André Tardieu.

France and the alliances: the struggle for the balance of power online

. (page 13 of 22)
Online LibraryAndré TardieuFrance and the alliances: the struggle for the balance of power → online text (page 13 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Unfortunately, when these risks revealed them-f
selves, Mr. Delcasse had as yet done nothing to ward!
them off. Absorbed by his contemplation of the |
goal, with his eyes raised aloft, he no longer saw the
snares that lay in his path. After the signing
of the Franco-English agreement, he allowed ten
months to go by without taking any action in Mo-
rocco, just as if he had been in sovereign disposal of
a serene future. He had waited to act until the
rout of the Russians at Liao-Yang, with those at
Mukden and Tsusima, which were worse, deprived
us of our best trump card, of our sole Alliance, of
our only support on the Continent. Nor had he
taken any measures to provide for the consequences I
of such conduct. Being split up into two parties by
the Dreyfus Affair, and subsequently by the religious \
quarrel, France had lost her inclination for action


abroad. Disheartened by the system of delation
that prevailed, our Army and Navy had no leaders,
no organization, no ammunition, no provisions ade-
quate to the role they should have been ready at
any minute to play. For some idea to be gained of
their weakness at this time, it suffices to mention
that the extraordinary credits, hastily spent in order
to remedy the worst deficiencies, amounted, in 1905,
to 225 millions; and this, '^to execute in a few
months what should have been spread over years,
this, to fill up enormous shortage in the stock of
ammunition, to place our four great fortresses in a
proper state of defence, to complete the weapons
and equipment of our armies, to construct the rail-
ways that were absolutely indispensable for oper-
ating the concentration set down in our plans of
mobilization." ^ For months past and years past, the
nation's "expenditure" had been cheese-pared to the
profit of "Social" laws. For months past and years
past, the Government had been living in a deceitful
security, hiding from the country the consequences
accruing from the policy — in itself excellent enough
— which they were being compelled to carry out.
And when the Minister of Foreign Affairs was anx-
iously asked for information respecting our military
preparedness, he replied : —

"You are asking me too much. I do my own duty
and presume that my colleagues do theirs."

It is not with "suppositions" that nations are led
to victory. When Bismarck founded Germany, he
1 See Pierre Baudin's book, The Alarm.


first consulted Moltke. Mr. Delcasse had questioned
neither General Andre, nor yet Mr. Camille Pelletan,
whose bad administration, however, he had no right
to ignore. Being the dupe of a strange illusion, he
believed that a diplomatic operation was self-suf-
ficing. He forgot that the basis of a diplomatic oper-
ation is formed out of the military cash-in-hand of a
nation, that, when one Power intends to uphold her
rights and her designs, she prevails only by the con-
sideration in which her strength is held, that, in
order to be able to resist pressure in a state of peace,
what is needed is the capacity for repelling an ag-
gression through war. Being aware that German
opposition would be made, sooner or later, not to his
Moroccan but to his general policy, he, however, did
not perceive that a France half-disarmed both mate-
rially and morally was fatally condemned to yield.
He willed the end without willing the means. It
was a ruinous aberration of mind in a good French-
man who, by dint of regarding that which was de-
sirable, had lost all notion of the real, and the senti-
ment of what was possible.

It was not long before the consequence of this mis-
take overwhelmed us. On the 31st of March and the
7th of April, Mr. Delcasse made two useless speeches,
one in the Senate and one in the Chamber, in which
he feigned not to understand the meaning of the dis-
cussion. On the 13th of April, he had a personal
interview with Prince von Radolin, and on the 18th
he caused a communication to be made to Mr. von
Muhlberg, for the purpose of ''removing the mis-


understanding." But neither in Paris nor in Berlin
did he receive a reply. On the 19th of April, a pain-
ful, alarming, humiliating discussion occurred in the
Chamber of Deputies. The Minister of Foreign Af-
fairs was not in his usual form. Mr. Rouvier, the
Prime Minister, raised a corner of the veil when he
exclaimed : —

What is it that we are reproached with?

With not informing Germany of the Franco-English agree-
ment on the morrow of its being signed.

