DOCUMENTS DIPLOMATIQUES FRANÇAIS, 1871-1914. 3e série (1911-1914), tome X, 17 mars-23 juillet 1914; tome XI, 24 juillet-4 août 1914. Paris: Costes, 1936, Fr. 60 per vol.

ON August 4, 1914, the German Government published a "White Book" and two days later the British Government issued a White Paper (or "Blue Book"). Each of these compilations of diplomatic documents was intended to explain the origins of the war in such a way as to free the issuing government from all blame. Ten days later the Russian Government followed suit with an "Orange Book," and in due course a Serbian "Blue Book" and two Belgian "Grey Books" appeared. Apparently at the outbreak of hostilities the French Government did not feel the need of publicly documenting its conduct. Were not German armies actually invading France? There may also have been the feeling that since the war had arisen in an Austro-Serbo-Russian quarrel, and since France had been dragged into that war because of the Franco-Russian alliance, the less said about that alliance and about French diplomacy the better. But the intense interest aroused throughout the world by the varicolored "books" apparently led the French Government to the conclusion that a contribution by it to the question of war responsibilities would be useful to the Allied propaganda. At any rate, on December 1, 1914, a "Yellow Book" was published. Unlike the earlier "books," it was not confined to the weeks immediately preceding the outbreak of war but contained a few documents dating from 1913. These 1913 documents offered an unflattering picture of German militarism, which was portrayed as deliberately preparing for a European war. The authenticity of two of them (nos. 2 and 6) was challenged by Germany.[i] But this charge of falsification made little impression on the Allied and neutral world, and during the war the Yellow Book was regularly quoted by those who wrote on the crisis of July 1914.

Only after the war did it become apparent that the Yellow Book was neither complete nor entirely reliable. The historians Émile Bourgeois and Georges Pagès were allowed to quote from unpublished documents in their report to the Senate entitled "Les origines et les responsabilités de la grande guerre," as was also former President Raymond Poincaré, first in his lectures "Les origines de la guerre" and then more fully in the spirited fourth volume of his memoirs "Au service de la France." Furthermore, the publication of the complete German, Austrian and British correspondence covering the fateful month of July 1914, and the release by the Soviet Government of certain documents from the Russian archives, threw light on things about which the Yellow Book had been silent.

These revelations led in particular to the examination of one document in the French collection, namely document no. 118. This was a telegram from Ambassador Paléologue in St. Petersburg, dated July 31, according to which the Russian general mobilization had been ordered, apparently on that day, "on account of the general mobilization of Austria and of the measures of mobilization taken secretly but continuously by Germany for the last six days." Postwar historical research had conclusively established the fact that the Russian general mobilization was ordered on the evening of July 30 and the Austrian about noon on July 31. Pressed for an explanation of the statements made in no. 118, the Quai d'Orsay allowed it to become known that they did not form part of the original telegram, which, in fact, consisted of nine words: "La mobilisation générale de l'armée russe est ordonnée." After that damaging admission, confidence in the Yellow Book was naturally shattered, even in France. Historians made as little use of it as possible, especially since other documents which it contained had also been called into question.[ii] The publication of the complete French correspondence for July 1914 has therefore been awaited with intense interest.

In the Austrian, British, German and Russian documentary compilations, the period from June 28, 1914, to the outbreak of the general war in August was treated as a unit. The editors of the French series originally intended to follow the same plan, but examination of the documents convinced them that such a division, however tempting, would not be sound from the historical point of view. For the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, though it now looms in retrospect as a great dividing point in modern history, did not at the time stand out so clearly, as can be seen from the diplomatic correspondence of the first three weeks of July. The Serajevo tragedy aroused considerable anxiety, but it was merely one of the various issues then disturbing Europe. The threat of a general conflict did not yet seem imminent. It is only on July 20, with the appearance of an article in the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, that the danger of an action undertaken by Austria-Hungary with German support became evident. And it was the news of the Austrian ultimatum sent to Serbia on July 23 which really opened the crisis. For this reason, the editors of the French series have taken the period from March 17 to July 23 as one unit, and the period from July 24 to August 4 as another.

All the documents in the Foreign Ministry relating to the European crisis have been published: the editors assure us that the system of registering documents in that office has enabled them to make sure that none of them has escaped their notice. The archives of the War and Navy Ministries have also been drawn upon, as well as all reports to the Government which influenced its decisions, including those from the military attachés abroad. The French have certainly gone much further than any other belligerent towards publishing all their military and naval papers for the period of the crisis.[iii] Evidently every possible effort has been made to secure all relevant materials and to publish them, "sans en excepter ceux qui contiennent, sur des États amis, des appreciations mal fondées ou des jugements inexacts" (XI, viii). The editors point out, however, that minutes are not kept of the meetings of the cabinet and that therefore the decisions of the French Government cannot be "documented."

The French Government published its Yellow Book, as we have seen, with some delay. It thus had more time for "editing" than did the German, British and Russian governments. The editing apparently involved about two-thirds of the documents included and took four forms. In the first place, the chronological sequence of the documents (most carefully observed in the new publication) was often ignored. Thus no. 102 in the Yellow Book consisted of telegrams 311 and 315 from St. Petersburg, while no. 103 was a combination of telegrams 307 and 308. The order of events in the Russian capital was thereby distorted, in order to make the Russian action appear in a more favorable light. In four cases (nos. 51, 86, 129, 151 of the Yellow Book, or nos. 153, 192, 591, 720 of the present publication) the dates were changed; in the last case, Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality is represented as occurring on August 3 instead of August 4.

