3. The violation of Belgian territory, though discounted in the cynical atmosphere of our time, when it came to the issue was, without question, a stupendous moral event. It was the first time that anything of this sort had happened in the history of Christian Europe. Historians unacquainted with the spirit of the past may challenge that remark, but it is true. One of the inviolable conventions, or rather sacred laws, of our civilization was broken, which is that European territory not involved in hostilities by any act of its Government is inviolable to opposing armies. The Prussian crime of Silesia, nearly two centuries before, the succeeding infamies of 1864, and the forgery of the Ems dispatch, the whole proclaimed tradition of contempt for the sanctities of Christendom, proceeding from Frederick the Great, had indeed accustomed men to successive stages in the decline of international morals; but nothing of the wholly crude character which this violation of Belgium bore was to be discovered in the past, even of Prussia, and posterity will mark it as a curious term and possibly a turning-point in the gradual loss of our common religion, and of the moral chaos accompanying that loss.
4. The preparations of this country by land were not complete. Those of the French were belated compared with those of the Germans, and the prospect of even a short delay in the falling of the blow was exaggerated in value by all the intensity of that anxiety with which the blow was awaited.
To proceed from these preliminaries to the story.
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The German Army had for its ultimate object, when it should be fully mobilized, the passage of the greater part of its forces over the Belgian Plain.
This Belgian Plain has for now many centuries formed the natural avenue for an advance upon the Gauls.
It has been represented too often as a sort of meeting-place, where must always come the shock between what is called Latin civilization and the Germanic tribes. But this view is both pedantic and historically false. There never was here a shock or conflict between two national ideals. What is true is, that civilization spread far more easily up from the Gauls through that fertile land towards the forests of Germany, and that when the Roman Empire broke down, or rather when its central government broke down, the frontier garrisons could here depend upon wealthier and more numerous populations for the support of their local government. That body of auxiliary soldiers in the Roman army which was drawn from the Frankish tribes ruled here when Rome could no longer rule. It was from Tournai that the father of Clovis exercised his power; and in the resettlement of the local governments in the sixth century, the Belgian Plain was the avenue through which the effort of the civilized West was directed towards the Rhine. It has Roman Cologne for its outpost; later it evangelized the fringes of German