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Germany would at once modify her attitude." 9 The Italian minister for foreign affairs also thought that Britain's attitude would have great influence on Germany. He told the English ambassador at Rome on July 30 that he had reason to believe that “Germany was now disposed to give more conciliatory advice to Austria, as she seemed convinced that we [Great Britain] should [would] act with France and Russia, and was most anxious to avoid issue with us [Great Britain)." 10
Next day, Sir Edward Grey told the German ambassador at London that he would support at Paris and St. Petersburg any reasonable proposal put forward by Germany, and if France and Russia would not accept such a proposal, he would have nothing more to do with the consequences. On the other hand, if no such proposition was made and France became involved in the war, then England would be drawn in.11 On this very day Austria-Hungary declared her willingness to discuss “the substance of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia." 12 "Austria's readiness to discuss was the result of German influence at Vienna,” according to the claim of the German secretary of state.13 Whether Germany gave this conciliatory advice to
9 B. W. P., 99.
12 B. W. P., 133; A. R. B., 51. 13 B. W. P., 138.
Austria-Hungary of her volition or whether she was induced to do it by the stiffening attitude of Great Britain is not revealed in the published correspondence.
While Sir Edward Grey had, by the morning of July 31, warned the German ambassador that his country would intervene in case “France and Germany became involved in war” as a result of the failure of Germany to put forward a reasonable proposal showing her desire for peace,
14 still he declined later on in the same day to give a pledge of intervention to France, but promised to reconsider this decision whenever any new development should warrant it. “The preservation of the neutrality of Belgium,” said he, "might be, I would not say a decisive, but an important factor, in determining our attitude." 15
In the afternoon of the same day Sir Edward Grey telegraphed an inquiry to both Germany and France as to whether each would respect the neutrality of Belgium “so long as no other power violates it.” 16 France replied at once that she would respect the neutrality of Belgium.17 The reply of the German Government was not satisfactory. Von Jagow, the secretary of state, said that he could not answer until after he had consulted the Emperor and
14 B. W. P., 111, 119. 15 B. W. P., 116, 119.
16 B. W. P., 114.
the chancellor. Besides, the British ambassador at Berlin got the impression that Von Jagow thought any reply given by him might reveal to some extent the German plan of campaign in case war should break out, and, therefore, he might not give any answer at all.. According to the understanding of the British ambassador, Von Jagow seemed also to think that Belgium had already committed hostile acts against Germany in that she had held up a consignment of corn for the latter country.18
Next morning (August 1), Sir Edward Grey had a telephone conversation with Prince Lichnowsky, German ambassador at London, in which, according to the understanding of the ambassador, Sir Edward Grey asked if Germany would agree not to "attack France in a war between Germany and Russia in case France should remain neutral.” Prince Lichnowsky expressed the belief that his Government would be willing to enter into such an engagement and telegraphed the inquiry, as he interpreted it, to Berlin.
Prince Lichnowsky, however, had, according to the London Times, received a very erroneous impression of the terms of the proposed engagement. “There was no question,” says this paper, "of French neutrality in the event of a Russo-German war.” This famous telephone 18 B. W. P., 122.
conversation took place at 11:30 A, M., and, according to the information received by the Times, Lichnowsky's misunderstanding was corrected in an official conference immediately afterward. In this “official conversation .. it was plainly pointed out that ... if Germany fought France must fight also.” “Prince Lichnowsky at once said that he had been under a misapprehension, and telegraphed to Berlin a correction of his previous telegram.” No such telegram appears in the list of dispatches officially published by the German Government. The Times charges that it was left out with the intent to deceive the neutral public and thus make out a case of perfidy against England. The North German Gazette, on the other hand, denies the existence of such a telegram, and, furthermore, states that the private secretary of Sir Edward Grey called on Prince Lichnowsky later in the day (at 1:15 P. M.) and said that the foreign minister desired to make proposals to me [him] regarding England's neutrality, even for the event that we [Germany] should go to war with Russia as well as with France." 19
Sir Edward Grey's testimony as to the misunderstanding supports the contention of the Times. In the latter part of August, 1914, he
19 London Times, August 27, 1914, quoted in Stowell, 334, note; see also S., 824.
made in the House of Commons the following statement:
The circumstances were as follows: It was reported to me one day that the German Ambassador had suggested that Germany might remain neutral in a war between Russia and Austria and also engage not to attack France if we would remain neutral and secure the neutrality of France. I said at once that if the German Government thought such an arrangement possible I was sure we could secure it.
It appeared, however, that what the Ambassador meant was that we should secure the neutrality of France if Germany went to war with Russia. This was quite a different proposal, and as I supposed it in all probability to be incompatible with the terms of the Franco-Russian Alliance, it was not in my power to promise to secure it.
Subsequently, the Ambassador sent for my private secretary and told him that as soon as the misunderstanding was cleared up he had sent a second telegram to Berlin to cancel the impression produced by the first telegram he had sent on the subject. The first telegram has been published. This second telegram does not seem to have been published.20
The misunderstanding was apparently not cleared up until after the German Emperor had made his reply, which was, in part, as follows: “On technical grounds my mobilization which had already been proclaimed this afternoon, must proceed against two fronts, east and west as prepared. . . . But if France offers me neutrality, which must be guaranteed by the
20 London Times, August 29, 1914, quoted in Stowell, 330– 331.