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Thus and thus only would the ''coalition night-
mare" be removed from her. In 1903 and 1904,
William II was again seized by this nightmare.
Europe was escaping from his control, and he felt it.
Seeing her organize herself without him, and per-
haps against him, he was troubled and alarmed.


Moreover, at this moment, Germany was but ill-
prepared to look coolly at a disagreeable situation,
finding, as she did, within herself and near her, things
that might well make her nervous. The very prog-
ress which was her pride and which aroused anger
and was prejudicial to interests abroad, was, by its
rapidity and far-reaching character, a source of diffi-
culties at home. In 1901, an economic crisis com-
menced to rage, which took more than two years to
exhaust itself. ''Between 1890 and 1895, seven
hundred and eleven Joint-stock Companies were
founded, with a nominal capital of 755 million francs.
And between 1895 and 1900, fifteen hundred and
fifty-one were founded, with a capital of 2 billions
800 millions. If to these figures be added the 600
millions represented by the various augmentations
of capital belonging to older Companies and the two
billions of bonds issued by them, it may be said that
since 1895 the sums invested in German industry
have attained the enormous figure of six billions." ^
Now the German Empire does not possess anything
like the capital of England or France. Money fell
short. The banks, becoming more and more dar-
ing, continued to go right on. And the returns were
not sufficient to cover the overdraft. Failures, bank-
ruptcies, and scandals occurred; notably there was
the disaster of the Leipziger Bank,^ which in 1904
was hardly liquidated. Agriculture was as much in
debt as Industry. People began to ask themselves

* See Francis Delaisy's book, German Force.
' See Victor Berard's William II and France.


whether it was not possible that the economic giant's
feet were made of clay. Certain persons even
thought that war was still the most profitable na-
tional career. Even the more moderate lacked the
calmness needed in order properly to appreciate the
European events by which the Continent was escap-
ing from German preponderance.

Did it not seem, indeed, that the Triple Alliance
itself was languishing ? True, it subsisted still ; and
nothing was falser than to believe that its real exist-
ence had ever been threatened. Yet, certain dis-
quieting symptoms were noticeable. Italy showed
a somewhat indiscreet joy over the balance of power
that she had managed to reestablish to her advan-
tage among the nations of Central Europe. She con-
gratulated herself on having added to the prestige
which for the last twenty years had accrued to her
from the Triplice, the political influence which, to
use Mr. von Buelow's expression, results from the
''play of counterweight." However anxious she
was to preserve her alliances, she was no longer, as
at the beginning, condemned to them by her isola-
tion. Slight modifications of attitude rendered the
change perceptible. Germany no longer exercised
over Rome the invincible prestige of yore. Visits
were still paid, in which speeches were still pro-
nounced in honour of reciprocal engagements. But
the Italian speeches were colder than the German.
And the reception accorded by Italy to William II,
when he went there in 1904, seemed less hearty than
the one given simultaneously to Mr. Loubet. On


the other hand, it was impossible not to recognize
that clouds were arising between Vienna and Rome.
The irredentist incidents of Innsbruck, Trent, and
Trieste, together with armaments that were sym-
metric and manifestations that were hostile, had on
various occasions, in spite of the two Governments,
brought out popular antipathies. Last of all, Italy's
Balkan ambitions, the well-known theory of ^'the
Adriatic equilibrium," which practically amounted
to claiming for the Italians alone the supremacy of
these seas, could not fail to give the Austrian Gov-
ernment serious food for thought. With the lauda-
ble desire of coming to an understanding, Rome and
Vienna had elaborated agreements in view of the
statu quo — promesse di non fare, as Signor Ugo
Ojetti one day said. But such expedients were pre-
carious. And the awakening of the Balkan prob-
lem might, whether Germany willed it or not, put
her Italian Allies and her Austrian Allies at logger-

