BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY AND GERMANY.*
ALTHOUGH every student of affairs is familiar by this time with the diplomatic negotiations which preceded the war— for are they not recorded in official books of nearly every
colour of the rainbow, as well as in numerous summaries and commentaries ?—we should be unjust to Mr. Headlain's work if we did not say that nothing better on this subject has appeared. It is first-rate in its clearness of narrative, its sobriety of judgment, and its scholarly arrangement. He tells us that he began to write an analysis of the momentous twelve days before the war for his own satisfaction. Following an excellent habit of scholars, he no doubt wanted to clear his thoughts by setting them down on paper. Then he found that his analysis—fortunate discovery l—must take the form of a narrative, for only thus could be define with precision the
exact circumstances in which each document was written. The complete British and French official books tell their own story well enough, but in the other books there are lacunae. The Russian Orange Book has several omissions ; it contains all the decisions of the Government, though it does not contain, as the British and French Books do, the information on which those decisions were founded, In particular, Mr. Headlam regrets the absence of more communications from the Russian Chargé d'Affaires and Ambassador at Vienna. Happily the omissions are to some extent made good by the enlightening accounts of what happened sent by the British
and French Ambassadors. Links can also be supplied by studying the Austrian Red Book. Mr. Headlam's success is absolute in producing a narrative which assures the reader at
every stage of the author's earnest desire for truth. We do not ask any one to accept this assertion unquestioningly. Let him read the book, and if he agrees with us he will find all the weightier Mr. Headlam's damning statement that his long and careful study has brought him to the conclusion that it is impossible to place any reliance on what the German Govern- ment say, whether they are describing their motives or their intentions or only the simplest facts. Their word can be accepted only when it is amply corroborated from other sources.
As Mr, Headlam says, it is not, after all, difficult to give a consistent and intelligible explanation of one's actions, even in a complicated dispute. Such an explanation can be con- vincing, however, only if it is in accordance in all details with what happened. "Truth is always consistent with itself." Here the German accounts invariably break down. Once there is something to 15e bidden it becomes necessary to slur
over important points. When urgent statements from the other side are omitted or are dismissed with vague generali- ties, the reader is bound to have the uncomfortable con- viction that something is being concealed. The more closely German documents are' studied the more does this feeling grow upon the reader. A painful example of concealment by vague generalities is the latest Note on the Lusitania ' which Germany has sent to the United States. Mr. Headlam says :—
" That this is not a mere general and vague accusation let me point out a few particular instances. Why was Sir Edward Grey's proposal for mediation rejected P The account given is, as is shown (page 141), one quite impossible to accept; our conclusion must be that the real reason for rejection was one which could not be avowed. Why were the negotiations broken off after Russian mobilization P Here again we get an account which is very vague, and which is not supported by any documentary evidence. We find that essential documentary evidence has been omitted (see page 288), and wo are justified in concluding that the whole statement is untrue. What wore the relations between Germany and Austria P We have repeated statements that the German Government was using pressure upon Austria ; all the evidence which we have is to the effect that this is not true. And then, again, what explanation can be given of such an incident as the publication of the telegram of July 30th in the Westminster (Amite, whilo at the same time it is suppressed in all German publications P Was this telegram really sent P If so, why was it wet produced in a more official form P We have a right to demand an answer to this question from the German Government."
The telegram in the Westminster Gazette is very curious, and we must quote it in full. It was published in perfect good faith, we may be sure; but as it was published nowhere else, and is not contained in any German official collection of documents, the only possible conclusion is that this falsehood * (1) The Illetory of Twelve Days, Tali/ 64th to August 40t, f9/4: being en .decount of the Ilegotiattioue Preoeding the Outbreak of War Based on the Moira Publications. fly J. W. Ile:Whim, ALA, London T. fisher Unwin. [10e. 6c1. met.]—(2) The Foreign Poticy of Sir Edward Grey, 1900.1916. By Gilbert Murray. Oxford: at the Clarendon Proem. [le. ed. net.]
was put forth in the true Bismarekitin manner by the
German Government in order to influence British opinion. Here is the telegram, which appeared in the West:aim:to Gazette on August 1st, 1914 "BERLIN, July 30, 1914. The report of Count Pourtales does not harmonise with the account which Your Excellency has given of the attitude of the Austro-Hungarian Government. Apparently there is a misunder- standing, which I bog you to clear up. We cannot expect Austria- Hungary to negotiate with Serbia, with which she is in a state of war. The refusal, however, to exchange views with St, Petersburg would be a grave mistake. We are indeed ready to fulfil our duty. As an ally we must, however, refuse to be drawn into a world conflagration through Austria-Hungary not respecting our advice. Your Excellency will express this to Count Berchtold with all emphasis and great seriousness. (Signed) Biernmaine-Hommao."
