George Henry Allen.

The Great war .. (Volume 2) online

. (page 4 of 40)
Online LibraryGeorge Henry AllenThe Great war .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


construct a line from Teheran to Khanikin on the Turkish
frontier for the purpose of linking the Bagdad Railway with
the proposed Persian system.

The threatened absorption of Morocco had put the new
Welt-politik to its first important test. The determined atti-
tude of the German government resulted in the Algeciras
Conference and the establishment of the principle of inde-
pendence and the "open-door." Subsequent French en-
croachments in Morocco led to the more drastic assertion
of German policy, the Agadir incident in 1911. But in
the ensuing negotiations Germany abandoned Moroccan



24 The Great War

independence in return for territorial compensations of
doubtful value in the Congo.

If we survey the history of the last few years from the
German point of view, considering especially the attitude
of the German government in regard to Persia and
Morocco, and bearing in mind that the chief concern of
the German government is with the aspirations of the Ger-
man people, we may be inclined to admit the sincerity of
Germany's rulers in their repeated assertions that they
had kept the peace in spite of serious provocations and
difficulties.

The general feeling of disappointment aroused in Ger-
many by the terms of settlement of the Moroccan difficulty
in 1911 was an essential element in the psychological state
of the German people in the years intervening before the
Great War, as regards their attitude on the foreign situation.
A feeling of annoyance and disillusionment penetrated all
classes. Even the Socialists vmited their criticism with the
reproaches of the other parties, although they regarded
the government's mistakes as proof of the futility of Im-
perialism, not as evidence of a lack of courage in sup-
porting an expansionist policy.

German pride was wounded by the treaty of November
4, 1911, and a large part of the German people did not
forgive the government for its alleged submission in the
face of threats. They regarded the treaty as a humiliation,
and looked upon the unexpected attitude of firmness ex-
hibited by France as an unjustifiable impertinence.

Not only the chronological sequence of events, but the
attitude of an overwhelming majority of the French
people and the whole spirit of French political life in
recent years, which has been largely absorbed in domestic
conflicts and in policies utterly opposed to military aggran-
dizement, prove that the reestablishment of three years'



Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 25

service in France was solely the result of the unusual
augmentation of the German military forces in 1913.
Nevertheless, after these exceptional measures had been
proposed, first in Germany and then in France, the Ger-
man authorities turned the French program to account as
an argument in urging the adoption of their own proposals.

Allusion has already been made to the shrewdness of
the German government in manipulating public opinion
in advance so as to make it responsive to the demand for
unusual exertions. The series of centennial celebrations
in commemoration of the heroic events of 1813 furnished
an admirable opportunity of nerving patriotic enthusiasm
for considerable sacrifices. The extraordinary exertions
undertaken by the French made a profound impression
in Germany. The Germans had become accustomed to
regard the mihtary inferiority of the French as an immu-
table factor in all their calculations. The French intention
of restoring a situation approaching military equality, by
reinstituting compulsory service for three years, excited a
feeling of irritation and annoyance; it was even looked
upon as menacing and provocative. The semi-inspired
Cologne Gazette declared in an article full of bitterness that
the greatest danger appeared to threaten Germany from
France.

The French Yellow Book contains under number 2
the text of an alleged official, secret German document,
dated March 13, 1913, dealing with the strengthening of
the German forces, which was submitted by the French
Minister of War to his colleague of foreign affairs with
the assertion that it was derived from a trustworthy source.
The document contains the following striking passage:

"The idea that our armaments are a reply to the arma-
ments and policy of the French mvist be instilled into the
people. The people must be accustomed to think that an



26 The Great War

offensive war on our part is a necessity if we are to combat
the adversary's provocations. We must act with prudence
in order to arouse no suspicion, and so as to avoid the
crisis which might damage our economic life. Things
must be so arranged that under the weighty impression
of powerful armaments, of considerable sacrifices, and of
political tension, an outbreak shall be considered as a
deliverance, because after it would come decades of peace
and of prosperity, such as those which followed 1870."

