me, in July, 1914, to undertake 
the responsibility of resisting what was then pre* 
sented to me as a unanimous conviction of the military 
authorities. The ultimatum to Belgium was con- 
sequently the political execution of a decision that was 
considered militarily indispensable. But I also stand 
by what I said on the 4th of August when I admitted 
our offence, and at the same time adduced our dire 
need as both compelling and condoning it. Nobody 
can deny that need who does not shut his eyes inten- 
tionally to military facts, and no one can denounce 
our offence on the facts as at present before us. That 
we could have relied upon the obsolete conventions 
as to the fortresses is a view that will not support 
examination for a moment. It would have been a 
diplomatic blunder that could not have survived a 
day. On the other hand the breaches of neutrality by 
Belgium had not been brought to our notice by the 4th 
of August. The documents in which Belgian and 
English military representatives negotiated in 1906 
as to the military use of Belgium were only found 
during the war. But even supposing we had known 
the contents of these documents at the declaration of 
war, does anyone believe that on the strength of them 

148 



INVASION JUSTIFIABLE 



Belgium would have conceded passage to our troops, 
or, indeed, that I could have persuaded the world that 
we had thereafter the right to march through Belgium ? 
Certainly these documents are compromising for 
Belgium, but even if they had been much more com- 
promising than they really were, they would only 
have freed us from the obligation of respecting the 
guarantee of neutrality of 1839. We should there- 
after have been quite as little justified in marching 
through Belgium as we were before, and if Belgium had 
refused our request we should then have been com- 
pelled as we subsequently were to use force, that is to 
make war against Belgium. But, as I have already 
said, this is not to the point ; and further examination 
showed how little convincing the documents really 
were. We published the originals as soon as we had 
found them in Brussels, but I cannot say that I notice 
that this did any particular harm to the enemy propa- 
ganda. The immense injury that I am supposed to 
have done for Germany, by what I said on the 4th of 
August, which has anyhow never been seriously dis- 
puted, seems to me to exist only in the imagination of 
those who found it a useful weapon against me. 

The enemy propaganda was in no way weakened, and 
continued to work through unlimited exaggerations, 
not to say falsifications. Italy and Roumania soon 
freed themselves from their treaty obligations under 
frivolous pretexts, and took the opportunity of our dire 
straits to make war on us ; not because their existence 

149 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



was threatened, but because the Entente thrust them 

on and they thirsted for plunder. They were received 

with open arms and loud applause as noble champions 

for right and justice. We, on the other hand, were 

j branded as criminals because we had insisted on 

I marching through Belgium in our struggle for life, 

land no attention was paid to our assurances as to the 

(integrity of and indemnity to Belgium. One could 

/hardly conceive a more crass inconsistency. 

The moral indignation with which England went to 
war against a breach of treaty is hardly consonant 
with the facts of English history. English statesmen 
had entertained very different and very' peculiar 
views as to this particular case of Belgian neutrality 
in the event of British interests being affected. The 
English public that has allowed itself to be spurred 
to so deep a resentment would do well to inform itself 
on this point.* 

And this is seen to be the case in the present even 
more clearly than in the past. Sir E. Grey has said 
himself that it was not Belgian neutrality that made 
England enter the war. He reports his conversation 

* See especially the following statements. Lord Palmerston in 
House of Commons, 8th of June, 1855. Gladstone ib., 12th of 
August, 1870, especially Diplomaticus's letter in Standard, 4th of 
June, 1887. It is true that in the declarations of the 19th 
of January, 1917, and 16th of March, 1917, the English Government 
denied that this letter represented the views of the Government of 
Lord Salisbury then in office. All the same the documents found in 
the Belgian archives, unfortunately not for the moment at my dis- 
posal, give convincing proof to the contrary. 

