A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 41

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THE MURDER OF THE ARCHDUKE


But in 1914 a change had apparently befallen. England was paralysed. The Irish question had reached such a pitch of intensity that Ulster was proclaiming her right to resist in arms her subordination to an Irish national parliament and executive, half England was declaring that Ulster was in the right, and officers of high standing in the army were openly asserting that they would refuse to act against Ulster. Civil war was in the air. A Liberal government was in office, and it was the established belief of European chancelleries that Liberal governments were peace-at-any-price governments. All the circumstances being taken into consideration, the risk of England being drawn into a European war was small, and if she did come in, her army was small and apparently mutinous, her fleet, according to her own vociferous publicists, was inefficient, either Nationalist Ireland or Ulster would seize the opportunity to revolt.

The hour, then, had come for striking. The Bismarck tradition required that an occasion should be manufactured, and that the occasion should have at least the appearance of being an unwarrantable aggression by the party that was in fact being attacked. The occasion rose in June, 1914. On the 28th of that month the archduke Francis Ferdinand, the prince who was generally believed to be Slavophil, was assassinated in the streets of the Bosnian city of Serajevo. The assassins were Austrian subjects — but they were Serbs. The murder, then, must-be a Serbian plot fostered by the Serbian government. It was indeed not difficult to suggest an entirely different origin for the crime, since it could in no conceivable manner further Serbian or Slavonic interests; but the Austrian government had no doubts about the matter. Even at the best, the intolerable Slavonic propaganda emanating from Serbia must be at the bottom of the outrage, and events moved fast.

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