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Anti-war Propaganda: Revisionism 101
Harry Elmer Barnes, wearing his revisionist historian hat, briskly retraces the steps taken to get at the facts of the
First World War and in the process provides not only the context necessary for understanding the Second World War, but the
tools as well. From a 1940 book edited by Willard Waller, entitled, War in the Twentieth Century, of which the late
Keith Stimely said the following: "An able and authoritative symposium which treats of the social and cultural impact of war and states
the logical lessons taught by the first world war and its aftermath. It was the impressive but ineffective 'swan song' of
the interwar Revisionism."
The World War of 1914-1918
Prof Harry Elmer Barnes (1939)
In this opening section of the book we shall review the fictions of wartime propaganda, indicate how these have been wiped
away, and recount the solemn facts about the origins, character, and results of the first World War. Only through a mastery
of these can we adequately comprehend the realities of the world conflict which began in Poland in September, 1939.
The Entente epic of 1914-18 ran essentially as follows: For years prior to 1914, France, Russia, England, and their associates
had been working steadily for the peace of Europe and a concert of nations. But they had been blocked at every turn by German
bluff, aggression, and ill will. Germany was impatiently awaiting the arrival of "Der Tag," when she would overrun all Europe
as she had France in 1870-71. She had built up a colossal and unmatched military machine, having become nothing less than
a great military octopus threatening the peace of the world.
"Der Tag" came when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated at Sarajevo in
Bosnia on June 28, 1914. It was even asserted by some Entente writers that this assassination was plotted by militarists in
Germany and Austria who could tolerate no further delay.
Immediately, the Allied states tried to hold the situation in check by diplomatic measures, but Germany spurned them all.
When her ally, Austria, seemed likely to listen to reason, Germany threw everything to the winds and plunged Europe into blood
and ruin through a premature and utterly unprovoked declaration of war on Russia. Turning westward, she declared war on France
and invaded the defenseless little neutral state of Belgium, thus transforming the solemn obligations of nations into scraps
The Allied states, thus suddenly surprised in an ambush attack by the German "gorilla", reluctantly but gallantly took
up the sword in self-defense. England came in solely to champion the cause of "poor little Belgium" after she had vainly exhausted
every resource of diplomacy and persuasion. The war, thus begun with clean hands on the part of the Entente, was carried on
as a noble and idealistic enterprise. There was no thought of territorial or financial aggrandizement. The Allies fought for
the sanctity of international law, for the rights of small nations, for the end of military dictatorship, for the freedom
of the seas, for democracy, and for world organization to prevent another season of carnage. There were no secret agreements
among them. All was above board and exposed to the clear noonday light of truth and sincerity. Never before had so many states
united to shed their blood in the cause of pure and limpid idealism.
On the other hand, Germany continued her brutality after the fashion of her brazen acts in the summer of 1914. She reduced
war to the lowest level of savagery, not only crucifying captured soldiers, but even brutally and wantonly assaulting, mutilating,
and murdering non-combatants, many of them women and children. German submarines transferred the barbarism from land to the
waters, turning their guns on the poor devils who were struggling to keep afloat.
This pretty myth might have been believed for generations had not revolutionary overturns in Germany, Austria, and Russia
permitted the publication of the secret documents in foreign offices, which told the real truth about 1914. They also exposed
the facts about the Allied agreements after the war broke out—i.e., the notorious Secret Treaties.
The Realities of 1914
We now have the actual facts about 1914. They demolish the Entente picture, though nobody of sense regards Germany as a
helpless lamb in the midst of a pack of howling wolves.
In the decade before the war, Germany had made vigorous efforts to arrive at an understanding with Russia, France, and
England, but had failed. This was partially because of France's determination to recover Alsace-Lorraine, Britain's jealousy
of German naval, mercantile, and colonial power, and Russia's desire for the Straits leading out of the Black Sea. It was
in part because of the maladroit diplomacy of Chancellor Bernhard von Bulow and his evil genius, Baron von Holstein. They
bungled German relations with France and Britain. Between 1912 and 1914, Izvolsky, Russian Ambassador in Paris, and President
Raymond Poincare of France carried through a diplomatic revolution which placed France and Russia in readiness for any favorable
diplomatic crisis that would bring England in on their side and make possible the French recapture of Alsace-Lorraine and
the Russian seizure of the Straits.
This opportunity came after the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke in 1914. Germany accepted all the important
diplomatic proposals of 1914 save one. For this she substituted one which even England admitted was far superior. She tried
to hold Austria in check after July 27, but France and Russia refused to be conciliatory. In the very midst of promising diplomatic
negotiations, Russia arbitrarily ordered a general mobilization on the German frontier. France had given her prior approval.
Such a mobilization had long been recognized in the European capitals as tantamount to a declaration of war on Germany.
After vainly exhorting the Russians to cancel their mobilization, Germany finally set her forces in action against the
numerous Russian hordes. France informed Russia that she had decided on war a day before Germany declared war on Russia and
three days before Germany declared war on France. England came in to check the growth of German naval, colonial, and mercantile
power. The Belgian gesture was a transparent subterfuge, used by Sir Edward Grey to inflame the British populace. He himself
admitted that he would have resigned if England had not entered the war, even though Germany had respected Belgian neutrality.
The documents show us that Grey refused even to discuss the German proposal to respect Belgian neutrality as a condition of
British neutrality. Belgium had not even figured in the British cabinet discussions when war was decided upon. Lord Morley's
Memorandum on Resignation proves this.
In the light of the well-established facts about 1914, it is now clear that, under existing circumstances, Serbia, Russia,
and France wished a European war in the summer of 1914; that Austria-Hungary wished a local punitive war but not a European
war; and that Germany, Great Britain, and Italy would have preferred no war at all, but were too dilatory, stupid, or involved
to act with sufficient speed and decisiveness to avert the calamity.
In 1918 the Bolsheviks of Russia published the hitherto suppressed Secret Treaties of the Allies. These proved that the
idealistic Entente pretensions about the aims of their war were no more valid than their mythological assertions about the
events of the summer of 1914. Russia was to get the Straits, Constantinople, and adjacent districts. France was to get Alsace-Lorraine
and the left bank of the Rhine. Italy was to make the Adriatic an Italian lake. Great Britain was to be rewarded by the destruction
of the German navy, merchant marine, and colonial empire. Altogether, the Allies were to destroy the "economic power of Germany."
These treaties, of course, sent the Allied "Holy War" myth gurgling to the bottom of the sea, spurlos versenkt. Wilson
tried to block their execution at the Versailles Conference, but with indifferent success.
The courageous works of Ponsonby, Avenarius, Lasswell, Grattan, Viereck, Peterson, Chambers, Mock and Larson, and others
have likewise upset the wartime myths about German atrocities. It has been amply proved that even the Bryce Report was consciously
falsified and was thoroughly unreliable. Even Admiral Sims admitted that there was but one German submarine atrocity, and
for this the German commander was punished.
This remarkable modification of historical opinion relative to responsibility for the World War of 1914 does not, of course,
give Germany any ground for assuming a holier-than-thou attitude. She did not wish war in 1914 because her aspirations and
policies were being realized remarkably well through peaceful channels and activities. Her pacific attitude did not grow out
of her superior moral principles or a more sincere devotion to the cause of peace. Had some of her basic goals and public
policies been realizable only through war, as was the case with France and Russia, there is every probability that Germany
would have been just as bellicose in 1914 as were these other powers.
How We Know About the Causes of the World War of 1914
As a result of the revolutions in Russia, Austria, and Germany, new governments appeared on the scene which had no reason
for desiring to conceal facts which might possibly turn out to be discreditable to the preceding royal regimes. Indeed, they
hoped that the documents in the foreign offices would actually show that the old imperial governments had been responsible
for bringing on the war. They believed that such proof would help to maintain the new revolutionary governments in power.
They presumed that an increased popular hatred of the former regimes would grow out of the knowledge that the monarchical
governments had been responsible for the sufferings which the World War had entailed.
Therefore, the new Austrian and German governments voluntarily published a full and complete edition of the documents in
their respective foreign offices bearing on the crisis of 1914—the so-called Red Book and the Kautsky Documents.
The Germans subsequently published all the important documents on the whole period from 1870 to 1914, the voluminous Grosse
Politik. These allowed the facts to speak for themselves as to German foreign policy in the half-century before the war,
and challenged the other states to do likewise.
The Austrians were long delayed in the publication of material on the period before 1914 because of the opposition of the
Entente to the appearance of such potentially damaging documents. Finally, in 1930, Austrian scholars published an eight-volume
collection of source material on Austro-Serbian relations from 1908 to 1914. This has made necessary a much more lenient judgment
of Austria than was possible when Professor Sidney B. Fay's important work, The Origins of the World War, appeared
The Russian Bolshevik Government did not systematically publish its diplomatic documents on the period before 1914, but
allowed French and German scholars, such as Rene Marchand and Friedrich Stieve, to have access to the archives and to make
adequate selections. The Stieve collection, known as Der diplomatische Schriftwechsel Iswolskis, is the most complete
material, and its honesty and adequacy cannot be challenged. It deals particularly with the work of Izvolsky in carrying through
the great diplomatic revolution of 1912-14, in collaboration with President Poincare of France.
The British Government was the first non-revolutionary government voluntarily to publish its documents bearing on the outbreak
of the World War. This it began in the autumn of 1926, and ten other volumes were later published on the period from 1898
Finally, and last in order, the French began in 1928 to publish a collection of diplomatic documents on the pre-war period.
The fact that the supervisory authorities have been mainly public functionaries rather than impartial scholars makes it highly
improbable that the French documents possess the completeness or the candor to be observed in the earlier publications. But
so much documentary material has now been published by other states which enables us to check up on the French documents,
that we may be certain that the colossal frauds and forgeries which characterized the original French Yellow Book are
not embodied in this more extended collection of French documents.
This documentary material has been supplemented by special monographs, by biographies and memoirs of leading figures in
the diplomatic history of Europe from 1870 to 1914, and by able general works which have sought to assemble, summarize, and
appraise the significance of the documentary evidence, the monographs, the biographies, and the memoirs.
The overwhelming majority of such books, of which Professor Fay's The Origins of the World War is an outstanding representative,
reverse our wartime judgments in the manner which we have above described. Differences of opinion among students today relate
to details rather than to the general picture.
Levels or Types of Responsibility for the World War
In generalizing about responsibility for the World War of 1914 it is necessary to be specific as to the meaning of "responsibility."
Some scholars contend that all the Great Powers involved were about equally responsible. Others state that, in 1914, France,
Russia, and Serbia were primarily responsible for a European war under conditions as they then existed. Both of these opinions
can be sustained if one clarifies what is meant by each interpretation.
Those who argue for equal responsibility in this sense usually mean that, if we consider primarily the more general causes
of war in European society from 1870 to 1914, all the Great Powers were about equally responsible for the war system. They
do not have in mind the crisis of 1914, but rather the cultural and institutional situation behind the July clash. Those who
contend for the primary guilt of France, Russia, and Serbia concentrate on the responsibility for exploiting the Austro-Serbian
dispute of 1914 for the purpose of launching a general European conflict. It is necessary, therefore, to know just what one
implies when he says that everybody was guilty or that this or that group of nations was guilty.
The most thoughtful authorities on the question of responsibility contend that we must examine the problem on at least
four levels: (1) Those general causes of war which made war possible if not inevitable in 1914—i.e., the war system;
(2) the diplomatic history of Europe from 1870 to 1912; (3) the diplomatic revolution of 1912-14; and (4) the crisis of June
28 to August 5, 1914.
The War System
By the general causes of wars we mean those divers aspects of the European social order in the half-century before 1914
which predisposed governments to war whenever a crisis of sufficient proportions arose. As representative factors making for
war, one would naturally list such things as the cult of war, racial and national arrogance, the growth of great armaments,
secret diplomacy, the competition for raw materials and markets, the system of differential and discriminatory tariffs, population
pressure, the doctrine of absolute national sovereignty, the conception of national honor, opposition to international organization
and arbitration—in short, the whole complex of factors that led to what G. Lowes Dickinson has so well described as
"the international anarchy" that prevailed throughout Europe in 1914.
When we consider such fundamental causes of war as those listed above, it must be frankly admitted that all the nations
involved in the war in 1914 were about equally guilty. They were all a part of the system; if one had a larger army than his
neighbor, the neighbor was likely to have a greater navy. If one was more patriotic, another was more strongly impelled by
inexorable economic forces. If one pursued a more clever program of international duplicity through secret diplomacy, another
disturbed the peace more by startling frankness in international behavior. Therefore, it can be held that, so far as general
causes of war are concerned, no one European state or group of powers was uniquely at fault.
During the war the Entente asserted and reiterated that Germany was, beyond comparison, the chief representative of the
war system in Europe; that, for example, it had a larger army than any other state, was more given to enthusiastic reading
of the prophets of war, such as Nietzsche and Bernhardi, whose names were on the tongues of every German school child, and
was dominated in its foreign policy by the bellicose and arrogant Pan-German League, which advocated German domination throughout
the world. Let us examine the facts involved in this Entente indictment of Germany.
A leading French authority on military organization, General E. A. L. Buat, has shown that on July 1, 1914, before a soldier
had been called to the colors because of the crisis of that year, the active French army numbered 910,000 with 1,250,000 reservists,
while the active German army at this time numbered 870,000 with 1,180,000 reservists. The Russian army
lacked little of being twice as large as the German. The British navy was about twice as large as the German, while the combined
British, Russian, and French navies made the Austro-German naval combination appear almost insignificant. Of course, numbers
do not mean efficiency, but they are surely the test of the existence and degree of armament, and the Entente contention was
that Germany far surpassed any other nation in the world in 1914 in the extent of its armaments. The fact that the Germans
proved the most efficient soldiers once war broke out does not alter the case in any degree. The French army was, in general,
as well prepared for war as the German, and the Russian army was well prepared for the short war that it had expected.
