My Dear Friend:
It was near your heart, in face of the virulent attacks on our Peace Treaty, to set up the truth in print.
If I applaud, it is not that I think there is need to defend the men who made it. For when all the criticism was in, nearly every candidate sought their endorsement before going to the polls. But what a misery to reduce to personal concern, the immensity of the interests at stake. Alas! Nothing is less easily forgiven than success,---above all when it touches your critic in a tender spot.
Shall I add that an exact notion of duty, coupled with the pride of responsibility borne in the war which the Treaty was to close in triumph, forbade us to bring into the negotiations men whose views we had thus far never shared. Hence, disappointments which sooner or later were to find tongue.
Then enforcement entrusted to new hands, in the midst of grave difficulties, opened the door to recrimination. You know the old saying: "It is a bad workman who blames his tools."
The common people were quick to see that violence in attack is not enough to redeem failures in time of stress. The deadly parallel was all that was needed to enlighten those whose least excuse was not always that they were blind.
That is why, dear friend, it cost me so little---I, who was looking on from the bank---to turn away from this turmoil, telling you the while that the nation---having seen how great the trial, would continue its confidence to those who had won it bravely and honestly.
You agreed with me. But you were in the mêlée and claiming the right and duty to defend our common cause, you justly thought that it became you and your comrades to stand and meet the eager horde of assailants. It is fair to say that you have not spared yourself. This book bears witness to that.
Without waiting for time to put all things in place, you wanted even now to pave the way for the coming of justice. Well may you be proud. You have so well laid the ax---as Demosthenes would say---to the heart of the iron thicket that, before the battle is well joined, its fate is sealed.
Soon events---foreseen and unforeseen---were to bring to your support the weight of facts made vivid in the full light of day.
This book prompted by your bold heart is above all an act of real wisdom. For nothing presses more at all times than to light the path of our Democracy, if it is to be able to govern itself instead of merely substituting one abuse of power for another.
Parliament---Public Opinion! Because the supreme power theoretically rests with them, there is great need that the brushwood be cleared from around the things that are done with a reason.
Our institutions are the best in the world. To work them the best men in the world are none too good, above all if they are to be made of full effect.
Love of theory has perchance made us too exacting of our public bodies,---fallible because merely human. Tossed hither and yon, by honest conviction as well as by sordid interest, our "rulers," at the mercy of the current, seek the fair way without always finding it. To aid them it is enough to bring them light---ever more light--- and to be without pity for the things that hide. But mind you never wait. Be quick with the counter-thrust of contradiction. For the will of to-day, as Machiavelli says, is the nail on which to-morrow's action hangs.
It is true. To maintain Parliament in the straight path of a power uncertain in its scope a free Press can be of decisive value. You have used it to wonderful purpose. And yet how comes it that in our democracies the Press leaves itself open to the suspicion that it shuts its eyes to more or less veiled attempts upon pure right? The Press has weapons enough for its defense.
Here---as a supreme safeguard---the inadequately prepared exercise of popular sovereignty finds its place. But for its thunder to be real and not of the stage, there is need for efficient preparation now lacking. If man always acted as he speaks, he would seem too near to God.
But as we now stand---rejoice thereat---when France really needs to make herself heard, I doubt not that she will do it with a loud voice.
In the matter of Versailles, any wide-spread misunderstanding may have disastrous consequences before long. So you were more than right, dear friend, to wish that no excuse remain to those who, not having had things made plain to them, may try to feign that they do not understand. You have not left the least cloak to ignorance, not even excess of artlessness, if that fault can be imputed (especially in assemblies) to our day and generation.
Behold! You have done that which was near your heart, you have done it to the applause of all who are not deterred by private passion from the plain quest for the Truth.
The assailants have fallen back in disorder, some of them giving vent to exaggerations which brand them with their habitual discredit; others less bold who inspired them have completed the rout by the ostentatious appropriation of some of your own views.
How could I have doubted the issue, I who saw you in the days of sore trial bearing bravely---aye, even gaily---the heavy burden of your great responsibilities? Happy days when our opponents were those provided by the nature of things, days in which we gave for the victory of peace the same full measure of effort that war had demanded of us.
All around you, around your co-workers, there was a constant search for knowledge, a constant appeal to all sources of light. Each of you compiling, questioning, discussing, trying out on me and on others the strength of your arguments. You were preparing yourself by toil and labour for the arduous debates in which your splendid fighting spirit was met by gainsayers worthy of your cause as of their own. Ever ready for the fray, never downhearted, ill-satisfied with a half success, ever seeking steel,---that is what I saw of these much abused negotiators.
In those days you did not foresee the bitter diatribes even then being whetted in silent pent-up rage by men too slow to discover that all agreements are reached by compromise, and that a war won by four could not end in a peace dictated by one alone. What would you? If some to think well of themselves need to think ill of others.
Perhaps what astonishes most is that so many famed opponents were forced to confine themselves to criticism of such or such an article, each seeking to outbid the other without ever having seemed to realize that the question as a whole---a question of political and social history---had to be taken up at the place where war had broken it off and followed along new lines of international unity to permit the Europe of the future to live and prosper.
When one confines the field of debate to suit one's convenience, it is easy to wallow in invective but hard to pretend to the understanding of a diplomatic instrument which, renewing as it does from the ground up, all questions of world policy, beggars description.
All these Treaties of Peace to which so many famous personages set their names, without in some cases having laboured on them overmuch, were studied, drafted, built up free from the supervision of the modern Argus, beneath the inspiration of a master whose decisions were lauded before he had made them.
Whatever resentment the Treaty of Versailles has aroused, at least no one has been able to say that its ratification was not obtained by full knowledge and consent.
The ancient struggles for domination had always, till then, been settled by conquests of territory. Germany victorious, the Treaty could be but a question of her capacity for depradation. Germany vanquished, right resumed full sway and the victors. were forced to disentangle themselves from the myriad difficulties that might had been unable to overcome. What an undertaking! And however incompletely realized, what audacity to have even attempted it!
The most irreconcilable opposition might have found there food for thought. It deemed it easier to raise its demand indiscriminately on all clauses, and then finally contented itself with a slackening of the terms we had succeeded in imposing. Where is this to end? I should have thought it inconceivable that a treaty could be enforced otherwise than by the fulfillment of the undertakings written in the bond.
Bernhardi it is who said that war is only the continuation of the pursuit of peace aims by other means. I can see in that nothing but the brutal assertion of a fact. After the awful war forced upon us, can our peace policy be other than the necessary sequel of the policy of forbearance which put all civilized peoples on our side the day that the Germans went so far as to try to do away with the right of France to live!
We have won this war not by our worth alone, but by the splendid aid of our trusty Allies. This asset must remain to us and we must give way a little on both sides in a spirit of friendship, not with ill temper that but lessens the price of consent and allows mortal hurts to subsist where agreement with good grace would have brought full measure of achievement.
Remember with what joy we hailed the sound of the first Allied gun. This does not mean that---after untold sacrifice made for ourselves assuredly but no less profitable to our associates who fought for their own salvation as well as for ours---we are reduced to submit meekly to the law of our friends. No! We did not save our just rights by war, to end by giving them up in peace.
But the past grips us still. Even at the moment of the Armistice, we could see arising here and there thoughts different indeed from those which filled our minds when, at Doullens or Abbeville, our whole energies bent on the next stand, we asked ourselves the dread question: Paris or Calais?
Waterloo and Sedan, to go back no further, forced upon us the painful care of a policy of reparation. While others filled with the hope of new things might allow themselves to be led away to the renewal of the past precautions against a France grown overstrong. There could be no greater folly. But is not the return to the past always the first impulse of countries whose power is founded upon the force of tradition?(1)
Nothing is more significant in this respect than the book of Mr. Keynes---one of the representatives of Great Britain at the Conference of Paris. With some knowledge of economics but neither imagination nor character, Mr. Keynes (who was not alone in his opinion) unrelentingly opposed "the abusive exactions of the Allies" (read: of France and of her delegates whose most elementary demands prevailed only with great difficulty) in the name of an alleged regard for "the capabilities of Germany." One can imagine how Berlin welcomed the aid thus tendered. What encouragement for all organized German resistance to the Treaty, to read from the pen of a former British delegate that we had "shamelessly exaggerated the claims of our devastated regions."