The document emphasized the importance of an under-
standing with the leaders of discontented factions in Egypt,
Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco, so as to prepare revolutions
which would break out simultaneously with a European
war. It declared that the small states in Europe must be
forced to side with Germany or be cowed. It expressed
the opinion that the fortresses of Belgium and Holland
could probably be rapidly conquered and neutralized, so
as to preclude the possibiHty of a flank attack against
Germany.

"In the south," it continued, "Switzerland forms an ex-
tremely solid bulwark, and we can count on her defending
her neutrality against France with energy, and thus pro-
tecting this flank. As has been said above, the situation
with regard to the small states on our northwest frontier
cannot be viewed in the same light. There the matter is
vital for us, and the end towards which we should strive
should be to take the offensive in great superiority from
the outset. For this it will be necessary to concentrate a
great army followed by strong forces of the Landwehr,
which will lead the small states to follow us, or, at least, to
remain inactive in the theatre of war, and which will crush
them in the case of armed resistance. If these states could
be persuaded to organize their system of fortifications in
such a manner that they could make an effective protection



Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 27

for our flank, the invasion plan niij^ht be given up. But
for this it would also be necessary, particularly in Belgium,
that the army should be reformed so that it might offer
serious guarantees of effective resistance. If, on the other
hand, that country's defensive organization were turned
against us, which would give obvious advantages to our
western adversary, we could not in any way offer Belgium
any guarantee of the security of her neutrality."

We may compare with this statement of military policy
the following remarks of General von Moltke, Chief of
the German General Staff:

"The commonplaces as to the responsibility of the
aggressor must be disregarded. When war has become
necessary it must be waged by ranging all the chances on
one's own side. Success alone justifies it. Germany cannot
and must not give Russia time to mobilize, or she will
be obliged to maintain on the eastern frontier a force
which would leave her in a position of equality, if not of
inferiority, in front of France. Therefore, we must fore-
stall our principal adversary immediately there are nine
chances in ten that we are going to have war, and we
must begin war without waiting, in order brutally to crush
all resistance."

The authenticity of the document quoted above has
apparently not been challenged. While its significance
must not be overestimated, judged by itself it is weightier
evidence of bellicose intention than the documents discov-
ered by the Germans in the Belgian archives.

Notwithstanding the impulsive attitude of military cir-
cles, it is a fact that an overwhelming majority of the
German people earnestly desired the maintenance of peace,
so long as it was compatible with national honor and vital
interests. The educated and influential classes generally
regarded the cardinal principles of German Welt-politik



28 The Great War

as the indispensable guarantee for the preservation of these
national interests.

There was, undoubtedly, an impetuous, noisy minority,
even among civilians, composed of representatives of dif-
ferent parties and classes, who held that the conditions
required that Germany should precipitate events by inaug-
urating a more aggressive policy leading to war. In the
ranks of the hereditary nobility and large rural proprietors,
the Junker-class, there were some who regarded the exist-
ing situation as intolerable, the actual social and economic
tendencies as subversive of their privileges and interests,
and war as the only exit from a fatal impasse. The numer-
ical strength of the nobility in the Reichstag had been
steadily declining. Their representation fell from 162 in
1878, to 83 in 1898, and 57 in 1912, of whom only 27
identified themselves with the Conservatives. The process
of democratization, although less advanced than in western
Europe, was slowly but surely undermining the traditional
authority of the Junkers, blighting their prestige by its
profane touch. Experience has shown, moreover, that
the patriotic fervor born in brilliant victories, by creating
an excessive spirit of devotion to national ideals and preju-
dices, strengthens traditional institutions and privileges.

The extreme Conservatives demanded a modification in
the political franchise of the empire. This view is repre-
sented in an interesting political monograph which appeared
in 1912, entitled, "If I were Kaiser" (Wenn ich der Kaiser
war), in which the author, Herr Frymann declared:

" Politically, the German nation is ill unto death. It can
be saved only by an alteration of the constitution, and if
the constitution cannot be altered owing to the opposition
of parliament, then it must be altered notwithstanding the
will of parliament, exactly as a father orders the surgeon
to operate on a child against the child's will."



