« AnteriorContinuar »
ready mentioned these facts in its report of Sept. 10, (third report.)
The facts which have been gathered since then have confirmed its conclusions.
The odious acts which have been committed in all parts of the country have a general character, throwing the responsibility upon the whole German Army. It is simply the application of a preconceived system-the carrying out of instructions-which has made of the enemy's troops in Belgium "a horde of barbarians and a band of incendiaries."
The reports which the commission has had the honor of submitting to you up to the present, Mr. Minister, concern especially events of which the towns of
"A Scrap of Paper"
Current Versions of the German Chancellor's Reference to the Belgian Treaty of Neutrality*
By Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg and Sir Edward Grey
*The report of Sir Edward Goschen, British Ambassador to Berlin, on the severance of diplomatic connections between England and Germany, was published by the British Foreign Office as a "White Paper on Aug. 27, 1914. Sir Edward said that in pursuance of instructions from Downing Street, he went on Aug. 3 to see Gottlieb von Jagow, the German Foreign Minister, and asked if Germany would promise to respect Belgian neutrality. Herr von Jagow replied that it was too late, as German troops had already crossed the Belgian border, and explained the military necessity of this step.
After remonstrance, Sir Edward withdrew, but made another visit the same afternoon and warned von Jagow that unless the German Government at once withdrew its troops from Belgian soil he must demand his passports. Herr von Jagow repeated that withdrawal was impossible; and, seeing that war was now certain, expressed his deep regret at the failure of the policy by which he and the Chancellor, Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, had been trying to get into more friendly relations with England and through her with France.
The Ambassador, after mutual expressions of personal regard, withdrew and visited the Imperial Chancellor, who, according to Sir Edward's story, "began a harangue, which
the turn given to it in the biased comment of our enemies are undoubtedly responsible for this impression."
The speaker was Dr. Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Imperial Chancellor, and the conversation with a representative of The Associated Press occurred at the German Army Field Headquarters, in a town of Northern France, and in a villa serving as the office and dwelling for the Imperial Chancellor, for the Foreign Minister, Gottlieb von Jagow, and for the members
lasted about twenty minutes. Just for a word, neutrality '-a word which in war was so often disregarded-just for a scrap of paper, Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation. The policy to which he had devoted himself had tumbled like a house of cards. What Great Britain hal done was unthinkable-it was like striking a man in the back when he was fighting for his life against two assailants."
Sir Edward said that he protested strongly against this and told the Chancellor that, while an advance through Belgium might be a matter of life and death for Germany, the defense of Belgian neutrality, in compliance with her solemn engagement, was a matter of life and death for the honor of Great Britain.
"The Chancellor said," Sir Edward continued: "But at what a price will that compact have been kept! Has the British Government thought of that?' I hinted to his Excellency as plainly as I could that fear of consequences could hardly be regarded as an excuse for breaking a solemn engagement. But his Excellency was so excited, so little disposed to hear reason, so evidently overcome by the news of our action, that I refrained from adding fuel to the flame by further argument."
of the diplomatic suite accompanying Emperor William afield.
The Chancellor apparently had not relished the subject until his attention was called to the extent to which the phrase had been used in discussion on the responsibility of the war. He then volunteered to give an explanation of his meaning, which in substance was that he had spoken of the treaty not as scrap of paper " for Germany, but as an instrument which had become obsolete through Belgium's forfeiture of its neutrality, and that Great Britain had quite other reasons for entering into the war, compared with which the neutrality treaty appeared to have only the value of a scrap of paper.
"My conversation with Sir Edward Goschen," said the Chancellor, 66 curred Aug. 4. I had just declared in the Reichstag that only dire necessity and only the struggle for existence compelled Germany to march through Belgium, but that Germany was ready to make compensation for the wrong committed.
"When I spoke I already had certain indications, but no absolute proof upon which to base a public accusation, that Belgium long before had abandoned its neutrality in its relations with England. Nevertheless, I took Germany's responsibilities toward the neutral States so seriously that I spoke frankly of the wrong committed by Germany.
"What was the British attitude on the same question?" continued the Chancellor. "The day before my conversation with Ambassador Goschen, Sir Edward Grey had delivered his wellknown speech in Parliament, in which, while he had not stated expressly that England would take part in the war, he had left the matter in little doubt.
"One needs only to read this speech through carefully to learn the reason for England's intervention in the war. Amid all his beautiful phrases about England's honor and England's obligations we find it over and over again expressed that England's interests-its own interestscall for participation in the war, for it is not in England's interests that a vic
torious and therefore stronger Germany should emerge from the war.
"This old principle of England policy -to take as the sole criterion of its actions its private interests regardless of right, reason, or considerations of humanity is expressed in that speech of Gladstone's in 1870 on Belgian neutrality, from which Sir Edward quoted.
"Mr. Gladstone then declared that he was unable to subscribe to the doctrine that the simple fact of the existence of a guarantee is binding on every party thereto, irrespective altogether of the particular position in which it may find itself at a time when the occasion for action on the guarantee arrives; and he referred to such English statesmen as Aberdeen and Palmerston as supporters of his views.
England drew the sword," continued the Chancellor, only because it believed its own interests demanded it. Just for Belgian neutrality it would never have entered the war.
"That is what I meant when I told Sir Edward Goschen in that last interview, when we sat down to talk the matter over privately as man to man, that among the reasons which had impelled England to go into the war the Belgian neutrality treaty had for her only the value of a scrap of paper.
“I may have been a bit excited and aroused," said the Chancellor. "Who would not have been at seeing the hopes and the work of the whole period of my Chancellorship going for nought? I recalled to the Ambassador my efforts for years to bring about an understanding between England and Germany; an understanding which, I reminded him, would have made a general European war impossible, and which absolutely would have guaranteed the peace of Europe.
