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policy as a discomfiture. When bringing in two
new military bills on the 23d of November, 1893,
Caprivi, in spite of his habitual optimism, did not
dissimulate the change in the situation. '^France,"
he said in substance, "has numerous and well-
organized army corps, fortresses, and intrenched
camps. And we should no longer find in Russia the
same forbearance as in the commencement of the
War of 1870. . . . The Emperor of Russia is a pow-
erful partisan of peace. But the sentiments of the
Russian people are against us. The Russian mo-
bilization, moreover, proves that Saint Petersburg
believes the next war will be in the West. . . . There
can be no doubt that a rapprochement has come about
between France and Russia. Its origins date far
back. But, to-day, everything, Cronstadt included,
leads us to suppose that an alliance is meditated.
We do not mean to attack. But we do mean to be
able to hold our own on both sides." This, it may
be said, was an oratorical artifice, calculated to ob-


tain the voting of the mihtary credits; an artifice
perhaps, but yet testifying to sincere anxiety and
real disappointment. Thanks to the Russian Alli-
ance, France escaped from the forced inaction in
which she had remained for twenty years. Count
Schouvaloff's expression: ''You are suffering from
a Coalition nightmare," took on an appearance
of prophecy in the light of events. The "Western
neighbour" passed from the state of passive peace
to one of voluntary peace. Germany, forsooth, did
not lack means to defend the territorial statu quo;
but the political statu quo was modified; and the
European balance of power, reestablished to the
profit of Bismarck's two victims, took from the Ger-
man Empire the dictatorship which it had held so
long. In 1879, Bismarck wrote to the King of Ba-
varia: "The danger of war complications (with
Russia) is, in my opinion, not imminent. It would
only become serious if France were ready to march
in agreement with Russia. Up to the present, such
is not the case." After 1891, "such was the case";
and it is easy to understand that the change repre-
sented a material and moral diminution for Ger-

A policy of sentiment and impressionism would
not have accepted this fait nouveau without anger.
German policy, being positive and realistic, sought
to get out of it what was possible. Without much
trouble, she recognized that the conclusion of the
Dual Alliance did not constitute an immediate
threat. Granted, the inheritors of Boulangism and


their naive supporters attributed to the Franco-
Russian Alliance a revenge of counter-value and
approaching reparation. And they relied on it for
the reconquest of Alsace and Lorraine. But, in the
Chancelleries, and even among the well-informed
public, it was understood that this Alliance was
purely defensive and that, if, in case of aggression,
it afforded France a guarantee, it did not in any de-
gree or under any form encourage her to undertake
an offensive policy. What did the Cronstadt toasts
say? That the new Alliance was an element of
peace. What did the Russian papers say? That
Europe's tranquillity gained additional security by
the union of the two peoples. But peace meant the
statu quo; and the statu quo was the Treaty of
Frankfort. Germany, therefore, could put up with
the Dual Alliance, on condition it did not escape from
her control and turn against her. Within a few
months, her decision was made. She would resign
herself to the Franco- Russian Alliance, first because
no useful end would have been served by her not
resigning herself, and secondly because the Alliance
might become, in her hands, a fresh means of action.
Consequently, there was an end to bitter speeches,
an end to hints of possible or likely war which had
so recently been heard. Instead, were exhibited
constant amiability towards France, a visible desire
to act in concert with her, in concert with Russia;
to draw, when occasion offered, the two Allies into
cooperation with Berlin outside Europe, a coopera-
tion having the double advantage of diverting France


more and more from Continental matters, and of
involving her more deeply in the Colonial policy
which, in 1881, had caused her to fall out with Italy,
and had always, especially since the Egyptian ques- '
tion, brought her into conflict with England.

