On August 2, 1914, Germany demanded that Belgium grant free passage across its territory to German troops, to enable them to invade France and reach Paris most expeditiously. The ultimatum gave Belgium two alternatives: grant free passage or suffer occupation as an enemy of Germany. On August 3, Belgium replied to the German note, courageously refusing (in the name of its internationally guaranteed neutrality) the request for free passage:
This note has made a deep and painful impression upon the Belgian Government. The intentions attributed to France by Germany (the ultimatum had claimed that Germany was only acting to preempt an impending French invasion of Germany through Belgium) are in contradiction to the formal declarations made to us on August 1, in the name of the French Government.Moreover, if, contrary to our expectation, Belgian neutrality should be violated by France, Belgium intends to fulfil her international obligations and the Belgian army would offer the most vigorous resistance to the invader.The treaties of 1839, confirmed by the treaties of 1870 vouch for the independence and neutrality of Belgium under the guarantee of the Powers, and notably of the Government of His Majesty the King of Prussia.Belgium has always been faithful to her international obligations, she has carried out her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality, and she has left nothing undone to maintain and enforce respect for her neutrality.The attack upon her independence with which the German Government threaten her constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. No strategic interest justifies such a violation of law.The Belgian Government, if they were to accept the proposals submitted to them, would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray their duty towards Europe.Conscious of the part which Belgium has played for more than eighty years in the civilisation of the world, they refuse to believe that the independence of Belgium can only be preserved at the price of the violation of her neutrality.If this hope is disappointed the Belgian Government are firmly resolved to repel, by all the means in their power, every attack upon their rights.