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IV \l BY

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First Published

Chapters I, II, III and IV of this book have
already appeared in the Nineteenth Century and
After. Chapter V is reprinted from the West-
minster Gazette. I have to express my obligation
to the Editors for permission to reprint them in
the present form. They are reprinted almost
without alteration, and I have not attempted to
change them, even in those cases where what was
written some months ago would now be expressed
rather differently. The Introduction is new.





















THE articles contained in this volume, which were
written during the summer of the present year,
contain an examination of some of the suggestions
as to terms of peace which have from time to
time appeared in Germany. I republish them,
for they may be useful as helping to throw into a
proper perspective the complaints that now come
from Germany, that it is England, and England
alone, which, by the immoderate nature of her
demands, stands between Europe and the peace
which all desire. It is well to probe the nature
of the terms which many men in Germany would
have proposed at a time when a decisive German
victory still appeared probable. It is well that
we should not forget these things, for there are
still not only neutrals, but even Englishmen,
who continue to talk as though the British
Government had wantonly refused favourable
offers of peace and reasonable terms of reconcilia-
tion which had been offered by the German



It would have been easy to increase the bulk
of the book, by including in it selections from the
press and from the pamphlets issued in such abund-
ance by private individuals. I have deliberately
refrained from doing so. Nothing is more per-
nicious than the modern habit of quoting freely
in other countries the foolish and exaggerated
utterances of obscure individuals and newspapers,
or the noisy leaders of extreme factions, who are
to be found in every country, and by transporting
them across the frontier giving them an import-
ance which no one at home would attribute to
them. It is a habit to which even distinguished
German historians have given their support, and
we find the official spokesmen of the Government,
and men such as Prince Billow, quoting as evi-
dence of English intentions the words of English-
men which are treated at home with the neglect
that they deserve. In this I do not propose to
imitate them ; I have endeavoured to confine
myself to evidence as to what seems to be the
considered opinion of the responsible Government,
the leaders of parties, the corporate opinion of
influential associations, or the writing of men
who appear to carry real weight in Germany.

Some apology is necessary from anyone who at
such a time says or does anything that may seem
to tend to postpone the arrival of peace. No
position is so contemptible as that of the man of
letters who, from the security of his home, where
he is himself free from danger and hardships, adds



to the spirit of national animosity which has
already reached so lamentable a pitch, or con-
tributes to the prolongation of the war, when he
knows that by so doing he is helping to send
thousands of men from every country in Europe
to misery and death. It would to me be far more
agreeable to join those who demand that the
slaughter and destruction should now cease, and
who ask with indignation what sound reason
can be given for its continuance. But, in public
as in private affairs he is not always the best
peacemaker who refuses to recognise the existence
of any real cause of difference. On the contrary,
a clear recognition and definition of the matters
at issue may often prove the best means towards
reconciliation. And so I have attempted to put
into the clearest light, using the evidence afforded
by the statements of the Germans themselves,
what is the real issue of the war, and the reason
why the only suggestions as to peace which have
come to us from Germany, with any claim to
authority, are unacceptable.

I call this book The Iss.ue. There have been
in fact three great issues of the war, but it is on
one of them alone, that which was the first and
remains the last, that I wish to concentrate
attention. The three issues were what we may
call the Atlantic, the Eastern and the European.
Of these, the first was in a way secondary, i.e.
it did not arise from the origin of the war and the
conflict with Russia, but was only brought into



prominence by the entry of England into the con-
flict. We can say with certainty that it had not
been the intention of the German Government,
and those who moved for war, to attempt to
settle the issue with Great Britain before that
with France and Russia had been decided. This
we must remember ; but there is also no doubt
that in the German Nation itself this now holds
the most prominent place. The overthrow of
the British dominion at sea, the consequent dis-
solution of the British Empire, the transference
of sea power from Great Britain to Germany, is
that on which they have for many years set their
heart, and which is now their avowed aim. It is
an ambition which, as we may recognise, is natural
enough, and I do not see that we have any ground
for complaint if they chose to challenge us. Our
Empire has been gained by war, and if it is
attacked it must be maintained by war. The
ambition, at least, was not necessarily an ignoble
one; it sprang not merely from vulgar jealousy
or from commercial competition ; there was in it
perhaps something of the great spirit of romance
and adventure. The new Germany which has
grown up during the last fifteen years has looked,
as in the past many generations of Englishmen
have looked, to the larger world beyond the seas.
The forests of Africa called them and the Coral
Islands of the Pacific, the romance of the East
and the limitless expanses of the ocean summoned
them to vistas and ambitions which had been