Rather should it be said "with not informing other nations" ;
since no notification was made of the agreement which the Cham-
ber had approved.

Had not the Chancellor's speech the value of an acquiescence ?

Did not the Chancellor declare himself satisfied on condi-
tion Germany's commercial interests were not threatened ?

What has taken place since then ? j.

Certain military happenings have weakened our Ally.!

Perhaps, then, the neighbours with whom we wish to live in
harmony thought that, by raising a debate, they might open a
question which we were justified in deeming closed by reason
even of the language held on the other side of the Vosges, and
might thus obtain some commercial advantages.

This was the truth ; but it was rather late in the
day to utter it. After resigning for a first time, and
then withdrawing his resignation on the 20th of
April, Mr. Delcasse resumed the direction of his De-
partment, but with diminished authority. It was
just at this moment that Germany and Morocco de-
manded the assembling of a Conference, Mr. Del-
casse attempted to reply by a refusal ; as, however,
he had neither previously arranged for the conditions
of his refusal nor yet prepared them, his thesis was


untenable. One needs trump cards in order to be
able to resist a ''bluff." And we had none. Every-
day, German pressure became increasingly insolent.
Prince Henckel of Donnersmarck, whose colossal
fortune assured him at the Court of Berlin a situa-
tion which he had not merited by his career, came
to Paris as a bearer of comminatory language. After
going over certain petty grievances, he came straight
to the point, and said : —

We have, moreover, to complain of more serious grievances
and grave lack of customary courtesy. You have endeavoured
to detach from us the Power that was our ally and this on the
advice of another Power with whom you have established a cor-
dial understanding. You certainly have the right to choose
your friends and your allies as you like ; but we owe it to our-
selves to protect ourselves against the consequences that may
be involved for Germany by the agreements that you contract.

If your arrangements with England aimed only at the main-
tenance of peace in Europe, we should have sincerely applauded
them. Unfortunately, the appreciations of newspapers that are
supposed to reflect Government opinion, certain conversations -sc^
having all the importance of official declarations, the speech^
made by King Edward VII in Paris, have convinced us that
the chief object of the Entente Cordiale was to secure the
isolation of Germany, preceding and preparing an aggression in
the near future. Last of all, by disposing, without warning us
or consulting us, of the Empire of Morocco, you have wounded
the German Emperor and the German people to the quick.

Is this policy that of France, or must we consider it as being
merely personal to Monsieur Delcasse ?

If you are of opinion that your Minister of Foreign Affairs
has engaged your country in too adventurous a course, acknowl-
edge it by dispensing with his services, and especially by giving
a new direction to your foreign policy.

We are not concerned with Monsieur Delcasse's person ; but
his policy is a threat to Germany; and you may rest assured
that we shall not -wait for it to be realized. The Emperor does


not desire war. His chief care is to favour the development and
expansion of German commerce. The German navy, which he
means shall be large and powerful, is only a means for carrying
out his exclusively pacific designs.

On this ground, the Emperor naturally finds himself in rivalry
with England, who, by tradition, is bent on destroying the fleets
of her neighbours, or rather on preventing their creation. It is
for you to decide whether you prefer to serve England's inter-
ests, after taking into account the perils to which you expose
yourselves by a verbal understanding which you are thinking of
transforming into a written alliance.

The Emperor respects your Army, the high value of which he
is far from underestimating. He is, however, warned, and it is
better you yourselves should be so too, of the causes that may
weaken it and of the germs of dissolution that have been sown
throughout it.

In a war against Germany, you may possibly be victorious, since
in her most tragic crises France has always found extraordinary
resources in herself ; but, if you are vanquished, — and my first
hypothesis deprives my second of aU offensive character, — if
you are vanquished, as you probably will be, it is in Paris that
peace will have to be signed.

Are you hoping that, faithful throughout to the friendship
uniting you, England will make common cause with you, and
attempt — on the German coast — a diversion from which you
might derive advantage ? That is possible. Let us assume the
most favourable case for you. She bombards our ports, she
destroys our fleets, she ruins our Colonies. With your billions,
we shall repair the damage of all kinds that she may have caused
us. She may deem herself impregnable at home; but, if we
occupy your territory, she will be powerless to drive us away.