These reproaches and many others as brutally violent, of which I should have said nothing if their author without counting the cost had not thought to serve his cause by making them public, show clearly enough to what pitch certain minds had wrought themselves.
Perchance our French opponents will have the grace to see that we could not have both "betrayed" the Allies to the profit of France, as Mr. Keynes says; and France to the profit of the Allies as they themselves allege.
Without entering here into the consequences of theories of universal interdependence which, before any satisfaction had been given us, would afford the Germans the economic opportunity they need to resume their frustrated attempt at domination, I confine myself to noting that, though disapproved of by Mr. Keynes as excessive and by some Frenchmen as insufficient, the Treaty of Versailles is equally binding on all who signed it.
This is so true that our French opponents, after urging the Treaty's rejection or seeking to discredit it, have come by a sudden somersault, to demand the rigorous enforcement of the pact they so loudly condemned, holding their peace the while when they see its terms gradually slackened to our detriment, under German bluster.
I note the fact and none the less maintain according to Bernhardi himself that this Treaty, like all treaties, is and can only be a prolongation of war activities until complete fulfillment. This cannot be challenged unless it is desired---which no one has ever suggested---to wipe out the German defeat. Mr. Keynes himself does not go as far as that.
Our Allies must accept the facts. We are victorious by their aid. They are victorious by ours. And our common victory can only produce and maintain its full effect in peace by the continuation of our common undertakings.
It was not as warriors victorious in any ordinary military success that our soldiers appeared in the great war, that triumphal arch which---risen out of a great dream of domination now buried in the annals of history---gave passage at last to the standards of arms' noblest conquest---a peace of justice and of honour.
If I dare to say it, it was the glamour of hope in presence of the miracle of Waterloo reversed: Wellington coming to our aid to break the onslaught of Blücher; while France, by the side of America aroused, broke with the spirit of military hegemony which had passed from Napoleon to Bismarck and was to be forever crushed.
So many cruel mistakes, so many atrocious miseries, so many hopes frightfully blasted, the whole whoredom of man's past suffering stretched out under the gaze of the noble dead along an avenue of heroic splendors blazing with the glory of France radiant and redeemed. And the men of France followed the lighted way towards the new duties of regenerated mankind.
However this peace of miracles remained to be fashioned with our hands, after we had seen it with our eyes. And for who was able to retain this vision , the miracle of the war won demanded an even greater miracle---the miracle of peace organized.
Alas, my dear Tardieu, the only certain miracles are those which we can ourselves perform. And if we would perform them, we must first get rid of that state of mind in which the past struggles instinctively in spite of ourselves to overcome the necessities of the present.
During the war, on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of American independence, as the United States troops paraded in front of the statue of Washington, Mr. Lloyd George said to me, smiling:
"Do you realize that you have made me assist in the celebration of England's greatest defeat?"
"And if your national pride still makes you regret the defeat," I answered, "I feel sure that you do not regret this day. What harm has come to you from this American independence which I see every day becoming more attractive to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who have freely enlisted in the block of the four great Allies? There have been heavier accounts by far settled between your flag and mine. And yet it is with all my heart that every day I salute your flag at the front."
Thus we taught each other the new spirit of the future while waiting for the work of applying it. Let us take care not to begin by. weaknesses cloaked under acceptable names. Let us beware above all of the weaknesses of a policy of procrastination.
Our beaten enemies have admirable qualities of action which they employed, under a master, from Sadowa to Versailles, to the most relentless advantage. Scruples are utterly foreign to them as was made so clear by the recreant band of their ninety-three intellectuals and moral leaders. They thought to grasp the realization of a dream of atrocious brigandage in which victory would excuse every crime, and the probabilities are that they would have conquered us in peace but for the mad act which forced military resistance upon us. Are they any better than their acts? The future alone can tell, but the answer may be inferred from the acid test of actual beginnings.
The start was not a happy one with von Brockdorff-Rantzau who, draped in brutish insolence, came to accuse us of "hating" Germany because we did not offer our necks to her executioners. Since then the policy of Germany has merely been to gather up every chance weapon that could enable her to evade the Treaty. Audacity and guile naturally increased under the encouragement of manifestations like that of Mr. Keynes or of the series of unholy concessions from which Germany has been led to deduce that her signature at Versailles binds her only subject to further discussions.
The hour of supreme warning came when the heads of the Allied Governments were told to their faces by a German delegate that, before they could usefully discuss, they "must cure themselves of the sickness of victory." And the Conference didn't break up! And the disavowal of the delirious swine was not even demanded! At least may this true Boche receive our thanks for his shameless frankness which dispels any illusions about the German case.
So on which side is there continuity of purpose? On which side vacillation?
What people is it that, abased and divided, having touched the bottom of the abyss, and unable to conceive any other ideal than the abuse of force---the shattered remnants of which litter the earth---still finds within itself a rebound of warped "dignity" ---of savage insolence to defy its victors and to prepare openly for a mad revenge which without saving it, will throw the world into a new catastrophe!
And what people is it that united for the victory of right, having displayed the highest virtues in the most extreme peril---have allowed themselves to be flouted with impunity by a prostrate foe---without any remedy being offered but exhortation to patience and kind promises that one day moral courage will come into its own?
And yet each day of dangerous tolerance increases the forces of evil, and snatches opportunities from the happy outcome so dearly bought. Can one have forgotten what was the stake between ourselves and Germany---what defeat would have cost us, and what peace must assure to us!
The crowning or the overthrow of all the hopes aroused by victory, that, after all, is the issue which is being decided before our very eyes. Must we perhaps to-morrow return to the bloody battles whose cycle broken by us may, by our weakness, be reformed against us!
The country made no mistake about it. Not for a single moment did it take the bait of belittlement which would have led to the renunciation of the glorious conquests of the present for the will-of-the-wisp of words cunningly pieced together. The meaning of the elections was plain. The people of France had judged.
And so also the Germans, but in how different a manner.
If they have as yet been unable to fathom the depth of their irredeemable downfall; if they have as yet been unable to discern the real meaning of the crowning act of the great tragedy, they still feel surging within them the deep sources of a life of work and of will. Their trouble is that they see the future only through the blood-red mists of a civilization grafted upon the survival of barbarism. If they can make themselves over, they will, little by little, attain the position to which they are justly entitled in the world. If they cannot, the victors, whether they realize it or not, must continue to mount close guard over lands whose borders have become as President Wilson said, "the frontiers of freedom."
The maintenance of these frontiers which was the constant aim of French effort at the Conference, is of no small moment. It took the convulsions of a Russia thrown far out of her orbit and threatening Warsaw to reveal to minds wilfully closed, the fundamental issues of the Polish question. Once more the historic bravery of Poland stood the test. It was none the less fortunate that the Red Army quickly reached the end of its supplies and found itself abandoned by the Allies when its own Government was unable to renew them.
How many European questions are pending, to say nothing of the others!
First the most urgent. If, in the matter of balance of power, some have not sinned by excess of foresight, is not that an added reason why public men should keep a watchful eye upon those sectors whence clouds may arise upon the horizon?
Watchfulness for a day is not what is wanted. Who can measure the convulsions which this war has caused, or predict a time limit for the evolution of ever changing world conditions? Consider for example the century-long efforts to build up this Europe of ours which has fallen in ruins.
But what avails it to discuss the most intricate problems, the solution of which, always more or less a matter of chance, may lead to cruel mistakes, if personal quarrels magnified by misunderstandings are to decide questions whose dangers are light-heartedly to be left to a future pregnant with the unknowable.