The second and most common form of editing was the omission of inconvenient passages. The reviewer has noted twenty-four such omissions which can be considered serious. A few examples must suffice. On July 24 Paul Cambon, Ambassador in London, remarked that "Germany had no interest in stirring up a general war" (XI, 23); furthermore: "If Russia takes the part of Serbia, she will have taken the initiative of an aggression against Austria, and Germany will have to support the latter Power" (XI, 12). As this was precisely the German contention, it is not surprising that these statements were suppressed in the Yellow Book (nos. 32, 33). When Viviani received the German ultimatum on the evening of July 31, he declared that he had "no information about an alleged total mobilization of the Russian army and navy" (XI, 438), which was put forward as the justification of the German ultimatum. This was true, for the telegram from the French Ambassador in St. Petersburg announcing the mobilization (XI, 432) had not been received at the moment of the conversation. But the Ambassador had telegraphed on the previous day that because of disquieting information concerning German preparations, "the Russian Government has decided to proceed secretly to the first measures of general mobilization" (XI, 359); consequently this sentence had to be omitted from the Yellow Book (no. 102). Passages in Paul Cambon's telegrams which revealed the vacillation of Great Britain (Yellow Book, nos. 98, 110; XI, 281, 459) or British criticism of Sazonov (Yellow Book, 80; XI, 202) were not unnaturally omitted. So also were the rare statements which showed Germany in a favorable light, such as the declaration of Jagow, the German Foreign Minister, when questioned by Jules Cambon, that he was ready to exert pressure on Austria "en dessous main" (Yellow Book, 74; XI, 167), or the assertion of Schoen, German Ambassador in Paris, that "his country asked only to collaborate with the other Powers in the interest of peace" (Yellow Book, 78; XI, 198). On July 29 Bienvenu-Martin recognized that the German attitude had changed somewhat (XI, 246); but this admission was suppressed in the Yellow Book (no. 85); so likewise was the statement of Dumaine, Ambassador in Vienna, that Tschirschky, his German colleague, had admitted that Germany might intervene at Vienna (Yellow Book, 93; XI, 284). Twice Dumaine reported remarks of his Serbian colleague Yovanovitch which threw a somewhat lurid light on the effect of Serbian agitation and propaganda within the Hapsburg monarchy (X, 516; XI, 220), which of course were omitted from the Yellow Book (nos. 12, 83).

Another device was to add to rather than subtract from a document. In a few cases, this took the form of merely amplifying the original language, without changing its meaning (Yellow Book, 28, 56, 101, 155; XI, 20, 98, 305, 775). More often, words, phrases, even whole sentences were added. Thus the French chargé in Berlin telegraphed on July 4 that "the German Government does not seem to share the uneasiness which is manifested by a portion of the German press with respect to a possible tension between the Governments of Vienna and Belgrade" (X, 472); to which was added in the Yellow Book the words, "or at least it does not wish to have the appearance of doing so" (no. 9). On July 6 Paléologue reported that Sazonov had warned Austria against seeking the perpetrators of the crime at Sarajevo on Serbian soil (X, 477); to the Ambassador's matter-of-fact telegram the Yellow Book added the sentence: "May this warning not be in vain" (no. 10). To a telegram from Berlin reporting the views of the Russian chargé (XI, 61) the Yellow Book added: "The impressions of M. Broniewski as to the arrière-pensées of Germany are very pessimistic" (no. 43). Two more serious examples may be noted. On July 29 Paléologue telegraphed that "the Russian General Staff has ascertained that Austria is hurrying on her military preparations against Russia" (XI, 274); in the Yellow Book there is this addition: "and is pressing forward the mobilization that has begun on the Galician frontier" (no. 91) -- which was not true, as the Austrian general mobilization did not begin until August 1. Another addition to the same telegram was a statement that Sazonov "will support all British efforts in favor of peace." On July 31 Dumaine telegraphed from Vienna at 6 p.m. that the Austrian general mobilization had been ordered (XI, 431) -- as indeed it had been, shortly after noon. But when his telegram was published in the Yellow Book, the words "ce matin à la première heure" were inserted (no. 115). By this means it could be made to appear that, contrary to fact, the Austrian general mobilization had preceded the Russian.