Likewise, the assertion that Nietzsche and Bernhardi were worshipped by the German people receives no support from the
facts. In the first place, the patriotic and militaristic writing in Germany could easily be matched by cogent examples of
jingoism in the other European states; for example, in the writings of Barres and Deroulede in France; of Kipling, Lea, Cramb,
and Maxse in England; of D'Annunzio in Italy; and of the Panslavists in Russia. In the second place, Nietzsche was in no sense
an exponent of the Prussian military system. He hated the Prussian military oligarchy, and, as Professor Charles Andler, the
foremost French authority on Nietzsche, has shown, he was by no means an indiscriminate eulogist of the war cult. As Andler
says, "It is a mistake to continue to picture Nietzsche as the apologist of Saint Devastation." Yet, even if we conceded the
worst things said about Nietzsche by the Entente propagandists during the World War, it cannot be shown that he had any appreciable
influence upon either the German masses or the German officialdom before 1914. He was vigorously anti-Christian in his philosophy,
and, hence was anathema to the majority of the Germans, especially the Prussian bureaucrats and militarists, who were loyal
and pious Protestants. No one could have been more repugnant to them than was the prophet of the Antichrist. Nor was Bernhardi
any more widely followed. He was not read by the masses, and the present writer once ascertained that not a single official
in the German Foreign Office in 1914 had ever read his book on Germany and the Next War—portrayed by Entente
writers as their veritable Bible.
During the war Americans were frequently warned by Andre Cheradame and other propagandists as to the dangerous nature of
the Pan-German plot to annex the world. We were told that the German people and government were willingly
in the grip of the Pan-German League and were eager abettors of its aggressive plans.
The nature, activities, and influences of the Pan-German League were made the subject of a learned study by Dr. Mildred
Wertheimer, who showed that it was made up of a small group of noisy jingoes, who had little influence
on the German government. The latter regarded the organization as a nuisance and an embarrassing handicap to German diplomacy.
It could be matched by similar groups in any leading country in Europe, and had about as much influence on the Kaiser and
Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg as the National Security League or the "Preparedness" societies had on President Wilson and
Secretary of State Bryan in 1915.
It may be true that the German people accepted the military yoke somewhat more willingly than certain other European populations,
but in 1914 the civil government in Germany retained control of affairs to the last and resolutely held out against war until
all hope for peace was destroyed by the Russian general mobilization.
We may therefore conclude with complete assurance that with respect to the general causes of war, the guilt from 1870 to
1924 was divided; in fact, about equally distributed. In holding Germany, along with England and Italy, relatively less responsible
for war in 1914, we do not in any sense attempt to find these states innocent of an equal share in producing
the system of international anarchy which made war probable whenever Europe faced a major diplomatic crisis. At the same time,
it can no longer be asserted with any show of proof that Germany was uniquely black in its general pre-war record.
High Lights of European Diplomacy from 1870 to 1912
Some may express surprise that diplomatic history since 1870 is here divided into two sections: (1) 1870 to 1912; and (2)
1912 to 1914. Why should we not treat it as a single unit from 1870 to 1914? The answer is that down to 1912 the European
system of alliances and European diplomacy were, at least ostensibly, devoted to the preservation of the balance of power
and the maintenance of peace. Between 1912 and 1914, however, Russia and France, through their agents Izvolsky and Poincare,
abandoned this order of things and laid plans to exploit an appropriate European crisis in such a manner as either to humiliate
the Central Powers or to enter upon a war that would bring to Russia the Straits (Dardanelles and Bosporus) and a warm-water
port on the Black Sea, and to France the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. They also endeavored, with much success, to
get England so deeply involved in their Franco-Russian Alliance that it would be almost bound to come in on their side in
the event of a European war. Therefore, we have to draw a dividing line in European diplomacy at 1912, while fully realizing
that the break was not sharp and that the policy which Izvolsky brought to fruition in 1914 was begun by him as early as 1908.
In the diplomatic history from 1870 to 1912 the developments and episodes of greatest moment were: (1) The genesis of the
two great alliances—the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente; (2) the French desire to recover Alsace-Lorraine; (3)
Russia's desire to obtain the Straits leading out of the Black Sea; (4) the diplomatic clashes between France, Germany, and
Britain over Morocco; (5) the superficial and somewhat hypocritical effort of the nations to secure disarmament and arbitration
at the Hague Conferences of 1890 and 1907; and (6) the development of Anglo-German naval rivalry, especially after 1908.
The Triple Alliance was arranged by Bismarck between 1878 and 1882, and brought Germany, Austria, and Italy together in
a defensive pact designed primarily to frustrate a French war of revenge. Bismarck also secured benevolent relations with
Russia through a Reinsurance Treaty made in 1884 and renewed in 1887.
After Bismarck's retirement in 1890 the Kaiser abandoned the Russian link and turned to England as the most promising country
outside the Triple Alliance to cultivate. The French were on the alert and quickly picked up Russia. They had successfully
negotiated a defensive military alliance with the Tsardom by 1893. When England and Germany failed to
draw together between 1898 and 1903, because of the inadequacy and insincerity of the British offers and the opposition of
the misanthropic Baron von Holstein, the French made a bid for British friendship. By 1904 they had succeeded in forming an
Anglo-French agreement. Indeed, they even created a Triple Entente in 1907 through promoting an understanding between England
and Russia over the Near East; and they successfully tested British support in the second Morocco crisis of 1911, when England
actually took a more bellicose stand than either France or Germany.
The two great counter-alliances were certainly organized at the outset primarily to preserve the peace of Europe. Bismarck
formed the Triple Alliance to prevent France from fomenting a war of revenge, and Grey accepted the Triple
Entente to preserve the balance of power, whatever may have been in the back of the heads of Paul Cambon and his associates,
who led the English safely into the Entente.
Yet in due time the counter-alliances became a menace to Europe, because both groups of powers hesitated to back down in
a serious crisis for fear of losing prestige. Further, as we shall show later, Izvolsky and Poincare were successful in 1912
in transforming the purpose of the Triple Entente from a defensive and pacific organization into one that was preparing for
a European war and was arming itself so as to be ready when the crisis arose. This does not imply any deliberate plot on the
part of Izvolsky and Poincare' to bring on a war for war's sake. It merely means that, by the end of 1912, Izvolsky was convinced
that Russia could gain its objectives only by war and that Poincare was determined that France should achieve its ambitions
in the same conflict.
As between the two armed camps, it must be held that after 1911 the Triple Entente was much the greater menace to Europe:
(1) because the Triple Alliance was gradually going to pieces on account of the secret Italian withdrawal in 1902 and the
Austro-German friction over Serbia in 1912-1913; and (2) because from 1912 to 1914 the Triple Entente was being transformed
into a firm and potentially bellicose association.
At the close of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 the Germans had annexed the two former German provinces of Alsace and Lorraine,
which had been taken from Germany and added to France by Louis XIV and other French monarchs. It proved an unwise move for
Germany, for the French never ceased to hope for their recovery.
France could not fairly hold Prussia responsible for the War of 1870, for even the Revanchard
Clemenceau admitted that "in 1870 Napoleon III, in a moment of folly, declared war on Germany without having even the excuse
of being in a state of military preparedness. No true Frenchman has ever hesitated to admit that the wrongs of that day were
committed by our side." But the German annexations at the close of the war in 1871, whether justified
or not, aroused a French aspiration for a war of revenge and laid a basis for the diplomatic maneuvers that ultimately led
Europe to war in 1914. As Dr. J. S. Ewart well stated it:
The Alsace-Lorraine annexation by Prussia, in 1871, was the principal factor in the counter-alliances, ententes, and antagonisms
which perturbed continental Europe for forty-three years.... Not France only, but all Europe, kept in mind, between 1871 and
1914, with varying intensity, the prospect—one might say the assumed certainty—of the recurrence of the Franco-Prussian
Since the reign of Peter the Great, Russia had desired a good warm-water port to assure free and unimpeded passage for
its commercial products and its war vessels. It had attempted to secure access through the Dardanelles and Bosporus in the
Crimean War and in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, but was blocked by Great Britain and other European powers. Russia next
turned to the Far East and sought a warm-water port on the Pacific after the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. It secured
this in Port Arthur, but was soon driven out of this commercial and naval base as a result of its defeat in the Russo-Japanese
War. An attempt to get a port on the Persian Gulf also failed. Russia then returned to the Near East, to the Black Sea Straits,
which were now all the more desirable, as Russia had in 1907 come to terms with its old rival, Great Britain, which controlled
the outlet from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic (Straits of Gibraltar).
In order to get the Straits, the Russian Foreign Minister, Alexander Petrovich Izvolsky, first tried diplomacy. He proposed,
in 1908, that the Austrians should annex two South Slav provinces, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in return for which Austria was
to support the Russian demand for the Straits. Austria agreed and promptly annexed the two provinces, but England blocked
the Russian plan in regard to taking over the Straits. Izvolsky, usually bankrupt personally, did not dare openly to criticize
England, as he was then being supported in part by gifts from Sir Arthur Nicolson, the British ambassador in St. Petersburg.
So he dishonestly alleged Austrian aggression and denied previous knowledge or approval of the annexation plan.
This blocking by Grey of Izvolsky's plan to trade the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria for Russian control
of the Straits must not only be regarded as a flagrant example of shortsighted British self-interest, but also as probably
the most important single indirect cause of the World War.
Izvolsky next turned to Turkey, and in the fall of 1911 Russia offered Turkey a defensive alliance if it would open the
Straits to Russian war vessels. Turkey was still under the scrutiny of the Germans in 1911 and did not care to accept this
risky offer of Russian protection against the Balkan states. A most significant aspect of the diplomacy of Izvolsky in 1908
and 1911 was that, on both occasions, he was prepared to sacrifice the interests of the Slavic states in the Balkans when
Russia stood to gain by such action. In 1914, however, Russia justified her measures that brought on the war by the contention
that it was bound by honor, tradition, and precedent to act as the protector of its little Slavic kinsmen in the Balkans!
After the failure of his Balkan diplomacy, Izvolsky became convinced that the Straits could be obtained only by a war.
Therefore he logically decided to see if he could not get them by a local war rather than by a general European war, provided
peace could be maintained on the larger scale. He helped to organize the Balkan League in 1912 and urged the Balkan states
on to a war against Turkey, hoping that the former would be victorious and that Russia could then use its influence with them
to secure the Straits. The Balkan states soon began fighting among themselves, however, and this third plan of Izvolsky's
He then became convinced that only a European war would bring the Straits to Russia, and the Russian government in time
followed him in this decision. Such was the state of affairs in the Near East in 1913.
In the Morocco crises of 1905 and 1911, Germany was in the right, but its diplomatic methods left much to be desired as
to both tact and finesse. In 1905, Germany insisted that France should not be allowed to occupy northern
Africa without taking the other European nations into consideration, and in 1911 it endeavored to prevent France from violating
the Pact of Algeciras, which had been drawn up at the close of the first Morocco crisis. Incidentally, in the last Morocco
crisis (1911) Germany desired to break down the Anglo-French Alliance, but only made it firmer and more bellicose.
The most important result of the second Morocco crisis was its effect upon internal French politics. The French jingoes
attacked Caillaux for his pacific policies in 1911 and drove this great French statesman from power, supplanting him by the
able and valiant but revengeful and bellicose Raymond Poincare. Had Caillaux remained in power, there is little probability
that Izvolsky could have brought France around to a warlike policy by 1914.
In the two Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 Germany made a rather worse showing than the other major European states
by being more frank about its attitude toward war and armament. Germany was no more opposed to land disarmament than was France
and no more opposed to naval reduction than was Great Britain. But it did not conceal its attitudes on these subjects from
the public as carefully as did France and Great Britain, and made a less hypocritical show of pacific intentions. To this
degree Germany was diplomatically less competent than the other states. The disarmament proposals, started by Russia, were
not made in good faith, as Count Witte later admitted. Finally, there were no serious plans submitted at The Hague for the
arbitration of any of the real causes of wars, therefore the common allegation that Germany at The Hague prevented Europe
from putting an end to all wars a decade or more before 1914 is seen to be pure fiction. But Germany's candor, in other words,
its diplomatic stupidity, enabled its enemies to portray Germany as the outstanding challenge to the peace of Europe.
We may therefore say that from 1870 to 1912 the responsibility for diplomatic arrangements likely to make for war was divided.
On the whole, however, with the doubtful exception of England, Germany had the best record of any of the major states during
this period. After a most careful examination of the Grosse Politik, reviewing German policy from 1870 to 1914, Professor
Fay came to the following conclusions:
While it is true that Germany, no less than all the other Great Powers, did some things which contributed to produce a
situation which ultimately resulted in the World War, it is altogether false to say that she deliberately plotted to bring
it about or was solely responsible for it. On the contrary, she worked more effectively than any other Great Power, except
England, to avert it, not only in the last days of July, 1914, but also in the years immediately preceding.
lzvolsky's Diplomatic Revolution. 1912-1914
In 191O, Izvolsky, who had been Russian Foreign Minister since 1906, resigned to become Ambassador to France. This he did
in part because of the Russian criticism of his failure to secure the Straits in 1908 and the resentment over the Russian
humiliation that followed. He accepted the new appointment chiefly, however, because he believed that he could do more in
Paris than in St. Petersburg to forward the desirable Franco-Russian diplomatic maneuvers. During 191O-11 he was unable to
make much headway, as Caillaux and the friends of peace were in power in Paris and a pacifically inclined ambassador, Georges
Louis, represented France at St. Petersburg. In January, 1912, the Caillaux group was superseded by Poincare and his supporters.
