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UNIV. OF

THE GREAT CRIME AND ITS

MORAL

I

THE CONCEPTION OF THE PLOT

Two years ago, a writer in a French newspaper likened the conduct of the Prussian troops of the time of Frederick the Great to that of the armies of William II, concluding in the following words :

"Their insolent bearing towards the French a hundred years ago, exhibited the same mentalité délirante of which the German soldiers are giving proof to-day. But directly the disillusionment came at Jena, their valour deserted them and they quickly fell to pieces. And history will repeat itself. The Germans are indomitable as long as they are numerically superior to their enemies, but they are incapable of supporting a reverse.1 When they have sustained a serious defeat and have been brought face to face with the real situation, their bluster will evaporate as it did in 1806, and with it their energy and power of resistance. An immediate and total collapse will follow, and their old god himself will sound a parley." 2

Already there are signs that their confidence is failing them, as our advance proceeds in the west, and there

1 "As resourceless in reverse as they are impetuous in success," says Tacitus of their ancestors (Annals, i. 68). "Craven in defeat they respect no law, human or divine, in victory" (ibid., ii. 14).

2 Leur vieux dieu lui-même battra la chamade. See below, p. 243 seq.

B

arises before their vision the spectre of a mighty force, grown of "disorganised battalions" and "contemptible little armies," marching to crush them in its avenging grasp. A leading article in the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten recognised the danger so long ago as October 1916. "On all sides," it wrote, "the ring of our enemies is closing more and more firmly. It is futile to shut our eyes to this. Against us is ranged not only colossal material but immense intellectual and moral force."

The collapse may be postponed, or it may be imminent; it may be unexpectedly hastened by the economic conditions now prevailing in Germany and Austria; in any case it is inevitable. And when it comes, will this nation be ready to do its duty, or shall we be as little prepared for the end of the war as we were for its outbreak? There is a danger that, by that day, some of us will have suffered the memory of the circumstances to which this war owes its origin, and the appalling barbarity with which our enemies have conducted it, to become dimmed, and will be ready to accept a "halting peace," the very peace which Germany is already striving by every means to obtain, namely, conditions which would enable her to recuperate her forces, and prepare for a still more powerful attack upon the rights of man and the freedom of the nations, and an attack which we may well fear would be successful. "After our armies have won the war, our statesmen will have to win the peace, and their task will indeed be difficult unless public opinion is alert, organised, and eager to support them in a clearly-defined and enlightened policy." The present, therefore, is a fitting moment to review the events which brought about the unparalleled carnage of the past years and the rôle which the Central Powers, and in particular, Germany, have played therein from the beginning to the present date.

1

The war arose, in one word, out of Prussian megalomania, or the mad ambition of a section of the Teutonic race to see the peoples of the earth bow down to Germany. This

1 The New Europe, October 19, 1916.

ambition had been growing for forty years, unheeded by the public of this country, in spite of the warnings uttered from time to time by men who were sufficiently clearsighted to recognise its true significance. Of one of these, the late Lord Salisbury, Professor Cramb wrote in 1913— "In this very matter of Germany he foresaw, point by point, her development; at the beginning of his career in one brilliant article after another in our quarterlies, Lord Salisbury, then Lord Robert Cecil, marked out the exact lines which that development took from the Kiel Canal right on to those batteries and 'Dreadnoughts' concentrated there in the North Sea, which are already, whether we regard them as such or not, the first conflict between England and Germany. . If ever a great

warning was given to a people it was contained in those words, in his reference to dying empires and dying nations, to the passing of kingdoms, the vicissitudes of states and the mutation in things; and, above all, in his appeal to Englishmen to arm and prepare themselves for war, for a war which might be on them at any hour and a war for their very existence as a nation and as a race.

"And to the words of the last great Englishman in politics there have been added the message and solemn warning of perhaps the greatest living leader of men in the field of battle... Lord Roberts." 1

For twenty years, as he reminds us, in his Inner History of German Diplomacy, Dr. Dillon had been stating his conviction" that Germany's energies, military, naval, financial, commercial, diplomatic, and journalistic were fixed upon exhaustive preparations for the tremendous struggle to establish Teutonic supremacy in Europe; that that struggle was unavoidable; that the German war machine was in all respects worthy of the money, time and energies that had been spent in creating and perfecting it, and that no European army could compete with it."2 In the Contemporary Review of October, 1911,

1 Germany and England, pp. 37, 38, 39.

2 A Scrap of Paper: The Inner History of German Diplomacy, pp. 50, 51.

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