Lastly, in a number of cases the text of a document was deliberately changed. On July 25 Paléologue quoted Sazonov as saying, "I even think that if the Austro-Hungarian Government proceeds to act, Serbia should submit to invasion without resistance and denounce the infamy of Austria to the civilized world" (XI, 34). In the Yellow Book this is made to read: "I think that even if the Austro-Hungarian Government proceeds to act, we should not break off the negotiations" (no. 38)! A statement forwarded from Paris to Viviani, who was on the seas returning from Russia, that "it has been decided in principle to mobilize against Austria" (XI, 90) was toned down for the Yellow Book to read "the mobilization was considered" [envisagée] (no. 50). On July 30 Paléologue reported Sazonov as saying that on the previous evening "the General Staff had suspended certain secret precautionary measures, knowledge of which might alarm the German General Staff" (XI, 342). The reference was to "the first measures of general mobilization," about which Paléologue telegraphed a few hours later (XI, 359). But since it was the French thesis that Russian mobilization was ordered only on July 31, Paléologue's statement had to be changed to read: "the General Staff had suspended all measures of military precaution in order that there might be no misunderstanding" (no. 102). This was in line with another even more striking alteration. Paléologue had expressed his approval of direct conversations between Russia and Austria on the ultimatum to Serbia because it was speedy. "I prefer this to any other procedure," he said, "because the military preparations no longer leave more than a little time to diplomatic action" (XI, 103). No wonder this was modified to read in the Yellow Book: "I prefer this to any other procedure and it is likely to succeed" (no. 54).

The most serious change of all had to do with the action of the French Government itself. On July 30 Abel Ferry telegraphed to London a comparative statement of the military measures taken by Germany and France respectively. One sentence reads: "The railway stations were occupied by the military in Germany on Saturday, in France on Sunday" (XI, 316). But in the Yellow Book it was stated that the French action was on "Tuesday" (no. 106). On the following day Paul Cambon, arguing with Sir Edward Grey for a British promise of assistance, urged that England should not repeat "her error of 1870" when she remained neutral in the Franco-German war (XI, 459). In the Yellow Book this became "the error of Europe" (no. 110). On August 1, Viviani telegraphed to London that "Russia was determined, in coöperation with England," to work to the very end for the realization of [an Austro-Russian agreement]" (XI, 523); but in the Yellow Book, it is France and not Russia which is thus described (no. 127). There are many other minor alterations which might be recorded, but enough has been said to show how unscrupulous the French Government was in tampering with the text of its documents. In this it was neither more nor less conscientious than other governments, all of whom edited their documents in greater or less degree. If more French documents seem to have been mutilated than British or Russian or German, the explanation presumably is that the Quai d'Orsay took its time in publication, whereas other foreign offices rushed into print as quickly as possible.

Since the Yellow Book was so carefully edited, it would be reasonable to expect that the complete French correspondence for July 1914 would provide a good many surprises and even yield some fateful secrets. This has been true of nearly all the post-war publications of documents. It is not true, however, of these new French documents. Since most of these documents have not hitherto been published, a great deal of new detailed information is provided, but they contain no revelations of consequence and throw little new light on the motives of French policy.

The first disappointment in the new documents is that there are very few communications from Belgrade. The French Minister, Descos, was taken ill on July 14, shortly after the sudden death of Hartvig, the Russian Minister, and asked to be relieved. His successor, Boppe, did not reach Belgrade until July 25, the day when the Austrian ultimatum expired. Between July 14 and 25, that is, during the critical period when the Serbian Government had to determine its policy towards Austria, neither telegram nor despatch was sent from the French legation. Descos was an acute observer who was not particularly friendly to Serbia; the absence of reports from him is to be the more regretted because the government at Belgrade has published no documents except the inadequate Serbian Blue Book of 1914. It is interesting to note that the French Government gave no advice to Serbia prior to the Austrian ultimatum. Concerning that ultimatum, the French Foreign Ministry had no prior information. In the Yellow Book a document was printed, dated July 20 (no. 14), which gave a summary of the forthcoming demands, but this was not received until July 24 (XI, 32).[iv] It has been alleged that the Serbian reply to the Austrian ultimatum was largely the work of Berthelot. There is no evidence of this in the French documents, but it is of course possible (in the reviewer's opinion, however, most improbable) that Berthelot made suggestions privately to the Serbian minister in Paris, Vesnitch.

A diverting touch is provided by a document from Cetinje. One of the Sarajevo conspirators, the moslem Mehmedbashich, escaped after the crime to Montenegro, where he was arrested at the request of Vienna. The Austro-Hungarian Government demanded his extradition, but he managed to escape, for which profuse apologies and not altogether convincing explanations were offered by the Montenegrin Foreign Minister. The French Minister in Cetinje reported that the Montenegrin Government did not dare face the indignation which surrender of the prisoner would arouse among Serbs everywhere, and continued: "A subordinate official intelligently took the initiative in effecting the disappearance of the prisoner and actually no one knows where he has fled to. . . . The Minister of Foreign Affairs declared to me on his honor that the Montenegrin Government was in no way connected with the escape. In any case I do not believe that the guilty official will see his future advancement impeded by the initiative which he took in this matter" (X, 537).[v]

Russia, however, rather than Serbia, was the primary concern of France. A few writers believe that Russia and France seized upon the murder at Sarajevo as an opportunity to precipitate a long-planned war against the Central Powers. There is no documentary support for this view. On the other side there are those who consider that France was in no way responsible for the fatal dénouement of the crisis and was the innocent victim of German militarism; this contention is also hardly justified by the documents. Between these two extremes, many insist that France, while not desiring war, might have prevented it by restraining her impetuous ally, especially in the matter of mobilization. These new documents show that French policy was not governed by any such moral considerations (if they can be so described). The French Government regarded the alliance with Russia as the sheet-anchor of its position in Europe, exactly as the German Government regarded its alliance with Austria. In both, the bad had to be taken along with the good. There is no evidence in these documents that the French Government desired war; but if the interests of Russia could be defended only by war, then France, as the loyal ally of Russia, had to go along; and it was not for France to tell Russia what were the interests of Russia. The matter is neatly summed up in two documents. When the German Government, through its ambassador in Paris, suggested that France should counsel moderation on Russia, Viviani replied:

Russia would be rightly astonished by such an attitude on the part of her ally. It would be only in case Germany should give counsels in Vienna which were heeded that France might eventually call attention to this at St. Petersburg in order to reassure the Imperial Government as to the possible repercussions of a conflict to which Russia, no more than other Powers and [even] less than they, is unable to remain indifferent (XI, 190, passage omitted in Yellow Book, no. 76).

