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The Plotter Behind The Scene

( Originally Published 1918 )



ONE factor alone caused the great war.

It was not the assassination at Sarajevo, not the Slavic ferment of anti-Teutonism in Austria and the Balkans. The only cause of the world's greatest war was the de-termination of the German High Command and the powerful circle surrounding it that "Der Tag" had arrived. The assassination at Sarajevo was only the peg for the pendant of war. Another peg would have been found inevitably had not the projection of that assassination presented itself as the excuse.

Germany's military machine was ready. A gray-green uniform that at a distance would fade into misty obscurity had been devised after exhaustive experiments by optical, dye and cloth experts cooperating with the military high command. These uniforms had been standardized and fitted for the millions of men enrolled in Germany's regular and reserve armies. Rifles, great pyramids of munitions, field kitchens, traveling post-offices, motor lorries, a network of military railways leading to the French and Belgian border, all these and more had been made ready. German soldiers had received instructions which enabled each man at a signal to go to an appointed place where he found everything in readiness for his long forced marches into the territory of Germany's neighbors.

More than all this, Germany's spy system, the most elaborate and unscrupulous in the history of mankind, had enabled the German High Command to construct in advance of the declaration of war concrete gun emplacements in Belgium and other invaded territory. The cellars of dwellings and shops rented or owned by German spies were camouflaged concrete foundations for the great guns of Austria and Germany. These emplacements were in exactly the right position for use against the fortresses of Germany's foes. Advertisements and shop-signs were used by spies as guides for the marching German armies of invasion. In brief, Germany had planned for war.

She was approximately ready for it. Under the shelter of such high-sounding phrases as "We demand our place in the sun," and "The seas must be free," the German people were educated into the belief that the hour of Germany's destiny was at hand.

German psychologists, like other German scientists, had cooperated with the imperial militaristic government for many years to bring the Germanic mind into a condition of docility. So well did they understand the mentality and the trends of character of the German people that it was comparatively easy to impose upon them a militaristic system and philosophy by which the individual yielded countless personal liberties for the alleged good of the state. Rigorous and compulsory military service, unquestioning adherence to the doctrine that might makes right and a cession to "the All-Highest, as the Emperor was styled, of supreme powers in the state, are some of the sufferances to which the German people submitted.

German propaganda abroad was quite as vigorous as at home, but infinitely less successful. The German High Command did not expect England to enter the war. It counted upon America's neutrality with a leaning toward Germany. It believed that German colonization in South Africa and South America would incline these vast domains toward friend-ship for the Central Empire. How mistaken the propagandists and psychologists were events have demonstrated.

It was this dream of world-domination by Teutonic kultur that supplied the motive leading to the world's greatest war. Bosnia, an unwilling province of Austria-Hungary, at one time a province of Serbia and overwhelmingly Slavic in its population, had been seething for years with an anti-Teutonic ferment. The Teutonic court at Vienna, leading the minority Germanic party in Austria-Hungary, had been endeavoring to allay the agitation among the Bosnian Slays. In pursuance of that policy, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir-presumptive to the thrones of Austria and Hungary, and his morganatic wife, Sophia Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg, on June 28, 1914, visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. On the morning of that day, while they were being driven through the narrow streets of the ancient town, a bomb was thrown at them, but they were uninjured. They were driven through the streets again in the afternoon, for purpose of public display. A student, just out of his 'teens, one Gavrilo Prinzep, attacked the royal party with a magazine pistol and killed both the Archduke and his wife.

Here was the excuse for which Germany had waited. Here was the dawn of "The Day." The Germanic court of Austria asserted that the crime was the result of a conspiracy, leading directly to the Slavic court of Serbia. The Serbians in their turn declared that they knew nothing of the assassination. They pointed out the fact that Sophia Chotek was a Slav, and that Francis Ferdinand was more liberal than any other member of the Austrian royal house-hold, and finally, that he, more than any other member of the Austrian court, understood and respected the Slavic character and aspirations.

At six o'clock on the evening of July 23d, Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia, presenting eleven demands and stipulating that categorical replies must be delivered before six o'clock on the evening of July 25th. Although the language in which the ultimatum was couched was humiliating to Serbia, the answer was duly delivered within the stipulated time.

The demands of the Austrian note in brief were as follows:

1. The Serbian Government to give formal assurance of its condemnation of Serb propaganda against Austria.

2. The next issue of the Serbian "Official Journal" was to contain a declaration to that effect.

3. This declaration to express regret that Serbian officers had taken part in the propaganda.

4. The Serbian Government to promise that it would proceed rigorously against all guilty of such activity.

5. This declaration to be at once communicated by the King of Serbia to his army, and to be published in the official bulletin as an order of the day.