The Emperor William's uneasiness was not long
in showing itself. On the 8th of April, 1904, the
Franco-English arrangement was signed. On the
28th of the same month, he spoke at Carlsruhe, and
this is what he said: ''Let us think of the great
epoch when the German unity was created, of the
battles of Woerth, Weissembourg, and Sedan. Pres-
ent events invite us to forget our domestic discords.
Let us be united in preparation for the occasion
when we may be compelled to intervene in the policy
of the world." On the 1st of May, when inaugu-


rating a bridge at Mainz, he spoke again and still
more clearly: ''This work, which is intended to de-
velop the pacific relations of our country, may have
to be used for purposes that are more serious.'' Fi-
nally, on the 14th of May, the same tone might be
remarked at Saarbriick. And, after congratulating
himself on the fact that the town in which he was
speaking had ceased, thanks to the German victo-
ries, being a frontier town, he unnecessarily boasted,
in the course of his peregrinations, of having visited
Metz, ''the bulwark of Germany," which "sought no
quarrel with any one, but was ready to defend itself
against all the world." It is true that, for another
ten months, no act followed these words. The Chan-
cellor of the Empire, who had made the Franco-
Italian tour de valse a subject for his jesting, who,
in 1902, had declared that the "Franco-Italian agree-
ments respecting certain Mediterranean questions
were not directed against the Triple Alliance, and
did not, in fine, encroach on its scope, who, three
months later, had added: "We have no gable front
on the Mediterranean; we are pleased to see that
France and Italy, who each have great, important
interests there, have come to an understanding on
the question," — the Chancellor himself appeared
also to be as little disturbed by the Franco-English
agreement as he had been by that between France
and Italy. On the 12th of April, 1904, he said, when
commenting on the Treaty of the 8th of April: "We
have nothing to object to in it from the point of view
of German interests." On the 14th, he advocated a


''policy of calm reflection, and even of reserve," as-
serting his determination "not to embark the coun-
try on any adventurous scheme" — the reference
being to Morocco. From that moment, however,
the Emperor and Mr. von Buelow — the Emperor's
alter ego — were conscious that the hour was ap-
proaching for them to enter, at least on the diplo-
matic if not on the military course which should
decide about the future. They felt that an era of
equilibrium was succeeding in Europe to the period
of Germany's hegemony. About Morocco they
cared but little. It was merely a pretext. Their
preoccupation was ''Germany's situation in the
world," and by this they meant German preponder-
ance based on the isolation of France. The pre-
ponderance, as they thought, w^as in peril. If they
waited, it was because they hoped thereby to obtain
circumstances more favourable. Since the month
of February, 1904, Russia had been monopolized by
the war in Manchuria. How would this war turn
out? Before acting, they must know.

In the month of September, General Kouropatkin
suffered a first disaster at Liao-Yang. In the month
of February, 1905, that of Mukden was worse. The
moment had arrived ; the moment to defend, against
European claims, "the edifice raised by the Emper-
or's grandfather," the moment to destroy coalitions
that were forming, the moment to put in check the
vanquished of the past or the aggressors of the fu-
ture. On the 31st of March, 1905, William II, by
disembarking at Tangier, proclaimed his hostility


towards France. In reality, it was one system of
Alliances which opposed itself to another. It was
the Triple Alliance which was trying its strength
against the Dual, the latter backed up by the Entente
Cordiale. The diplomatic shock, which had been
preparing since 1875, was about to take place. His-
tory would pursue its way with relentless logic.



I. German Offensive. — Mr. von Kuhlmann's statements. —
Cause and pretext. — William II at Tangier. — Mistakes
of Mr. Delcass^. — Prince Henckel of Donnersmarck. —
Scare in France. — Mr, Delcass^'s resignation.
II. German success. — Mr. Rouvier and the Conference. —
Acceptance of the Conference by France. — French-German
agreements. — Moroccan concessions of Germany. — Suc-
cess of the great German design.
III. German discomfiture. — Situation just before Algeciras.

— Germany's error. — Fluctuations of German policy. —
Ends and means. — "European reprobation." — Failure of
the German attempt to restore the Bismarckian hegem-
ony. — Russian Alliance and the Western understandings.

— Ti'iple Alliance. — Opinion in Germany. — Resignation
of Prince von Buelow to the inevitable.

It is impossible to justify, and difficult even to
understand, Germany's Moroccan policy during the
crisis of 1905-1906, if its manifestations only are
considered. If, on the contrary, it is regarded as a
functional part of her European policy, everything
becomes clear; and it is seen to be an attempt to
prove the value of the several international combi-
nations made between 1902 and 1904, an effort to
demolish these combinations by menace, if not by



violence, a Bismarckian operation carried out by-
men who had neither enough of Bismarck's prestige
nor enough of his genius to succeed.

