The Belgian Refusal of Free Passage
On the morning of August 3, 1914, the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Davignon, gave the following note to the German Minister in Brussels, Herr von Below Saleske. The German army invaded Belgium on the morning of August 4, 1914.
...This note [asking free passage] has made a deep and painful impression
upon the Belgian Government. The intentions attributed to France by
Germany are in contradiction to the formal declarations made to us on
August 1, in the name of the French Government. Moreover, if, contrary to
our expectation, Belgian neutrality should be violated by France, Belgium
intends to fulfil her international obligations and the Belgian army would
offer the most vigorous resistance to the invader. The treaties of 1839,
confirmed by the treaties of 1870 vouch for the independence and neutrality
of Belgium under the guarantee of the Powers, and notably of the Government
of His Majesty the King of Prussia.
Belgium has always been faithful to her international obligations, she has carried out her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality, and she has left nothing undone to maintain and enforce respect for her neutrality.
The attack upon her independence with which the German Government threaten her constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. No strategic interest justifies such a violation of law.
The Belgian Government, if they were to accept the proposals submitted to them, would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray their duty towards Europe.
Conscious of the part which Belgium has played for more than eighty years in the civilisation of the world, they refuse to believe that the independence of Belgium can only be preserved at the price of the violation of her neutrality.
If this hope is disappointed the Belgian Government are firmly resolved to repel, by all the means in their power, every attack upon their rights.