Page:Great Speeches of the War.djvu/341

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
303
Great Speeches of the War

sion which was entertained by them. It may be that the motive of the war, so far as the Prussian Junkers are concerned, was aggressive, but that certainly was not the motive of the German working classes. The German socialists in the main, and the whole German nation, at home and abroad, have been united in support of this war, because they believe that it is a war against Russian aggression. The alliance of Russia and France for offensive as well as defensive purposes enabled the military bureaucracy of Prussia to put forward patent and plausible reasons in support of the alleged Russian danger.

A third contributory cause of the war is the reversal in recent years of the old foreign policy of Great Britain. Lord Salisbury, probably the greatest Foreign Minister this country has ever had, was the last British Minister to hold to the traditional Liberal policy of Great Britain to keep us free from all Continental alliances, to avoid all entanglements which might appear to be hostile to any other European country, and to reject the balance-of-power policy. In short, the traditional policy of England was to avoid becoming a Continental power.

But fifteen years ago we began to depart from that policy, Mr, Chamberlain was the first statesman to suggest a Continental alliance. He did that in his famous speech at Leicester in 1899, when he proposed an alliance with our next of kin—Germany. It was an unfortunate time to make the proposal. We were in the thick of the Boer War, and feeling against us upon the continent of Europe was very strong. Finding Germany unwilling to look with favour upon the proposal of an alliance our statesmen turned to France. A number of reasons no doubt influenced our ministers in coming to an understanding with France—our desire for a free hand in Egypt, for instance. But there might have been one other reason, to which I have seen no reference in this controversy. Germany was beginning to build her fleet. France was already a strong naval power, with bases within striking distance of our shores, and disputing with us the control of the narrow seas around our coast. As we know now, but as we did not know, and as the majority of our Cabinet did not know until the crisis of last August occurred, our relations with France became closer and closer, through secret understandings, until there existed between the two nations what practically amounted to a moral obligation on our part of assisting France in case of attack.

We permitted France to withdraw her fleet from the English