3413 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
prominent army officers had recently resigned rather than enforce the Government's policy; and the bloody riot in Dublin had taken place only a few days before.
At the beginning of the crisis, France
and Russia had anxiously besought Great
Britain to declare herself with them, urging
that such a stand would bring the Teutonic
powers to a pause. But the British Ambassador at St. Petersburg replied that
he did not think his Government would
desire to commit itself, and Sir Edward
Grey later approved his stand, saying,
"I do not believe that public opinion here
would or ought to sanction our going to
war over a Servian quarrel. If, however,
war does take place, the development
of other issues may draw us into it,
and I am therefore anxious to prevent it."
Seemingly Great Britain's only obligation to France was one that was
rather implied or understood than
definitely promised. From time to
time in recent years French and British naval and military experts had
consulted together regarding possible
contingencies, and France had concentrated her main fleet in the Mediterranean, while the main British
fleet was concentrated in the North
Sea and adjoining waters. In November, 1912, Sir Edward Grey had
written that these dispositions were
not necessarily "based upon an engagement to cooperate in war,"
the British undoubtedly felt themselves
under obligation to protect the French
coast. The Germans were aware of this
obligation, and there were some negotiations regarding the Germans refraining
from attacking the Atlantic coast of France,
but nothing came of it.
The French were naturally anxious regarding naval matters, for they realized
that without Great Britain they would
be outclassed on the sea. It was, therefore,
with a great sigh of relief that, on August
2d, they received from Sir Edward Grey,
the following declaration:
"I am authorized to give an assurance
that, if the German fleet comes into the
channel or through the North Sea to undertake hostile operations against French
coasts or shipping, the British fleet will
give all the protection in its power.
"This assurance is, of course, subject
to the policy of His Majesty's Government
receiving the support of Parliament, and
must not be taken as binding His Majesty's
Government to take any action until the
above contingency of action by the German fleet takes place."
It is not improbable that Great Britain
would ultimately have been dragged into
the war because of reasons mentioned
above; but public sentiment was not united
on the subject, and the Government was
inclined to hesitate. But even before the
assurance just quoted was given to France
a course of events had begun that was to
resolve all doubts and hesitations and was
to result in Great Britain's casting herself
whole-heartedly into the mighty struggle.
We refer, of course, to the German violation
Germany's action as regards Belgium
was based upon military, and not at all
upon political, considerations. The Teutonic plan of campaign had doubtless long
been agreed upon, for vast military combinations involving the movement and
munitioning of over a million men cannot
be evolved upon the spur of the moment.
The circumstances that dictated it are