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and make themselves greater in the future. Others had
restricted area and far less chance for any growth.



Fruitless
efforts to
abolish war



Geo-
graphical
factors



458



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Russia,
Austria-
Hungary



The Adri-
atic, the
Baltic, the
Mediter-
ranean



Russia had immense territory, wanting good outlet.
To the north she had ports in the Arctic region, which
were far out of the way and most of them closed by ice
during much of the year. Far to the east she had a good
outlet at Vladivostok, which was likewise closed during
winter, and also at the mercy of Japan. In the west she
had ports on the Baltic Sea, but they were not only used
with difficulty during some months in the winter, but the
German Empire could stop all Baltic trade if ever she
wished. In the south there were excellent ports on the
Black Sea, and to this sea came most of Russia's com-
merce, since most of the great Russian rivers emptied
there; but the only exit from the Black Sea was through
the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, narrow straits con-
trolled absolutely by the Turks at Constantinople. It had
been the age-long aspiration of Russians to get a good
warm-water outlet and it had long been their passionate
desire to win Constantinople, from which had come their
religion and civilization, and which seemed to them a holy
city. But if Russia succeeded in this, then some of the
greatest ambitions of Germany might come to nothing,
and Austria-Hungary would be largely in Russia's power.
Not only did Austria-Hungary desire to expand south
through the Balkans, but her great river, the Danube,
emptied into the Black Sea, and much of her commerce
went out past Constantinople. That is to say, if Russia
succeeded in her ambition, then Austria-Hungary could
be largely closed in and at Russia's mercy, while if Aus-
tria got what she desired, then Russia could be at her
mercy in like manner.

There were many circumstances similar. Austria's
other outlet was into the Adriatic, at Trieste and Fiume,
but the end of the Adriatic was getting entirely under
Italy's control. Germany, who could close in Russia
on the Baltic, found her great trade routes in the North
Sea and through the English Channel at the mercy of



CAUSES OF THE GREAT WAR 429



Great Britain who could shut llicrn off if she wislicd.
And all the nations with ports on the ^lediterranean, the
most important sea and the greatest water short-line in
the world, found the Mediterranean held at both ends,
at Suez and Gibraltar, by (Jreat Britain. It was not
that these outlets were closed and nations strangled or
made economically dependent, but the fact that in some
great struggle they could be. Statesmen thought of the
future, and were filled with distrust. In time of peace
all the seas controlled by Britain were used by all the
nations as much as they wished, but during the Great
War Britain's command of the sea at last brought Ger-
many to her knees, just as already Russia had been
destroyed partly because she had from the first been
closed in by the German Empire and Turkey. Indeed,
in 1911-12, during the Turco-Italian War, in which Russia
had no part, Russia's grain fleet was completely stopped
through the closing of the straits by Turkey.

Just as great to some seemed the disadvantage of not
having room for expansion. The English-speaking peo-
ples, the Russians, Chinese, and Japanese, perhaps some of
the South American peoples, had room in which to grow
and increase their numbers. Even France, whose popula-
tion was stationary, had a large colonial empire. But
Germany's territory was small, and she had no good
colonies or thinly peopled districts m which might grow
up a Germany still greater. Her population was rapidly
increasing, and some looked forward to the time when
there would be 200,000,000 Germans in the Empire. Then
France would be at a hopeless disadvantage. But when
that time came, it seemed probable that the population
of Russia might be 1,000,000,000, and then what chance
would Germany have against her.'^ Nor could this dis-
parity be avoided, for Russia had immense territories only
thinly peopled, able to support many more, while beyond
a certain number it did not seem possible that Germany



Possible
economic
strangula-
tion



Room for
growth of
population



430



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Birth-rate
and growth
of population



Birth-rate
and

standard
of living



could support more in the limited area which she possessed.
Later on, accordingly, the destiny of the world would be
in the hands of great contestants, like Russia, the British
Empire, the United States, perhaps Japan, with Germany
relatively a minor power like France — unless, before this
evil day came, Germany struck and took from others the
territory which they had and which she needed so badly.