And Paléologue said:

The idea of a démarche at Vienna and at St. Petersburg appears to me difficult to reconcile with the full approval which the government of the Republic gave yesterday to the sincerely conciliatory and moderate policy of the Russian Government.

After having declared to the Russian Government that "France appreciates as much as Russia how highly important it is for the two countries to affirm their complete agreement and that it is ready to give full support to the action of the Imperial Government for the purpose of maintaining the general peace," we shall weaken our position by lending ourselves to a démarche which would seem to affect our solidarity [nous désolidariser] with our ally (XI, 248). It comes to this: that France was afraid to abandon Russia lest she have to face Germany alone; and with Tangier and Agadir fresh in memory, no French Government could assume that Germany would leave an isolated France alone. The documents create a feeling in the mind of the reader that the French Foreign Office and the French General Staff, after the Austro-Serbian rupture, regarded war as altogether probable if not inevitable. Consequently the preoccupation of the French Government was not so much to avoid a conflict which was bound to come some day, though it would do nothing to provoke that conflict, as to make sure that France entered the war in as favorable a position as possible.

As it happened, the French President, Poincaré, and the French Prime Minister, Viviani, were scheduled to make a visit to Russia in the latter part of July. The murder at Sarajevo was not deemed sufficient reason for postponing it. Since Viviani was utterly inexperienced in foreign affairs, the Quai d'Orsay prepared a number of memoranda for him, three of which are now published (X, 500, 501, 502). The last of these is a list of topics to be discussed with Sazonov: the crime at Sarajevo occupies the fourteenth place in the list of seventeen. But by the time the French statesmen had reached Russia on July 20, a strong Austrian note to Serbia was known to be imminent, and from Poincaré's memoirs it seems that this was the chief topic of discussion with Sazonov. Our knowledge of what was said and agreed upon has hitherto depended on Poincaré's own statements and upon a report handed to the British Ambassador a few days later (published in 1926 by the British Government). The Russian documents published by the Soviet government a few years ago [vi] contained no memoranda on the Franco-Russian conversations, for the simple reason that none could be found in the archives. Probably none was drawn up due to lack of time, and no despatch was sent to the Russian Ambassador in Paris because he was present in St. Petersburg. The last hope, therefore, of learning what Sazonov and Viviani, the Tsar and Poincaré, said lay in the French documents. And once more we are disappointed. There is nothing about these conversations in the official French correspondence, no doubt because both the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and the French Ambassador in St. Petersburg were present at the conferences: there was no reason why they should inform each other of what they already knew. Nothing was found in the official or personal papers of Poincaré, nor in the personal papers of the Ambassador. Nowhere have the editors been able to find any document relating to the question. We are therefore thrown back on the statement confidentially communicated to the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, which was also telegraphed to Paris for the information of the Quai d'Orsay (XI, 19):

1. Perfect community of views on the various problems with which the Powers are confronted as regards the maintenance of the general peace and the balance of power in Europe, more especially in the East.

2. Decision to take action at Vienna with a view to the prevention of a demand for explanations or any summons equivalent to an intervention in the internal affairs of Serbia which the latter would be justified in regarding as an attack on her sovereignty and independence.

3. Solemn affirmation of the obligations imposed by the alliance between the two countries. (Paléologue's italics)

This only states that France and Russia will pursue the same policy, and in view of the previous history of Franco-Russian relations, more especially in the years 1912-1913, it is hardly conceivable that the French statesmen intended to give Russia a blank check. Yet because the Austrian action was so much more violent than had been anticipated, Russia was driven to take drastic counter-measures; and because Poincaré and Viviani were at sea returning home and therefore inaccessible, France was not consulted about the steps taken. In the end, the French Government found itself presented with the fait accompli.

It is therefore important to know how far the French Government was informed of the military measures being ordered in Russia. On July 25 Paléologue telegraphed that mobilization against Austria had been decided on in principle, but would not become effective until Austria attacked Serbia; nevertheless certain preparatory measures would be taken "clandestinely" (XI, 50). On the following day he reported that these preparatory measures were being taken also in the military districts near the German frontier (XI, 89). The first information was relayed to Viviani, but he made no comment on it (XI, 190); the second apparently was not. As long as the Russian mobilization was directed against Austria alone, there was no occasion for French worry, since Jagow, the German Foreign Secretary, had declared that in these circumstances Germany would not mobilize (XI, 134).

