A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 88

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THE RALLY OF THE EMPIRE


Nor was this all. Canada would refuse to bear the burden of a war of whose origin she knew nothing, and cared less; Australia would quietly cut the painter and secure at a stroke her independence and her freedom from war's burdens; while in South Africa the Boers would raise the standard of rebellion again and sweep every Briton into the sea.

This was the dream of Germany. It seemed impossible to her precise empire-builders that an empire that had grown, without plan or premeditation, should stand a great strain. Even those Germans who knew something of Greater Britain and of her dependencies failed to comprehend the real strength of her position. Disputes and differences, they declared, were bound to split the empire. They knew all about the line of cleavage between French Canadians and British Canadians; they were well informed of the differences in opinion between various political parties in the Dominions and at home on the question of naval defence; they had precisely recorded all the minor squabbles that must arise where independent and free peoples are working out their destiny.

What the German observers did not understand was that the differences were on the surface, and that underneath them lay a great fundamental unity. They did not realize that the French Canadians in Quebec, the British settlers in British Columbia, the Dutchmen in Cape Town, and even descendants of Germans in South Australia were one in their love of the freedom of British institutions. Behind them stood men of a hundred nations, bound to the British rule not by compulsion, but by their experience of generations of honest, capable, sincere, and disinterested administration.

During the early days of August, 1914, crowds gathered at every city in the empire waiting for news. Every phase was followed with strained attention — the declaration of war upon Russia by Germany, the outpost fighting on the French and Russian frontiers of Germany, and the mobilization of the British fleet. When, on the evening of August 4, war was declared between Great Britain and Germany the response was immediate. From end to end of the empire controversies were forgotten, differences passed out of sight, and men united in one plea — What can we do?

Canada and Australia and New Zealand began to raise armies to send to Europe; South Africa rallied her sons for fighting

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