closed to their forefathers, shut up within the
narrow limits of their petty states and tiny
cities. They wished to be recognised in these
distant lands, not only as settlers, traders and
explorers, but as members of a great imperial race,
as conquerors, rulers and administrators. It was
a great ambition natural to a nation looking upon
the world full of the longing for great deeds,
desirous to take their place in the secular succes-
sion of great empires, desirous that Germany
and a German ruler should be one of the series
whose names are irrevocably written upon the
chronicle of the ages, wishful to emulate the
deeds if not of Alexander and of Caesar, at least of
Alaric and of Attila. There is an immortality
awarded to destruction as well as to creation, and
there was one thing alone that seemed worth
doing, the overthrow of the British Empire. I say
that it is not an ambition which we need grudge
them ; it sprang from their full knowledge of the
greatness of the task. They saw that the British
Empire was the only institution of the present
day which seemed to challenge, in the greatness
of its achievements and the magnificence of its
ideals, the great empires of the past. We hold
the challenge cup of the world, and it was by
challenging us alone that they could become one
of the great World Empires.

Such a challenge could not be refused. Nothing
would be more lamentable than that the country-
men of Drake and Hawke and Nelson, of Clive



and Wolfe and Wellington, should shrink from it
or fail in the courage and resolution to keep up
by their own deeds what had been acquired by
their fathers.

There were many among them who believed,
and I suspect believed with regret, that no con-
flict would be necessary, that the British Empire
would fall by the forces of decay which seemed
to be eating away its very heart, as did the
Empire of Spain ; of this there was no doubt, and
for thirty years there has been no doubt that the
day would come that, if the British Empire did
not fall to pieces of itself, the Germans would
attempt to wrest from us the sovereignty of the

This was their golden fleece. But the golden
fleece was guarded by the dragon. They had no
Medea to charm the dragon to sleep. They
ploughed with their steeds and the armed men
sprang up from the earth, but they had no magic
to throw among them to make them turn their
arms against one another.

In truth this branch of the war had been
decided before the first shot was fired. It was
decided fifteen years ago. A successful attack
on England's maritime and naval position was
only possible on the hypothesis, either that it
was unexpected and unprepared for, and that the
self-governing dominions would not support the
mother country in the war, or that Germany had
allies who could give her efficient help on sea as



well as on land. What danger there was from
the first contingency had been removed owing to
the extraordinary folly of the Emperor and
Prince Biilow. They talked, they boasted, they
swaggered and they bullied, but talk and boast-
ing, swaggering and bullying are not the best
preparations for victory. The issue was decided
in the South African War, for in this it was
shown that the enmity of Germany to this
country was one which concerned not the British
Isles alone, but the whole structure and coherence
of the Empire. This gave a new purpose and
conviction to the imperial naval strategy, and
England was therefore not unprepared, for Great
Britain became conscious that she was acting as
the trustee, not for herself alone, but for all that
was involved in the maintenance of the integrity
of the Empire. The second danger was removed
by the failure of German diplomacy, which brought
it about that she entered on this war without
allies (except Turkey) who could give her any
effective assistance in the struggle with the
British Empire.

The second issue is that which centres round
Turkey. The instrument of it was German
patronage of Mahomedanism. Based as it was
on the perfidious intrigues carried on during the
years of nominal peace, it is the greatest crime
against European civilisation of which any state
has yet been guilty, for it depended on the alliance
between German and Turkish militarism, the



avowed object of which was to set up again
Turkish rule in Egypt, and to use the wild passions
of Islam for the overthrow of the civilising
influence of Europe.

In this part of the war the decision has long
been delayed. The issue in it will depend on that
in the European war.

There remains the third and the great issue,
that with which the war began, and with which
it will close: the question of the predominance
of Germany in Europe. In truth it includes the
other two, for to a Germany predominant in
Europe the conquest of the East would be
open, and against a Germany which wielded the
resources, military and material, of the whole
of Central Europe, England would eventually
be unable to hold her own. Let us therefore
consider for a moment what is at stake in this

The origin of the war and its object are identical;
there has been no change in the views of Germany.
What the issue was in August 1914, that it is now.
If we look beyond the details of the discussions
and the negotiations to the great issue, that is,
as it always has been, simple enough, and there
is I think no difference as to the facts between the
two parties. The strongest accusation which is
made against Germany by the Allies is in fact
acknowledged and corroborated by German states-
men and German writers. The ultimate question
is not whether Germany wished for war ; it has



been contended by the Chancellor, and perhaps
with truth, that he did all in his power to avoid
war. It is a matter of faith among the German
nation that the Emperor was in 1914, as always,
peculiarly averse from war. Let us assume that
these contentions are true. There still remains
the undisputed fact that, though Germany may
have wished to avoid war, the one condition on
which she would preserve peace was that she
should be allowed to dictate to the whole of
Europe the conditions on which peace could be
maintained. The real accusation against Ger-
many is that she attempted to use the fear in-
spired by her great military power and her
alliance with Austria-Hungary, to put herself in
a position in which her preponderance over
Europe would have been practically assured.