But the question of general mobilization was already looming up. On July 27 Sukhomlinov, the Russian Minister of War, declared that "if Germany took the initiative in any military measures towards either Russia or France, the Emperor Nicholas would immediately order general mobilization" (XI, 124). That same evening the Russian military attaché in Paris, Colonel Ignatiev, approached General Joffre with the question whether, if Germany mobilized only part of her forces against Russia, France would feel herself compelled under the Franco-Russian alliance to order mobilization (XI, 233). The fact that this question had to be asked (at the request of the Ambassador, Izvolsky, who had been at St. Petersburg with Poincaré and Viviani) seems to prove that Russia had not received a free hand from France. Likewise, Joffre's answer, that the Government would have to decide, shows that the French General Staff was not pushing for war. But there is no indication that the French Government gave any consideration to the question: perhaps Bienvenu-Martin and Messimy felt that the question could not be considered until the return of Poincaré and Viviani. In any event, no suggestion seems to have been made to Russia that general mobilization should not be ordered or at least not without the approval of France.

On July 29 Paléologue despatched two telegrams stating that the mobilization against Austria had been ordered (XI, 274, 283). In the second telegram, he added the statement that because of the tone of the latest communication from the German Government, the Russian Government had decided "secretly to commence general mobilization". This was not quite the truth, for the government had decided to order general mobilization and the telegrams were just about to be sent off when the order was countermanded by the Tsar, in consequence of a conciliatory telegram just received from William II. But Paléologue could only report the information given him by Sazonov. In view of the great importance of the news, the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested that Paléologue's telegram to Paris be sent by the Russian cipher, which was supposedly more difficult to break down, and the Ambassador agreed. But when his secretary, Chambrun, reached the Foreign Ministry with the telegram, he was told that the order for general mobilization had been cancelled, and he therefore took the responsibility of omitting from the telegram the sentence about general mobilization. Returning to the embassy, he informed Paléologue of what he had done. The Ambassador, however, did not think it necessary to inform Paris that the Russian Government had ordered and then cancelled general mobilization. It was not until 9:15 p.m. of the following day, July 30, that he telegraphed that, in reply to German measures, "the Russian government has decided to proceed secretly to the first measures of general mobilization" (XI, 359) -- by which time the general mobilization had been ordered, though Paléologue apparently did not know it.[vii]

Meanwhile Sazonov had informed Izvolsky that war with Germany seemed imminent and Izvolsky had inquired whether Russia could rely on France. He was given the desired assurances; but Viviani sent a telegram to St. Petersburg in which he asked that "in taking any precautionary measures of defense to which she thinks she must proceed, Russia should not immediately take any step which may offer Germany a pretext for a total or partial mobilization of her forces" (XI, 305). On the basis of the information available, this was a reasonable request. But suppose that Viviani had known that the Russian Government had already ordered and then countermanded general mobilization, and had done so without consulting the French Government, would he have used different language? It is impossible to say, the reviewer believes, even in the light of the sequel to the telegram.

The telegram was shown to Izvolsky, who was somewhat puzzled by it. After an interview with M. de Margerie, he telegraphed that the French Government did not wish to interfere with Russia's military preparations but wanted them to be "as little public and challenging in character as possible". The military attaché reported that Messimy, to whom he had gone for an interpretation in military language of de Margerie's statement, advised Russia to continue her military preparations but "to refrain as far as possible from movements of troops on a large scale". These Russian telegrams, when published some years ago, were often interpreted as showing the insincerity of the advice given by Viviani to Sazonov. Poincaré in his memoirs denied the accuracy of Izvolsky's language, but adduced no proof. Unfortunately, there is no record of the Izvolsky-Margerie conversation in the files of the Quai d'Orsay -- which is hardly surprising, for if Margerie did use the language ascribed to him, he would in all probability not have recorded it. But from the private papers of Messimy and Abel Ferry it would seem that Ignatiev reported the wishes of the French Government with fair accuracy, for in one document this formula can be found: "Ne pas arrêter la mobilisation russe. Mobiliser, mais non concentrer." In other words, the French Government did not object to secret Russian mobilization but advised against a public order. How would it have reacted to the knowledge that general mobilization had already been ordered (although rescinded)? The answer is anybody's guess.

Although the order for general mobilization was sent out between 6 and 7 p.m. on July 30, the red posters announcing it were not put up in St. Petersburg until the early morning hours of the next day. Paléologue heard the news by 8:30 a.m., and his telegram to Paris was despatched at 10:43, the delay being due to the confusion arising from the military occupation of the central telegraphic office. The message was sent by way of Scandinavia and did not reach Paris until 8:30 p.m. At exactly the same hour a telegram arrived from Vienna, announcing the mobilization of the Austro-Hungarian Army.

