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By Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary
Review by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor

One hundred years ago, after Germany and Russia declared war on each other in early August 1914, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Edward Grey addressed the House of Commons on Britain’s policy toward the European crisis.  He described the government’s efforts to maintain peace, but conceded that “the peace of Europe cannot be preserved.”

Foreign Secretary Grey made it clear that throughout the many crises leading up to the outbreak of war, Britain had made no “binding commitments” to any power, including France and Russia.  “Nothing we have previously done,” he explained, “restricts the freedom of the House.” “We are not parties to the Franco-Russian alliance,” he said.

He urged the House to approach the crisis from the point of view of “British interests, British honour, and British obligations, free from all passion.”

He identified Britain’s vital interest as prevention of the whole of Western Europe from falling under the domination of a single power. This meant that the Atlantic coast of France and the independence of Belgium were vital to British security and therefore worth fighting for.

He approached the war and Britain’s part in it with a sense of foreboding. “We are in the presence of a European conflagration,” he stated. “Can anybody set limits to the consequences that may arise out of it.

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