Louis P. Benezet.

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[Illustration: The Peace Palace at the Hague]


This little volume is the result of the interest shown by pupils,
teachers, and the general public in a series of talks on the causes of
the great European war which were given by the author in the fall of
1914. The audiences were widely different in character. They included
pupils of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, students in high
school and normal school, teachers in the public schools, an
association of business men, and a convention of boards of education.
In every case, the same sentiment was voiced: "If there were only some
book which would give us these facts in simple language and illustrate
them by maps and charts as you have done!" After searching the market
for a book of this sort without success, the author determined to put
the subject of his talks into manuscript form. It has been his aim to
write in a style which is well within the comprehension of the
children in the upper grades and yet is not too juvenile for adult
readers. The book deals with the remarkable sequence of events in
Europe which made the great war inevitable. Facts are revealed which,
so far as the author knows, have not been published in any history to
date; facts which had the strongest possible bearing on the outbreak
of the war. The average American, whether child or adult, has little
conception of conditions in Europe. In America all races mix. The
children of the Polish Jew mingle with those of the Sicilian, and in
the second generations both peoples have become Americans. Bohemians
intermarry with Irish, Scotch with Norwegians. In Europe, on the other
hand, Czech and Teuton, Bulgar and Serb may live side by side for
centuries without mixing or losing their distinct racial
characteristics. In order that the American reader may understand the
complicated problem of European peace, a study of races and languages
is given in the text, showing the relationship of Slav, Celt, Latin,
and Teuton, and the various sub-divisions of these peoples. A
knowledge of these facts is very essential to any understanding of the
situation in Europe. The author has pointed out the fact that
political boundaries are largely king-made, and that they have seldom
been drawn with regard to the natural division of Europe by
nationalities, or to the wishes of the mass of the population.

The chapter, entitled "Europe as it Should Be," with its accompanying
map, shows the boundaries of the various nations as they would look if
the bulk of the people of each nationality were included in a single
political division. In many places, it is, of course, impossible to
draw sharp lines. Greek shades off into Bulgar on one side and into
Skipetar and Serb on the other. Prague, the capital of the Czechs, is
one-third German in its population. There are large islands of Germans
and Magyars in the midst of the Roumanians of Transylvania. These are
a few examples out of many which could be cited. However, the general
aim of the chapter has been to divide the continent into nations, in
each of which the leading race would vastly predominate in population.

It is hoped that the study of this little work will not only throw
light upon the causes of war in general, but will also reveal its
cruelty and its needlessness. It is shown that the history of Europe
from the time of the great invasions by the Germanic tribes has been a
continuous story of government without the consent of the governed.

A preventive for wars, such as statesmen and philanthropists in many
countries have urged, is outlined in the closing chapter. It would
seem as though after this terrible demonstration of the results of
armed peace, the governments of the world would be ready to listen to
some plan which would forever forbid the possibility of another war.
Just as individuals in the majority of civilized countries discovered,
a hundred years ago, that it was no longer necessary for them to carry
weapons in order to insure their right to live and to enjoy
protection, so nations may learn at last that peace and security are
preferable to the fruits of brigandage and aggression. The colonies of
America, after years of jealousy and small differences, followed by a
tremendous war, at last learned this lesson. In the same way the
states of Europe will have to learn it. The stumbling blocks in the
way are the remains of feudal government in Europe and the ignorance
and short-sightedness of the common people in many countries.
Ignorance is rapidly waning with the advance of education, and we
trust that feudalism will not long survive its last terrible crime,
the world war of 1914.

Now that the United States has become a belligerent, it is very
essential that our people understand the events that led up to our
participation in the war. So many of our citizens are of a
peace-loving nature, we are so far removed from the militarism of
continental Europe, and the whole war seems so needless and so
profitless to those who have not studied carefully its causes, that
there is danger of a want of harmony with the program of the
government if all are not taught the simple truth of the matter. There
is no quicker channel through which to reach all the people than the
public schools. With this in mind, two entire chapters and part of a
third are devoted to demonstrating why no other course was open to
this country than to accept the war which was forced upon her.