Connected with this were differences in birth-rate and
increase in population. In some countries the number of
people was increasing more rapidly than in others, and,
other things being equal', superior numbers would be sure
to give greater military strength and power. It was
largely because of this that France had lost the position
of primacy she had once held in the affairs of Europe.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century her population
was 27,000,000; in 1914 it was a little less than 40,000,000.
In the early part of the nineteenth century there were in
the countries which afterward made up the German
Empire 24,000,000 people, but when the Great War began
the population was estimated at about 68,000,000.
During this same period the population of Great Britain
had growTi from 10,500,000 to 40,000,000 though during
the same time that of Ireland had declined from 8,000,000
to 4,500,000. The enemies of France, and some of her
friends, said that France was decadent, that France was
an old, tired nation, which, like a man or a woman late in
life, was not possessed of the vigor and fullness that cause
early marriages and large families and increase in num-
bers. Actually, however, there had long been in France
what had long been the case with the upper and more
prosperous classes in almost every other country: a high
standard of living and civilization, and a desire to hand
down the same standard to the people of the next genera-
tion. The land of France was divided among a great
number of small proprietors, who could maintain them-
selves in comfort and high standard, and bestow the same



CAUSES OF THE GREAT WAR 431



standard upon their children, provided tlieir property
did not liave to be divided among many children. Ac-
cordingly, the birth-rate was low. On the other hand, in
Italy where the standard of living was low, the population
increased so rapidly that large numbers of enugranls
had to abandon a country that could not support them;
and in Russia, despite an appalling mfant mortality,
population increased more rapidly still. In Germany,
where the standard was high, it also increased rapidly, so
that a large part of the j)opulation could only be supported
by making goods to be exchanged with other nations for
food. It was Germany's dearest desire to have more good
territory in which to expand and increase her numbers;
while the rapid increase, which she had, constantly made
her more powerful, and more able to be arrogant and
threatening to her neighbors.

There were particular things which seemed to bode ill
for the future, such as the feeling in France that gross
injustice had been done by Germany in taking Alsace-
Lorraine, though the desire of the French people for a
war of revenge had largely passed away, and by 1914 it
was very probable that France would never go to war
solely to win the "lost provinces" back. Italy wished
much for the lands in which Italians lived, which had not
been given to her at the time when her unity was achieved;
but it was not probable that she would go to war to ob-
tain them or be able to get them if she did. Far more
important were the riv^alry between Teuton and Slav in
eastern Europe, and the relations between Germany and
England in the west.

The relations between Germany and England in earlier
times had generally been good. But a great change came
at the end of the century, when Germany, having built
up the greatest military power in the world, seemed to
desire naval supremacy also. In 1SJ)S and in 1900 were
passed two of the most important naval measures ever



Birth-rate

and

expansion



Interna-
tional
relations



Germany
and Great
Britain



432



EUROPE SINCE 1870



German

naval

expansion



Apprehen-
sion in
Britain



Ineffectual
efforts to
reach an
understand-
ing



sanctioned in any country. Huge appropriations were
passed to be spent methodically according to plan over a
number of years, at the end of which it was hoped that the
German Empire would have a war fleet so powerful that
in a contest the mightiest power would stake its very
existence on the outcome. At once English leaders were
alarmed. The British Government entered into the
Entente Cordiale with France (1904) and settled all difla-
culties with Russia (1907). The people themselves were
presently aroused at the prospect of great danger. More
and more in the years that followed was the attention of
people in Great Britain given to the growth and ambitions
of Germany. Additional warships were built, and then,
when for a while it seemed that Germany might still get
ahead, huge appropriations were made and naval con-
struction carried on with feverish haste. Many people
believed that there was no danger; but many more thought
that the British Empire was threatened by the greatest
danger that had ever confronted it. There were not
wanting some who feared that the Germans might strike
without any declaration of war, and, evading the British
fleet some misty night, suddenly throw into England a
force which would destroy Great Britain completely, with-
out any hope of redemption. It was necessary, then,
to be perpetually on guard, to maintain overwhelming sea
power, and perhaps raise a great army for defence.