This marked a momentous turning point in European international relations. These two able diplomats, Izvolsky and Poincare,
had at heart goals that could only be realized by one and the same method, namely a war with Germany. Izvolsky contended that
"the road to Constantinople runs through Berlin," and Poincare's life passion, as he himself confessed, was to recover Alsace-Lorraine,
which could be achieved only by a victory over Germany. Poincare once asserted in an address to university students:
In my years at school, my thoughts, made somber by the defeat, were always crossing the frontier that the Treaty of Frankfort
had imposed upon us, and when I descended from my metaphysical clouds I could discover no other reason why my generation should
go on living except for the hope of recovering our lost provinces.
This is a matter of great importance, for Poincare and his group represented the first Republican bloc willing to go to
war for Alsace and Lorraine. Hitherto, the active French Revanchards had been, for the most part, Royalists and enemies
of the Third Republic. Plenty of Republicans had hoped for the return of the provinces, but no party of them had been willing
to face the responsibility of waging a war to recover them. The linking of the Straits and Alsace-Lorraine as the common program
of France and Russia, once a European war broke out, had of course been long taken for granted as a vital part of the Franco-Russian
Izvolsky reported to his home government that he "felt like a new man" after his first conference with Poincare. While
the two men disliked each other personally, distrusted each other to some degree, and differed frequently over details, they
worked together cordially in all broad matters of diplomacy.
Their first practical step was the negotiation of a naval treaty between France and Russia in July, 1912, the military
alliance of the two states having been completed nearly twenty years before.
In August, 1912, Poincare visited St. Petersburg. There he learned much more of the ambitious Russian plans in regard to
the Straits and other territorial readjustments. He seems to have been convinced that France must co-operate enthusiastically
to gain its objectives in the dual arrangement. It was made perfectly clear to Poincare that France had little prospect of
obtaining Alsace-Lorraine unless it was done at the same time that Russia made war to obtain the Straits.
On November 17, 1912, Poincare informed Izvolsky that if a crisis broke out in the Balkans and brought Russia into war against
Austria, and if Germany followed to protect Austria, then France would most certainly aid Russia and fulfill all the terms
of the Franco-Russian Alliance. From then onward it was chiefly a matter of getting ready for the crisis when the latter arrived.
November, 1912, was second in importance only to July, 1914, in witnessing events that helped on the World War. It was
in this month (1) that Poincare pledged France to execute its full obligations to Russia in support of Russian diplomacy in
the Balkans; (2) that Grey pledged British naval, and, by implication, military, support to France; and (3) that Russia drew
up its secret military protocol in which it was stated that when the war crisis came, diplomatic negotiations were to be employed
mainly to screen military preparations leading to war.
The Russian army had made a poor showing against the Japanese in 1905. Though something had since been done to improve
the Russian military situation, the French believed that much further preparation was essential. Hence, the French made large
loans to the Russians, on condition that they should be spent under French supervision, chiefly for munitions and strategic
railroads to the German frontier. The Russians also greatly increased the size of their army and the French reciprocated by
enacting the Three-year Service Act, thus notably adding to the active French army.
In 1911-12 Izvolsky had found French opinion generally opposed to having France enter a European war over the Balkans.
Something had to be done about this if the French public was to be made to support the diplomatic plans of Poincare and Izvolsky.
Some of the French money lent to Russia was, therefore, sent back to be used by Izvolsky in bribing the leading French papers
to publish incendiary articles against Austria and Germany and to make it appear that it was to the interest of France to
block the alleged Austro-German intrigues in the Balkans.
Many of the leading French papers were on the pay roll of Izvolsky. The list included the Temps, the leading Paris
paper, as well as the organs of Millerand and Clemenceau. Hundreds of thousands of francs were dispensed in this way, Izvolsky
ultimately putting the papers on a monthly-payment basis and withdrawing his subvention if they failed to be useful to him.
He wrote home to his government frequently, telling them of the success of his campaign and asking for further funds. After
the press campaign had been operating for some time, so Izvolsky wrote, the French were impatient because the Russians were
so complacent about Austria's threats against Serbia.
Izvolsky even imported Russian gold to assist in the election of Poincare to the French presidency early in 1913.
A French Prime Minister can be easily overthrown, but a President holds office for seven years, and a forceful man like Poincare,
by approving weak Foreign Ministers, could direct French foreign policy about as easily in the President's office as in the
much more precarious position of Prime Minister. In fact, Poincare told Izvolsky after his election to the presidency that
he proposed to be his own Foreign Minister, and this he was right down through the outbreak of the World War.
In order to keep their plans moving smoothly it was desirable for Poincare and Izvolsky to have a sympathetic French ambassador
in St. Petersburg. M. Georges Louis, who held the office in 1912, was a member of the old Caillaux regime and was opposed
to the bellicose schemes of Poincare and Izvolsky. Therefore, he was removed and replaced by M. Theophile Delcasse, second
only to Poincare as an apostle of the war of revenge among the Republicans of France. Poincare cleverly arranged it so that
the Russians seemingly requested M. Louis's recall. With Delcasse and his successor, M. Paleologue, as the French ambassadors
in St. Petersburg, there was no longer any danger of opposition to the policies of Poincare and Izvolsky from this quarter.
It was also necessary to convince Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Foreign Minister, of the necessity of a European war to obtain
the Straits. This was done (1) by a ceaseless bombardment of letters written by Izvolsky from Paris; (2) by Sazonov's consciousness
that the Balkan wars had proved futile as a means of obtaining the Straits for Russia; and (3) by Sazonov's resentment when,
in 1913, a German general, Liman von Sanders, was sent to Constantinople to train the Turkish army.
Hence, on December 8, 1913, Sazonov sent a famous memorandum to the Tsar stating that Russia could not tolerate any other
nation in control of the Straits, that Russia must have the Straits, and that Russia could obtain the Straits only by a European
war. On December 31, 1913, and February 8, 1914, the Russians held long and secret ministerial councils at which they carefully
laid out the strategy to be followed when this war came. The Tsar approved the minutes of these councils in March, 1914. Incidentally,
Sazonov mentioned the fact that English aid must be assured if France and Russia were to hope to crush Germany, though he
thought that they could probably defeat Germany and Austria even if England did not intervene on the side of France and Russia.
This brings us to the final scene in the dramatic revolution of European diplomacy from 1912 to 1914, namely, getting England
so involved in the Franco-Russian net that it scarcely hesitated in the crisis of 1914. In the Morocco crisis of 1911, through
the Mansion House speech of Lloyd George, the British government had lined up decisively with France against Germany and had
done all it could to inspire in the British press an anti-German tone. But both Caillaux and the German leaders were inclined
toward peace, and war was averted. In September, 1912, Sazonov visited London in behalf of an Anglo-Russian naval alliance.
While he was not immediately successful in this, he received from the British hearty assurance of naval co-operation against
Germany in the event of war and was told of a secret engagement to help France if war broke out. In late
November, 1912, Poincare induced Sir Edward Grey to agree to an arrangement whereby the French fleet could be concentrated
in the Mediterranean Sea while the British fleet could be relied upon to protect the French Channel ports. In 1912, also,
Poincare was able to help frustrate the possible Anglo-German agreement growing out of Lord Haldane's visit to Germany. In
April, 1914, the British King and Grey went to Paris and there Grey, with Izvolsky and Poincare, laid the basis for an Anglo-Russian
naval alliance that was moving towards completion in June, 1914.
The fact that, nevertheless, England and Germany seemed to be coming to an agreement over Portuguese colonies in Africa,
the Bagdad Railway project, and German armament alarmed the French and Russians early in 1914 and probably explains why they
decided in July, 1914, that the European war should be fought before England might slip away from the Triple Entente. France
and Russia never felt absolutely certain of British support until August, 1914, though the British documents show that the
British Foreign Office never had any doubts about its obligations to the Entente in the crisis of 1914, and made its decision
to come in on the side of France and Russia in July, 1914, without reference to the Belgian question.
As the eminent English publicist, E. D. Morel, once remarked, the French and Russians had thoroughly "hooked" the British
by the close of 1912, even if Izvolsky and Poincare did not entirely realize that they had done so.
While Northcliffe was bringing the Tory public and the British masses round to his bellicose point of view,
the imperialistic and nationalistic propaganda was being successfully spread among the British Liberals by J. Alfred Spender,
editor of the Westminster Gazette and chief upholder of imperialism and Continental entanglements among the Liberal
newspapermen of England. Spender was probably a more dangerous influence than Northcliffe, for a Liberal government was in
power in 1914 and the Liberals were not likely to be greatly influenced by the Tory press.
In this way Izvolsky and Poincare transformed the character of European diplomacy in the two years prior to 1914 and were
ready for whatever crisis arose. They did not originally expect that 1914 would be the year of the decisive crisis which would
bring on the European war. They had anticipated that this would come at the death of Franz Joseph, which they believed would
bring about a serious Austro-Balkan clash. When the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in the summer of 1914, they
appear to have concluded that the potential Anglo-German rapprochement was too dangerous to allow the test to be postponed.
England was known not to make wars lightly, and there was little hope that France and Russia unaided could speedily crush
Germany and Austria. In any event, it seems certain that they decided that if a diplomatic crisis arose through Austrian demands
upon Serbia, it would be better to fight than for Russia, and with it the Triple Entente, to accept humiliation and the resulting
loss of prestige.
While the Triple Entente was thus being more firmly cemented and made aggressive in character, the Triple Alliance was
disintegrating. Italy, placated over northern Africa, had made a secret agreement with France in 1902 to the effect that it
would enter no war against France. Though the Germans counted on Italian aid in 1914, we know there was little chance of their
obtaining such assistance. Then, from 1912 to 1914, there was considerable friction between Germany and Austria over Serbia.
The Austrians felt that Serbia must be punished in order to stop Russo-Serbian intrigues in the Balkans. The Kaiser, however,
under the influence of the pro-Serbian German minister in Belgrade, Baron J. A. von Griesinger, opposed any imminent Austrian
aggression and twice prevented an Austrian offensive against Serbia.
In the first half of the year 1914 many developments were taking place which were likely to make any crisis in that year
pregnant with the probability of a European war. The growing Anglo-German amiability greatly worried
the French and Russians and made them feel that any considerable delay of the European war was dangerous. The Tory clique
in England was favorable to a European war. Not only were the Tories bellicose and anti-German, but a war would help stop
the menacing social reforms of the Liberal party in England, particularly the proposed land reforms, and also make it more
difficult to enforce the new Irish Home Rule Act. The Northcliffe press was demanding war against Germany, partly because
of its Tory sympathies and partly because a war was good business for newspapers. As has been noted, Russia had decided that
it must have the Straits and could only obtain them by a European war, and had held two long ministerial councils in December,
1913, and February, 1914, to decide on the proper strategy for this war.
In March, 1914, the Russian General, G. N. Danilov, congratulated his country on its readiness for the impending conflict
and, in June, General V. A. Sukhomlinov, the Russian Minister of War, boasted that Russia was ready for war and that France
must also be ready. This was done in part to silence the foes of the Three-year Service Act in France. In the spring of 1914
France had refused to allow the retirement into the reserves of the class normally entitled to leave active service that year,
thus having four classes instead of two with the colors in July, 1914. The Tsar had received the Serbian Premier, Nikola Pasic,
in February, 1914, asked him how many men Serbia could put in the field if war came, promised him arms and ammunition from
Russia, and told him to inform the Serbian King that Russia would do all in its power to aid Serbia.
From the reports of the ministerial conferences of December 31, 1913, and February 8, 1914, we can readily perceive that
Sazonov had seized the helm with determination and knew in what direction he was steering the Muscovite craft.
By January, 1914, the plot to murder the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austrian throne, was under consideration,
and by March it had taken definite form. In May it was perfected by officers in the Serbian army, and it has been charged
that high Russian military authorities had approved of it and had promised Russian aid in the event of an Austrian attack
The Russian minister in Belgrade, Nicholas von Hartwig, was organizing a widespread Balkan intrigue against Austria, and
the Austrians captured many of his telegrams and decoded them. This enabled the Austrian statesmen to know of the Russo-Balkan
menace to the Dual Monarchy. Before the murder of the Archduke they had drawn up a memorandum to be taken to Berlin, asking
for German aid in thwarting the Russian intrigues in the Balkans. They particularly desired Germany to drop Rumania and to
take on Bulgaria as the pivotal state for Austro-German diplomacy in the Balkans.
The Serbian government was aware of the assassination plot for at least three weeks before the murder of Franz Ferdinand,
but it took no active steps to frustrate the scheme or to warn Austria of the danger that was awaiting the Archduke when he
visited Bosnia. Such was the state of affairs when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot down on the streets of Sarajevo on
St. Vitus' Day, June 28, 1914.
In regard to this third level of war responsibility, that residing in diplomatic developments from 1912 to 1914, we may,
thus, hold that the guilt was mainly that of imperial Russia, aided and abetted by Serbia, and to a lesser degree that of
France; while Germany, England, and Austria had the cleanest record.
The Diplomatic Crisis of June-August, 1914
After the Archduke's assassination, France and Russia recognized that the impending clash between Austria and Serbia might
bring about a European conflict. The year 1914 was a particularly desirable time for the Entente, because there was imminent
danger that England might develop more happy relations with Germany, and that the French Radicals might be able to secure
the repeal of the French Army Bill. Russia, moreover, was threatened by another revolution, perhaps more serious than that
of 1905. Poincare went to St. Petersburg, and, before even learning the terms of the Austrian ultimatum, renewed his pledge
of two years earlier to support Russia in a war over the Balkans. He indicated that the impending Austro-Serbian conflict
would meet the conditions demanded by the French in supporting Russian intervention in that region.
The Franco-Russian program in 1914 was to force Serbia to make a formal show of conciliation and concessions and to indicate
an apparent Franco-Russian willingness to settle the dispute through diplomacy. Underneath, secret Franco-Russian military
preparations were carried on that would ultimately make a diplomatic settlement impossible. Hence, Russia urged Serbia not
to declare war on Austria, and, to insure a superficially conciliatory Serbian reply to Austria, the Serbian response to the
Austrian ultimatum was drafted in outline by Undersecretary Philippe Berthelot and others in the French Foreign Office.
