The Case Of Serbia

But Belgium is not the only little nation that has been attacked in

this war, and I make no excuse for referring to the case of the other

little nation--the case of Serbia. The history of Serbia is not

unblotted. What history in the list of nations is unblotted? The first

nation that is without sin, let her cast a stone at Serbia--a nation

trained in a horrible school. But she won her freedom with her

tenacious valor,
nd she has maintained it by the same courage. If any

Serbians were mixed up in the assassination of the Grand Duke, they

ought to be punished. Serbia admits that. The Serbian Government had

nothing to do with it. Not even Austria claimed that. The Serbian Prime

Minister is one of the most capable and honored men in Europe. Serbia

was willing to punish any one of her subjects who had been proved to

have any complicity in that assassination. What more could you expect?

What were the Austrian demands? Serbia sympathized with her

fellow-countrymen in Bosnia. That was one of her crimes. She must do so

no more. Her newspapers were saying nasty things about Austria. They

must do so no longer. That is the Austrian spirit. How dare you

criticize a Prussian official? And if you laugh, it is a capital

offense. Serbian newspapers must not criticize Austria. I wonder what

would have happened had we taken up the same line about German

newspapers. Serbia said: "Very well, we will give orders to the

newspapers that they must not criticize Austria in future, neither

Austria, nor Hungary, nor anything that is theirs." She promised not to

sympathize with Bosnia; promised to write no critical articles about

Austria. She would hold no public meetings at which anything unkind was

said about Austria. That was not enough. She must dismiss from her army

officers whom Austria should subsequently name. But these officers had

just emerged from a war where they were adding luster to the Serbian

arms--gallant, brave, efficient. I wonder whether it was their guilt or

their efficiency that prompted Austria's action. Serbia was to

undertake in advance to dismiss them from the army--the names to be

sent in subsequently. Can you name a country in the world that would

have stood that? Supposing Austria or Germany had issued an ultimatum

of that kind to this country. "You must dismiss from your army and from

your navy all those officers whom we shall subsequently name." Well, I

think I could name them now. Lord Kitchener would go. Sir John French

would be sent about his business. General Smith-Dorrien would be no

more, and I am sure that Sir John Jellicoe would go. And there is

another gallant old warrior who would go--Lord Roberts.

It was a difficult situation for a small country. Here was a demand

made upon her by a great military power who could put five or six men

in the field for every one she could; and that power supported by the

greatest military power in the world. How did Serbia behave? It is not

what happens to you in life that matters; it is the way in which you

face it. And Serbia faced the situation with dignity. She said to

Austria: "If any officers of mine have been guilty and are proved to be

guilty, I will dismiss them." Austria said, "That is not good enough

for me." It was not guilt she was after, but capacity.

Then came Russia's turn. Russia has a special regard for Serbia. She

has a special interest in Serbia. Russians have shed their blood for

Serbian independence many a time. Serbia is a member of her family, and

she cannot see Serbia maltreated. Austria knew that. Germany knew that,

and Germany turned around to Russia and said: "I insist that you shall

stand by with your arms folded whilst Austria is strangling your little

brother to death." What answer did the Russian Slav give? He gave the

only answer that becomes a man. He turned to Austria and said: "You lay

hands on that little fellow and I will tear your ramshackle empire limb

from limb."