On the 11th of February, 1905, while Mr. Saint-
Rene Taillandier, our Minister in Morocco, was
engaged in explaining to the Sultan the plan of re-
forms that he had drawn up, Mr. von Kuhlmann,
Germany's Charge d'Affaires at Tangier, said to
Comte de Cherisey, his French colleague: —

After the Franco-English agreement, we supposed the
French Government would wait, to put us into possession of
the facts concerning this new situation, until the Franco-Span-
ish understanding was effected, which was foreshadowed in the
arrangement of the 8th of April. But, to-day, everything be-
ing definitely concluded, and the requisite Parliamentary ratifi-
cations having been obtained, we find that we have been
systematically kept ignorant of what was going on.

We have therefore regulated our attitude in accordance.

Do not imagine that I have laid down my line of conduct
on my own initiative. In presence of the contradictory inter-
pretations of our newspapers, I thought it my duty to ask my
Government for formal instructions. Count von Buelow there-
upon informed me that the Imperial Government had no
knowledge of the different agreements that had been made with
reference to Morocco, and did not recognize that he was in any
way bound as regards the question.*

These statements were calculated to surprise us.
As a matter of fact, it was false that Germany had
been kept in "systematic ignorance." On the 23d
of March, 1904, before the Franco-English agree-
ment was signed, Mr. Delcasse informed Prince
von Radolin of its tenor. The Ambassador re-
plied that he found the arrangement ''very natural

1 See Yellow Book, 1901-1905.


and perfectly justified." On the 25th of March, fol-
lowing on these verbal explanations, the North Ger-
man Gazette wrote : —

As far as can be at present judged, German interests cannot
be affected by the various exchanges of views concerning Mo-

By reason of the reiterated assurance officially given on the
French side that France has no conquest, no occupation in view,
but is pursuing rather the opening of the Sultan's dominions in
North West Africa to European civilization, there is ground for
believing that Germany's commercial interests in Morocco have
nothing to be afraid of.

With regard to this problem, therefore, there is no need, as
far as the Germans are concerned, to take umbrage at the Franco-
English understanding which is at present in force.*

A fortnight later, the text of the Agreement
was published in London. On the 12th of April,
Count von Buelow, Chancellor of the Empire, said
in the Reichstag : —

We know of nothing that should lead us to think that this
agreement is directed against any Power whatsoever. What it
seems to indicate is an attempt to settle a series of disputes be-
tween France and England by means of an amicable under-

From the point of view of German interests, we have no ob-
jection to make against it. As a matter of fact, we cannot be
desirous of a tension between France and England which would
be a danger for the peace of the world, whereas we are sincerely
anxious that peace should be maintained.

To speak more especially of Morocco, which constitutes the
essential part of this agreement, we are interested in this coun-
try, as indeed in the rest of the Mediterranean, chiefly from an
economic point of view.

Our interests there are, first and foremost, commercial. So

1 See Yellow Book, 1901-1905.


we have important reasons for wishing tranquillity and order
to reign in Morocco.

We owe it to ourselves to protect our commercial interests
in Morocco, and we shall protect them. Nor is there anything
to make us fear that they can be overlooked or injured by one
Power or another.*

On the 14th of April, returning to the subject, the
Chancellor expressed himself as follows : —

Count Reventlow pretends that the Anglo-French agreement,
and especially the fundamental part of it referring to Morocco,
called forth in Germany sentiments of dismay and discourage-

He deems that we ought not to have suffered other Powers
to acquire in Morocco a greater influence than ourselves.

That can only signify this : namely, that we ourselves ought
to claim a part of Morocco. I should like to ask Count Revent-
low one question, which is very simple.

Count Reventlow will certainly agree with me that, if a great
Empire, like that of Germany, formulates such a claim, she
must pursue the realization of the claim, cost what it may.

What now would Count Reventlow advise me to do, if a claim
of this kind were to be resisted ?

I do not say it is certain that such a claim would meet with
resistance ; I do not say this is likely ; I say only that, in ques-
tions of such gravity, no eventuality should be lost sight of.

