The experienced lawyers who took the depositions tell us that they passed from the same stage of doubt into the same stage of conviction. They also began their work in a skeptical spirit, expecting to find much of the evidence colored by passion, or prompted by an excited fancy. But they were impressed by the general moderation and matter-of-fact level-headedness of the witnesses. We have interrogated them, particularly regarding some of the most startling and shocking incidents which appear in the evidence laid before us, and where they expressed a doubt we have excluded the evidence, admitting it as regards the cases in which they stated that the witnesses seemed to them to be speaking the truth, and that they themselves believed the incidents referred to have happened. It is for this reason that we have inserted among the depositions printed in the appendix several cases which we might otherwise have deemed scarcely credible.
The committee has conducted its investigations and come to its conclusions independently of the reports issued by the French and Belgian commissions, but it has no reason to doubt that those conclusions are in substantial accord with the conclusions that have been reached by these two commissions.
As respects the framework and arrangement of the report, it has been deemed desirable to present first of all what may be called a general historical account of the events which happened, and the conditions which prevailed in the parts of Belgium which lay along the line of the German march, and thereafter to set forth the evidence which bears upon particular classes of offenses against the usages of civilized warfare, evidence which shows to what extent the provisions of The Hague Convention have been disregarded.
This method, no doubt, involves a certain amount of overlapping, for some of the offenses belonging to the latter part of the report will have been already referred to in the earlier part which deals with the invasion of Belgium. But the importance of presenting a connected narrative of events seems to outweigh the disadvantage of occasional repetition. The report will therefore be found to consist of two parts, viz.: