Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Countdown to War, Day 26. 23 July: Austria-Hungary prepares a "Note" for Serbia. But not to worry about war.

One hundred years ago today, Thursday 23 July 1914 provided a welcome break from a period of unusual heat: “There was yesterday a welcome change from the oppressively hot weather of Tuesday in the North of England,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “to conditions decidedly cooler and less enervating.” An anticyclone was due “to give several days of fine, stable weather, at first rather cool and subsequently very warm.”

On the Continent, however, things were as hot as ever: “The heat in Germany and Northern Europe continues extreme.” Further south, things might – or might not – be warming up, but that didn’t have much to do with the weather.

Serious Turn Improbable

In the Lower House of the Hungarian Parliament to-day the Premier, Count Tisza, said the Foreign situation is now not of such a nature that a serious turn can be regarded as certain or even probable. The situation abroad is now absolutely uncertain. It can be settled by peaceful means, though the possibility of serious complications also exists.

A report from Paris added:

In well-informed quarters it is believed that the Austro-Hungarian Note to Servia will not be presented until the end of this week. While its terms are not yet known, it is understood that on the whole counsels of moderation will be found to have prevailed, and that generally speaking no demands will be made upon Servia to which she will not be able to accede without loss of dignity.

“So...” said Martin hesitantly, “Things are certain or they’re completely uncertain. Peaceful means are possible but there may be serious complications. Counsels of moderation sounds good, but if they fail, just how extreme will things get?”

“They’re getting tough,” said the Cynic, “Austria-Hungary
s winding itself up to put pressure on Serbia. That’s what that means. A diplomatic note is how a country tells another it’s pissed off. This one isn’t going to be nice.”

“But... what about the counsels of moderation and all that?”

“What? You’ve never seen wishful thinking before?”

Austro-Hungarian troops. Getting ready?
The article went on:

The “Neue Freie Presse” says what we demand from Servia does not go beyond what two States wishing to maintain friendly relations must grant each other, as Austria-Hungary actually grants it to Russia...

Russia? That nation’s name kept cropping up these days. But what did the business of the assassination of Francis Ferdinand have to do with Russia?

“Fellow slavs. And a rival empire to Austria’s.

At least there was another piece, “Austria and Servia”, that was a little reassuring.

Vienna is notoriously the most jumpy capital in Europe, and the talk about war between Austria and Servia is surely not to be taken seriously. The nearest parallel to the quarrel now in progress between Austria and Servia is the quarrel between England and France in 1868 over Orsini’s attempt on the life of the Emperor Napoleon. Orsini’s headquarters had been in London and France complained very bitterly of our allowing our capital to be the centre of a conspiracy against he life of her Sovereign.

A good point. There had been no war between Britain and France in the 1860s. Why should there be war now between Austria-Hungary and Serbia? 

“When people start telling you there’s no danger of war, get ready to take cover,” said the Cynic.

For light relief, they turned to another story, about an “Ulster Suffragette’s Trial”.

Miss Dorothy Evans, organising secretary of the Ulster branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, was placed in the dock at the Belfast Assizes yesterday for trial, but owing to her conduct no progress could be made, and after a series of remarkable scenes the case against her was adjourned to the next assizes, and she was forcibly removed from the dock protesting.

Belfast Evening Telegraph photo of Dorothy Evans (right) and
fellow-suffragette Madge Muir on their release from gaol in April 1914
Amusing. Women’s suffrage and Ireland were the questions most troubling Britain these days, he supposed. And here they were coming together. Characteristically, in a noisy confrontation.


Anonymous said...

The foresight and quality of the advice given by the press and political analysts have not much improved in one hun deed years. Maybe those same people are still around, advising Bush and Blair, and now Obama.


David Beeson said...

There were perhaps fewer leaks from government at the time. I think the Cabinet began to realise where things were heading far more quickly than the press.

Also I suppose the "Manchester Guardian" was still something of a regional paper and a bit of an upstart on the national scene.

That being said, I'm sure the tendency of the press to grasp at straws, make mountains of molehills and mix metaphors was as strong then as it is now.