Russia did not desire to have Serbia precipitate matters prematurely or unfavorably by a declaration of war on Austria. This
would have affected European opinion, particularly English opinion, unfavorably and would also have brought about Austro-German
military activities altogether too rapidly for Russia, whose mobilization over a vast area would necessarily be slow as compared
to that of Austria and Germany.
On July 24, when the terms of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia were made public, Russia and France began a dual program,
namely, a diplomatic barrage combined with secret military preparations which made a European war inevitable by the late afternoon
of July 30. Russia sent a diplomatic message to Serbia counseling moderation, but at the same time prepared for the mobilization
of the four great military districts of central and southern Russia, as well as of the Russian fleets. Russian money in Germany
and Austria was called in.
On the same day (July 24) Premier Rene Viviani, on his way back from St. Petersburg, telegraphed to the French Foreign
Office that the Austro-Serbian situation was likely to develop serious European complications, and the French troops in Morocco
were ordered home. Both Russia and France began systematic military preparations for war on July 26. By July 29 the time had
come when Russian military preparations had gone far enough to warrant a general mobilization, which would inevitably provoke
war, and the Tsar was persuaded to consent to issue this fateful order. A conciliatory telegram from the Kaiser, urging peace,
however, induced the Tsar to revoke it, but the next day Sazonov and close associates once more extracted from the Tsar his
reluctant consent to the order for general mobilization. This time it was not revoked.
The French and the Russians had understood for a generation that once Russian general mobilization was ordered there would
be no way of preventing a general European war. General Sergei Dobrorolsky, chief of Russian mobilization in 1914, has told
us with great candor that the Russian authorities in 1914 fully realized that a European war was on as soon as the ominous
mobilization order had been sent out from the general telegraph office in St. Petersburg, late in the afternoon of July 30.
The French authorities had been informed as to the general nature and progress of the fateful Russian military preparations,
but they made no effort to restrain them, though the French well knew that these military activities were bound to render
a European war inevitable. They actually urged the Russians to speed up their military preparations, but to be more secretive
about them, so as not to alienate England or provoke Germany to rapid counter-mobilization. On the night of July 31 the French
government went still further and enthusiastically decided for war, handing this information to Izvolsky about midnight.
The Austrian statesmen in 1914, in turn, had decided that the time had come when it would be necessary to suppress the
Serbian menace, and they consciously planned an ultimatum of such severity that it would be unlikely that Serbia would concede
the demands. The plan, then, was to make a show of diplomacy but to move toward probable war. This program was much like that
of France and Russia, save for the crucial fact that Austria desired to produce only a local punitive war, while the plans
of France and Russia envisaged a general European conflict. This is the most important point to be borne in mind
when estimating the relation war guilt of Austria as against that of France and Russia.
Germany, lately friendly to Serbia, was alarmed by the assassination of the Archduke and the resulting menace to its chief
ally. Germany, therefore, agreed to stand behind Austria and support the plan of the latter to punish Serbia.
The answer of the Serbians to the Austrian ultimatum, however, impressed the Kaiser as a satisfactory basis for further
negotiations. On July 27, in co-operation with Sir Edward Grey, Germany began to urge upon Austria direct negotiations with
Russia and the mediation of its dispute with Serbia. Austria refused to listen to this advice and declared war upon Serbia
on July 28. Germany then became alarmed at the rumored Russian military preparations and vigorously pressed Austria for a
diplomatic settlement of the dispute. Austria did not give way and consent to this until July 31, which was too late to avert
a general European war because the Russian mobilization was then in full swing. Germany endeavored without
success to secure the suspension of military activities by Russia, and then, after unexpected hesitation and deliberation,
declared war upon Russia.
The Russian general mobilization, undertaken with the full connivance of the French ambassador in St. Petersburg and approved
by Paris before it was ordered, was decided upon at a time when diplomatic negotiations were moving rapidly towards a satisfactory
settlement of the major problems in the crisis. Hence, the Russian general mobilization not only precipitated military hostilities;
it was the main reason for the failure of diplomatic efforts in 1914.
England was for peace but was determined to fight in case France was involved. France decided, from the beginning, to stand
with Russia in working for war. Since England refused to attempt to restrain either France or Russia, England was inevitably
drawn away from encouragement of the German efforts to find a diplomatic solution of the crisis and into support of the military
action of France and Russia.
England made the decision to enter the war in 1914 after Germany had proposed to keep out of Belgium and to refrain from
attacking France if England would remain neutral. In fact, Germany even suggested that it might guarantee
the integrity of France and the French colonies in the event of war if England would promise neutrality.
The Belgian issue in England was a pure subterfuge, cleverly exploited by Grey to inflame British and world opinion against
Germany and to secure British support of his war policy.
Even if Grey had wished personally to listen to his major ambassadors and to take steps to check France and Russia, he
would have found it difficult to do so because he was constantly inflamed by the passionate anti-Germanism of Sir Eyre Crowe,
Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who put the worst possible interpretation on every German move in the crisis
and held Britain's course steadfastly towards war.
In estimating the order of guilt of the various countries we may safely say that the direct and immediate responsibility
for the World War falls upon Serbia, France, and Russia, with the guilt about equally distributed. Next in order—far
below France and Russia— would come Austria, though it never desired a general European war. Finally, we should place
England and Germany, in the order named, both being opposed to war in the 1914 crisis. Probably the German public was somewhat
more favorable to military activities than were the English people, but, as we have amply explained above, the Kaiser made
more strenuous efforts to preserve the peace of Europe in 1914 than did Sir Edward Grey.
It has been declared futile and illogical to try to list the European Powers in any rank or order of guilt, on the ground
that they were all involved in the morass of diplomatic squabbles and intrigues of 1914. This view, however, challenges the
elementary logic applied every day in courts of law. Principals and accomplices are all involved, let us say, in a murder.
But the court is able to distinguish among them, and pleas of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter
are all permitted. It has further been maintained that it is unfair to say that Russia, for example, was guilty in 1914, because
many Russians knew nothing about the issues of the war and many more were opposed to its onset. It should be obvious that
we are not engaged in the unfair task of indicting a nation. We refer only to those statesmen who were responsible in 1914
for the public policy of their respective states and compelled each country to act as a unit.
Some writers whose accounts of pre-war diplomacy do not differ materially from that presented in this chapter have, nevertheless,
maintained that no important responsible statesman in 1914 wanted war for war's sake alone—or wanted war in the abstract.
We might go even further and concede that nobody in 1914 wanted war if he could get what he wanted without war. Probably Izvolsky
can be charged with more responsibility for the World War than any other single person. Yet we have already made clear that
even he accepted war only as a last resort in his campaign to get the Straits. He tried diplomacy twice, in 1908 and in 1911,
and then he quite humanely and discreetly had recourse to a "little war"—the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. Only when all these
efforts failed did he reconcile himself to working for a European war to obtain the Straits. It is probable that only a handful
of half-wits, neurotics, ultra-militarists, and the like wanted war in 1914 in preference to securing national ambitions by
The question that we have to settle, however, is not who wanted or did not want war under conditions quite different from
those which existed in Europe in 1914. This is both an insoluble and an irrelevant problem. What we have to deal with is the
issue of what responsible statesmen wished war under the precise conditions that developed after June 30, 1914. To this a
decisive answer can be given today, if such an answer can be given to any historical question since the dawn of written history.
Certainly Izvolsky, Sazonov, and the Grand Duke Nicholas, among the Russians; Poincare, Viviani, and Berthelot, among the
French; and Pasic and the majority of the Serbian cabinet - these thought a European war preferable to permitting Austria
to proceed with its punishment of Serbia. The majority of the Austro-Hungarian cabinet believed a war
involving France, Russia, Germany, and Austria to be better than refraining from the invasion of Serbia, but they did not
think it worth risking a war in which England would fight on the side of France and Russia. The majority of the responsible
statesmen of England and Germany would have preferred peace to war in 1914, but England accepted war rather than attempt to
restrain its allies and Germany was unable to dissuade its ally from the Austro-Serbian conflict in time to save the peace
of Europe. It is doubtful if any new facts or different logic will ever upset this general line of reasoning. No sensible
historian would contend that Germany's wish for European peace in 1914 was based upon any superior moral virtues of that nation.
It is to be explained simply by the fact that Germany was gaining its ends, selfish ends if you wish, very well indeed by
peaceful means, and its statesmen knew that war might place this German progress in grave jeopardy.
The United States and the First World War
We may now consider the forces, factors, and personalities which brought the United States into the war.
The United States could not have been more perfectly set up for neutrality than it was in July and August, 1914. President
Woodrow Wilson was a lifelong and deeply conscientious pacifist. His convictions in this matter were not emotional or impressionistic,
but had been based upon deep study and prolonged reflection. Moreover, he was married to a woman noted for pacific sentiments
and firm convictions on such matters. She strongly backed up her husband in his pacific beliefs and policies. As Secretary
of State, we had in William Jennings Bryan the world's outstanding pacifist. His pacifism was notably courageous; he was willing
to stick by his guns even in the face of malicious criticism.
Moreover, Wilson was almost uniquely well informed as to the essentials of the European situation before war broke out
in the summer of 1914. He had sent his personal representative, Colonel Edward M. House, to Europe to study the international
situation and to report to him upon it. Whatever his later mistakes, Colonel House sized up matters in Europe with almost
perfect sagacity and understanding in May, 1914. He concluded his observations with the statement that "whenever England consents,
France and Russia will close in on Germany."
If one were to summarize, as briefly as this, the outcome of the years of scholarly study since 1918, with respect to responsibility
for the World War, a more perfect estimate and verdict than Colonel House's phrase could not be rendered in the same number
of words. Further, the Colonel pointed out that, whatever the Kaiser's emotional shortcomings, he wished for European peace.
On the other hand, he stated candidly that George V of England was "the most pugnacious monarch loose in these parts."
When war broke out, President Wilson's statements were a model of neutral procedure. He issued a formally correct neutrality
proclamation and went on to exhort his countrymen to be neutral in thought as well as in action. There is no doubt that he
was completely neutral at heart in August, 1914. Less than three years later, however, in April, 1917, he went before Congress
and told its members that "God helping her," this country could do no other than make war on Germany. Moreover, he returned
from the Capitol to the White House and made statements to his secretary, Joseph P. Tumulty, indicating that, at the time
of his war message, he had so far changed his attitude that he could not believe he ever had been neutral. He cited with approval
an article by the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian stating that Mr. Wilson had always been sympathetic with
the Allies and had wished to throw this country into war on their side just as soon as circumstances would permit.
We shall first briefly consider some of the reasons why Wilson altered his point of view, since no other set of circumstances
could alone have forced us into the war, if Wilson had not been favorable to our entry by the spring of 1917.
First and foremost, we must take into account the fact that Wilson's intellectual perspective was predominantly Anglo-Saxon.
He had little knowledge of, or sympathy with, continental European culture and institutions. His great intellectual heroes
were such English writers as John Milton, John Locke, Adam Smith and Walter Bagehot. He did his graduate work in the Johns
Hopkins University Seminar under Herbert Baxter Adams, where the "Anglo-Saxon Myth" reigned supreme.
Wilson was a persistent student and admirer of the English constitution and frankly regarded the British system of government
as superior to our own.
Then Wilson had in his cabinet and among his ambassadors men who were intensely pro-English or pro-Ally in their sympathies.
Such were Secretaries Lindley M. Garrison and David F. Houston. Walter Hines Page, our ambassador in London, was even more
intensely pro-English than Wilson. Indeed, he frequently went to such excesses as to annoy the President. When Bryan was succeeded
by Robert Lansing, the most crucial post in the cabinet went to another vehemently pro-English sympathizer. The biases of
Page and Lansing made it difficult to pursue forthright diplomacy with Great Britain.
Another major difficulty lay in the fact that President Wilson and Secretary Lansing did not formulate and execute a fair
and consistent line of diplomatic procedure. They had one type of international law for England and the Allies, and quite
another for Germany. They all but allowed Great Britain to run wild in the violation of international law and of our neutral
rights, while they insisted on holding Germany "to strict accountability."
England started out in 1914 by making a scrap of paper out of the Declaration of London governing contraband in wartime.
Next, we proceeded to allow her to make use of armed belligerent merchantmen as if they were peaceful commercial vessels.
England violated our neutral rights far more extensively between 1914 and 1917 than she did before the War of 1812, even to
the point of flying the American flag.
Wilson came to believe, however, that Great Britain was fighting for civilization and that so trivial a thing as international
law must not be allowed to stand in her way. Wilson's Attorney-General, Thomas W. Gregory, tells of the rebuke which the President
administered to certain cabinet members when they protested over the flagrant British violation of our neutral rights: "After
patiently listening, Mr. Wilson said, in that quiet way of his, that the ordinary rules of conduct had no application to the
situation; that the Allies were standing with their backs to the wall, fighting wild beasts; that he would permit nothing
to be done by our country to hinder or embarrass them in the prosecution of the war unless admitted rights were grossly violated,
and that this policy must be understood as settled." Bryan protested against our unfair and unneutral diplomacy and ultimately
resigned because he could not square his conscience with it.
Secretary Lansing admits in his Memoirs that he made no real pretense of holding England to the tenets of international
law. He tells us that after the sinking of the Lusitania he thought we should be fighting on the side of the Allies
and that he was determined to 'do nothing which would prove embarrassing to us when we later took up our position as a military
comrade of the Allied powers. He persisted in this attitude, even though he was honest enough to write after the war that
in 1917 we had as good, if not better, legal grounds for fighting Britain as for fighting Germany.
Ambassador Page even went so far as to collaborate with Sir Edward Grey in answering the protests of his own government,
an unparalleled procedure which, when revealed, outraged even so pro-Ally a journal as the New York Times.
We thus encouraged and perpetuated the illegally extensive British blockade, which provoked the German submarine warfare.