And now let us examine what I will call the other picture.

France does not tlireaten Germany. According to the desire
of my friend Gambetta, she still thinks of Alsace and Lorraine ;
but she never talks about them. Other questions of more im-
mediate importance solicit her attention; since the world is
wide enough for a great nation hke yours to be able to find the
wherewith to satisfy her present ambitions, while adjourning
hopes that are for the moment irrealizable.

Your country would assuredly have the finest and most glori-


ous r61e that a civilized nation can desire. Placed as an umpire
between friendly England and Germany, then, not hostile, she
might, by arbitrating in their eventual quarrel, spare the world
the horror of a general conflagration.

Believe the word of a German who has always had great
sympathies with you. Give up the Minister whose only aspira-
tion is to trouble the peace of Europe; and adopt with regard
to Germany a loyal and open policy, the only one which is worthy
of a great nation like yours, if you wish to preserve the peace of
the world.*

A few days later, the inevitable occurred. Con-
scious of our military weakness and Russia's power-i
lessness, Mr. Rouvier decided to yield. In opposi-|
tion to Mr. Delcasse, who declined negotiations in'
view of a Conference, he advocated the acceptance
of preliminary pourparlers. Being supported by the
majority of the Cabinet, he did not refuse the resig-
nation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs when it
was handed in to him the second time. And by a
regrettable error, the disgrace of this retreat under
the enemy's fire was not even masked by a collective
resignation of the Ministry, which might have been
reconstituted on the morrow. Germany demolished
the Minister who had vaunted of holding his own
against her — without, indeed, his doing anything to
render himself capable of such action. She gained
the first bout. France was obliged, notwithstand-
ing her alliances and friendships, to gainsay and
humble herself. And to enforce this success William
II bestow^ed on Count von Buelow the title of Prince.
^ Conversation published by the Gaulois (June, 1905).



After this grave set-back, Mr. Rouvier found him-
self in a disadvantageous situation to negotiate. As
a matter of fact, the two agreements which he con-
cluded with Germany, on the 10th of July and the
10th of September, conceded Germany's claims.

If the Prime Minister hoped that, in the course of
fresh pourparlers, the German Chancellor's exigencies
would be lessened by Mr. Delcasse's retirement, he
was soon obliged to undeceive himself. Since the
immediate occasion of their dispute was not the
fundamental cause of these exigencies, — no more
in the second phase than it had been in the first, —
any one would have been foolish to imagine that Mr.
Rouvier's arguments on the subject of Morocco, how-
ever reasonable they might be, would have a deter-
mining influence at Wilhelmstrasse. In vain the
Prime Minister remarked that projects were attrib-
uted to us which had not entered into our
thoughts; that we had solicited the Sultan for no
concession that could diminish his authority or
hamper the freedom of trade within the boundaries
of his Empire ; that we had neither done nor dreamt
of doing the same in Morocco as we had done in
Tunis. In vain he added that a Conference would
be ''rather a complication than a solution"; that, if
it assembled without a previous understanding being
arrived at, it would turn out to be prejudicial; that,
if it assembled after an understanding had been
reached, it would be entirely useless. Prince von


Radolin, acting on the Chancellor's orders, contin-
ued obstinately to demand that the Conference
should be summoned, adding (on the 10th of June,
1905): "We insist on the Conference. If it is not „
held, then the statu quo will remain in force. And I
you must know that we will back up Morocco with;
our entire strength." ^

If the matter, thus put, had referred to Africa, and
Africa only; if Germany had merely desired to ob-
tain especial advantages in the Moorish Empire or
elsewhere, such an attitude would have been inex-
plicable. On the other hand, it is understandable,
if the Assembling of the Conference is regarded as a
proof that the German Government was attempting ,
to impose her hegemony on the world ; if there is a
consensus of opinion to the effect that the Moroccan !
dispute was the ''occasion" only and that the object/
to be attained was something higher — and else-'
where. In this month of June, 1905, the Germans
knew that Mr. Rouvier was willing to do more than
pay the price of their good-will in Morocco. The
financial help of France for their railways in Asia
Minor might have been had by simply asking. They
might even have obtained more, — perhaps the quot-
ing of their public and private securities on the Paris
Bourse. These advantages, although great, did not
suffice to alter their attitude, since they were antici-
pating larger profit from the satisfaction being ac-

1 See Yellow Book (1901-1905). The Yellow Book does not
say "with our entire strength." But I am informed by Mr. Rou-
vier that this was the Ambassador's expression.


corded them that would publicly demonstrate the
continued existence of their preponderance.