Some attempts were made to end this rivalry and sus-
picion. The British Government tried to come to an un-
derstanding with Germany about limiting the building of
battleships, but though a temporary arrangement was
arrived at, no real agreement could be reached, since
Germany was not willing to give up her effort to rival
Great Britain on the seas. The British people desired to
avoid a conflict, and the British Government made a sin-
cere effort to remove such differences as existed between
the two nations. In doing this, large and generous con-



CAUSES OF THE GREAT WAR 433



cessions were made, especially with respect to the Bagdad
Railway scheme; but it cannot he known what good results
might have come, since the agreement was reached only
a little before the Great War broke out. ]\Ieanwliile,
such had been the revolution in affairs, that Great Britain,
who had for nearly a century kept outside Continental
affairs, now considered herself unable to stand without
friends in Europe, her statesmen were constantly watching
Germany's every move, and it had become the corner-
stone of her foreign policy that in no circumstances
must she ever allow France, her best friend, to be crushed
by the German armies.

Less acute and less evident, perhaps, was another and
vaster rivalry, between the Teutonic peoples, especially
the Germans, in central Europe, and the Slavic peoples,
especially Russia, in the east, a contest which principally
concerned Constantinople and the Balkans. For ages
this contest had lasted. Once the Slavs had pushed the
Teutons almost to the Elbe and the Rhine. Then the tide
turned. The history of the Middle Ages in central
Europe is to a considerable extent the story of the re-
conquest of lands by the Germans from the Slavs. In this
way was eastern Prussia built up, and it is thought that
the Slavic continues to be the largest element in the
Prussian people. In this way also was the power of
Austria extended, and there were more Slavs in Austria
than there were Germans and more Slavs in Hungary
than Magyars. Poland had once been the great champion
of the Slavs, but she had disappeared, and her place of
leadership had been taken by the Empire of Russia. The
rivalry now was concerned largely with the mastery of the
Balkan Peninsula.

In the days when the Eastern Roman Empire was
decaying the Balkan Peninsula had been occupied largely
by South Slavic peoples. In course of time they were
overwhelmed and submerged by the Turks. In the nine-



An under-
standing
almost
reached



Teuton and
Slav



The South
Slavs and
the Balkans



434



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Russia,
leader of
the Slavs



Germany,
the Balkans,
Asiatic
Turkey



Asia Minor



teenth century they and the Greeks gained their freedom
once more. To this freedom they had all been helped by
Russia, to whom they looked as their protector and the
great leader of their race. Russia desired to protect them
or perhaps some day incorporate them in a great Pan-
Russian domain, and she held these feelings not only
because she was ambitious but because she felt the ties
of religion and race : they were all of them Slavic in blood
and they held the Greek Catholic faith. Also Russia
greatly desired to have Constantinople and an outlet on
the Mediterranean. This would never be possible, per-
haps, unless she controlled the Balkans.

These ambitions of Russia conflicted directly with what
had come to be the first ambition of the Germanic peoples,
and their best chance of founding a greater empire.
There was no territory in Europe into which the Germans
could expand without taking it away from some neighbor
as the result of a war; and of colonies, England and France
had taken almost all of the best that were to be had.
There did seem to be some possibility of expansion in
South America and in the Far East, but for the present the
Monroe Doctrine debarred Germany from taking Latin
American countries, and after the Russo-Japanese War
(1904-5), European acquisition in China came to an end,
since this was now opposed by Japan. It might be
that some day Germany could take away the colonial
dominion of France, or even the far-flung possessions of the
British Empire; but if these things came they must be the
result of a victorious war, won by greater Germany in the
future. One inviting field remained, and that was in the
domain of Turkey, mostly m Asia Minor, which was thinly
peopled and backward now under the rule of the Turk,
but which had once been a seat of civilization, populous,
important, and wealthy. Under German rule it might
come to be so again.