The general custom of Europe is that when a
diplomatic question arises which affects Europe
as a whole, and in particular when this is one in
which there is a conflict of interests between two
Great Powers, neither shall proceed to military
action or take any irrevocable step without
first consulting and informing the other Powers,
her friends or allies (for in Europe all states are
in principle friends or allies), and shall certainly
not proceed to military action until every effort
has been made by negotiation and conference to
find a friendly settlement. The whole diplomatic
history of Europe since 1815 is an illustration of
this truth. If this rule were disregarded, it is



scarcely too much to say that there is not a year
in which a great war would not have broken out.
Now, in this case Germany andAustria deliberately,
and on principle, violated this rule. They laid
down the proposition that if Austria went to war
with Serbia, it was a local matter in which the
rest of Europe was not concerned. They knew,
and it can be shown from their own statements
that they knew, that this was a proposition which
could not be willingly accepted by Russia, a
proposition, that is, which could only be enforced
either by the sword or by the threat of war. They
knew that it raised in the acutest form funda-
mental questions of Russian interest. They
knew that for more than 100 years it had been
understood that if either Russia or Austria took
took a step forward in the Balkans, they would
at once meet the opposition of the other Power,
and they knew that just because of this, either
State, whenever it proposed to take action, had
always consulted the other beforehand. This
had again and again been done by Russia. The
whole history of the negotiations preceding the
Crimean war and of those preceding the Russo-
Turkish war of 1877, illustrates this. On both
occasions Russia had, by a preliminary under-
standing with Austria, to clear the way before
she went to war with Turkey. If at that time
Russia had brought military pressure to bear,
either on Roumania or on Turkey, Austria must
at once have protected her interests by mobilisa-



tion or by war, unless she had been consulted
beforehand by Russia.

Now in this case Germany and Austria deliber-
ately, as I have said, violated this rule ; know-
ing as they did that the Austrian action raised
in the acutest form fundamental questions of
Russian interest, they claimed for Austria the
right to take what action she chose, and laid
down the cardinal principle that no other power
was to be consulted ; that is they eliminated
Europe from a question in regard to which the
whole of European diplomacy had been most
concerned. It matters not in the least whether
the Austrian demands were legitimate or not ;
what does matter is that if their action had been
allowed to go forward unopposed, the principle
would have been accepted that Germany and
Austria were themselves the sole judges of their
action on matters of general import, and they
would have claimed and secured a privileged
position, the result of which would have been that
the rest of Europe would have had to remain
impassive whenever German interests were in-

It is this then which was the occasion of the war,
and as it was the occasion, so the avowed object
is that at the end Germany shall emerge with
such increased strength that she can, with im-
punity, defy the united opinion of Europe.

This object will be attained of course if Germany
is victorious, but it will also be attained if, as a



few writers in England and some among neutral
countres suggest, the Allies acquiesce in a draw.

As to a complete victory of Germany, the
results are so obvious that it is scarcely worth the
labour to explain them. Moreover a complete
victory such as they anticipated is now clearly
out of the question. None the less, it may be
worth while to give in a few words what the
result of this would have been. It is desirable
to do so because it is perhaps not easy for many
to realise what would have been meant by it. We
are so accustomed to the Europe which we know,
to the Europe which consists of a number of inde-
pendent states, differing indeed in power, but
equal in dignity and each enjoying full and com-
plete independence, that we are accustomed to
think that this state of things, which has in fact
existed for 400 years, must continue to exist for
all time. And yet the history of the past tells
us that great and fundamental changes have
occurred and may occur again in future.

Now, a full German victory would undoubtedly
have meant that in some form or other all the
peoples inhabiting the central portion of the
continent of Europe, the peoples we know as the
Belgians, the Dutch, the Danes, the Poles and the
Swiss, would have been brought into the German
system. It would not have been in the least
necessary that they should have been incorporated
in the Empire. It is quite possible that they
might have continued to exist as independent



autonomous states ruled over by families allied
to the German princely houses ; this is the way
in which, as a matter of fact, great empires have
been formed, whether by the Romans or by the
English in India. The student of ancient history
will remember for how long the republics of Greece
and the dynasties of Asia continued to enjoy a
nominal freedom, while they were in fact com-
pletely subject to the will of the Roman State, and
we know how, at the present day, the Indian
Princes are still recognised as sovereign rulers,
though they are incapable of independent inter-
national action. Now a German victory would
have meant that the central part of the continent
of Europe, from the mouth of the Dniester to the
English Channel, would have been brought into
the same relation to Germany that the subject
states were to Rome. There would have been
no one who could have ventured to disobey the
orders issued from Berlin.

