England—Traitor to the White Race

By Albert Bushnell Hart
(Harvard University)

[World's Work, September 1914]

For the wreck of this conflict which will increase from day to day, is there any good, clear, inevitable reason? No Napoleon has forced his neighbors to war. No Bismarck has racked Prussia in order to make Germany. No Agadir incident has set off the match. No invincible horde is advancing out of Asia. Europe got through two Balkan conflicts without general war.

It is no explanation to say that this king or that emperor or the other president or prime minister wants war. Sovereigns nowadays are, at their strongest, only train-dispatchers who can order a switch thrown in one or another direction. No monarch can go against the spirit of his people. Every country included is united in what is considered a natural war. It is not a war of dynasties or statesmen or military leaders. It is not a war of revenge for Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Questions of trade and markets play a large part in the drama—-but it is not the love of money which leads great navies to spend 5,000 million dollars, in order to secure a trade in which the profit cannot be more than 200 millions a year. This is a war of peoples and not of interests.

The military spirit, commercial expansion, desire for territory, and the self assertion of great nations are things that in the long run may over come all the checks of Parliaments and statesmen and The Hague conferences. But none of them could have brought about the fearful conditions of the year 1914. The strongest and determining reason for war is the growth of race antipathies; the world has at last realized that the political boundaries of Eastern Europe cut across older and 'more persistent divisions of race, language and religion, and thus bring conflicts with nations and between them.

Europe is a mosaic of races. In most countries the race elements have amalgamated or have ceased to conflict with each other. In this crisis, the Irish in Great Britain and the Walloons in Belgium have sunk their consciousness of race in their consciousness of nationality. Eastern Europe still bears the marks of the successive waves of barbarian invasion out of the heart of Asia. The Hungarians and the Bulgarians are both races that forced their way into Europe where they found the Slavs, the Germans, and the Latins. Then the Slavs received the fearful weight of the Turkish invasion and for centuries lost independence and vitality.

Yet till recently there was no strong race antipathy between Germans and Slavs. Germany and Russia have not been at war with each other since the Czar Peter the Third saved Frederick the Great in 1762. Till forty years ago the Bohemians and Germans got on tolerably well side by side. The race strains which are pulling Europe to pieces at last have showed themselves by rousing country against country; and inside Austria. There the antipathy between Germans and Slavs has grown so bitter that, in the judgment of the Austrian statesmen, the Germans must fight Slavs either outside of Austria or inside of Austria. They have preferred, to make the issue perfectly clear by declaring war on the one markedly successful and Independent Slav state outside of Russia.

The challenge aroused Russia, but did not directly concern other Powers farther west. Most of them, to judge from the proclamations and official communications, are fighting only in self-defense. In the midst of the appalling misery of the time, there shines out a comic gleam in the exchange of discourtesies about mobilization. As soon as the trouble began, every one of the four Central European Powers began to move troops with all possible speed toward its threatened frontiers, at the same time calling the world to witness that they were not "mobilizing." Every nation threatened every other, hoping thus to frighten its neighbor into giving way without war. The responsibility for the war rests upon no individual and upon no one nation, but upon the interlocking of Europe commercially, territorially, and racially, so that one Power after another was drawn in the maelstrom. Perhaps statesmen felt that the cleaning time had come at last; and that the rival claims and pretensions must be settled by the court of war, the only one that executes its own decrees.

Perhaps this war is what Tolstoi thought all wars to be, merely a blind movement of human beings, they know not why, and they know not whither, like a foray of soldier ants. Nevertheless, reasons for war can be found in the make-up of Europe, in the character, in the aims and ambitions of the great Powers. The continent of Europe is divided into ten groups of nations. Four of these are the minor groups of the Balkans; Scandinavia; the neutralized Powers of Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland; and Spain and Portugal. Alongside these and overtowering them in wealth and military strength, are the six great Powers, Italy, Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, and German.

