Moroccan Crisis- both 1905 and 1911

Morocco was of strategic country that most European countries wanted to take control of. The crisis of 1905 and 1911 was a result of this tussle for control over Morocco. France wanted to control it while Germany tried to stop it. The major powers of Europe like France, Spain and Britain were partners to all that happened in that part of the world. In 1904 France signed a treaty with Spain dividing Morocco. This was a secret treaty. Britain knew about it and it was agreed that Spain and Franc e would not oppose Britain’s move in Egypt as a return for freehand movement in Morocco. Germany however was not happy with this blatant show of power and wanted an open policy. The first move against this treaty led to the first crisis in 1905.

Morocco in Late Nineteenth Century

An international convention had taken place in 1880 and this convention had assured independence to Morocco in 1880. Germany found that the friendship between the two powerful European nations threatening to overrule this and also felt that the friendship posed a challenge to Germany authority in Europe and other parts of the world. With much showiness and events, Wilhelm, the German Emperor—whose ship had faced several hardships on its passage to North Africa—arrived in Tangiers on March 31, 1905. In an open door speech, the Emperor publicized that he looked upon the sultan of Morocco as the leader of a free and independent empire subject to no foreign control. The Emperor himself negotiated with the sultan and Wilhelm stated that he expected Germany to have advantages in trade and commerce with Morocco equal to that of other countries.

Wilhelm’s astounding appearance marked an aggressive departure from the German foreign policy under the legendary Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck was the chancellor and in his capacity had united the German empire and had supported peace-making actions towards France and other European rivals as an important part of German foreign policy.   Germany had proposed aggressive action in Morocco to place a block between France and Britain. But this actually strengthened the bond between the two countries, Britain and France because they had a shared distrust of Germany. It started as a mere friendship between the two countries and after the First Moroccan Crisis it got converted into an unofficial military alliance between the two countries. There were conversations between the British and French governments and military staff and it later turned into a mutual defence agreement with the third country, Russia.

The Events That Led to The First Crisis in Detail

The beginning of the Moroccan Crisis of 1905 was when Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany arrived in Tangiers to announce his support for the Sultan of Morocco. The support of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany annoyed the French and the British and it was the start of the Moroccan Crisis of 1905. This conflict was forewarning of the much greater conflict of Europe which was to follow, i.e. the First World War.

  • Kaiser or the German government did not have any serious interest in Morocco as a country. The main interest of the Germans to support Morocco was to upset the Anglo-French Entente which was formed in April 1904.
  • The Entente Cordiale was not against Germany but was a settlement of age-old imperialist enmity between Britain and France in North Africa.
  • According to the agreement Britain could follow its interest in Egypt and France was allowed to expand its arms westwards from Algeria to Morocco.
  • Morocco was then the last territory that remained independent in that region.
  • France at a later stage signed an agreement with Spain which divided Morocco into spheres of influence and through this agreement France received the greater part of Morocco.
  • Germany was not consulted or included in the decisions made about North Africa and Germany strongly believed that the Anglo-French Entente went ahead a long way towards creating a new diplomatic balance in Europe itself.
  • Due to the appearance of Kaiser in the scene there was international conference called for in Algeciras, Spain in January 1906 and agreement about Morocco was made.
  • The convention decided to award France a controlling interest in the affairs of Morocco.
  • It also promised equality of trade and economic freedom for very nation and limited any colonial action by any nation without talks with the other signatories.
  • The first Moroccan crisis lasted from March 1905 to May 1906.

After the First Crisis

In France, the people, the press and many of the ministers felt what was happening in Morocco was unfair. At the same time there was a sect of people who believed France was listening to Germany and some prominent people in the government resigned their posts. There was some support from America but they were willing to act as per the instruction of the French. They believed that French would do well in Morocco and was willing to support any move of the French.

The first Moroccan Crisis was in many ways a fore runner of the First World War. There was a definite picture of the alliances in case of a war and that was how it turned out to be. France, Britain, Russia, Spain teamed together. After the first Moroccan crisis the distrust on Germany only increased and the allies saw Germany a big threat to their expansion plans. In a slow and steady manner the rift between Germany and the allied powers was only increasing. The second Moroccan crisis only added fuel to the already simmering rage.

The Second Moroccan Crisis

The Second Moroccan crisis is also known as Agadir crisis and it happened almost five years after the first crisis. It was generally believed that France had come out well from the first Moroccan crisis while the same was not true about Germany. This affected Germany’s internal politics as well.  The politicians lost their influence in Berlin. There were changes in France as well. A nationalist outlook was developed. I general the European politics was in a transition stage and a little fragile and a small incident was enough to spark of f a big calamity and that is what happened in 1914. However the second Moroccan crisis was a indicator of how unstable Europe was.

