(Catalogue of the Papers of John Morley (1829 -1923). Bodleian Library of Oxford Univ.(Dep.of special colllections and Western manuscripts)
Anti-war Propaganda: Gresham’s Law in Diplomacy
John Viscount Morley resigns from Herbert H. Asquith’s cabinet, refusing to participate in the British drive for war on Germany led by Sir Edward Grey in August 1914. His subsequent Memorandum on Resignation gives the lie to Britain’s putative solicitude for Belgium’s welfare as motive for embroiling her own people in the conflicts of the continent. As H. E. Barnes wrote in The World War of 1914-1918:
We now have the actual facts about 1914. They demolish the Entente picture, though nobody of sense regards Germany as a helpless lamb in the midst of a pack of howling wolves.
In the decade before the war, Germany had made vigorous efforts to arrive at an understanding with Russia, France, and England, but had failed. This was partially because of France’s determination to recover Alsace-Lorraine, Britain’s jealousy of German naval, mercantile, and colonial power, and Russia’s desire for the Straits leading out of the Black Sea. It was in part because of the maladroit diplomacy of Chancellor Bernhard von Bulow and his evil genius, Baron von Holstein. They bungled German relations with France and Britain. Between 1912 and 1914, Izvolsky, Russian Ambassador in Paris, and President Raymond Poincare of France carried through a diplomatic revolution which placed France and Russia in readiness for any favorable diplomatic crisis that would bring England in on their side and make possible the French recapture of Alsace-Lorraine and the Russian seizure of the Straits.
This opportunity came after the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke in 1914. Germany accepted all the important diplomatic proposals of 1914 save one. For this she substituted one which even England admitted was far superior. She tried to hold Austria in check after July 27, but France and Russia refused to be conciliatory. In the very midst of promising diplomatic negotiations, Russia arbitrarily ordered a general mobilization on the German frontier. France had given her prior approval. Such a mobilization had long been recognized in the European capitals as tantamount to a declaration of war on Germany.
After vainly exhorting the Russians to cancel their mobilization, Germany finally set her forces in action against the numerous Russian hordes. France informed Russia that she had decided on war a day before Germany declared war on Russia and three days before Germany declared war on France. England came in to check the growth of German naval, colonial, and mercantile power. The Belgian gesture was a transparent subterfuge, used by Sir Edward Grey to inflame the British populace. He himself admitted that he would have resigned if England had not entered the war, even though Germany had respected Belgian neutrality. The documents show us that Grey refused even to discuss the German proposal to respect Belgian neutrality as a condition of British neutrality. Belgium had not even figured in the British cabinet discussions when war was decided upon. Lord Morley’s Memorandum on Resignation proves this.
And as Emrys Hughes wrote:
Haldane and Grey led the minority who were for war from the beginning. As the crisis deepened, the group which stood for peace gradually withered away, especially after the defection of Lloyd George, and joined the pro-war clique. Only John Morley and John Burns held out to the end against war, which they regarded as an international crime with which they could not be associated. They resigned rather than countenance this gigantic gamble with the lives of millions of men. In his famous Memorandum on Resignation, Morley reveals the fact that a majority of the Cabinet had decided to enter the war before the question of the neutrality of Belgium had been brought up in any way.