6. All anti-Austrian publications in Serbia to be suppressed.

7. The Serbian political party known as the "National Union" to be suppressed, and its means of propaganda to be confiscated.

8. All anti-Austrian teaching in the schools of Serbia to be suppressed.

9. All officers, civil and military, who might be designated by Austria as guilty of anti-Austrian propaganda to be dismissed by the Serbian Government.

10. Austrian agents to co-operate with the Serbian Government in suppressing all anti-Austrian propaganda, and to take part in the judicial proceedings con-ducted hi Serbia against those charged with complicity in the crime at Sarajevo.

11. Serbia to explain to Austria the meaning of anti-Austrian utterances of Serbian officials at homo and abroad, since the assassination.

To the first and second demands Serbia un-hesitatingly assented.

To the third demand, Serbia assented, aIthough no evidence was given to show that Serbian officers had taken part in the propaganda.

The Serbian Government assented to the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth demands also.

Extraordinary as was the ninth demand, which would allow the Austrian Government to proscribe Serbian officials, so eager for peace and friendship was the Serbian Government that it assented to it, with the stipulation that the Austrian Government should offer some proof of the guilt of the proscribed officers.

The tenth demand, which in effect allowed Austrian agents to control the police and courts of Serbia, it was not possible for Serbia to accept without abrogating her sovereignty. However, it was not unconditionally rejected, but the Serbian Government asked that it be made the subject of further discussion, or be referred to arbitration.

The Serbian Government assented to the eleventh demand, on the condition that if the explanations which would be given concerning the alleged anti-Austrian utterances of Serbian officials would not prove satisfactory to the Austrian Government, the matter should be submitted to mediation or arbitration.

Behind the threat conveyed in the Austrian ultimatum was the menacing figure of militant Germany. The veil that had hitherto concealed the hands that worked the string, was removed when Germany, under the pretense of localizing the quarrel to Serbian and Austrian soil, interrogated France and England, asking them to prevent Russia from defending Serbia in the event of an attack by Austria upon the Serbs. England and France promptly refused to participate in a tragedy which would deliver Serbia to Austria as Bosnia had been delivered. Russia, bound by race and creed to Serbia, read into the ultimatum of Teutonic kultur a determination for warfare. Mobilization of the Russian forces along the Austrian frontier was arranged, when it was seen that Serbia's pacific reply to Austria's demands would be contemptuously disregarded by Germany and Austria.

During the days that intervened between the issuance of the ultimatum and the actual declaration of war by Germany against Russia on Saturday, August 1st, various sincere efforts were made to stave off the world-shaking catastrophe. Arranged chronologically, these events may thus be summarized: Russia, on July 24th, formally asked Austria if she in-tended to annex Serbian territory by way of reprisal for the assassination at Sarajevo. On the same day Austria replied that it had no present intention to make such annexation. Russia then requested an extension of the forty-eight-hour time-limit named in the ultimatum.

Austria, on the morning of Saturday, July 25th, refused Russia's request for an extension of the period named in the ultimatum. On the same day, the newspapers published in Petrograd printed an official note issued by the Russian Government warning Europe generally that Russia would not remain indifferent to the fate of Serbia. These newspapers also printed the appeal of the Serbian Crown Prince to the Czar dated on the preceding day, urging that Russia come to the rescue of the menaced Serbs. Serbia's peaceful reply surrendering on all points except one, and agreeing to submit that to arbitration, was sent late in the afternoon of the same day, and that night Austria declared the reply to be unsatisfactory and withdrew its minister from Belgrade.

England commenced its attempts at pacification on the following day, Sunday, July 26th. Sir Edward Grey spent the entire Sabbath in the Foreign Office and personally conducted the correspondence that was calculated to bring the dispute to a peaceful conclusion. He did not reckon, however, with a Germany deter-mined upon war, a Germany whose manufacturers, ship-owners and Junkers had combined with its militarists to achieve "Germany's place in the sun" even though the world would be stained in the blood of the most frightful war this earth has ever known. Realization of this fact did not come to Sir Edward Grey until his negotiations with Germany and with Austria-Hungary had proceeded for some time. His first suggestion was that the dispute between Russia and Austria be committed to the arbitration of Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Russia accepted this but Germany and Austria rejected it. Russia had previously suggested that the dispute be settled by a conference between the diplomatic heads at Vienna and Petrograd. This also was refused by Austria.

Sir Edward Grey renewed his efforts on Monday, July 27th, with an invitation to Germany to present suggestions of its own, looking toward a settlement. This note was never answered. Germany took the position that its proposition to compel Russia to stand aside while Austria punished Serbia had been rejected by England and France and it had nothing further to propose.