An empire of this kind is of course not complete
in a day ; there would have been opposition, and
we can be quite sure that a high-spirited race,
such as the Magyars, would have been the first to
rebel against a power which they themselves had
helped to establish ; the final subjugation of the
Bohemians and the South Slavs would not have
been completed without some further trouble ;
there would have been disturbances, perhaps
serious disturbances, which could not have been
put down without bloodshed. But these would



not have been so much wars as what the Romans
called " tumultus " ; they would have been akin to
the Indian Mutiny or the Irish Rebellion of 1798,
or the risings in Poland, and if there had been
no foreign assistance to look to, however serious
they were, the ultimate result would have been
certain from the beginning. Nothing is rarer
than a successful rebellion ; revolutions seldom
succeed unless they are helped by weakness in the
governing authority, or by disaffection in the
army. The history of the year 1848 in Austria
and Germany, shows how helpless, even in the
most favourable circumstances, is a popular
rising, and if this was true even in the old days,
how much more so will it be in the future, against
a government which has the sole control of all
the modern machinery of warfare.

Against a united Central Europe, the outlying
states, France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, would
be helpless, and a Europe so organised would be
able so to strengthen and defend the frontiers
that an attack even from Russia would be cause
for little apprehension. In a Europe so organised
wars would cease, and they would cease for the
only reason which would ever stop them, the con-
centration of all military power in the hands of a
single Government so powerful that her position
is unassailable. Europe would have had the
Pax Germanica.

The difficulty of visualising the results of such a
growth of German power is that we are likely to



assume that men will continue to be governed by
the beliefs and principles in which we ourselves
have grown up. Among these the greatest is the
pride in the freedom of one's country. But let
us not deceive ourselves : had the Allies been
defeated, had a Central Europe of this kind been
established, this principle would not have survived;
it would have lingered for one or two generations.
Independence would have been the dream of
romantic men of letters ; it would have been like
the traditional republicanism under the Roman
Empire, or like that of independence among the
Greek states after having been conquered by
Macedonia; but as a real, active, strong, con-
trolling political influence, it would have waned
away and died ; the results of the great war would
be irremediable. King Albert and Joffre, and
the Serbian peasants would in the history of the
world have taken their places side by side with
the other heroes of lost causes, with Sartorius and
Demosthenes and Hannibal and Vercingetorix
and Cato and Llewellyn and Schamyl and Kriiger.
But the world would have gone on, and genera-
tions would have arisen to whom political freedom
would have been but a memory and a dream.
The Gauls and the Greeks and the Sicilians and
the Jews were conquered by Rome, and the time
came when their chains ceased to gall them and
they ceased to regret the uncertain days of the
past. They had order, comfort, security, they
had no more war ; they had civilisation and per-



sonal freedom and religion, and they ceased to
know that political freedom was no longer theirs.

And so it might be again, and so it would have
been had Germany been successful in the war.

It is the attainment of this new Europe which
is either expressly stated or implied in all the
German suggestions for terms of peace analysed
in this volume, whether given in the documents
of the Six Associations, in the picture of Central
Europe drawn for us byNaumann, or in the peace
terms as stated by the Chancellor. For all have
this in common, that they demand that Germany
shall come out of the war so much stronger as to
be able to maintain herself against the whole of
Europe, and the Chancellor goes so far as to tell
us in so many words that we must have a " new
Europe, free from the trammels of the balance of

As against this programme an Englishman will
be satisfied with the reasons for which he entered
on the war and the objects with which he is con-
tinuing it. For these are not the selfish and
exclusive domination of a single state or nation,
however eminent in the arts of peace and war,
but the free and equal progress of all together in
a generous rivalry. For he knows that diversity
is the condition of life, and rivalry and conflict
the condition of progress. We want and we will
have, neither for ourselves nor for others, this
partition of the world into aggressive and military
world states, least of all will we have Europe,



which is the home and still is the hope of civilisa-
tion and freedom, subjected to the deadening rule
of a single power. We need feel no chagrin that
we are fighting not to create something new, but
to maintain the old, for we know what the world
owes to the secular rivalry and juxtaposition of
these free European races, France and Spain and
Holland and Italy and Flanders.

For what is the meaning of the old Europe ?

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Online LibraryJames Wycliffe HeadlamThe issue → online text (page 1 of 10)