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XXI. SOWING THE WIND-THE SERBIAN
NTIL the German Government shall open its private archives, it is impossible to trace the details of O events between June 29 and July 23, 1914. But there seems to be absolutely reliable evidence that early in July a great state council was held at which it was determined to precipitate war just as soon as possible, or else to inflict upon Russia such a diplomatic humiliation as would shake her whole prestige and position as a great power, and as a result establish the Teutonic empires as the resistless dominators of the Balkans. Shortly after the outbreak of actual hostilities, Baron Wangenheim, the German ambassador at Constantinople, in an outburst of enthusiasm over the early successes of his country, made a statement to his colleague, Mr. Morgenthau, the Ameri
can ambassador to Turkey: "The German ambassador informed me [Morgenthau] that a conference had been held in the early part of July  at which the date of the war was fixed. This conference was presided over by the kaiser; Baron Wangenheim was present to report on conditions in Turkey. Moltke, the chief of staff, was there, and so was Grand Admiral von Tirpitz. With them were the leaders of German finance, the directors of the railroads, and the captains of industry.
. . Each was asked if he were ready for the war. All replied in the affirmative, except the financiers, who insisted that they must have two weeks in which to sell foreign securities and arrange their loans."
His Excellency the baron appears to have told the same story also to his colleague, the Italian ambassador to Constantinople. There is not the least reason to doubt that this tale is substantially true in every detail.
AT six o'clock on the balmy summer evening of July 23, 1914, when the cafés of Belgrade were full of peaceful citizens busy over their sugar-water and syrupy Turkish coffee, when the band was playing in the beautiful gardens overlooking the Danube, his Excellency, Freiherr von Giesl, the minister of Austria, presented himself at the office of M. Patchou, the Serbian minister of finance. He did not go to the Serbian foreign ministry, because M. Pashitch, the premier, who also managed foreign matters, was absent from the little capital. Freiherr von Giesl presented an official document, and added verbally that he was under orders that "if the note was not accepted integrally within forty-eight hours, he was to leave Belgrade with the staff of the legation."
M. Patchou was so agitated when he read the document that he at once telegraphed for all his colleagues to come back to Belgrade, and also got in touch with the Russian chargé d'affaires. He informed the latter "that he solicited the help of Russia, for no Serbian Government could accept the demands of Austria." The next morning the wires not merely from Belgrade, but from Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Rome were overladen with the messages of excited diplomats, and M. Sazonof, the czar's minister for foreign affairs, was issuing a frantic appeal for moderating counsels whereby "to prevent consequences incalculable and equally fatal for all the powers." Obviously the good Giesl had had the honor of delivering a somewhat momentous document. The Serbian Note had been thrust upon the world.
The document was instantly recognized as charged with dynamite. It recited the sins of the Serbian Government in failing to check the unfriendly and obnoxious Pan-Serbist agitation, called on it to make formal repudiation of the same in its official journal, then added ten categorical demands whereof the substance was that King Peter's ministers forthwith promise to suppress every paper "inciting to hatred and contempt" of Austria, to dissolve the Pan-Serbist society, the Narodna Odbrana, and all similar societies, to dismiss from the Serbian public service
all military and civil officers "guilty of propaganda against Austria whose names and deeds the Austrian Government reserved to itself the right of communicating," that is, without letting Serbia satisfy itself of their guilt,"to accept the collaboration in Serbia of representatives of the Austrian Government" to help put down the antiAustrian propaganda, to prosecute the accessories in Serbia to the plot against the archduke, in the investigation of which delegates of the Austrian Government would take part, to arrest two Serbian officials who had been implicated by the trial at Serajevo, and to put a stop to the smuggling of arms from Serbia into Bosnia.
But the most deadly sting of this scorpion was in the tail. "The Austrian Government expects the reply of the Royal [Serbian] Government at the latest by 6 o'clock on Saturday evening, the 25th of July."
Any person with a smattering of international law knew that Serbia could not assent to the demands that Austrian officials should enter the country to sit in judgment on Serbian subjects, whose guilt seemed assumed in advance, without withdrawing King Peter's kingdom automatically from the list of selfrespecting and independent countries. From the outset the diplomats who read this note knew one or two things to be true: either the Vienna foreign office assumed the Serbians to be veritable rabbits ready to barter soul and honor for safety, or Vienna wished for nothing but war. And only forty-eight hours were left to Serbia to decide either to sign away her national independence or engage in a deadly struggle against hopeless odds-unless Russia stirred. Then the South Slav cried to the North Slav, and he did not cry in vain.
During the terrible twelve days that were to follow a large number of diplomats were to sign despatches that will live long in history, but of course certain figures played the greater parts. In St. Petersburg it was M. Sazonof, the reasonable and moderate foreign minister, one of the really capable men whom Nicholas II, with all his faults, contrived to enroll in his service. In
Meantime in Austria the Russian ambassador was hastening back from his vacation by fast train to Vienna. In his stead the Russian chargé was presenting an urgent request that Austria extend her forty-eight-hour timelimit for Serbia, to see if some outlet could not be arranged from a black situation. He was very coldly received; and in fact his request was absolutely disregarded.
