WWI: Pourparlers – parley?

On Saturday 11th July 1914, Frederic d’Apchier le Maugin, the French Consul-General at Budapest, wrote to René Viviani, President of the Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

Questioned in the Chamber on the state of the Austro-Servian question M. Tisza [Count Istvan Tisza de Boros-Jeno] explained that before everything else it was necessary to wait for the result of the judicial inquiry, as to which he refused at the moment to make any disclosure whatsoever. And the Chamber has given its full approval to this. He also showed himself equally discreet as to the decisions taken at the meeting of Ministers at Vienna, and did not give any indication whether the project of a démarche at Belgrade, with which all the papers of both hemispheres are full, would be followed up. The Chamber assented without hesitation.

With regard to this démarche it seems that the word has been given to minimise its significance; the anger of the Hungarians has, as it were, evaporated through the virulent articles of the press, which is now unanimous in advising against this step, which might be dangerous. The semi-official press especially would desire that for the word “démarche,” with its appearance of a threat, there should be substituted the expression “pourparlers,” which appears to them more friendly and more courteous. Thus, officially, for the moment all is for peace.

Démarche means literally “A course of action; a manoeuvre” but by 1914 the word had come to mean “A diplomatic representation or protest”. Whereas pourparlers means “to discuss with the aim of reaching agreement, conversation preliminary to an agreement” – parlay.

Ahem. Sorry for that piratical interruption.

Frederic d’Apchier le Maugin continued:

All is for peace. In the press. But the general public here believe in war and fears it. Moreover, persons in whom I have every reason to have confidence have assured me that they knew that every day cannon and ammunition were being sent in large quantities towards the frontier. Whether true or not this rumour has been brought to me from various quarters with details which agree with one another; at least it indicates what are the thoughts with which people are generally occupied. The Government, whether it is sincerely desirous of peace, or whether it is preparing a coup, is now doing all that it can to allay these anxieties. This is why the tone of the Government newspapers has been lowered, first by one note, then by two, so that it is at the present moment almost optimistic. But they had themselves spread the alarm as it suited them (à plaisir). Their optimism to order is in fact without an echo; the nervousness of the Bourse, a barometer which cannot be neglected, is a sure proof of this; without exception stocks have fallen to an unaccountably low level; the Hungarian 4 per cents. were quoted yesterday at 79.95, a rate which has never been quoted since they were first issued.

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