A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 45


A VITAL QUESTION


Sent off during the day this demanded that Russia should at once demobilize her forces, and gave her only twelve hours in which to reply.

Almost at the same hour, fully aware of the Franco-Russian alliance, Germany turned to the other partner. France was asked by the German ambassador in Paris what would be her attitude in the event of war between Germany and Russia. The answer was that "France would act as her own interests required." Only one interpretation could be placed upon this reply which followed a message sent by the president to Russia stating that "France would fulfil her obligations under the alliance."

Meanwhile troops were being moved, and the neutrality of Belgium was clearly in danger. Britain was not pledged, as many believed, to go to war in defence of Belgium's neutrality, but the matter concerned her both for sentimental and for practical reasons. Before the day was out, therefore, Sir E. Grey sent notes, identical in form, to the German and French governments asking that the neutrality of the little kingdom should be respected. He also acquainted Sir F. Villiers, the British ambassador in Brussels, with what he had done. The two documents were worded as follows:

I still trust that the situation is not irretrievable, but in view of prospect of mobilization in Germany it becomes essential to His Majesty's Government, in view of the existing treaties, to ask whether French (German) Government are prepared to engage to respect neutrality of Belgium so long as no other Power violates it. A similar request is being addressed to German (French) Government. It is important to have an early answer.
In view of existing treaties, you should inform minister for foreign affairs that, in consideration of the possibility of a European war, I have asked French and German Governments whether each is prepared to respect the neutrality of Belgium provided it is violated by no other Power. You should say that I assume that the Belgian Government will maintain to the utmost of their power their neutrality, which I desire and expect other Powers to uphold and observe. You should inform the Belgian Government that an early reply is desired.

France gave a ready and affirmative reply. The nature of the German answer will be seen from the following telegram sent by Sir E. Goschen to Sir E. Grey.

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