We might imagine from declarations which were made by the Germans,
aye! and even by a few people in this country, who are constantly
referring to our German comrades, that this terrible war was
wantonly and wickedly provoked by England - never Scotland - never
Wales - and never Ireland.
Wantonly provoked by England to increase her possessions, and to
destroy the influence, the power, and the prosperity of a dangerous
There never was a more foolish travesty of the actual facts. It
happened three years ago, or less, but there have been so many
bewildering events crowded into those intervening years that some
people might have forgotten, perhaps, some of the essential facts,
and it is essential that we should now and again restate them, not
merely to refute the calumniators of our native land, but in order
to sustain the hearts of her people by the unswerving conviction
that no part of the guilt of this terrible bloodshed rests on the
conscience of their native land.
What are the main facts? There were six countries which entered the
war at the beginning. Britain was last, and not the first.
Before she entered the war Britain made every effort to avoid it;
begged, supplicated, and entreated that there should be no conflict.
I was a member of the Cabinet at the time, and I remember the
earnest endeavours we made to persuade Germany and Austria not to
precipitate Europe into this welter of blood. We begged them to
summon a European conference to consider.
Had that conference met arguments against provoking such a
catastrophe were so overwhelming that there would never have been a
war. Germany knew that, so she rejected the conference, although
Austria was prepared to accept it. She suddenly declared war, and
yet we are the people who wantonly provoked this war, in order to
We begged Germany not to attack Belgium, and produced a treaty,
signed by the King of Prussia, as well as the King of England,
pledging himself to protect Belgium against an invader, and we said,
"If you invade Belgium we shall have no alternative but to defend
The enemy invaded Belgium, and now they say, "Why, forsooth, you,
England, provoked this war."
It is not quite the story of the wolf and the lamb. I will tell you
why - because Germany expected to find a lamb and found a lion..