The Crowe Memorandum

Discussions on all aspects of the First World War not covered in the other sections. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
peterhof
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The Crowe Memorandum

Post by peterhof » 19 Mar 2012 04:09

The Crowe Memorandum


In January 1907, Eyre Crowe produced an unsolicited Memorandum on the Present State of British Relations with France and Germany for the British Foreign Office which stated Crowe's firm belief that Germany desired "hegemony, first in Europe and eventually in the world." Crowe stated that Germany presented a threat to the balance of power similar to, or greater than, the threat earlier posed by Philip II of Spain and Napoleon of France

In Crowes' considered opinion, Britain should not deal with Germany because:

"To give way to the blackmailer's menaces enriches him, but it has long been proved by uniform experience that, although this may secure for the victim temporary peace, it is certain to lead to renewed molestation and higher demands after ever-shortening periods of amicable forbearance."

Crowe further argued that Britain should never give in to Germany's demands since:

"The blackmailer's trade is generally ruined by the first resolute stand made against his exactions and the determination rather to face all risks of a possibly disagreeable situation than to continue in the path of endless concessions."

Sir Edward said he found Crowe's memorandum "most valuable." Grey circulated the paper to the Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith, Ripon and Morley, but there is no evidence either way that any of them either read or were influenced by the argument. The historian Richard Hamilton states: "Though a life-long Liberal, Crowe came to despise the Liberal Cabinets of 1906–1914, including Sir Edward Grey, for what he perceived as their irresolute attitude to Germany." However, detractors of Crowe, for example the historian John Charmley, argue that he was wrong about Germany and by making warnings like these was encouraging war.

Crowe apparently could not understand that Germany might possibly be alarmed by British efforts to transform the moribund Franco-Russian alliance into the Triple Entente. There can be little doubt that the Crowe Memorandum sets forth in detail the "misreading" [Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War] of German intentions by a handful of British diplomats and was the intellectual underpinning of the radical diplomacy initiated by the two Edwards - King and Lord - which paved the way for the reincarnation of the Franco-Russian alliance as the Triple Entente, and to World War 1.

Sir Edward Grey has said and written many things which prove that he was in complete accord with the Germanophobia of Crowe's hateful memorandum. In 1914, Britain was key, and within Britain, Grey & Co were key.
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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by Terry Duncan » 19 Mar 2012 20:01

In Crowes' considered opinion, Britain should not deal with Germany because:

"To give way to the blackmailer's menaces enriches him, but it has long been proved by uniform experience that, although this may secure for the victim temporary peace, it is certain to lead to renewed molestation and higher demands after ever-shortening periods of amicable forbearance."
Maybe it would be best if you should first provide details on why exactly Crowe would consider Germany to be a blackmailer employing menaces?
"The blackmailer's trade is generally ruined by the first resolute stand made against his exactions and the determination rather to face all risks of a possibly disagreeable situation than to continue in the path of endless concessions."
Are you denying that this is considered the best tactic to deal with blackmail even today?
Crowe apparently could not understand that Germany might possibly be alarmed by British efforts to transform the moribund Franco-Russian alliance into the Triple Entente.
Perhaps Crowe could recall which nation did most to drive Britain to seek a continental entanglement, and then snubbed the talks offered under the misconception Britain would find it impossible to reach an agreement with France?

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by peterhof » 19 Mar 2012 20:26

Terry Duncan wrote:Maybe it would be best if you should first provide details on why exactly Crowe would consider Germany to be a blackmailer employing menaces?
These "details" were Crowe's wrong-headed, false interpretation of German efforts to escape the evil designs of the "Triple Entente" - then in the process of emerging from the war-mongering einkreisung diplomacy being practised by King Edward VII and his Foreign Minister Grey. In the absence of this, perhaps you should "first provide details on why exactly" Germany should be "a blackmailer employing menaces?"
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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by Terry Duncan » 19 Mar 2012 20:41

