A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 123

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THE PREVALENCE OF RUMOUR


paper a manifesto, in which the prime minister, M. Réne Viviani, rendered homage to the great orator so "basely assassinated," to the "republican socialist who fought for such noble causes, and who in these difficult days supported by his authority in the interests of peace the patriotic action of the government." The whole of France, with no distinction of party or of opinion, rendered to the great citizen a tribute of homage, inspired by a just and sincere feeling of the necessity of solidarity between all Frenchmen at such a tragic moment. Gustave Hervé in La Guerre Sociale, found a formula, which concentrated in compact phrase the universal opinion: "National defence first. Jaurès has been murdered. We shall not murder France!"

As was to be expected, numerous and contradictory rumours spread, which the public, for the most part, accepted with scepticism. It was bruited that the war was becoming general in the Balkans, and that the Turks were attacking their enemies of the year before. But wiser heads were troubled especially by what might happen in Belgium. There was a general belief that the road of the invader was sufficiently barred on the Franco-Belgian frontier by the fortresses of Maubeuge, Lille, and Dunkirk; but the public did not know that, some years before, the military administration had reduced in importance one of these fortresses and dismantled the others.

Uneasiness, too, was to a large extent assuaged when the Belgian government declared that the territory of Belgium would not be violated; but that, with a view to meeting all eventualities, it was preparing for resistance. Reassured in this direction, public opinion found elsewhere new reasons for confidence. Persistent information was forthcoming to the effect that Italy had already decided to remain neutral in the struggle. A conviction that war was henceforth inevitable had taken root in men’s minds; there was a sort of rivalry among the more imaginative and the more ingenious to foresee what turn events would take in the near future. But the most general, serious and constant preoccupation concerned Great Britain. Would she remain neutral? Would she suffer German naval squadrons to come and ravage the coasts of Normandy, to disembark troops in the French ports, before the French fleet—for the most part in the Mediterranean—could arrive to bar the way? France admired the German cunning which, after the check in

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