George Henry Allen.

The Great war .. (Volume 2) online

. (page 5 of 40)
Online LibraryGeorge Henry AllenThe Great war .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

allusions. The firmness of Russia had shattered the hope
of a decisive diplomatic victory. We may be sure that
von Moltke and the other military chiefs, who had been
receiving disquieting communications concerning Russia's
extensive preparations, pressed for energetic measures,
immediate mobilization and war. We may assume, on
the other hand, that the civilian chiefs urged in opposition
that the field be left open for diplomacy, which still gave
promise of arriving at a satisfactory agreement. The mili-
tary group confronted their opponents with arguments
based on inflexible, material facts. War with Russia and
France was sooner or later inevitable, and there would
never again be so favorable an occasion for waging it.
The Teutonic powers possessed the initiative and a just
cause. But every hour of delay diminished Germany's
advantages, which consisted in the perfection and adapt-
ability of her organization. This enabled her to concen-
trate her troops with rapidity and in superior strength at
the strategic positions. But these advantages would be

Count Hcllnuith von Moltke, chief of the general staff of the German army at the

outbreak of the war.

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 37

neutralized if Russia were given time to bring vip lier
formidable masses. A campaign conducted with deter-
mination and alacrity would be brief, inasmuch as the
decisive factors were preparation and technical resources,
in which Germany was vastly superior.

The reflections and considerations that passed through
the Kaiser's mind may never be revealed. Convinced of
his stupendous responsibility before God for the welfare
of 67,000,000 people, he doubtless contemplated on the
one hand the palpable danger that threatened his highly-
developed empire, and the ignominy of appearing to hide
another discomfiture behind the screen of a plausible com-
promise; on the other, the imponderable consequences of
a deliberately aggressive policy. Involuntarily, perhaps,
his imagination surveyed in rapid flight the achievements
of the past, the heritage of glory and of duty. For many
generations the fortunes of Prussia had been describing
an upward curve. The soaring progress of power and
prosperity gave assurance of a still greater destiny. The
vision of an imposing hegemony extending from the Baltic
Sea to the Persian Gulf, embracing the most promising
exploitive regions, was no longer remote, an empire of
peace that would obscure the brilliant trophies of Alexan-
der the Great and Julius Czesar. One more determined
effort and the guarantee of an unparalleled development
would be secured. One throw of the dice, one word —
mobilization — would set in movement the tremendous
machinery for fashioning the crowning element, the apex,
of the structure on which successive generations had
toiled. But still the Kaiser scrutinized his conscience and
was reluctant to take the fateful step.

The council probably reviewed and sanctioned provi-
sionally the plan of campaign on two fronts, of which the
essential features were the smashing blow across Belgium

38 The Great War

at France, and the svibsequent hurried movement east-
ward before the slowly-moving Russians were ready, so
as to cooperate with Austria-Hungary in crushing them
in detail.

Finally, the council confirmed the position in regard to
Russia, which made war almost certain, but owing chiefly
to the Kaiser's hesitation, no doubt, active measures were
suspended until Russia could be again approached and
Great Britain sounded. But the feverish anxiety of the
chiefs of the German government was so great that they
could not tolerate a delay until morning to communicate
with these two powers on the most fundamental questions
of policy.

After this extraordinary council, at one o'clock in the
morning of the 30th, as we have already observed in
the first volume, the Kaiser telegraphed to the Tsar, to
support the action of the German ambassador and em-
phasize the perilous consequences of Russian mobilization.

Count Pourtales called upon M. Sazonoff at two o'clock
the same morning and urged in somewhat less categorical
terms that Russia should cease military preparations. He
inquired whether Russia could not be satisfied with the
promise that Austria-Hungary would not violate Serbia's
integrity. M. SazonofT replied that Russia had to safe-
guard Serbia's independence and sovereignty as well. He
expressed his conviction that Germany was intervening in
St. Petersburg while refusing to intervene in Vienna, so as
to give Austria-Hungary time to crush her neighbor before
Russia could bring aid. It is reported that the German
ambassador "completely broke down on seeing war was
inevitable," and appealed to M. SazonofT "for some sug-
gestion which he could telegraph to the German govern-
ment as a last hope." At that M. Sazonof? drew up the
formula by which Russia engaged to stop all military

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 39

preparations on condition that Austria-Hungary would
eliminate from her ultimatum the points which violated
the sovereignty of Serbia. As we have already seen, this
formula was rejected by Herr von Jagow as unacceptable
for Austria-Hungary.