In time, we made war on the latter, though it was our unneutral diplomacy which contributed, in large part, to the continuance
of both the British blockade and the German submarine activities.
Wilson was deeply affected by the criticisms to which he was subjected by prominent Americans sympathetic with the Allies
and in favor of intervention on their side. He was stung by the famous speeches of Theodore Roosevelt on "The Shadows of Shadow
Lawn," and by the latter's reference to Wilson's diplomatic statements as examples of "weasel words." He was particularly
annoyed by the statement of Elihu Root that "first he shakes his fist and then he shakes his finger."
On the other hand, Wilson was human enough to take note of the praise which was showered upon him by the press when he
made a bellicose statement or led a preparedness parade. This contrasted sharply with the bitter criticism he evoked when
he made a statesmanlike remark, such as that a country might be "too proud to fight," or that the only desirable peace would
be "a peace without victory."
Wilson was also profoundly moved by the British propaganda relative to German atrocities and territorial ambitions. This
was particularly true after Lord Bryce lent his name to the prestige and veracity of the propaganda stories as to German savagery.
Of all living Englishmen, Bryce was probably the man whom Wilson most admired and trusted. When Bryce sponsored the propaganda
lies, Wilson came to believe that they must have a substantial basis in fact. This helped on his rationalization that England
was fighting the battle of human civilization against wild beasts.
Personal matters also played their role in the transformation of Wilson's attitude. His first wife died and a strong pacific
influence was removed. He then courted and married a dashing widow who was sympathetic with the Allied side and friendly with
Washington military and naval circles. She was also bitterly resentful of the criticism to which Wilson was subjected on account
of his refusal to be stampeded into intervention. She appears to have wished him to take a stronger stand for intervention.
The domestic influence on the President was, thus, completely transformed in character as a result of his second marriage.
The publication of Mrs. Wilson's Memoirs does not make it necessary to modify this statement.
When, as an outcome of these various influences, Wilson had been converted to intervention, he rationalized his change
of attitude on the basis of a noble moral purpose. As he told Jane Addams in the spring of 1917, he felt that the United States
must be represented at the peace conference which would end the World War if there was to be any hope of a just and constructive
peace. But Wilson could be at the peace conference only if the United States had previously entered the World War.
It is still asserted by many writers, such as Professor Charles Seymour, that the resumption of submarine warfare by Germany
was the sole reason for Wilson's determination to enter the war on the Allied side. But we know that he had been converted
to intervention long before January, 1917. A year earlier, he had sent Colonel House to Europe with a plan to put us in the
war on the side of the Allies if Germany would not accept peace terms obviously unfavorable to her. But even such peace terms
for Germany were rejected by the British leaders, who felt sure of American aid anyway and were determined to crush Germany.
Yet this British rebuff did not lead Wilson to lose heart in his efforts to put this country into the war.
His next step was taken in this country. Early in April, 1916, Wilson called into consultation Speaker
Champ Clark of the House of Representatives and Congressional leaders Claude Kitchin and H. D. Flood, and sounded them out
to see if they would support him in a plan to bring the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. This was the
famous "Sunrise Conference" described later by Gilson Gardner in McNaught's Monthly of June, 1925. These men sharply
refused to sanction any such policy, and Wilson allowed the campaign of 1916 to be fought out on the slogan, "He kept us out
of war." Wilson did not dare to risk splitting the Democratic Party over entry into the war before the campaign of 1916 had
successfully ended. The existence of the "Sunrise Conference" has been fully verified by Professor A. M. Arnett in his scholarly
book on Claude Kitchin.
Wilson was convinced after the failure of the "Sunrise Conference" that there was no hope of getting the country into war
until after the election. The sentiment of the nation was for peace. If he was elected as an exponent of peace and then went
into war the country as a whole would believe that he had done his best to "keep us out of war." He would have a united country
behind him. Hence, he and Colonel House sent Governor Martin Glynn of New York and Senator Ollie James of Kentucky to the
Democratic National Convention at St. Louis, in June, 1916, with instructions to make keynote speeches emphasizing Wilson's
heroic efforts to keep us out of war.
Thus was fashioned the famous slogan "He kept us out of war," which re-elected Woodrow Wilson to the presidency almost
a year after Colonel House, following Wilson's directions, had declared that: "The United States would like Great Britain
to do whatever would help the United States to aid the Allies."
The campaign and election of 1916 were very really a referendum on war, and the people voted against war. This is illuminating
as an illustration of the fallacy that a war referendum, such as the Ludlow Amendment, would, by itself alone, suffice to
keep us out of war, but the election of 1916 does offer definite proof that Wilson was not pushed into war by popular demand.
The influence exerted by American finance upon our entry into the World War has been revealed in Ray Stannard Baker's Life
and Letters of Woodrow Wilson, in the volumes of the Nye armament investigation, and in Professor C. C. Tansill's America
Goes to War.
At the outset, the international bankers were not by any means all pro-Ally. Some, like the Morgan firm, were pro-British,
and had been for years, while others, like Kuhn, Loeb and Company, manned chiefly by men of German derivation, were pro-German.
But the financial interests of all the bankers soon came to be pro-Ally, for credit and loans to Germany were discouraged,
while large loans were presently being made to the Allied powers.
On August 15, 1914, at the beginning of the war, Bryan declared against loans to any belligerent, on the ground that credit
is the basis of all forms of contraband. President Wilson backed him up. For the time being, this position did not operate
seriously against the Allies, for the balance of trade and investment was against the United States, and the Allied countries
could pay for their purchases by cancelling the debts owed abroad by Americans. This situation took care of matters for a
few months. But Allied war purchases became so great that, by the autumn of 1914, there was a credit crisis. The National
City Bank addressed Robert Lansing, then Counsellor of the State Department, on this matter on October 23, 1914. Short-term
credits to European governments were advocated. Lansing talked the matter over with President Wilson at once, and the latter
agreed that the government would not interfere with such an arrangement. This information was transmitted orally to Willard
Straight of J. P. Morgan & Company at the Metropolitan Club in Washington on the same night.
Shortly afterwards, H. P. Davison of the Morgan firm went to England and signed a contract to become the British purchasing
agent in America. A similar contract was soon made with France.
The short-term loans sufficed for some months, but by the summer of 1915 Allied buying had become so extensive that the
bankers saw that they must float loans here for the Allied countries if the latter were to continue to buy American munitions
on a large scale. So they made strong representations to Colonel House and to the Secretary of the Treasury, W. G. McAdoo.
On August 21, 1915, McAdoo wrote a long letter to President Wilson, pointing out that great prosperity had come to the
country as a result of the sale of munitions to the Allies, but that this prosperity could not continue unless we financed
it through open loans to the Allies—i.e. selling Allied bonds in our own financial markets.
On September 6, 1915, Secretary Lansing argued similarly in a letter to President Wilson, stressing the crisis that faced
American business if the earlier ruling of Bryan and the President on American loans to belligerents was not rescinded. Colonel
House supported this position. McAdoo and Lansing won their point. On September 8, 1915, Wilson assented to loans and the
Morgan firm was once more given oral information. Very soon, the first public loan, the $500,000,000 Anglo-French loan, was
The formal loans to the Allies—over $2,500,000,000 in all—financed their purchases for a little over a year,
but their buying was so heavy that even the great investment banking houses could not take care of their needs. By January,
1917, the Allies had overdrawn their credit by nearly $500,000,000. Only Uncle Sam could save the great banking houses and
the Allies. And Uncle Sam could help only if the United States were at war with Germany. We could not, as a government, lend
money to a belligerent, unless we were at war with its enemy.
Just at this time the Germans renewed their unrestricted submarine warfare. The United States could now be led into the
war, and the bankers would be repaid. They were repaid to the last cent. When the war was over, Mr. Thomas W. Lamont, of J.
P. Morgan and Company, stated the facts relative to the attitude of his firm toward the World War and the belligerent powers:
At the request of certain of the foreign governments the firm of Messrs. J. P. Morgan and Company undertook to co-ordinate
the requirements of the Allies, and then to bring about regularity and promptness in fulfilling these requirements. Those
were the days when American citizens were being urged to remain neutral in action, in word, and even in thought. But our firm
had never for one moment been neutral: we didn't know how to be. From the very start we did everything we could to contribute
to the cause of the Allies. And this particular work had two effects: one in assisting the Allies in the production of goods
and munitions in America necessary to the Allies' vigorous prosecution of the war, the other in helping to develop the great
and profitable export trade that our country has had.
Most American industrialists naturally shared the attitude of the bankers. Since England controlled the seas, our sales
were mainly to the Allied powers. We wished to see the Allies continue the war and win it. Upon their purchases depended most
of our sales and prosperity, and upon their success and solvency depended the prospect of their being able to pay us in the
end. The trade in munitions carried us from a depression in 1914 to boom years in 1915 and 1916.
By abandoning his neutral financial and industrial policy in favor of the Allies, President Wilson made it possible for
the Entente Powers to enjoy an enormous advantage over the Central Powers in getting war supplies. The only way for the Central
Powers to overcome it was to resume unlimited submarine warfare and try to sweep from the seas the ships that were carrying
these supplies to the Allies.
It was our unneutral financing of the Allies that led to the resumption of German submarine warfare, and it was the resumption
of this warfare which furnished the "incident" that enabled the war party in this country to put us into the conflict. It
is, thus, perfectly clear that economic and financial pressure was the crucial factor which led us into war in 1917.
But no one need hold that President Wilson was moved primarily by any tender sentiments for the bankers. Both McAdoo and
Lansing argued that it was essential to American prosperity to finance the Allies.
It was this general consideration of continued prosperity in 1915-16, and the relation of this to the prospects of the
Democratic Party in the election of 1916, rather than any direct banker pressure on the White House, that bore in on Wilson's
consciousness in the late summer of 1915, when he let down the gates to financing the Allies.
Yet, it is downright silly to contend that the bankers had no influence on Wilson's policy. If he did not listen to the
bankers himself, he did listen very attentively to those who did heed banker pressure, namely, McAdoo, Lansing and House.
The active campaign for American preparedness and intervention was engineered by leaders of the war cult in the United
States, such men as Theodore Roosevelt, Leonard Wood, Henry Cabot Lodge, "Gus" Gardiner, and the like. They led in the preparedness
movement, the Plattsburg camp episode, and other steps designed to stimulate the martial spirit in America. The newspapers
warmly supported this movement because of the circulation appeal which preparedness material supplied.
While there were notable exceptions, the majority of our newspapers were pro-Ally and pro-interventionist. Many of them
were honestly sympathetic with the Allies. Others were deeply influenced by Allied propaganda. Some were heavily subsidized
by the Allies. Still others were bought outright by Allied interests. Moreover, the Allies supplied all American newspapers
with a vast amount of war-news material always favorable to the Allied cause. The newspapers also had a natural affinity for
the bankers and industrialists who were their chief advertising clients. Finally, the newspapers were not unaware of the enormous
circulation gains and increased advertising revenue which would follow our entry into the World War.
In the matter of propaganda the Allies had a notable advantage.
They controlled the seas, the cables, and other means of communication. The Germans had only one crude and temporary wireless
contact with the United States. Further, Allied propaganda was far better organized and more lavishly supported.
It was also much more adroit than the German. As a result, a majority of Americans were led to believe in the veracity of
the great batch of atrocity lies relative to the German invasion of Belgium, submarine warfare, and the like. This was particularly
true after Lord Bryce put the force of his name and prestige behind the authenticity of such tales. Lord Northcliffe, who
was in charge of British propaganda, in moments of unusual candor, stated that the Americans proved more gullible in such
matters than any other people except the Chinese and called us "a bunch of sheep."
The ministers of the gospel also joined heartily in the great crusade to put us into the World War. Lining up behind such
a stalwart as Newell Dwight Hillis, they preached a veritable holy war. They represented the Allies as divinely-anointed promoters
of international decency and justice and the Central Powers as the servants of evil and the agents of savagery.
The net result of all this was that we entered the World War in April, 1917. We did so, even though there was no clear
legal or moral basis for our so doing. If there ever was an instance in which the facts were clearly in accord with a neutrality
policy it was in the spring of 1917. We should have fought both Germany and Britain or else neither. But the country went
into war, with most of the citizens of the United States feeling that our self-respect and national honor demanded it. No
other course seemed open to us.
The Great Conflict: The Old and the New Warfare
The World War actually began July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary sent Serbia an official declaration of war, and continued
for over four years, being terminated with the signing of the Armistice by the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918.
On July 30, 1914, mobilization of the Russian army was ordered, and on August 1, upon Russia's refusal to demobilize, Germany
declared war against Russia. Before the end of that month France, Belgium, England, Montenegro, and Japan had joined Russia
in the conflict, and in October Turkey allied its forces with Germany. At the conclusion of 1914, the warring Central Powers
included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey, and the Entente Allies were Russia, France, England, Japan, Belgium, Serbia,
and Montenegro. Bulgaria's entrance in October, 1915, completed the ranks of the Central Powers. The years 1915-18 witnessed
the increase of the Allied Powers by the entry of Italy (May, 1915), Portugal and Rumania (1916), the United States, Cuba,
Panama, Greece, Siam, China, Liberia, and Brazil (1917), and Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Honduras (1918).
Some ten years before the war, the German General Staff had drawn up the plan to be followed in the event of a general
European war. It was to make a rapid drive through Belgium and envelop and capture the armies of France (and of England if
the latter should enter the conflict). Having disposed of the enemy in the west, all the German resources were then to be
directed against Russia to oust it from the war. As the German Chief of Staff at the time was General Alfred von Schlieffen,
this plan of campaign came to be known as the Schlieffen Plan.
When war broke out in August, 1914, this Schlieffen plan was launched with clocklike precision. It worked perfectly, except
for a bad blunder committed by General von Bulow in not attacking as ordered; and had it not been for the incompetence of
the German Chief of Staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, the Germans would, in all probability, have won the war with a smashing
victory before the end of September, 1914. But von Moltke, nephew of the great leader of the Prussian army in 1870, was never
an able military man. He had been chosen by the Kaiser chiefly for the legendary prestige of the family name. Moreover, in
the summer of 1914 his health was so bad that he should have been in a hospital rather than in the headquarters of the General
Staff. Hence he was unable personally to direct hostilities.