150 



BELGIUM ONLY A PRETEXT 

with Prince Lichnowsky on the 20th of July as 
follows : " After speaking to the German Ambassador 
this afternoon about the European situation, I said 
that I wished to say to him, in a quite private and 
friendly way, something that was on my mind. The 
situation was very grave. While it was restricted to 
the issues actually involved we had no thought of 
interfering in it. But if Germany became involved 
in it and then France, the issue might be so great that 
it would involve alJ European interests ; and I did not 
wish him to be misled by the friendly tone of our 
conversation which I hoped would continue into 
thinking that we should stand aside. . . . There 
w uld be no question of our intervening if Germany 
was not involved, or even if France was not involved. 
But we knew very well that if the issue did become 
such that we thought British interests required us 
to intervene, we must intervene at once, and the 
decision would have to be very rapid, just as the deci- 
sions of the other Powers had to be.* 

You see, there is nothing about Belgium. But 

Grey says as clearly as diplomatic language allows 

that England's interests would require her to take part 

in the war as soon as France was involved. And 

if, in principle, he still keeps a free hand for his country 

with an eye to his Parliament and public opinion, 

practically he has obviously already made up his mind. 

His conversations with the French Ambassador, 

* Blue Book, No. 89. 

151 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



29th and 31st of July, 1914, are illuminating as to 
both these points. 

He then said to M. Cambon : " If Germany 
became involved and France became involved, we 
had not made up our minds what we should do ; 
it was a case that we should have to consider. France 
could then have been drawn into a quarrel which was 
not hers, but in which, owing to her alliance, her 
honour and interest obliged her to engage. We were 
free from engagements, and we should have to decide 
what British interests required us to do. I thought it 
necessary to say that, because, as he knew, we were 
taking all precautions with regard to our fleet, and 
I was about to warn Prince Lichnowsky not to count 
on our standing aside, but it would not be fair that 
I should let M. Cambon be misled into supposing that 
this meant that we had decided what to do in a 
contingency that I still hoped might not arise."* 

And further on the 31st of July: "Up to the present 
moment we did not feel, and public opinion did not 
feel, that any treaties or obligations of this country 
were involved. Further developments might alter this 
situation and cause the Government and Parliament 
to take the view that intervention was justified. . . . 
M. Cambon repeated his question whether we would 
help France if Germany made an attack on her. I 
said that I could only adhere to the answer that as 
far as things had gone at present we could not take 

* Blue Book, No. 87 
152 



GREY AND LICHNOWSKY 



any engagement . . . the Cabinet would certainly 
be summoned as soon as there was some new develop- 
ment, but at the present moment the only answer I 
could give was that we could not undertake any 
definite engagement."* 

See also the specific declaration in the same 
conversation. 

" The preservation of the neutrality of Belgium 
might be, I would not say a decisive but an important 
factor in determining our attitude." 

Finally, Sir E. Grey's conversation with Prince 
Lichnowsky of the 1st of August, 1914, is highly 
significant. Grey reports it himself as follows : 
" He asked me whether if Germany gave a promise not 
to violate Belgian neutrality we would engage to 
remain neutral. I replied that I could not say that ; 
our hands were still free and we were considering 
what our attitude should be. All I could say was 
that our attitude would be determined largely by 
public opinion here, and that the neutrality of Belgians 
would appeal very strongly to public opinion here. 
I did not think we could give any promise of neutrality 
on that condition alone. The Ambassador pressed 
me as to whether I could not formulate conditions on 
which we would remain neutral. He even suggested 
that the integrity of France and her colonies might 
be guaranteed. I said that I felt obliged to refuse 
definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar 
* Blue Book, No. 119. 
153 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



terms, and I could only say that we must keep our 
hands free."* 

It would be easy to accumulate further proofs, but 
only one othe^will be referred to here. On the 1st of 
August Sir E. Grey informed the French Ambassador 
that ^G would ask the Cabinet to declare that the 
English fleet would oppose German passage of the 
Channel and any demonstration against the French 
coast. On the morning of the 2nd of August this was 
officially agreed to, and therewith a state of war 
between England and Germany had already been 
created. But at that moment our ultimatum had 
not yet been presented to Belgium. 