These "details" were Crowe's wrong-headed, false interpretation of German efforts to escape the evil designs of the "Triple Entente"
This answer shows how little attention you have paid to this subject. Crowe presented the memorandum on 1st Jan 1907, whilst the Entente with Russia was not signed until 31st August 1907, so the 'Triple Entente' did not even exist at the time the memo was written and therefore cannot have been the subject of any attempt from Germany to 'escape it'.
emerging from the war-mongering einkreisung diplomacy being practised by King Edward VII and his Foreign Minister Grey.
This is the same policy your favourite source, Fay, insists never took place.
In the absence of this, perhaps you should "first provide details on why exactly" Germany should be "a blackmailer employing menaces?"
No Peter, under the site rules you have introduced the document and therefore need to justify it and the conclusions you are reaching from it. Therefore the background to the memo being written is important. Now, please tell us why Crowe would consider Germany to be employing blackmail with menaces?

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by peterhof » 19 Mar 2012 21:50

Terry Duncan wrote:This answer shows how little attention you have paid to this subject. Crowe presented the momorandum on 1st Jan 1907, whilst the Entente with Russia was not signed until 31st August 1907, so the 'Triple Entente' did not even exist at the time the memo was written and therefore cannot have been the subject of any attempt from Germany to 'escape it'.
More disingenuousness from you! As most of us know, there was a long period of preparation which culminated in the signing of the Entente with Russia which I have previously detailed in citations from Morel. So eager was Great Britain for the Entente with Russia that Isvolsky spurred the Russian Ambassador in London to maximum effort in squeezing every possible concession from Grey before agreeing to the proposed Entente. Did you perhaps imagine that Germany was blissfully unaware of such efforts?
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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by Jon Clarke » 19 Mar 2012 22:01

Sometimes you come across the most interesting titbits when you're not looking for them. I was looking through Paul M Kennedy's The Rise Of Anglo-German Antagonism 1860-1914 (note the dates, Anglo-German antagonism was not restricted to 1902-1914) and came across the following quote that relates directly to the Crowe Memorandum:

Far from the king being the clever director of British foreign policy, he was often puzzled by the course it was taking. One of the most ironic discoveries about this period must surely be that Eyre Crowe’s famous 1907 ‘Memorandum on the Present State of British Relations with France and Germany’ - generally regarded as the classic statement of London’s prewar policy of moving against Germany in order to preserve the balance of power - was originally asked for by Edward who ‘had repeatedly expressed himself perturbed by what he thought was our persistent unfriendly attitude towards Germany contrasted with our own eagerness to run after France & do anything the French asked’!

In the notes at the back, Kennedy gives some more detail about the King's request:

Crowe recalled the king’s request as being in ‘November or December 1905’, and further minuted that ‘H. M. expressed satisfaction’ at the memorandum. Crowe had insisted that the king’s question could not be answered in a few pages, and went off to work on his lengthy essay - now in BD, III, PP. 397 ff.

So not only was the memorandum not unsolicited as Peter claimed but it would seem that Edward was hardly the 'chief plotter' against Germany that Peter claims.

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by Terry Duncan » 19 Mar 2012 22:38

More disingenuousness from you! As most of us know, there was a long period of preparation which culminated in the signing of the Entente with Russia which I have previously detailed in citations from Morel.
Except of course the Germans were not acting against any proposed Triple Entente prior to 1907, all of the incidents leading to the Crowe memorandum had taken place long before, some against the Anglo-French Entente (Morocco), the 2nd Boer War, the Naval Laws, the Chamberlain talks, colonial dealings, and even early dealings over the Berlin to Baghdad Railroad.

It is amusing that you will stoop to almost any level rather than actually post details about why a document YOU introduced labels Germany as using blackmail with menaces, as if you imagine that by refusing to acknowledge any details they will go away and cease to exist. Are you saying that when a potential Anglo-German agreement was sought, Germany did not attempt to extract concessions from Britain by holding out the promise of an agreement that Germany had no intention of making, the intent being to take the concessions, demand more, and still not reach an agreement. If you do wish to say this is incorrect, it would be most interesting to Bulow, Holstein and the Kaiser who all thought Britain had no choice but to follow this path as they had no other possible options, and indeed was the subject of the Kaiser's well known comment that Britain would return to talks because an agreement with France was impossible.

