A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 33

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FRIENDSHIP OF BRITAIN AND FRANCE


British were saturated with jealousy of Germany's commercial progress.

It befell, moreover, that at the moment when the propaganda was in full swing Great Britain and France discovered that their outstanding differences were capable of reasonable adjustment and that living on terms of mutual good will was much more satisfactory than the perpetuation of needless friction. The long reign of Queen Victoria had just ended; the new king, Edward VII, had the gift of popularity, and a visit to France facilitated the development of the new spirit of friendliness. The position of the monarch in England is not readily grasped in other countries, and it was not difficult to imagine that a Machiavellian diplomacy was at work. Coupled with the supposed anti-German tariff agitation, the new accord between Great Britain and France was doubly ominous, and the belief in England's sinister designs gained ground.

Nor was this all. France had already established friendly relations with Russia, and the accommodation of interests between France and Great Britain was soon followed by similar accommodation between Great Britain and Russia, made possible as it had never been before by the effects upon Russia of the disastrous Japanese war. It had been a fundamental part of Bismarck's policy to keep those three Powers at arm's length from each other. Those who carried on this tradition believed that there were plenty of motives holding them apart; there could be only one for their reconciliation of their common desire for the destruction of Germany. The development of this idea was at least a fundamental factor in the complicated story of the ensuing years, and its catastrophic climax in August, 1914.

It is curious to observe that the most idealistic if not the most successful efforts to design an organ for the preservation of the world's peace have emanated from Russian tsars, Alexander I and Nicholas II. In the last thirty years of the 19th century international disputes had with increasing frequency been referred for decision to a neutral arbitrator, Great Britain and the United States having practically led the way by referring their own dispute over the Alabama claim to a neutral court of arbitration.

In 1898 Nicholas invited the Powers to send delegates to a conference to be held at The Hague to discuss ways and means for the reduction of armaments by consent, the common adoption

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