England did not go to war for Belgium. But 
because it felt itself morally bound to France, even 
though literally it was still free, and because it con- 
sidered that British interests required that France 
should be protected. The impartial observer can 
come to no other conclusion, even if he excludes 
from consideration the fact that influential British 
circles were only too glad to take part in a war against 
Germany. Our violation of Belgian neutrality was 
a pretext for war, that only affected the decision of the 
English Government in that it possibly hastened it, 
and certainly provided a plausible appeal to the 
public. Sir E. Grey himself, moreover, in his great 
speech in the Commons on the 3rd of August, 1914, 
dealt with the Belgian affair merely as a part of the 
* Blue Book, No. 123. 
154 



BRITISH DECLARATION OF WAR 

whole question. He had, at that moment, no 
knowledge of our ultimatum, and could therefore 
speak only hypothetically of the violation of Belgian 
neutrality. He had, however, now to* communicate 
the correspondence exchanged in November, 1912, 
and took all the pains in the world to show, that 
England had kept a free hand in spite of this corre- 
spondence. Everyone, he said, must judge according 
to his own feelings how far the friendship with France 
involved any obligations. But since the 2nd of 
August there was an obligation with respect to the 
defence of the French coast. While that was no decla- 
ration of war, yet it was binding in the case of German 
naval action against the coasts of France, or against 
French shipping. He showed from various points of 
view that England could not remain neutral, and 
concluded with the following words : " If we did 
take that line (neutrality) by saying we will have 
nothing whatever to do with this matter that no 
conditions of the Belgian treaty obligations, the 
possible position in the Mediterranean with damage to 
British interests, and what may happen to France if 
we fail to support France then we should sacrifice 
our respect and good name and reputation before the 
world, and should not escape the most serious and 
grave economic consequences." 

On the 6th of August Mr. Asquith, the practical 
politician, made his speech : " If one asks what we 
are fighting for, I reply in two sentences. In the 

155 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



first place in order to comply with the solemn inter- 
national undertaking (here we have Belgian neutrality), 
in the second place we are fighting in defence of the 
principle that small nationalities shall not be struck 
down by the selfish will of any strong and overwhelm- 
ing Power against international truth and faith." 
These formulae thus fixed the two focal points round 
which henceforward English war propaganda religiously 
revolved, and established an edifice of political 
engineering of highly practical simplicity in which 
all discordant considerations of historic accuracy were 
quietly ignored. But the man of all others whose 
fiery eloquence and accurate knowledge of the 
English spirit made him the doughtiest defender of the 
English war legend, himself blurted out in an un- 
guarded moment what was only intended for the ears 
of the initiated. On the 8th of August, 1918, Lloyd 
George said, " We had a compact with France that the 
United Kingdom should come to its assistance if it 
should be wantonly attacked." " We didn't know 
that," interrupted another member, Mr. Hogge. " If 
France should be wantonly attacked," repeated Mr. 
Lloyd George. Another member again called out, 
46 That's new to us." The ex-Cabinet Minister, 
Mr. Herbert Samuel, at once recognised the danger of 
the admission, and tried to bring it into harmony with 
Grey's version of the correspondence of 1912. Lloyd 
George thereupon modified his statement : " I think 
the word ' compact ' was much too strong to express 

156 



ENGLISH FORMULAE 



what had actually taken place." He re-read Grey's 
letter and continued : " I think the word ' com- 
pact ' was too strong an expression in this connection. 
I think the expression, ' obligation of honour,' would 
be a more correct description of what actually took 
place than the word compact, and certainly there 
was no treaty." 

No. Certainly there was not. But it was the 
ground for England's entry into the war. 

The leaders of the Opposition who were all behind the 
scenes had called things by their right names on the 
2nd of August, 1914. Bonar Law had then written 
the following letter to Mr. Asquith : " Lord Lans- 
downe and I consider it our duty to let you know that 
according to the opinion of ourselves and of such col- 
leagues as we have been able to consult, it would be 
fatal to the honour and security of the United Kingdom 
if we hesitated to support France and Russia in the 
present circumstances, and we have no hesitation in 
offering the Government our support in all measures 
they may consider requisite for this purpose." 

