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had already been committed by Belgium, that a consign-
ment of grain, for instance, for a German destination had
been placed under an embargo. The Belgian authorities
have shown that the actual circumstances of the incident
which served as basis for this accusation were the follow-
ing. A Belgian royal decree of July 30th prohibited
provisionally the exportation of certain products, notably
cereals. On the 31st the German minister at Brussels
made an official inquiry regarding the detention by the
Antwerp customs of cargoes of grain, which had arrived
there for transhipment to Germany, and were not prop-
erly included in the scope of the royal decree, because
they had not originated in Belgium. In consequence,
instructions were forwarded to the customs authorities
on August 1st giving full satisfaction to the German

The Belgian government must have been aware from
the first that the international crisis involved an element of
possible peril for their own position. On July 29th they
decided to place the army on a strengthened peace foot-
ing, which signifies calling to the colors three classes of
the reserves. The Secretary General of the Belgian For-
eign Office, Baron van der Elst, in explaining the nature of
this military precaution, intended only to guarantee the
fulfilment of Belgium's international obligations, to Herr
von Below-Saleske, the German Minister, July 31st, asked
the latter whether he had been informed of the conversa-
tion which he (Baron van der Elst) had had with the pre-
ceding German minister, which led to the Chancellor's
private assurance concerning Belgian neutrality. Herr
von Below-Saleske replied that he knew of this conversa-
tion and that he was certain that the sentiments expressed
at that time had not been changed.

76 The Great War

In informing the Belgian government on the same day
of the note of inquiry addressed by Sir Edward Grey to
the French and German governments respectively on the
subject of the preservation of Belgian neutrality, the British
Minister, Sir Francis Villiers, expressed the expectation of
the British Foreign Secretary that Belgium was resolved to
do her utmost to maintain her neutrality and that she de-
sired and expected that the other powers would respect
and maintain it. M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for For-
eign Affairs, assured Sir Francis Villiers in reply that the
powers guaranteeing Belgian independence could rest
assured that Belgium would neglect no effort to maintain
her neutrality and that her military forces, in consequence
of the recent reorganization, were sufficient to enable her
to defend herself energetically in the event of the violation
of her territory. The French government made a formal
declaration to the Belgian government on August 1st of
their intention of respecting the neutrality of Belgium.

General mobilization was ordered in Belgium on the
same day, and the Belgian diplomatic representatives at
the capitals of the signatory powers of the Quintuple
Treaty, as well as at Rome, The Hague, and Luxemburg,
were instructed to read to the respective foreign ministers
a communication stating that Belgium would strive un-
flinchingly to fulfil the duties imposed on her by the treaty
of April 19, 1839, and that the army had been mobilized
and the forts of Antwerp and of the Meuse put into a
state of defense so as to enable Belgium to discharge her
international obligations.

An official dispatch from Luxemburg, August 2d, in-
formed the Belgian government, as one of the powers
which signed the treaty establishing its neutrality, that
early in the morning German troops had entered the terri-
tory of the grand-duchy, crossing the Moselle by the

Disainaaring armorcil gun turret sunk anil raiscil for firing.

Pentagonal Brialmont fort.


Triangular Brialmont tort or tortin.
The ring fortresses of Liege and Namur ivere made up of combinations of these forts and
fort ins ii:ith slight 'variations ^ the former place ivas protected by six forts and six fortins, and
the latter by four forts and fii'e fortins. Steel cupolas surrounded by concrete contained the guns;
generally tivo 6-inch, four ^. - incli, t'zco S-inch mortars, and four quick firers for the forts; tzuo
6-inch, tnvo ^.~-inch, one S-inch mortar, and three quick firers for the fortins. Including sepa-
rately emplaced guns, Liege had .foo and Namur Jjo pieces.