Indeed, one has only to glance at the two agree-
ments in virtue of which, during July and Septem-
ber, Mr. Rouvier prepared with Germany the meet-
ing of the Conference. From the Moroccan point of
view, these agreements were not disadvantageous to
France, and procured her stronger guarantees than
those we had first hoped for. By the terms of the
former one, Germany declared that ''she pursued no
object at the Conference that might compromise the
legitimate interests of France in Morocco or that was
contrary to the rights of France accruing from her
treaties or arrangements." She placed herself in
accordance with us respecting the principles them-
selves which had never ceased to inspire our policy,
— ''the sovereignty and independence of the Sultan;
the integrity of his Empire ; economic liberty with-
out any inequality ; the utility of police and financial
reforms, the introduction of which would be regu-
lated for a short period through an international
agreement." Last of all^ she acknowledged "the
situation enjoyed by France in Morocco by reason
of Algeria's contiguity to the Moorish Empire along
a vast extent of frontier, and of the particular rela-
tions that arise between two bordering countries,
there being also special reasons why France should
desire the reign of order throughout the Sultan's
dominions." The second agreement, which was the
consequence of the first, laid equal stress on our privi-
leges. It provided for "the organization of a police


system by way of international arrangement"; but.-
"outside of the frontier region," there being an un-/
derstanding to the effect that, in this region, poHce'
questions should continue to be settled directly.,
and exclusively between France and the Sultan, and
should remain outside of the Conference programme."
There was a similar understanding with regard to
the repression of the smuggling of arms over the
area of the same region. The upshot of all this was
that Germany did not dispute our "peculiar inter-
ests." She admitted that we had in Morocco an
exceptional situation. She placed in our hands cer-
tain means of action, the value of which was incon-
testable, since, owing to them, we were able to obtain
at Algeciras the recognition of our rights and the
guarantee of our Moroccan interests.

But, if these various points were gained, if Germany
made us concessions which, though accorded reluc-
tantly, were none the less precious, it was because,'
by obtaining our adhesion to the Conference princi-
ple, she had secured that which she most desired. In
the German press her conduct was characterized even
as a policy of amour-propre and show-off. We will
be more equitable towards the Chancellor. If he in-
sisted so strongly on the Conference being held, it
was because alone the assembling of it would per-
emptorily establish that French understandings were
not self-sufficing when Germany was pleased to in-
terfere ; it was because this meeting, before which
would be heard the appeal of the policy that Ger-
many had prevented us from carrying out at Fez,


would be a monument raised to German puissance,
a warning for the future, a threat against whoever
should bethink himself to aspire to political inde-
pendence. On the 11th of April, the Chancellor
wrote to Count Wolff Metternich, the German
Ambassador in London : —

We are acting with a view to our interests, which apparently
there seems to be an intention to dispose of without our assent.
The importance of these interests is a secondary thing here. . . .
If we, however, abandon them by our silence, we shall thus en-
courage the world, seeing us act so, to commit similar breaches
of courtesy, to our prejudice in other questions perhaps more

On the 4th of October, Prince von Buelow, re-
ceiving the author of this book at Baden-Baden,
said to him : —

In the incidents which have arisen during the past six months
or so, there are two distinct things to consider.

Morocco is the first ; general policy is the second.

In Morocco we have important commercial interests : we in-
tended and we still intend to safeguard them.

In a more general way, we were obhged to reply to a policy
which threatened to isolate us and which, in consequence of
this avowed aim, assumed a distinctly hostile character with
regard to us.