What avails it, having multiplied the means of prevision, having conquered the right of self-government by skilfully devised political adjustments, to shut one's eyes to urgent developments through fear of momentary embarrassments. What avails it to seek (oh, how keenly) the honour of responsibilities, only to shed them at the first encounter whether from faint heart or unavowable parliamentary interest?
What avails it to be content with appearances, if we are to see in changes of system nothing more than the triumph of mere words!
What avails it to have set ourselves up in the places of the kings of old, if we are to deny our ideals by our acts?
These questions handed down from our fathers, we shall transmit to our sons who will not fail to pass them on to posterity for ends the tangled skein of which will not soon be unravelled.
And yet we must live and, if all things remain pending in this world where naught is completed except by continual evolution, the first requisite of life is to make sure in the present day of those things whose lawful development is to determine one by one the moments of destiny.
This is the pressing duty of our day. The Treaty signed is but a fluttering scrap of paper unless it is enforced. To achieve this we put everything in action. For what result? That is what it is time to know.
War can lead to the domination of arms, as peace can lead to the slackening of our will. Man being wont to oppose himself to man by combinations of strength, the natural temptation to encroach upon one's neighbor entails a righteous resistance where the forces of each are measured. The strongest in this world---by that I mean the best---will be the most vigilant, the best prepared to defend themselves against every evil enterprise, the readiest to aid their harassed neighbor who, in turn, will come to their aid.
With or without treaty that is our common law; and Boche treachery is but a renewed invitation to us to be on our guard. If there are sentinels who slumber or allow themselves to be taken unawares, the people who have all at stake must react in their own defense. When I ask that public opinion be awakened, it is because too often those who have wielded power have wielded it only to put public opinion to sleep. Would you behold public opinion at work and at the same time judge those who are at such pains to deter it? Remember the great tragedy of the Second Punic War.
When Varro bowed clown by defeat at Canna found himself under the walls of Rome, he was met by the Senate and the people came to congratulate him on not having despaired of the Republic. In this hour of mortal anguish, everything was great in the city of defeat. Some met the extreme peril with dauntless courage, others imposing silence on legitimate anger, found in supreme responsibility a grand revolt and last great effort; salvation was the reward of a miracle, than which none finer has ever been seen.
Rome knew such greatness that the infinite abjection of its decadence has never been able to tarnish the memory thereof. Was ever a moment when this people, of which history is so replete, gave a more marvelous exhibition of moral splendour and of triumphant confidence in the strength of its will power?
It is at such junctures that hearts are made manifest. The weak and the strong are at one. Rome wills it. Not a murmur is heard. Of complaints, recriminations, evil insinuations, not a whisper. Not a tremour of weakness. Not even an idle word. The strong-souled and feeble-hearted alike are proof against the terrors of disaster.
The nation which by surfeit of weakness had brought this day to pass, is the same which in the midst of the catastrophe suddenly found itself again. All that they were and all that they had was given to the State. And Fabius, who had seen Varro preferred to him, who after having been accused of cowardice because he was unwilling to risk battles like that which so nearly wiped Rome off the face of the earth, Fabius marched in the parade which brought to the vanquished leader the homage of a sublime faith that Varro victorious would have awaited in vain. A great wave of super-human will-power has swept away all hesitations, all the errors, all the miseries and crimes which go to rot in the discard of history, leaving behind only the resistless forces of rebirth. The episode assumes such grandeur that the halo of Rome melts into the apotheosis of mankind. One is proud to be a man, if man no matter whence he come, or where he goes, can rise so high.
But I have strayed far from our critics and from the surly attitude which it has pleased some of them to adopt. Will it be urged that victory accounts for many shortcomings---tempts many to depart from "the street called straight" by the assurance it gives of the future---whereas the extremity of misfortune may give rise to the highest reactions? That is too easy a way out. Far greater than the duel between Carthage and Rome, portentous indeed though it was, is the drama of domination fought out between modern Germany and the nations who were able to save the independence of the world. An old saying alleges that one is never so vanquished nor so victorious as one seems. If Rome took her revenge, Hannibal has often been charged with having lent her the support of his strategy.
Who indeed in the hour of victory can say what its scope will be? Who indeed when the sun set over Austerlitz could have foreseen its rise over Moscow and Waterloo? Victories in themselves are but the brutal crushing of one military force by another. The conquerors must show themselves capable of improving their victory. For that men and time are needed.
No one suggests that the discontented have not found weak spots in our victory. The underlying causes of all alliances conspire---no matter what one says or does---to rise to the light of day. Should this not have been guarded against, more especially as the Government was bound to secrecy? And as the peace of to-morrow could be based only on the confidence of the country in the means provided by the Government of victory, who could be so blind as to undermine it to the point of attempting to ruin in the minds of the victors the very means of regeneration, the "rigorous enforcement" of which is now being clamorously urged?
Finally were there not, as to-day, Germans, beaten but not crushed, ready by a rare blending of shameless trickery and pugnacity to aspire to hegemony? Could the belittlement of victory, could the heightening of the morale of defeat serve any useful purpose? Alas, the attempt has already borne fruit so abundant that I fear to make things worse by casting up the account. To-day, as yesterday, as to-morrow, no continuation of success can be expected save from the interior discipline of peoples worthy of conceiving and of realizing the new order of a just peace of labour.
Vanquished, our lot under Ludendorff would not have differed from that of Rome under Hannibal. Victorious, we have assumed our responsibility in the most noble effort to achieve a lasting peace by the sole forces of Right. To one and all such a state was well worth a general effort of self-restraint instead of the old rush to divide the spoils between those who had overcome the enemy.
The future will decide. The mastery rests with him who wills most strongly and most enduringly. Ambition is of worth but by its aim. The higher the aim, the nobler the character, the stronger the will must be. Neither nobility of aspiration nor strength of courage can be lacking to France. Fixity of ideas, method and continuity of purpose have been the three things most lacking in our history. Can we not derive from the trials of these times the strength to enhance the glories of war---inadequate to nourish a nation---by a superior use of those attainments of peace which so often were the glory of our past!
To make sure of the future, we must forge it ourselves. Hammers and anvils are there. How about our brawn?
These ideals are all your own, my dear friend, and they radiate in your pages from the light of well-ordered facts. I thank you once again for having served them well.
Your good friend,
M. ANDRÉ TARDIEU,
NEVER was an international crime more flagrant than Germany's attack on France of August 2, 1914; never one more deliberately planned.
I can still see Baron von Schoen, the Kaiser's Ambassador, standing on the steps of the Quai d'Orsay as with feigned regret he takes leave of M. de Margerie, now French Ambassador at Brussels but then Political Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The German Representative bows deprecatingly. He seems to say, as his Master said a few weeks later, "I did not will all this." Yet at that very moment and without any declaration of war, German troops had already (thirty-four hours previously) crossed our frontier and invaded our soil. This very invasion had been planned for half a century.
In 1871, Germany had torn from us Alsace-Lorraine, the flesh of our flesh, two of the most French of the French provinces bound by every tie to all our past; two provinces which for centuries had given us, had given France---the oldest, most closely knit and most responsive of nations---generals and statesmen, men of science and of letters. Germany refused to heed the cry of despair raised at Bordeaux by their representatives. By "blood and iron," to quote Bismarck, she had sealed her victory and welded her unity with the rape of our provinces of which she made the bulwark of her power at our very door. Five and twenty years later, Bismarck cynically boasted: "We did not conquer Alsace and Lorraine because their people loved us, or turned their thought to Germany. That did not matter to us. Their annexation was a geographical necessity. It is quite presumptuous to ask us to worry whether the Alsacians and Lorrainers want or do not want to be German. That is none of our business."(2) Neither hesitation before; nor repentance after.