Vienna it was Count Berchtold, Francis Joseph's foreign minister, bent on a snug little war with Serbia at almost all hazards, but perhaps not so anxious as his compeers at Berlin to bring to pass the universal "Day." At Berlin there were (on the surface) the Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and his smooth foreign secretary Jagow, speaking peace with their lips and yet somehow always rejecting any effective proposition for insuring it.
On the morning of July 24 the various Austrian embassies communicated the instantly famous note to the foreign offices of the other powers and cheerfully awaited results. The delivery of the note at Belgrade had been devilishly well-timed. Nominally fortyeight hours of grace were given. Actually by delivering the document at 6 P. M. it was the next morning before the various foreign ministers would have real opportunity to digest it.
One of Sir Edward Grey's first comments was, "I had never seen one state address to another independent state a document of so formidable a character"; he added that the demand to send Austrian officials into Serbia was subversive of Serbian independence. At St. Petersburg M. Sazonof met in haste with the French and English ambassadors. His diagnosis of the case was expert and speedy. "Austria's conduct was both provocative and immoral. She would never have taken such action unless Germany had first been consulted." Sazonof now begged of Great Britain that she declare that in case of war she would fight beside Russia and France. The latter was bound by firm treaty to Russia in any case, but England only by an informal "entente" for diplomatic coöperation. If the Teutons, however, were sure they would have to fight England also, they might recede. The British ambassador and Grey in London could not, however, give a binding engagement as to this. English public opinion would never sanction a war which seemed primarily to defend Serbia and Russia. All that London could then promise was to put pressure on Berlin and Vienna to keep the peace, and this pledge was most vigorously fulfilled.
On July 25 Sazonof announced that Serbia might evacuate Belgrade and allow Austria to seize it without fighting. Such a move ought to satisfy the pride of Vienna. After that, "Russia would be quite willing to stand aside and leave the question in the hands of England, France, Germany, and Italy." He said, however, that if worst came to worst, "Russia could not allow Austria to crush Serbia and become the predominant power in the Balkans. He did not wish to precipitate a conflict, but unless Germany could restrain Austria, the situation could be regarded as desperate."
The Serbs were terror-stricken. They knew that part of the Austrian demands were justifiable, that the Pan-Serbist propaganda had been undeniably unfriendly, and that there had been unseemly rejoicings in Belgrade at the news of the murder of the archduke. Besides, Serbia had been in bad odor in Europe ever since the killing of King Alexander. Russia was not anxious for war, France was loath to pour out blood and treasure purely over a Balkan squabble, and England was still more unwilling. As a result the Serbs almost literally fell on their knees. They did everything but pawn their national independence. For practical purposes they assented to every one of the drastic Austrian demands save only those requiring that Austrian officials should conduct investigations and trials on Serbian soil, and they would accept this so far as it "agrees with the principle of international law, with criminal procedure, and with good neighborly relations." If Austria was not satisfied with this reply, Serbia would be glad to refer all mooted questions "to the decision of the international tribunal of The Hague."
It was 5:45 P. M. when this formal humiliation of a weak nation before a strong one was placed in the hands of Giesl, the Austrian minister. That gentleman evidently did not feel required to waste much time studying its clauses, to see whether under their "evasive" and "unsatisfactory" phrases (so the Vienna papers soon announced) there might not be terms admitting of accommodation and peace; also little time was wasted telegraphing the document to Vienna and weighing its terms in Francis Joseph's cabinet: for practical purposes the Serbs might just as well have flung back brave defiance. At 6:30 P. M. Freiherr von Giesl handed in a note at Belgrade, declaring "that not having received a satisfactory answer within the timelimit set, he was leaving Belgrade with the entire staff of the legation." The train containing this "high-born" Austrian soon rumbled over the Danube into his own empire. Diplomatic relations were broken, and the mobilization of troops opposite the Serbian capital and the approach of Austrian river monitors indicated that bullets would soon supersede protocols. In Budapest and Vienna the people were parading and huzzaing in the streets. Serbia was weak and very much hated. It was generally felt that Russia would not dare to stir in the face of Germany. The short, easy war seemed very popular. The invasion of Serbia would be merely a promenade.
On the twenty-sixth the diplomats somewhat anxiously waited for the next move. Breaking friendly relations was not quite the same as declaring war. Would it not be possible to limit the
case to a little harmless punishment of Serbia for certain unquestioned sins? Sir Edward Grey began moving heaven and earth to convene a conference of the ambassadors of the four "disinterested" powers (France, Germany, Italy, and England) at London to find some outlet for the case honorable both to Russia and to Austria. Serbia might be chastised, but surely her national life and honor must be spared. To this English proposition Italy and France agreed promptly and gladly; but Jagow at Berlin at once raised difficulties. Russia and Austria had better fail to reach an understanding, he thought, before others intervened. So another day was lost.
