Primary Documents - President Poincare's War Address, 4 August 1914
With Germany's decision to declare war with France on 3 August 1914 the French government found itself swept along (and somewhat surprised) by a tide of popular enthusiasm, a jubilant mood evident throughout the European continent. Thus on the following day, 4 August 1914 - the date Britain joined France and Russia in the war against Germany - the French President Raymond Poincare wrote the following speech (his first war address) which was read to the French parliament by the Minister of Justice. The text of his speech is reproduced below.
France has just been the object of a violent and premeditated attack, which is an insolent defiance of the law of nations. Before any declaration of war had been sent to us, even before the German Ambassador had asked for his passports, our territory has been violated. The German Empire has waited till yesterday evening to give at this late stage the true name to a state of things which it had already created.
For more than forty years the French, in sincere love of peace, have buried at the bottom of their heart the desire for legitimate reparation.
They have given to the world the example of a great nation which, definitely raised from defeat by the exercise of will, patience, and labour, has only used its renewed and rejuvenated strength in the interest of progress and for the good of humanity.
Since the ultimatum of Austria opened a crisis which threatened the whole of Europe, France has persisted in following and in recommending on all sides a policy of prudence, wisdom, and moderation.
To her there can be imputed no act, no movement, no word, which has not been peaceful and conciliatory.
At the hour when the struggle is beginning, she has the right, in justice to herself, of solemnly declaring that she has made, up to the last moment, supreme efforts to avert the war now about to break out, the crushing responsibility for which the German Empire will have to bear before history. Our fine and courageous army, which France today accompanies with her maternal thought has risen eager to defend the honour of the flag and the soil of the country.
The President of the Republic interpreting the unanimous feeling of the country, expresses to our troops by land and sea the admiration and confidence of every Frenchman.
Closely united in a common feeling, the nation will persevere with the cool self-restraint of which, since the beginning of the crisis, she has given daily proof. Now, as always, she will know how to harmonise the most noble daring and most ardent enthusiasm with that self-control which is the sign of enduring energy and is the best guarantee of victory.
In the war which is beginning, France will have Right on her side, the eternal power of which cannot with impunity be disregarded by nations any more than by individuals.
She will be heroically defended by all her sons; nothing will break their sacred union before the enemy; today they are joined together as brothers in a common indignation against the aggressor, and in a common patriotic faith.
She is faithfully helped by Russia, her ally; she is supported by the loyal friendship of Great Britain.
And already from every part of the civilised world sympathy and good wishes are coming to her. For today once again she stands before the universe for Liberty, Justice, and Reason.
'Haut les coeurs et vive la France!'
A Greyback was a British Army shirt.
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