3/8/1914 Grey wins over the House of Commons

In the morning Lichnowsky and Grey meet once more. To win British neutrality, the German ambassador says that Germany will not send its fleet to attack the French coast. Germany will also restore Belgium to its full sovereignty after the war. Grey makes no promises.

It is a bank holiday Monday, yet the cabinet is meeting again. The House of Commons will also be sitting in the afternoon. Germany’s ultimatum to Belgium has won most of the cabinet to war, though some ministers are opposed to war in any circumstances and tender their resignations.

In the afternoon Grey addresses the House of Commons. In a long and boring introduction he rambles on about how the crisis has developed and reveals that Britain has agreed to defend France’s coast from the Germans. But after an hour he hits his stride and makes an impassioned plea for his country to come to the defence of plucky Belgium. This provides the perfect mix of national interest (preventing German access to the Belgian coast) and lofty idealism. The foreign secretary finishes to thunderous applause. Two of the anti-interventionist ministers are won over, withdrawing their resignations.

But support is not unanimous. The Labour Party rejects involvement in the war, as do a small bloc of Liberals. And Lichnowsky wires home that the speech still leaves room for negotiation; he suggests that the British leadership are not completely behind war.

Other speakers in the House of Commons include John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He proposes that Britain withdraw its forces from Ireland, as the Irish Volunteers and Ulster Volunteers will jointly defend it. These two militias had been on the brink of fighting each other over the Home Rule question.

The Cabinet meets again in the evening. Grey sends a note of protest to Germany regarding Belgium, though not an ultimatum.

Back in his office in Whitehall, Grey sees the gaslights being lit in St. James’ Park and he comments: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We will not see them again in our lifetime.”

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