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OLIVER PERRY CHITWOOD, PH.D.
The object of this volume is to narrate briefly the direct causes of the European war as they are given in the published documents of the belligerents. These sources are abundantly adequate for determining the immediate responsibility of each nation and apportioning the guilt for this great crime. It may be thought that, inasmuch as each government in publishing its official correspondence has tried to convict its enemies and clear itself and its allies, the statements made are so biased as not to be accepted as evidence. This, however, is not the
The documents corroborate each other sufficiently to show that statements of fact given in official despatches by ambassadors to foreign ministers and vice versa can usually be accepted at face value. The numerous cross-references in the published correspondence enable us sometimes to detect false claims based on the omission, misinterpretation, or even the distortion of facts. Some discrepancies, however, are irreducible, and where such occur, the evidence presented by both sides is given.
In Part I, I have not attempted a general dis
cussion of the indirect causes of the war, but have only tried to restate some well-known facts that constitute the background of the great conflict. Of course, to understand thoroughly the causes of the war, we should have to go back and explain commercial rivalries, race hatreds, and historic enmities. But for the correct placing of the responsibility for the conflict, a knowledge of remote causes is not so necessary as an intimate acquaintance with the immediate causes. The present generation is not altogether to blame for national antipathies. Many of them are the heritage of former decades and even centuries. Many of them are based on groundless fears growing out of the condition of anarchy that has always characterized international relations. No country can be judged too harshly if she harbors a feeling of jealousy toward her neighbor because she supposes that the line of her rival's ambition crosses the path that Providence has marked out for herself. The nation that fans a
1 In preparing these two chapters, I have made use of secondary sources almost exclusively. For fuller reading on Part I, the following works are recommended: Europe Since 1815, by Charles Downer Hazen; The Diplomacy of the War of 1914, by Ellery C. Stowell; A Political and Social History of Modern Europe, by Carlton J. H. Hayes; The International Year Book for 1912 and 1913; The Balkan Wars, by J. G. Schurman; European History, by Holt and Chilton; The New Map of Europe, by H. A. Gibbons; The Diplomacy of the Great War, by A. Bullard; The Diplomatic Background of the War, by Charles Seymour. For a brilliant interpretation of these facts see The European Anarchy, by G. Lowes Dickenson.
smoldering feeling of rivalry into an act of hostility has the greater sin.
Besides, the spirit of jealousy was not more active in 1914 than it had been in former times. Indeed the relations between the rival groups was less tense at that time than it was a few years earlier. France and Germany had settled all of their important differences except the Alsace-Lorraine question and it had grown too old to figure prominently as a cause of a European war. England and Germany had also about come to an agreement as to the Bagdad railroad, one of the most serious causes of dispute between them. They had even been negotiating with reference to a joint limitation of naval armaments. It is true that no agreement had been reached but the fact that negotiations had been carried on shows that an amicable settlement of the quarrel was within the range of possibility. There is also strong evidence in support of the belief that both the British and German foreign ministers were in favor of a German-English rapprochement. Von Jagow, the German foreign minister, declared on August 4, 1914, that he and the chancellor had favored a policy of making “friends with Great Britain, and then through Great Britain, to get closer to France.” Even if we should be skeptical as to the sincerity of this statement, we have to admit that the Ger