As second lieutenant, Prince William had naturally a good deal to learn, though, entering life, as we have seen, as a "fine young recruit," having had a "military governor" appointed to his service when he was four, being made an officer at the age of ten, and having passed most of his life hitherto in a military society and atmosphere, he had less perhaps to learn than the ordinary young German officer. He went through the usual drills, and doubtless felt, as keenly as does the young officer everywhere, their monotonous and seemingly unnecessary repetitions, but they fulfilled the object in view and gave him the well-set-up bearing and martial tread which still distinguish him. Living in the old Town Castle of Potsdam, in rooms that had once been occupied by Frederick the Great, he entered with zest into the task of learning the mechanism of his regiment and at the same time of the army generally, though it cannot have been as interesting a task then as now, when science has added so many new branches to military organization. Both he and his young wife were as hospitable as their not too generous means and occasional cheques from the Emperor William would allow, particularly to any Borussian of the Prince's Bonn university days who might be passing through Berlin or Potsdam. The young Prince and Princess took part, as was to be expected of them, in the festivities and ceremonies of the Emperor's and Crown Prince's Court, and, when they had nothing more interesting to do, might be seen strolling arm in arm about the streets in Potsdam looking into the shops as young married people do in every town, and being apparently, as the story-books say, as happy as the day is long.
On the whole, however, during these pre-accession years, only glimpses of Prince William's character and doings are obtainable, but, though meagre, they are sufficient to suggest that in his case, too, if we extend the saying to cover the entire period of youth, the child was father to the man. The chief, almost the only, reliable authorities for the inner history of the time are the memoirs and notes left by the two Chancellors, Prince Bismarck and Prince Hohenlohe—en passant let the hope be expressed here that in the interests of Germany herself another Chancellor, Prince Bernhard Ernst von Buelow, now living in retirement at Rome, will enlighten the world as to that of the last ten or twelve stirring years, quorum pars magna fuit. Both Bismarck and Hohenlohe were excellent judges of character, and have, described, though with regrettable brevity, the character of Prince William about this time. Talking to his confidant, Dr. Busch, in June, 1882, Bismarck says of the Prince:
"He is quite different from the Emperor William, and wishes to take the government into his own hands; he is energetic and determined, not at all disposed to put up with parliamentary co-regents, a regular guardsman; Philopater and Antipater at Potsdam! He is not at all pleased at his father (Crown Prince Frederick) taking up with professors, with Mommsen, Virchow, Forckenbeck. Perhaps he may one day develop into the rocher de bronze of which we stand in need."
This rocher de bronze is an expression constantly employed by devoted royalists and imperialists in Germany. It was first used by Frederick William IV, who, in the jargon which in his time passed for the German language, exclaimed: "Ich werde meine Souvereinetat stabilizieren wie ein rocher de bronze."
Again, about this time Bismarck says:
"Up to that time (when Prince William was studying at the Ministries) he knew little, and indeed did not trouble himself much about it, but preferred to enjoy himself in the society of young officers and such-like,"
and he goes on to tell how the Prince took—or did not take—to this Ministerial education. It was proposed that the Under Secretary of State, Herrfurth, who was reputed to be well informed, particularly in statistics, should instruct him about internal questions. The Prince agreed and invited Herrfurth to lunch, but afterwards told Bismarck he could not stand him, "with his bristly beard, his dryness and tediousness." Could Bismarck suggest some one else? The Chancellor mentioned Privy Councillor von Brandenstein. The Prince did not object, had the Baron several times to meals, but paid so little attention to his explanations that Brandenstein lost patience and begged for some other employment. Concerning a rendezvous, Bismarck writes:
"He (Prince William) has more understanding, more courage and greater independence (than his grandfather), but in his leaning for me he goes too far. He was 'surprised' that I had waited for him, a thing his grandfather was incapable of saying;"
and the Chancellor adds:
"It is only in trifles and matters of secondary importance that one occasionally has reason to find fault with him, as, for instance, in the form of his State declarations—but that is youthful vivacity which time will correct. Better too much than too little fire."