-■""'f' \






1' 1, : ■ iV » # :'-. f '


I'l'MlK I y-' -


■, : ^ 1 ./


'W;;.ij|K> ^^k £k ^


''^'IIb»''' ■■' •^' "Sk ••-''"' '■'


il^^lHllfA^t'' '"^ ^ ^ •r \ ^r ^V 1









..'■ 1


■■;




ii' I'll 1 'ill!! Illil^


■;


/


s^


^.







.'i



4




ivJk. '-•- -^-^-^-''-iW "■











^,y









|.






.m.'.-rr,!^\^J<K. •-■'



o S



0< ^-5





C-


-3


fi




Cl.


















-C


o


P


o




ir\


c


U


u


o


^


o


t*^


o
o


o






+






e:


Ml

c



be

C



i -



n
CJ



Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 29

The author proposed that existing international antago-
nisms be allowed to follow their natural course leading to
war, which would invigorate the healthy, nationalist forces
in Germany. He maintained that a successful war would
result in a moral revival and the election of a Reichstag
with a large patriotic majority. The government should
take immediate advantage of this to secure an amend-
ment of the constitution abolishing the present electoral
basis of equal, universal suffrage, so as to guarantee in
the future the political preponderance of the trustworthy,
conservative forces, thoroughly imbued with nationalist
principles.

To the ruling classes it must indeed haVe seemed that
there was an alarming element of infection in the state,
since they regarded the largest body of voters, by reason
of their adherence to a certain party, as political outcasts,
unworthy of association in the common bond of citizen-
ship. The Kaiser once said of the Social Democrats:

"For me every Social Democrat is an enemy of the
Empire and the Fatherland."

Prince von Biilow declares in his Imperial Germany that
the Social Democratic movement is the antithesis of the
Prussian state. He says:

"From first to last during my term of office I recog-
nized that the Social Democratic movement constituted a
great and serious danger. It is the duty of every German
ministry to combat this movement until it is defeated or
materially changed."

Social Democracy was uncompromisingly opposed to
the spirit of the existing monarchy. It detested militarism,
denounced the increase in armament, and ridiculed the
policy of expansion.

The steady growth of the Social Democrats may be
traced in the following table of the number of SociaHst



30 • The Great War

votes cast, and of the Socialist members returned to the
Reichstag, at successive elections:



Date.


Votes cast.


Members returned.


1884


550,000


24


1887


763,000


11


1890


1,427,000


35


1893


1,787,000


44


1898


2,107,000


56


1903


3,011,000


81


1907


3,539,000


43


1912


4,250,000


110



The results of the elections for the Reichstag in 1912
Were a cause of very grave concern for those who regarded
the Social Democrats as dangerous enemies of the state.
The position of the Social Democrats in the new chamber
will be illustrated by a comparison of the numerical repre-
sentation of the leading political groups and parties, as
follows: Conservatives 45, Center 90, Poles 18, Alsace-
Lorrainers 9, National Liberals 44, Radicals 41, Social
Democrats 110. The Social Democrats controlled more
than one-third of the entire number of votes cast at this,
the last election before the war; and many persons cher-
ished the fond conviction that the ever-diminishing margin
between the actual strength of the Social Democrats and
the attainment by them of an absolute majority in the
Reichstag was the measure of the space which separated
European society from the realization of enduring peace,
not necessarily because they regarded the intentions of the
German government as more belligerent than those of
other states, but because it takes two parties to make a
quarrel, and in any quarrel involving the Great Powers
Germany must inevitably be the dominating factor on one
side of the conflict. Therefore the elimination of Germany



Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 31

as a potentially belligerent power through the agency of a
Social Democratic majority would destroy the very ground-
work for a great war.

Monster meetings were organized by the Socialists as a
demonstration against the impending war. On the evening
of July 29th no fewer than twenty-seven such meetings
were reported in Berlin alone, with an aggregate attend-
ance of 60,000, and the number rose to fifty on the evening
before the declaration of war. This agitation spread to all
parts of the country, but it had absolutely no influence on
the course of events.

