Ireland again tops the Cabinet agenda. Harcourt reports that the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, arrived at Cabinet half an hour late following talks with the German ambassador. He describes the situation in Europe as ‘very bad’ with the Austrians refusing to continue negotiations in St Petersburg. News reached the Cabinet during its meeting that Russia has mobilised troops in ‘certain towns on her Southern frontier.’
The Cabinet discussed Britain’s liabilities for the guarantee of Belgian neutrality under the terms of the European treaty of 1839. Harcourt outlines the difficulty of the British position: ‘Russia says we can prevent Europ[ean] war by saying we shall support France – Germany says we can prevent it by saying we shall not do so.’ Harcourt writes that Foreign Secretary Grey ‘is afraid that at any moment France may ask us if we mean to stand by her.’ No Cabinet decision was made on this matter today.
Harcourt remains committed to leaving the goverment if there is a decision for war. He claims to be certain that ‘I can take at least 9 colleagues out with me on resigination.’ He also notices a change in the attitudes of David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill who are ‘less bellicose today.’ He suspects that their opinions fluctuate with popular opinion and that soon they will be ‘wobbling back to war.’
Churchill has moved his ships in the North Sea to ‘war stations.’ Grey is proposing to meet the French and German ambassadors in the afternoon and will inform the German ambassador that he ‘may not assume that we [Britain] shall not join France.’ The French ambassador is to be told ‘you must not assume that we shall join you.’ Harcourt believes this to be a ‘sound, strong & honest diplomatic position.’
After Cabinet, Harcourt went to the Colonial Office to send ‘Precautionary telegrams’ to the British colonies and dominions.
At the close of the day, Harcourt notes ‘European situation getting worse tonight.’
Harcourt’s political journal features in the Bodleian Libraries exhibition The Great War: From Downing Street to the Trenches.