The Moroccan affair was the most recent and most clearly
manifested example of such policy. It furnished us with an
opportunity to make a necessary retort.^

What should be thought of this pretended ''iso-
lation," the Chancellor had previously stated on
the 14th of April 1904, when he said: —

» See White Book (1906).

2 See Le Temps of the 5th of October, 1905.


The member, Mr. Bebel, has also spoken of an isolation of
Germany. He seems to fear that we are drifting into complete

I answer him that we find ourselves at present in solid bonds
of alliance with two great Powers, in amicable relations with the
five others, that our relations with France are calm and pacific,
and, as far as depends on us, will remain so.

I believe, moreover, that we shall not have much isolation to
fear, as long as we continue to keep our swords well-whetted.

Germany is too powerful not to be capable of alliances.

There are many combinations possible for us; and, even if
we had to remain alone, this would not be very terrible either.

Consequently, there is no need for anxiety.

Nothing had happened since this date, with regard
to the distribution of alliances, that could justify
the altogether different language which the Chan-
cellor used to me in October. Germany had still
her 'Hwo solid Alliances"; and was the only Power
in Europe enjoying this situation. The isolation
spoken of by Prince von Buelow was therefore
imaginary. The truth was that the effect of the
change he dreaded, the effect of the change which
had induced him to employ the Moroccan question
in order to make a "necessary return-thrust," the
effect of the change which had caused him to pass
from the policy of reserve to a policy of action and
which he characterized as "isolation" by a con-
versational euphemism, this effect had been, not to
reduce Germany to solitude, but to restore the
balance of power in Europe. It had achieved, not
the encircling of Germany, but the affranchisement
of France. Throughout the dispute, the stake at
issue for Germany was not the preserving of alii-


ances, which there was no likelihood of her losing,
but the safeguard of the diplomatic hegemony-
secured by Bismarck as the outcome of the Congress'
of Berlin. The stake was an important one, and,
far more than Morocco, warranted the efforts made
to win it.

At the end of 1905, Germany had grounds for
believing that she was nearing the desired goal. In
the conflict of Alliances that had just been fought
out, her triumph had been complete. She had
merely had to intervene at Fez for the policy to
crumble that had been established by the Franco-
English agreement of 1904. She had merely had
to threaten for France to sacrifice a Minister of
Foreign Affairs whom the Parliament had during
seven years supported by its confidence. Nothing
had been able to stand against her interference.
The paralysis of the Franco-Russian Alliance was
not astonishing, considering the difficulties both
exterior and interior in which our Allies were in-
volved. But at its outset the Entente Cordiale
had shown itself no better, since it had not spared
France either discomfiture or humiliation. Indeed,
the military aid that England could have offered,
would have done but little to make up for our own
weakness. The Franco-Italian and Franco-Spanish
agreements had not even been invoked against the
German pretensions. The Chancellor deemed him-
self sure of the morrow and spoke somewhat ironically
of English policy in its relations with ours.

In the conversation with me mentioned above,


the. text of which was corrected by him before its
publication, he said : —

Your country has a useful role to play in tranquillizing minds
instead of exciting them.

In such a case as the present, the suave mart magno is not
applicable. International solidarity is too deep for any one to
be able to flatter himself on being the tertius gaudens — if I
may again use a Latin expression — in a quarrel, whatever its
nature may be.

If, between Germans and Englishmen, there are prejudices
which will vanish sooner or later, France can help in removing

Allow me to add that she has set an example which proves
that it is always possible to become reconciled with England.

The Prince then went on to express his conviction
that the Conference would draw us nearer rather
than separate us. And he added in conclusion : —

One condition, however, is essential for the rapprochement,
namely, that the French public should quite understand that the
policy tending to isolate Germany is a thing of the past, and that
the course of conduct lately pursued is to-day definitely aban-

In spite of the courteous language that was subse-
quently employed in speaking of the Franco-English
and Franco-Italian rapprochements, Germany, not
without some curtness, expressed the wish that

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryAndré TardieuFrance and the alliances: the struggle for the balance of power → online text (page 13 of 22)