As the telegram from Vienna was sent at 6 p.m., the statement in no. 118 of the Yellow Book that the Russian general mobilization had been caused by the Austrian mobilization seems to be a deliberate falsification. But the telegram from Vienna was put down in the register as having been sent at 5 heures i.e. 5 a.m., instead of 17 heures, i.e. 5 p.m. Since the General Staff report of 7 a.m. on August 1, also states that the Austrian mobilization had been ordered at 5 a.m. on July 31 (XI, 468), it would seem that the error was made on July 31 and not at a later date when the Yellow Book was being prepared. An annotation by Berthelot on another document (XI, 431) reads: "Mobilisation autrichienne générale le 31 au matin (5 h.). Mobilisation russe suit (10 h.)". The editors state that it cannot be determined whether this annotation was made at the time or was drawn up when the Yellow Book was being prepared. According to a telegram from Jules Cambon, the German Ambassador in St. Petersburg had telegraphed that Russia had ordered general mobilization in reply to the complete Austrian mobilization (XI, 402). It is therefore possible that the French Foreign Ministry believed that the Austrian mobilization had preceded the Russian and therefore felt justified in editing Dumaine's telegram (XI, 431) so as to make the fact clear. So far as the writer knows, the exact hours when the Austrian and Russian mobilizations were ordered were not established until after the war. When it was that the Quai d'Orsay learned the truth is not known.

According to the Russian documents, Messimy informed Ignatiev about midnight on July 31 that "the government is firmly resolved on war". This is confirmed by the telegram which Messimy sent to the military commanders at 12:02 a.m. on August 1: "The order for mobilization will probably be issued today, August 1, in the afternoon. Proceed at once to all operations within your own area which will facilitate mobilization" (XI, 462).

When the French ministers took their decision on the evening of July 31 they were not sure of the attitude of Italy, Great Britain or Belgium, although they hoped for the best. On July 30, Barrère, the experienced Ambassador in Rome, who had for years been seeking to detach Italy from the Triple Alliance, had to report that "the attitude of Italy in case of a conflagration is uncertain, although public opinion is always anti-Austrian" (XI, 332). On the following day, the Italian Foreign Minister, the Marchese di San Giuliano, when pressed by Barrère, hinted that Italy might remain neutral, but insisted that Russia must not be the aggressor. The annotation on Barrère's telegram by Berthelot reveals that the Italian minister's words were considered too vague and dilatory to have much practical value for France (XI, 411). It was not until August 1 that San Giuliano finally declared that Italy would remain neutral (XI, 482, 500), a decision confirmed the same evening by the Italian Council of Ministers (XI, 580). The French Government did its best to obtain this happy result by issuing an order to restrain the anti-Italian tendencies of the Tunisian press (XI, 386) and by cautioning the corps commanders along the Italian frontier against any military measures which might irritate Italy (XI, 567). When the official notification of neutrality was handed in at Paris, Viviani, who was something of a word-monger, could not refrain from telegraphing to London and Rome that Italy's decision showed that "she preserves the clear conscience of the Latin genius" (XI, 657).

The publication some years ago of Volume XI of "British Documents on the Origins of the War" made the British attitude towards France so clear that not much new information could be expected from the French collection. The situation was neatly described on July 27 by Sir Arthur Nicolson, the permanent Undersecretary of the Foreign Office, who believed strongly that Great Britain should range herself by the side of France:

We depend on public opinion [he said to the French chargé]. That opinion would be shocked if Germany were to attack France, but it is not concerned with Serbia, in which the English are not interested and for which they would refuse to fight. The European aspect of the matter escapes them; later they will grasp it, little by little, perhaps too late. I believe most sincerely that if war breaks out, we shall take part in it with you. But we cannot at present, and I regret it keenly, take the attitude which you suggest (XI, 117).

Two days later, Grey said substantially the same thing in somewhat different language (XI, 281). On July 30 Paul Cambon, reporting that several members of the British cabinet were susceptible to German influence, expressed the fear that "Mr. Asquith, with his habit of temporization, will not dare to take up a resolute attitude" (XI, 363). The Ambassador then communicated to Grey a telegram from his brother Jules Cambon, the French representative in Berlin, who declared that "only the eventuality of English intervention would impress the Emperor, his government and all the interests" and bring about a change in German policy (XI, 378). But Grey refused to commit himself on July 31 or August 1 (XI, 459, 532). In the Quai d'Orsay there was a suspicion that Sir Rennell Rodd, the British ambassador in Rome, who was said to be a close friend of Jagow, was partly responsible for the British hesitation (XI, 458). At the moment when the French Government ordered general mobilization (3:55 p.m. August 1: XI, 507), there was no assurance that Great Britain would come in.

It was not until the evening of Sunday, August 2, that the French Government received the well-known declaration of Grey to Cambon that Great Britain would protect the northern coasts of France against a German attack; but even this was subject to parliamentary approval (XI, 612). At 2:30 p.m. of that day, however, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, saw the French naval attaché in London and stated the terms on which the British Navy was prepared to coöperate with the French; and he requested the attaché to telegraph for instructions so that a discussion could take place the same evening (XI, 625). When Cambon asked Grey for a statement which could be presented to the French parliament on the following day, Grey replied that he did not know what he would say in the House of Commons: much would depend upon the question whether the neutrality of Belgium had been violated (XI, 638); it sounds almost as if he hoped for violation! On the next day the vigorous Churchill was going ahead as if everything had been settled (XI, 668). Cambon was accordingly horrified when Grey told him on August 4 that Britain was not prepared to send her army to the continent; the Ambassador persuaded the Foreign Secretary to bring the question before the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (XI, 754).