During all this period of negotiation the German Foreign Office, to all outward appearances at least, had been acting independently of the Kaiser, who was in Norway on a vacation trip. He returned to Potsdam on the night of Sunday, July 26th. On Monday morning the Czar of Russia received a personal message from the Kaiser, urging Russia to stand aside that Serbia might be punished. The Czar immediately replied with the suggestion that the whole matter be submitted to The Hague. No reply of any kind was ever made to this proposal by Germany.

All suggestions and negotiations looking forward to peace were brought to a tragic end on the following day, Tuesday, July 28th, when Austria declared war on Serbia, having speedily mobilized troops at strategic points on the Serbian border. Russian mobilization, which had been proceeding only in a tentative way, on the Austrian border, now became general, and on July 30th, mobilization of the entire Russian army- was proclaimed.

Germany's effort to exclude England from the war began on Thursday, July 30th. A note, sounding Sir Edward Grey on the question of British neutrality in the event of war was received, and a curt refusal to commit the British Empire to such a proposal was the reply. Sir Edward Grey, in a last determined effort to avoid a world-war, suggested to Germany, Austria, Serbia and Russia that the military operations commenced by Austria should be recognized as merely a punitive expedition. He further suggested that when a point in Serbian territory previously fixed upon should have been reached, Austria would halt and would submit her further action to arbitration in the conference of the Powers. Russia agreed unreservedly to this proposition, Austria gave a half-hearted assent to the principle involved. Germany made no reply.

The die was cast for war on the following day, July 31st, when Germany made a dictatorial and arrogant demand upon Russia that mobilization of that nation's military forces be stopped within twelve hours. Russia made no reply, and on Saturday, August 1st, Germany set the world aflame with the dread of war's horror by her declaration of war upon Russia.

Germany's responsibility for this monumental crime against the peace of the world is eternally fixed upon her, not only by these out-ward and visible acts and negotiations, not only by her years of patient preparation for the war into which she plunged the world. The responsibility is fastened upon her forever by the revelations of her own ambassador to England during this fateful period. Prince Lichnowsky, in a remarkable communication which was given to the world, laid bare the machinations of the German High Command and its advisers. He was a guest of the Kaiser at Kiel on board the Imperial yacht Meteor when the message was received informing the Kaiser of the assassination at Sarajevo. His story continues.

Being unacquainted with the Vienna viewpoint and what was going on there, I attached no very far-reaching significance to the event; but, looking back, I could feel sure that in the Austrian aristocracy a feeling of re-lief outweighed all others. His Majesty regretted that his efforts to win over the Archduke to his ideas had thus been frustrated by the Archduke's assassination.

I went on to Berlin and saw the Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg. I told him that I regarded our foreign situation as very satisfactory as it was a long time indeed since we had stood so well with England. And in France there was a pacifist cabinet. Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg did not seem to share my optimism. He complained of the Russian armaments. I tried to tranquilize him with the argument that it was not to Russia's interest to attack us, and that such an attack would never have English or French support, as both countries wanted peace.

I went from him to Dr. Zimmermann (the under Secretary) who was acting for Herr von Jagow (the Foreign Secretary), and learned from him that Russia was about to call up nine hundred thousand new troops. His words unmistakably denoted ill-humor against Russia, who, he said, stood everywhere in our way. In addition, there were questions of commercial policy that had to be settled. That General von Moltke was urging war was, of course, not told to me. I learned, however, that Herr von Tschirschky (the German Ambassador at Vienna) had been reproved because he said that he had advised Vienna to show moderation toward Serbia.

Prince Lichnowsky went to his summer home in Silesia, quite unaware of the Impending crisis. He continues:

When I returned from Silesia on my way to London, I stopped only a few hours in Berlin, where I heard that Austria intended to proceed against Serbia so as to bring to an end an unbearable state of affairs. Unfortunately, I failed at the moment to gauge the significance of the news. I thought that once more it would come to nothing; that even if Russia acted threateningly, the matter could soon be settled. I now regret that I did not stay in Berlin and declare there and then that I would have no hand in such a policy.

There was a meeting in Potsdam, as early as July 5th, between the German and Austrian authorities, at which meeting war was decided on. Prince Lichnowsky says :

I learned afterwards that at the decisive discussion at Potsdam on July 5th the Austrian demand had met with the unconditional approval of all the personages in authority; it was even added that no harm would be done if war with Russia did come out of it. It was so stated at least in the Austrian report received at London by Count Mensdorff (the Austrian Ambassador to England).

