Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 1914

July 1914 will become known to history as the month of the July Crisis.  Looking back from the vantage point of the Twenty-first Century, it is hard to find a more consequential month, in the Twentieth, than this one.  The month begins with the reaction to the June 28 assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo; it ends with ultimatums and mobilizations that plunge Europe into a catastrophic conflict that will continue for over four years and change the world forever.  After the assassination, Austria-Hungary quickly determines that Serbia is to blame.  Like Russia in another July crisis a century later, Serbia denies responsibility for the "outrage" and calls for an investigation.  An Austrian ultimatum and an unsatisfactory Serbian response are followed by a declaration of war against Serbia.  By month's end, Russia, Serbia's patron, and Germany, Austria-Hungary's ally, have mobilized, and in England First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill has ordered the Royal Navy's First Fleet (soon to be redesignated the Grand Fleet) to its war station in the Orkney Islands, where it will command the North Sea.  As preparations for war continue, much of the public's attention is elsewhere.  In London, the King makes an unsuccessful personal attempt to resolve the Irish Home Rule question.  In Paris, Mme. Caillaux is acquitted and M. Jaures is slain.  In Mexico, General Huerta resigns the presidency and leaves for Jamaica.  In the United States, President Wilson's emissary Colonel House returns home after two months in Europe. But as the month comes to an end, a sudden realization that war is imminent causes markets to collapse in London, New York, and other financial capitals.


"A Chain of Friendship" (from the Brooklyn Eagle)

Weeks of diplomatic maneuvering that followed the June 28 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife culminated on July 23 in an Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia, followed by a declaration of war on July 28.  Russian general mobilization ensued, followed by a German ultimatum to cease.  Russia will almost certainly refuse, and France is expected to stand by its ally.  At month's end, all Europe seems on the road to war.

Count Alexander Hoyos

Not long after the Archduke's assassination, Austrian authorities satisfied themselves through interrogation of Princip and others that the assassins were part of a conspiracy originating in Belgrade.  Rather than take action against Serbia immediately, however, the Austrian government decided to ascertain the degree of Germany's support.  On July 4, Foreign Minister Berchtold sent his Chief of Staff, Count Alexander Hoyos, to Berlin to deliver two notes in person.  One was a memorandum prepared before the assassination reviewing international threats to Austria-Hungary and its common interests with Germany, with an addendum prepared after the assassination arguing that good relations with Serbia were no longer possible.  The second was a personal note from Emperor Franz Joseph to the Kaiser asserting that the assassination was the result of a "well-organized conspiracy ... whose threads extend to Belgrade" and that there was no longer any possibility of conciliation between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.  It concluded that "the policy pursued by all European monarchs of preserving peace will be at risk as long as this hotbed of criminal agitation in Belgrade remains unpunished."  In Berlin on July 5, Hoyos gave copies of the notes to Count Laszlo Szogyenyi, the Austrian Ambassador to Germany, who took them to Potsdam and handed them to the Kaiser while Hoyos stayed in Berlin and met with German Undersecretary of State Arthur Zimmermann (Secretary of State Gottlieb von Jagow was in Italy on his honeymoon).  That evening the Kaiser conferred with Zimmermann, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, and senior German military officers.  The next morning, July 6, the Kaiser left for a tour of Scandinavia on his yacht.  That afternoon, Bethmann and Zimmermann met with Hoyos and Szogyenyi in Berlin.  Bethmann gave Hoyos the German government's formal reply to its notes, assuring him that, whatever Austria decided to do, it could be confident that Germany would stand by its side as an ally.

Baron Vladimir Giesl von Gieslingen

On July 10, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, the Austro-Hungarian minister to Serbia, returned to Belgrade after an extended stay in Vienna.  Nikolai Hartwig, Russia's minister in Belgrade and a long-time advocate of a strong line against Austria-Hungary, took the occasion of Giesl's return to call on him at the Austrian Embassy and offer Russia's formal condolences for the death of the Archduke and Duchess.  Among other things, he denied rumors (nevertheless later confirmed) that the Russian Embassy, alone among foreign embassies in Belgrade, had not lowered its flag to half-mast during the memorial service for the Archduke.  While he and Giesl were conversing, Hartwig suffered a heart attack and died.  Despite Hartwig's prior poor health and the lack of any evidence to implicate the Austrians, many Serbs and Russians suspect foul play, and the ambassador's sudden death has served to inflame anti-Austrian sentiment in both countries.

