Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/40

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new and very serious crisis arose in 1911. The French, in con- sequence of a civil war in Morocco, followed by the abdication of the Sultan, advanced to Fez. This appeared to show a desire to disregard obligations of the Convention of Algeciras. Germany, in order to support her claim to be consulted, took a step which, as so often happened, could be interpreted as a threat. She sent a small ship-of-war to Agadir. It was of course assumed, not only abroad but in Germany itself, that this action meant that the German Government proposed to claim part of the western coast of Morocco and were even intending to land troops in order to en- force this claim. It seems probable that the German Government themselves had not at the moment really made up their minds precisely what they wanted. The obvious answer to this German move would have been the dispatch of a French or British war- ship a policy which was strongly pressed by some of the French. The combined wisdom and moderation of the British and French Governments prevented them answering a threat by a threat, but the renewal of the old methods, the clear intention of once more forcing France into separate conversations without England and thereby extorting unwelcome concessions, could not be over- looked. A final understanding between France and Germany would have been welcomed by the British Government, but they could not stand aside and see France forced under the threat of war to cede to Germany either a position in Morocco itself or quite excessive cessions elsewhere. In a speech at the Mansion House on July 21, Mr. Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

" I conceive that nothing would justify a disturbance of inter- national good-will except questions of the gravest national moment. But if a situation were to be forced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficent posi- tion Britain has won by centuries of heroism and achievement by allowing Britain to be treated, where her interests are vitally affected, as if she were of no account in the cabinet of nations then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure."

Shortly afterwards separate conversations were begun between Germany and France on the basis that Germany would agree to disinterest herself in Morocco completely, receiving in return territorial concessions in other parts of Africa. There were many anxious moments, for some of the German demands were ex- cessive, but eventually an agreement was reached by which France surrendered to Germany important parts of her posses- sions on the Congo. As in the previous Morocco discussions, the importance of the episode lay not so much in the immediate question at issue as in the attempt of Germany to separate Eng- land and France and to intimidate France. As before, this had the natural result of strengthening the union between France and England, and taking a stage further the military and naval accompaniments of this agreement.

Great Britain and Germany, 1909-14. The final settlement of the Moroccan question led to an improvement in the relations between Great Britain and Germany. One of the first acts of Bethmann Hollweg, who on the resignation of Prince Billow became Chancellor in 1909, had been to make proposals which might bring about an amelioration of the relations between Ger- many and England, and for the next four years conversations with this object continued. The negotiations turned on two points: (i) a naval arrangement, the object of which would be to prevent the two countries continuing on an unlimited rivalry of armaments; (2) a general political understanding by which each country should be assured that the other would not join in attacking it in case of war. From 1909 to 1911 the discussions took the form of conversations of the ordinary diplomatic nature, interspersed with public speeches in the two Parliaments. They were broken off in the summer of 1911 owing to the Agadir diffi- culty, but after that had been surmounted, were resumed at the beginning of 1912, when on Feb. 9 Lord Haldane was, in con- sequence of a suggestion from Germany, sent on a special mission to Berlin. On neither point did these negotiations lead to any definite result. As to the naval agreement it seems clear that Bethmann Hollweg would have welcomed it, but that his support was not strong enough against the opposition of Tirpitz and the

Emperor. The proposals for a general political agreement broke down because, as soon as a precise formula was put forward, it appeared that Germany would not be satisfied with any arrange- ments except one which would be so worded as to imply that Great Britain would be debarred from coming to the assistance of France if she were attacked. Anything of this nature was of course out of the question, for, as Sir Edward Grey said on Nov. 27 1911, " one does not make new friendships worth having by deserting old ones." What Lord Haldane suggested was a state- ment that: " England declares that she will neither make nor join in any unprovoked attack upon Germany. Aggression upon Germany is not the subject and forms no part of any treaty, understanding or convention to which England is now a party, nor will she become a party to anything which has such an object." What Germany asked for was a statement that: " If either of the high contracting parties becomes entangled in war with one or more Powers, the other party will at least observe toward the Power so entangled benevolent neutrality, and will use its utmost endeavour for the localization of the conflict." This, of course, could not be accepted. None the less, the very fact that this attempt had been made, though it failed, left the relations between the two Governments more cordial; even more important was the practical illustration afforded by the sub- sequent Balkan troubles as to the importance of cooperation between them. Everything tended to show that the peace of Europe could be maintained if Germany and Great Britain, while each maintaining full loyalty to its own associates, were willing, when any difficulty arose, to communicate frankly and freely with one another and to discuss the best method of settlement. By this means the two alliances might cease from their rivalry and gradually be merged in a general concert. This was a system which Sir Edward Grey deliberately adopted; the whole han- dling of political difficulties was based upon this, and so long as Germany acted in a similar spirit things went well. When the World War ultimately broke out, it was because Germany, in a very grave crisis, ceased this cooperation and in profound secrecy made herself the associate of schemes the success of which would have been most detrimental to one of the partners in the Triple Entente. Meanwhile, during 1913 and the first half of 1914, negotiations were begun and carried through to a successful issue by which the two chief outstanding points of controversy were in fact removed. A settlement was at last brought about with regard to the Bagdad railway and the reversion of the Portuguese colonies in Africa.

The situation in Germany was, of course, the subject of the most careful study by those who were responsible for directing British policy. Opinions were much divided in England; there was even a belief, which was probably well founded, that neither Herr von Bethmann Hollweg nor Herr von Jagow desired any- thing but the best relations. On the other hand, it must remain a matter of comparative indifference whether in any particular year the German administration then in office was well disposed. Their position was at the best very precarious. All information, both from public and confidential sources, showed that a very large section of educated German public opinion was animated by feelings of intense animosity against England, and although this party was at the moment in opposition to the Government, at any time they might come into office, all the more because of the very unreliable character of the Emperor, of whom the only thing that could be said with certainty was that no one could foresee what he would do. Moreover, there was another factor to be kept in mind. Good relations between Great Britain and Germany might be valued, not for their own sake, but merely as a device for separat- ing Great Britain from her associates. It was an obvious policy to encourage a spirit of conciliation, so that if there was a serious conflict with Russia, English public opinion would refuse support to Russia. To put it brutally, Germany had no reasons to fear a war if England stood out; according to all instructed German expectations the crisis of any great European war would be over in the first two months. All that was necessary then was to secure that England should remain neutral during the first stage; if once the essential victory in France were secured, then nothing else