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by peterhof » 19 Mar 2012 23:03

Terry Duncan wrote:Except of course the Germans were not acting against any proposed Triple Entente prior to 1907, all of the incidents leading to the Crowe memorandum had taken place long before, some against the Anglo-French Entente (Morocco), the 2nd Boer War, the Naval Laws, the Chamberlain talks, colonial dealings, and even early dealings over the Berlin to Baghdad Railroad.
You need to read the German message transmitted by Prince Donnersmarck after the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale. It explicitly sets forth German concerns shorn of diplomatic niceties so that the message is not misunderstood. I have already posted it in another thread but will do so again if requested. Donnersmarck's message should be read by everyone because it illustrates exactly what the 1st (not to mention the 2nd) Moroccan Crisis was all about.
It is amusing that you will stoop to almost any level rather than actually post details about why a document YOU introduced labels Germany as using blackmail with menaces, as if you imagine that by refusing to acknowledge any details they will go away and cease to exist. Are you saying that when a potential Anglo-German agreement was sought, Germany did not attempt to extract concessions from Britain by holding out the promise of an agreement that Germany had no intention of making, the intent being to take the concessions, demand more, and still not reach an agreement. If you do wish to say this is incorrect, it would be most interesting to Bulow, Holstein and the Kaiser who all thought Britain had no choice but to follow this path as they had no other possible options, and indeed was the subject of the Kaiser's well known comment that Britain would return to talks because an agreement with France was impossible.
It is no secret to any historian that an Entente with England was at the very top of German priorities. There are any number of sources for this, including my favorite, The Kaiser, by Virginia Cowles. Your insinuation that Germany was holding out the promise of an agreement "that Germany had no intention of making" is another of your egregious falsehoods. Furthermore, the Crowe Memorandum was written by Sir Eyre Crowe. It is therefore up to Crowe to support the libelous assertions in his own Memorandum. It is not for me to disprove them.
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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by Terry Duncan » 23 Mar 2012 02:33

It is therefore up to Crowe to support the libelous assertions in his own Memorandum.
You are the one claiming Crowe's ideas to be libelous, and therefore untrue, so it is up to you to prove your point.
It is no secret to any historian that an Entente with England was at the very top of German priorities....Your insinuation that Germany was holding out the promise of an agreement "that Germany had no intention of making" is another of your egregious falsehoods.
Oh well, yet another aspect of the period you appear completely unaware of. All quotes from Norman Rich's work Friedrich von Holstein Vol II;
On 22 April 1898, after Chamberlain’s first proposals had been rebuffed by the German government...
Later in the talks;
The conversation Hatzfeldt had with Chamberlain on 25 April seemed to confirm the German belief that Britain was running after Germany, for Chamberlain, thinking that the Kaiser wanted an immediate alliance and was willing to offer terms highly favourable to Britain, quite naturally pressed for the speedy conclusion of an alliance which he had desired all along. Chamberlain must have been greatly astonished and annoyed that Hatzfeldt, instead of coming forward with the proposals of the Kaiser, clung to his previous objections to an Anglo—German alliance and pleaded instead for a British alliance with Austria and Italy.
It would appear Germany was less keen than you like to make out. Lets look at why;

The Kaiser's own words on this subject;
‘even for the present it is of greatest importance for us to keep official sentiment in England friendly towards us and hopeful. A friendly England gives us one more card to play against Russia, as well as the prospect of colonial and commercial concessions from Britain. To Count Hatzfeldt’s skilful hands will fall the difficult task of postponing a formal alliance treaty and making this appear in England not as an insulting rebuff but as an expression of our desire for salutary co_operation.”
The British thoughts on German dealings;
Had the Germans been aware of Balfour’s real opinion of their policy they would hardly have felt so kindly towards him. Concerning the idea that colonial concessions on the part of Britain would pave the way to a more formal union with Germany, Balfour wrote to Salisbury:

‘I was much entertained by this conclusion, but took care to express no dissent from it, as, although I am inclined to favour an Anglo-German agreement, it must, if possible, be made at the worst on equal terms. Of this loving couple I should wish to be the one that lent the cheek, not that imprinted the kiss. This, I take it, is not the German view; and they prefer, I imagine, reserving their efforts until they are sure of being well paid for them.’
So exactly as I noted, Germany was going along the path of talks with Britain simply to gain colonial concessions, whilst 'postponing' and formal agreement.

