Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …

Posted on August 25th, by A. Robert Johnson in Foreign Policy. Comments Off on Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …

March they would, too, but only after Count von Berchtold and Alexander Hoyos got things rolling with their Germanic cousins. This wasn’t difficult as it turns out, given the vagaries of procedures during the annual recess of officialdom for its vacations at the many spas its leaders were privileged to patronize, and the occasional boat trip, as was the case for the German Kaiser Wilhelm, preparing in July for a trip during August to Scandinavia on the royal yacht Hohenzollern. The consequences of these intrigues are well known. The lead-up into them is known but remains obscure to this day. The facts, cited here by Frederic Morton, are superbly researched and narrated. I quote from his book’s Chapter 29, starting on page 274.

“At a cabinet meeting hastily called on June 29, four days before the funeral [of Archduke Ferdinand], Foreign Minister von Berchtold showed himself still guided by the pacifism of the late Crown Prince. He proposed relatively temperate demands: that Serbia dismiss its Minister of Police, jail all suspected terrorists, and dissolve extremist groups.

“Prime Minister Tisza of Hungary sided with Berchtold for reasons of his own. Tisza could not be very furious with the Serbs for removing his worst enemy, the Crown Prince; nor did Tisza relish a war in which a victorious Austria would swallow Serbia, thereby increasing the Empire’s Slav population and reducing the Magyars to an even smaller minority. Still, neither Berchtold, (whose main resource in a debate was a small, fine flourish of his cigarette-holder) nor the Calvinist Tisza (who kept quoting I Kings 2:33 on the dangers of bloody vengeance) were a match for General Conrad. For now Conrad’s anti-Serb wrath was triumphant. His one tamer, the Crown Prince, lay dead. And the Crown Prince’s very death by a Serb documented that Conrad had been right all along. There was a deadly snake hissing at Austria’s heels, he now said; it would not do to slap at the serpent. Its skull must be crushed.

“Conrad’s argument would have overridden all others, had it not been for the German envoy in Vienna, Count von Tschirsky. Von Tschirsky acted in the spirit of his monarch’s prudence vis-à-vis the Serbs, the prudence so laboriously inspired in the Kaiser by the late Crown Prince. On June 30, two days after Sarajevo, the German ambassador called on the Austrian Foreign Minister to warn “…with great emphasis and seriousness against hasty measures in settling accounts with Serbia.”

“Berchtold made the most of these cautions when he went to his Emperor. Austria, he argued, could not afford to define its stance against Serbia without Berlin’s backing. After all, Russia was Serbia’s protector; Austria needed the weight of the German army – the world’s most powerful – as counter poise to the Tsar’s endless regiments. Only Germany’s full support would keep St. Petersburg from meddling. But, as the German ambassador had just shown, only a temperate Austria would earn such support.

“The Emperor agreed: Conrad was not to do any Serb skull-crushing, at least not yet. Any decision of the kind must be made shoulder to shoulder with Berlin. Franz Joseph himself would elicit Kaiser Wilhelm’s sympathies in a handwritten letter.

“Of course Berchtold wanted the sympathies to be low-key rather than inflammatory. He knew that the Kaiser had lost a boon companion at Sarajevo – but that going to war over this loss would mean cancelling the Kaiser’s delightful summer cruise to Scandinavia. Berchtold knew that the Kaiser was much better at attitudinizing gorgeously than at thinking cogently or feeling deeply. Being a bit like the Kaiser himself, Berchtold knew that His Majesty’s emotions were unsteady, unsure, manipulable. In addressing such a man, Franz Joseph’s letter must manipulate accurately. Berchtold saw to it that in writing the Kaiser, Franz Joseph modulated his phrases a shade closer to restraint than to firmness. Franz Joseph’s letter spoke of “the terrible events at Sarajevo” and the need to “neutralize Serbia as a political power factor”; it did not, however, mention military action nor did it preclude purely diplomatic means.

“The letter was a discreet invitation to answer circumspectly. All-Highest circumspection from Berlin would reinforce similar circumspection in Vienna; it would work toward an honorable peace rather than an onerous war; it would improve the chances for the Kaiser’s Scandinavian cruise and, for Franz Joseph, the prospect of a cloudless sojourn at Bad Ischl.

“Foreign Minister Count von Berchtold schemed well. His own chef du cabinet, Count Alexander Hoyos, out schemed him. Hoyos performed no echoing deeds before or after July 1914. But during that one month his intrigues were historic.

“Berchtold had chosen Hoyos as his chief assistant because, as an aristocrat, he habitually preferred mode over matter. To the Foreign Minister, Hoyos’s politics – as rabidly anti-Serb as General Conrad’s – signified less than the Hoyos cachet: Originally of Spanish origin, the Hoyos clan had long been prominent in the inner sanctum of the Court. Indeed the name Hoyos runs scarlet through the final Habsburg decades. In 1889 Count Josef von Hoyos had been invited to Crown Prince Rudolf’s hunting lodge at Mayerling on the morning of Rudolf’s suicide; he had brought the news to Vienna. Twenty-five years later his young cousin Alexander Hoyos also became a messenger after an Archducal death. The later Hoyos, however, did more than report calamity. He sped it on its way.

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