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Belgium has been treated brutally. How brutally we shall not yet know. We already know too much. But what had she done? Had she sent an ultimatum to Germany? Had she challenged Germany? Was she preparing to make war on Germany? Has she inflicted any wrong upon Germany which the Kaiser was bound to redress?
She was one of the most unoffending little countries in Europe. There she was — peaceable, industrious, thrifty, hard-working, giving offense to no one. And her cornfields have been trampled, her villages have been burnt, her art treasures have been destroyed, her men have been slaughtered yea, and her women and children, too. Hundreds and thousands of her people, their neat, comfortable little homes burnt to the dust, are wandering homeless in their own land.
What was their crime? Their crime was that they trusted to the word of a Prussian King. I do not know what the Kaiser hopes to achieve by this war. I have a shrewd idea what he will get; but one thing he has made certain, and that is that no nation will ever commit that crime again.
“THE RIGHT TO DEFEND ITS HOMES"
I am not going to enter into details of outrages. War is a grim, ghastly business at best or at worst, and I am not going to say that all that has been said in the way of outrages must necessarily be true.
I will go beyond that, and I will say that if you turn two million men forced, conscript, compelled, driven — into the field, you will always get amongst them a certain number who will do things that the nation to which they belong would be ashamed of.
I am not depending on these tales. It is enough for me to have the story which Germans themselves avow, admit, defend and proclaim the burning and massacring, the shooting down of harmless people. Why? Because, according to the Germans, these people fired on German soldiers.
What business had German soldiers there at all? Belgium was acting in pursuance of the most sacred right, the right to defend its homes. But they were not in uniform when they fired!
If a burglar broke into the Kaiser's Palace at Potsdam, destroyed his furniture, killed his servants, ruined his art treasures — especially those he had made himself — and burned the precious manuscripts of his speeches, do you think he would wait until he got into uniform before he
shot him down? The Belgians were dealing with those who had broken into their household.
But the perfidy of the Germans has already failed. They entered Belgium to save time. The time has gone. They have not gained time, but they have lost their good name.
THE CASE OF SERBIA But Belgium is not the only little nation that has been attacked in this war, and I make no excuse for referring to the case of the other little nation, the case of Serbia.
The history of Serbia is not unblotted. Whose history, in the category of nations, is unblotted? The first nation that is without sin, let her cast a stone at Serbia. She was a nation trained in a horrible school, but she won her freedom with a tenacious valor, and she has maintained it by the same courage.
If any Serbians were mixed up in the assassination of the Grand Duke, they ought to be punished. Serbia admits that. The Serbian Government had nothing to do with it. Not even Austria claims that. The Serbian Prime Minister is one of the most capable and honored men in Europe. Serbia was willing to punish any one of her subjects who had been proved to have any complicity in that assassination. What more could you expect?
SO no more.
What were the Austrian demands? Serbia sympathized with her fellow-countrymen in Bosnia — that was one of her crimes. She must do
Her newspapers were saying nasty things about Austria: they must do so no longer.
That is the German spirit; you had it in Zabern. How dare you criticize a Prussian official? And if you laugh, it is a capital offense the colonel in Zabern threatened to shoot if it was repeated. In the same way the Serbian newspapers must not criticize Austria. I wonder what would have happened if we had taken the same line about German newspapers!
Serbia said: “Very well, we will give orders to the newspapers that they must in future criticize neither Austria, nor Hungary, nor anything that is theirs." Who can doubt the valor of Serbia, when she undertook to tackle her newspaper editors? She promised not to sympathize with Bosnia; she promised to write no critical articles about Austria; she would have no public meetings in which anything unkind was said about Austria.
“SERBIA FACED THE SITUATION WITH
DIGNITY" But that was not enough. She must dismiss from her army the officers whom Austria should subsequently name - those officers who had just
emerged from a war where they had added luster to the Serbian arms. They were gallant, brave and efficient. I wonder whether it was their guilt or their efficiency that prompted Austria's action!
But, mark you, the officers were not named; Serbia was to undertake in advance to dismiss them from the army, the names to be sent in subsequently. Can you name a country in the world that would have stood that?
Supposing Austria or Germany had issued an ultimatum of that kind to this country, saying, “You must dismiss from your Army — and from your Navy all those officers whom we shall subsequently name.” Well, I think I could name them now.
Lord Kitchener would go. Sir John French would be sent away;
General Smith-Dorrien would go, and I am sure that Sir John Jellicoe would have to go. And there is another gallant old warrior who would go Lord Roberts.
It was a difficult situation for a small country. Here was a demand made upon her by a great military Power that could have put half-a-dozen men in the field for every one of Serbia's men, and that Power was supported by the greatest military Power in the world.
How did Serbia behave? It is not what happens to you in life that matters; it is the way