To this policy of relaxation and advances, William
II contributed in person. When he ascended the
throne, just after the Boulangist agitation and the
Schnaebele incident, he brought with him, rightly
or wrongly, a reputation for rashness, and for being
ready to embark on any wild enterprise. Already,
before the death of his grandfather, William I, he
had protested that this reputation was undeserved.
At the commencement of 1888, he declared: '^I am
quite aware that, among people in general and es-
pecially abroad, I am accused of frivolous desires of
warlike fame. God preserve me from such cruel
folly. I indignantly spurn these unworthy impu-
tations." None the less, the reputation has re-
mained, and has served as a foil to all his pacific
affirmations. First, there was the Workmen's Con-
ference at Berlin in 1890, and the fascination he
exercised upon Jules Simon — things which marked
the dawn of a fresh point of view in the French press
with regard to the German Emperor. Jules Simon,
who wrote a great deal, could not say enough in
eulogy of the Imperial host, who entertained him
royally. He repeated the favourable opinion held
by William II respecting our Army, its progress, its
fitness. And our amour-propre was flattered by this.
Then, there was a series of courtesies which, coming



one after another, fell, like so many germs of peace,
upon the ground that had been so well prepared.
If there was some anniversary of 1870 to be com-
memorated, the Emperor did not fail to render
homage to "ihe chivalrous enemy" (December 14,
1891); to "the brave French soldiers fighting with
the courage of despair for their laurels, their
past, their Emperor" (December 2, 1895). When
Marshal MacMahon died, he instructed Count Miin-
ster, on the same day, to convey to the Duchess
of Magenta the respectful expression of his sympa-
thy" (October 18, 1893). When President Car-
not was assassinated at Lyons, he once more con-
trived to say just the right thing; and, first among
foreign monarchs, expressed his sympathy with the
widow of the President who, "worthy of his great
name, had died on the field of honour." On this
occasion, and in spite of some resistance manifested
by German opinion, he gave orders for the liberation
of two French naval officers who had been arrested
for espionage. Afterwards, there were similar pro-
ceedings on the death of General Canrobert (Janu-
ary 29, 1895) ; of Jules Simon (June 8, 1896) ; on
the morrow of the fire at the Bazar de la Charite
(May 4, 1897) ; and of the loss of the Bourgogne
(July, 1898) ; and again, still more recently, at the
funeral of Felix Faure, where, by his choice, he was
represented by one of the German princes nearest to
France by his family relations. Prince Anthony
Radzivill (February, 1899). On the 6th of July of
the same year, being in Norwegian waters, he visited


the French training-ship, Iphigenia, and telegraphed
to Mr. Loubet to express his gratification, " both as
a sailor and as a comrade" at the amiable reception
accorded him. In 1900, he personally superin-
tended the organization of the German section of
the Exhibition, with a view to increasing its brill-
iance and success. In 1901, General Bonnal hav-
ing been invited by him to the German military
manoeuvres, he received this officer at Berlin and j
loaded him with attentions. And, not so long agO;
the catastrophe of Martinique Island furnished him
with another opportunity to send us one of those
sympathetic telegrams in which he excels, and to
foster a friendly atmosphere which, while somewhat/
artificial, perhaps, is none the less useful by reason
of the greater facility of relations that results from
it. The extreme shrewdness of Prince Mtinster, the
amenity of Prince Radolin, the smiling skill of the
Marquis de No allies, for whom the Emperor felt an
especial friendship, aided in the improvement. On
our part, we did not cease to contribute what lay in
our power, with the reserve imposed on our dignity
by souvenirs ever present, but with correctness and
perfect grace. And, on each occasion that called for
it, notably at the time of the Kiel fetes and of the
inundations in Silesia, the Government of the Re-
public were not backward in replying with courtesy
to the courteous advances made to them by the
German Emperor.

Politically, these advances bore their fruit; and
Germany derived profit from them. Being sure, or


at least believing he was sure, of the friendship of
England, with whom he had signed successive Colo-
nial agreements, William II managed to find or cre-
ate opportunities of exhibiting his relations with the
Dual Alliance. Already, in 1891, Mr. de Giers,
Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, after a journey
to Paris, had ostentatiously visited the three Capi-
tals of the Triplice, Rome, Vienna, and Berlin.
Four years later, the war between China and Japan
brought about the threefold action of Russia, France,!
and Germany, which snatched from Japan the fruit'
of her victory (1895). In the same year, the inaug-
uration of the Kiel Canal, which was honoured by
the simultaneous presence of a French and a Russian
squadron, was the outward and visible sign of a rap-
prochement that Saint Petersburg would seem to have
counselled in Paris. On the 31st of May and the 10th
of June, Mr. Hanotaux, being challenged in Parlia-
ment, defended his policy and secured its approval.
To Mr. Millerand, who said to him: '' France will
never be false to the fidelity she has vowed to the
provinces that have been taken from her," the Min-
ister replied : —

We have done no more than other Powers in manifesting
a behaviour of international politeness corresponding to an act
of international policy that was addressed to all the Powers. . . .

In open peace, the relations of the various nations must be
regulated by a sentiment, at once worthy and simple, of inter-
national politeness."

And further : —

Our sailors will go to Kiel, representing, not a resigned and
discouraged France, but a France free and strong, sure enough


of herself to remain calm, proud enough and rich enough in
glory to fear no comparison, to disown no souvenir.

In what will this France be diminished in her prestige, her
authority, her interests, because of her vessels' presence at an
international ceremony where they will meet, among a hundred
others, the vessels of a nation that is her friend, and that has
replied in the same conditions as ourselves to the same invita-

Now, by a curious coincidence, the sitting of Par-
liament in which the French Minister held this ex-
tremely poHte language with regard to Germany,
was just the one in which, in accord with the Prime
Minister, he proclaimed officially, for the first time,
the existence of the Franco-Russian Alliance. The
feeling of the rapprochement was thereby rendered
more sensible. In 1896, there was another symp-
tom: Germany announced her intention to partici-
pate in our Universal Exhibition of 1900; and, a
few weeks later, William II made a speech in hon-
our of the European solidarity. In 1897, Count
Mouraview, then Russian Minister of Foreign Af-
fairs, came to Paris ; but, with a certain manifesta-
tion of intention, he stopped at Berlin on his way ^
back to Russia. On the 23d of July in the same.^
year, a Franco-German agreement was signed rela-
tive to the Togo delimitation. And, at that mo-
ment, overtures were made to us from Berlin with a
view to an understanding between the two countries,
— overtures the particulars of which were unknown,
but the reality of which was undeniable. More and
more it would seem that circumstances were leading
us towards a rapprochement with Germany on the


basis of the Continental statu quo and of Colonial
action in harmony. The Fashoda alarm, and the
threatening prospect of a naval war for which we
were not ready, disturbed public opinion greatly,
which again turned to the advantage of Berlin,
since French Nationalists both past and future,
Mr. Jules Lemaitre among them, advocated an
understanding with our neighbours on the East
against Great Britain. True, when once the Eng-
lish peril was averted, the Dreyfus Affair awoke the
old historic resentment. But the correct attitude
of the German Imperial Government removed all
risks of clashing and conflict. On several occasions,
the German Ministers were able to congratulate
themselves that this "Affaire which raised so much
dust, had not troubled the correctness of France and
Germany's relations with each other." And when
the crisis was over, it was once more the Colonial
understanding with France, which appeared to be
Germany's object, when Count von Buelow, speak-
ing in the Reichstag in December, 1899, and defin-
ing the world-policy of Greater Germany, added :
''With France we have always, so far, easily and
willingly come to an arrangement in matters con-
cerning Colonial interests." The events that oc-
curred in China in 1900, the appointment of General
von Waldersee, as Commander-in-Chief of the Inter-
national troops, the confraternity of arms instituted
between the adversaries of Sedan, confraternity
which William II celebrated in the ensuing year by
receiving General Bonnal at Berlin — everything


seemed to favour German plans. Again (March 15,
1901) the Chancellor insisted on the fact that, be-
tween France and Germany, there was no longer any
real conflict of interests, whether in the Far East or
in the many parts of the world. More and more,
Germany availed herself of a diplomatic combina-
tion which increased the security of her State-pos-
session, and allowed her, both in Europe and out of
Europe, to use either her own Allies, or ours, or our-