Hatzfeldt's words later in the negotiations;
‘If I succeed in this, my main effort will be directed to persuading Lord Salisbury and his colleagues of the necessity of paying more attention to relations with Austria and Italy on the one hand, and on the other of showing more consideration towards us in any minor question that might arise thereby preparing our public opinion as well for the establishment of amicable relations.’
So Hatzfeldt feels bribes for good relations are needed, though he is to 'postpone' any agreement. Lets return to the Kaiser;
Ever since he was first informed about Chamberlain’s proposals the Kaiser had taken a lively interest in the problem of Anglo-German relations and had covered Hatzfeldt’s report with marginalia. The Kaiser was convinced that the apparent British desire for an alliance stemmed from British weakness, and he had clearly resolved in his own mind to secure the best bargain he could. When Hatzfeldt telegraphed on 22 May that according to certain sources the British were thinking of conceding the British possessions in Borneo to Germany in return for compensation in Africa, the Kaiser commented: ‘Not enough! Samoa, the Carolines, and one of the Philippine Islands—( if possible)!' Nor was the Kaiser content to see what he could extract from Britain, for he made use of the British alliance offer as blackmail against Russia. On so May he wrote to the Tsar informing him that Britain had recently asked Germany for an alliance on three separate occasions;

‘accompanied by such enormous offers showing a wide and great future opening for my country that I think it my duty to Germany duly to reflect before I answer. [. . .J What the tendency of the Alliance is, you will well understand, as I am informed that the Alliance is to be with the Triple Alliance and with the addition of Japan and America with whom pourparlers have already been opened! What the chances are for us in refusing or accepting you may calculate yourself! Now as my old and trusted friend I beg you to tell me what you can offer me and will do if I refuse ?‘

This preposterous representation of the British offers might have been expected to provoke one of Holstein’s outbreaks of fury at imperial meddling in foreign affairs, but he remained surprisingly calm.
So, not only trying to get large concessions from Britain, the Kaiser was trying to get the Tzar into bidding war! And finally on the matter of the German opinion on an Anglo-French agreement;
Neither Billow nor Holstein took the threat of an Anglo-French agreement, still less an Anglo-Russian agreement, seriously. As recently as March 1903, when the Russian Ambassador to Berlin had expressed serious concern about a French accord with Britain at the expense of Russia and Germany, Holstein had telegraphed to Billow:

‘The concern of Osten-Sacken about Delcassé’s [the French Foreign Minister] change of course is so exaggerated that I consider the whole thing play-acting. Delcassé has pro-English sympathies and has probably shown the Russians
repeatedly that he is not inclined to be used by them against England. But a Franco-English alliance is music of the future. This idea will only have real life when the idea of revanche has ceased to exist. But the latter in fact has recently been revived, bccause both members of the government and parliamentarians of all parties found it necessary for the sake of their own survival to take a stand against the conciliatory statements of Jaurès. So long as the revanche idea is in the air France cannot dispense with the support of Russia; because only Russia, and not England, would be in a position to oppose a German army of invasion. Every Russian attaché knows that, not to mention ambassadors.’


Bülow fully agreed. Delcassé’s coquetting with Britain would only be dangerous to Germany if he also succeeded in arranging an agreement between Britain and Russia, but Bülow clearly considered this idea preposterous. ‘The existing political groupings won’t be changed overnight,’ he said, ‘and in my opinion we can’t be too suavely indifferent in our reaction to this sort of thing.’

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by peterhof » 23 Mar 2012 05:32

Theses citations make interesting reading but the bulk of them refer to an earlier period from just before to just after the turn of the century. Anglo-German relations had become strained because of the Boer War - especially between Chamberlain and Bulow. But after 1904, Grey made it very clear that Britain's policy would be to support France. This apparently included support of the French aggression against Morocco - even to the point of going to war as Lloyd George made clear in 1911.

