Слике страница
PDF
ePub

be remembered, however, that the German Government in giving its reasons for invading Belgium did not claim that the neutrality agreement was no longer binding, but admitted that the invasion was a breach of international law and an act of injustice made necessary by the conviction that France was preparing to lead an army into Belgium. Besides, the German Imperial secretary of state, Herr von Jagow, said in 1913: “Belgian neutrality is provided for by International Conventions and Germany is determined to respect those Conventions." 6

On July 24, M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, sent instructions to the Belgian ambassadors in all the countries which had promised to guarantee the neutrality of Belgium, to the effect that Belgium would expect that, in the event of war, her neutrality would be respected and that she would do all in her power to uphold it. These instructions were not to be acted upon by the ambassadors until further notice.? On the first of August, the foreign office telgraphed to the ambassadors to carry out these instructions.8

Next day (August 2) the German ambassador at Brussels handed the following note to the Belgian foreign minister:

5 See p. 149. 8 B. G. B., 12, enclosure. 7 B. G. B., 2 and enclosure. 8 Ibid., 16.

(Very Confidential.)

Reliable information has been received by the German Government to the effect that French forces intend to march on the line of the Meuse by Givet and Namur. This information leaves no doubt as to the intention of France to march through Belgian territory against Germany.

The German Government cannot but fear that Belgium, in spite of the utmost goodwill, will be unable, without assistance, to repel so considerable a French invasion with sufficient prospect of success to afford an adequate guarantee against danger to Germany. It is essential for the self-defense of Germany that she should anticipate any such hostile attack. The German Government would, however, feel the deepest regret if Belgium regarded as an act of hostility against herself the fact that the measures of Germany's opponents force Germany, for her own protection, to enter Belgian territory.

In order to exclude any possibility of misunderstanding, the German Government make the following declaration :

1. Germany has in view no act of hostility against Belgium. In the event of Belgium being prepared in the coming war to maintain an attitude of friendly neutrality towards Germany, the German Government bind themselves, at the conclusion of peace, to guarantee the possessions and independence of the Belgian Kingdom in full.

2. Germany undertakes, under the above-mentioned condition, to evacuate Belgian territory on the conclusion of peace.

3. If Belgium adopts a friendly attitude, Germany is prepared, in coöperation with the Belgian authorities, to purchase all necessaries for her troops against a cash payment, and to pay an indemnity for any damage that may have been caused by German troops

4. Should Belgium oppose the German troops, and in particular should she throw difficulties in the way of their march by a resistance of the fortresses on the Meuse, or by destroying railways, roads, tunnels, or other similar works, Germany will, to her regret, be compelled to consider Belgium as an enemy.

In this event, Germany can undertake no obligations towards Belgium, but the eventual adjustment of the relations between the two States must be left to the decision of arms.

The German Government, however, entertain the distinct hope that this eventuality will not occur, and that the Belgian Government will know how to take the necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of incidents such as those mentioned. In this case the friendly ties which bind the two neighboring States will grow more stronger and more enduring.'

The German note was delivered at 7 P. M., and the Belgian Government was given only twelve hours in which to give its answer. So in the early morning of August 3, M. Davignon, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, handed to the German ambassador at Brussels the following reply:

This note has made a deep and painful impression upon the Belgian Government.

The intentions attributed to France by Germany are in contradiction to the formal declarations made by us on August 1, in the name of the French Government.

Moreover, if, contrary to our expectation, Belgian neutrality should be violated by France, Belgium intends to fulfill her international obligations and the

9 B. G. B., 20.

Belgian army would offer the most vigorous resistance to the invader.

The treaties of 1839, confirmed by the treaties of 1870, vouch for the independance and neutrality of Belgium under the guarantee of the Powers, and notably of the Government of His Majesty the King of Prussia.

Belgium has always been faithful to her international obligations, she has carried out her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality, and she has left nothing undone to maintain and enforce respect for her neutrality.

The attack upon her independence with which the German Government threaten her constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. No strategic interest justifies such a violation of law.

The Belgian Government, if they were to accept the proposals submitted to them, would sacrifice the honor of the nation and betray their duty towards Europe.'

Conscious of the part which Belgium has played for more than eighty years in the civilization of the world, they refuse to believe that the independence of Belgium can only be preserved at the price of the violation of her neutrality.

If this hope is disappointed the Belgian Government are firmly resolved to repel, by all the means in their power, every attack upon their rights.10

Next morning Germany announced to Belgium that inasmuch as her Government had rejected “the well intentioned proposals made to them [it] by the German Government, the latter, to their deep regret,” would be compelled to take-if necessary by force of arms

10 B. G. B., 22.

eces

those measures of defence already foreshadowed as indispensable in view of the menace of France." 11 This threat was followed up immediately; for German troops entered Belgian territory that very morning (August 4).12 Negotiations between the two countries were broken off at once.13

On that same August 4, the Imperial chancellor made a speech before the Reichstag, in which he said, in part:

Gentlemen, we are now acting in self-defense. Necessity knows no law. Our troops have occupied Luxemburg and have possibly already entered on Belgian soil. Gentlemen, that is a breach of international law.

The French Government has notified Brussels that it would respect Belgian neutrality as long as the adversary respected it. But we know that France stood ready for an invasion. France could wait, we could not. A French invasion in our flank and the lower Rhine might have been disastrous. Thus we were forced to ignore the rightful protests of the Governments of Luxemburg and Belgium. The injusticeI speak openly—the injustice we thereby commit we will try to make good as soon as our military aims have been attained. He who is menaced as we are and is fighting for his All, can only consider the one and best way to strike.14

Germany was still willing, she said, to adhere to her original promise to Belgium,

11 B. G. B., 27. 12 B. G. B., 40. 13 B. G. B., 34. 14 See International Conciliation, pamphlet 84.

« ПретходнаНастави »