With this telegram the war on Germany was practically declared, for as a price of British neutrality an open humiliation of Germany was demanded. If France—the question of French colonies is of very minor importance in this connection—must not be defeated by Germany, then England forbade the German Government to make war. It was furthermore stated that Germany was absolutely compelled to accept Russian-French dictates, and would have to leave Austria to its own resources. This would have meant Germany’s retirement from the position of a great power, even if she had backed down before such a challenge.
* * * * *
The agreement with France.
Only in the light of the developments concerning England’s relation to France, given at the beginning of the war, Grey’s policy, swaying between indecision and precipitate action, becomes apparent.
In all the explanations which the British Government in the course of eight years had presented to the British Parliament concerning the relations to other large powers, the assurance had been repeated that no binding agreements with the two partners of the Franco-Russian alliance had been made, above all, that no agreement with France existed. Only in his speech in the House of Commons on Aug, 3, 1914, which meant the war with Germany, Grey gave to the representatives of the people news of certain agreements which made it a duty for Great Britain to work together with France in any European crisis.
The fateful document, which in the form of an apparently private letter to the French Ambassador, dealt with one of the most important compacts of modern history, was written toward the end of the year 1912, and is published in the British “White Paper” No. 105, Annex 1:
London Foreign Office, Nov. 22, 1912.
My Dear Ambassador:
From time to time in recent years the French and British naval and military experts have consulted together. It has always been understood that such consultation does not restrict the freedom of either Government to decide at any future time whether or not to assist the other by armed force. We have agreed that consultation between experts is not, and ought not to be, regarded as an engagement that commits either Government to action in a contingency that has not arisen and may never arise. The disposition, for instance, of the French and British fleets respectively at the present moment is not based upon an engagement to co-operate in war.
You have, however, pointed out that, if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third power, it might become essential to know whether it could in that event depend