Would Count Reventlow advise me to unsheath the sword?

Count Reventlow does not reply, and I understand his si-
lence. (Laughter.)

I think, Gentlemen, it would be inconsiderate on my part, —
and I am pleased to note that the leaders of all parties, except
Count Reventlow, have expressed a similar opinion, — to decide
unnecessarily on embarking the country in such an adventurous

I think, too. Gentlemen, that, were I so to act. Count Revent-
low, in whom the critical faculty seems to me to be strongly
developed, would reproach me with my exaggerated ardour for
action as keenly as he has blamed my so-called fear of action.

» See Yellow Book, 1901-1905.


On the 20th of April, Mr. Bihourd, French Am-
bassador at Berlin, saw Baron von Richthofen, then
Minister of Foreign Affairs, and said to him : —

" I much appreciated the Chancellor's language,
when he acknowledged in the Reichstag that the
Franco-English understanding was not directed
against any Power and in no wise threatened Ger-
man commercial interests."

In reply, Mr. von Richthofen expressed no ob-
jection, made no reservation.

On the 7th of October, after the signature of the
Franco-Spanish agreement, Mr. Bihourd informed
Baron von Richthofen of the fact.

"Are you able," the Baron said to him, "to fore-
cast the scope of the agreement with regard to Ger-
many's commercial interests, which are what I have
especially to think of?"

"The Franco-English declaration of the 8th of
April last," replied Mr. Bihourd, "offers every guar-
antee on this point, nor can Spain's adhesion modify
anything in the promises then made."

Finally, on the 13th of October, the French Am-
bassador communicated to Mr. von Richthofen the
text of the Franco-Spanish declaration. Once more
the Minister spoke to him of the exclusively eco-
nomic interest that Germany took in Moroccan af-
fairs. The Ambassador immediately answered, —
renewing his assurances in Mr. Delcasse's name, —
that "the Franco-English declaration of the 8th of
April expressly guaranteed commercial liberty and
that the Franco-Spanish declaration could not, in


his opinion, affect the securities already offered to
international commerce."

Consequently, Mr. von Kuhlmann's assertion was
entirely unwarranted. It constituted a "baW —
founded on a pretext — in view of diplomatic action
dictated by reasons of a general and not a local na-
ture. The reasons were likewise general, not local,
which guided the development of this action. On
the 15th of February, Mr. von Muhlberg, Under-
Secretary for State Affairs, when questioned by Mr.
Bihourd about Mr. von Kuhlmann's statements, re-
plied that he had no cognizance of them. A fort-
night later, the Russian Army suffered its decisive
defeat at Mukden, a defeat which was destined to
render the Saint Petersburg Cabinet powerless for
some time to come. Straightway, Germany's real
policy revealed itself. On the 21st of February, the
German Consul at Fez reported to headquarters that
Mr. Saint- Rene Taillandier, in order to back up his
plan of reforms, had claimed that he held a ^'man-
date from Europe." This assertion was false. On
the 7th of March, the same official denounced the
'' aggressive Colonial tendencies of France." On the
12th of March, it was announced that William II
would call at Tangier in the course of his cruise in
the Mediterranean. On the 16th of March, Mr. von
Buelow, speaking ambiguously in the Reichstag,
said : —

Herr von Reventlow touches on the question whether
fresh agreements between third parties can affect our relations
with Morocco.


Herr von Reventlow seems to find that our policy is too
inactive on this point, and that we are allowing ourselves to be
guilty of negligence.

I quite understand the attention paid here to the events
now taking place in Morocco and to their significance.

I consider it to be the duty of the German Government to
see that, in the future, our economic interests in this country
are not injured.

The moment is inopportune to make more particular state-

I defer these till later.

On the 29th of March, the Chancellor said : —

The Emperor some time ago told the King of Spain that Ger-
many seeks in Morocco no territorial advantage.

After a declaration so categoric, it is absurd to try to explain
the Emperor's visit to Tangier by intentions directed against
the integrity or independence of Morocco.

From this visit of the Emperor to Tangier, nothing can be
deduced, as to its motive, that is of a nature to render any one
uneasy who himself has no aggressive intentions there.