This unhallowed gain won by sheer might, does not suffice to Germany, or rather to retain it she has to have something more. Hence the policy which forty-three years later led to another war, by a succession of events the very logic of which is its most crushing condemnation. Germany seeks not only to keep the territory stolen from France, but to make secure by arms her domination of the Continent rendered possible by the Treaty of Frankfort. For this it is not enough that France shall be conquered and despoiled; she must be isolated and paralyzed as well. It is not enough that Alsace-Lorraine, the piety of whose popular attachment for France was unconquerable, shall live beneath the Prussian yoke; the political structure of Europe must be such that never in any manner or at any time shall German domination be challenged. To build up this domination, as well as to defend it in case it were ever threatened, every means will be employed---not excepting war. Half a century of history has here its source.
As early as 1875, this settled determination reveals itself by the threat of a fresh aggression. France is recovering too rapidly. To complete her ruin is a duty to Germany and to mankind. The awakening of Russia and Great Britain, conscious-too late ---of the mistake they made in 1870, foils Bismarck who vents his disappointment in bitter jests, but sets to work at once to prevent its recurrence. Two Powers exerting their influence in favour of France have been able to hold him in check; against France therefore he determines to group forces which will give him undisputed control of Europe and cement his victory for ever. On October 7, 1879, he signs a Treaty with Austria-Hungary, on May 20, 1882, one with Italy. Germany is now at the head of a coalition of 170,000,000 men which from the North Sea to the Mediterranean commands Europe and cuts it in two. She is the arbiter of a peace ---which she both imposes and guarantees. From the treaties on which it is based this coalition borrows a defensive appearance; as a matter of fact, its aims are offensive and it is ready to attack. To render France's isolation more complete, supplementary pledges are secured from quarters whence they were least to be expected. Russia, defeated at the Congress of Berlin by Bismarck's iron will, promises on March 21, 1884, and on November 18, 1887, to remain neutral if Germany is attacked by a third Power. Great Britain, losing sight, in her colonial controversies with France, of the controlling necessities of her foreign policy, signs extra-European agreements in quick succession with Germany, and lends a ready ear to inspirations from Berlin. An unyielding armour is thus encased around the Treaty of Frankfort to ensure the retention of its territorial and political advantages. Germany is the centre of Europe and plays off all her other neighbors against the one she cannot forgive herself for having spared in 1870.
Never did France live more bitter years; never did country so placed show so much restraint or such calm dignity. M. Clemenceau said in 1919: "Just think, for fifty years we were the wounded hero. Wounded heroes are all very fine but people go their way and pass by on the other side looking on them with pity." Such was the plight of France. Imprudence would have been criminal; for we were alone. Surrender would have been infamous; for the future was in our keeping. To realize the ordeals through which we passed to win the right to Victory, our British and American friends must study this period of our history. As our national life revives, Jules Ferry seeks an outlet for it and our activity makes itself felt in the Colonies. From 1882 to 1888, the Tricolor of peace, order and liberty floats over Tunis, South-Algeria, Senegal, the Soudan, Dahomey, the Congo, Madagascar, Djibouti, Tonkin and Annam. At times Bismarck feigns to view our colonial advance without offense, even to encourage it. But how brutally he reminds us again and again that naught is permitted to us without his consent.
Every year sees Alsace-Lorraine atrociously hazed; frontier incidents precipitated by the Imperial police; military laws ostentatiously passed. Germany, it is declared, will enforce the Treaty of Frankfort so long as a single German remains. "With that," it is added, "all is said." Bismarck, who in 1870 scorning his Sovereign's reticence had openly declared that he was making war not only on Napoleon III but on France herself, spares his victim no insult: we are envious, turbulent, quarrelsome people; worthless; a herd of thirty million Cafers: "Scratch the Frenchman," he said, "and you will find the Turco." Year by year, we are lectured on "German forbearance" as if it were nearly exhausted. The Imperial War budget is increased by fifty million marks; the Army by seventy thousand men. "We Germans fear God, and naught else in the world!" France and Europe are warned that they have a master. It is in vain that, obedient to Gambetta's advice, we hide our sorrow deep within our hearts "never speaking of it." It is in vain that we bear the cross of our country's humiliation silently,---in the oppressive peace imposed upon us. Germany is not content with what she has conquered; to military victory she is determined with proud boasting to add political supremacy.
Firm as was her will not to unloose war, it was inevitable that France should aspire to breathe freely once more. It was no less inevitable that Europe, while keeping the peace, should wish it established on other bases. Following all periods of hegemony, no matter who profited thereby---Charles-Quint, Louis XIV, Frederick the Great or Napoleon---the same thing has happened: political balance has been restored. This law makes itself felt for the first time in 1892 with the Franco-Russian alliance. It is a precious guarantee for France which thus emerges from the solitude nobly endured for twenty years; at the same time, it guarantees the German conquests; for it is concluded on the basis of territorial status quo and far from raising any hopes that our wrongs may be righted, it secures Germany's possession of Alsace-Lorraine. It is a further proof of France's attachment to peace. It is not the only one. During the ensuing years, the same attachment prompts France to enter into colonial agreements with various Powers for the settlement of old disputes and to pave the way for friendly agreements in an unchanged Europe: conventions with Italy in 1900, with Great Britain in 1904, with Spain the same year; conventions of limited scope in which France---as in the Russian alliance---found proof of the prestige she had regained, but which contained neither provocation nor threat against any Power.
From the first, this rebirth of European political activity outside of Germany, directed not against her but against her hegemony, found the German Government determined to dominate or to destroy the forces which were regrouping. For Bismarck and his successors it did not suffice, as I have already pointed out, to keep the conquered territories; it was essential that German political supremacy should remain unchallenged in a divided Europe. On the morrow of the Franco-Russian alliance, Germany had hoped to gain admittance and events in the Far East in 1895---through the joint action of the three Cabinets of Berlin, Paris and St. Petersburg---had justified this expectation. But as time passed and other agreements ensued from which Germany continued to be excluded, a policy of reprisals took the place of the conciliatory opportunism hitherto practised. The Kaiser seeks "to safeguard the monument reared by his unforgettable grandfather." The Austro-Hungarian alliance is still in existence; as is also the Italian. Germany, no matter what she says to justify herself, is not "isolated." But France by political honesty and efficiency has regained the initiative in international affairs, and this initiative in itself is an insult to German greatness as conceived by the Hohenzollerns and their subjects.
Among all the "opportunities" which presented themselves---I borrow the word from Prince von Bülow---Germany is henceforth on the look-out for the one which will enable her to prove that her vaunted supremacy is still intact. By "pressure and counter-pressure"--another of Prince von Bülow's charming phrases---she strives to paralyze or undo that which has been done without her. Like a gambler who has won heavily, she will hesitate for ten years to stake the sum total of her assets. She will be threatening when circumstances seem to favour her; cautious when her luck turns. She will speak of war without declaring it and boast of "dry powder" and the "sharpened sword" so long as she retains hope that her ends may be achieved by political manoeuvres. But the day she realizes that Europe, even while consenting to the heavy sacrifices entailed, is determined to free itself from German tutelage and to order its own life without looking to Berlin for guidance, then, unhesitating and unswerving, she will with cold calculation complete her preparations and at her own hour hurl herself---leaders and people of a single heart---into the "fresh and joyous" war!
The plan unfolds in 1904 when Russia, at war with Japan, is condemned to inaction in Europe. The surrender of Port Arthur on January 1, 1905, deals the first blow to Russian power in the Far East; on February 11, Herr von Kuhlmann, the German Chargé dAffaires in Morocco, presents his French colleague with a formal protest against the Anglo-French agreement of April 8, 1904, though Prince von Bülow, the Imperial Chancellor, had twice declared the year before that "he had no objection to make to it as far as German interests were concerned." On March 10, 1905, the Russian Armies sustain a bloody defeat at Moukden; on the twelfth of the same month, the Kaiser announces his visit to Tangiers which marks the opening of the Moroccan controversy with France. On May 27, Admiral Rodjestvenski's fleet is annihilated at Tsousima; on June 12, the menace to France becomes so acute that the French Government by accepting the resignation of Delcassé, its Minister of Foreign Affairs, acknowledges that Germany has won the first round. For nearly ten years, under varying aspects, we shall see the same thing.
