The German Kaiser claims to hold all authority of life and death over his people, including the right of declaring defensive war, by "divine right," by God's choice of him and his family to rule.
When Germany, at the outbreak of the war in , resolved to break the treaty in which with other nations she had pledged herself never to violate, but  always to defend, the neutrality of Belgium; when she was ready to declare to the world that a sacred treaty was only "a scrap of paper" to be torn up whenever her needs seemed to require it, she sent on Sunday night, August 2, , at seven o'clock, an ultimatum to the Belgian government—to be answered within twelve hours—in substance as follows:.
The German Government has received information, of the accuracy of which there can be no doubt, that it may be the intention of France to send her forces across Belgium to attack Germany. The German Government fears that Belgium, no matter how good her intentions, may not be able unaided to prevent such a French advance; and therefore it is necessary for the protection of Germany that she should act at once.
The German Government would be very sorry to have Belgium consider her action in this matter as a hostile act, for it is forced upon Germany by her enemies. In order to prevent any misunderstanding, the German Government declares:. Germany intends no hostile act against Belgium, and if Belgium makes no resistance, the German Government pledges the security of the Belgian Kingdom and all its possessions.
Germany will pay cash for all supplies needed by her troops which Belgians are willing to sell her and will make good any damage caused by her forces.
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If Belgium resists the advance of the German forces, the German Government will be compelled to consider Belgium as an enemy and will act accordingly. If not, the friendly relations  which have long united the two nations will become stronger and more lasting. In twelve hours Belgium must make a decision that would change her entire future history and, as later events proved, the history of Europe and of the world.
She made it; and by that decision she sacrificed herself and brought death and destruction upon her people and her possessions, but she saved her honor and her soul. Germany had promised her everything, if she would only let the German armies march unhindered through Belgium into France. No Belgian should be harmed or disturbed, and anything needed by the German army would be paid for. After the Germans had won the war, as they doubtless would have done if Belgium had not blocked their way, Belgium would have become a thriving, wealthy kingdom, under German protection.
Antwerp would have been perhaps the greatest port in the world, and Brussels, next to Berlin, the world's most magnificent capital. But the Belgians did not hesitate nor did their heroic king. The French on August 1 assured us most emphatically that they would respect our neutrality. If this should prove to be false, the Belgian  army will offer the greatest possible resistance to invasion by them. The neutrality of Belgium is guaranteed by the powers, among them Germany, and the attack which the German Government threatens to make on Belgium would be a violation of the Law of Nations.
No military necessity can justify such a violation of right. The Belgian Government, if it accepted the proposals of Germany, would sacrifice the honor of the nation and betray its duty to Europe; and it therefore refuses to believe that this will be demanded in order to maintain its independence. If this expectation proves unfounded, the Belgian Government is fully decided to resist by all means in its power any attack against its rights. On Tuesday the King brought in person a message to the Belgian Legislature, as President Wilson has often brought such messages to the American Congress. King Albert's message was in substance as follows:.
Not since has Belgium passed through such an anxious hour. Our independence is threatened. We still have hope that what we dread may not happen; but if we have to resist invasion and defend our homes, that duty will find us armed, courageous, and ready for any sacrifice.
Already our young men have risen to defend their country in danger.
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I send to them, in the name of the nation, a brotherly greeting. Everywhere in the provinces of Flanders and of Walloon alike, in city and country, one feeling fills all minds—that our duty is to resist the enemies of our independence with firm courage and as a united nation. The perfect mobilization of our army, the great number of  volunteers, the devotion of the citizens, the self-denial of families have shown beyond doubt the bravery of the Belgian people. The moment to act has come.
No one in this nation will betray his duty.
The army is ready, and the Government has absolute trust in its leaders and its soldiers. If the foreigner violates our territory, he will find all Belgians grouped round their King and their Government, in which they have absolute confidence. I have faith in our destinies. A nation which defends its rights commands the respect of all. Such a nation cannot die. God will be with us in a just cause. Long live independent Belgium! Never as long as men remember the history of these fateful days will the decisive action of the heroic Belgian people and of their heroic king be forgotten.
The slightest hesitation between right and wrong would have set civilization and human liberty back perhaps a thousand years. And the decision had to be made not only by a people, but by a young king with German blood in his veins and married to a German princess—and between sunset and sunrise. Did he see the horrors before him and his people? Did he see the destruction of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the pride of his people?
Did he  see the tearing down and burning of the entire city of Louvain, with its university and its valuable library containing some of the oldest and most nearly priceless books and manuscripts?
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Did he see the children and the aged dying by the roadside of hunger and fatigue? Did he see the Belgian men carried off as slaves to work in Germany? Do you think he or his Queen would have hesitated if he had? No one who really knows them thinks so. Nothing can justify choosing the wrong. King Albert, the King of Heroes, and Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians are honored and respected by all who love liberty and justice, for it has been well said, "Treaties and engagements are certainly scraps of paper, just as promises are no more than breaths.
But upon such scraps of paper and breaths the fabric of civilization has been built, and without them its everyday activity would come to an end. Queen Elizabeth, although a Bavarian princess, has said of the Germans, "Between them and me has fallen a curtain of iron which will never again be lifted.
He is constantly at their side, encouraging them by his presence and his courage. At certain moments, he adventures too far; always he is in the very midst of combat. Not many royal pairs would trust their lives to cross the English Channel and return in an airplane, as they did in the summer of to attend a celebration held by the King and Queen of England. A Belgian soldier writing of King Albert said: "The King came and placed himself at my side in the trench. He took the rifle of a soldier so tired he could not stand, to give him a chance to rest, and fired, just like the other soldiers, for an hour and a half.
He himself often carries their letters to the soldiers and distributes among them the little bundles which their friends and parents send them from the homes now destroyed. He shares their mess with the soldiers and he calls them always 'my friends. One night he was seen, exhausted by fatigue, sleeping on the grass at the side of the road.
To Germany's unfair and treacherous proposal that Belgium be false to her promises to the world, there was but one answer for Belgium. It was "No. Of the latter the Cockerill Works of Seraing have been named as second only to Krupp's.
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The city is important historically and also politically—being the truest democracy in Europe. Its people were happy and free. Its governor was trusted and respected, but no less bound by common law than the people themselves. Situated  on the left bank of the Meuse, in a valley at the junction of three rivers, it is a natural stronghold. It was besides supposed to be fortified more perfectly than any other city in the world. A ring of twelve forts surrounded it, six of them large and powerful, six not so powerful and smaller. One weakness, however, as General Emmich, commander of the German forces, knew, was the great distance between the forts.
The small forts were not placed between the large ones; but two of the smaller works were together on the southwest, two in a ten-mile gap across the northeast, a fifth was between two of the larger forts on the southeast. The three points where the small forts were situated were the places that the enemy planned to attack. But the Belgians were equally aware of the weak points. General Leman gave orders to throw up entrenchments between forts and to fill the garrison. Even then, the number of men in the forts was but 25,, when it should have been at least 50, Yet the Belgian soldiers, following the example of their brave leader, General Leman, did all they could to prepare a strong resistance.
No time was taken to bring up the heavy guns—the Germans thought they would not need them. In this they were mistaken. Three times they rushed forward, but were repulsed. The third time they reached the Belgian trenches; but, obeying an order to counter-attack, the Belgians rushed out and drove the Germans back, inflicting heavy losses and taking prisoners.
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