That night the German Kaiser suddenly returned from Norway. His foreign officials said that he came back on his own initiative and they feared lest his Majesty's "return cause speculation and excitement." The Berlin foreign office was undoubtedly the calmest chancellery in Europe. Good Herr von Jagow talked placidly of taking "a more hopeful view of the general situation."
On the twenty-seventh the British ambassador at Vienna telegraphed that "the country has gone wild with joy at the prospect of war with Serbia, and its postponement or prevention would undoubtedly be a great disappointment." Meanwhile Jagow was still giving smooth words about being willing to coöperate with England to get peace, but he was becoming painfully vague when it passed to details. In London, however, Sir Edward Grey was not vague when he talked with the Austrian ambassador. That personage was told clearly that his Government was taking
Photograph by Paul Thompson
a terrible risk if it imagined it could attack Serbia and still satisfy Russia. If they failed in this last, "the consequences would be incalculable." The case was becoming so bad that the British had not been able to disperse their fleet after manoeuvers, and as for Serbia, that country had already submitted to "the greatest humiliation I had ever seen a country undergo," and it was utterly disappointing to have her groveling answer treated like "a blank negative." At St. Petersburg, Sazonof was again saying that Russia was very willing to let the four "disinterested powers" get together and decide on what was just under the premises. From Berlin there came almost no decisive sign.
put pressure on Austria. Russia ought to keep out of the quarrel. "From Austria's standpoint [and in this he agreed] her quarrel with Serbia was a purely Austrian concern with which Russia had nothing to do." If peace was to be kept, it was to be by a direct agreement between Vienna and St. Petersburg. Almost simultaneous with this interview was another at Vienna between Francis Joseph's foreign minister and the Russian ambassador. The latter was told that no accommodation with Russia as to Serbia was possible. The ambassador therefore wired St. Petersburg that the only hope of healing the breach was by a conference of the powers, which was the very thing Bethmann-Hollweg at Berlin had just
On the twenty-eighth Austria formally declared war on Serbia. This meant that the situation could not be put back into its old state without formal negotiations and a solemn treaty. Soon cannon-shots were flying across the Danube. Austria was now mobilizing vast armies, avowedly to crush feeble Serbia, but on so general a scale that it was plain she was getting ready for anything. As a natural answer Russia began to mobilize also, not the entire hosts of the czar, but only in the South-a partial mobilization to prevent herself from being hamstrung by a sudden blow in case it should turn out that Austria was not mobilizing against Serbia only, and also, it should be fairly added, to lend weight to her urgent representations that Serbia ought not to be blotted from the list of independent nations, whatever the justice of her cause. Russia took pains to inform Germany that her mobilization was merely partial and facing Austria only, and that she did not intend war. In fact, the Russian ambassador had orders to remain at Vienna and to work for peace. Meanwhile at Berlin Bethmann-Hollweg was telling the English ambassador that he could not consent to a general conference of the powers to
On July twenty-ninth a great change came over the whole situation. Hitherto the quarrel had been between Austria and Russia as to the right of the latter to interpose in behalf of Serbia. Berlin had simply sat back quietly, folded its hands, and rejected every practical suggestion, especially from England, for averting dire disaster. "The contest must be localized,”—that is, Austria must be allowed to treat Serbia unhindered in her own stern way, that had been the substance of a dozen "conversations" permitted by Jagow and his superior, the chancellor.1 Now suddenly Berlin began an amazing activity. Was this because William of Hohenzollern was constitutionally unable to be the spectator of any drama when he might personally be an actor? Was it because the precise point had been reached when by prearrangement Germany was to intervene? Both things are very likely and by no means incompatible. While France and England were still endeavoring frantically to find some decent outlet that would save Austria's interests, Serbia's life, and Russia's honor, while Sir Edward Grey was telegraph
1 I decline at this late date to enter into the question whether Germany had cognizance of the precise text of the Serbian Note by Austria. The denial by the magnates of the Berlin foreign office that they had had advance knowledge of its precise tenor or wording is the denial of men concerning whose personal veracity Americans have formed a very clear-cut opinion. But in any case the evidence is plain that the German Government knew perfectly well that Austria intended to precipitate a crisis menacing to the peace of Europe, and that it egged on its dupe and ally to accomplish its purpose. This is bluntly admitted in the German "White Book" Issued officially at Berlin at the outbreak of the war. "We were perfectly well aware that a possible warlike attitude of Austria against Serbia might bring Russia into the field, and that we might therefore be involved in a war, in accordance with our duty as allies. We could not, however. advise our ally to adopt a conciliatory attitude incompatible with her dignity."
Such a statement is enough for the densest jury.