In Vienna Tisza soon learns that Berchtold is really proposing to strike. The urgent step now is to put pressure on the Old Gentleman; accordingly, Tisza writes to his Emperor that: “I cannot identify myself with Count Berchtold’s intention of making the crime in Sarajevo an occasion for settling accounts with Serbia. I have made no secret from Count Berchtold that I should look on this as a fatal error, and should in no case agree to share the responsibility for it. In the first place, we have as yet no sufficient grounds for putting the responsibility on Serbia, or for provoking a war with that State in the face of possible satisfactory explanations from the Serbian Government. We should have the worst locus standi imaginable; we should be exposed before the whole world as the peace-breakers, and should be starting a great war under the most unfavourable circumstances. Secondly, I consider the present moment, when we have practically lost Roumania, and when Bulgaria, the only State on which we can reckon, is completely exhausted, to be a most unpropitious one in every way. In the present Balkan situation, there can be no difficulty whatever in finding a suitable casus belli whenever it is needed.”
And he urgently recommends breaking down Germany’s hostility to Bulgaria, and taking advantage of the German Kaiser’s presence “to make use of the recent outrages to destroy this august personage’s prejudiced pro-Serbian attitude, and to induce him to give active support to our Balkan policy.”
A little masterpiece, this letter, a piece of rapier-play in which lunge and parry follow one another like lightning. An unmistakable threat of resignation is combined with a threat that Hungary’s dictator will impose Hungary’s veto. It is plain that Tisza has the decision in his hands. Will he stand fast?
In his villa in Ischl, whither he has returned with all speed after the funeral ceremony, the old Emperor sits in his shooting-coat over the letter which Berchtold, his Foreign Minister, has laid before him. If long experience could make a statesman, Franz Joseph in his old age ought to be cleverer than in his youth. The fact that, having lost all his wars, he wants no more of them, does not mean that he is a convinced pacifist; and in spite of the Spanish isolation with which this last Emperor in history “hedges his divinity,” he has an ear for the voice of his subjects; he feels and considers the wishes of the officers and officials, German and Hungarian, who are the last props of his artificial throne. His heart is in nowise moved by his nephew’s death; he never liked the Archduke, and his impossible marriage had intensified dislike into such detestation that he saw in the news of the double murder nothing but the judgment of God, and said at once to his adjutant: “The Almighty will not be defied.” Three days after these cruel words, he is considering the prospects for his deerstalking, which, after all he has lost, remains for him the last delight in life. He cares little who shall reign after him; probably he realises that this Empire, which contains so many centrifugal forces, is held together now only by a universal respect, amounting to reverence, for his advanced age; a certain dignity and majesty make intimacy impossible with this born Emperor, even more than with the Tsar of All the Russias.
Nevertheless, one must not grow weary; one must see what is stirring inside the Empire, and, if necessary, try to use the outer danger to avert the inner. A few days ago he said to the German Ambassador, who came to excuse the Kaiser Wilhelm’s absence: “I see a very dark future . . . I do not know whether we can afford to look on quietly any longer, and I hope that your Kaiser also realises the danger to the Monarchy caused by the neighbourhood of Serbia. What is particularly disquieting to me is the Russian practice-mobilisation which is planned for the autumn, precisely the time when we are changing the contingents of recruits. . . .
Emil Ludwig, July 14
Newy York Tribune, front page