At this point I received instructions to endeavor to bring the English press to a friendly attitude in case Austria should deal the death-blow to "Greater-Serbian" hopes. I was to use all my influence to prevent public opinion in England from taking a stand against Austria. I remember England's attitude during the Bosnian annexation crisis, when public opinion showed itself in sympathy with the Serbian claims to Bosnia; I recalled also the benevolent promotion of nationalist hopes that went on in the days of Lord Byron and Garibaldi; and on these and other grounds I thought it extremely unlikely that English public opinion would support a punitive expedition against the Archduke's murderers. I thus felt it my duty to enter an urgent warning against the whole project, which I characterized as venturesome and dangerous, I recommended that counsels of moderation be given Austria, as I did not believe that the conflict could be localized (that is to say, it could not be limited to a war between Austria and Serbia).

Herr von Jagow answered me that Russia was not prepared; that there would be more or less of a rumpus; but that the more firmly we stood by Austria, the more surely would Russia give way. Austria was already blaming us for flabbiness and we could not flinch. On the other hand, Russian sentiment was growing more unfriendly all the time, and we must simply take the risk. I subsequently learned that this attitude was based on advices from Count Pourtales (the German Ambassador in Petrograd), that Russia would not stir under any circumstances; information which prompted us to spur Count Berchtold on in his course. On learning the attitude of the German Government I looked for salvation through English mediation, knowing that Sir Edward Grey's influence in Petrograd could be used in the cause of peace. I therefore, availed myself of my friendly relations with the Minister to ask him confidentially to advise moderation in Russia in case Austria demanded satisfaction from the Serbians, as it seemed likely she would.

The English press was quiet at first, and friendly to Austria, the assassination being generally condemned. By degrees, however, more and more voices made them-selves heard, in the sense that, however necessary it might be to take cognizance of the crime, any exploitation of it for political en& was unjustifiable. Moderation was enjoined upon Austria. When the ultimatum came out, all the papers, with the exception of the Standard, were unanimous in condemning it. The whole world, outside of Berlin and Vienna, realized that it meant war, and a world war too. The English fleet, which happened to have been holding a naval review, was not demobilized.

The British Government labored to make the Serbian reply conciliatory, and "the Serbian answer was in keeping with the British efforts." Sir Edward Grey then proposed his plan of mediation upon the two points which Serbia had not wholly conceded. Prince Lichnowsky writes :

Mr. Cambon (for France), Marquis Imperiali (for Italy), and I were to meet, with Sir Edward in the chair, and it would have been easy to work out a formula for the debated points, which had to do with the co-operation of imperial and royal officials in the inquiries to be conducted at Belgrade. By the exercise of good will everything could have been settled in one or two sittings, and the mere acceptance of the British proposal would have relieved the strain and further improved our relations with England. I seconded this plan with all my energies. In vain. I was told (by Berlin) that it would be against the dignity of Austria. Of course, all that was needed was one hint from Berlin to Count Berchtold (the Austrian Foreign Minister) ; he would have satisfied himself with a diplomatic triumph and rested on the Serbian answer. That hint was never given. On the contrary, pressure was brought in favor of war. .

After our refusal Sir Edward asked us to come for-ward with our proposal. We insisted on war. No other answer could I get (from Berlin) than that it was a colossal condescension on the part of Austria not to contemplate any acquisition of territory. Sir Edward justly pointed out that one could reduce a country to vassalage without acquiring territory; that Russia would see this, and regard it as a humiliation not to be put up with. The impression grew stronger and stronger that we were bent on war. Otherwise our attitude toward a question in which we were not directly concerned was incomprehensible. The insistent requests and well-defined declarations of M. Sasanof, the Czar's positively humble telegrams, Sir Edward's repeated proposals, the warnings of Marquis San Guiliano and of Bollati, my own pressing admonitions were all of no avail. Berlin remained inflexible-Serbia must be slaughtered.

Then, on the 29th, Sir Edward decided upon his well-known warning. I told him I had always reported (to Berlin) that we should have to reckon with English opposition if it came to a war with France. Time and again the Minister said to me, "If war breaks out it will be the greatest catastrophe the world has ever seen." And now events moved rapidly. Count Berchtold at last decided to come around, having up to that point played the rôle of "Strong man" under guidance of Berlin. Thereupon we (in answer to Russia's mobilization) sent our ultimatum and declaration of war—after Russia had spent a whole week in fruitless negotiation and waiting.

