The White, Yellow, Grey and Blue Books, which all of the belligerents published after the beginning of the war, dealt only with the attempts of these nations to prevent the war. None of the nations has as yet published white books to show how it prepared for war, and still, every nation in Europe had been expecting and preparing for a European conflagration. Winston Churchill, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, stated at the beginning of the war that England’s fleet was mobilised. France had contributed millions of francs to fortify the Russian border in Poland, although Germany had made most of the guns. Belgium had what the Kaiser called, “a contemptible little army” but the soldiers knew how to fight when the invaders came. Germany had new 42 cm. guns and a network of railroads which operated like shuttles between the Russian and French and Belgian frontiers. Ever since 1870 Europe had been talking war. Children were brought up and educated into the belief that some day war would come. Most people considered it inevitable, although not every one wanted it.
During the exciting days of August, 1914, I was calling at the belligerent embassies and legations in Washington. Neither M. Jusserand, the French Ambassador, nor Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, the British Ambassador, nor Count von Bernstorff, the Kaiser’s representative, were in Washington then. But it was not many weeks until all three had hastened to this country from Europe. Almost the first act of the belligerents was to send their envoys to Washington.
As I met these men I was in a sense an agent of public opinion who called each day to report the opinions of the belligerents to the readers of American newspapers. One day at the British Embassy I was given copies of the White Book and of many other documents which Great Britain had issued to show how she tried to avoid the war. In conversations later with Ambassador von Bernstorff, I was given the German viewpoint.
The thing which impressed me at the time was the desire of these officials to get their opinions before the American people. But why did these ambassadors want the standpoints of their governments understood over here? Why was the United States singled out of all other neutrals? If all the belligerents really wanted to avoid war, why did they not begin twenty years before, to prevent it, instead of, to prepare for it?
All the powers issued their official documents for one primary purpose—to win public opinion. First, it was necessary for each country to convince its own people that their country was being attacked and that their leaders had done everything possible to avoid war. Even in Europe people would not fight without a reason. The German Government told the people that unless the army was mobilised immediately Russia would invade and seize East Prussia. England, France and Belgium explained to their people that Germany was out to conquer the world by way of Belgium and France. But White Books were not circulated alone in Europe; they were sent by the hundreds of thousands into the United States and translated into every known language so that the people of the whole world could read them.