In the preparation of this little work, the author has received many
helpful suggestions from co-workers. His thanks are especially due to
Professor A. G. Terry of Northwestern University and Professor A. H.
Sanford of the Wisconsin State Normal School at La Crosse, who were
kind enough to read through and correct the manuscript before its
final revision. The author is especially indebted to the Committee on
Public Information at Washington, D. C., for furnishing to him
authoritative data on many phases of the war. Acknowledgment is also
made to Row, Peterson and Company for kind permission to use
illustrations from History Stories of Other Lands; also to the
International Film Service, Inc., of New York City for the use of many
valuable copyright illustrations of scenes relating to the great war.


Evansville, Indiana,
January 2, 1918


List of Maps
List of Illustrations

1. The Great War
2. Rome and the Barbarian Tribes
3. From Chiefs to Kings
4. Master and Man
5. A Babel of Tongues
6. "The Terrible Turk"
7. The Rise of Modern Nations
8. The Fall of Two Kingdoms
9. The Little Man from the Common People
10. A King-Made Map and Its Trail of Wrongs
11. Italy a Nation at Last
12. The Man of Blood and Iron
13. The Balance of Power
14. The "Entente Cordiale"
15. The Sowing of the Dragon's Teeth
16. Who Profits?
17. The Spark that Exploded the Magazine
18. Why England Came In
19. Diplomacy and Kingly Ambition
20. Back to the Balkans
21. The War under the Sea
22. Another Crown Topples
23. The United States at War - Why?
24. Europe As It Should Be
25. The Cost of It All
26. What Germany Must Learn

Pronouncing Glossary


1. Distribution of Peoples According to Relationship
2. Distribution of Languages
3. Southeastern Europe in 600 B.C.
4. Southeastern Europe 975 A.D.
5. Southeastern Europe 1690
6. The Empire of Charlemagne
7. Europe in 1540
8. The Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia 1400-1806
9. Italy in 525
10. Italy in 650
11. Italy in 1175
12. Europe in 1796
13. Europe in 1810
14. Europe in 1815
15. Italy Made One Nation - 1914 -
16. Formation of the German Empire
17. Southeastern and Central Europe 1796
18. Losses of Turkey During the Nineteenth Century
19. Turkey As the Balkan Allies Planned to Divide It
20. Changes Resulting from Balkan Wars 1912-1913
21. The Two Routes from Germany into France
22. The Roumanian Campaign as the Allies Wished It
23. The Roumanian Campaign as It Turned Out
24. Europe as It Should Be


1. The Peace Palace at the Hague
2. Fleeing from Their Homes, Around which a Battle is Raging
3. A Drill Ground in Modern Europe
4. The Forum of Rome as It Was 1600 Years Ago
5. The Last Combat of the Gladiators
6. Germans Going into Battle
7. A Hun Warrior
8. Gaius Julius Caesar
9. A Prankish Chief
10. Movable Huts of Early Germans
11. Goths on the March
12. Franks Crossing the Rhine
13. Men of Normandy Landing in England
14. Alexander Defeating the Persians
15. A Knight in Armor
16. A Norman Castle in England
17. A Vassal Doing Homage to His Lord
18. William the Conqueror
19. A Typical Bulgarian Family
20. Mohammed II Before Constantinople
21. A Scene in Salonika
22. Louis XIV
23. John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough
24. The Great Elector of Brandenburg
25. Frederick the Great
26. Catharine II
27. Courtier of Time of Louis XIV
28. The Taking of the Bastille
29. The Palace of Versailles
30. The Reign of Terror
31. The First Singing of "The Marseillaise"
32. Charles the Fifth
33. The Emperor Napoleon in 1814
34. The Retreat from Moscow
35. Napoleon at Waterloo
36. The Congress of Vienna
37. Prince Metternich
38. The First Meeting of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel
39. Bismarck
40. An Attack on a Convoy in the Franco-Prussian War
41. The Proclamation at Versailles of William I as Emperor of
42. Peter the Great
43. Entrance to the Mosque of St. Sophia
44. The Congress of Berlin
45. An Arab Sheik and His Staff
46. A Scene in Constantinople
47. Durazzo
48. A Modern Dreadnaught
49. Submarine
50. A Fort Ruined by the Big German Guns
51. Russian Peasants Fleeing Before the German Army
52. A Bomb-proof Trench in the Western War Front
53. Venizelos
54. The Deutschland in Chesapeake Bay
55. Crowd in Petrograd During the Revolution
56. Revolutionary Soldiers in the Duma
57. Kerensky Reviewing Russian Troops
58. Flight from a Torpedoed Liner
59. President Wilson Reading the War Message
60. American Grain Set on Fire by German Agents
61. Polish Children
62. The Price of War
63. Rendered Homeless by War
64. Charles XII of Sweden



The Great War

The call from Europe. - Friend against friend. - Why? - Death and
devastation. - No private quarrel. - Ordered by government. - What makes
government? - The influence of the past. - Four causes of war.

Among the bricklayers at work on a building which was being erected in
a great American city during the summer of 1914 were two men who had
not yet become citizens of the United States. Born abroad, they still
owed allegiance, one to the Emperor of Austria, the other to the Czar
of Russia.

Meeting in a new country, and using a new language which gave them a
chance to understand each other, they had become well acquainted. They
were members of the same labor union, and had worked side by side on
several different jobs. In the course of time, a firm friendship had
sprung up between them. Suddenly, on the same day, each was notified
to call at the office of the agent of his government in the city. Next
morning the Russian came to his boss to explain that he must quit
work, that he had been called home to fight for the "Little Father" of
the Russians. He found his chum, the Austrian, there ahead of him,
telling that he had to go, for the Russians had declared war on
Austria and the good Kaiser,[1] Franz Josef, had need of all his
young men.

[1] In the German language, the title Kaiser means Emperor.

The two chums stared at each other in sorrow and dismay. The pitiless
arm of the god of war had reached across the broad Atlantic, plucking
them back from peace and security. With weapons put into their hands
they would be ordered to kill each other on sight.

A last hand-clasp, a sorrowful "Good luck to you," and they parted.

Why was this necessary? What was this irresistible force, strong
enough to separate the two friends and drag them back five thousand
miles for the purpose of killing each other? To answer these two
questions is the purpose of this little volume.

Beginning with the summer of 1914, Europe and parts of Asia and Africa
were torn and racked with the most tremendous war that the world has
ever seen. Millions of men were killed. Other millions were maimed,
blinded, or disfigured for life. Still other millions were herded into
prison camps or forced to work like convict laborers. Millions of
homes were filled with grief. Millions of women were forced to do hard
work which before the war had been considered beyond their power.
Millions of children were left fatherless. What had been the richest
and most productive farming land in Europe was made a barren waste.
Thousands of villages and towns were utterly destroyed and their
inhabitants were forced to flee, the aged, the sick, and the infants

In many cases, as victorious armies swept through Poland and Serbia,
the wretched inhabitants fled before them, literally starving, because
all food had been seized for the use of fighting men. Dreadful
diseases, which cannot exist where people have the chance to bathe and
keep themselves clean, once more appeared, sweeping away hundreds of
thousands of victims. The strongest, healthiest, bravest men of a
dozen different nations were shot down by the millions or left to drag
out a miserable existence, sick or crippled for life. Silent were the
wheels in many factories which once turned out the comforts and
luxuries of civilization. There were no men to make toys for the
children, or to work for mankind's happiness. The only mills and
factories which were running full time were those that turned out the
tools of destruction and shot and shell for the guns. Nations poured
out one hundred fifty million dollars a day for the purpose of killing
off the best men in Europe. Had the world gone mad? What was the
reason for it all?

[Illustration: Fleeing from their Homes, around which a Battle is Raging.]

In 1913 Germans traveled in Russia and Englishmen traveled in Germany
freely and safely. Germans were glad to trade with intercourse
Russians, and happy to have Englishmen spend their money in Germany.
France and Austria exchanged goods and their inhabitants traveled
within each other's boundaries. A Frenchman might go anywhere through
Germany and be welcomed. There was nothing to make the average German
hate the average Englishman or Belgian. The citizen of Austria and the
citizen of Russia could meet and find plenty of ground for friendship.

We cannot explain this war, then, on the grounds of race hatred. One
can imagine that two men living side by side and seeing each other
every day might have trouble and grow to hate each other, but in this
great war soldiers were shooting down other soldiers whom they had
never seen before, with whom they had never exchanged a word, and it
would not profit them if they killed a whole army of their opponents.
In many cases, the soldiers did not see the men whom they were
killing. An officer with a telescope watched where the shells from the
cannon were falling and telephoned to the captain in charge to change
the aim a trifle for his next shots. The men put in the projectile,
closed and fired the gun. Once in a while, a shell from the invisible
enemy, two, three, or four miles away, fell among them, killing and
wounding. When a regiment of Austrians were ordered to charge the
Russian trenches, they shot and bayoneted the Russians because they
were told to do so by their officers, and the Russian soldiers shot
the Austrians because their captains so ordered them. The officers on
each side were only obeying orders received from their generals. The
generals were only obeying orders from the government.

In the end, then, we come back to the governments, and we wonder what
has caused these nations to fly at each other's throats. The question
arises as to what makes up a government or why a government has the
right to rule its people.

In the United States, the government officials are simply the servants
of the people. Practically every man in our country, unless he is a
citizen of some foreign nation, has a right to vote, and in many of
the states women, too, have a voice in the government. We, the people
of the United States, can choose our own lawmakers, can instruct them
how to vote and, in some states, can vote out of existence any law
that they the people have made which we do not like. In all states, we
can show our disapproval of what our law-makers have done by voting
against them at the next election. Such is the government of a
republic, a "government of the people, by the people, and for the
people," as Abraham Lincoln called it. In the leading British
colonies, the people rule. Australian citizens voted against forcing
men to serve in the army. The result was very close and the vote of
the women helped to decide it. Canada, on the contrary, voted to
compel her men to go. How is it in Europe? Have the people of Germany
or Austria the right to vote on war? Were they consulted before their
governments called them to arms and sent them to fight each other? It
is plain that in order to understand what this war is about, we must
look into the story of how the different governments of Europe came to
be and learn why their peoples obey them so unquestioningly.

We must remember that government by the people is a very new thing.
One hundred and thirty years ago, even in the United States only about
one-fourth of the men had the right to vote. These were citizens of
property and wealth. They did not think a poor man was worth
considering. In England, a country which allows its people more voice
in the government than almost any other nation in Europe, it is only
within the last thirty years that all men could vote. There are some
European countries, like Turkey, where the people have practically no
power at all and others, like Austria, where they have very little
voice in how they shall be governed.

For over a thousand years, the men of Europe have obeyed without
thinking when their lords and kings have ordered them to pick up their
weapons and go to war. In many instances they have known nothing of
the causes of the conflict or of what they were fighting for. A famous
English writer has written a poem which illustrates how little the
average citizen has ever known concerning the cause of war, and shows
the difference between the way in which war was looked upon by the men
of old and the way in which one should regard it. The poem runs as


It was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar's work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found,
He came to ask what he had found
That was so large and smooth and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And, with a natural sigh -
"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he,
"Who fell in the great victory.

"I find them in the garden,
For there's many hereabout;
And often when I go to plow,
The plowshare turns them out!
For many a thousand men," said he,
"Were slain in the great victory."

"Now tell us what 'twas all about,"
Young Peterkin he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes -
"Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for."

"It was the English," Kaspar cried,
"Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for
I could not well make out;
But everybody said," quoth he,
"That 'twas a famous victory.

"My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

"They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won -
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

"Great praise the Duke of Marlborough won,
And our good Prince Eugene."
"Why,'twas a very wicked thing!"
Said little Wilhelmine.
"Nay, nay, my little girl," quoth he,
"It was a famous victory.

"And everybody praised the duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he;
"But 'twas a famous victory."

- Robert Southey.

Old Kaspar, who has been used to such things all his life, cannot feel
the wickedness and horror Of the battle. The children, on the other
hand, have a different idea of war. They are not satisfied until they
know what it was all about and what good came of it, and they feel
that "it was a very wicked thing." If the men in the armies had
stopped to ask the reason why they were killing each other and had
refused to fight until they knew the truth, the history of the world
would have been very different.

One reason why we still have wars is that men refuse to think for
themselves, because it is so much easier to let their dead ancestors
think for them and to keep up customs which should have been changed
ages ago. People in Europe have lived in the midst of wars or
preparation for wars all their lives. There never has been a time when
Europe was not either a battlefield or a great drill-ground for

There was a time, long ago, when any man might kill another in Europe
and not be punished for his deed. It was not thought wrong to take
human life. Today it is not considered wrong to kill, provided a man
is ordered to do so by his general or his king. When two kings go to
war, each claiming his quarrel to be a just one, wholesale murder is
done, and each side is made by its government to think itself very
virtuous and wholly justified in its killing. It should be the great
aim of everyone today to help to bring about lasting peace among all
the nations.

[Illustration: A Drill Ground in Modern Europe.]

In order to know how to do this, we must study the causes of the wars
of the past. We shall find, as we do so, that almost all wars can be
traced to one of four causes: (1) the instinct among barbarous tribes
to fight with and plunder their neighbors; (2) the ambition of kings
to enlarge their kingdoms; (3) the desire of the traders of one nation
to increase their commerce at the expense of some other nation; (4) a
people's wish to be free from the control of some other country and to
become a nation by itself. Of the four reasons, only the last
furnishes a just cause for war, and this cause has been brought about
only when kings have sent their armies out, and forced into their
kingdoms other peoples who wished to govern themselves.

Questions for Review

1. Why must foreigners in the United States return to their native
lands when summoned by their governments?
2. How is it that war helps to breed diseases?
3. Is race hatred a cause of war or a result of it?
4. Whom do we mean by the government in the United States?
5. Who controls the government in Russia?
6. Who in England?
7. Who in Germany?
8. Who in France?
9. In Southey's poem, how does the children's idea of the battle
differ from that of their grandfather? Why?
10. Are people less likely to protest against war if their forefathers
have fought many wars?
11. What have been the four main causes of war?


Rome and the Barbarian Tribes

New governments in Europe. - Earliest times. - How civilization
began. - The rise of Rome. - Roman civilization. - Roman cruelty. - The
German tribes. - The Slavic tribes. - The Celtic tribes. - The Huns and
Moors. - The great Germanic invasions of the Roman world.

To search for the causes of the great war which began in Europe in
1914, we must go far back into history. It should be remembered that
many of the governments of today have not lived as long as that of our
own country. This is, perhaps, a new thought to some of us, who rather
think that, as America is a new country, it is the baby among the
great nations. But, one hundred and thirty years ago, when the United
States was being formed, there was no nation called Italy; the
peninsula which we now know by that name was cut up among nine or ten
little governments. There was no nation known as Germany; the land
which is in the present German empire was then divided among some

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Online LibraryLouis P. BenezetThe World War and What was Behind It The Story of the Map of Europe → online text (page 1 of 16)