In 1906 Germany drags us to Algeciras. Because of her Moroccan interests? No, but to furnish a striking demonstration that, the moment she opposes it, the Anglo-French agreement becomes inoperative and sterile. Again in 1908 she tries to pick a quarrel with us in Morocco, this time over three deserters from the Foreign Legion. This same year, she threatens Russia in order to detach her from Serbia and obliges her to accept, without more ado, the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1911, she despatches a war-ship to the Moroccan coast and forces upon us a settlement which, if it increases our freedom of action in the Cherifian Empire, costs us part of the French Congo. It is the policy of continuous tension and of chronic provocation.
These succeeding outbursts bring Germany little or no gain. Neither in 1905, nor in 1906, nor in 1908, nor in 1911, does she manage to secure a foothold in Morocco; any more than she succeeds in 1908 and 1909 in eliminating Russian influence from the Balkans despite concessions wrung from St. Petersburg. Likewise, and on each occasion more signally, she fails in her master design of destroying the agreements entered into without her. Neither the Franco-Russian alliance, nor the understandings of France with Great Britain and Italy are dissolved. They survive Algeciras as well as Agadir. Moreover beneath the German menace certain of the understandings grow and change their character. They are not yet alliances, but they are already much more than mere settlements of controversies. During the crisis of 1911, one of Mr. Lloyd George's speeches quite plainly forecasts the possibility of that common action which the aggression of 1914 is to bring into being three years later and which had been rendered more possible by the rapprochement between Great Britain and Russia after 1907. Italy does not withdraw from the Triple Alliance, but constantly abused and overridden on the strength of a Treaty which had brought neither guarantees nor promises to her vital interests in the Mediterranean, she cherishes plans for the future which the war, in 1915, is to bring to a head. Even the United States itself is brought face to face at the Conference of Algeciras with Germany's insidious efforts towards political domination and sides with France against the proposals of Berlin which President Roosevelt declares to be "inacceptable."
In 1911, the general failure of German diplomacy is as obvious as her local rebuff in Morocco. The Imperial Minister of Colonies resigns as a protest, but he is not the only one who is dissatisfied. Germany, the scope and rapidity of whose economic development has been marvelous, is the prey of political disappointment. She has kept Alsace-Lorraine. She has maintained the Austro-Hungarian and the Italian alliances. She is sure of Turkey where her Ambassador is the real ruler; sure of Roumania where a Hohenzollern is on the throne; sure of Bulgaria whose Czar believes only in Might. Yet despite these formidable assets she perceives, in the Franco-Anglo-Russian alignment which she has strengthened with her own hands, the visible limitation of her power. On three or four occasions when she has raised her voice---and raised it loudly---this group has answered her, answered her in moderate and conciliatory tones. In 1905, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1911, these answers had been invariably pacific and composing. But on the one hand, France is no longer alone; on the other, Europe is divided into two camps which, however formidable the German power, might if necessary measure their strength. William the First's "monument" which the Kaiser had sworn to maintain, is thus threatened with ruin. On all sides and by all means, the latter has sought to shore it up and restore it by diplomacy; everywhere he finds the road to hegemony blocked.
Henceforth the die is cast and cast for war. Three years are needed to bring to a point of absolute perfection the military machine so carefully built up and trained since the victory of 1871: three years to convince the "junior partners" whose support is indispensable for such an enterprise; three years---as in 1867---to find a favourable opportunity which will make possible the overthrow in a few weeks, by a few stunning blows of adversaries less well prepared and less well armed; three years and Germany returning to what one of her Princes called the "national industry" will seek by war to re-establish that power which peace had not abolished, but had rightly limited.
This "call to arms" decided upon in cold blood by the German Government was to find the adversaries of yesterday and of to-morrow in widely divergent postures. The one, France, profoundly attached to peace, so long as it no longer meant servitude, and confident in its duration; the other, Germany, physically and spiritually intent on war. I have roughly sketched the political events of forty years; but the historian is false to his task who does not seek beneath the surface for those underlying impulses which animate national will. Behind the governments directing the moves, where stood the people?
The France of 1911, faithful guardian of the traditions of the race, honest, brave and free, differed somewhat from the France that had known defeat. To the generation branded by disaster another generation had succeeded which, not having suffered directly from defeat, sometimes failed to recognize its causes and its consequences. The "spirit of revenge," so often invoked by Germany as an excuse for her provocation, no longer existed. Had it, in the real sense of the word, ever existed? It is doubtful. A few noble minds and brave hearts like Paul Deroulede; a few momentary outbursts had at certain hours given tangible form to this feeling. But the nation as a whole---whether it be praised or blamed therefor---was foreign to these movements as facts have shown. Boulangism, born of internal discontent rather than of great international aspirations, had been but a brief flash in the pan. The memory of Alsace-Lorraine lived in our hearts but how were the lost provinces to be recovered? Before the Russian alliance, we had been too isolated to challenge the status quo; afterwards, we were bound to respect it. Years had passed without a single act of revenge. Hope remained, a religion which no one surrendered. But between hope and reality peace endured at first and then, accepted, reared a wall.
The men of my generation who reached maturity about 1900, faced this painful problem with the patriotism of resignation. Those amongst them who had closely studied history had little belief in the efficacy of resignation to span the moral abyss created by Bismarck between France and Germany. But by far the greater number, allowing themselves to live with the times, paid little heed to the warnings of the past. The courtesies of the German Emperor in our days of national mourning ---the deaths of Carnot and of Mac-Mahon, the burning of the Charity Bazaar---and in the days of our national pride, such as the Exhibition of 1900, were not without effect. German penetration of France, of which the ever rising tide of emigration was but a minor means, proceeded everywhere with extraordinary thoroughness. Our financiers were becoming accustomed to sleeping partnerships in which---as in the Bagdad matter---French money furnished German direction with a bond capital for which the regular payment of dividends was but a very inadequate return. Our Socialists, hoodwinked by the material and political prosperity of German Socialism, were content after the Congress of Amsterdam to be the minor brethren of the Marksist order. Our conservatives, to whom imperial diplomacy laid assiduous siege in the salons, were not insensible to the fascination of social order as exemplified by the German Empire. There was infiltration in every strata of French society.
No one, it is true, would have dared to propose an alliance which honour and prudence equally forbade. Not only would such an undertaking, necessarily based upon recognition of the fait accompli, have obliged France to subscribe anew to the Treaty of Frankfort,---and. that without the excuse of those who in 1871 had signed beneath the mailed fist. But in addition this surrender would have involved a breach of faith which the country would have refused to accept; a breach of faith which would have been the negation of forty years of effort and the betrayal of that policy of peace and balance which will remain the imperishable glory of the Third Republic; a breach of faith in proclaiming by an abrupt reversal of our alliances the instability of our democracy; a breach of faith in substituting for friends who had treated us as equals an ally who, unconsciously perhaps and by sheer historic tradition, would sooner or later have become a master. But if no one spoke of an alliance, many yielded to the temptation of extending special agreements such as those which the desire for peace had prompted the French Government to enter into in 1905, 1906, 1909 and 1911. As early as 1890 the aged Jules Simon under the spell of the young Emperor had returned from the Labor Conference of Berlin with the hope of such a thing, and in the following years those of our fellow country men who at the Kiel regattas and elsewhere had fallen beneath the sway of Imperial seduction were over ready to recommend this form of morganatic Franco-German alliance. Had it not been for the continual provocation of Germany in Morocco and the Near East from 1905 on, there is little doubt that before long the idea of a rapprochement would have made headway.