Accordingly, the German Government had cultivated



CAUSES OF THE GREAT WAR 435



good relations with the Turks, and had recently become
so influential in their government that 'J'urkey was be-
coming an appendage of the (ierman aUiance. But
in order that the German Empire might liave control of the
Turkish dominions it seemed necessary that the Dual
Monarchy and Germany together should control the Bal-
kan Peninsula which lay in between. This suited very
well the schemes of Austria Hungary who desired to
extend to the south. Gradually the i)lan took shape.
The two principal members of the rriple Alliance were to
dominate the Balkans and thence get control of the
Turkish Empire and so build up across "Middle Europe"
an empire which would extend from the North Sea to
the Persian Gulf. To hold it together, to carry on a great
trade with profit, to defend it in time of war, a railroad
must bind all the parts. Already most of such a railroad
existed. From the ports of the North Sea and the Baltic
lines ran to Berlin, then to Vienna and Budapest, thence
to Belgrade, and on to Constantinople. The Germans
wished to extend this line of comnmnication by building
the "Bagdad Railway," which, starting on the shore of the
Bosporus opposite Constantinople, would run across Asia
Minor and across ancient ]\Iesopotamia to the city of
Bagdad, so famed in the Arabian Nighis, and thence on
to the Persian Gulf, while a branch w^ould run southward
along the Mediterranean past Egypt to the Arabian cities
of Mohammed.

Realization of this scheme of Middle Europe would
make it impossible to fulfil the greater ambitions of the
Slavs, and it was therefore strongly oj)posed by Russia.
The field in which these conflicting ambitions most clashed
was the Balkan Peninsula, the mastery of which was in-
dispensable to success for either side. Hence the Balkans
became the principal danger-spot of Europe. Twice did
a great war almost break out because of disputes over this
district. In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and



Mittel-
Europa and
the Bagdad
Railway



Rivalry
in the
Balkans



436



EUROPE SINCE 1870



The Balkan
crises



The Ger-
mans



Herzegovina. Russia strongly objected, but Germany
stood beside her ally, and Russia yielded, suffering thus
a diplomatic defeat. In 1912-13 another crisis developed
when the small Balkan nations overthrew Turkey, took
from her almost all of her territory in Europe, and then
fought among themselves in dividing it up. On this <^-
casion the Germans, and especially the Austrians, suffered
loss, since the power of Turkey seemed to be destroyed,
and Servia, Austria's bitterest foe, extended her territory
and became more ambitious. It seemed now that Russia
and the Triple Entente had the greatest influence in the
Balkans. The subject Slavic peoples in the Dual Mon-
archy became restless, and hoped that some day they
could be independent or else join the Servian kingdom.
Worst of all, if a hostile Servia remained independent,
there could scarcely be a Middle Europe with through
railroad communication from Hamburg to Bagdad, since
it was almost necessary that this railroad should run
across Servia up the valley of the Morava River. This
was indeed the cause which led directly to the war. The
Teutonic powers were determined that an independent Ser-
via should not stand in their way. On the other hand, it
was nearly certain that if Russia allowed Servia to be
crushed, then her great hopes must come to an end.
Hence there were endless plots and constant watching to
see that neither side gained any advantage.

The last and the greatest of the causes of the war was
Germany herself. The character, the ambitions, the
ideals of her rulers and her people made a great war prob-
able whatever other causes existed. The Germans,
from rapid and mighty success, had become selfish, cynical,
hard, steeped in materialism, and filled with belief that
they were superior and high above others. No people had
developed so greatly in so short a time as the Germans
since the founding of their empire. Just before the war
they were surpassed in manufacturing only by the United




GENERAL DRAFTING CO. INC N Y



25. SUPPOSED ]



^



Central Europe and its Annex, in the Near East

(Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey)

Territory occupied by Central Powers

Germany's Main Route to the East

(Berlin-Bagdad, Berlin-Hodeida, Berlin-Cairo-Cape)

Additional Routes

(Berlin-Trieste, Berlin-Saloniki-Athens, Berlin-Constantza-Constantinoplej

Portions under construction




-GERMAN PLAN



P :

A t



CAUSES OF THE GREAT WAR 437



States, in commerce only by Great Britain, they were the
strongest military power in the world, they were hiiildiii^
one of the greatest navies, their popuhilion and national
wealth were increasing in amazing manner. They had
succeeded because of high intelligenc-e, industry, and their
excellent organization. But they had also succeeded by
force and by fraud and by might. And as the years went
on, their character and outlook underwent a notable
change.

