1	               October 1993
     3	         Anglo-German Relations and the State of Europe
     5	                           ...edited by Marijan Salopek
     7	                    =========================
     8	Letter from Sir F. Lascelles to the Marquess of Salisbury
     9	regarding Anglo-German Relations.
    11	F. O. Germany (Prussia) 1439       
    12	(No. 338.)  Very Confidential      Berlin, D. December 21, 1898.
    13	My Lord,                                   R. December 26, 1898.
    14	     On the 19th instant I was honoured by an invitation to dine
    15	with the Emperor and Empress at Potsdam, and as the remainder of
    16	the party consisted of a few members of the Imperial household, I
    17	had an opportunity both before and after dinner of conversing at
    18	length with the Emperor....
    19	     His Majesty expressed his deep regret at having been
    20	obliged, owing to want of time, to give up his intended visit to
    21	Egypt, and also that, in consequence of the advanced season and
    22	bad weather, he had been unable to visit Gibraltar and return by
    23	sea.  He had heard that the Queen had intended, if he had touched
    24	at an English port, to have invited him to Windsor, and if he had
    25	had the slightest inkling of Her Majesty's gracious intention, he
    26	would certainly have carried out his original plan.
    27	     I ventured to suggest that the critical state of affairs in
    28	Europe at the time may perhaps have caused His Majesty to hasten
    29	his return.
    30	     The Emperor admitted that this was so, and that at the time
    31	it looked as if war were imminent between England and France in
    32	consequence of the Fashoda question.  The French, it was true,
    33	had yielded upon that question, but His Majesty considered that
    34	the danger was by no means past, and that it was probable that
    35	war would break out in the spring.  From a military point of
    36	view, the moment was well chosen.  France was by no means the
    37	equal of England at sea, and she would receive no assistance from
    38	any other Power.  In fact, if the war took place it would be
    39	conducted at sea, and the other Powers, even if they desired to
    40	assist France, would be unable to do so effectively.  The English
    41	fleet was immensely superior to all others, and the German and
    42	Russian fleets were mere pigmies in comparison.  England would,
    43	therefore, have an excellent opportunity of settling accounts
    44	with France without any fear of the interference of other Powers,
    45	and it was doubtful whether so favourable a combination for
    46	England would ever again recur.
    47	     I told his Majesty that I was aware that a fear was still
    48	entertained in some quarters in England that war might break out
    49	in the spring, but that I failed to understand the arguments on
    50	which this idea was based.  Her Majesty's Government had
    51	certainly no desire to force a war upon France, and if the latter
    52	had shrunk from war now on account of her inferiority to England
    53	at sea, I did not see how she could hope to become sufficiently
    54	strong to go to war in the spring.
    55	     His Majesty was not convinced by my observations, and seemed
    56	to be under the impression, which I attempted, though I am afraid
    57	in vain, to combat, that England intended to make war, the result
    58	of which would inevitably be in her favour, and would enable her
    59	to finally settle many questions between the two nations.
    60	     The Emperor went on to say that it seemed that all the Latin
    61	nations were in a state of decay.  Spain had shown in the recent
    62	war with the United States how utterly weak and incapable she had
    63	become.  Portugal was very much in the same state, and Italy but
    64	very little better.  Now it appeared that France herself was also
    65	in a state of decay.  England, therefore, with her immense naval
    66	superiority, would have no difficulty in destroying the French
    67	fleet and taking all her Colonies.  There could be no question of
    68	an invasion of either country.  The English army was too small to
    69	attempt to land in France, and the French army, in consequence of
    70	the inferiority of their fleet, would not be able to reach
    71	England....
    72	     His Majesty continued, that if war should break out, which
    73	he considered almost certain, he would maintain a strict
    74	neutrality as long as the struggle was confined to England and
    75	France, but that if any other Power came to the assistance of the
    76	latter, he would act in accordance with the agreements he made
    77	with me at Friedrichshof in August.
    78	     This allusion to the conversation which I had with His
    79	Majesty at Friedrichshof, the substance of which I had the honour
    80	to report in my despatch No. 102, Africa, Secret, of the 23rd
    81	August last, gave me an opportunity of telling His Majesty that I
    82	feared he attributed too great importance to what I then said. 
    83	His Majesty interrupted me, and said that he understood that the
    84	idea was that if either of our two countries were to be attacked
    85	by two Powers at the same time, the other would come to its
    86	assistance, and that he would be prepared to act accordingly.
    87	     I replied that His Majesty's recollection was perfectly
    88	correct as to the idea which I said had been entertained in
    89	certain quarters in England as a possible basis for an
    90	understanding, but that I was speaking without instructions, and
    91	had no authority to make an arrangement of any kind.
    92	     The Emperor said that he quite understood that I had neither
    93	instructions nor authority, but that he considered that the
    94	arrangement regarding Africa might very properly be extended to
    95	Europe, and that if ever England were in serious danger, he would
    96	certainly come to her assistance, as Europe was not conceivable
    97	without England, and he believed that under similar circumstances
    98	England would do the same by him.
    99	     I took an opportunity later in the evening of again
   100	reverting to this subject, and quoted an observation, made to me
   101	by Count Hatzfeldt, that no formal alliance was necessary between
   102	England and Germany, as, if it became advisable for them to take
   103	common action, the arrangements could be made in twenty-four
   104	hours.
   105	     His Majesty expressed his concurrence in this observation,
   106	with the alteration of half-an-hour instead of twenty-four hours,
   107	and said there was certainly no necessity for a formal
   108	alliance....
   110	                                   I have &c.
   112	                                        FRANK C. LASCELLES  
   114	Source:
   116		G. P. Gooch and Harold Temperley, eds.,  (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1927),
   119		pp. 102-104.
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