was not unwilling to accept the challenge. And this challenge that Russia welcomed and France accepted not unwillingly, was responded to at once by Great Britain, cordially and greedily. For many years Germany had been insidiously encroaching upon Britain’s supremacy in commerce—making and selling more available goods, and more and more displacing her rival in the markets of the world. To cripple or to destroy German commercial rivalry was desirable.
Of this desire, however strong it may have been, not a hint is to be found in any official paper or utterance. On the contrary, the so-called “white papers” and those of other colors, disclose an endeavor, even most strenuous effort, to avert war, and that only the high ethical ground of upholding the validity and obligation of treaties, and especially the integrity of the guaranteed neutrality of Belgium, precipitated war. These endeavors and efforts prove either the pacific incentives of individuals of the British foreign office, or the marvels of adroitness of publicists in power seeking to clothe a pretext in a garb of immaculate plausibility, probably both.
One of the wise fables of Æsop relates that a hound, reproached that his quarry, the hare, had outstripped him, replied that it was “one thing to be running for your dinner, and another for your life.” The idea embodied in this fable may have had some place in bringing on the present war; it certainly has the very first place when questions are raised concerning the return of peace and the conditions of peace.
As to affixing “scientifically” (that is with knowledge) the responsibility for the terrible conditions prevailing, the factors are far too numerous and complex. The claim of the Allies of having had war thrust upon them is well taken; it was thrust upon them. The claim of Germany that she was forced to assume the “offensive-defensive”—that she fights for self preservation—is also well taken. On the surface, the seeds of war were sown when M. Berchtold, in the name of Austro-Hungarian dignity, exasperated beyond endurance by murder-plots in Servia, culminating in the assassination of Prince Ferdinand in Bosnia, in the attempt to exact a righteous reparation, overstepped a legitimate right of sovereignty. However guilty—or however much a conniver at guilt—Servia’s moral right to resist an assault upon her independence can not be questioned. She went far enough in way of concession.
Several problems now present themselves which perhaps the future may solve, chief among which is found this: Would Austria have taken so strong a ground without definite assurance of support from the north? Whatever solution to this may finally be uncovered, and to other problems of like order, the certainty of responsibility goes further back, being found in a gross departure from the righteousness that should exalt a nation. By this is meant that the holding of Bosnia and the Slavic peoples wherever they dwelt under Austrian rule was wrong—