Page images
PDF
EPUB

Servia or Russia. Is not the true view the obvious one, that this cruel outrage was due to the mad act of some mad irreconcilable, actuated by more zeal than discretion? But whilst to plot a disturbance is one thing, to take advantage of it when caused is quite another. If Germany did desire war, the psychological moment for action had arrived. Never was murder more opportune as excuse for immediate action. On the one hand she was trained to an hour, to use the parlance of the prize ring, and on the other her probable enemies would all profit by delay. Russia had a strike to settle; France was preparing to strengthen her army: and as for ourselves, as our monarch on July 21st had said, “To-day the cry of civil war is on the lips of the most responsible and sober minded of my people.” And time was actually against her. The maintenance of an army to cope with Europe, and the building of a navy to cope with ourselves, was involving a financial strain which every year became more serious, and in this alone many of the shrewdest saw the gravest menace to peace. And more, owing to our determination to more than build ship against ship, she could see no way to improve the relative position of her navy. And as regards her army, she could do no more. As subsequent events have shown, she was prepared for war to the last fuse, and every plan was complete. The Kiel Canal was just finished. Krupps, for months, had been working overtime. Her agents had been freely buying horses for cavalry, her ships were ready to be made into cruisers, some carrying reserves of guns with which to fit out sister ships. So we know charters had been made to supply them with coal; whilst as for the spy system, it was so extensive that we have not yet got rid of the pest. Yes, if she desired war, what happier conjuncture? Whilst otherwise, was there ever a moment when she could not have prevented it?

Complications due to the murder of the Archduke were in the air, no doubt, but the nations, all generally annoyed with Servia as the troubler of Europe, were

that nishmes equalist to be a not

agreed that so far as her complicity was proved, she deserved punishment. All were agreed, Russia included, but all were equally agreed that in the name of punishment Servia was not to be crushed as a nationality. Russia in particular could not stand by to see this done. Servia was one with her in race, above all in religion, and under her protection. To have deserted her would have been infamous. And in her dealings with Servia Austria knew exactly how Russia stood in the matter, and yet, on the evening of Thursday, July 23rd, she delivers her ultimatum. Her warmest apologist would not describe it as conciliatory, and she demanded a reply within forty-eight hours. Having delivered it, she sent copies to the Powers. Its reception was one of mute amazement, and Germany even professed to be surprised at the harshness of its terms. What was behind it all was on every lip. It was a direct challenge to Russia. As for Russia, well might she have exclaimed with the King of Israel when the King of Syria sent Naaman to him to be cured of his leprosy, “Wherefore, consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me." Servia sought her advice, and Russia asked Austria for more time, so that diplomacy might intervene in the cause of peace : Austria refused, and Servia, on Russia's advice, submitted on every point save one so unusual that she asked that it should be left to the Hague Court whether she ought to comply. For answer, on Saturday, July 25, at 6.30, Austria withdrew her minister from Belgrade, the Servian minister also receiving his papers and leaving Vienna. In Vienna is wild rejoicing, but older heads are thinking that Servian veterans may prove a harder nut to crack than they think. But note, there is still no quarrel between her and Russia. She professes to ask nothing more than the punishment of Servia, to which Russia agrees; and what alone is in debate is, how is she to satisfy Russia of the integrity of her professions.

So Sunday passes, Monday, Tuesday, with little outward change save that on Tuesday Austria makes formal declaration of war; followed on Wednesday by Russia commencing to mobilize. Sir Edward Grey is working strenuously for peace, and is anxious that Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany shall unite in a conference to adjust difficulties. He can see no dispute that cannot be settled, and certainly no reason for war between the Powers. Germany, most conciliatory, thinks matters can be best adjusted between Austria and Russia acting direct. Europe is generally alarmed, but Germany is still hopeful, and on Thursday she reassures France that the news of her mobilization is inexact. Friday passes, still there is no difference between Austria and Russia that may not well be arranged, certainly no rupture or war between them, and equally certain that Austria has not yet called upon Germany and Italy to come to her assistance in the terms of their triple alliance. Meantime, Germany, as a precautionary measure only, has proclaimed martial law, Belgium is in deepest gloom, and we are receiving assurance of support from every part of the empire. Still, on the surface, there is not the slightest reason why there should be any war at all. Sir Edward Grey has once again assured Germany we will join with her and Austria in the cause of peace, and certainly with a word Germany can end the suspense if she will. But will she? that is the question. And yet, why not?

