A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 55


THE NEUTRALITY OF BELGIUM


The night passed quietly without incident. In the morning a strong force of police was posted along the usual route to the Lehrter Station, while the Embassy was smuggled away in taxi-cabs to the station by side streets. We there suffered no molestation whatever, and avoided the treatment meted out by the crowd to my Russian and French colleagues. Count Wedel met us at the station to say good-bye on behalf of Herr von Jagow and to see that all the arrangements ordered for our comfort had been properly carried out. A retired colonel of the guards accompanied the train to the Dutch frontier and was exceedingly kind in his efforts to prevent the great crowds which thronged the platforms at every station where we stopped from insulting us; but beyond the yelling of patriotic songs and a few jeers and insulting gestures we had really nothing to complain of during our tedious journey to the Dutch frontier.

If the participation of Great Britain in the Great War can be attributed to a single cause, that cause was the violation by Germany of Belgian neutrality. In his War Memoirs, published in The Daily Telegraph in 1933, Mr. Lloyd George asserts that in this matter the British people were united, and that a more resolute attitude on the part of Sir Edward Grey might have averted, or at least localised, the struggle. He thinks that if, in July, Sir Edward had made it quite clear to Germany that Great Britain would regard any violation of Belgium's neutrality as a casus belli, the Kaiser and his advisers would have paused to consider the consequences of the policy they were carrying out.

To pursue this surmise would be unprofitable, but it will be far from unprofitable to examine the nature of the British guarantee to Belgium. On April 19, 1839, a treaty was signed in London between Belgium and five Powers: Great Britain, France, Prussia, Russia, and Austria. A similar treaty was signed by the same five Powers and the Netherlands. In article one of the treaties the five Powers guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium. The guarantee was a collective one, and from time to time the question of Great Britain's individual liability under it was considered. In 1870, for instance, during the Franco-Prussian War, when the neutrality was in jeopardy, the law officers of the crown were asked for an opinion. After examining the facts they replied in the following words:

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