Though most of the alliances were between France, Spain and Britain, in February 1909 a pact was signed between Berlin and Paris forgetting the earlier issues. However this also seemed to be a superficial alliance as the real aim of the alliance was to scare Spain and get it to fall into place. Spain was trying for a unilateral penetration into Morocco and this was unsettling for France and Morocco. The 1909 agreement France allowed Germany to continue its economic and commercial interests in Morocco. But soon it became clear to Germany that the spirit of the agreement was not kept up because France did not allow the laying of the two important railway lines in Morocco.

Meanwhile the Morocco Sultan was also facing revolts from its tribes. The general unrest in the country encouraged there tribes to revolt against Sultan Hafid and his supporters including the French. They started to attack the French forces that were stationed near Casablanca from January 1911. Germany was looking upon this situation with apprehension as the revolt would call for more French troops in Morocco, thereby becoming a threat to the German presence there. Events of the Second Moroccan Crisis

  • The Second Moroccan crisis was kicked off in April 1911 when the French army trooped into the country. Soon more than 20,000 French troops were brought into Morocco.
  • The French came in defending the king against riots which had erupted in Fez but actually they were violating the terms of the Algeciras convention.
  • Germany, in reply to the action sent its warship, the Panther to the port of Agadir on July 1st and this strengthened the enmity and created hostile repercussions between the nations and its allies.
  • The gun boat named ‘Panther” was then replaced by a larger boat ‘Berlin’ on July 5th.
  • Now the stage was set for a confrontation though both France and Germany saw it only as a defensive move.
  • On 9th July Cambon and Kiderlen-Wachter met to diffuse the situation and Germany wanted French Congo as exchange for allowing French control of Morocco.
  • The French were not very keen but the discussion kept going.
  • Meanwhile Britain did not want any war in the name of Morocco saying it was not worth it.
  • However later in July Germany’s interest in French Congo became public through The Times and this sent shock waves especially in Britain.
  • The report in The Times was blown up more by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, who said if Germany gained what she wanted in Africa “it would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure.”
  • Amidst all this the talks over French Congo continued till mid September.
  • The British could not be appeased by these talks and they went ahead sending the Royal Navy ships to Morocco.
  • On September 1st the talks between Germany and France came to a grinding halt suddenly due to health issue of French diplomat Cambon.
  • However this reason was not understood and the situation became tense between the two countries and this affected the stock markets in Berlin.
  • This only proved that the situation in Europe was very fragile.
  • By November 11th there was a clear stance and conclusion to the talk. Germany would get 107,000 square miles of land while France got 6450 square miles of land in the Upper Cameroons.
  • The fact was that this land acquisition was not worth anything to both the sides.

Before the outbreak of the World War I the Moroccan crisis had shifted the traditional power balance in Europe into large blocks of power, with Germany almost singled out on one side with only namesake supports from Austria, Hungary and Italy and the other side had the powerful Britain, France and Russia. So how was Agadir Crisis or the second Moroccan crisis responsible for the First World War? Though it did not have any direct effect, it was responsible in lesser ways for the war. The talks went on for months and finally Germany did get more land. This gave an impression to the British government that Germany was very determined to dominate Europe as a whole and this thought was strengthened by David Lyod George and Winston Churchill.

There was a strange outcome from the whole episode. What remained a situation became a crisis because the media blew up the whole thing out of proportion. The newspapers carried reports and views of the leaders and the people formed opinion based on these reports. The politicians had to respond to the news paper reports to keep up their image. So like a vicious cycle the media played a crucial part in making 1911 in Morocco a crisis. The belief in French elan was strengthened and the approach taken by Jules Cambon was not accepted, in fact it was rejected. However Cambon and Kiderlen-Wachter were happy with their contributions and sent each other photographs after the end of the crisis. Cambon wrote on the photograph, “To my dear friend and terrible enemy” and gave it to Kiderlen-Wachter and in return Cambon received “To my terrible friend and dear enemy.”

Both these leaders were right in feeling that they had done a good job because they truly knew the enormity of the situation. Had it not been for their peaceful and patient talks, a war would have broken out in 1911 and a number of people would have to lay down their lives. The irony of the whole situation then would be that all the lives would have been lost on a land which was not truly theirs. They only had trading interest and as Britain said it was not worth fighting over Morocco.

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