Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Today -100: August 5, 1914: With clear conscience and clean hands, we grasp the sword

Britain declares war on Germany, with 4 hours’ notice, at 11 p.m. on the 4th. It would have been midnight, when Britain’s ultimatum to Germany to leave Belgium expired, but by then the German ambassador had given back his passport preparatory to leaving the country, which was taken as a No.

Germany declares war on Belgium, invades.

Woodrow Wilson issues a neutrality proclamation.

William Howard Taft calls the war “a retrograde step in Christian civilization.”

300 to 400,000 people congregate in New York’s Times Square to read the NYT bulletins and celebrate, because everyone loves a retrograde step in Christian civilization. “While waiting for bulletins to be posted the crowds indulged in oratory and argument without limit. Almost every one in Times Square was either explaining just what the European situation was to a small audience or listening as one of an audience to some one else’s explanation. ... Each man talked as if he had done nothing since the Franco-Prussian war except study European geography, history, politics, and armament. When two debaters met it was a clash of incompatible but respectively unanswerable argument. ... There were arguments in German, French, Italian, Hungarian, and English, accented with the tongues of all these countries, but there was no attempt by any one to transfer the seat of war from Europe to Times Square.”

French Prime Minister René Viviani explains to the Chamber of Deputies that France “did not seek the war. Since war was forced upon her, she will defend herself against Germany and any other power which, not yet having made known its sentiments, takes part by Germany’s side”.

Kaiser Wilhelm gives his own speech about how hard Germany tried to avoid war, but Russia gave way “to an insatiable nationalism” and France, well you know what those people are like, with their “old hopes and long-standing malice.” Funny how no one sought the war and yet here we are.

Guess which leader said this: “In enforced self-defence, with clear conscience and clean hands, we grasp the sword.” Find the answer at the bottom of this post.

Germany is banning aliens currently in Germany, including American tourists, from leaving the country until military mobilization is complete.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: France says Germany executed a Mr. Samain, former President of the French War Society, who lived in Metz (in Lorraine), and it imprisoned all the other members of the Society.

Prince Roland Bonaparte (grandson of Napoleon I), 56, offers to join the army as a soldier, but Pres. Poincaré tells him it’s illegal for a member of any of the deposed royal families (France has three) to join the military.

Headline of the Day -100: “War May Prevent Balloon Race.”

The Lusitania leaves NY for its normal run to Liverpool.

H.G. Wells has an op-ed in the NYT. Evidently the Germans are the Morlocks, or something. “The victory of Germany will mean the permanent enthronement of the war god over all human affairs. The defeat of Germany may open the way to disarmament and peace throughout the earth. ... Never was war so righteous as is the war against Germany now”. That said, “Europe’s quarrel is with Germany as a State, not with the German people, with the system, not with the race.” Fortunately, “The German is not naturally a good soldier.” Compared with, you know, the French. According to mister big-shot futurologist.

Talks between the Mexican Federalist government and the Constitutionalists on how to peacefully transfer power break down over the fact that the Carranza wants an unconditional surrender, and Carbajal had some, you know, conditions. Mostly regarding amnesty.

Pancho Villa declares himself independent of Carranza.

Answer: It doesn’t matter which leader said it, it could have been any of them.

Oh, okay, it’s Kaiser Wilhelm.

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  1. The British ultimatum expired at midnight German time, which was an hour ahead of British time. When Big Ben rang 11 o'clock, it meant the ultimatum had expired. Nothing to do with the German ambassador handing back his passport.

  2. Other way around: the German ambassador asked for his own passport.

    As for the rest, I think I'm right about Britain went ahead declared war early because without an ambassador there was no official way for Germany to accede to the ultimatum, but I can't remember my source. Asquith's and the linked NYT article's version of the facts is a little stretched (not least that he failed to tell Parliament that Germany had already invaded Belgium).