The First Moroccan Crisis - HISTORY
Year
1905

The First Moroccan Crisis

On this day in 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany arrives in Tangiers to declare his support for the sultan of Morocco, provoking the anger of France and Britain in what will become known as the First Moroccan Crisis, a foreshadowing of the greater conflict between Europe’s great nations still to come, the First World War.

The kaiser did not have any substantive interest in Morocco; neither did the German government. The central purpose of his appearance was to disrupt the Anglo-French Entente, formed in April 1904. The Entente Cordiale, as it was known, was originally intended not as an alliance against Germany but as a settlement of long-standing imperialist rivalries between Britain and France in North Africa. By its terms, Britain could pursue its interests in Egypt, while France was free to expand westward from Algeria into Morocco, the last territory that remained independent in the region. France subsequently signed an agreement with Spain dividing Morocco into spheres of influence, with France receiving the greater part.

Angered by its exclusion from the decisions made about North Africa, Germany believed that the Anglo-French Entente went a long way towards the creation of a new diplomatic balance in Europe itself. An international convention had guaranteed the independence of Morocco in 1880; Germany now saw that the friendship between two of Europe’s most powerful nations threatened to override this, and thus also posed a challenge to Germany’s own influence in Europe and the world.

With much pomp and circumstance, Wilhelm—whose ship had faced gale-force winds on its passage to North Africa—arrived in Tangiers on March 31, 1905. In what would be known as the open door speech, he announced that he looked upon the sultan of Morocco as the ruler of a free and independent empire subject to no foreign control and that he himself would always negotiate with the sultan. He also stated that he expected Germany to have advantages in trade and commerce with Morocco equal to that of other countries. Wilhelm’s sensational appearance marked an aggressive departure from the German foreign policy under the legendary Otto von Bismarck, who as chancellor had united the German empire in 1871 and had advocated conciliatory gestures towards France and other European rivals as a key part of German foreign policy.

Although Germany had intended aggressive action in Morocco to place a wedge between France and Britain, it in fact had the opposite effect, strengthening the bond between the two countries due to their mutual suspicion of Germany. What began as mere friendship turned, after the First Moroccan Crisis, into a type of informal military alliance, including conversations between the British and French governments and military staffs and later, a mutual defense agreement with a third country, Russia.

In the wake of the kaiser’s appearance, an international conference convened in Algeciras, Spain, in January 1906 to conclude an agreement about Morocco. The resulting convention awarded France a controlling interest in Moroccan affairs, but guaranteed equality of trade and economic freedom for every nation and limited any colonial action by any nation without consultation with the other signatories. A Second Moroccan Crisis flared in April 1911, when the French pushed troops into the country, claiming to be defending the sultan against riots that had erupted in Fez but actually violating the terms of the Algeciras convention. In response, Germany sent its own warship, the Panther, which arrived in the port of Agadir on May 21, intensifying the enmity between the two nations and, by extension, their allies.

Slightly more than two years before the outbreak of World War I, then, the two Moroccan crises left no doubt that the traditional power balance in Europe had shifted into large blocs of power, with Germany relatively isolated on one side—enjoying only lukewarm support from Austria-Hungary and Italy—and Britain, France, and Russia on the other.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Treaty of Kanagawa signed with Japan

In Tokyo, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, representing the U.S. government, signs the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade and permitting the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Japan.In July 1853, ...read more

Dalai Lama begins exile

The Dalai Lama, fleeing the Chinese suppression of a national uprising in Tibet, crosses the border into India, where he is granted political asylum.Born in Taktser, China, as Tensin Gyatso, he was designated the 14th Dalai Lama in 1940, a position that eventually made him the ...read more

Jews to be expelled from Spain

In Spain, a royal edict is issued by the nation’s Catholic rulers declaring that all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity will be expelled from the country. Most Spanish Jews chose exile rather than the renunciation of their religion and culture, and the Spanish economy ...read more

Knute Rockne, Studebaker namesake, dies

On this day in 1931, Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach and namesake of the Studebaker Rockne line of autos, is killed in a plane crash near Bazaar, Kansas, at the age of 43.The roots of the Studebaker Corporation date back to 1852, when siblings Henry and ...read more

Eiffel Tower opens

On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.In 1889, to honor of the centenary of ...read more

Germany’s Atlantis launches

On this day, the German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis sets off on a mission to catch and sink Allied merchant ships.By the time the Atlantis set sail from Germany, the Allies had already lost more than 750,000 tons worth of shipping, the direct result of German submarine attacks. ...read more

Johnson announces bombing halt

In a televised speech to the nation, President Lyndon B. Johnson announces a partial halt of bombing missions over North Vietnam and proposes peace talks. He said he had ordered “unilaterally” a halt to air and naval bombardments of North Vietnam “except in the area north of the ...read more

Western novelist Vardis Fisher born

Vardis Fisher, a gifted novelist who dealt with both the myth and reality of the American West, is born in Annis, Idaho.Fisher, educated at the University of Utah and the University of Chicago, was one of the most important forces for establishing a uniquely western voice in ...read more

Oklahoma! premieres on Broadway

The financial risk of mounting a Broadway musical is so great that few productions ever make it to the Great White Way without a period of tryouts and revisions outside of New York City. This was as true in the 1940s as it is today, and especially so during the war years, when ...read more

The Matrix released

On this day in 1999, the writing and directing sibling team of Andy and Larry Wachowski release their second film, the mind-blowing science-fiction blockbuster The Matrix.Born and raised in Chicago, the Wachowski brothers both dropped out of college and started a house-painting ...read more

Mississippi River reaches peak flood level

The Mississippi River reaches its peak level in St. Louis during a record 77-day flood. During the extended flood, 33 people died and more than $1 billion in damages were incurred.The roots of the 1973 flood go back to October 1972, when above-average rain began falling in the ...read more

Evidence of murder is uncovered in New Mexico

Law enforcement officers in Elephant Butte, New Mexico, began digging for evidence near the mobile home of David Parker Ray and Cynthia Lea Hendy after more evidence came to light about the couple’s activities. On March 22, a twenty-two year old woman was found running naked, ...read more

Warsaw Pact ends

After 36 years in existence, the Warsaw Pact—the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its eastern European satellites—comes to an end. The action was yet another sign that the Soviet Union was losing control over its former allies and that the Cold War was falling ...read more