"Such an understanding," the Chancellor interjected parenthetically, "would have formed the basis on which we could have approached the United States as a third partner; but England had not taken up this plan, and through its entry into the war had destroyed forever the hope of its fulfillment.
"In comparison with such momentous consequences was the treaty not a scrap of paper? England ought really to cease harping on this theme of Belgian neutrality," said the Chancellor. "Documents on the Anglo-Belgian military agreement which we have found in the meantime show plainly enough how England regarded this neutrality. As you know, we found in the archives of the Belgian Foreign Office documents which showed that England in 1911 was determined to throw troops into Belgium without the assent of the Belgian Government if war had then broken out-in other words, to do exactly the same thing for which, with all the pathos of virtuous indignation, it now reproaches Germany.
"In some later dispatch Sir Edward Grey, I believe, informed Belgium that he did not believe England would take such a step because he did not think English public opinion would justify that action. And still people in the United States wonder that I characterized as a scrap of paper the treaty whose observance, according to responsible British statesmen, should be dependent on the pleasure of British public opinion-a treaty which England itself had long since undermined with its military agreements with Belgium!
"Remember, too, that Sir Edward Grey expressly refused to assure us of England's neutrality even in the event that Germany respected Belgian neutrality.
"I can understand, therefore, the English displeasure at my characterization of the Treaty of 1839 as a scrap of paper, for this scrap of paper was for England extremely valuable, furnishing an excuse before the world for embarking in the war.
"I hope, however, that in the United States you will see clearly enough that England in this matter, too, acted solely on the principle of 'right or wrong, my interest.'"
The Chancellor during the conversation had twice risen to take a few impatient steps about the room. He spoke calmly enough, but with an undercurrent
of deep feeling, particularly when he mentioned his efforts for an understanding with England and the world peace which he had hoped would come from them based on an agreement between Great Britain, Germany, and the United States, and with a note of thorough conviction as to the justice of the German position toward Belgium.
SIR EDWARD GREY'S REPLY ONDON,
Jan. 26.-Sir Edward Grey, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, today authorized the following statement in reply to an interview obtained with Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Imperial Chancellor, by a representative of The Associated Press and published in London on Jan. 26 and in the United States on Jan. 25:
"The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs authorizes the publication of the following observations upon the report of an interview recently granted by the German Chancellor to an American correspondent. It is not surprising that the German Chancellor should show anxiety to explain away his now historic phrase about a treaty being a mere 'scrap of paper.'
The phrase has made a deep impression because the progress of the world largely depends upon the sanctity of agreements between individuals and between nations, and the policy disclosed in Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg's phrase tends to debase the legal and moral currency of civilization.
"What the German Chancellor said was that Great Britain in requiring Germany to respect the neutrality of Belgium 'was going to make war just for a word, just for a scrap of paper'— that is, that Great Britain was making a mountain out of a molek asks the American pu he meant the exact e said; that is
"The arguments by which Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg seeks to establish the two sides of this case are in flat contradiction of the plain facts.
"First, the German Chancellor alleges that 'England in 1911 was determined to throw troops into Belgium without the assent of the Belgian Government.' This allegation is absolutely false. It is based upon certain documents found in Brussels which record conversations between British and Belgian officers in 1906, and again in 1911.
"The fact that there is no note of these conversations at the British War Office or the Foreign Office shows that they were of a purely informal character and that no military agreement of any sort was at either time made between the two Governments. Before any conversations took place between the British and the Belgian officers it was expressly laid down on the British side that discussion of the military possibilities was to be addressed to the manner in which, in case of need, British assistance could be most effectually afforded to Belgium for the defense of her neutrality, and on the Belgian side a marginal note upon the record explains that 'the entry of the English into Belgium would only take place after the violation of our (Belgium's) neutrality by Germany.'
"As regards the conversation of 1911, the Belgian officer said to the British officer: You could only land in our country with our consent'; and in 1913 Sir Edward Grey gave the Belgian Government a categorical assurance that no British Government would violate the neutrality of Belgium and that 'so long as it was not violated by any other power we should certainly not send troops ourselves into their territory.'
"The Chancellest Gethod of misusillustrated in ts Sir Ed
that this Government would not be the first to violate the neutrality of Belgium, and I did not believe that any British Government would be the first to do so, nor would public opinion here ever approve of it.'
"If the German Chancellor wishes to know why there were conversations on military subjects between British and Belgian officers he may find one reason in a fact well known to him-namely, that Germany was establishing an elaborate network of strategical railways leading from the Rhine to the Belgian frontier through a barren, thinly populated tract. The railways were deliberately constructed to permit of a sudden attack upon Belgium, such as was carried out in August last.
"This fact alone was enough to justify any communications between Belgium and the other powers on the footing that there would be no violation of Belgian neutrality, unless it was previously violated by another power. On no other footing did Belgium ever have any such communications.
"In spite of these facts the German Chancellor speaks of Belgium as having thereby 'abandoned and forfeited' her neutrality, and he implies that he would not have spoken of the German invasion as a 'wrong' had he then known of the conversations of 1906 and 1911.
"It would seem to follow that according to Herr von Bethmann - Hollweg's code wrong becomes right if the party which is to be the subject of the wrong foresees the possibility and makes preparations to resist it.
"Those who are content with older and more generally accepted standards are likely to agree rather with what Cardinal Mercier said in his pastoral letter: 'Belgium was bound in honor to defend her own independence. She kept her oath. The other powers were bound to respect and to protect her neutrality. Germany violated her oath. England kept hers. These are the facts.'
"In the second part of the German Chancellor's thesis, namely, that Germany took her responsibilities toward the neutral States seriously,' he alleges