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The highest representatives of the German Empire with emphatic seriousness declared that it was with a heavy heart and only following the law of self-preservation that they decided to violate the neutrality of the Kingdom of Belgium, guaranteed by the great powers in the treaties of 1831 and 1839.
The German Secretary of State on Aug. 4 informed the English Government through the embassy in London that Germany intended to retain no Belgian territory, and added:
Please impress upon Sir E. Grey that German Army could not be exposed to French attack across Belgium, which was planned, according to absolutely unimpeachable information. Germany had consequently to disregard Belgian neutrality, it being with her a question of life or death to prevent French advance.—(British “White Paper” No. 157.)
In answer Grey caused the English Ambassador in Berlin to demand his passports and to tell the German Government that England would take all steps for defense of Belgian neutrality. This, therefore, represents, in the view which very cleverly has been spread broadcast by British publicity, the real reason for the war. But in spite of the moral indignation that is apparent against Germany, the consideration for Belgium, up until very late, does not seem in any way to have been in the foreground. We find on July 31 Grey stated to Cambon:
The preservation of
the neutrality of Belgium might be, I would not
say a decisive, but an important, factor in determining our
attitude.—(British “White Paper” No. 119.)
Here, therefore, there was no talk about England grasping the sword on account of Belgium. Now no one will claim that the assumption that the German troops could march through Belgium would be new or unheard of. For years this possibility had been discussed in military literature.
This expression on the part of the historical Faculty is very interesting. It shows that a plan of campaign between the English and French had long been considered, and that the Belgian entry into the alliance against Germany was a matter agreed upon.
A Sudden Decision.
It must also be assumed that the Belgian Government knew toward the end of July at the latest that the war between Germany and France was probable and the march of Germans through Belgium very possible.