At the height of the great German advance Moltke sent to the front with absolute authority an incompetent subordinate,
Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hentsch, who in his confusion ordered a retreat at the very moment when the Germans might have
entered Paris and at the same time have driven the British army back in disorder. The French followed up this retreat by what
is usually known as the First Battle of the Marne. This loss of the war through an utterly incompetent
commander-in-chief is the major responsibility that the Kaiser must bear for the German defeat in 1914-18. Von Moltke's successor,
the boot-licking General Erich von Falkenhayn, was only a slight improvement. By the time Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg
were placed in supreme command in 1916 it was too late for Germany to win a smashing military victory. Once the Germans retired
after the Hentsch blunder, both sides settled down in the west to a dreary and terrible trench warfare that lasted for approximately
The intrenched western front in 1914-15 stretched from Belfort northward to Verdun, westward to the Aisne River, and then
northward again to Ypres and Nieuport, covering a distance of six hundred miles. Although the Germans had vanquished most
of Belgium and northern France and controlled many of the French mines and industries, they were unable to make substantial
farther advances and conquer all of France.
The army protecting Germany's eastern front, although inferior in size to the Russian, was able, under the leadership of
Generals von Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and von Hoffmann, to rout and partially to annihilate the Russian army in the battle
of Tannenberg in August, 1914. This was the most decisive defeat administered to any army during the war.
At this time, Austria-Hungary attempted to invade Russian Poland but was decisively defeated, and lost, as a consequence,
eastern Galicia, including Lemberg. However, the counter-offensive launched by the Germans in the spring of 1915 under General
August von Mackensen drove the Russians from this region and returned practically all Galicia to Austria-Hungary.
Hindenburg, supported by huge armies, attacked Russian Poland, captured Warsaw and Vilna, and by October, 1915, most of
Poland, Lithuania, and Courland were in the possession of the Central Powers. This offensive warfare, severely crippling the
Russian forces, extended the German eastern front from Cernauti (Czernowitz) on the boundary of Rumania to Riga in the north.
The reverses of Russia under the tsarist regime helped to bring on a revolution in the spring of 1917, in which the Tsar
abdicated, to be succeeded first by Prince Lvov and then by Alexander Kerensky. Kerensky, as the head of the new Russian revolutionary
government, attempted another invasion of Galicia in July, 1917, but this proved a dismal failure. When the Bolsheviks, under
the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, obtained control of Russia in November, 1917, they demobilized the Russian armies, signed
the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany in March, 1918, and withdrew from the war to continue the domestic revolution.
The Bulgarians, joining the Central Powers in October, 1915, assisted the Germans in attacking Serbia and Montenegro. Within
two months they had succeeded in conquering these countries and Albania, and most of the Balkan Peninsula was occupied by
the Central Powers. The Entente effort at a brilliant coup in southeastern Europe, namely, the attempt to force the Dardanelles
and free the Russian man power and grain supply for the Entente, proved an expensive and dismal failure with the collapse
of the gallant Gallipoli campaign early in 1916.
Rumania, joining the Allies in August, 1916, invaded Transylvania in Hungary, but von Mackensen, seizing Bucharest, drove
them from this region and, with the cooperation of von Falkenhayn, soon occupied the greater portion of the country as the
result of one of the most rapid and brilliant campaigns of the war.
The Italians, after their defeat at Caporetto in October, 1917, were pushed back into Italy as far as the Piave River,
the Austrians taking about 200,000 men as prisoners and 2,000 pieces of artillery. Thanks, however, to military reorganization,
enforced conscription, and British and French reinforcements, the Austro-Hungarians were halted. In June, 1918, they attempted
to drive back the Italians stationed along the Piave, getting across the river at several points and even progressing five
miles at one place. But the reinforced Italians, under the leadership of General Armando Diaz, recovered their unity and strength
and, aided by floods, beat the enemy back and did not cease their offensive until November, 1918, when they invaded and occupied
Trent and Trieste.
The strain of the war was becoming intense by the end of 1917; people in many lands, but particularly in France, Russia,
and Italy, expressed a desire for peace with Germany based on mutual concessions. The Germans, likewise, were disposed to
welcome reasonable peace terms. The spread of an idea such as this implies the disintegration of morale and of the desire
for victory. Russia's case has been discussed above. The defeat the Italians sustained at Caporetto at the hands of the Austro-Hungarian
army in 1917 was a shock to Italian morale.
It seems highly probable that by the winter of 1915-16 Europe was headed towards a desirable negotiated peace. But the
Entente was soon converted to a determination to continue the war to the bitter end as the result of the intimation which
Colonel House, as President Wilson's agent in Europe, had given to Allied leaders that the United States would be likely to
join the Entente if Wilson was re-elected. The new spirit was evident in the famous "knockout victory" interview of Lloyd
George, given out to Roy W. Howard of the United Press on September 29, 1916. Lloyd George declared that the war must go on
until Germany was crushed. This is an important item in the verdict of history against Woodrow Wilson. Lloyd George was also
doubtless influenced by the entry of Rumania into the war in August, 1916, and by the British successes on the Somme.
Another factor in postponing peace was the stupidity of German politics and diplomacy from 1916 to 1918. Ludendorff and
von Hindenburg were held back by the jealousy of the Kaiser and von Falkenhayn in 1914-15, when they might have won the war
through bold and aggressive military campaigns. Then they were given supreme control of both military and political power
after 1916 the period when the war had to be won by Germany through clever diplomacy, if at all. Ludendorff, von Hindenburg,
and von Tirpitz were poorly endowed with political acumen or diplomatic skill and finesse. They bungled matters, ordered the
resumption of submarine warfare, and lost the war.
During the winter of 1917-18, Ludendorff and von Hindenburg made colossal preparations for a decisive German attack against
the Allies in France before American soldiers could render decisive aid. Huge forces were placed on the western front; great
guns of unprecedented range were installed for the purpose of firing upon Paris at a distance of seventy miles and thus shaking
French morale; vast quantities of guns and ammunition were supplied to the soldiers; and everything possible was set in readiness
for the great drive. The British were the first to feel the terrific impact of the German forces. The Germans attacked the
British in March, 1918, near St. Quentin in the valley of the Somme River, and marched on to Amiens. In April, the British
west of Lille, and in May the French stationed along the Aisne River were the recipients of the German onslaught. At a tremendous
cost of both life and property, the Germans had advanced to the Marne at Chateau-Thierry, some forty miles distant from Paris.
Here the tempo of the drives slowed down, owing to the role played by the fresh American forces.
After a month in which the opposing combatants faced each other, the Germans, in desperation, thrust forward in the Second
Battle of the Marne. But by this time they were disheartened. Their reserves were exhausted, their ammunition was of an inferior
grade, and the last great German offensive failed. The French, British, and Americans, led by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, shifted
from the defensive to the offensive and forced a widespread German retreat, taking St. Mihiel, St. Quentin, Cambrai, Lille,
the Argonne Forest, and Sedan, until finally, on November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed in the Forest of Compiegne.
Germany was exhausted by the titanic struggle against most of the powers of the world for four years. There was mutiny
in the navy. The Socialists attacked the war policy and demanded peace. Revolution was threatened at home back of the lines.
The Kaiser was forced to abdicate, the monarchy was ended, and a socialistic republic was set up.
But Germany was not the only nation which came near to collapse. There had been mutinies in the French army in 1917. But
for the entry of the United States France might have cracked up and the Allies might have been forced to consent to a far
more temperate negotiated peace. Russia, of course, collapsed completely and a new regime of society was created.
In addition to the main battles fought on European soil, warfare was carried on in the Near Orient and in Africa. Soon
after Japan's entry, the Japanese forces seized the German port of Kiaochow in China and, aided by the British, took the entire
Shantung Peninsula, Tsingtao, and the German island possessions in the Pacific Ocean north of the equator, while those in
the south were captured by the Australians and New Zealanders. Important sections of the Turkish Empire were seized by British
and French armies; Turkish Armenia was occupied by Russian troops in 1916. Palestine surrendered to the English in 1917 after
a brilliant campaign by General E. H. Allenby, who a year later, aided by T. E. Lawrence and the Arabs, captured Syria, cut
the Bagdad Railway, and forced Turkey out of the war. British and French armies took German Togoland in 1914 and Kamerun in
1916; the British troops stationed in South Africa crushed a Boer Rebellion in 1914 and took possession of German Southwest
Africa in 1915 and of German East Africa in 1918.
The World War of 1914 differed from other great wars in many respects. Never before had there been such an impressive agglomeration
of men assembled to settle a human dispute. Whereas the figures of the armies ran into thousands in previous wars, they ran
into millions in this catastrophic conflict. The military strength of the Central Powers has been estimated at 29,787,000
and that of the Entente Allies at 80,108,000. These figures include troops ready for action, reserve forces, unorganized troops,
militias, national guards, and colonial armies.
Fighting in the World War was a very complex matter and presented a radical change from warfare in the past.
Because of the great technical advance in making machine guns and artillery efficiently deadly, almost at the beginning of
the war open fighting, except for brief attacks, was abandoned, and long and elaborate series of trenches were constructed.
These were formed in zigzag parallels, joined by laterals, and had subterranean rooms used for the storage of war supplies
and for the resting quarters of the soldiers. Some of these trench lines were most durably and securely built—notably
the famous Hindenburg Line. Separating the opposing trenches was "no man's land," a mass of barbed wire and artificial banks
of earth and stone that had to be traversed before reaching the enemy. These trenches were the parents of the Maginot and
Siegfried Lines today between France and Germany.
Artillery was developed with scientific acumen. The "barrage"—a terrific wall of co-ordinated artillery fire—was
most ingeniously developed to lay down a protection for troops advancing behind it. Enormous numbers of machine guns, the
most effective single instrument of the war, were employed by both sides. Huge cannon were placed behind the trenches to destroy
with ruthless force the enemy's towns, fortifications, and larger targets. Explosives, both grenades and mines, were added
to the shrapnel and shot. Poison gas, a deadly innovation, was first used by the Germans, but shortly by the Allies as well.
Camouflage—the art of concealment of vulnerable objects both at sea and on land—was a new and widespread practice.
Gasoline played a significant role in this conflict as fuel for tanks, automobiles, and airplanes. The tank, first used
by the British and probably the most remarkable of the many new instruments of warfare improvised during the struggle, was
a huge caterpillar affair protected by an iron covering, crawling over the battlefield, unstopped by ditches, barbed wire,
or mounds, spewing forth bullets, and bringing death and havoc in its path.
The fighting in the air caught the interest of all peoples. One-man airplanes were used in the first year of the war as
a means of discovering the position of the enemy and as a guide for the artillery. Later, two-seaters having an unprecedented
swiftness were employed as bombing mediums, and for the use of photographers, spies, and scouts. Hydroplanes developed by
the British assailed German submarines, and by 1916 squads and formations of airplanes were organized and the battles of the
air were regarded as extraordinary feats of courage and valor. The emergence of air "aces," survivors of a succession of air
duels, furnished much of the heroics of a war that was otherwise distinguished by a lack of romantic color.
The sea operations during the World War were less decisive in the form of battles than they were in their bearing upon
the control of the commerce of the world, so important for the Entente countries, and only less so for the Central Powers.
Great Britain's naval superiority never proved of more critical importance. German commerce was swept from the sea, and very
quickly also the German warships outside the North Sea were captured or sunk and their raids upon British commerce terminated.
An air-tight blockade was imposed on Germany, which did more than British arms ultimately to bring that country to its knees.
Admiral von Spee destroyed a small British squadron off the coast of Chile on November 1, 1914, but his fleet was soon wiped
out by the British in a battle off the Falkland Islands.
There was only one major naval conflict during the war, the Battle of Jutland, on May 31, 1916. While the Germans were
ultimately compelled to retreat before overwhelming odds to their fortified cover, they inflicted heavy losses upon the British.
Not since the rise of her navy in the seventeenth century had Britain come off so badly in a major naval battle. It is possible
that Admiral Jellicoe might have repeated the feat of Nelson at Trafalgar had he been less timid or cautious, but he failed
to rise to the opportunity. So the Germans had one brilliant exploit on the sea to their credit during the World War, but
it proved only a futile show of superior bravery and strategy. The German fleet never again risked its fate.
Rather, the Germans concentrated upon building submarines to offset their inferiority in respect to capital ships. These
"U-boats" inflicted terrific losses upon British shipping, but in the end they undid those gains through bringing the United
States into the war and turning the balance decidedly in favor of the Entente. It is true that Germany was able to justify
its submarine warfare on the ground of the British blockade and that it offered to discuss discontinuing submarine activities
if Britain would raise the blockade. It is also true that Great Britain interfered with the rights of neutral shippers far
more extensively than did Germany. But Germany's depredations involved lives as well as property.
The Germans exerted themselves most vigorously in the effort to drive British shipping from the seas before the United
States could become effective in the war. But America's industrial efficiency proved too much for them. Ships were rapidly
and crudely built through the application, to the highest degree, of standardization in construction. The margin between new
shipping and that sent to the bottom by submarines grew rapidly, and the destinies of Germany in the World War were doomed
when sufficient American troops arrived in Europe to stem the tide of Ludendorff's last desperate drive in the spring and
early summer of 1918.
Approximately 4,000,000 tons of Allied shipping were destroyed by German submarines in the first half of 1917. But owing
to the entry of the United States, with its navy augmenting that of the British, the wreckage was diminished until in 1918
only 2,000,000 tons of shipping were sunk. The advice of Admiral von Tirpitz and others to disregard diplomacy in the interests
of submarine warfare proved the second great German mistake. It lost the war in the last year of the conflict, as the Kaiser's
unwisdom in maintaining von Moltke in charge of the German army at the outset had destroyed the possibility of a brilliant
and decisive German victory before snowfall in 1914.