Belgium also caused concern to the French Government. True, on July 27 the secretary-general of the Belgian Foreign Ministry declared to the French and Russian Ministers that "in case of an international conflict Belgium would energetically defend her neutrality and the integrity of her territory" (XI, 149), but the French Minister thought the attitude of the government uncertain (XI, 292). There was considerable fear of Germany, and both the General Staff and the Catholic Church, including Cardinal Mercier, were opposed to France (XI, 372). The military attaché thought that public opinion in general was sympathetic to France, but the action of the Government could not be relied on (XI, 373). Grey and Cambon even wondered whether there were not some secret arrangement between Germany and Belgium (XI, 612); Grey remarked, it is worth noting, that the neutrality of Belgium "is not a Belgian interest, but an English interest which England ought to cause to be respected." As late as August 2, the Belgian Government, although it had received no assurances from Germany, was still confident, and the French Minister in Brussels also suspected some kind of connivance (XI, 586). There is not the slightest indication of any collusion between Belgium and France, or Belgium and Great Britain.

The French Ambassador in Berlin, Jules Cambon, was from the beginning of the crisis under no illusions. He seems to have expected the worst and he warned his government to be ready. The military and naval authorities should do what was necessary in order not to be surprised (XI, 49). France would be "the first objective" of the German armies, even if war broke out first between Russia and Germany, and therefore France should do, without any noise, everything that could be done before mobilization. Cambon believed that the German Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg, really desired peace, but that he was helpless against his foreign office and the military (XI, 168). The military attaché declared that the German army expected to go through the French "like butter;" and if the French Army should resist the first onslaught, the high command would be so surprised that they could not act (XI, 293). Cambon was convinced that peace depended upon England's making clear to Germany that she would not remain neutral (XI, 326, 378).

On July 27 the French legation in Luxembourg reported that mobilization was said to have already begun at Metz (XI, 118), and two days later it telegraphed that troops were being concentrated along the French frontier (XI, 249). Foch, then commanding the 20th Corps at Nancy, reported on July 30 that Metz had been in a state of war since July 25 (XI, 313). In Berlin, Cambon heard the rumor that mobilization had been decided on and would be proclaimed on the following day (XI, 322). Late in the day it was reported from Nancy that a telephone message between Metz and Strasbourg had been intercepted, according to which German mobilization would be ordered that same evening (XI, 343). On July 31 reports of German mobilization were received from Luxembourg and Belfort (XI, 412, 427), both of which had to be denied shortly afterwards (XI, 430, 440).

The French Government apparently refused to be stampeded by these reports. Rather it relied on the information collected by the Intelligence Service of the General Staff and transmitted several times a day from July 27 on. These reports are so detailed that they carry conviction of their accuracy. At 6 p.m. on July 30 it is stated that "it does not appear that there is mobilization yet" in Germany (XI, 338); and at 8 a.m. on July 31, that "the reports announcing German mobilization for today are not confirmed" (XI, 384). It is only at 7 a.m. on August 1 that the General Staff asserts that under cover of "threatening danger of war" (proclaimed on July 31) Germany was proceeding to "an actual general mobilization" (XI, 468). Joffre was therefore able to demand general mobilization of the French Army (XI, 473), which was ordered at 3.55 p.m. on August 1 (XI, 507), or about five minutes before the German mobilization. Jules Cambon learned of the German mobilization from the extra editions of the newspapers about 7 p.m.; his telegram reached Paris at 12.05 a.m. on August 2. Curiously enough, the report of the General Staff at 7 a.m. on August 2 states: "The order of general mobilization is said to have been issued in Germany on July 31 at 8 p.m." (XI, 562).

The various military measures taken by France between July 26 and August 1 are fully revealed, but it is not necessary to recount them. The situation is well described by Viviani in a circular telegram of July 31 (XI, 388):

On the one hand, each of the two countries [France and Germany] wishes to leave to the other the responsibility of having ordered mobilization first, especially in view of the attitude of England, which Germany still hopes to see keep out of the conflict; on the other hand, neither France nor Germany is willing to be surprised by the mobilization of the other and each continues to make preparations, without resorting to acts of mobilization properly so-called.

In the end the two governments acted quite independently, each ordering mobilization without knowledge of the other's action or intention.

After mobilization the chief concern of both governments was to influence Great Britain by charges that their frontiers were being violated. In this, the French seem to have acted honestly. Viviani gave prompt notice of German violations on August 2 (XI, 578); on the next day, however, he informed London that no violation had occurred at Longwy, as alleged (XI, 655). The General Staff also learned that an alleged violation at Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, which had been reported to London, had not taken place (XI, 672), and that a French detachment had crossed the frontier near Wissembach (XI, 653). A few hours later the German declaration of war was handed in (XI, 678), so that it was not necessary to pass these rectifications on to London.

The famous order to the French troops to keep behind a line ten kilometres from the frontier is published in full, so that the line may be traced on a large-scale map (XI, 333). When it was learned that the Germans had invaded Luxembourg, the line was extended to the northwest (XI, 568, 569). Then on August 4 stringent orders were issued that French troops should not enter Belgian territory (XI, 715). The French were determined to leave the initiative in military moves to their enemy, and there can be no doubt that this restraint was of the greatest value in securing English and neutral sympathy.