There you have it honour and security of the 
United Kingdom" " support of France and Russia '* 
no word of Belgium. 

The importance of these statements we have 
reviewed seems to me to extend far beyond a mere 
historic interest in the true course of events. We 
Germans can thereby estimate accurately the damage 
done to us by our invasion of Belgium. Foreign 

157 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



opinion may perhaps at some future date recognise 
that our offence against Belgium, committed under 
pressure of a struggle for life against the whole world, 
was worked up by enemy agitation into a crime 
through which we forfeited our place among the 
nations. Whereas England, even if we had not 
committed this offence, would nevertheless have 
joined in the grande battue against Germany with its 
full strength and its whole world influence. Those of 
us living to-day cannot say whether the scars of hate 
inflicted on us by England can or will ever disappear 
from our country. It has been given out from English 
altar steps that the killing of Germans was a work 
pleasing to God ; and our children, and children's 
children, will bear traces of the blockade that England 
enforced against us, a refinement of cruelty nothing 
less than diabolic. England has taken good care that 
its warfare shall leave after effects on our lives, even 
though, in course of time, the graves of millions of 
dead should grow green with the years that forgive 
and forget. But falsehood and slander must be 
eradicated if the hope of a subsequent reconciliation 
of the peoples is not ever to remain a dream.* 

* Enemy propaganda has made particular capital out of the 
reports sent by Sir E. Goschen to Ms Government as to his last 
conversation with me on the 4th of August, 1914 (Blue Book, No. 
160). The Ambassador forgets to mention in his despatch that he 
began the conversation with the question whether I could not give 
him a different answer to the English ultimatum than that of Herr 
von Jagow. On my refusing, the Ambassador asked whether, 
supposing the war were to his deep regret finally decided on, we could 

158 



THE "SCRAP OF PAPER." 



On the 29th of July I had made an attempt to find 
out what we had to expect from England, and did so 
with a candour corresponding with and required by 
the gravity of the situation. My inquiry, which was 
received in England with moral indignation as a 
disgraceful solicitation, was in fact to the effect 
whether England would remain neutral in a war 
against us on two fronts ; and my assurances for the 
event of its neutrality were quite adequate to remove 
any anxiety in England as to the alteration of the 
European status quo in the event of a German victory. 
The reply that I got, stripped of its moral frills, stated 
that England would keep itself a free hand, that is, 
that England would not renounce intervention in the 

not have, before parting, a private and personal conversation as to 
the awful situation in which the world found itself. I at once agreed 
and asked the Ambassador to dinner. I then went on to speak in 
very strong terms of the world disaster that I could see would neces- 
sarily follow the entry of England into the war, and, after Sir E, 
Goschen had more than once brought up the question of Belgian 
neutrality as the deciding point, I ejaculated impatiently that, 
compared to the fearful fact of an Anglo-German war, the treaty of 
neutrality was only a scrap of paper. This expression was perhaps 
an indiscretion, but my blood boiled at his hypocritical harping on 
Belgian neutrality which was not the thing that had driven England 
into war, and at his complete want of perception that an English 
declaration of war must destroy so much that was of value in the 
world that a violation of Belgian neutrality was of comparatively 
little weight. It seems to me an unusual diplomatic proceeding to 
exploit a private conversation officially. But, in doing it, Sir E. 
Goschen might at least have been thorough, and, since my emotion 
struck him so much, he might have reported that in taking leave of 
me he burst into tears and begged me to allow him to wait a little 
in my ante -room because he did not feel himself fit to appear before 
the clerks in the Chancery. 

