A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 46

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THE FATEFUL THIRTEEN DAYS


Neutrality of Belgium, referred to in your telegram of 31st July to Sir F. Bertie. I have seen secretary of state, who informs me that he must consult the emperor and the chancellor before he could possibly answer. I gathered from what he said that he thought any reply they might give could not but disclose a certain amount of their plan of campaign in the event of war ensuing, and he was therefore very doubtful whether they would return any answer at all. His Excellency, nevertheless, took note of your request. It appears from what he said that German Government consider that certain hostile acts have already been committed by Belgium. As an instance of this, he alleged that a consignment of corn for Germany had been placed under an embargo already. I hope to see his Excellency again to-morrow to discuss the matter further, but the prospect of obtaining a definite answer seems to me remote. In speaking to me to-day the chancellor made it clear that Germany would in any case desire to know the reply returned to you by the French Government.

The matter was also discussed between Sir E. Grey and the German ambassador in London, Prince Lichnowsky, and the nature of this conversation will be seen from Sir E. Grey's telegram of August 1 to Sir E. Goschen.

I told the German ambassador to-day that the reply of the German Government with regard to the neutrality of Belgium was a matter of very great regret, because the neutrality of Belgium affected feeling in this country. If Germany could see her way to give the same assurance as that which had been given by France it would materially contribute to relieve anxiety and tension here. On the other hand, if there were a violation of the neutrality of Belgium by one combatant while the other respected it, it would be extremely difficult to restrain public feeling in this country. I said that we had been discussing the question at a Cabinet meeting, and as I was authorised to tell him this I gave him a memorandum of it. He asked me whether, if Germany gave a promise not to violate Belgian neutrality, we would engage to remain neutral. I replied that I could not say that; our hands were still free, and we were considering what our attitude should be. All I could say was that our attitude would be determined largely by public opinion here, and that the neutrality of Belgium would appeal very strongly to public opinion here. I did not think that we could give a promise of neutrality on that condition alone.
The ambassador pressed me as to whether I could not formulate conditions on which we would remain neutral. He even suggested that the integrity of France and her colonies might be guaranteed. I said that I felt obliged to refuse definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar terms, and I could only say that we must keep our hands free.
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