Of all the collections of documents for July 1914, the French is perhaps the most prosaic, for it does not contain anything comparable to the minutes of the Austro-Hungarian ministerial councils, the marginal notes of William II and his telegraphic correspondence with Nicholas II, or the outbursts of Bethmann Hollweg to the British Ambassador in Berlin. Yet there are recorded several interesting incidents that might be mentioned. The Serbian Minister in Vienna, fearing that Russia would not come to the support of his country, insinuated that Serbia might find it better to abandon the Entente and come to terms with Austria (XI, 55). On the other hand, the Counsellor of the Austrian embassy in Paris declared that in normal circumstances his chief, Count Szecsen, would have been recalled (XI, 486), presumably because he had expressed the opinion that the Serbian reply should have satisfied Austria-Hungary. Incredible as it may seem, the French Minister in Serbia protested when Pashitch informed him that the Serbian Government had decided to defend Belgrade instead of abandoning it; Boppe's argument was that this might endanger the lives and property of foreigners! (XI, 286). And the French Government supported him (XI, 310).

On the day before he returned to Paris, Viviani telegraphed the Quai d'Orsay to arrange for Stephen Pichon, Léon Bourgeois and Alexandre Ribot, all former Foreign Ministers, to see him at the Foreign Ministry on his arrival (XI, 191). It is not known, however, whether the interviews took place. On August 1 at 4 p.m. the wireless station on the Eiffel Tower informed the Foreign Ministry that Nauen (the German wireless station) had just sent to all German warships a signal repeated three times, which was a measure used only in connection with mobilization (XI, 508): the German mobilization was in fact ordered at 5 p.m., i.e., 4 p.m. Paris time. Early on the morning of August 2, the Nord railway received a telegram from Brussels, according to which the Belgian railways had been notified by the German railway office at Cologne that the French Ambassador in Berlin and the personnel of the embassy would arrive at the Belgian frontier station, Herbesthal, that afternoon or the next morning (XI, 565). The explanation is probably that the German intention had been to declare war on France on August 1; in that event Jules Cambon would have had to leave Berlin immediately, and the German railways had been warned to be ready to transport him to the frontier. Viviani indignantly telegraphed to Cambon not to leave Berlin except on formal orders from Paris (XI, 576) as if the Ambassador could help himself if war were suddenly declared! Cambon actually did depart without receiving orders from Paris. Farges, the French consul-general at Bâle, was treated to two strange experiences. On July 28 the Austro-Hungarian consul-general called upon him as if to say farewell, "in case events obliged him to break off official relations" (XI, 226); Farges courteously expressed the hope that peace would be maintained. Then on August 4, Farges received a letter from the German consul-general, who said that the outbreak of war filled him "with consternation," "all the more so because I love your beautiful country where I spent twelve unforgettable years as consul-general at Marseilles." He wished for information about a young officer who had been wounded two days before at Delle (XI, 767) -- proof that German soldiers were on French soil as early as August 2.

The documents will not change existing views to any great extent. They will not establish the innocence of France in the minds of Germans. On the other hand, the French will be able to find in them a justification of the policy they pursued in July 1914; and in spite of Herr Hitler's recent declaration repudiating Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, they will continue, on the basis of these documents, to hold Germany primarily responsible for the Great War.

[i] No. 2 was a secret German memorandum, secured by the French intelligence service, on the necessity for the German army law of 1913. Ludendorff declared the document apocryphal. Of course, the French may have been imposed upon; but there is no doubt that the document was obtained by them in Berlin. In no. 6, Jules Cambon, French Ambassador in Berlin, reported the remark of Moltke, the German Chief of Staff, to the King of the Belgians in November 1913 that "war was necessary and inevitable." Moltke denied having used such language.

[ii] Certain sentences were known to have been transposed in no. 101. No. 102 was known to consist of several documents.

[iii] The private papers of Abel Ferry, Under-secretary of Foreign Affairs, and Adolphe Messimy, Minister of War, were placed at the disposal of the editors, though no papers of Prime Minister Viviani could be found. Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador in St. Petersburg, allowed them to use the original copies of his telegrams and part of his diary. Bienvenu-Martin, acting Foreign Minister up to July 29; A. de Margerie, Political Director at the Quai d'Orsay; and Philippe Berthelot, Assistant Political Director, preserved no personal papers for the period of the crisis. Raymond Poincaré had already made use of his papers in his own writings.

[iv] The British Ambassador in Vienna was given a strong hint as to the character of the forthcoming note on July 16; he telegraphed the news to London and apparently informed his Russian colleague, who immediately passed the information on to St. Petersburg. Curiously enough, neither the British nor the Russian Government thought it necessary to inform Paris.

[v] In his despatch, the French Minister stated that Mehmedbashich had spoken to the Montenegrin about a meeting of the Sarajevo conspirators at Tours. After the outbreak of the war, this was communicated to the Sûreté Générale for enquiry; no reply seems to have been made. It is generally believed that Toulouse, rather than Tours, was the place of the meeting.

[vi]Cf. the writer's article "Russia and the War," in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, October 1934.

[vii] That Paléologue was expecting general mobilization is evident from a telegram of July 28 (XI, 216), in which he names the two officers who are to be attached to his embassy in that event.

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  • BERNADOTTE E. SCHMITT, Professor of Modern History in the University of Chicago; Editor of The Journal of Modern History; author of "The Coming of the War: 1914" and other works
  • More By Bernadotte E. Schmitt