Moral Factors in Belgium, France, Italy 77

bridges at Wasserbillig and Remich, and had proceeded
in the direction of Luxemburg, the capital, while trains
full of troops and ammunition were passing along the rail-
way from Wasserbillig to the same point. These incidents
were in violation of the perpetual neutrality of the Grand-
duchy of Luxemburg which rested on a treaty signed at
London, May 11, 1867, by Great Britain, Austria, Belgium,
France, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia, and Russia. The
second article of this treaty reads as follows:

"The Grand-duchy of Luxemburg, within the limits
determined by the Act annexed to the Treaties of April
19, 1839, under the guarantee of the Courts of Great
Britain, Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia, shall hence-
forth form a perpetually neutral State.

" It shall be bound to observe the same neutrality towards
all other States.

"The high contracting parties engage to respect the
principle of neutrality stipulated by the present Act.

That principle is and remains under the sanction of
the collective guarantee of the powers (which are) signa-
tory parties to the present treaties, with the exception of
Belgium, which is itself a neutral state."

The government of Luxemburg did not fail to address
an energetic protest against these aggressive actions to the
German diplomatic representative at Luxemburg, and to
the German Minister of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. Chan-
cellor von Bethmann-HoUweg sent the ostensibly reassur-
ing communication that Germany contemplated no hostile
action against the grand-duchy [very satisfactory tidings —
the two friendly and neighboring powers were to be
spared the carnage and bitterness of a warlike contest!],
and the military measures were only precautionary, in-
tended to protect from a French attack the railways of
Luxemburg which are under German management. The

78 The Great War

grand-ducal army, though kept in a constant state of
mobilization at its war (as well as peace) strength of 155
men, quite sensibly abstained from intervention to prevent
the execution of this very reasonable measure !

The Grand-duchy of Luxemburg, it may be explained
parenthetically, has an area of 999 square miles, and con-
tained a population of 259,891 souls in 1910. Its impor-
tance, of course, lies chiefly in its deposits of iron-ore.

Likewise, on the morning of this same day, August 2d,
Sir Francis Villiers informed M. Davignon that Great
Britain had received no reply from Berlin to the com-
munication sent in duplicate, July 31st, to the German and
French governments in regard to Belgian neutrality.
M. Davignon brought to Herr von Below-Saleske's notice
the French minister's intention of publishing the formal
statement, as conveyed the day before by the French gov-
ernment to the Belgian, confirming the former's intention
of respecting the neutrality of Belgium. Herr von Below-
Saleske replied that up to the present he had not been
instructed to make any official communication, but that
the Belgian government knew his personal opinion as to
the feelings of security which they had the right to enter-
tain towards their eastern neighbors. M. Davignon added
that while all that they knew of Germany's intentions, as
indicated in many previous conversations, did not allow
them to doubt Germany's attitude of perfect correctness
towards Belgium, yet they would attach the greatest im-
portance to the possession of a formal declaration, which
the Belgian people would hear of with joy and gratitude.

The formal declaration of Germany's intentions was not
long in making its appearance. It was precipitated into
peaceful Brussels like an unexpected projectile of terrible
explosive force launched from an invisible battery at long

Moral Factors in Belgium, France, Italy 79

Herr von Below-Saleske called at the Belgian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs at seven o'clock in the evening of the
same day (August 2d) and handed to M. Davignon the
following note, labelled "very confidential," requiring a
reply within the period of twelve hours:

" Reliable information has been received by the German
government to the effect that French forces intend to march
on the line of the Meuse by Givet and Namur. This in-
formation leaves no doubt as to the intention of France to
march through Belgian territory against Germany.

"The German government cannot but fear that Belgium,
in spite of the utmost good-will, will be unable, without
assistance, to repel so considerable a French invasion with
sufficient prospect of success to afford an adequate guar-
antee against danger to Germany. It is essential for the
self-defense of Germany that she should anticipate any
such hostile attack. The German government would,
however, feel the deepest regret if Belgium regarded as
an act of hostility against herself the fact that the measures
of Germany's opponents force Germany for her own pro-
tection to enter Belgian territory.

" In order to exclude any possibility of misunderstanding,
the German government makes the following declaration:

"1. Germany has in view no act of hostility against Bel-
gium. In the event of Belgium being prepared in the
coming war to maintain an attitude of friendly neutrality
towards Germany, the German government binds itself,
at the conclusion of peace, to guarantee the possessions
and independence of the Belgian kingdom in full.