Count Istvan Tisza

Germany advised Austria-Hungary that any punitive action against Serbia should be carried out swiftly.  The internal politics of the Dual Monarchy, however, made that impossible.  No action could be taken without the concurrence of Count Istvan Tisza, Minister-President of Hungary.  After the assassination, Tisza initially opposed war with Serbia, fearing that annexation of all or part of Serbia would diminish the power of Hungary within the Empire.  In a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council on July 7, it was agreed that there would be no annexation of Serbian territory and, again at Tisza's insistence, that any attack on Serbia would be preceded by an ultimatum and declaration of war.  In another meeting on July 14, it was determined that an ultimatum would be drafted and submitted to the Council for its approval on July 19.  The Council also decided that presentation of the ultimatum would be delayed until July 23 so that it would not coincide with the visit of French President Poincare and Prime Minister Viviani to St. Petersburg, scheduled for July 20-23.

Sergei Sazonov

The Council of Ministers considered it important to keep its plans secret until the ultimatum was delivered.  Despite its efforts, however, the information leaked out through diplomatic channels.  On July 18, two days before the arrival of the French President and Prime Minister in St. Petersburg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov learned of Austria's intentions when he returned from the countryside and read a telegram from Nikolai Shebeko, the Russian Ambassador to Austria-Hungary.  When he showed the telegram to the Tsar the next day, the Tsar read it and wrote in the margin, "In my opinion a State should not present any sort of demands to another, unless, of course, it is bent on war."

Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Leopold Berchtold

On June 19, the same day the Tsar was reading and annotating the Shebeko telegram in St. Petersburg, the Austrian Ministerial Council met in Vienna to review the draft ultimatum.  The draft alleged that "the history of the past few years, and particularly the painful events of the 28th of June, have proved the existence of a subversive movement in Serbia, whose object it is to separate certain portions of its territory from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy."  It further alleged that this movement, "which came into being under the very eyes of the Serbian government," has "found expression outside of [Serbia] in acts of terrorism, in a number of attempted assassinations, and in murders."  A number of demands followed, including that Serbia issue an official condemnation of propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary, suppress publications spreading such propaganda, enact measures to prevent smuggling of weapons and explosives across the Serbian frontier, and take action against individuals implicated in the June 28 conspiracy and other individuals who have taken action and made statements indicating "hostility towards the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy."  Points 5 and 6 demanded that Austria-Hungary be allowed to participate in the investigation and suppression of subversive movements in Serbia.  The Council approved the text as drafted, and directed that it be presented to the Serbian government on June 23.

President and Tsar in St. Petersburg

President Poincare and Prime Minister Viviani of France arrived in St. Petersburg on July 20.  Unbeknownst to the Austrian government, its plan to keep the ultimatum secret until after their visit had failed.  The leaders of the French and Russian governments therefore had an opportunity to consult directly on a common course of action.  On July 21, while the Tsar was entertaining the French visitors, Foreign Minister Sazonov warned Friedrich Pourtales, Germany's ambassador to Russia, that "there must be no talk of an ultimatum."  Sazonov and Poincare agreed before the French leaders' departure that they would send substantially identical messages to Vienna warning that they would not tolerate a humiliation of Serbia.  Accordingly, on July 23 Sazonov instructed Shebeko to warn the Austrian government against taking "measures incompatible with the dignity of Serbia"; and early in the morning of July 24, at sea shortly after leaving St. Petersburg, Prime Minister (also Foreign Minister) Viviani instructed the French ambassador in Vienna that "no avenue must be neglected" to prevent any action by Austria-Hungary that might "be considered a violation of [Serbia's] sovereignty or her independence."  By the time those warnings were received in Vienna, Ambassador Giesl had already delivered the ultimatum in Belgrade.  The deadline for a response was 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 25.

French Ambassador to Russia Maurice Paleologue

Foreign Minister Sazonov at His Desk

On Friday morning, July 24, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Russia, Count Friedrich Szapary, arrived at Foreign Minister Sazonov's office to deliver a copy of the ultimatum his government had sent to Serbia the previous day.  Sazonov reviewed the text and told Szapary that Serbia could never agree to allow the participation of Austrian officials in the investigation of the assassination.  Angry, he accused Austria of "setting Europe ablaze" and told Szapary that other European nations, particularly France and Great Britain, would also consider Austria's stance to be nothing less than "unjustified aggression."  He rejected Szapary's argument that Austria-Hungary was acting to vindicate the "monarchical principle," saying "the monarchical idea has nothing to do with this."  After Szapary left, Sazonov called a meeting of the Council of Ministers for that afternoon.  At the meeting, the Council approved Sazonov's plan to order a "partial mobilization" of the military against Austria-Hungary only.  That evening, Sazonov received the German ambassador, Friedrich Pourtales, and told him that Russia would "not leave Serbia to settle her differences with Austria alone," and would consider Austrian aggression against Serbia a reason to "make war."  Later, he received the French ambassador, Maurice Paleologue, and reported his conversation with Pourtales.  He also informed the ambassador of the decisions the Council of Ministers had made earlier that day, including the decision to order partial mobilization against Austria-Hungary.