Herr Bebel has hinted that our pohcy with regard to Mo-
rocco has changed in the last year.

I must remind him that the language and attitude of diplo-
matists and politicians are regulated by circumstances.

The moment that I judge to be favourable for setting forth
German interests, I choose according to my own estimation.

With this understood, nothing has changed in the tendencies
of German policy on the point in question.

Whoever seeks anything new will not find it in German

But if any attempt should be made to modify the interna-
tional situation of Morocco or to establish any check on the
open door in the country's economic development, we must see
more than ever that our economic interests are not endangered.

We should first put ourselves into relations with the Sultan
on the subject.

The threat, therefore, was rendered more precise.
On the 31st of March, it was repeated with circum-


stance. Disembarking at Tangier, William II
spoke to the representative of Abd el Aziz as fol-
lows : —

To-day, I pay my visit to the Sultan in his character of in-
dependent sovereign.

I hope that, under the Sultan's sovereignty, a free Morocco
will remain open to the pacific competition of all nations, without
monopoly and without annexation, on a footing of absolute equal-

My visit to Tangier is intended to make known the fact
that I am resolved to do all that is in my power properly to safe-
guard the interests of Germany, since I consider the Sultan as
being an absolutely free sovereign.

It is with him that I mean to come to an understanding
respecting the best way of safeguarding such interests.

As regards the reforms which the Sultan is intending to
make, it seems to me that any action in this direction should be
taken with great precaution, respect being had for the religious
sentiments of the population in order that there may be no
disturbance of public tranquillity.

By a circular addressed to the various German
Ambassadors on the 12th of April, the Chancellor
appealed to Europe. The die was cast. The sub-
stance of his communication was a reiteration of the
imaginary grievances already invoked by Mr. von
Kuhlmann, together with proposals for remedying
what was amiss. Relying on her rights and the
agreements she had made, France had endeavoured
to act alone. Mr. von Buelow demanded that anl
International Conference should be summoned, com-'
posed of the signataries of the 1880 Convention of
Madrid.^ This Convention, it was manifest, had

» See White Book for 1906.


nothing to do with the subject now raised, — and
German jurisconsults themselves acknowledged this,
— since it had merely settled the altogether special
question of the protection to be granted to Moroc-
cans by the several Foreign Legations. But, by
forcing France to accept it, Europe was to be shown
that, in spite of the agreements recently concluded,
there was nothing changed in the world, and that
Germany had only to oppose a certain policy for it
to be altered in accordance with her wishes. On
the 27th of May, the Moroccan ''Notables," being
assembled to hear what Mr. Saint- Rene Taillandier
had to say, took up on their own account the Ger-
man idea of a Conference. On the 30th, the Sultan
made the proposal his own, and Abd el Aziz thus
became the instrument of the European scheme
which recent Western agreements had tempted Ger-
many to try to carry out, which the Russian defeats
had allowed her to initiate.

Considered by itself, the game was a magnificent
one for the French Government to play. Thirty-
four years had passed since the signing of the n
Treaty of Frankfort. After being vanquished, dis-|
membered, threatened afresh in 1875, isolated until
1891, our country had, through the Russian Alliance, '
been restored to the possibility of diplomatic action.
In spite of errors, she had pursued her way towards
the attainment of an increasingly stable equilibrium,
towards an autonomy more safely guarded on the ^
outside. She had successively drawn nearer to Italy P
England, and Spain; and had utilized these rajp-


prochements for the service of her most essential in- 1
terests — her Mediterranean interests. The weight
had grown lighter with which triumphant Germany
pressed upon her; and it was in the plenitude ofl
her good right that she had acquired such guarantees, j
After his installation at the Foreign Office in 1898,'
Mr. Delcasse had done more than any other Minister!
preceding him towards obtaining this result. For-
tified by his patriotism, by Mr. Waldeck- Rousseau's
confidence (1899-1902), by Mr. Combes' indiffer-
ence respecting questions of foreign policy (1902-j
1905), he had methodically applied the plan that he
had laid down for himself, probably without under-
estimating the risks attending it.

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Online LibraryAndré TardieuFrance and the alliances: the struggle for the balance of power → online text (page 12 of 22)