Thus ended my mission in London. It had suffered shipwreck, not on the wiles of the Briton but on the wiles of our own policy. Were not those right who saw that the German people were pervaded with the spirit of Treitschke and Bernhardi, which glorifies war as an end instead of holding it in abhorrence as an evil thing? Properly speaking militarism is a school for the people and an instrument to further political ends. But in the patriarchal absolutism of a military monarchy, militarism exploits politics to further its own ends, and can create a situation which a democracy freed from junker dom would not tolerate.

That is what our enemies think; that is what they are bound to think when they see that in spite of capitalistic industrialism and in spite of socialistic organizations, the living, as Nietzsche said, are still ruled by the dead. The democratization of Germany, the first war aim proposed by our enemies, will become a reality.

This is the frank statement of a great German statesman made long before Germany received its knock-out blow. It was written when German militarism was sweeping all be-fore it on land, and when the U-boat was at the height of its murderous powers on the high seas.

No one in nor out of Germany has controvrted any of its statements and it will forever remain as one of the counts in the indictment against Germany and the sole cause of the world's greatest misery, the war.

America's outstanding authority on matters of international conduct, former Secretary of State Elihu Root, declared that the World War was a mighty and all-embracing struggle between two conflicting principles of human right and human duty ; it was a conflict between the divine right of kings to govern mankind through armies and nobles, and the right of the peoples of the earth who toil and endure and aspire to govern themselves by law under justice, and in the freedom of individual manhood.

After the declaration of war against Russia by Germany, events marched rapidly and inevitably toward the general conflagration. Germany's most strenuous efforts were directed toward keeping England out of the conflict. We have seen in the revelations of Prince Lichnowsky how eager was England to divert Germany's murderous purpose. There are some details, however, required to fill in the diplomatic picture.

President Poincaré, of the French RepubliC, on July 30th, asked the British Ambassador in Paris for an assurance of British support. On the following day he addressed a similar letter to King George of England. Both re-quests were qualifiedly refused on the ground that England wished to be free to continue negotiations with Germany for the purpose of averting the war. In the meantime, the German Government addressed a note to England offering guarantees for Belgian integrity, providing Belgium did not side with France, offering to respect the neutrality of Holland and giving assurance that no French territory in Europe would be annexed if Germany won the war. Sir Edward Grey described this as a "shameful proposal," and rejected it on July 80th.

On July 31st England sent a note to France and Germany asking for a statement of pur-, pose concerning Belgian neutrality. France immediately announced that it would respect the treaty of 1839 and its reaffirmation in 1870, guaranteeing Belgium's neutrality. This treaty was entered into by Germany, England, France, Austria and Russia. Germany's reply on August 1st was a proposal that she would respect the neutrality of Belgium if England would stay out of the war. This was promptly declined. On August 2d the British cabinet agreed that if the German fleet attempted to attack the coast of France the British fleet would intervene. Germany, the next day, sent a note agreeing to refrain from naval attacks on France provided England would remain neutral, but declined to commit herself as to the neutrality of Belgium. Before this, however, on August 2d, Germany had announced to Belgium its intention to enter Belgium for the purpose of attacking France. The Belgian Minister in London made an appeal to thc British Foreign Office and was informed that invasion of Belgium by Germany would be followed by England's declaration of war. Monday, August 8d, was signalized by Belgium's declaration of its neutrality and its firm purpose to defend its soil against invasion by France, England, Germany or any other nation.

The actual invasion of Belgium commenced on the morning of August 4th, when twelve regiments of Uhlans crossed the frontier near Vise, and came in contact with a Belgian force driving it back upon Liége. King Albert of Belgium promptly appealed to England, Russia and France for aid in repelling the invader. England sent an ultimatum to Germany fixing midnight of August 4th as the time for expiration of the ultimatum. This demanded that satisfactory assurances be furnished immediately that Germany would respect the neutrality of Belgium. No reply was made by Germany and England's declaration of war followed.

Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg, of the German Empire, wrote Germany's infamy into history when, in a formal statement, he acknowledged that the invasion of Belgium was "a wrong that we will try to make good again as soon as our military ends have been reached." To Sir Edward Vochen, British Ambassador to Germany, he addressed the inquiry : "Is it the purpose of your country to make war upon Germany for the sake of a scrap of paper?" The treaty of 1839–1870 guaranteeing Belgium's neutrality was the scrap of paper.

With the entrance of England into the war, the issue between autocracy and democracy was made plain before the people of the world. Austria, and later Turkey, joined with Germany; France, and Japan, by reason of their respective treaty obligations joined England and. Russia. Italy for the time preferred to remain neutral, ignoring her implied alliance with the Teutonic empires. How other nations lined up on the one side and the other is indicated by the State Department's list of war declarations, and diplomatic severances.



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