The next day, the Council of Ministers met again, this time with the Tsar presiding.  The Tsar approved Sazonov's partial mobilization plan and authorized the immediate institution of a "Period Preparatory to War," a step just short of mobilization that included enhanced powers for military authorities, recall of reservists, concentration of troops and equipment, mining of harbors, and heightened security at magazines and supply depots.

Nikola Pasic

Five minutes before the July 25 deadline expired, Serbian President Nikola Pasic presented himself at the Austro-Hungarian legation in Belgrade and handed Ambassador Giesl the Serbian response to the ultimatum.  While some of the responses were conditional or asked for more information, most of Austria-Hungary's demands were agreed to.  Russia's support, however, had emboldened Serbia to resist the most objectionable parts.  In response to Paragraph 6, the response stated: "The [Serbian] Government considers it its duty as a matter of course to begin an investigation against all those persons who have participated in the outrage of June 28th and who are in its territory. As far as the cooperation in this investigation of specially delegated officials of the [Austro-Hungarian] Government is concerned, this cannot be accepted, as this is a violation of the constitution and of criminal procedure. Yet in some cases the result of the investigation might be communicated to the Austro-Hungarian officials.When Ambassador Giesl received the response and saw that it was not an unconditional acceptance of Austria-Hungary's demands, he handed Pasic a previously drafted letter stating that he and his staff would leave Belgrade that evening.

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill

The harsh Austrian ultimatum and Serbia's refusal to acquiesce unconditionally made European governments realize for the first time that a continent-wide war was a distinct possibility.  On Sunday, July 26, the day Russia's "Period Preparatory to War" took effect, the German government issued a statement warning other powers not to interfere with Austria's action against Serbia.  On the same day, Great Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, ordered the ships of the British First and Second Fleets, coming off maneuvers and due to return to peacetime status, to remain on alert and concentrated at Portland.  On July 28, he ordered the First Fleet, comprising the bulk of Britain's naval strength, to get under way and proceed to its war station at Scapa Flow.

Conrad von Hoetzendorf

On Tuesday, July 28, Emperor Franz Joseph signed Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia.  The next day, Austrian gunboats in the Danube began bombarding Belgrade and Minister of War Conrad von Hoetzendorf ordered the Austrian army to prepare for a two-front war.  Actual commencement of military operations, however, had to await the return of soldiers from harvest leave.

Tsar Nicholas II

On July 29, in response to the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia, Tsar Nicholas ordered general mobilization, then changed his mind and ordered partial mobilization against Austria-Hungary only.  The same day, messages from the Tsar to Kaiser Wilhelm and from the Kaiser to the Tsar, each employing an intimate form of address ("Willy" and "Nicky") and pleading for an avoidance of war, crossed paths.  The Tsar's message to Wilhelm read "An ignoble war has been declared to a weak country.  The indignation in Russia shared by me is enormous.  I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure brought upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war.  To try to avoid such a calamity as a European war I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far."  The Kaiser's message to Nicholas warned that "military measures on the part of Russia which could be looked upon by Austria as threatening would precipitate a calamity we both wish to avoid, and jeopardize my position as mediator which I readily accepted on your appeal to my friendship and my help." 

Russian Minister of War Vladimir Sukhomlinov

The crisis peaked as the month drew to a close.  On July 30, under pressure from Minister of War Vladimir Sukhomlinov and senior members of the Russian military, Tsar Nicholas changed his mind again and ordered general mobilization.  On July 31, Germany proclaimed a state of "Imminent Danger of War" throughout the German Empire and issued an ultimatum demanding that Russia halt its mobilization.  In another message to Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm said he had "authentic news of serious preparations for war" by Russia, and told the Tsar that "the peace of Europe may still be maintained by you, if Russia will agree to stop its military measures."  Following Germany's ultimatum and war preparations, the neighboring nations of Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands mobilized to protect their frontiers and maintain their neutrality.  In Great Britain, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill informed the builders of two dreadnoughts under construction in British shipyards, about to be completed and delivered to the Turkish Navy, that the Government could not allow Turkey or any other foreign government to take possession of them.

Depositors Outside the Bank of England

As a European war appeared increasingly likely in the last week of July, a financial crisis exploded across Europe, threatening a collapse of the world banking system.  Depositors lined up at banks to withdraw their funds and holders of paper currency lined up to exchange their notes for gold.  On Friday, July 31, the London Stack Exchange, faced with a flood of sell orders and few if any buyers, remained closed for the first time in its history.  Other exchanges throughout the world, including the New York Stock Exchange, also closed.

