Saturday, August 23, 2014

A scrap of paper

Great Britain entered the First World War on August 4, 1914 because of the German violation of the Treaty of London (1839). From The Spectator (UK), August 22, 1914:
...[T]he Imperial Chancellor expressed with considerable irritation his inability to understand the attitude of England, and added: “Why should you make war upon us for a scrap of paper?” The Times goes on to tell us that “Sir Edward Goschen is reported to have replied that he understood the German statesman’s inability to comprehend British action, but that England attached importance to ‘the scrap of paper’ (the Treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality) because it bore her signature, as well as that of Germany.” Here we have in a nutshell the causes which produced the war—that essential difference of opinion and conflict of will which when they occur can only be decided by the sword, or by one or other of the nations concerned giving way, and through fear yielding to or adopting the view which it began by contesting. To put it in concrete form, we had either to adopt the German view that “scraps of paper “—that is, the solemnly pledged words of nations—must be treated as mere shams of no binding force, or else endeavour to make our view that they are something more than” scraps of paper” prevail by the supreme sacrifice of war. Thank God! the British Government and people did not hesitate, but were unanimous in resolving to keep their plighted word, though it might be to their own hurt, and not yield to the “scrap of paper” view of public morality. .... [more]

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