It was directly after his return from the council at
Potsdam that Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg, after
requesting Sir Edward Goschen to come to him, made
the startling inquiry whether Great Britain would remain
neutral in a European war on condition that Germany
would promise to respect the neutrality of Holland and
the territorial integrity of France as distinguished from
her colonies and dependencies, a proposal which Sir Ed-
ward Grey very promptly rejected. It was indeed an
alarming revelation that the German government already
contemplated the possibility or necessity of hostile opera-
tions against France, and had apparently even reflected on
the nature of the spoils of victory. This interview in
itself would be strong presumptive evidence that the
council at Potsdam regarded war as practically unavoid-
able, and it would be corroborated by the convening of
the Federal Council on the 30th. For without the adhe-
sion of this sovereign body a declaration of war would
scarcely be constitutional.

Even at the last, when the steadfast adherence of Ger-
many and Russia to their respective policies left apparently
no other alternative than war, it is not unlikely that the
Kaiser gave his sanction reluctantly to mobilization and
hostilities. There is even a rumor that the Kaiser was
constrained to take the fatal step by the threatened resig-
nation of the military and naval chiefs.

The first days of August have left their ineffaceable
impression upon the memory of all those who experienced
the thrilling events and sensations in Berlin. The news

40 The Great War

that Germany had delivered in St. Petersburg what was
virtually an ultimatum was disseminated by a special edition
of the North German Gazette late in the afternoon of July
31st. It was immediately recognized that war was almost
unavoidable. The realization of the gravity of the situation
impregnated the throbbing life of the great city with an
irrepressible feeling of elation. The stirring spectacle of
the departure of the troops in 1870, graven in the hearts
of surviving witnesses, perpetuated by art, loomed large in
the popular imagination. The commonplaces of life were
swept aside like autumn leaves before the tingling, stimu-
lating blast of patriotic exhilaration.

At half past five the Kaiser appeared at the balcony of
the palace, surrounded by members of his family and
courtiers, above a sea of upturned faces. For a time it
seemed as though the frenzied roar of applause that swelled
and reverberated from the countless throats of the dense
multitude would never cease. When finally it subsided
the Kaiser addressed the people in a clear, penetrating
voice, as follows:

"A stern hour of tribulation for Germany has arrived.
Envy on all sides compels us to assume a righteous attitude
of defense. The sword is forced into our hand. If my
efforts at the last moment do not avail to bring our oppo-
nents to reason and maintain peace, I trust that with God's
help we shall so wield our sword that we can sheathe it
with honor. War would extort from the German people
an enormous tribute of wealth and blood, but it would
prove to our opponents the gravity of assailing Germany.
And now I commend you to God. Go to church, kneel
before God, and implore His help for our gallant army."

At a quarter before twelve on the night of July 31st a
great concourse of people marched in procession from
Unter den Linden down Wilhelmstrasse singing patriotic

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 41

songs and drew up before the Chancellor's Palace. The
Chancellor appeared at the central window of the Congress
Chamber, the historic hall where the Treaty of Berlin was
drawn up in 1878, and the convention for the partition of
Africa sanctioned in 1885; Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg
was received with a loud ovation. When silence had been
obtained, speaking in firm, ringing tones, he addressed the
assemblage as follows:

"At this momentous hour, to give expression to your
patriotic feeling, you have come to the house of Bismarck,
who, with the Emperor William I and Field Marshal von
Moltke welded the German Empire together. We wish
to go on living tranquilly in the empire that we have
developed in forty-four years of peaceful labor. The
whole effort of the Kaiser has been devoted to the main-
tenance of peace. To the very last hour he has striven to
preserve the peace of Europe, and he is still working for
this purpose. Should all his efforts prove fruitless, should
the sword be forced into our hands, we shall take the field
with a clear conscience, and the conviction that we did not
seek war. We shall then wage war for our existence and
for our national honor to the last drop of our blood. In
the gravity of this hour I remind you of the words which
Prince Frederick Charles cried to the men of Brandenburg:
' Let your hearts beat to God, your fists on the enemy.' "