159 



THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 



war. On this occasion I could not help getting the 
impression that now, as both before and after, English 
statesmen could only look at the world war through 
the spectacle of British interests, and had closed their 
eyes to the results on the world and on humanity that 
must follow from a war between the two cousins on 
opposite sides of the North Sea. 1 was under no 
illusion as to the prospects of this attempt. English 
publicists* have descanted, not without irony, at the 
miscalculation we made in counting on English 
neutrality. But they forgot how thoroughly we had 
been brought to understand the English tendency 
through Edward VII., the Mansion House speech, and 
through the Haldane Mission. And they also overlook 
the fact that we had received definite information 
about the Anglo-Russian negotiations in the spring. 
Anyone in England who erroneously ascribes to us so 
fundamental a blunder at least contributes to destroy- 
ing the Belgian neutrality myth. With us, too, a well- 
known political group has given currency to the 
theory that I had shut my eyes to the English danger 
and counted on the friendly attitude of England up to 
the last moment. This is one of those misrepresenta- 
tions that are common in political controversy, even 
when they run counter to facts. It was just my 
attempts at an understanding with England, that I 
began with my entry into office and continued regardless 
of failure, that showed that I realised the English peril 

* E.g., F. S. Oliver, Ordeal by Battle, p. 58. 
160 



FINAL NEGOTIATIONS 



at least as well as those whose noisy naval policy was 
only aggravating the evil. A man who has had the 
peril of his country so near at heart as I should not 
have halters woven for him from the threads to which 
he has clung in his desperate efforts for safety. 

At last on the 1st of August, there seemed to be 
a ray of hope. The well-known Lichnowsky telegrams 
arrived in which Grey personally, and through his 
private secretary, again reopened the question of the 
neutrality of France in a Russo-German war, and that 
of England in a war of France and Russia against 
Germany. The Kaiser, on receiving this news, and 
in the presence of his military and political advisers, 
at once decided that the disadvantage of delaying 
military preparations must, without question, be 
faced in spite of the fact that the intelligence was not 
improbably erroneous. Our Ambassador received 
immediate instructions from me to grasp the hand 
which seemed to be stretched out to us. If England 
would guarantee the neutrality of France we would 
undertake no military action against France. The 
Kaiser telegraphed in the same sense to King George. 
But it was a mirage that at once melted away, an 
unexplained misunderstanding. The avalanche could 
no longer be avoided. The avalanche that has 
destroyed the Europe of our day. 



161 



VII 

CONCLUSION. 

FATE decided against us. But, though our enemies 
may feel themselves victors, that does not give them 
the right to judge the world. Their indictment is 
mere ex-parte statement, and the evidence that they 
bring is in no way proportionate to the hatred and vain 
glory in which they have enveloped their accusations. 
The proud English motto, " My country, right or 
wrong," is buried under business advertisements, the 
battle cry that makes its appeal alike, whether in victory 
or defeat, has been drowned in the businesslike propa- 
ganda that has proclaimed the crime of Germany 
while passing over in silence other facts that are 
notfcrious. Our opponents appear only as accusers ; 
they will not accept the part of the judge who 
examines the accusation. The one possible tribunal 
that is conceivable in the circumstances (supposing 
that a verdict could be given as in an ordinary 
litigation), that is a neutral court, is unwelcome to 
them. And all that can be said on the German side 
is similarly only all ex-parte and consequently patch- 
work. It can be nothing more than a reproduction 
of subjective conceptions, which are themselves not 
free from traces such as the enormity of the catas- 

162 



GERMANY ALWAYS PEACE-LOVING 

trophe cannot fail to produce upon anyone with 
human feelings. Only historians in a remote future 
will be able to judge altogether sine ira et studio. 
All the same, the connection between certain facts 
can no longer be disputed. 

The supposition that Germany let loose war out of 
mere lust of world power is so silly that a historian 
would only take it seriously in the entire absence of 
any other explanations at all. [It is, on the other 
hand, a historic fact that German policy did not use 
many opportunities of making war with comparatively 
good prospects of success, but at all times sought for 
and supported a friendly settlement. Whereas the 
assumption that we should have selected the very 
worst possible conditions for an attempt to establish 
German world dominion in the most crude contra- 
diction to all military and political possibilities, 
conditioned as they were by the prevailing systems of 
coalitions such an assumption ascribes to us the sort 
of folly that is only attributed to an opponent in 
the heat of political controversy, and that is in no 
way likely to be accepted by the judgment of history. 
But, as a contrast to this, Russia's urgency for the | 
domination of the approaches to the Mediterranean, i 
and its precipitancy for the hegemony of the Slav world, 
are historical factors of indisputable force. Pan-Slav 1 
tendencies permeate all Russian policy with a strength \ 
that varies but never vanishes altogether. The 
determination of Russia to get possession of the 