But by 1914, Anglo-German relations were as friendly as they had ever been. By 1914, as Churchill recalled, "naval rivalry had . . . ceased to be a cause of friction . . . We were proceeding inflexibly . . . it was certain we could not be overtaken." (Churchill, The World Crisis, vol 1, p. 178)

In January, 1914, Lloyd George declared in the Daily News that:

"Relations with Germany are infinitely more friendly now than they have been for years . . . Germany has nothing which approximates to a two-power standard . . . That is why I feel convinced that even if Germany ever had any idea of challenging our supremacy at sea, the exigencies of the present situation have put it completely out of her head."

Germany was content to fret and worry in silence about King Edward's Ententes and to hope against hope that war might - by some miracle - be avoided. No sooner had Russia rolled the dice, Sir Edward moved to cover his diplomatic rear end:

"If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present crisis safely passed, my own endeavor will be to promote some arrangement to which Germany could be a party, by which she could be assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against her or her allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately."

This is of course the policy that would have preserved the peace. Grey announced it at precisely the moment when it was too late.
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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by Terry Duncan » 23 Mar 2012 15:28

Theses citations make interesting reading but the bulk of them refer to an earlier period from just before to just after the turn of the century.
This is the period that Crowe is referring to when he wrote the memorandum, not events after it as you draw attention to in your post. I could have also pointed out the 1st Moroccan Crisis and how Bulow tried a not dissimilar policy towards France and over Delcasse. The method was once again to demand something with a threat behind the demand.
Germany was content to fret and worry in silence about King Edward's Ententes and to hope against hope that war might - by some miracle - be avoided. No sooner had Russia rolled the dice, Sir Edward moved to cover his diplomatic rear end:..........
This has nothing at all to do with the Crowe Memorandum, I will not bother to answer such questions unless they are in the correct threads. Is it impossible for you to stick to any topic you start?

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by favedave » 23 Mar 2012 16:24

As I recall Massey in Dreadnought covered a great many of the events from the time Wilhelm II took the throne, which caused Crowe to characterize Germany's 'place in the Sun' diplomacy as the approach of a blackmailer in his 1907 memo.

Today we can't help but look at this chain of events as long past. But then they were not. The Kaiser's pointless meddling and support of the Boers at the turn of the century, and the initiation of the expensive and to British eyes menacing naval race were recent betrayals of the century old friendship which had arisen out of the Napoleonic alliance of Great Britain and Prussia.

It seems to me that every attempt made to restore that relationship ended with the Kaiser's ill timed demands and rebuffs. Of course I am reading this from the British point of view. Perhaps there is a German biased, or perhaps better still a neutral author who can use the distance in time to present a clearer explanation of why two nations with so much in common, including the familial ties of their thrones, came to be deadly enemies in August of 1914.

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by glenn239 » 29 Mar 2012 17:56

As I recall Massey in Dreadnought covered a great many of the events from the time Wilhelm II took the throne, which caused Crowe to characterize Germany's 'place in the Sun' diplomacy as the approach of a blackmailer in his 1907 memo.
You need to get access to Crowe’s original memos from this period – I wouldn’t even bother with Massie’s take, unless you're doing a piece about jingoism in British historical writings.

Anyways, Crowe’s argument as it went on through these years was along the lines that, while Britain had no reason to seek trouble with Germany or not to let Germany be, the type of collective security arrangement Germany was constantly proposing (ie, a deal between Britain and Germany, if necessary inclusive of France and Russia) was a concession to Germany because the threat of war made by these three Powers against Germany was fundamental to the doctrine of balance of power. That is to say, taking away a threat of war Crowe viewed as a concession to Germany.

Yes, you read that correctly. In any event, the gist of Crowe’s doctrine as laid down in a number of memos was that Britain must never surrender the threat of coalition war against Germany, because Germany would use the shield of collective security to build unassailable economic hegemony in Europe, then once that was attained, do as she pleased. That is to say, Crowe had no illusions of aggressive German designs, but rather viewed Germany itself as inherently threatening for the simple reasons of its existence.