Europe has for some centuries been divided between four main religions. The Moslems up to two years ago still counted eight millions of Turks, Bosnians, and Albanians, but there are now only about three or four millions left in Europe. The Protestants, principally Germans, English, Swiss, and Hungarians, are about 100 millions. The Roman Catholics in all the Latin countries, Southern Germany, Croatia, Albania, Bohemia, and in Russia Austria and Russian Poland are about 180 millions. The Greek Catholics include Russia, the Balkan countries and a few provinces in the Austrian Empire, but by no means all the Slavs. Their number is about 110 millions.

Differences of religion have caused many European wars, but during the last hundred years every European country has been obliged to tolerate churches other than that established by the State. These, sects are attached to their country. Protestant and Roman Catholic Magyars are a unit when it comes to a discussion of their place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; and there is no visible difference between the Catholic Bavarians and the Protestant Prussians in their support of their country in the present war.

Four comparatively small groups of people of Asiatic origin are the Finns, Magyars, Bulgarians and Turks, in all about 14 millions. The Scandinavian group is small, though effective, and the three countries together, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, have ten and a half million people. The English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish, between whom there seems to be no race division in time of national danger are 46 millions. The Latin powers, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, and Italy count 106 millions. The 2½ million Greeks are akin to the Latin. The Germans in Germany, German Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary are a compactly situated mass of 79½ millions. The Slavs of Russia, including the Poles, and not the Finns, together with the Roumanians (who claim to be a Latin race, but seem to have more Slav blood than anything else), the Servians and the various Slavic elements in Austria-Hungary are in all 111 millions.

Before sketching the status of the great powers, the place and influence upon the war of the minor groups must be noticed. The Balkans is an example to the world of the immense difficulty of carrying on states which contain large numbers of people, who in race and in sympathies belong to some neighbor. The second Balkan War in 1913 came about solely because there were so many Bulgarians in Greek and Servian territory, and so many Greeks and Servians in Bulgarian territory. No geographical boundary line can he made to fit with these race groups. The effort to adjust the matter by killing off villagers of different race from that of the conqueror of a region was so thorough-going as to shock mankind, but not drastic enough to solve the problem. If the war is primarily a fight between the organized Slavs, and the Germans, the Balkans are not much interested since there are only about five million Slavs south of the Danube. Emperor William last year called for a larger army and a bigger war chest, because he felt that the armies of the Balkans altered the balance of European military power. If the Balkan Powers could have stood together till this year, Austria could not have declared war on Servia. Bulgaria and Greece may easily be drawn into the conflict, particularly if, as seems likely, Turkey makes war on the German side; and when the general peace comes, it must include a settlement of the Balkan question.

The Scandinavian Powers are unwilling sharers in the danger of war because two of them control the natural entrance into the Baltic Sea; and the Swedes are convinced that Russia wants to subvert them. Portugal is an ally of England, and proposes to join in the war. Spain may very likely enter the lists if France seems to need aid.

The three little neutralized Powers, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland, have already learned what "neutrality" means between desperate nations. The Emperor William a few months ago was much pleased by the Swiss manoeuvres, because they prove that he could "spare two army corps." The remark meant of course that neither France nor Germany could safely force a way through Switzerland. It meant also that the Germans intended to use Belgium as their highway into France, treaty or no treaty, international law, or no international law. Holland has no protection from Germany except the troops, and ships of the


Italy joined the Triple Alliance about twenty years ago, because she was then on very bad terms with France. To Germany and Austria the Italian navy and merchant marine were a special attraction.