Again, after news had spread on August 1st that mobi-
lization had been ordered, a vast concourse of people
assembled in the square in front of the palace, crying,
"We wish to see our Kaiser, we wish to see our beloved
Kaiser," imtil the Kaiser, accompanied by the Kaiserin,
appeared at a balcony, and addressed the people in the
following words:

"I give thanks from the depths of my heart for your
outburst of devotion and loyalty. In the impending

42 The Great War

contest I know no parties amongst my people, only Ger-
mans. And whatever parties have assailed me in the
conflict of opinions, I forgive them all. Our only concern
at present is to stand together like brothers, and then God
will aid the German people to victory."

The Berliti Lokalanzeiger declared on August 3d: "We
begin to-day the final fight which shall settle forever our
great position in the world, which we have never misused,
and when the German sword again glides into its scabbard,
everything that we hope and wish will be consummated.
We shall stand before the world as its mightiest nation,
which will then, at last, be in a position, with its modera-
tion and forbearance, to give to the world forever those
things for which it has never ceased to strive — peace, en-
lightenment, and prosperity."

The German Reichstag was hastily summoned to meet
on August 4th, for the purpose of voting the necessary
supplies for the war. The opening of this extraordinary
session was an impressive ceremony. The deputies assem-
bled in the famous White Hall of the Royal Palace in
Berlin at one o'clock, where the Kaiser, in the presence of
the Kaiserin, the Crown Princess, the Princes Eitel Fred-
erick and August William, the Chancellor and Secretaries
of State, and the Austro-Hungarian ambassador, read the
following address from the throne:

"In this hour of destiny I have summoned the chosen
representatives of the German people about me. For
nearly a half century we have persistently followed the
path of peace. Attempts to impute a warlike inclination
to Germany and to restrict her position in the world have
been a severe test for our people's patience. But with
unswerving honesty of purpose my government has con-
tinued to pursue, even amid provocative circumstances,
the development of all moral, spiritual, and economic

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 43

forces as the highest goal. The world has witnessed how
tirelessly amid the confusion of conflicting forces of recent
years we have kept our place in the front rank to shield
the nations of Europe from a war between the greatest

"The gravest dangers which had been evoked by the
occurrences in the Balkans seemed to have been sur-
mounted, when the murder of my friend, the Archduke
Francis Ferdinand, caused the abyss to open. My noble
ally, the Emperor and King Francis Joseph, was forced to
grasp the sword for the defense of his empire against a
dangerous agitation which proceeded from a neighboring
state. The Russian Empire thrust itself in the way of the
allied monarchy in the latter's pursuit of her lawful inter-
ests. Not alone our duties as ally call us to the side of
Austria-Hungary. We have the mighty task of pro-
tecting the common civilization of the two empires at
the same time as our own position against the assaults of
hostile forces.

"With a heavy heart I have been compelled to mobilize
my army against a neighbor^ by whose side it has fought
on so many battlefields. I beheld with sincere grief the
destruction of a friendship which Germany had loyally
maintained. The Imperial Russian government, giving
way to an insatiable nationalism, has taken the side of a
state which has occasioned the misfortune of this war by
countenancing criminal conspiracies. It was no surprise
that France ranged herself on the side of our opponents.
Too often have our attempts to arrive at more friendly
relations with the French republic encountered the old-
time aspirations and bitterness.

"Gentlemen, all that human forethought and energy
can accomplish in arming a people for a supreme contest
has been done with your cooperation. The enmity which

44 The Great War

has been spreading for a long time in East and West has
now burst forth in bright flames. The present situation
is not the consequence of temporary conflicts of interests
or diplomatic constellations; it is the result of a spirit of
hostilit}' toward the power and success of the German
Empire which has been active for many years.

