Rise and Fall of the Anglo-French Entente

Courtesy Reuters

FIFTY years have passed since April 8, 1904, when France and Britain concluded the agreement on Egypt and Morocco which was the cradle of coöperation between the two countries in international affairs. There had been an "Entente Cordiale" briefly in the early years of Louis-Philippe and again during the Crimean War, in the reign of Napoleon III; but under the Third Republic the British and the French had never ceased quarreling in their African territories, and at last English, Egyptian, French and Ethiopian soldiers had come face to face at Fashoda on the Nile. For four months in 1898 there was fear of war. Théophile Delcassé, Foreign Minister, Paul Cambon, then Ambassador in Constantinople, and Camille Barrère, Ambassador in Rome, felt certain that a war against the greatest naval Power would be folly for a colonial power like France. Faithful to the tradition of friendship toward England that was so strong in liberal circles, they insisted upon the evacuation of Fashoda and the negotiation of an African agreement.

The following year it seemed as though this agreement might lead to a more general alliance, and with this end in mind talks were initiated by Paul Cambon, an incomparable diplomat and statesman. But these negotiations finally came up against the opposition of Maurice Rouvier, then President of the Council. He was the friend of Gambetta, a veteran minister, a specialist in finance, a virtuoso in parliamentary intrigue; he feared the threats of Kaiser Wilhelm and Prince von Bülow, and was inclined by nature to believe that understanding and collaboration with Germany could be obtained by harmonizing economic interests. His comment to Paul Cambon was: "For heaven's sake, rid us of this projected alliance with England!" Delcassé resigned June 6, 1905. The Entente Cordiale therefore remained in the experimental stage. So did the Anglo-Russian Entente, considered by Delcassé and his friends the crowning achievement of their diplomatic efforts, given expression in the treaty of August 31, 1907, dealing with Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet.

Thus the Triple

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