Saturday, July 26, 2014

Today -100: July 26, 1914: War will be a relief

Ten minutes before Austria’s ultimatum was due to expire, Serbia gave a reply, which Austria considers insufficient. It accepted every one of the ten conditions (although with caveats along the lines of Sure we’ll suppress anti-Austrian propaganda, expel from the military people working against Austria etc, just as soon as Austria proves they exist) except the one allowing Austrian officials to come into Serbia and try Serbian subjects, which they accept only in as much as it agrees with “the principle of international law, criminal procedure, and good neighborly relations,” and it wants the Hague Tribunal to rule on it.

Austria is under martial law. Serbia is removing the royal family and government from Belgrade to Kragouyevatz, further from the border. The Tsar orders the mobilization of the Russian Army. Excited pro-war crowds gather in Berlin, Vienna, and Paris, the latter shouting “To Berlin!”, which readers of Zola’s Nana will remember they also shouted in 1870. Probably best not to recycle slogans from your most humiliating defeats. A “prominent banker” in Berlin tells the NYT reporter, “The atmosphere had become insufferable; war will be a relief.” (Spoiler Alert: war will not be a fucking relief).

The chief of the Serbian Army’s general staff, Gen. Putnik, chose this time to be in Austria, and is arrested.

Mexican Gen. Terrazas sells 300,000 head of cattle to some Texan for $4 million. He will split the proceeds with Pancho Villa, who will then give him his son back.

Joseph Caillaux’s letters to his then mistress, the current Madame Caillaux, are finally read in court. They make clear that the relationship was an adulterous one, if anyone in France was still out of the loop on that one, and revealed his cold-blooded strategizing about ending his marriage only after the next election (“What is irksome for us both is that for long months we shall have to employ extreme precautions”). As the lawyer got to the bit about “A thousand million kisses upon every part of your adorable little body,” Madame C. fainted.

There was a lively discussion between two of the judges in the case over the presiding judge’s handling of the trial, which resulted in a challenge to a duel. Between two judges. But first, they have to ask the Ministry of Justice for permission to duel (Spoiler Alert: the Great War will begin before all this dueling admin is completed. Paperwork, man).

Several hundred members of the Virginia Militia attack a jail in Gordonsville in an attempt to lynch a negro who supposedly attacked a militiaman.

An LA Times article on “Griffith of the Movies” mentions that D.W. is working on a big drama based on Dixon’s novel The Clansman (yes, that would be Birth of a Nation). It describes him getting negro children to gambol about happily by throwing dimes for them to dance for... and then doing the same for an old negro (with a shiny half dollar).

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  1. "Madame C. fainted" - from ecstasy at the thought or sheer bloody embarrassment?

    On other matters: the would-be duelling judges have given me an idea for cutting legal costs. In any case let the prosecuting and defending counsel decide the matter by duelling. If it's done in public with an audience, it can be a good money-making proposition. Plus we'd finish up with fewer lawyers.

  2. From the sheer drama of it all.

    I think T.H. White made the same point about duelling in The Sword and the Stone.