If Crowe were Foreign Minister, Peter’s case against the British government would be much stronger. However, it is not clear to me that Grey shared Crowe’s opinions or outlook. One rather underhanded trick (often played on the Germans by historians) is to quote one German and then pretend that opinion pertained to another German. For instance, Zimmerman said in July 1914 he didn’t think the chances of peace were much better than 10%, and thereafter endless English speaking historians have quoted him, apparently pretending that Zimmerman’s opinion represented Jagow’s, Bethmann’s or the Kaiser’s, when it did not. The same trick cannot be pulled on Grey – the very fact Crowe was bothering to write these essays seems to suggest he did not have the ear of Grey in the first place.
It seems to me that every attempt made to restore that relationship ended with the Kaiser's ill timed demands and rebuffs.
In that case, let us know when you have a better command of the subject material.

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by favedave » 29 Mar 2012 18:44

"Of course I am reading this from the British point of view. Perhaps there is a German biased, or perhaps better still a neutral author who can use the distance in time to present a clearer explanation of why two nations with so much in common, including the familial ties of their thrones, came to be deadly enemies in August of 1914."

The reason I couched my post in the manner I did was to acquire sources with different perspectives. I do think that is honestly the best way to gain "a better command of the subject matterial." Thanks for your input.

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Re: The Crowe Memorandum

Post by peterhof » 29 Mar 2012 19:09

On the subject of whether or not Grey agreed with Crowe's assessment of Germany, it may be noted that Crowe and Nicolson were Grey's closest advisors due to the consonance of their political views. It is no exaggeration to say that these three men represented the controlling triumvirate of British Foreign Policy. Grey himself made a number of statements indicating that he was in full agreement with Crowe. For example, in October of 1908, he was quoted in the Daily Telegraph:

"The German Emperor is ageing me; he is like a battleship with steam up and screws going, but with no rudder, and he will run into something some day and cause a catastrophe. He has the strongest army in the world and the Germans don't like being laughed at and are looking for somebody on whom to vent their temper and use their strength. After a big war a nation doesn't want another for a generation or more. Now it is 38 years since Germany had her last war, and she is very strong and very restless, like a person whose boots are too small for him. I don't think there will be war at present, but it will be difficult to keep the peace of Europe for another five years."

Even while making the defense of France against a German attack the central focus of British foreign policy, Grey - like Crowe - was apparently unconcerned with the effect this might have on Germany - especially after the recently concluded Entente with Russia which made the Kaiser explode: "He's [King Edward VII] a Satan! You can hardly believe what a Satan he is!" But Grey understood the problem he was creating for Germany perfectly well as we know from his July 30 telegram to the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Edward Goschen:


"If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present crisis safely passed, my own endeavor will be to promote some arrangement to which Germany could be a party, by which she could be assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against her or her allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately."


This was of course the policy that would have preserved the peace, but the self-serving nature of this statement is perfectly illustrated by its timing and Grey’s deafening silence in the face of the Russian general mobilization.
He allowed the vicious influence of Crowe and Nicolson to override his ambassadors and his Cabinet. They were unfortunately governed by their "misreading" of German intentions (as noted by Niall Ferguson) as well as their wrong but long-standing policy of keeping the Continent divided. It was this policy that made Grey prefer the French to the more vigorous Germans in the position of Continental leadership. And it was this policy that made Britain decide—not for the first time—to send an army to Europe.

I never cease to be amazed by the unanimity of British opposition to war with Germany.
Not only did the treaty of 1839 not require military intervention, but Grey's secret diplomacy was strongly criticised by the Labour Party and some members of his own party, including Charles Trevelyan, Secretary of the Board of Education, for these private promises made to the French government. Trevelyan resigned from the government over this issue and joined with E.D. Morel, George Cadbury, Ramsay MacDonald, Arthur Ponsonby, Arnold Rowntree and other critics of the Grey's foreign policy to form the Union of Democratic Control (UDC).

With the exception of Sir Edward Grey (and Nicolson), virtually no one of consequence in British diplomatic circles shared the view of Germany as expressed by the libelous Crowe Memorandum.
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