163 M 2 



CONCLUSION 



Straits at the cost of a European war can be docu- 
mentarily proved. And if Russia forced the Pan- 
Slavist issue that had been rendered acute by the 
outrage at Serajevo from a local to an international 
question and thereafter carried it by application of its 
whole armed strength from a diplomatic to a military 
question, we cannot avoid seeing that this Russian 
action is nothing but the logical expression of a line of 
historical development that Russian policy has iden- 
tified with its national mission, and that is, moreover, 
entirely unmistakable in its immediate effect. 
. The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian federation 
that was a necessary part of the realisation of the 
Russian plans was of fundamental import to the 
European political system. The future of Germany 
was bound up in the fate of the Monarchy of the 
Danube and this brought the whole status quo of 
Europe in question. But this purely European dis- 
pute was only given force enough to cause World 
revolution through England taking part on the side of 
Russia. The settlement of the Straits question and of 
the Slav question was a matter of absolute indifference 
to Australia and Canada, to India and South Africa. 
Indeed the English dominions and colonies were con- 
cerned only, apart from colonial loot, in seeing that the 
British empire of the world was not weakened by the 
struggle. And the same interest may well have deter- 
mined the attitude of America. Even during their 
early neutrality the United States were, in fact, most 

164 



ATTITUDE OF AMERICA AND JAPAN 

effective auxiliaries of the Entente ; and whatever 
views may be taken in international law of the 
American supplies of arms and munitions, their 
immense, possibly decisive, significance to the fighting 
forces of our enemy is unquestionable. The attitude of 
America cannot only be explained by the financial con- 
trol of the Trusts and by a general indifference to 
Germany, that was converted gradually by English 
propaganda and by the Lusitania into detestation. In 
spite of the imperialist rivalry that was already declar- 
ing itself between the two Anglo-Saxon Powers, the 
United States felt itself more closely related to the 
British world empire than to the growing German 
power. There was only Japan that had still, to some 
extent, not been completely drawn into the English 
group. The Kingdom of the Rising Sun, as soon as it 
had safely pocketed its pick of the German colonies, 
started playing the part of the tertius gaudens, well 
pleased at the marked weakening of the combatants. 
Under pressure from England the war became a cam- 
paign of destruction of almost the entire world against 
Germany. England provided the programme of the 
knock-out, which was later to be the kicking of an 
opponent who was down. English foreign policy that*\ 
first made war possible by unchaining the bellicose 
inclinations of the Dual Alliance with assurances of 
British support, and English procedure in the war it- 
self, are the true causes of the world revolution that is/ 
now proceeding. 

165 



CONCLUSION 



Thus we find the Anglo-German conflict to be the 
ultimate origin of the war. This fact is confirmed by 
the elemental explosion of popular passion in both 
countries. This in Germany assumed rather a form 
of indignant anger, while in England it was not 
without a spirit of destroying hate. This explosion 
may perhaps be explained by a subconsciousness in 
the two peoples that a world disaster might have 
been avoided if they could have got on better together. 
The view that England of malice prepense sought for 
a trial by battle with its German rival is, in my 
opinion, as wide of the mark as the English ideas of 
the same nature about us. The real explanation 
probably is that statesmanship in these two countries 
was either too weak or else unwilling to save the world 
by a doughty deed from a fate that was already 
hanging over it like a threatening storm. And if I 
am confident that I did my best towards effectively 
conjuring this danger, I am in no way blinded by self- 
conceit to the inadequacy of my efforts. Nor do I 
find any excuse for my failure in the fact that a policy 
of reconciliation was offensive to those Germans who 
considered themselves as the appointed guardians of 
the national idea ; while those who really agreed 
with me either could not or would not give me such 
support as could have carried the matter against 
popular feeling. An action capable of cutting the 
knot could only have been achieved if the leaders of 
English political life could have made up their mind 

166 



ENGLISH POLICY RESPONSIBLE 

to break definitely with that principle of alliances 
that had stereotyped instead of sterilising the evil. 