Besides the political evolution of our Republic held us aloof from all idea of war. Not that the Republic------despite the difficulties of its birth in the throes of defeat, despite the handicap of a constitution drafted by its enemies---would have been incapable of having a foreign or a military policy: the war of 1914 furnished a triumphant answer to the doubts of reaction on these scores by showing that France could count both on the support of free peoples and upon the services of an Army which at the Marne single-handed checked the German onslaught. It is none the less true that the spirit of democracy---the soul of all our laws since 1877 and the practical expression of the individualist philosophy of the eighteenth century---is in its very essence a spirit of peace. Peace in its highest expression which proclaims the right both of individuals and of nations to live and be respected; lasting peace because political power entrusted to the majority insures the welfare of the greatest number and because legislation inspired thereby is repugnant to preparation for war and the increase of armaments.
France, the most warlike of nations on the field of battle, had in peace lost her military habit of mind. At the top, painful controversies, like the Dreyfus case, had brought about a cleavage between the political leaders and the military chiefs; at the bottom the easy leisure of national existence provoked frequent protests against the obligations imposed by the military training of the nation. In 1905, at the very moment when Germany was beginning to rattle her sabre, the term of compulsory service had been reduced by a third. Three years later, in 1908, an even worse imprudence had reduced the period of instruction of the reserves, a measure in flagrant contradiction with the former, as the shorter the time spent in the initial training of recruits the more thorough and complete should be the instruction given to the reserves. In a word no one believed war possible. No one believed it possible because its atrocities were repugnant to men's ordinary vision, No one believed it possible because no one wanted war, and that being the case nobody believed that others wanted it. Not a Frenchman would have supported his Government in a war of aggression. Too many Frenchmen made the mistake of judging Germany by what France was, and of supposing Germany incapable of that which they knew France herself to be incapable of. Anyone who recalled the past in order to throw light upon the future and to dispel a dangerous sense of security met with disapproval. I have a right to say this and to recall that for ten years it was my own experience. It took ten years of German threats and blackmail to make the French Government, in 1913, take precautionary measures which, being hurriedly improvised, were naturally imperfect and incomplete. France, full of optimism and faith in the progress of mankind, would not listen to talk of war.
France would not listen to talk of war for another reason. Conscious of her past defeat, and unconscious of her present strength, France inclined to the belief that war would only bring fresh reverses. At the beginning of the Moroccan crisis and in the course of its evolution, there were not lacking political men and parties who proclaimed that "France was not ready," dangerous talk in a country where the public mind is prone to believe bad news rather than good. The Frenchman is not loath to speak ill of other peoples, even when they are his friends; but he is even readier to speak ill of himself. It has often been remarked that in 1914 America and Great Britain knew very little about us and did not even suspect the reserves of energy and of abnegation which the war called forth. If America and Great Britain did not know France, their excuse is that France did not know herself. Read the French papers from 1900 to 1914 and see if you can find the slightest hint of the splendid picture that the following months are to present,---it is not there. Petty quarrels of politicians and parties, magnified by the Press, distorted the view not only of foreigners but of Frenchmen as well. The true France was hidden. Ignorance of one's strength leads men to seek the path of least resistance. People said and economists taught that "war was impossible." People also said, "Of war, we will have none." Thus one sees why all our compromises with Germany, painful though they were, met with the approval of the great majority, both in Parliament and in the country. Thus one sees why France, by reason alike of her qualities and of her faults, was so deeply attached to peace at the very moment when Germany had decided upon war. If, in 1914, Germany had wanted peace she would as in previous years have found France ready to enter into the necessary agreements. If Germany had wanted peace, France more than any other nation would have helped her to preserve it. But Germany wanted war!
Germany wanted war and, here again, we must go beneath and beyond the will of Governments to reveal and examine the soul of the governed. War is the very basis and origin of the intellectual and moral beliefs which go to make up modern German patriotism. War created the German ideal which proved strong enough to place the, whole of Germany under Prussian control in less than fifty years. Conceived in the imagination of politicians, historians and poets, it needed the iron hand of a Prussian junker to give it practical shape. Then the Hohenzollerns, who, thanks to the genius of Bismarck, made themselves the servants as well as the beneficiaries of this ideal, fashioned it in their own image. There is a, German patriotism; as France knows but too well after 1870 and 1914. But this German patriotism is essentially different from French patriotism. Our patriotism holds France sacred as the emblem of traditions many centuries old and woven even more of memories of peace than of recollections of war. German patriotism holds war sacred. Patriotism to them is first and foremost the emblem of profit accruing from war and the recognition of war as the origin of power and of wealth. Saxons, Hessians and Bavarians---more particularly their Princes---may at times have mourned the loss of ancient liberties surrendered to Prussia; but when Saxons, Hessians and Bavarians compared their erstwhile poverty to the prosperity they derived from the Empire they felt that they were German and nothing but German. The spirit of nationality is not, in Germany as it is in France, the common faith of men who for centuries have lived under a common law; it is an association of material interests which has passed from bankruptcy to prosperity and intends to safeguard the mainspring of its opulence. German patriotism, which a hundred years ago was an ideal conception of its philosophers, has since 1870 been based upon materialism. Germany means, to the people of the South as to those of the North, increased well-being, growing markets, rising wages and soaring dividends. It means also attachment to the rule of Might and remembrance of the sudden appeal to force which brought about this change, of the victorious war without which success would have been impossible. Thus the idea of war is inseparable in the German mind from the idea of country. Deep down in the heart of every thinking German who knows his history, the "fatherland" stands for war.
This moral unity pervades every class of society. Consider the Socialists whose doctrines should make them opposed to war, especially to a war of aggression. The prosperity of labour due to the Empire and to war is so closely bound to both that, the day the Empire will decide on war---the most flagrantly aggressive war---the whole Socialist party will follow and it will need our Marne victory to remind even a small minority of its tenets. Why? Because more than any other party, by reason of its numbers, it is vitally interested in the success of Germany & Co., because it has not forgotten the origins of Imperial success and because it pins its faith, for the protection and development of the acquired assets, upon those who first made it great. From German labour let us pass to the intellectuals. Here the spirit of military discipline rivals that existing in the trade-unions, which in turn is no wit less than that flourishing in the barracks. One day in 1905, Prince von Bülow, then Imperial Chancellor, said to me: "In France your Universities are schools of debate and of political and social criticism. In Germany our Universities are the strongholds of fanatical nationalism." Nothing could be more accurate. Material advantages which transformed German Socialism into an Imperial party stamp the same character upon German intellectualism. Higher education no less than trade-unionism is at the service of an ideal born beneath a spiked helmet.
Turn now to Germany's book-of-hours for 1911, written by Bernhardi, a soldier save the mark! "It is enough to examine with unflinching eyes the function of the sword and its terrible effects to see clearly that war is a task which divine in itself is as necessary as eating and drinking." So much for the principle, now for its application:
"We cannot by any means avoid war......and we must by no means delay it unduly but on the contrary provoke it in the most favourable circumstances." However this soldier had invented nothing. As early as 1848, the Parliament of Frankfort, the first manifestation of German unity, cheered the bombardment of Prague by the Austrians and some years later Treitschke, the master of German historical science, wrote: "It is not fitting that Germans should repeat commonplaces of peace apostles nor that they should shut their eyes to the harsh necessities of our times. Yes, our age is an age of war, an age of iron. The triumph of the strong over the weak is the inexorable law of life." There is the doctrine. France has never known any such, and this in itself suffices to distinguish the two peoples.
The political spirit thus formed is simply one of raison d'état. It was in 1801 that Metternich, who knew what he was talking about, showed Prussia "emancipated from all sense of duty, exploiting the misfortunes of others, without the slightest regard for her obligations or her promises." Cast your eyes down the line of Bismarck's successors. Might always placed above Right, with Germany applauding. The elegant skepticism of a von Bülow---by far the most distinguished of the lot---is but a mask. In Might he trusts! It is upon the presumption that none will dare to defy German power that he rests his whole diplomacy, all the while proclaiming it devoted to peace. But the day when the others neither will nor can give way any further, it will be war, and war is thus in fact at the very basis of the system,---war and contempt for Right! Bülow, a true disciple of Bismarck, declares: "In the hard world in which we live, one must be either anvil or hammer." His choice is quickly made. Kuhlmann,---a pupil of von Billow, echoes the same sentiments: "I have waged relentless war upon principles. They are justifiable in morals, but not in politics. Here it is a question of aims, not of means." Germany, be it not forgotten, listens to all this and applauds.