Propaganda: A New Weapon of War
As novel and interesting as the vast scope of the conflict, the huge numbers involved, and the colossal costs exacted was
the wide use of systematic propaganda by both sides. This, if it did not prove that the pen is mightier than the sword, at
least showed that the pen can powerfully supplement it. Germany gave the Allies a great propaganda talking point in its invasion
of Belgium, even though we now know that the Allies had intended to do the same thing if this proved indispensable to their
strategic program. A systematic campaign of exaggerations and falsifications regarding alleged German atrocities was planned
and executed, and this helped mightily to turn neutral opinion against Germany, as well as enraging still further the populace
of each enemy country.
No sooner had the effect of the Belgian-atrocity campaign worn off than the Germans provided the Allies with another ace
card by their submarine campaign, though this was less horrible in its results and no more illegal than the British blockade.
But it lent itself better than the latter to dramatic and colorful exploitation in pro-Ally propaganda. Moreover, the Entente
control of the seas made it easier for the Allies to get into contact with neutral sources of opinion. When the Germans did
set up contacts with neutrals they were usually quite careless and stupid in their propaganda methods. An exception was Count
Joachim von Bernstorff, the German ambassador in Washington.
As the propaganda plans reached a high development, systematic fabrications were deliberately planned and elaborate establishments
were set up for the painting of fake scenes of devastation, falsification of postcards, manufacture of wax models of alleged
mutilated figures, and the like. A vast propaganda system was created by the Entente in the United States,
engineered by Lord Northcliffe and directed by Sir Gilbert Parker. Ministers of the Gospel entered enthusiastically into the
fray and represented the war as a divinely-guided crusade against the representatives of the Devil. These
extensive fabrications not only served to promote enlistments, convert neutrals, and intensify passions during the war; they
also made it difficult to secure a return to reason after the Armistice that would permit a statesmanlike peace settlement.
The hatreds engendered by falsification and propaganda developed a lust for vindicativeness in the post-war treaties. In
England, a general election was held right after the Armistice. Lloyd George ran on the platform of making Germany pay for
the war and hanging the Kaiser. All this made it impossible for Lloyd George to exert any moderating influence at the Peace
Conference after he had personally calmed down and returned to reason. He was committed to bringing the Kaiser's scalp back
with him from Paris. The propaganda during the first World War created mental states which were more potent than any other
single factor in creating the chain of consequence that led from the World War of 1914 to the War of 1939.
Balance Sheet of the First World War
The casualties of the World War were so astoundingly extensive as to be almost unbelievable. Kirby Page lists them in the
CASUALTIES OF THE WORLD WAR OF 1914
Page further details some of the more prominent of the human costs of the war:
The total immediate economic cost of the war has been estimated by a careful student, Professor E. L. Bogart, at $331,600,000,000.
Some of the specific economic losses have been computed as follows: (1) Munitions and machines of war during the four years
of fighting, $180,000,000,000; (2) property losses on land, $29,960,000,000; (3) losses to shipping, $6,800,000,000; (4) production
losses through diverted and non-economic production, $45,000,000,000.
These are simply immediate economic losses—those things which were actually consumed during the conflict. No account
is taken of subsequent costs such as interest on loans, retirement of loans, pensions, and the like. Writing shortly after
the war was over, Professor E. L. Bogart commented as follows on the matter of immediate war costs:
The figures . . . are both incomprehensible and appalling, yet even these do not take into account the effect of the war
on life, human vitality, economic well being, ethics, morality, or other phases of human relationships and activities which
have been disorganized and injured. It is evident from the present disturbances in Europe that the real costs cannot be measured
by the direct money outlays of the belligerents in the five years of its duration, but that the very breakdown of modern economic
life might be the price exacted.
The editor of the Scholastic magazine made an ingenious effort to translate these figures of war costs into terms
that we can visualize. He indicated that the cost of the World War of 1914 would have been sufficient to furnish: (1) every
family in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Russia, the United States, Canada, and Australia with a $2,500 house on a $500
one-acre lot, with $1,000 worth of furniture; (2) a $5,000,000 library for every community of 200,000 inhabitants in these
countries; (3) a $10,000,000 university for every such community; (4) a fund that at 5 percent interest would yield enough
to pay indefinitely $1,000 a year to an army of 125,000 teachers and 125,000 nurses; and (5) still leave enough to buy every
piece of property and all wealth in France and Belgium at a fair market price. Such was what it cost to return Alsace-Lorraine
to France, to try to get the Straits for Russia, and to punish Serbian plotters.
President Calvin Coolidge, relying on Secretary Mellon's estimates, once frankly stated that the ultimate cost to us of
the participation of the United States in the World War would, in his opinion, be $100,000,000,000. Indeed, Professor Frank
Dickinson has estimated that "the total post-war cost of the World War to our nation in terms of post-war price recessions
and depressions probably exceeds $200,000,000,000." On January 16, 1935, the direct cost of the World War, exclusive of $11,600,000,000
of war loans abroad, to the United States was officially declared to be $50,000,000,000. Another estimate, in 1939, put the
figure at $57,000,000,000. In 1916 our Federal budget was $735,000,000; in 1919, $18,500,000,000; and in 1938, $7,760,000,000.
We have, however, received little gratitude from our erstwhile Allies for our huge expenditures of money and men in their
behalf. We have obtained little but petulance, criticism and repudiation. Though we have written off half the debts incurred,
Uncle Sam has been rechristened "Uncle Shylock." Our best friends abroad before 1933 were our former enemies—and their
disinterestedness was open to grave doubt. A considerable share of their ostensible amiability certainly sprang from the hope
that we might assist them in their current difficulties. Such are the unhappy results that we obtained from the dramatic international
foray that put our present Treasury deficit far above our total national budget of the pre-war days.
Among the outstanding announced aims of the Allies during the great conflict were the following: it was asserted that the
World War would put an end to great armaments and the expenditures connected therewith. We had a promise that the military
preponderance of any one great power or group of powers would be terminated. We were told that the war would bring to a close
the secret diplomacy and secret treaties which did so much to cause and prolong the war.
Perhaps the most widely publicized of all the war ideals was the determination to make the world safe for democracy. Likewise,
we were assured that arrogant nationalism would be curbed and an adequate world organization would be created. It was maintained
that the economic causes of war would be resolutely attacked, Economic imperialism would be ended, colonialism discouraged,
and tariff reductions brought about on a wide scale. Let us see how far these laudable objectives have been realized.
In 1938, the world spent just about sixfold more for armaments than it spent in 1913, the last pre-war year. Further, there
has been a very notable increase of armament expenditures in 1939 over 1938. These simply dwarf any such expenditures for
a comparable period in the years before 1914.
In the place of the fictitious German military preponderance of 1914 we had for many years the very real and actually unprecedented
military preponderance of France and her allies which, by 1926, amounted to a 40 to I advantage over the Central Powers. And
now this has been answered by the even greater menace of German and Italian Fascism, armed to the teeth and committed to war.
There is no evidence whatsoever that secret diplomacy has been ended or that secret treaties are no longer made. Some years
ago William Randolph Hearst dug up a secret Franco-British naval treaty which strangely resembled the secret agreement of
November, 1912, which the French used to bring England into the war in 1914.
The diplomacy connected with the Japanese occupation of Manchuria revealed secret European diplomacy of the most sinister
variety. There is every reason to believe that secret diplomacy played a far larger part in the events leading up to the sacrifice
of Czechoslovakia than anything that was publicly revealed through the formal declarations and stage play of the participants
of the Munich Conference.
Far from making the world safe for democracy, the World War of 1914 succeeded in putting democracy in greater jeopardy
than at any other time since the collapse of the Revolutions of 1848.
In the place of the eighteen national states in Europe in 1914, we have had since 1918 some thirty national states, just
as arrogant in their patriotism as those of the pre-war era. The League of Nations was, for more than a decade, nothing more
than a league of victors. And since this Versailles policy has been challenged the League evaporated to little more than an
impotent formality. The shocks administered by Japan, Italy, and the Spanish Civil War destroyed its vitality.
Imperialism did not disappear. Only the German colonial empire was destroyed. Financial imperialism started up again on
a new and unprecedented scale right after the World War, ending up in tremendous defaults and disastrous losses to gullible
investors. Militant colonialism reasserted itself in Japan and Italy. More nations have come into being and most of them have
erected even higher tariff walls. Even Great Britain has abandoned its pre-war free trade policy. Economic nationalism is
better entrenched today than it was in 1914.
It was generally believed in 1917 and thereafter that the intervention of the United States in the World War on the side
of the Allies saved human civilization. It was lauded as one of the most noble and fortunate episodes in the history of man
on the planet. Today, there is a great deal of skepticism about any such judgment. There is a tendency now to see in American
intervention one of the major calamities in modern history—a calamity for the Allies and the United States as well as
for the Central Powers.
Let us assume the worst possible result of American neutrality in 1917-18. If we had not gone into the war the
worst imaginable result would have been a German victory. But no sane person can very well conceive that the world would be
any worse off today if the Germans had won under the Hohenzollerns.
We used to picture the horrors of a Germany and a Europe dominated by the Crown Prince and his followers. But,
compared to Hitler, Mussolini and Company, the Crown Prince and his crowd now appear to be cultivated gentlemen, urbane democrats,
and sincere pacifists. A more warlike world than the present could hardly have been created as a result of German victory,
and certainly the economic situation in Europe since 1918 would have been far better under a Europe dominated by monarchist
But there is hardly a remote possibility that Germany would have won the war, even if the United States had not come in
on the side of the Allies. Germany was eager to negotiate a fair peace arrangement at the time when Lloyd George's "knock-out
victory" interview with Roy Howard put an end to all prospect of successful negotiations. We now know that the Lloyd George
outburst was directly caused by his assurance that the United States was surely coming in on the side of the Allies. Had Wilson
remained strictly neutral, there is little doubt that sincere peace negotiations would have been actively carried on by the
summer of 1916.
There is every reason to believe that the result of American neutrality throughout the European conflict would have been
the "peace without victory," which Woodrow Wilson described in his most statesmanlike pronouncement during the period of the
World War. We would have had a negotiated peace treaty made by relative equals. This would not have been a perfect document
but it would certainly have been far superior to the Treaty of Versailles.
Had we remained resolutely neutral from the beginning, the negotiated peace would probably have saved the world from the
last two terrible years of war. Whenever it came, it would have rendered unnecessary the brutal blockade of Germany for months
after the World War, a blockade which starved to death hundreds of thousands of German women and children. This blockade was
the one great authentic atrocity of the World War period. In all probability, the neutrality of the United States
would also have made impossible the rise of Mussolini and Hitler—products of post-war disintegration —and the
coming of a second world war.
Not only was our entry into the World War a calamity of the first magnitude for Europe and contemporary civilization,
it was also a serious disaster for the United States.
During the first Wilson administration an impressive program of social reform had been introduced, widely known as "The
New Freedom." Had this continued until March, 1921, enormous and permanent improvements might have been made in the political
and economic system of the United States. But when Wilson allowed himself to be slowly but surely pushed into war, the New
Freedom perished overnight. Reaction and intolerance settled down on the country. Some of those who had earlier warmly supported
Wilson's domestic policies were thrown into prison, and many others were bitterly persecuted.
The myth of a German menace and the crusading sanctity of the Allies was exploded by Wilson himself shortly before his
death. On December 7, 1923, he told his friend James Kerney: "I should like to see Germany clean up France, and I should like
to see Jusserand and tell him so to his face."
References & Suggested Readings
- Most of these post-war publications are described and appraised by G. P. Gooch in his Recent Revelations of European
Diplomacy, Longmans, 1928.
- The latest and, one may fairly say, the final desperate effort to revive and vindicate the wartime conceptions of war
guilt is contained in Prof. Bernadotte E. Schmitt's The Coming of the War, 1914, Scribner, 1930. This has been devastatingly
answered by M. H. Cochran in his Germany Not Guilty in 1914, Stratford, 1931, probably the most severe criticism to
which an American historical work has ever been subjected. Even those who defend Schmitt personally refute his work and conclusions
by implication. For example Prof. F. L. Schuman sweepingly defended Schmitt's scholarship and impartiality in reviewing Schmitt's
book in The Nation. At the same time, Schuman's own work War and Diplomacy in the French Republic, presents
a revisionist interpretation wholly at variance with Schmitt. The history of war-guilt scholarship is recounted in my World
Politics in Modern Civilization, Knopf, 1930, Chaps. XXI-XXIII.
- The views of a third group who believe the Central Powers solely responsible no longer require serious consideration.
- The most judicious brief analysis and summary of the whole matter known to the writer is contained in C. L. Becker, Modern
History, Silver, Burdett, 1931, Chap. XX. See also Sir C. R. Beazley, The Road to Ruin in Europe, 1890-1914, London,
- E. A. L. Buat, L'armee allemande pendant la guerre de 1914-18, Paris, 1920, pp. 7-9
- Editor's note. However, Wolf says that "In 1914 Germany was more systematically prepared for war than any other country."
See below, pp. 365-66.—W.W.
- Cf. Andre Cheradame, The Pangerman Plot Unmasked, Scribner, 1917.
- M. S. Wertheimer, The Pan-German League, 1890-1914, Columbia University Press, 1924.
- See p. 68. von Moltke spoke only for himself, and the Austrians so understood it. The definitive treatment of the civil
government versus the General Staff in Germany in 1914 is contained in M. H. Cochran, Germany Not Guilty in 1914, Stratford,
1931, Chap. VII.
- see pp. 70-1,
- See Georges Michon, The Franco-Russian Alliance, 189l-1917, Macmillan, 1929, Chaps. I-IV; and W. L. Langer, The
Franco-Russian Alliance, 1890-1914, Harvard University Press, 1929.