"No passion for aggrandizement impels us. We are
inspired by the unbending determination to preserve the
place which God has granted us for ourselves and all
coming generations.

"You can perceive in the documents laid before you
how my government, and particularly my Chancellor,
struggled to the last moment to avoid the supreme catas-
trophe. We grasp the sword with a clear conscience and
innocent hand for a necessary action in self-defense which
has been forced upon us.

"My summons goes forth to the peoples and races of the
German Empire to bid them stand with undivided strength
as brothers by the side of our allies for the protection of
all that we have created in peaceful labor. Like our fore-
fathers, firm and faithful, earnest and chivalrous, humble
before God and eager for battle in the face of the enemy,
we put our trust in the Almighty, and may He be pleased
to strengthen our defense and guide us to a happy issue.

"Gentlemen, the entire German people, grouped about
its princes and leaders turns its eyes upon you to-day.
Pass your measures with unanimity and expedition; that is
my innermost wish."

Having reached the intended termination of his address
from the throne, the Kaiser laid aside his manuscript; but
then, borne along by the impulsive force of his emotion,
he added:

"You have read, gentlemen, what I said to my people
from the balcony of the palace. I repeat that I no longer

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 45

know any parties ; I know only Germans. And as sign of
this, that you are determined, without distinction of party,
class, or religion, to stand together with me through thick
and thin, peril and death, I summon the leaders of the
parties to step forward and pledge this by a grasp of
the hand."

The swelling emotion of those who had witnessed this
simple but impressive ceremony found spontaneous expres-
sion in singing the national hymn; and then the Kaiser,
after grasping the hand of the Chancellor and that of Gen-
eral von Moltke, left the hall amid a storm of enthusiasm.

The business session in the Hall of the Reichstag con-
vened at three o'clock and continued until 5.50. It was
opened by the Chancellor with the following speech, to
which the members responded at intervals with prolonged
outbursts of applause:

"A tremendous crisis has broken in upon Europe. Since
we won for ourselves the German Empire and a place of
respect before the world, we have lived for forty-four
years in peace and have guarded the tranquillity of Europe.
We have grown strong and mighty in peaceful labor and
are therefore envied. We have borne with dogged patience
the fact that in East and West hatred was nourished against
us and bonds were fashioned for us under the pretence
that Germany longed for war. The wind which was then
sown has brought forth the whirlwind. We desired to
live on in peaceful pursuits, and Hke a silent vow the feel-
ing passed from the Kaiser to the youngest recruit; only
in defense of a righteous cause may the German sword
ever glide from its scabbard. The day on which we must
draw it has come against our wish, and in spite of our sin-
cere endeavors. Russia has applied the torch to the house.
We stand in the midst of a war which has been forced
upon us by Russia and France.

46 The Great War

"Gentlemen ! A number of documents hastily collected
under the pressure of rapidly succeeding events has been
placed before you. Permit me to point to the facts which
determine our attitude.

"From the very beginning of the Austro-Serbian con-
flict, we declared that the dispute must be confined to
Austria-Hungary and Serbia and we worked with this end
in view. Every cabinet, particularly that of England,
adopted the same attitude. Russia alone declared that she
must have a voice in the decision of this controversy.
Thus the danger of European complications raised its
threatening head. As soon as the first definite informa-
tion about military preparations in Russia reached us, we
notified St. Petersburg, in a friendly but emphatic tone,
that warlike measures against Austria would find us at the
side of our ally, and that military preparations against our-
selves would compel us to take corresponding measures,
and that mobilization was very near to actual war. Russia
assured us in the most solemn manner of her desire for
peace, and that she was making no military preparations
directed against us. In the meantime, England endeav-
ored to mediate between Vienna and St. Petersburg, and in
this attempt we warmly seconded her efforts. On July
28th the Kaiser besought the Tsar by telegram to take
into consideration that Austria-Hungary had the right and
duty to protect herself against the Greater Serbian agita-
tion, which threatened to undermine her existence. The
Kaiser drew the attention of the Tsar to the solidarity of
monarchical interests in face of the outrage of Sarajevo.
He asked for the latter's personal assistance in clearing
away the differences between Vienna and St. Petersburg.
Almost at the same time, and before the receipt of this
telegram, the Tsar asked the Kaiser to come to his aid by
inducing Vienna to moderate her demands. The Kaiser