"2. Germany undertakes, under the above-mentioned
condition, to evacuate Belgian territory on the conclusion
of peace.

"3. If Belgium adopts a friendly attitude, Germany is
prepared, in cooperation with the Belgian authorities, to

80 The Great War

purchase all necessaries for her troops against a cash pay-
ment, and to pay an indemnity for any damage that may
have been caused by German troops.

"4. Should Belgium oppose the German troops, and in
particular should she throw difficulties in the way of their
march by resistance of the fortresses on the Meuse, or by
destroying railways, roads, tunnels, or other similar works,
Germany will, to her regret, be compelled to consider
Belgium as an enemy.

"In this event, Germany can undertake no obligations
towards Belgium, but the eventual adjustment of the rela-
tions between the two states must be left to the decision
of arms.

"The German government, however, entertains the dis-
tinct hope that this eventuality will not occur, and that the
Belgian government will know how to take the necessary
measures to prevent the occurrence of incidents such as
those mentioned. In this case the friendly ties which
bind the two neighboring states will grow stronger and
more enduring."

This German ultimatum demanding free passage across
Belgian territory for German armies, ostensibly in conse-
quence of an imminent invasion of Germany by French
forces traversing the same route, was presented nearly
twenty-four hours before Germany declared war against
France. The note requires no commentary. Hardly an
effort had been made to palliate its brutal significance. It
left no loophole for discussion. Its abrupt appearance
directly after Herr von Below-Saleske's unctuous assur-
ances and the scanty period left for deliberation, and that
confined to the night-time, contributed a grim, appalling
setting for the tragic situation. With unconscious irony
the German authorities, who were destined so soon with
such remorseless severity to devastate the towns of Belgium,

Moral Factors in Belgium, France, Italy 81

menaced the Belgians with indignant resentment should
they themseK'es presume to destroy their own belongings,
such as bridges, roads and tunnels.

The Belgian Cabinet was hastily summoned to confer
upon the nation's policy and sanction the text of a
response to Germany's demands. And throughout most
of the ensuing night the manly young king, whose open,
genial countenance is so well-known, surrounded by his
responsible ministers, wrestled with the supreme problem
of duty and the nation""s destiny. In spite of the brave
words of dispatches and manifestoes, they must have known
too well the awful weight and terrible efficiency of the
German military machine to allow themselves the consola-
tion of any seductive illusions as to the consequences in case
the fateful issue were to be decided by a serious mihtary
contest. All that Belgium had accomplished in generations
of peaceful, laborious development was at stake. The pleas-
ant, tranquil existence in ancient towns with their tall-gabled
houses and tidy, brick-paved streets, in smiling villages, in
white-washed cottages by shady lanes, by willow-margined
canals with slowly-moving barges, and in trim fields where
the crops cherished with fond attention were just ripening,
where all was redolent of the languid charm of Flemish
life and Flemish cheer; the hallowed monuments of the
first rise of urban consciousness and independence in
western Europe; the architectural treasures of the cen-
turies; the varied fascination of life in Brussels; the com-
merce of the world floating on the placid bosom of the
Scheldt; the enviable prosperity of a varied industry; a
land of opulence in all its most engaging forms — the
destiny of all these things, and above all, a nation's honor
and reputation were placed in these men's hands, and were
involved in the decisions which must be reached within
the arbitrary limit of twelve short hours.

82 The Great War

There is no situation from which frail human nature so
instinctively, so persistently shrinks as one which requires
an immediate, unconditional, final decision in matters of
profoundest, vital import. How impulsively the imagina-
tion applies itself to the task of devising specious pretexts for
delay; and to what a cold, benumbing, cringing sense the
mind gives way, if it finds itself caught as in a cul-de-sac,
with no outlet for evasion, betrayed, committed to the
dreaded necessity of an immediate, definite choice of con-
duct. Intensify many times the stern, unrelenting quality
of such exigencies in private life, and we vaguely grasp an
impression of such crises in the history of nations which
test the character of political leadership and distinguish
the statesman from the merely laborious bureaucrat. The
combination of conscientiousness and responsibility in
statesmen through times like these requires a subtle, self-
possessed intellect, an adamantine will, and nerves as sensi-
tive and true as well-tempered steel.

