CAUSES OF THE GREAT WORLD WAR 9
and, with scant courtesy, thrust outside. No gift of prophecy was needed to foretell the coming of the day when the proud House of Hapsburg would become, in vital matters, but a poor relation of Prussia, receiving rebuffs or patronizing condescensions according to the mood or necessities of her conqueror.
Having disposed of Denmark and Austria to the great profit of Prussia, four industrious years were spent in fitting the War Machine of Berlin for its third task. France, the ancient enemy, must be humbled, not merely as retributive vengeance for old humiliations and wrongs, but in order to eliminate Prussia's most serious rival for European supremacy. Prussia, or Prussianized Germany, never yet fought for a mere principle or gratification that had not behind it some present, tangible profit. It is because of this characteristic that the modern German finds it impossible to understand why any sane people should go to war about scraps of paper or moral principles. It is as useless to argue with him about his lack in this respect as to remonstrate with a blind man on account of his infirmity. To the German nothing could be more absurd than to order national life according to the principles of truth, honour, and moral obligation. Said the German Chancellor to the British Ambassador to Berlin, in deepest agitation, at their final interview: "Just for a scrap of paper Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation, who desired nothing better than to be friends with her." To the German mind the thing was quixotic, preposterous, scarcely believable.
So long as the hand of Bismarck was upon Prussia's helm, he was content to give to Russia the widest of berths, and placate her with fine words and amiable sentiments. The West was to him the true land of promise, and, when 1870 came, the keen-eyed watcher saw that the harvest fields of France were ripe for the sickle. An incapable emperor sat on the French throne, a corrupt government had the control of affairs.