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 47

undertook the role of mediator. But this action at his
order had scarcely been started, when Russia mobilized
all her military forces which are directed against Austria-
Hungary, while Austria-Hungary had only mobilized those
of her army corps which are immediately directed against
Serbia; toward the north she had only mobilized two of
her army corps, and they were far from the Russian

"The Kaiser straightway pointed out to the Tsar that
this mobilization of the Russian forces against Austria-
Hungary rendered difficult, if not impossible, the role of
mediator, which he had accepted at the Tsar's own request.
Nevertheless, we continued our mediation in Vienna, and
carried it to the farthest point compatible with our position
as ally. During this time Russia spontaneously repeated
her assurances that she was making no military prepara-
tions against us.

"We come to July 31st. The decision was to be taken
in Vienna. We had already by our representatives brought
about the resumption of direct communications between
Vienna and St. Petersburg which had been interrupted for
a time. But before the final decision had been taken in
Vienna, came the news that Russia had mobilized all her
military forces — mobilized, therefore, against us as well.
The Russian government, which knew very well from our
repeated representations what mobilization on our frontier
meant, gave us no notification or explanation of this mobi-
Hzation. It was not until the afternoon of the 31st that a
telegram came from the Tsar to the Kaiser in which the
Tsar guaranteed that his army would not assume a provo-
cative attitude towards us. But the mobiHzation on our
frontier had been in full progress since the night of
July 30-31. At the same time that we were acting as
mediator in Vienna in compliance with Russia's request.

48 The Great War

the Russian forces were appearing along our extended and
almost completely open frontier; while France, without
actually mobilizing, was making military preparations, as
she herself confesses.

"What was our position? We had thus far deliberately
abstained from calling up a single reservist for the sake
of European peace. Were we to continue patiently wait-
ing until the powers, between whom we are wedged in,
chose a convenient time for striking a blow? It would
have been a crime to expose Germany to such a peril.
Therefore, on July 31st, we demanded Russia's demobili-
zation as the only means which could still preserve the
peace of Europe. The Imperial (German) ambassador
in St. Petersburg received further instructions to declare
to the Russian government that in case our demand met
with refusal we must consider that a state of hostilities

"The Imperial ambassador carried out these instructions.
We do not even yet know what Russia replied to our de-
mand for demobilization. No telegraphic communication
on the subject has reached us, although the telegraph lines
still transmitted less important dispatches.

"Therefore, long after the expiration of the indicated
time-limit, the Kaiser was obliged on August 1st, at five
o'clock in the afternoon, to order a general mobilization
of our forces.

"At the same time it was necessary for us to assure our-
selves of the attitude of France. To our direct question,
whether she would remain neutral in the event of a war
between Germany and Russia, France replied that she
would act as her interests demanded. This was an evasive,
if not a negative, reply to our question."

After presenting evidence intended to show that France
initiated hostilities on the Franco-German border, chiefly

Moral Forces in the Teutonic Empires 49

the incidents mentioned in the German declaration of war
against France, the Chancellor continued as follows:

" Gentlemen, we are now in a position of necessity ; and
necessity knows no law. Our troops have occupied
Luxemburg; perhaps they have already entered Belgian
territory. Gentlemen, this is in contradiction to the rules
of international law. The French government has de-
clared in Brussels that it is willing to respect the neutrality
of Belgium so long as it is respected by the enemy. But
we knew that France stood prepared for an invasion.
France could wait, but we could not. A French inroad
on our flank on the lower Rhine could have been fatal to
us. So we were forced to set aside the just protests of the
Luxemburg and Belgian governments. The wrong — I
speak openly — the wrong that we now commit we will
try to make good again as soon as our military goal has
been reached. When one is threatened as we are, and
all is at stake, he can only think of how he can hack his
way through.

"Gentlemen, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Austria-

"As for England's attitude. Sir Edward Grey's statements

Online LibraryGeorge Henry AllenThe Great war .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 40)