- Fully confirmed to the writer by M. Caillaux.
- See W. L. Langer, European Alliances and Alignments, 1871-1890, Knopf, 1931.
- See S. B. Fay, The Origins of the World War, Macmillan, 1928, 2 vols., Vol. I, pp. 312-46.
- I.e., an apostle of a war to avenge the defeat of 1870-71.
- Georges Clemenceau, "The cause of France," Saturday Evening Post, October 24, 1914.
- J.S. Ewart, The Roots and Causes of the War (1914-1918), Doran, 1925, 2 vols., Vol. I, p. 671; Vol. II, p. 1169.
- A fact revealed to the writer by Count Pourtales (German Ambassador to Russia in 1914) in 1927.
- Cf. O. J. Hale, Germany and the Diplomatic Revolution, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931. The Casablanca crisis
of 1908 was not important; it was settled by the Hague Court.
- Indeed, England seems to have been more eager for a test of arms in 1911 than either France or Germany. The writer possesses
first-hand information that, in 1911, the English urged Caillaux to adopt an attitude which would probably have led to war
had he yielded to British advice.
- S. B. Fay, in Die Kriegsschuldfrage, December, 1926, p. 903.
- Cited by Mathias Morhardt, Les Preuves, Paris, 1924, p. 135.
- As early as 1910, Georges Louis, French Ambassador in Russia, tells how, for many years, the straits and Alsace-Lorraine
had been inseparably connected in Franco-Russian diplomacy: "In the Alliance, Constantinople and the straits form the counterpart
of Alsace-Lorraine. It is not specifically written down in any definite agreement, but it is the supreme goal of the Alliance
that one takes for granted. If the Russians open the question of the straits with us, we must respond 'Yes, the day you aid
us with respect to Alsace-Lorraine', I have discovered the same idea in the correspondence of Hanotaux with Montebello." (Cited
by E. M. A. Judet, Georges Louis, Paris, 1925, p. 143.)
- One of the most famous of contemporary French statesmen, M. Joseph Caillaux, in speaking to the present writer, of Poincare
and Izvolsky, rather colorfully compared them to Jesus and the Devil, respectively, the difference being that in 1912 Poincare
actually capitulated to the diabolical suggestions of Izvolsky. It is the belief of some of the best historical students who
have gone through the Russian source-material that Poincare's collapse before temptation was chiefly the result of his Russian
visit in 1912. Before that, he had contemplated war as a possible eventuality. After the return from St. Petersburg, he came
to regard it as almost a certainty to be prepared for and accepted at the most advantageous moment, preferably not until after
the Franco-Russian military plans had been completed. Some historians have pointed to the fact that Poincare was scandalized
in the summer of 1912 when he learned of Russia's patronage of the Balkan League and that France had been kept in the dark
about it for four months. But it was the last fact—the Russian secrecy—that scandalized him, not the Russian policy
of aggression in the Balkans.
- Cf. Friedrich Stieve, Isvolsky and the World War, Knopf, 1926, pp. 113-14.
- See H. E. Barnes, The Genesis of the World War (Knopf, 1929 edition), pp. 119 ff. Andre Tardieu contributed many
articles in this press campaign.
- Stieve, op. cit., pp. 128-36.
- Ibid., p. 134.
- This was no worse than what had already taken place, namely, that an English admiral had been put in charge of the Turkish
navy, but England was friendly with Russia.
- A view shared by the French and Russian General Staffs in the spring of 1914. It is quite true, as certain Russian writers
have insisted, that the holding of these council meetings does not prove that Russia was planning war immediately, but it
does show that Russia was very seriously considering the prospect of a war that would not have to be started by an aggressive
German action against Russia. (Compare Prof. Schmitt's horror over the dubious Moltke-Conrad "understanding of 1909.")
- Cf. Stieve, op. cit., pp. 89-90.
- Ibid., pp. 197 ff.
- Fully confirmed by Lord Morley's Memorandum on Resignation, Macmillan, 1928.
- See A. G. Gardner's slashing denunciation of the war-monger, Northcliffe, reprinted in Barnes, In Quest of Truth and
Justice, 1928, pp. 30 ff.
- A member of the British cabinet in 1914 informed the writer in 1927 that he regarded Spender as second only to the war
clique in the cabinet among those who made it possible for Grey to throw England into the conflict. It might be mentioned
in this connection that it was Spender who helped Lord Grey write his apologia, Twenty-five Years. (See Spender's apology,
Fifty Years of Europe, Stokes, 1933. In an amazing review of the book in the New York Nation, G. P. Gooch called
Spender a sincere friend of peace.)
- Poincare has denied the truth of this indictment which we have been able to formulate on the basis of the Izvolsky correspondence
and other documents, but he has been unable to bring forward any French documents that convincingly contradict Izvolsky's
general interpretation of affairs. Moreover, there is little probability that Izvolsky would have dared to lie persistently
to his chief, Sazonov, regarding matters of such vital concern for the foreign policy of his country and for his own diplomatic
ambitions. He had suffered enough in 1909 from failure to make good his assurances. Professor William L. Langer, the foremost
American authority on pre-war Russian diplomacy, in reviewing the Izvolsky correspondence, writes: "When all is said and done
this correspondence still formulates the most serious indictment of Franco-Russian prewar policy and lends considerable color
to the theory that there was a conspiracy against the peace of the world." (Political Science Quarterly, December,
1927, p. 656.)
- The Austrian journalist, Heinrich Kanner, a disgruntled enemy of the old regime in Austria, together with Professor Bernadotte
Schmitt, have claimed to find in the memoirs of Conrad von Hotzendorf, the former Austrian Chief of Staff, evidence of a dark
Austro-German war plot secredy laid in 1909 and executed in 1914. Professor Fay, count Montgelas, and others have shown that
rhere is no factual foundation whatever for this "Schmitt-Kanner Myth." (Cf. S. B. Fay, American Historical Review,
January, 1927, pp. 317-19; and Count M. M. K. S. Montgelas, "Une nouvelle these relative a la question des responsabilites,"
Revue de Hongrie, Nov. 15, 1926.)
- Expressed by Lloyd George and Haldane, for example, not by Grey and Crowe.
- In his memoirs, Sir Edward Grey represents Russia as drifting into war because of lack of any decisive policy or leadership:
"Perhaps it may be true to say, of Russia, that she was like a huge, unwieldy ship, which in time of agitation kept an uncertain
course; not because she was directed by malevolent intentions, but because the steering-gear was weak." (Twenty-five Years,
1892-1916, Stokes, 1925, 2 vols., Vol. II, pp. 23.) It is interesting to compare Grey's view with Sazonov's direct denial,
embodied in his memorandum to the Tsar on December 8, 1913, telling him that Russia must have the Straits, and in all probability
could secure them only by war: "In considering the future and in impressing upon ourselves that the maintenance of peace,
so much desired, will not always lie in our power, we are forced not to limit ourselves to the problems of today and tomorrow.
This we must do in order to escape the reproach so often made of the Russian ship of state, namely, that it is at the mercy
of the winds and drifts with the current without a rudder capable of firmly directing her course."
- There is no evidence that Sazonov and the Russian Foreign Office knew anything about the Serbian assassination plot. Indeed,
Count Pourtales, the German ambassador in St. Petersburg in 1914, informed the writer in the summer of 1927 that he was thoroughly
convinced that Sazonov was entirely innocent in this matter. Sazonov was at tea in the German Embassy when news was brought
to him of the murder of the Archduke. He was obviously surprised and shocked.
- Berthelot once admitted to Jacques Mesnil, editor of L'Humanite, that he had drafted the Serbian reply in outline.
- Then, there was the fact that, while the very existence of Austria-Hungary was at stake in punishing Serbia, only Russian
prestige and Pan-Slavism were involved in Russia's war to protect Serbia.
- Count Leopold von Berchtold, the Austrian Foreign Minister in 1914, explained fully and candidly to the writer in 1927
why he did not heed Germany's pressure before July 31, He stated that the Austro-Hungarian statesmen were convinced that a
continuance of the Serbian threat was a greater menace to the Dual Monarchy than a war between Germany and Austria, on the
one side, and France and Russia, on the other. He had plenty of assurance from the British Embassy in Vienna that England
would most certainly not intervene to protect Serbia. Counting on English neutrality, he was determined to punish Serbia after
the latter had refused to accede to the only really important items in the Austrian ultimatum. By July 31, Berchtold was finally
convinced that England would come in if Germany and France went to war. He then moderated his policy, but the Russian mobilization
made the change too late. Lord Grey's evasive and two-faced conduct of British diplomacy in 1914 thus played a very important
part in Austrian policy and in the coming of the war.
- Cf. British Official Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, ed. by G. P. Gooch and Harold Temperley, British
Library of Information, 1926-32, II vols., Vol. XI, No. 448.
- Ibid., Vol. XI, Nos. 419, 448, 453.
- Cf. Hermann Lutz, Lord Grey and the World War, Knopf, 1928, pp. 218-l9, 235, 238, 244-45, 252-53, 266-67, 287,
289-90, 294, 300.
- Another way of stating the ultimate conclusions about the crisis of 1914 would be to say that only Russia, Serbia, and
France wished a general European war, under the conditions that existed in the summer of 19l4; that Austria-Hungary wished
a local punitive war against Serbia, but desired to avert, if possible, a general war, and that Germany, England, and Italy
did not wish any kind of war, but were too stupid, dilatory, or involved in entanglements to prevent either the Austro-Serbian
war or the wider conflict. The Kaiser had favored an immediate attack on Serbia by Austria right after the assassination,
but, following the Serbian reply to the Austrian ultimatum, he favored negotiations and opposed any general war.
- Those in the Serbian, Russian and French cabinets, if any, who were personally opposed to war were, of course, in time
carried along with the bellicose majority.
- I.e., the idea that American political ideals and liberties are a heritage from a racially pure Anglo-Saxon England.
- From the studies of Professor Charles C. Tansill and others it would seem that on the rare occasions when President Wilson
and Secretary Lansing became outraged over the grossest British violations of our neutrality, Colonel House invariably appeared
on the spot to prevent even a show of firmness on the part of our State Department.
- Professor Tansill believes that this conference was probably held in February rather than April. I still incline to credit
the April date.
- Grey of Fallodon, Twenty-five Years, Vol. II, p. 127; and B. J. Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter Hines
Page, Vol. III, p. 279.
- Manchester Guardian, January 27, 1920.
- There has been much dispute as to whether we were forced into war by the loans and sales to the Allies or by the resumption
of German submarine warfare early in 1917. In an important article in Science and Society (spring, 1939) on "Neutrality
and Economic Pressures, 1914-1917" Professor Paul Birdsall shows that the two were inseparably tied together.
- Editor's note: Compare Wickham Steed's statement in the article on propaganda in the Encyclopedia Brittanica (14th ed.,
Vol. 18, pp. 581-582): "Before 1914 Germany alone among the great countries of the world carried it [propaganda] on systematically.
While other countries and other Governments engaged, from time to time, in special propagandist campaigns for definite objects,
German propaganda was continuous and widespread. It was carried on chiefly by the Press Bureau of the German Foreign Office
among the representatives of foreign newspapers resident in Berlin; by foreign press bureaux and telegraph agencies affiliated
to the German press bureau and to the German official telegraph agency, by the staffs of German embassies and legations abroad,
and by the head offices of foreign branches of German banks and shipping companies.... For some months after the war broke
out German propaganda had the field to itself. The Allied Governments were unprepared to meet it." This does not, of course,
invalidate Barnes' contention that the Allies, once they got started, conducted their propaganda in the United States more
effectively than the Germans. The reader should note that Steed himself was a propagandist. W. W.
- Von Moltke's physical incapacity in 1914 was fully described to the writer by Admiral von Tirpitz.
- The common conviction, repeated by most non-expert historians of the war, that the German advance in 1914 was brought
to an abrupt halt by the French counter-attack is quite mistaken. In spite of von Bulow's blunder, the Germans could easily
have taken Paris and paralyzed the English army if Colonel Hentsch had not advised retreat. Some of the German officers at
the front threw their swords in the dust and others threatened to shoot Hentsch, but in the end they obeyed the order to retreat.
- Cf. J. A. Hammerton, Universal History of the World, Amalgamated Press, 8 vols., 1927-29, Chaps. 178-80.
- See Ferdinand Avenarius, How the War Madness Was Engineered, Berlin, 1926; Behind the Scenes in French Journalism,
by a French Chief Editor, Berlin, 1925; Sir Campbell Stuart, The Secrets of Crewe House, Doran, 1920; and H. C. Peterson,
Propaganda for War, University of Oklahoma Press, 1939.
- See Granville Hicks, "The Parsons and the War," American Mercury, February, 1927; and Ray Abrams, The Preachers
Present Arms, Round Table Press, 1933.
- E. L. Bogart, Direct and Indirect Costs of the Great World War, Oxford Press, 1919, p. 299.
- Scholastic, November 10, 1934, p. 13.
- James Kerney, The Political Education of Woodrow Wilson, Century, 1925, p. 476
Abrams, Ray, Preachers Present Arms, Round Table Press, 1933.
Bakeless, John, The Economic Causes of Modern War, Viking Press, 1921. — The Origin of the Next War,
Viking Press, 1926.
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Beazley, C. Raymond, The Road to Ruin in Europe, 1890-1914, Dent, 1932
Bogart, E. L., Direct and Indirect Costs of the Great World War, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1920.
Brandenburg, Erich, From Bismarck to the World War, Oxford Press, 1927.
Chambers, Frank P., The War Behind the War, 1914-1918, Harcourt, Brace, 1939.
Clark, J. M., The Costs of the World War to the American People, Yale University Press, 1931.
Cochran, M. H., Germany Not Guilty in 1914, Stratford Press, 1931.
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Dickinson, G. L., The International Anarchy, 1904-14, Century, 1926.
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Renouvin, Pierre, The Immediate Origins of the War, Yale University Press, 1928.
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