A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 58

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THE FATEFUL THIRTEEN DAYS


Continental nations engaged in war, all their populations, all their energies, all their wealth, engaged in a desperate struggle, cannot carry on the trade with us that they are carrying on in times of peace, whether we are parties to the war or whether we are not. I do not believe for a moment that at the end of this war, even if we stood aside and remained aside, we should be in a position, a material position, to use our force decisively to undo what had happened in the course of the war, to prevent the whole of the west of Europe opposite to us — if that had been the result of the war — falling under the domination of a single Power, and I am quite sure that our moral position would be such as to have lost us all respect.

Germany had also violated the neutrality of Luxemburg, which was guaranteed by a treaty signed in 1867. On or about August the British liability under this guarantee was examined at the request of Sir Edward Grey, and the conclusions reached can be stated in his own words:

It was thus made clear that what Luxemburg had was a collective guarantee that no one of the signatory Powers had an obligation to defend Luxemburg, unless all the signatory Powers did so; that no other Power had an obligation to act separately and without the others. This made our position quite clear; the violation of Luxemburg entailed no obligation upon us to take action.

Luxemburg was therefore in a different position in this respect from Belgium, and this difference is explained in a speech made in the House of Lords by the earl of Clarendon on June 20, 1867.

With regard to the guarantee, I will go somewhat further than the noble earl at the head of the Government, and say that if we had undertaken the same guarantee in the case of Luxemburg as we did in the case of Belgium, we should, in my opinion, have incurred an additional and very serious responsibility. I look upon our guarantee in the case of Belgium as an individual guarantee, and have always so regarded it; but this is a collective guarantee. No one of the Powers, therefore, can be called upon to take single action, even in the improbable case of any difficulty arising.
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