A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 44
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THE FATEFUL THIRTEEN DAYS
- I said to German ambasssador this morning that if Germany could get a reasonable proposal put forward which made it clear that Germany and Austria were striving to preserve European peace, and that Russia and France would be unreasonable if they rejected it, I would support it at St. Petersburg and Paris, and go the length of saying that if Russia and France would not accept it, His Majesty's Government would have nothing more to do with the consequences; but, otherwise, I told German ambassador that if France became involved we should be drawn in. You can add this when sounding chancellor or secretary of state as to proposal above.
- I spent an hour with secretary of state urging him most earnestly to accept your proposal and make another effort to prevent terrible catastrophe of a European war. He expressed himself very sympathetically towards your proposal, and appreciated your continued efforts to maintain peace, but said it was impossible for the Imperial Government to consider any proposal until they had received an answer from Russia to their communication of today; this communication, which he admitted had the form of an ultimatum, being that, unless Russia could inform the Imperial Government within twelve hours that she would immediately countermand her mobilization against Germany and Austria, Germany would be obliged on her side to mobilize at once.
- I asked his Excellency why they had made their demand even more difficult for Russia to accept by asking them to demobilize in south as well. He replied that it was in order to prevent Russia from saying all her mobilization was only directed against Austria. His Excellency said that if the answer from Russia was satisfactory he thought personally that your proposal merited favourable consideration, and in any case he would lay it before the emperor and chancellor, but he repeated that it was no use discussing it until the Russian Government had sent in their answer to the German demand. He again assured me that both the emperor William, at the request of the emperor of Russia, and the German foreign office had even up till last night been urging Austria to show willingness to continue discussions — and telegraphic and telephonic communications from Vienna had been of a promising nature — but Russia's mobilization had spoilt everything.
Sir E. Goschen's reply contains a reference to the most momentous happening of the 31st, the first of the five days of excitement and anxiety more intense than anything that living generations had experienced — the German ultimatum to Russia.