The world had been deluded by an exaggerated estimate
of the effectiveness of Socialism as a force making for
peace. Both the hopes and fears that had been enter-
tained regarding the probable attitude of the Socialists
everywhere turned out to be fictitious in the presence of
war as a reality. The seeming contradiction between the
Socialists' professions of passionate hostility to war and
their meek compHance with the government's decision
has been the subject of reproachful comment. One rea-
son for their submission is the fact that the declaration of
martial law, by severing communication between the dif-
ferent countries, prevented the international cooperation
of the Socialistic forces. Then, in general, the Socialists
in each country regarded the war, in so far as it concerned
themselves individually, as a defensive war and therefore
not incompatible with their principles.

In Germany, as we shall presently see, the Social Demo-
crats voted unanimously for the war appropriation in the
Reichstag, although it is reported that Dr. Liebknecht
and several others opposed this in the preliminary confer-
ence when the attitude of the party was determined.

In explaining the position of the German Socialists it is
necessary to observe that the situation at the outbreak of



32 The Great War

the war as viewed in Germany was most favorable to
national solidarity of opinion, because it permitted the
government to appear as the involuntary defender of the
higher civilization against the hideous menace of Panslav-
ism. Probably no other aspect of affairs could have
rallied the sentiment of the rank and file of the Social
Democrats so successfully to the support of the govern-
ment's policy.

The warlike enthusiasm of a large portion of the Berlin
populace was revealed by the spirit with which intelligence
of the Austro-Hungarian note and the subsequent Serbian
reply was received. On Saturday evening, July 25th, in
spite of the pouring rain, crowds stood in front of the
newspaper offices, especially in Unter den Linden, await-
ing tidings of the Serbian response. Special editions of
the papers announced the rupture at Belgrade, and when
this news was disseminated, about 8.30, a crowd of young
people paraded Unter den Linden, singing patriotic songs
and shouting, " Long live war," and " Down with Serbia."
They marched to the Siegessaule (Column of Victory),
and offered their exulting respects before the Austro-
Hungarian and Italian Embassies, including the famous
Siegesallee (Avenue of Victory) in their route, where, like
echoes from the dark recesses of the Tiergarten, came
martial recollections of the victorious HohenzoUerns, who
stand in a double row, at accurate intervals, in rigid white-
ness, spectral monitors of an unbroken tradition — a much-
criticised series of statues, detested abroad as the plastic
expression of Prussian arrogance.

The correspondent of the Westminster Gazette writing
from Berlin on July 26th, indicated concisely, and with
insight, the position of the Teutonic powers; and while the
peremptoriness of Germany's attitude was somewhat ex-
aggerated, the course of events has proved the approximate




Siegesallee, Avemii- i)t" Victory, Berlin, where in a double row statues ot' victorious
Hohenzollerns have been erected.



- wwi




Emperor William speaking from tlie balcony of tlie palace in Berlin.



Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 33

accuracy of his exposition. "The policy of the Ger-
man and Austrian governments," he said, "is absolutely
beyond doubt; Russia will not be allowed to meddle in
what is claimed to be entirely an Austro-Serbian affair.
Germany is solid with Austria and any unfriendly Russian
action will bring a declaration of war. It is even probable
that any Russian action which can be interpreted as a
provisional threat will be met by a German note, asking
Russia to say definitely whether she proposes to intervene
or not. There is so far no German official, or even 'in-
spired,' ground for this assumption: but military consid-
erations, emphasized officially only a few months ago,
will not allow the Austro-German allies to give away any
strategical points to Russia, such as a new 'trial mobiliza-
tion' or 'veiled concentration of troops.' . . . The German
press with the exception of Socialist organs accepts this offi-
cial attitude as self-evident, and shows complete solidarity."

Russia regarded as historically untenable the proposition
that a great power might regulate alone, at its own discre-
tion, a controversy with a Balkan state. Her prestige, as
we have seen, was involved in maintaining the independ-
ence and integrity of Serbia.

The policy of Germany, like that of each of the other
belligerent powers, had its crucial moment. It came to
the parting of the ways, the fateful choice. The forces of
enmity had been gathering silently and inevitably for
decades; but they were released to wreak destruction
through the agency of conscious acts of human judgment.
Destiny and free will were thus mysteriously associated.