And to sum up this cynical profession of faith this is how the last Chancellor---Bethmann-Hollweg, a mediocre and for that very reason a thoroughly representative official---expresses himself: "Necessity knows no law." The unanimous approval which this axiom elicited in August, 1914, shows that Germany, industrious and painstaking but wrought up by that "moral wickedness" of which Nietzsche speaks as "flowing in her veins with the blood of her ancestors," the whole of Germany was long since ready to accept it. From 1870 on, the German received training for war from the cradle up, training for war at his mother's knee, training for war at school, in the university, in the Army, training for war in every walk of life. Germany turned towards war, as flowers turn towards the sun.
In France there were some who took heart saying, "Germany is too rich to make war." A poor understanding indeed of the nature and origin of her wealth. Germany has accumulated prodigious wealth in less than half of a century. But this result too rapidly attained has not been unaccompanied by crises. The first had fallen in 1901, memorable year of bankruptcies and failures. In 1911 and the following months the situation although less critical remained tense, so tense indeed that more than one German, familiar with history and remembering the great impetus given by victory in 1870, began to believe the normal play of competition to be neither the best nor the surest means to conquer markets, settle balances and feed the Treasury. Such Germans saturated with their national traditions looked upon war as business; just as their Government conducted business as if it had been war. Thus grew up that close union of politics and economics which is so typical of the German public mind. Some dreamed of dominating an enslaved Europe; others---like Wagner's "Nibelung"---lusted for the possession of gold. Both were agreed that, at certain hours of a nation's life, victorious war offers the shortest cut both to domination and to gold. On the one hand the intellectuals of the Universities---all ready to draft---remember the ninety-three and their odious manifesto of 1914---the philosophical justification of a war of plunder; on the other the great captains of industry equally ready to furnish the military chiefs with the elements of the famous plan for the destruction of French factories.(3) Bernhardi's call was answered by the six great industrial concerns of Germany who several months later demanded "the annexation of all the special iron ore of Briey, including the fortresses of Longwy and Verdun, without which the mining region could not be protected," as well as the coal basins of the North of France. "For," they very frankly added, "the possession of coal is at least as important as that of iron ore."
Such the Germany of 1911. She is unanimous. The notion of war, rejected by all other nations as the last vestige of a bygone age, is ever present in her mind. One finds it everywhere associated vaguely but intimately with their every conception of national and international life. It presents itself to them with all the glamour of the past, all the hopeful promise of the future. Whenever the Government decides to pass from the notion to the act of war, the whole people will unhesitatingly follow. This is what happened in 1914. Blind indeed must he have been who, three years earlier, did not see!
Besides where was the risk? War, Germany's national industry, could but be victorious, for France was not an adversary to be feared. I said just now that before the war France did not know herself; but how much less did Germany know France. I know no instance of political information so totally and utterly false as that which the Imperial German Government collected concerning us during the ten years prior to the war. This lack of understanding appeared in the suggestions which the Emperor and his satellites sometimes ventured to let fall in the ears of French visitors: "Let us be friends. Let us unite your graces to our might." Germany, dupe of her desires, deeply despised France. She believed France divided, weak and corrupt. For Germany the pleasure resorts of Paris---mostly frequented by Germans---seemed by comparison with her self-estimated virtue to be typical of "Modern Babylon." Our military and other shortcomings were exaggerated by the reports of diplomats seeking to curry favour by judging us harshly. War appealed to the majority of Germans, when they thought of it, as much by the profit they expected to derive from it as by the smallness of the risk which attached to it in their eyes. War against an ill-armed and misgoverned France would be, for a people in partnership with God, nothing more than a military parade enhanced by the prospect of much loot. Revolution would break out at the first battle. France, as everyone knew, was in the hands of the Socialists and the Socialists would refuse to fight! A striking example indeed of the illusion---both as to the strength of parties and as to the innermost thoughts of men---into which blind pride had led the most highly-trained, most methodical and most self-confident machine the world has ever known. The Kaiser---whose uncle Edward VII once dubbed "the bold coward" in my hearing---found solace in this illusion which stilled his morbid hesitations. It deprived the German people of the only brake which might perhaps have checked them on their warlike course. Believing no obstacle stood in the path of her conquering destiny, Germany thirsted for war and was ready to throw herself into it on a sign from above.
Such the contrast, on the eve of Armageddon, between two national characters: France seeking peaceful development by her well-ordered genius for liberty; Germany, to use M. Clemenceau's virile words, "enslaving herself to enslave." The time was at hand once more for the onslaught of the "Alamans" on the "Franks." All Germany---herein lies the magnitude of her crime---was psychologically ready for war, even for war of aggression. The day its masters called, Germany would rise as one man!
In the autumn of 1911, Germany passes from decisions to acts. The Imperial budgets record them. The figures throw light upon the facts.
For twenty months, laws of aggression follow one another in quick succession. I have told what France did in 1905 and 1908 to reduce her military charges. Germany will reply to this reduction by an increase of her own. Yet she is already ahead of us. From 1902 to 1913, she spent 104 per cent. more on armament than did France: 2,200 millions as against 980 millions. Her military expenditures always exceeded ours---by 121 millions in 1902, by 306 millions in 1906 (they will exceed them by 800 millions in 1914). From 1900 to 1910, the head of every German family has paid 25 per cent. more towards the upkeep of the Army than the head of every French family. Taking the increase of military expenditure of the six great European powers between 1883 and 1913 we find the following percentages:
France 70% Italy 108% Austria 111% Russia 114% England 153% Germany 227%
It is in these circumstances that a first law is voted in 1911, under guise of technical improvements, entailing however an increase of 20,000 men in the regular Army and an expenditure of 167 millions. Ten months later in 1912, a second law is passed tending to keep the regular Army constantly on a footing so nearly that of war that an attack can be launched in a few hours, and providing for new units, the creation of two new Army Corps, fifty battalions of technical troops, an increase of the regular Army by 40,000 men and an expenditure of 650 millions. This second law is hardly promulgated than a third is introduced and passed. This time the increase is 70,000 men a year, or for any Army serving two years a total addition of 140,000 bringing the total effectives of the regular Germany Army up to 900,000. This was a costly operation. It meant a capital expenditure of 1,250 million francs and an annual charge of 275 millions.
That alone should suffice to demonstrate the plan of aggression, but here is proof decisive. These burdens, which Germany imposes upon herself, coincide with a financial situation which makes them, if not impossible, at least very hard to bear. At the very time when within a space of thirty months the Imperial Government has burdened itself with a capital expenditure of nearly 1,500 millions and an additional annual expenditure of nearly 1,000 millions, its budget is in deficit of 550 million marks for 1911-1912. For three years it has been seeking fresh taxes but can find none, this vain search having led only to the resignation of the Minister of Finance. The pressure is so great that it is decided to resort to an exceptional tax on capital, justifying it by recalling 1813, the very mention of which in itself throws light upon the situation, the secret intention and the future plan. Placed side by side with its financial policy, the military policy of Germany assumes its full meaning. To the huge gaps in the budget, others are added with no sure means of filling either. Why? Because Germany is already determined to throw the sword into the balance and call upon her "national industry" to restore her finances. Like the gambler who, when the game is up, pulls his gun.
The hypocritical search for pretexts begins at once.
