The Fourth Crisis: 1914-18
FRANCE ALL BUT lost the war in the first few weeks. Seven German armies, swinging like a gate on the hinge of the, Metz fortress, brushed aside all opposition in Luxembourg and Belgium, swept on to Mons, on over the Somme, over the Aisne, over the Marne until their advanced patrols were within twelve miles of Paris.
There had been nothing resembling this momentum in the history of modern warfare, though to the French it seemed not unlike a nightmarish repetition of 1870. True, France this time was united: all parties had rallied to the support of Viviani's Government in a Union Sacrée. True, France was no longer alone: the British Expeditionary Force was in the field and had fought well at Mons; the Russians had mobilized with unusual speed and had invaded East Prussia. But could France get through the August days? Could the Germans be held on the Marne?
Clemenceau was beside himself during these weeks. On the day war was declared he struck his keynote in L'Homme libre: "And now, to arms! Everyone's chance will come: not a child on our soil but will have his part in the gigantic battle.1 To die is nothing; we must conquer. And for that we shall need every arm. The weakest will have his part in the common glory." He rushed to the presidential palace and offered Poincaré his hand -- "mon cher ami," he called him. He worked with the Government to get Italy in on the Allies' side and worked on them to urge the Russians into an offensive against Austria and the Japanese into sending an army. But the news of the defeats shook Clemenceau out of his mood of reconciliation. Soon he was lashing out in L'Homme libre against____________________