The picture of this tragic conference calls to mind as
counterpart the extraordinary council at Potsdam.

When we contemplate such scenes as these all the con-
flict of the warring forces resolves itself into a human
drama in which the attention is riveted upon the action of
a few individuals. History becomes for the time intensely
personal. For a moment all the perplexing accessories
recede from view and the chief characters stand out against
a neutral background in the simple majesty of epic heroism.

Responsibilities involving bigger consequences in men
and means this war has produced, but none intenser or more
inexorable than that which faced the leaders of the Belgian
people, and with which they resolutely grappled through
the painful hours of that fateful Sunday night. At first,
perhaps, the choice appeared to be simply between igno-
.miny and suicide; between the preservation of Belgium's

Moral Factors in Belgium, France, Italy 83

material prosperity by the renunciation of a purely impal-
pable possession, and the possible sacrifice of all wordly
goods for a sterile, heroic ideal. But deliberation doubt-
less confirmed the austere demands of duty. For what
trustworthy (guarantee of sincerity could be expected from
a government which persisted in violating its solemn obli-
gation? Might not a vital necessity be again advanced
to justify the military retention of Belgian strongholds?
Might not military occupation lead by an unavoidable
series of intermediary stages to inclusion in the Imperial
Zollverein, and then approximation to the status of Bavaria
or Saxony, with summary annexation to Prussia as punish-
ment for obstinacy? The initial loss of honor would
involve almost inevitably the loss of independence and of
national identity.

The king and council listened to the possibilities of de-
fense as explained by the military authorities. Then the
draft of the heroic reply to the German ultimatum, which
had been prepared by the Foreign Ministry, was discussed,
retouched, and finally adopted. And in the morning,
before the expiration of the allotted time, the following
intrepid response was forwarded to the German minister:

"The German Government stated in its note of the 2d
of August, 1914, that according to reliable information
French forces intended to march on the Meuse via Givet
and Namur, and that Belgium, in spite of the best inten-
tions, would not be in a position to repulse, without assist-
ance, an advance of French troops.

"The German Government, therefore, considered itself
compelled to anticipate this attack and to violate Belgian
territory. In these circumstances, Germany proposed to
the Belgian Government to adopt a friendly attitude
towards her, and undertook, on the conclusion of peace, to
guarantee the integrity of the Kingdom and its possessions


Moral Factors in Belgium, France, Italy 85

"If this hope is disappointed, the Belj^ian Government
is firmly resolved to repel, by all the means in its power,
every attack upon its rights."

This was a somewhat less drastic, but certainly no less
heroic, manner of response than that of the Spartans to
the heralds of the Great King who came demanding
earth and water in sign of submission to the Persian
yoke, and were thrown into a pit and told to find the
symbols there.

At ten o'clock on the morning of the 3d, as no act of
war had been committed by Germany, the Belgian Cabinet
decided that it was not necessary to make an immediate
appeal to the guaranteeing powers. About noon the
French minister assured M. Davignon that the French
government would immediately respond to an appeal from
Belgium; and on the same day the French military attache
communicated the specific offer of five French army corps
to assist the Belgian army in the defense of the country.
But M. Davignon replied that the Belgian government
would decide later what it ought to do.

No communication or measure of the Belgian govern-
ment at the time of the crisis can be cited as evidence that
Belgium had in any way sacrificed her liberty of action, or
bound herself by any agreement or understanding incom-
patible with strict neutrality. She proclaimed her willing-
ness to make any sacrifice to defend her neutrality, and
her conduct offered no indication to prove that she was
not disposed to defend it against an aggressive action by
any power whatsoever.

The German minister made the following communica-
tion to M. Davignon at six o'clock on the morning of
August 4th:

" In accordance with my instructions, I have the honor
to inform your Excellency that in consequence of the

86 The Great War

refusal of the Belgian Government to entertain the well-
intentioned proposals made to it by the German Govern-
ment, the latter to its deep regret, finds itself compelled to
take — if necessary by force of arms — those measures of
defense already designated as indispensable, in view of the
menace of France."