France, alarmed at the disparity between her Army of 450,000 men and that of 900,000 which the laws of 1911, 1912 and 1913 assure to Germany, votes the three years service and a slight increase in armaments. Immediately the Pan-German Press denounces this "provocation." I can still hear Baron von Stumm, who had been pleased till then to play at conciliation, remarking dryly during a dinner at the Dutch Legation in July, 1913, that, "If France presumes to challenge Germany's right to be stronger than she is, it must be that she desires war." Ludendorff, then a colonel, draws up a report on the methods to be pursued in arousing national enthusiasm and shifting the responsibilities: He writes:
The people must be made to believe that our armaments are an answer to the armaments and to the policy of France. They must be accustomed to the thought that an aggressive war by us is necessary to meet the provocations of our enemies. We must act with prudence to awaken no suspicion.
Moltke, assuming humanitarian airs, deplores the reigning spirit of unrest and says to the King of the Belgians that "it must be put an end to." Put an end to? And this is how according to Ludendorff's report:
In the next European war, the small nations must be forced to follow us or they must be crushed.
Under certain conditions their armies and their fortresses can be rapidly reduced or neutralized,---which would probably be the case with Belgium and Holland---so as to shut out our enemy in the West from territories which could be used as a base for operations against our flank.
This will be a vital question for us. Our aim must always be to take the offensive with greatly superior forces from the very start.
In order to do so, we shall have to concentrate a great army, followed by strong formations of landwehr which would force the armies of the small nations to follow us or remain inactive in the theatre of war,---or would crush them in case of armed resistance.
From now on, the military leaders are not alone in the secret of this aggressive plan. The Governments of the German States are informed that France is to be attacked through Belgium. The Bavarian Legation at Berlin, in a report which Kurt Eisner made public, wrote:
Germany cannot respect Belgian neutrality. The Chief of the General Staff has declared that even English neutrality would be too high a price to pay for respecting that of Belgium. For an offensive war against France is possible only through Belgium.
The plan decided upon and the sword ready, there remains only an opportunity to find. The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand furnishes it; and less than five weeks will suffice to bring about the explosion. Everything is ready and in its place; everything is prepared so that no possibility of averting war remains. Here again we have German proofs to present in the opening pages of this book on France and Peace. Not forgetting the Kaiser's letter to his Chancellor of July 28, 1914, in which William, II demands the occupation of Belgrade by Austria-Hungary---war with Russia in other words---here is Bethmann-Hollweg's Note of August 3 in which he says:
We were aware that the eventual acts of hostility by Austria against Serbia might bring Russia on the scene and drag us into a war in conjunction with our Ally.
But we could not, knowing that the vital interests of Austria were at stake, either advise our Ally to a condescension incompatible with her dignity, or refuse her our support at this difficult juncture.
The confession is full: it was needless. For events speak for themselves and in the fatal week show Germany as eager to avoid the maintenance of peace as her future adversaries were to safeguard it. Not only Germany does nothing that, as Count Brockdorff-Rantzau. expresses it in his Memorandum of May 29, 1916, "would have prevented the Austro-Hungarian Government from taking irrevocable decisions," but she systematically neglects every opportunity of avoiding war which France, Great Britain and even Russia offer her. She supports neither M. Sazonow's request for an extension of time to Serbia for her answer, nor the Czar's suggestion that the controversy should be submitted to the Hague Court of Arbitration; nor his proposal to refrain from all military acts of a threatening nature while the conversations are in progress. Far more on July 31, it is Germany who exerts pressure on hesitating Austria to precipitate the latter's action. The same day, it is Germany who instructs its Ambassador at St. Petersburg to take the irreparable step which is to plunge the world into war.
Here, once more but no less damning, is the conclusive German and Austro-Hungarian evidence. Prince Lichnowsky, German Ambassador at the Court of St. James, referring to his Government, writes: "The war was helped on." Count Szoeggeny, Austrian Ambassador at Berlin, as early as July 25 summarizes his information as follows: "Delay in beginning military operations is looked upon here as a great danger, on account of the intervention of other Powers. We are urgently advised to begin immediately and to place the world in the presence of a fait accompli." The same Ambassador on July 27 declares himself charged by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs to acquaint the Austro-Hungarian Government that, if Germany is obliged by courtesy to transmit to Vienna a British offer of mediation, she is on the other hand "absolutely opposed to the consideration of any such proposal."
Finally it is the Bavarian Minister in Berlin who, two weeks before the declaration of war, reveals on July 18 Germany's diabolical plan in all its details: This document demonstrates how an ambition can bring about the death of millions of men:
The step upon which the Cabinet of Vienna has decided at Belgrade and which will consist of the sending of a Note will be taken on the 25th inst.
The postponement of this action to that date is explained by the wish to await the departure of MM. Poincaré and Viviani from St. Petersburg, in order to make it more difficult for the Powers of the Entente to agree upon a counter-proposal.
Until then pacific sentiments will be simulated at Vienna and to this end the Minister of War and the Chief of the General Staff will both be given leave of absence at the same time.
An efficacious action has, on the other hand, been exercised on the newspapers and on the stock-exchange.
It is recognized in Berlin that the Austro-Hungarian Government has acted skilfully. The only complaint made is that Count Tiza who was probably at first opposed to strong methods has partly disclosed the plan in his speech to the Chamber.
And after summarizing the terms of the ultimatum to be sent to Serbia, the Bavarian Minister adds:
For the acceptance of these demands a delay of forty-eight hours will be granted.
It is clear that Serbia cannot accept these demands which are incompatible with her dignity as a Sovereign State. The consequence will therefore be war. In Berlin they are altogether of opinion that Austria should take advantage of the favourable moment even if there. is danger of ulterior complications.
They believe that Austria's hour of destiny has struck and in consequence to the question presented by the Austro-Hungarian Government they replied without hesitation that they agreed upon any action which the latter may decide upon, even if a war with Russia is to result.
Bismarck, on a like occasion, had forged the telegram from Ems,---child's play compared to this. Furthermore it is not the end, and for the carrying out of the plan we shall see reproduced the same trickery which marked its preparation. France, to avoid any incident, has withdrawn its frontier forces ten kilometers from the border. Germany, on the first and second of August, before any declaration of war, takes advantage of this to violate French and Belgian territory as she had already violated the territory of Luxemburg. To justify her action she accuses French aviators of having thrown bombs on the railroad near Nuremberg. On April 3, 1916, the municipal authorities of that city, in accord with the district military authorities, will declare that all reports published on this subject are "manifestly false," and three years later Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, confessing the lie in turn, will merely express the regret that Germany, in declaring war upon France, "should have unwittingly made use of information which it had not had time to verify."
.... The Armies are in contact. I have shown France patient and without fault, Germany, eager for the fray, prepared to herald the Dawn of Blood. All Germany, on August 2, 1914, is up and ready for the work of death. The Imperial Chancellor---mediocre though he be---has risen without effort to the level of German tradition to lay down the principle of "Necessity" and in consequence to assert: "We were obliged to disregard the justified protests of Belgium and Luxemburg." The Reichstag's answer? A unanimous vote of approval! Liebknecht himself---who will repent only later---is at one with Reventlow. The entire Socialdemokratie suddenly discovers on this national occasion that it has a Pan-German soul. Nor does it take pains to "verify reports." Light-heartedly it breaks the pledge which its envoy Muller had brought to the French Socialists on July 31; it wipes away the kiss of Judas which in Brussels on the same day Haase had given to Jaurès.
Psychological unanimity, the elements of which I have analyzed, transforms itself into unanimous action. All, conservatives and liberals alike, hope for a quick solution: France crushed in three weeks; "nach Paris" realized by the violation of Belgian neutrality; an easy counter-blow against Russia, and then against England who has entered into the business for "a scrap of paper." No German doubts success, nor questions the means employed. At this hour and for this work, national unanimity is complete. War---brief war, cruel war, fruitful war---is the national programme. No one resists the temptation. Collective hypnosis transforms the crime against Right and against Humanity into a duty. Seventy million Germans claim from their leaders a full share of their responsibility.
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