A Cartoon in the Irish World

The seriousness of the Irish Home Rule question was underscored this month when King George V intervened on behalf of the monarchy in what until now has been considered a mainly political issue.  It was announced on July 18 that the King would cancel his planned review of the fleet, and on July 20 he convened a conference at Buckingham Palace in an attempt to broker a resolution.  The Nationalists were led by John Redmond and John Dillon, the Unionists by Unionist (Conservative) Party leader Andrew Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson.  The conference ended without agreement on July 24.

Nationalist Leaders Redmond and Dillon Arriving at Buckingham Palace


Mme. Caillaux on Trial

Henriette Caillaux, the second wife of former French Premier Joseph Caillaux, was tried this month for the murder of Le Figaro editor Gaston Calmette following the magazine's publication of private letters between herself and her husband written when both of them were married to others.  She claimed that she had not planned to kill Calmette, only to teach him a lesson, but had been overwhelmed by passion.  She told the court the shooting was an accident: "It is terrible how these revolvers go off when they begin shooting -- one can't stop them!"  The trial began July 20.  It ended on July 28, the day Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, when after deliberating less than an hour the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.  In the courtroom the verdict was greeted with stunned silence, except for a small group of Mme. Caillaux's supporters in the back of the room who erupted in cheers.  Thousands demonstrated in the streets for hours after the verdict, shouting "murderess," "assassin" and "down with Caillaux."

With the conclusion of the Caillaux trial, the French public was able for the first time in weeks to turn its attention to the growing international crisis.

Jean Jaures

No sooner was the Caillaux trial over than France was shocked by another murder.  Jean Jaures, the leader of the French Socialist Party, returned on July 30 from a conference of the Socialist International in Brussels at which he and Hugo Haase, the leader of the Socialist Party in Germany, along with other European socialist leaders, pledged international solidarity in their opposition to war and resolved that if their countries declared war they would call general strikes to deprive their governments of the ability to conduct military operations.  The day after Jaures returned to Paris, as he was dining in a Paris cafe, he was shot and killed by a nationalist fanatic, Raoul Villain.

Raoul Villain


Colonel House

Colonel Edward M. House, who was sent to Europe in May as a representative of United States President Woodrow Wilson, left England on July 21 to return home.  Sir William Tyrell, British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey's private secretary, caught up with House just before he sailed and delivered a message from Grey stating that recent developments had left him gravely concerned about the Austro-Serbian situation.  By the time Colonel House landed in Boston on July 29, Austria-Hungary was at war with Serbia.

 Francisco Carvajal

General Victoriano Huerta resigned the presidency of Mexico on July 15.  After a leisurely journey from Mexico City to Puerto Mexico, Huerta boarded a German steamer, which set sail for Kingston, Jamaica during the night of July 20.  He was replaced by Minister of Foreign Relations Francisco Carvajal, who took office as provisional president.  The real power in Mexico appears to be held by the leader of the Constitutionalists, Venustiano Carranza, and other rebels, including Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, who, while not quite allies of Carranza, have until now been working toward the same goal, the ouster of Huerta.  The political situation in Mexico is far from settled, but with the departure of Huerta it may have taken a step toward resolution.  Meanwhile, the occupation of Veracruz by the United States continues.

Justice Lurton

United States Supreme Court Justice Horace Lurton died on July 12.  Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, Lurton served as a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he became a good friend of his fellow judge, William Howard Taft.  After Taft became president, Lurton was his first Supreme Court appointment.

Former President Roosevelt has announced his resignation from the board of editors of The Outlook, the magazine to which he has been a frequent contributor since leaving the presidency in 1909.  He says he wants to have more time to devote to politics.  As the month draws to a close, President Wilson's attention is riveted on his wife, whose health has taken a turn for the worse.

Walter Brock After Winning the Hendon-Paris-Hendon Race

On July 11, American aviator Walter Brock won the air race from the Hendon Aerodrome outside London to Paris and back. His actual flying time was seven hours three minutes and six seconds.  Six competitors began the race; only two completed it.  All the others landed safely except Lord John Carbery, who was forced down in the English Channel on the return leg and was rescued by a British steamer. 

Collins and Harlan

The international news is grim, but much American popular music is lighthearted.  This month Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan recorded "The Aba Daba Honeymoon," written by Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan (click to play):


July 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, August and September 1914
New York Times, July 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Philip Blom, The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914
Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill Volume II: Young Statesman, 1907-1914
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I
Kenneth Rose, King George V
Charles Seymour ed., The Intimate Papers of Colonel House
George Malcolm Thomson, The Twelve Days: Two Weeks in Europe's Fatal Summer
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram