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Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 13694

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Teutons Find in a Murder the Excuse for War-Germany Inspired by Ambitions for World Control-The Struggle for Commercial Supremacy a Factor-The Underlying Motives.

The assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir apparent to the throne of Austria, together with his wife, in Bosnia, during the last days of June, 1914, is commonly regarded as the blow which forged the chain that bound the European powers in bloody warfare. The tragedy was the signal for putting on the world stage the greatest war play of all times.

When Austria, regarding the murder of the Archduke as a National affront, precipitated the conflict which has convulsed the universe, she marked the way easy for Imperial Germany to put into effect a long-contemplated plan for territorial expansion, and to wage a warfare so insidious, so brutal and so ruthless in its character as to amaze the civilized world.

Word-pictures were drawn, so to speak, of a mighty nation striving to burst iron bands that were slowly strangling her, and her perfectly natural wish to find outlets for her rapidly growing population and commerce. Germany sought to obtain "a place in the sun," to use one of the Kaiser's most unfortunate expressions, and the world soon found that the "place" included the territory embracing a few ports on the English channel, with control of Holland and Belgium, Poland, the Balkan countries, a big slice of Asia Minor, Egypt, English and French colonies in Africa, not to mention remote possibilities.

Germany's ambitions may have been laudable, but her methods of trying to satisfy these ambitions were not such as to either gain for her the "solar warmth" which she sought to win, or gain for her the friendship of the nations of the civilized world. The drama which Germany directed moved swiftly in this wise:

Austria claimed that Servia, as a Nation, was responsible for the assassination of the Archduke in Bosnia. She sent an ultimatum to Belgrade, making demands which the Servians could not admit. Thereupon Austria declared war and moved across the Danube with her army.


Austria's attack threatened to disturb the balance of power, because at the time the continent was divided into four groups: The close alliance of the central powers-Germany, Austria and Italy-referred to as the Triple Alliance or Dreibund; the Triple Entente, or understanding between Great Britain, France and Russia; the smaller group whose neutrality and integrity had been guaranteed, or at least recognized-Belgium, Denmark, Holland and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, sandwiched in between Germany, France and Belgium, together with Switzerland. The fourth group included the Balkan nations: Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey and Roumania, all drawn close to Russia; Norway and Sweden, and the Iberian nations, Spain and Portugal. The increase in the power of one of these groups would at any time have been sufficient to precipitate a war, but in the movement of Austria against Servia there entered a racial element. There was a threatened drawing of another Slavonic peoples into the Teutonic system. Besides this, the action let loose the flood of militarism which civilization had been holding in check.

With this situation in mind, it is easy to understand how Germany could precipitate a world conflict by attempting to keep open the way to the near East, and controlling the markets as against Britain, France and Russia. Back of all this was the question of commercial supremacy, Germany showing her intention of keeping the way open to the near East and dominating the markets as against Britain, France and Russia.

Russia could not stand by and see one of her Slavonic wards crushed, and France, which held the Russian national debt, prepared to support her debtor, whereupon Germany, threatened on both sides, struck. In doing so the Kaiser ignored the rights of the small neutral states, invaded Belgium and brought his armies within threatening distance of England. France prepared to defend her country against Germany, and England, alarmed by the move of Germany and sympathizing with Belgium, struck back to avert the disaster which she felt must follow the German movement, which had been threatening for years.


All attempts to maintain a balance of power between the European countries were from time to time jeopardized by various developments. The elements in the continental group struggled against each other, and the Nations, while seemingly at rest, regarded each other with suspicion. One of the underlying forces that the world knew must at some time be felt was of racial origin. The historical explanations of the war would involve the retelling of almost everything that has happened in Europe for more than a century.

But it is necessary to the long train of evil consequences which have followed the interference of other powers in the settlement of affairs between Russia and Turkey after the war of 1877, when Russia was victorious. Russia and Turkey had agreed upon a large Bulgaria and an enlarged and independent Servia, but at the Berlin Congress, which Austria had taken the initiative in calling, Austria showed that she wished to have as much as possible of this Christian territory of Southeastern Europe kept under the domination or nominal authority of Turkey. Austria feared Russia's influence with the new countries of Servia, Roumania, Bulgaria and Montenegro, and therefore she desired to have this territory remain Turkish by influence, to the end that she might some day acquire part or all of it for herself.

One of the articles of the agreement of Berlin turned Bosnia and Herzegovina over to Austria for temporary occupation and management. Austria was a trustee of the country which lies between Servia and the Adriatic sea, and while Austria's management was efficient, Servia looked forward to the time when a union could be effected with Bosnia, which would provide Servia with an outlet to the sea.


But when Russia fell humiliated by the Japanese and the Young Turks reformed their government, and there was prospect that the Turks might demand the evacuation of Bosnia by Austria, the powers that had engaged in the Berlin treaty were informed that Austria had decided to make Bosnia and Herzegovina a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Servians were embittered, because this stood in the way of their attaining their ideals, and their country was landlocked.

With this bitterness rankling in her national breast, Servia joined forces with Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro to drive the Turks out of Europe. The larger powers, including Austria, tried to prevent the action, but the heroic Balkan struggle is a matter of history. Servia was to have secured as a sha

re of the conquered territory a portion of Albania, on the Adriatic. This would have compensated her for the loss of Bosnia, but the great powers, led by Austria, stepped in, and a plan was devised of making Albania an independent state or principality, with a German prince to rule over it.

The Servians were bitter, and both Servia and Greece demanded of Bulgaria portions of the territory acquired in the war and which had originally been assigned to Bulgaria as her share. Bulgaria stood upon her technical rights and precipitated the last Balkan war, which was really made possible, or probable, by the Austrian policy. When the war was concluded Servia had acquired more territory to the south, but she remained a landlocked country, with Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania stretching between her and the Adriatic sea.

This was the situation when the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife occurred in Bosnia. The Archduke was, in effect, a joint ruler with the Emperor Franz Joseph, who was nearly 84 years of age, and the entire world realized that great events were likely to follow the killing of the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The murder was committed by a young Servian fanatic, and Austria determined to hold Servia responsible for the murder, and therefore presented her now-famous ultimatum.


Students of history hold that if there had been a proper respect for the commendable desire of the Christian peoples in European Turkey to throw off the Turkish yoke and become self-governing states, there would have been no cause for war, so far as relates to Servia and the situation which precipitated the conflict. There would have been developed a series of peaceful and progressive countries of the non-military type of Denmark, Sweden and Holland.

A wiser treatment of the Balkan problem might have averted the war, but it could not have set aside racial differences, nor could it have ended the curse of militarism or set at rest the distrust and fear which it promotes.

The end of European militarism might have come about, however, through a better understanding between Germany and France. This might have been arrived at years ago if Germany had opened the Alsace-Lorraine question, and had rearranged the boundary line between the two countries so that the French-speaking communities lost in the Franco-Prussian war be ceded back to France. The cost of maintaining the feud over Alsace-Lorraine has been a burden to both France and Germany, and the progress which Germany has made in world affairs, despite the burden of militarism which she has earned, is one of the marvels of the century. And the situation compelled France to maintain a defensive military organization which was as great a burden to her and barrier to world peace as the military burden of Germany.


Whether Germany conspired to bring on the war so that she could wage a campaign of aggression has not yet been made clear, but the strain between Germany and Russia had been growing for some time, and the assassination of the Teutonic heir, Francis Ferdinand, by a ward of Russia, created an occasion which gave Germany an opportunity to fight, without being compelled to directly precipitate the conflict. Russia could do naught else but come to the aid of Servia, and Germany by reason of her alliance with Austria must aid the latter country.

Germany anticipated the entry of Italy into the conflict as the third member of the Triple Alliance, but Italy did not regard Germany's action as defensive and declined to aid Austria. Germany had made overtures to Great Britain, but England had an understanding with France, which was in the nature of a limited alliance, and Germany might have kept England out of the struggle; but Germany proceeded with a plan to invade France by way of Belgium, which was in violation of international agreement establishing Belgium's neutrality and independence. Germany had nothing to gain by choosing the Belgium route, for the fact is that even had the Belgian government approved the movement, there must have been a French counter-movement, which would have made Belgium the theatre of war just the same.

Pan-Germanism has been described as one of the underlying motives in the world war, and Pan-Slavism has always opposed Pan-Germanism. Pan-Germanism is described as a well-defined policy or movement which seeks the common welfare of the Germanic peoples of all Europe and the advance of Teutonic culture, while Pan-Slavism, represented by Russia, seeks in the main the uniting of all the Slavonic folk for common welfare. The contact between these two has always been seething, and the racial differences made burdensome the arbitrary alignment and political geography arranged by the Berlin Congress.


The commercial side, however, was a big factor, for Germany sought world markets for its products. In the near East are the grain fields of Mesopotamia, and in the far East are the vast markets of India and China. The great banking and financial interests of Europe have been seeking the conquest of Asia for nearly half a century. German capital built railroads through Asia Minor, but English capital controls the Suez Canal. Russia welded the Balkan states until the Slavonic wedge from the Black sea to the Adriatic barred Germany's way to the Orient. England threatened the Kaiser's expansion on the sea; while Russia, on one side, with France her strong ally, closed the Germans in on opposite sides. So Germany must have outlets to the world markets.

The religious element was also a factor in the affairs of Europe, for the territory has been divided into four large religious groups for centuries. Moslems counted several millions of Turks, Bosnians and Albanians in Europe, the Protestants among the Germans, English, Swiss and Hungarians number about 100,000,000, while the Roman Catholics in all the Latin countries, Southern Germany, Croatia, Albania, Bohemia, and in Russian Austria and Russian Poland are about 180,000,000. The Greek Catholics in Russia, the Balkan countries and a few provinces in the Austrian Empire number more than 110,000,000.

The differences in religion have precipitated many European struggles, but for more than a century the countries have been forced to assume an attitude of tolerance, so that churches other than those established by the State have thrived; But just what influence religions may have had in the various incidents of the war it is difficult to determine.

The outstanding fact is that but for the arrogant, militaristic policy of Imperial Germany, the differences between nations might have been settled, and almost indescribable horrors of the war would never have been experienced.

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