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Here were more than a billion and a quarter dollars spent in a year of profound peace upon the armies of the powers, beside what was spent upon their navies.
PRUSSIAN MILITARISM There can be no exaggeration nor injustice in charging this state of affairs chiefly against Germany, or, in the last analysis, Prussia. From the earliest times Prussia has been essentially a military state. Its growth in territory has been achieved by a succession of wars, waged for that express purpose. Under Frederick the Great, the “Drill Master of Europe," it was decidedly the most efficient military power on the continent. After his death it fell
into less competent hands. But after it had been crushed by Napoleon, in its preparation for the War of Liberation, it adopted what was a device of its own military statesmen and what has been developed into the military system of that and other European countries today. That is, the system of enforced universal military service. Under that system every young man is compelled to serve for several years with the colors, and to serve in the reserve for a number of years afterward, the result being that every able-bodied man in the country is a trained soldier.
For many years the other nations of Europe did not seem fully to realize what this meant. But after the astounding victories of Prussia over Austria in 1866, and of Prussia and her German allies over France in 1870–71, the eyes of all Europe were opened, and the powers, with the exception of Great Britain, generally adopted the same or a similar system.
FRANCE'S HEAVY BURDEN Upon France the burden was greatest of all. She felt that it was necessary for her to maintain a military establishment about equal to that of Germany, in order to protect herself against the renewed attack by that power which had been threatened and which she regarded as inevitable. But it became every year more difficult to do this, because of her practically stationary population as compared with Germany's rapidly increasing census roll. For the last half century the birth-rate in France has scarcely if at all exceeded the death-rate. In Germany, on the other hand, there has been a considerable surplus of births over deaths. So the population of Germany has been steadily and even rapidly increasing over that of France, until at the outbreak of the war it exceeded it by fifty per cent.
This, of course, meant that if France was to maintain a standing army as large as Germany's, there would be serving with the colors a much larger percentage of her sons than of Germany's. It also meant that she could not possibly have as many reserves as Germany, and that her total strength, in a mass levy, would be considerably less than Germany's. A nation of 42,000,000 cannot put into the field as large an army as a nation of 65,000,000.
THE WORK OF BRIALMONT In addition to the armies, there were the fortresses. France constructed a chain of them along her German
frontier, such as Belfort and Verdun. But the most powerful of all were supposed to be in two of the smaller states, Belgium and Roumania. The fortifications of those countries were the chief life-work of Brialmont, the famous Belgian military engineer. He designed and constructed the forts at Liege, Namur and Antwerp, in Belgium, and at Bucharest, in Roumania; the latter city being considered the most powerfully fortified in the world.
When it was done Brialmont's work was probably the best of its kind in the world. His forts were dome-shaped structures of steel and concrete, the latter being several feet in thickness and supposed to be proof against any artillery. But at that time the stupendous 42-centimetre siege guns of the German army had not yet come into existence. These monster weapons quickly smashed the concrete and reduced Brialmont's best forts to ruins.
THE BRITISH NAVY Great Britain was the one considerable power which did not adopt the Prussian military system. That was for two major reasons. The one was traditional. Great Britain had never been a military country; it had never had conscription; wherefore with the characteristic conservatism of the race, it was disinclined to adopt it. The other reason was, that British dependence was placed upon the fleet. Being an insular nation, the United Kingdom could be attacked only by sea, and if its fleet could be maintained at a sufficient strength to keep control of the sea, no army would be needed. Since Trafalgar the power of England at sea had been unchallenged.
Of course, the potential military power of the British Empire on land was enormous. The United Kingdom
alone could provide an army of millions. The colonies of Canada, Australasia and South Africa could send powerful contingents. Then there were the myriads of India, especially the Sikhs and Ghoorkas and other warrior races, to whom the breath of battle was as the breath of life, and who were eager to serve in the armies of their KaiserI-Hind.
NATIONS BEHIND THE ARMIES Behind these armies were nations of varying strength and resources. The British Empire, with the smallest army though by far the largest fleet, had the greatest wealth and the greatest industry. France also had enormous wealth, and had perhaps more varied resources than any other continental power. Germany had far less wealth, but a larger population, and her industrial capacity was stupendous. Russia, on the other hand, with an enormous population, was poor in money and was meagerly equipped with industries, so that she would have to depend upon other nations for her supplies of munitions of war.
In the matter of preparedness for war there was a great contrast. Germany was fully prepared; as completely prepared as France was said to be, but was not, in 1870, "to the last shoe-button." Rifles and artillery, immense stores of ammunition, and in brief everything that could be wanted in a strenuous campaign, were ready for the German legions; in stores so vast that it was confidently expected that they would be sufficient for the entire war. They would have been thus adequate had the first German drive at Paris succeeded; as it would have succeeded had not the stubborn forts at Liege delayed the German advance a few days.
But no other nation was ready. In fact, all others
were if possible more than ordinarily unready. Great Britain particularly was quite unprepared, excepting in her fleet. Not long before her greatest soldier, Lord Roberts, had argued, pleaded, exhorted, for an increase of military strength, to meet the war which in prophetic vision he saw in the not distant future. The only answer that he got was abuse and threats that unless he ceased his alarmist talk he might be deprived of his pension! It was a bitter reflection to the British Government and nation, when the storm broke, that they were unprepared because they had thus scorned his warnings.