Is it likely that this one piece of evidence that Germany tried to restrain Austria would not have had vast official use made of it if it had been really sent by the German Chancellor P Is it credible that the German Government sent this angelically worded message when we know for a fact that the provisional acceptance of mediation by Austria between herself and Serbia was never forwarded from Berlin to London P Austria sent that acceptance by way of Berlin. Berlin stopped it. The world did not hear of this incident till it was recorded in the Austrian Book six months later. Imagine what might have happened if Sir Edward Grey, who had already received the consent of Russia to mediation, had
been allowed to act upon this belated Austrian concession with the goodwill of Germany There would have been no war.
Professor Gilbert Murray's very readable and persuasive defence of Sir Edward Grey's foreign policy is the more valuable as coming from one who was previously inclined to be suspicious of anything that was called Imperialistic. Professor Murray has a soft place in his heart for those who temperamentally discover the good in their enemies and the evil in their own leaders. We acknowledge that within reason such men have great uses ; they are a drag on extremists at the other end of the scale, and they generally correct balances. But
when we find a distinguished Radical and friend of peace taking up his pen to rebuke the Copperheads we look for entertainment, and we certainly get it. Professor Murray has the courage, and also the good sense tactically, to say plainly that he has changed his mind :— " And now I see that on a large part of this question—by no means the whole of it—I was wrong, and a large number of the people wham I honour most were wrong. One is vividly reminded of Lord Melbourne's famous dictum: 'All the sensible men were on one side, and all the d—d fools on the other. And, egad, Sir, the d—d fools were right ! ' What made me change my mind was the action of the various Powers during the last ten days before the war. On July 26 or 27 I was asked to sign a declaration in favour of British neutrality in the case of a war arising between the Great Powers. I agreed without hesitation. I did not believe there would be a war ; the nations were not governed by lunatics : but if by any dreadful blunder there should be war, I thought, let no by all moans keep out of it. During the next week my con- fidence was staggered. The thing was incredible, but it looked as if Germany was deliberately refusing all roads to peace, as if she had made up her mind to have war. By the time the declaration was published—it took a week collecting signatures—my attitude had changed."
What we do not understand even now is how men of honour brought themselves to sign the neutrality manifesto. Pro- fessor Murray cherished the same principles of fair dealing then as he cherishes now. His opinions were of course based on them. He presumably recognized then, as he recognizes
now, that we were committed to France by the strongest bonds short of a written pledge. Yet the " neutralists " were willing to see France knocked over the head while we looked on. We say nothing of the material risk we should have run of
being ourselves knocked over the head later when we should not have had a friend in the world. We would simply ask how neutrality can have seemed fair, sportsmanlike, or honourable to even the most ardent lover of peace. Professor Murray, of course, would like to see nation dealing with nation as a self-respecting and scrupulous man deals with his fellows. But would " neutrality " in a street fight with roughs be a proper attitude for one man, to adopt when he saw his companion attacked—particularly after the two men had actually discussed methods of defence in such an event ? What should we call the onlooker ? Professor Murray's vocabulary must be equal to bestowing a suitable name.
Incidentally Professor Murray provides a satisfactory answer
lo the ill-considered demand for a popular control of diplomacy. He points out that Sir Edward Grey has in fact hound the British people to no vital policy without taking the House of Commons into his confidence. We suppose there must be many thousands of Liberals who have changed their minds about national policy to just the extent to which Professor Murray has changed his. It cannot be supposed that this reorientation of opinion on foreign affairs will have no effect on the arrangement of political parties at home. As we remarked in a notice of Lord Curzon's speeches last week, the average man who mistrusted "Imperialism" had no more substantial objection to it than that it postulated a strong Navy and Army. The sense of obligation and trusteeship in all our Imperialists who collet is very high. But they were mistaken for Jingoes because they insisted on careful defence. The policy which Professor Murray approves in his little book is precisely what we should call sane Imperialism. Its followers are sure to be much more numerous after this war because the school which believes in the unfailing amiability of all other nations as an axiom will be almost extinct. No doubt there will be some who will be foolish enough to tell us that war cannot happen again ; that the one consolation of the Great War was that it made war impossible for the future; and that consequently all the burglar-proof devices may be safely removed from the Imperial household, and so forth. But we do not think the people who will talk thus will be numerous; and we feel sure that the author of this admirable little book will not be one of them.