The Triple Alliance, moreover, continued in force,
as in the past. Austria remained constantly faith-
ful to it, and, absorbed by her domestic struggles,
in no way modified her foreign policy. Italy was no
less docile. She had feted Chancellor von Caprivi
in November, 1890, WiUiam II in 1892 and in
1897. King Humbert had gone to Potsdam in 1892
and 1897 ; and the Prince of Naples, to the Lorraine
manoeuvres in 1893. Her defeats in Ethiopia and
her economic difficulties, besides, dissuaded Italy
from the fits of Gallophobia that she had indulged in
during the early period of the Triple Alliance. In
June, 1991, this Treaty had been renewed for twelve
years, with the option of denouncing it in 1898. But^
none of the three Allies had made use of the option.
Consequently, the Bismarckian system subsisted,
without any appearance of umbrage or prejudice
being caused by the Franco-Russian Alliance. Tur-
key and Roumania had been drawn further and
further into the German wake. The Empire's pros-
perity was brilliant. Its military strength was un-


diminished. The Triplice was no longer alone ; but
it was not eclipsed. Never had the international
situation appeared to be more favourable to her
than it then was. William II exercised a personal
ascendency over Nicholas II which was maintained
by frequent interviews and regular correspondence.
Russia's Asiatic policy inclined her to accept in
Europe the German lead, which she had already
obeyed in China, by doing at Port Arthur what Ger-
many had done at Kiao-Tcheou. The Austro-Rus-
sian agreement of 1897, relative to Turkish affairs
and intended to preserve the statu quo, prevented
risks arising from Eastern complications ; and, if the
Bismarckian Counter-Assurance of 1884 and 1887
no longer existed, this had happened through the
operation of facts, not of engagements. Strength-
ened by her naval programme of 1900, Germany
saw opened to her, by the firman granting her the
Bagdad Railway, which had been obtained from the
Sultan in January, 1902, the fairest economic and
political prospects in Nearer Asia. Her purchase of
the Spanish colonies in the Pacific had also served
her world-policy (1899). She had made her ap-
pearance at Pekin, in 1900, under the auspices of
Marshal Waldersee, as Europe's dictator. Nothing
hindered her from wielding a discreet and profitable
influence over the Latin nations at the time when
they manifested a tendency to come nearer together.
The abolition of the dictature paragraph applying to
Lorraine had produced a good impression in Paris.
Negotiations had been opened respecting the Bagdad


Railway, which, with a little more moderation, Ger-
many might have brought to a successful conclusion.
It depended on Berlin, by coupling such negotiations
with African affairs, to preside at the elaboration of
the various Mediterranean understandings, instead
of leaving the honour and benefit of them to others.

It seemed even that, to the political domination )
established by Bismarck, the Germany of William II |
had added an economic supremacy. Allusion has
already been made to the prodigious progress of her
commerce and industry. As ideas always run in the
same mould, the Germany of trade had the like con-
ception of success as the Germany of government.
Under colour of serving the people's needs and Ger-
man prestige, the German speculators attempted to
impose their combinations on the world without re-
specting or even recognizing the rights and prefer-
ences of others. These economic conquerors on
land and sea contrived to bring the nation's force
and influence into the service of their unbounded
appetites. Germany had become an ''Industrial
State." After supplying herself with the most sci-
entific machinery and requisites that had ever been
introduced into the economic struggle — canals, rail-
ways, harbours, technical schools, manufactories, and
banks, — she abandoned Bismarck's system of pro-
tection. In 1895, she broke down the barriers which,
not so long before, were a hindrance to her expan-
sion, and started out to conquer fresh markets. She
began with the countries of the Continent. But soon
Europe no longer sufficed to her progress. Asia


Minor, India, Siam, Japan, China, Africa, the United
States, South America, were invaded by her products ;
her commercial travellers, with imperial, dominating
manners, never failing to utilize the strength of the
Empire on behalf of their merchandise. Thus un-
derstood, the Weltpolitik was the mercantile continu-
ation of the Bismarckian policy.