Other peoples have believed themselves to be the
greatest and the best in the world — the Greeks and the
Romans once, the British, the French, the Russians, the
Japanese, and the people of the United States. But in
modern times there has been no such extreme belief as that
which was cherished by the Germans. " The Teutons are
the aristocracy of humanity," said a well-known writer.
"The Teutonic race is called to encircle the earth with its
rule, to exploit the treasures of nature and of human
labor, and to make the passive races servient elements in
its cultural development." He declared that the great
work of the world had been done by men of Teutonic race,
that Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Voltaire were actually
of Teutonic strain, and that Alexander the Great and
Julius Ctesar were of the Teutonic type. "Whoever has
the characteristics of the Teutonic race is superior." Such
teachings were spread broadcast through the German
Empire in popular form, and after a while generally be-
lieved in.

Above all did the German people believe that they were
superior in war to all others. They had humbled all with
whom they had fought. There were still other and greater
foes, but the reckoning would come with them also. An
accounting would come with Russia, and many Ger-
mans looked eagerly forward to "the daj-," when the
British Empire was to be laid low by the valor of their
arms. Long-continued militarism had accustomed the



Belief in
racial super
iority



Glorification
of war



438



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Gennan
success in
previous
wars



Arrogance
and bound-
less ambi-
tion



Germans to ideas of war; great success in their recent
wars, confident belief in their superiority and future suc-
cess caused many to beheve that war was a good thing
in itself. "Perpetual peace is a dream," wrote Field-
Marshal von Moltke in 1880, "war is part of the eternal
order instituted by God." Others declared that war was
a part of the struggle for survival of the fittest, which, they
said, was everywhere and always gomg on in the evolution
of things. Through war it was that the superior German
people would triumph over other, inferior nations. And
as a result of the victories to come Germany would take
away from the vanquished their possessions, which it was
more fitting that she should have. It would be better
for the world if Germans possessed France and parts of
Russia and wide domains everywhere, since then the
greatest and the best of peoples would have chance for
development larger and freer.

As Germany became greater and stronger each year, as
belief in the glorious destiny of the Germans was preached
and taught in the schools and everywhere circulated in
cheap and popular writings, as Germans believed more in
the goodness of war and in their invincible army and navy,
their ambition and arrogance became boundless. Not
only military men but many others dreamed fondly of the
mighty victories to come, and books were published con-
taining maps of the world with the best parts under Ger-
man rule. All this was well expressed in the writings of
General von Bernhardi, especially in his book, Deutsch-
land wid der Ndchste Krieg {Germany and the Next War),
published in 1911. He maintained that war was a thing
excellent in itself. Through great wars would Germany's
future be assured. First "France must be so completely
crushed that never again can she come across our path";
then would come the reckoning with England. The next
war would be for Weltmacht oder Untergang, world-power or
downfall. And so in the end it was.



CAUSES OF THE GREAT WAR 439



Alon^ with this materiahsm, this ambition, this heh'ef
in the goodness of war, and the great plans wliicli were
cherished, went gradually a change in character, which
affected many persons with a terrible jjerversioii, for a
while not understood by outsiders. Old niaxinis, (jftcn
preached before and often abandoned as people improved,
were revived now and strengthened. Since war was
so good, force was the deciding factor, and might made
right. Since the Germans were superior, and their aims
for the good of the world, whatever they did to secure their
ends was right, the end justified the means. Since the
Germans were superior, a particular code existed for them:
they were not bound by ordinary moral laws. The old
teachings of Christ, that mercy and mildness should be
shown, and that men should do by others as they would
have others do unto them, were openly scoffed at by
teachers who proclaimed that Germans were .mperme?i, who
should, by force or fraud or any means, obtain mastery
over inferior people. Cruelty, terror, hardness of heart
might always be employed by Germans in a coolly scien-
tific and deliberate way to ensure the success which was



Online LibraryEdward Raymond TurnerEurope since 1870 → online text (page 36 of 49)