Italy has three territorial objectives which must largely affect her position; (1) on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, a decided conflict of interest with Austria has developed; (2) Italy desires the extension of her colonies, as Tripoli is at present her only valuable colonial possession. Italy desires to annex Trentino, an Italian-speaking district in the southern Tyrol, and Trieste, the population of which is Italian. But they might as well attempt to pluck out the right eye of Emperor Francis Joseph as to take Trieste for it is the only seaport in the Austrian half of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

Russia has for centuries been a reservoir of compressed political gas, pushing in every direction for an outlet. When Peter the Great came to the throne two centuries ago his country was almost shut-off from the Baltic by the Germans and Swedes—and the Tartars cut him off from the Black Sea. War after war was necessary to gain free access to the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. Meanwhile the Russians pushed into the thinly settled area of North Asia until they reached the Pacific. The obvious line of approach to the world's commerce for Russians is through the Bosphorus and the Aegean Sea to the Mediterranean.

That route is held by the Turks, who far the last fifty years have been backed up by first the English and French, and then by the Germans.

Russia has gradually torn away fragments of the Turkish Empire along the Black Sea and has aided in building Roumania and Bulgaria out of the ruins of Turkish provinces. In 1878 a Russian army marched till it was in sight of the minarets of Constantinople, but the English under Disraeli compelled Russia to give up the fruits of that victory. As the great Slav Power, Russia is not always keenly interested in the expansion of small Slav Powers; but it has for years urged the policy of pan-Slavism, whatever that may mean. If the issue of German against Slav is clearly raised, as it seems to be in this war, Russia could no more keep out of it than she could forbid her subjects to attend the Greek Catholic Church.

It is a singular fact that till 1914 there never had been a serious war between Russia and Austria. Though the Russians were defeated by the French, English, and Piedmontese in 1855, and by the Japanese in 1905, they have in many wars shown military talent and a fine fighting force. Russia is the only nation which without the assistance of allies defeated the great Napoleon.

In case of victory the Russians will certainly demand Constantinople, which means that the Turk would be finally shoved out of Europe; England and France would probably favor that solution of the Near-Eastern question. If Sweden should be involved in the war, Russia may claim part of that country. Some "rectification of the frontier" might be exacted from Austria. On the other hand, if Russia should be seriously defeated, the Finns and the Poles may rise. As late as 1863 there was an insurrection in Poland. Otherwise it is not likely that the great colossus of Europe will be under any circumstances put in a less favorable position than that which she occupied at the beginning of the war.

England in this contest is not fighting to gain anything new, but simply to hold what she has: first of all her commerce. And there seems a reasonable chance of protecting English merchantmen while German and Austrian must lie in port or be captured. The Japanese have undertaken to look after English interests in Asia.

The English hope to shut the German navy up in the North Sea, for without a supply of food stuffs from other parts of the world England would be starved out after a few months; while France, Germany, Austria, and Russia can probably feed themselves and their troops. The English colonies scattered all over the world are a bait to the Germans. Canada, Australia, and probably South Africa can take care of themselves, but India is a problem which nobody at present can solve. Germany, Russia, or France can be badly defeated without losing much territory or dropping a place in the scale of nations; but not so with Great Britain. A victory of the German powers would infallibly deprive Great Britain of a part of her colonies, a large portion of her trade, and the prestige of being the greatest sea power in the world.


Of all the great powers France is the freest from internal dissension. The 207,000 square miles of the main country has but 40 millions of population; and the French have been almost in despair because Germany grows so much faster and therefore has so many more recruits. The colonies of France in Africa and Eastern Asia are nearly as large as the United States and its dependencies; but they contain only 41 millions of an indifferent population. Almost the whole population of France, so far as it has religious affiliations, is Roman Catholic.

France is supposed to be the thriftiest large country in Europe, and is able to raise nearly a thousand million dollars a year for national and local public purposes; but the debt is more than six years national income, and it will be much increased by the war. The country has had a splendid foreign trade of 1,700 million dollars of exports and 2,000 million of imports, and it owns a considerable merchant marine.