In spite of the perils attaching to such a system,
circumstances at the commencement of the twenti-
eth century enabled Germany to consolidate it. She
had it in her power to draw along her borders, for
her own advantage, the "Continental line" which
seemed at certain moments to be the Emperor Will-
iam's supreme aim. For three years, England had
been paralyzed by the Transvaal war. The rest of
Europe was in a hesitating frame of mind, easy to be
gained over and to be guided. There was a fine game
to be played, a game not difficult to be won by Mr.
von Buelow, who, since 1897, had been the guiding
hand of the Empire's diplomacy. ''There is but one
favourable moment in affairs," said Bismarck, in
1878; ''the thing is to know when to seize it. Mr.
Von Buelow did not seize it. Led away, now by the-
"grand Continental designs" of the Emperor, now by
the attraction of immediate profits at the expense of
one and another, he was unable to choose ; and,
through his contradictions, inspired distrust in all.
A few months later, peace was signed in the Trans-
vaal (June, 1902) ; and this, following on the Anglo-
Japanese Alliance (January, 1902), restored to
England a liberty of action which new men, the King


and Lord Lansdowne, were ready to make good use
of. The opportunity which Germany had allowed
to escape vanished ; and fresh combinations arose in
the midst of astonished Europe.


As a matter of fact, at this time, acting on the
idea — a true one, indeed — that the Russian Alli-
ance, which neither could have nor should have been
for us an instrument of revenge, yet, at least, could
and should leave us free in our movements, for the
settlement of our own affairs and the pursuit of our
interests, French policy, first in the direction of Italy,
next in the direction of England, and, last of all, in
the direction of Spain, began a triple campaign of
rapprochement. After playing, in Crispi's time, the
offensive role of the Triple Alliance against us, Italy
effected her reconciliation with us, first commer-
cially and then politically (1898-1902). Not many
months after, an explanation of the same kind led
us to liquidate with Great Britain a whole past of
colonial rivalry and ancestral resentment. And this
liquidation, more striking and more important than
that of the quarrel between France and Italy, was
recorded, on the 8th of April, 1904, in a public treaty.
Finally, six months later, Spain, in her turn, gave
adhesion to this agreement. The local consequence
of these negotiations was to give us a free hand in
Morocco. That, however, was a small thing com-
pared with the general scope of the liquidation,


which extended the field opened to our activity by
the Franco- Russian Alliance, guaranteed us our ma-
terial and moral autonomy in Western Europe, and
made us a centre of attraction.

This was something new and disquieting to Ger-
many, who, while it was still time, had not known
how to assume the direction of the movement. The
fresh Continental grouping, added to the Dual Alli-
ance, was, in fact, calculated to substitute for the
German hegemony an equilibrium independent of
her influence. Being deeply imbued with Bis-
marck's principles, William II had no illusions on
the subject. The very system was in danger, which
it was his mission to safeguard. If any one will read
over the seven hundred and some odd speeches pro-
nounced, since his accession, by the voluble orator
who presides over the destinies of the German Em-
pire, a fixed idea will be found in them, by the side
of accidental opinions and ephemeral theories. This
idea is that Germany must retain the position she
acquired through her victorious war against France
— position accruing at once from the territorial con-
quests realized at our expense and from the passivity
to which our diplomacy was reduced. At the very
commencement of his reign, William II said plainly
what he conceived his task to be, and that he would
allow no breach to be made in the Imperial work:
'^ There are people," he exclaimed, ^'who do not fear
to assert that my father would have been willing to
give up what he, with my grandfather, had won by
the sword. We knew the Emperor Frederick too


well to permit, even for an instant, such an outrage
on his memory. Like ourself, he was convinced
that nothing must be abandoned of the conquests of
the heroic epoch. We would sooner sacrifice our
eighteen Army Corps and our forty-two millions of
inhabitants than let one stone fall of the edifice
raised by William I." The tenor of this speech,
which was made on the 16th of August, 1888, found
its echo in a series of similar manifestations during a
period of seventeen years. And it was always the
same thought that recurred: ''To preserve the glo-
rious conquests with which God has rewarded Ger-
many's struggles for independence and unity is the\
most sacred of duties." For this work of preserva-
tion two conditions were required, — those indeed
which Bismarck had always known how to realize.
First, it was necessary that the German Empire —
in security with regard to one of its two vanquished
rivals, to wit, Austro-Hungary — should be in a
position to repel an aggression of the other, to wit,
France, if, perchance, the aggression occurred. Next,
it was necessary that any risk of it should be averted
by the incapacity of France to practise and even to
conceive a policy of action. Thus and thus only
would the hegemony of Germany be maintained.

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Online LibraryAndré TardieuFrance and the alliances: the struggle for the balance of power → online text (page 11 of 22)