Then comes Friday midnight: Germany is armed to the teeth, prepared to the last fuse, as said, and, like a tiger crouching in the jungle, with one awful spring she has seized her victim by the throat-and that victim is France. Ultimatums to demobilize within twelve hours are followed on Saturday, at 7.30, by formal declaration of war on Russia, and on Sunday, without declaration of war, by invasion of French territory, at Longwy, Cirey, and Delle. From then on there is no pause. Monday, August 3rd, she gives Belgium a twelve hours' ultimatum, but invades her territory before the time for answer has expired. And this is

AlesBecche com had n

followed by our counter ultimatum to her to withdraw, and on her refusal, by our declaration of war on Tuesday, August 4th, at 11 p.m. Such are the facts. Apart from all hearsay, rumours and reports that have since accumulated, is there any reasonable doubt that Germany meditated war from the very beginning, when the Archduke was murdered?

Now we understand why the ultimatum to Servia was so harsh. Now we understand why she had only forty-eight hours in which to answer. Now we know why Sir Edward Grey's efforts for peace failed. Yes; now everything is clear; Germany was resolved upon war. And why, and for what? Because of the death of the Archduke? Because she was the ally of Austria ?-who, by the way, had never called upon her. Because of the mobilization of Russia, which at a word she could have ended, as for Russia at any rate “the day” had not yet arrived, No; it was for none of these reasons, but because the time had come when the greatest war, for the greatest stake for which man has ever played, had now to be fought to a finish. No; this tremendous war is a war for no small thing. This war is a clashing of principles, of the old-world principle of divine right, militancy, and all that it involves on the one hand, and of democracy and all that we have learnt to prize in that term on the other. The whole principles of right and wrong are in the melting pot. With the complete triumph of Germany in all the fullness of her dreaming would be the end of the democratic ideal for many a generation yet to come; while the triumph of the Allies will be the death-blow to the militancy she would again impose upon the world.

And what is this militancy, we ask? “ The Prussian sovereigns ”-says Bismarck-"are in possession of a crown, not by the grace of the people, but by God's grace, an actual, unconditional crown, some of the rights of which they have voluntarily conceded to the people, an example rare in history."

And how comes it that Germany should be champion of such a principle? Let us briefly review her more recent history. The beginning of the nineteenth century found Europe in the grip of privilege. The French Revolution spread the gospel of democracy. For a while Napoleon was its great champion, and so long as he was its champion he was idolized. His great mission became merged in his personal ambitions, and his fall postponed democracy some forty years. The peace that sealed his doom also outwardly restored the old order. The general promise, given in the hour of danger, that the people should share in their own government was forgotten as the danger passed by, and representative institutions, for years to come, were still to be but a dream.

Prussia had such a representative body, and as long as it fulfilled its mission of voting what its executive required it was tolerated; when it would exercise a will of its own, Bismarck governed in defiance of its existence. The people then, democratic in their sympathies, fretted and raged, but a master hand curbed the state. And then Bismarck planned that series of campaigns which raised Germany from a second-rate State to the head of the German confederacy, the greatest power in Europe.

Denmark, in 1864, was the first to fall before the united arms of Austria and Prussia; next, Austria herself had to succumb to Prussia, when Bismarck secured her friendship and proved the profoundness of his wisdom by the moderation of his demands. Then, in 1870-1 came the French Campaign, the triumph of his policy and of his country's arms. And, ever regardful of forms, as soon as success had justified his action, Bismarck once again took counsel with the nation in the ordering of its affairs. But with the splendour of the memories of 1870 ever present, it was a very different nation with which he had now to deal. The chains which they now wore were so gilded that they rejoiced in their slavery, and, with Bismarck himself, they began to believe in a militancy that had brought them so much glory and so many

« PreviousContinue »