If the central powers should get control of the sea it would go hard with the French colonies, which it is supposed the Germans hope to secure. What the French expect from the war is first of all the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine which the school children are taught: to consider two French provinces temporarily in possession of a foreign power. It was a tactical mistake for the Germans to wrest from France provinces which have shown themselves so French in feeling, that they have never been allowed to have a popular government. The French frontier sweeps about within sight of Metz, which is one of the strongest fortresses in Europe. If the French have the physical power, and their allies will back them up, Alsace-Lorraine will be claimed as their reward at the end of the war.

A second important object of France is to wipe out the fearful disgrace of the war of 1870 and 1871. Napoleon the Third put his country in a position to be disciplined; but it was the French nation, the French people, and the French army that were defeated and humiliated. They mean to prove to mankind that they cannot be so treated a second time.


The centre of the crater in European affairs is Austria-Hungary, through which for ages has run the boundary between the German and the Slav races. The Austrian-Hungarians have but one seacoast stretching between the two ports of Trieste and Fiume, beside the mountainous coast of Dalmatia, which has a Serb population. Nevertheless she has developed a creditable commerce and her ships run to Constantinople, to India, and to New York. A main object-of Austria in this war is to push that coastline farther south, wiping out Montenegro and part of Albania; or even to follow out a plan cherished for half a century to obtain a tongue of land between Bosnia and the Aegean Sea, with the port of Salonica.

The three objectives of Austria in the war therefore appear to be: (1) The "execution" of Servia as a lesson to all Serbs of what will happen to any head that raises itself above the level; (2) the extension of territory southward; (3) The holding of the Slav population, partly by force, and partly by trying to bring those people to feel that their country is in danger. For it must never be forgotten that both the Balkan people and the Austrian-Hungarian Slavs if they cannot be independent will at least not be Russian. Probably every group of Slavs inside the Austrian-Hungarian boundary will stay there, rather than incur any such danger.

Whatever happens to any other power, Austria-Hungary is playing a desperate gambler's game in this war. The Magyars who have long hated and thwarted the Germans, have now united with them to keep their Slav fellow citizens in order. If Austria and Germany are victorious, the empire will be safe for the time; although no one outside the boundaries of that empire can guess the possibility of Slav risings during the war; or the likelihood that the Slavs will take to heart the lesson that they must remain inferior and subordinate in Austrian-Hungarian affairs.


By common consent, the most formidable military power in Europe is Germany. In area (209,000 square miles) it is almost exactly equal to France, but the population is 65,000,000 of whom 52,000,000 are Germans, and 2,000,000 are Slavic Poles. With that exception there is nowhere in the land a seriously discontented race element. In its colonies, which are chiefly African, the million square miles contain only 24,000 white people. In the Empire there are 40,000,000 Protestant, 24,000,000 Roman Catholics and half a million Jews.

The national taxes are nearly 1,000 million dollars a year and the debt is about twelve years income. The country has a magnificent system of railroads, and canals, and a splendid merchant marine of more than 3,000,000 tons; and an inward and outward trade of 5,000 million dollars. No country has ever made such efforts to carry on business, government, and military affairs in a scientific and systematic way.

Germany's objects in the war are perfectly clear. First of all, to give notice to all the Germans in Europe, to the Magyars, and to the German, Austrian, and Hungarian Slavs who "stay good," the assurance that Germany will fight for them and with them. In the second place the Slavs outside those two empires are notified that the Germanic power is massed against them. In the third place, if only Germany can get the command of the sea (in which Austria can be of very little aid) the French and English colonies must fall. A decided land victory over the allies in Europe might justify the demand for possession of colonies that had not been taken by the fleet. Germany is not likely to look for Russian territory, except perhaps one of the German speaking provinces on the Baltic; but if she can she will insist upon a free hand in Asia Minor, either by an understanding with Turkey or by crushing Turkey. Finally, if Germany is able to bring it about, Holland will almost surely be annexed. It is the natural distributing point of German commerce, and with Holland goes a tidy lot of Asiatic islands. A victorious Germany will not go into any peace negotiations congress without bringing home a substantial conquest of colonies.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013.

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