This message was, in effect, the German declaration of
war, and Herr von Below-Saleske received his passports
the same day and entrusted the German legation to the
care of his colleague of the United States. The course of
the deliberations of a cabinet meeting, summoned to confer
upon the necessary measures to be taken in the emergency,
was determined by the tidings that German forces had
already crossed the Belgian frontier at Gemmenich. In
consequence, the following note was transmitted to the
British, French, and Russian ministers at Brussels the same

"The Belgian Government regrets to announce to your
Excellency that this morning the armed forces of Ger-
many entered Belgian territory in violation of treaty

"The Royal Government is firmly resolved to resist by
all the means in its power.

"Belgium appeals to Great Britain, France, and Russia
to cooperate as guaranteeing powers in the defense of her

"There should be concerted and joint action, to oppose
the forcible measures taken by Germany against Belgium,
and, at the same time, to guarantee the future mainten-
ance of the independence and integrity of Belgium.

"Belgium is happy to be able to declare that she will
undertake the defense of her fortified places."

Far from associating herself with the enemies of Ger-
many in any unjustifiable act of hostility, Belgium waited

Moral Factors in Belgium, France, Italy 87

more than twelve hours after her territory had been actu-
ally invaded by the German armies before appealing to the
guarantors of her neutrality for assistance.

In the meantime the British minister in Brussels presented
the following communication to the Belgian Foreign Office:

"I am instructed to inform the Belgian Government
that if Germany brings pressure to bear upon Belgium
with the object of forcing her to abandon her attitude of
neutrality. His Britannic Majesty's Government expects
Belgium to resist with all the means at her disposal.

"In that event, His Britannic Majesty's Government is
prepared to join Russia and France, should Belgium so
desire, in tendering at once joint assistance to the Belgian
Government with a view to resisting any forcible measures
adopted by Germany against Belgium, and also offering a
guarantee for the maintenance of the future independence
and integrity of Belgium."

From this message also it will appear how scrupulously
the proprieties of Belgium's peculiar international situation
were respected by Great Britain.

The Belgian Parliament had been hastily summoned on
the 4th for passing the necessary acts of legislation required
by the emergency and impending war, and King Albert
addressed the Chambers in solemn session as follows:

"Never since 1830 has a graver hour sounded for Bel-
gium. The force of our right and the necessity for Europe
of our autonomous existence make us still hope that the
events which we fear will not take place; but if it is neces-
sary to resist the invasion of our soil, duty will find us
armed and decided upon the greatest sacrifices !

"From this moment our youth will have risen to de-
fend our fatherland against the danger. A single duty is
imposed on our will: a determined resistance, courage,
and unity.

88 The Great War

"Our enthusiasm is shown by our irreproachable mobi-
lization and by the multitude of volunteers.

"The moment for action is here. I have called you
together to allow the Chambers to associate themselves in
the enthusiasm of the country. You will find a way to
pass all these measures at once. You are all decided to
preserve intact the sacred patrimony of our ancestors. No
one will fail in his duty.

"The army is equal to its task. The government and
myself have full confidence. The government understands
its responsibilities and will maintain them till the end to
safeguard the supreme good of the country. If the
stranger violates our territory, he will find all Belgians
gathered round their sovereign, who will never betray his
constitutional oath.

" I have faith in our destinies. A country which defends
itself imposes respect on all and does not perish. God will
be with us."

On August 5th the three governments to which the
appeal of Belgium had been conveyed informed the Bel-
gian government through their ministers in Brussels that
they were prepared to respond to the appeal and cooperate
in the defense of the country.

Likewise on the 5th, the Belgian Foreign Minister in-
structed the Belgian representatives in all lands to transmit
the following formal communication to the foreign minis-
ters of the governments to which they were individually

"By the treaty of April 19, 1839, Prussia, France, Great
Britain, Austria, and Russia declared themselves guarantors

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