World power implies world responsibility. The'% 
assimilation of the interests of humanity with those I 
of the British Empire, which is peculiar to English / 
thinkers is, of course, unacceptable to Germans. We 
can never admit that a spirit of humanity could have 
inspired a policy which did not hesitate in the interests 
of British supremacy to reduce by starvation a whole 
nation of seventy millions to misery for a whole genera- 
tion, or could have inspired a policy that curtly refused 
to put a stop by a peace of reconciliation to the 
massacre of mankind to which it had summoned the 
sons of every quarter of the globe, and that only be- 
cause thirst for power was not yet slaked in the ruin 
of their opponent. The assertion that England had 
done all this solely for protection of the lesser nations, 
or had acted as an instrument in divine chastisement 
of an enemy of mankind, is as absurd as it is arrogant. 
Such an assertion is as obviously at variance with 
the way England conducted the war as with the way 
it concluded it, and it need not be seriously discussed. 
But the nakedness of a brutal selfishness that has 
perhaps imposed itself for long as a curse on the life 
of the nations is not to be covered by a transparent 
veil of sanctimoniousness. 

If English statesmanship occupied itself entirely 
with the pursuit of its own power through alliances 
and armaments, it was only following the general 

167 



CONCLUSION 



drift of the day. Europe went down to disaster 
owing to the delusion that political responsibilities 
towards humanity could be discharged by so drifting 
and a culpability that is common to all nations is 
centred in this fatal fallacy. And this culpability 
includes those who would gladly have averted the 
war. For it is just as ridiculous to acquit any par- 
ticular Power of all complicity in this world catas- 
trophe as to arraign one Power as being entirely 
culpable. Nowhere had political wisdom been able 
to convey any conviction that the course taken 
by general conditions in the world compelled all 
countries to revise their attitude towards war. The 
Great Powers of Europe only thought of the augmenta- 
tion of their own power without ever reflecting that 
the existing Power Groups caused every alteration in 
the relations of the Great Powers to affect profoundly 
the entire world. While the very prevalent idea that 
war is not only the proper expression of national 
forces but is even a moral purge for a people ran riot 
unchecked. Nor was it considered that the recruiting 
of entire peoples and the unholy discoveries of science 
had converted a chivalrous trial by strength into a 
delirious massacre, destructive of every moral sense. 
The Cabinets were very far from having any sense of 
collective responsibility for mankind. Even if, in 
course of time, spiritual power should get control of 
material force, even so force will still remain the 
symbol of national life ; and it will be as little within 

168 



ULTIMATE ORIGIN 



the power of communities as of individuals to curb 
completely the primaeval forces of selfishness. But 
we may see the final cause of the fate that has fallen 
upon the world in the failure of the nations so far to 
make any serious attempt to revive an international 
life and the folly with which they have hurried in an 
exactly opposite direction. 

The controversy as to which party gave the first 
impulse to a programme of general armament and to 
a perversion of the policy of alliances will probably 
never be fought to a finish. Immeasurable mutual 
distrust, imperialistic ideals, and a patriotism 
restricted to material national instincts, respectively 
worked each other up without its ever being possible 
to say that any particular nation had contributed 
most to the general tendency of the world. All the 
same, it may be observed that if we consider the 
extremes on either side, Chauvinists in France and 
Russia demanded the conquest of Germany and in 
England desired to cripple it, therein openly advocat- 
ing aggressive intentions ; while the exponents of the 
same point of view in Pan-German circles, in spite of 
their undoubted and damaging extravagances, scarcely 
anticipated or aspired to anything more than the repulse 
of hostile ambitions by a strengthening of Germany. 
The contrast was also obvious between the official 
patronage of Chauvinism in France and Russia and 
the Pan-German opposition to the German Govern- 
ment. It was, however, a natural consequence of 

