The Nation has proved to its own satisfaction, who began the war. The minutes of the Russian Ministerial Conference of July 24, 1914, indicate that Russia determined on war on that date. The same minutes were interpreted to the contrary by the Associated Press and Current History of a month ago. Unable to brook the ambiguity, at least insofar as Russia is concerned, The Nation has reinterpreted the minutes to affirm Russian guilt.
From the humanitarian standpoint of the hundred forgiving Frenchmen and the hundred forgiving Englishmen who have petitioned to absolve Germany from the war guilt imposed on her in the Versailles Treaty, it is easy to see why a reapportionment of such guilt is desirable. From the political standpoint of Germany herself, who wants to capitalize these expressions of compassion in an effort to regain her colonies taken from her on grounds of her guilt, the same desirability is evident.
But as a purely historical question, a categorical conclusion as to who was actually to blame for the war is quite impossible at this time. Until the Austrian Red Book, the French Yellow Book, the German White Book, the English Blue Book and the Russian Orange Book are fully known, and until all the commissioners, ambassadors, directors, emperors and consuls implicated have furnished their memoirs, there can be no approximation of the truth--a truth which will be as variegated as the collection of tomes from which it will be derived.
Strange freak of nature, that those great holocaustic agencies that affect man most, should be so little understood by him while they exist. Mankind must forever await patiently the future which shall interpret the past in retrospect. The question, "Who began the war?" must remain for the present as impenetrable a mystery as its correlative, "Who won the war?"