M. Sazonoff declared on July 28th that the key to the
situation was in Berlin. German writers have called this
war the German War, and their opponents would prob-
ably not begrudge them this designation. Just as Germany
is the most prominent belligerent power, so it may be



34 The Great War

readily conceded that the decisive moment in German
policy was the most significant point in the bewildering
maze of occurrences that preceded the war, whatever
opinion we hold concerning Germany's responsibility.
Unmistakable signs will guide us to this point of supreme
importance.

On the evening of the 28th Austria-Hungary declared
war against Serbia. On the morning of the 29th a con-
versation took place in a friendly tone between M. Sazonoff
and the German ambassador. But later in the day news
of Count Berchtold's refusal to discuss the terms of the
note to Serbia reached the Russian Foreign Minister, de-
stroying M. Sazonoff's hope of arriving at a direct under-
standing with the government at Vienna. Russia proceeded
to a partial mobilization in response to Austria-Hungary's
uncompromising attitude.

Russia's mobilization was reported in Berlin on the same
day, and in the afternoon the German ambassador in St.
Petersburg called upon M. Sazonoff to deliver a charac-
teristically emphatic message. He promised that Austria-
Hungary would respect Serbian integrity, but declared that
the German government was resolved to mobilize if Russia
did not stop her military preparations. Count Pourtales
had intimidated Russia by a peremptory summons at the
time of the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis in 1909. He was
convinced that Russia would likewise be unwilling to risk
a war on Serbia's account in 1914. His communication
on the afternoon of July 29th was really a veiled threat,
because it was generally recognized that mobilization in
Germany almost inevitably meant war. This time Russia
did not recede. M. Sazonoff declared in a communication
to the Russian ambassador in Paris: "As we cannot comply,
we have no alternative but to hasten our preparations and
assume that war is inevitable."



Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 35

Germany had adopted the attitude that the Austro-
Serbian controversy was a purely local affair in which no
other power had any right to intervene, and apparently
the German government was prepared to interpret any
military demonstration calculated to exert pressure on
Austria-Hungary as equivalent to interference in the
Austro-Serbian quarrel. Russia refused to acquiesce in
this position. A direct conflict of views was thus pro-
duced, and it devolved upon Germany to enforce her
doctrine or abandon it. It was Germany's turn to show
her hand. Evidently the crucial moment for Germany's
conduct had arrived. The days before the war were pro-
lific in sensational incidents to which the circumstances
attributed an appropriate setting. We involuntarily recall
certain midnight interviews and dispatches in the night of
July 29-30, whose unusual nocturnal character betrays
the terrific tension, the culmination in the crisis of deci-
sion. They are the glow in the sky at night which
reflects the seething crater of frenzied anxiety. Signifi-
cant proceedings were crowded into the short hours of
this summer night with ideally dramatic compactness and
definiteness.

The leading civil and military authorities of the German
Empire were the Kaiser's guests at dinner in the Neues
Palais on the evening of Wednesday, July 29th. The
dinner was followed by an extraordinary council, which
occupies a unique position of importance among the deci-
sive events of the critical days that preceded the war.
When all the historical evidence will be available, and will
have been sifted, perhaps fifty years hence, this conference
in the stately palace that terminates the long vista through
the park at Potsdam will probably be regarded as unques-
tionably the most significant occurrence in the action of
the forces that brought on the hour of destiny.



36 The Great War

Around the solemn council board, with the Kaiser pre-
siding, were gathered the military and civil dignitaries and
advisers, such as Field Marshal von Moltke, Chief of the
General Staff, and his associates, Grand Admiral von
Tirpitz, the Father of the German Navy, Imperial Chan-
cellor von Bethmann-Hollweg, Secretary of State for For-
eign Affairs von Jagow, the impetuous Crown Prince, and
Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of the Kaiser, the sailor
prince, Inspector-General of the German Navy, who had
just returned from a visit in England, where of course his
eyes had not been closed to the evident signs of an immi-
nent conflict in Ireland.

Perhaps the reminiscences of a participant will some day
reveal the course of debate on this momentous occasion.
For the present, we are dependent on casual hints and



Online LibraryGeorge Henry AllenThe Great war .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 40)