169 



CONCLUSION 



Great Britain's dominion of the world that develop- 
ments came to a crisis as soon as England took part 
in them. In spite of their millions of armed men, the 
Triple and Dual Alliances by counterbalancing each 
/other brought about no breach so long as England 
"^remained in the background and maintained the 
balance. For the Triple Alliance was purely defensive, 
and the offensive ideas underlying the Dual Alliance 
would not risk action without the certainty of English 
support. The " splendid isolation " of England was a 
great guarantee to the peace of the world. The further 
England departed from this position the closer had 
Germany to associate itself with Austria-Hungary, and 
it is more than a coincidence that the great Army Bills 
of 1913 date back to the interference of England in the 
Franco-German dispute about Morocco. Finally, when 
England had so deeply involved itself in the system 
of alliances that military support of its Franco - 
Russian friends had become a point of honour, the 
military policy of the Dual Alliance passed in its turn 
from a period of passivity into one of practical activity. 
From defenders of peace these alliances had grown to 
be designers of war. That is the net result of European 
statesmanship. 

And now the Entente has achieved the goal of its 
ambitions. It commands an undisputed and un- 
divided control over the world, and can realise without 
criticism those ideals of Right and Justice, of Liberty 
and Humanity, that have been its battle cry. If 
the only practical result achieved yet by the Paris 

170 



THE PARIS PEACEMAKERS 



peacemakers has been the gratification of greed for 
conquest, the coercion of Germany, the construction 
of numerous new polities that give small guarantee of 
any permanent peace and the creation of a League for 
the permanent subjection of Germany. If the 
Golden Age, with a newer and worthier Germany, 
that the Entente had promised to conjure up as soon 
as Prussian militarism was defeated, appears as yet 
only as a reign of robbery, roguery and revenge ; 
and if the permanent peace aimed at by President 
Wilson has been mutilated out of all recognition by 
allies who owed their victory to him, must we ascribe 
this to the belief of the European Powers that they 
can lay the basis of a reconciliation of the peoples by 
means of territorial mutilation and economic emascu- 
lation ? If they think so they will learn before long that 
they are wrong. A humanity horror-stricken by this 
war will require not only more respect for the public, 
but more respect for the peoples. It will not allow 
itself to be tied and bound for long by the chains of a 
statesmanship that tethers it helplessly in its old 
beaten track, and that, so far from restraining it from 
injury by war, only reopens the old wounds that cause it. 
The Entente greatly over-estimates its strength if 
it thinks it can create a new age by brutalising 
Germany and Balkanising Central Europe. Europe 
must either heal its self-inflicted wounds by its own 
free and friendly self-help, or it will bleed to death. 
And if realisation of the implacable realities that 
compass us about rejects all arguments based on 

171 



CONCLUSION 



moral values as unbusinesslike and bloodless, yet 
our own history gives us Germans hope in the in- 
vincibility of a creative activity contributing bene- 
ficially both to a community and to humanity as a 
whole. If we can revert to such an activity as this, 
no peace conditions can prevent us from contributing 
to the creation of a better future. 

We shall only be deceiving ourselves if we think 
that the new constitution with which Germany 
enters on the darkest chapter of its history can in 
any way guarantee our future, still less if we imagine 
that vilifying our own past can do so. The Paris 
negotiations, in which republican or at least democratic 
Governments were concerned, show that such forms 
matter little. And we merely weaken our self-respect, 
and thereby our self-reliance, if we vulgarise the 
spirit of self-sacrifice that upheld us during the 
war into a noisy self-satisfaction fed on lies, or if, 
thirsting for truth, and under stress of misfortune, 
we indulge in self-condemnations as injurious as the 
summary sentences passed on us by the enemy. 
Lamenting over what is lost only lessens our powers 
of helping the nation in its need, and even those who 
failed in warding off misfortune may hold firmly 
to the belief that the spirit that inspired our people 
to heroic endurance can never die, but will bring us 
again out of the inner and outer darkness to the 
light of day. 



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