Busch relates, under date of April 6, 1888, Bismarck's birthday, how Prince William came to offer his congratulations, and, having done so, invited himself to dinner. The meal over, he made a speech toasting Bismarck, in which he said:
"The Empire is like an army corps that has lost its commander-in-chief in the field, while the officer who is next to him in rank lies severely wounded. At this critical moment forty-six million loyal German hearts turn with solicitude and hope to the standard, and the standard-bearer in whom all their expectations are centred. The standard-bearer is our illustrious Prince, our great Chancellor. Let him lead us. We will follow him. Long may he live!"
Prince Hohenlohe's references to Prince William as Emperor are frequent and full, but he has little to say about his character as Prince William beyond noting, when there was some talk of the Prince directly succeeding Emperor William, that he was "too young." On an occasion subsequently Prince Hohenlohe amusingly notes that the Emperor shook hands with him until his fingers "nearly cracked." This is still a genial gesture of the Emperor's.
One document, however, is available to show the spirit of religious tolerance which then animated our young Lutheran Prince, as it has animated him, it may be added, ever since. Pius IX had been succeeded in the Papacy by the more liberal Leo XIII, and the Kulturkampf had come to an end. Prince William, writing to an uncle, Cardinal Hohenlohe, says:—
"That this unholy Kulturkampf is at an end is a thing which rejoices me beyond expression. Of late many eminent Catholics, among them Kopp (afterwards Cardinal) have frequently visited me and honoured me with a confidence at once complete and gratifying. I was often so happy as to be able to be the interpreter of their wishes (to the Emperor and Bismarck, presumably) and do them some service. So it has been granted to my youth to co-operate in this work of peace. This has given me great pleasure and happiness.
"Give my regards to Galimberti and lay my respects at the feet of the Pope.
"Thy devoted nephew,
"WILLIAM OF PRUSSIA."
With his future subjects Prince William was brought into close relations only in a very limited way. No one, save perhaps Bismarck, seems to have known or suspected his true character and aims. This was natural enough, since it is not until a man comes to occupy some influential or prominent position that the public begins to take an interest in him. His father would be Emperor before him, and fate might have it that he himself would not live to come to the throne. Royal highnesses are not uncommon in a country with such a feudal history and so many courts as Germany. The young Prince, moreover, was never, to use a phrase of to-day, in the limelight. He was never involved in a notorious scandal. He had not, as his eldest son, the present Crown Prince, has, published a book. He was more or less absorbed in the army, the early grave of so many dawning talents. And there was no newspaper press devoted to chronicling the doings and sayings of the fashionable world of his time. His natural abilities would doubtless have secured him reputation and success in any sphere of life, but, as he himself would probably be the first to admit, much of his fame, and even much of his merit, is due to the splendid opportunities afforded him by his birth and position.
At the same time it is obvious that if his people at this period had not much opportunity of studying the young Prince, he had been studying them and their requirements as these latter appeared to him. He had evidently thought much on Germany's conditions and prospects before he came to the throne, and was Empire-building in imagination long before he became Emperor. It is not hard to guess the drift of his meditations. The success of the Empire depended on the success of Prussia, and the success of Prussia, ringed in by possibly hostile Powers, on union under a Prussian King whom Germans should swear fealty to and regard as a Heaven-granted leader. From the history of Prussia he drew the conclusion that force, physical force, well organized and equipped, must be the basis of Germany's security. Physical force had made Brandenburg into Prussia, and Prussia into the still nascent modern German Empire. He knew that France was only waiting for the day to come when she would be powerful enough to recover her lost provinces. Russia was friendly, but there was no certainty she would always be so. Austria was an ally, but many people in Austria had not forgotten Sadowa, and in any case her military and naval forces were far from being efficient. An irresistible army, and a national spirit that would keep it so, were consequently Germany's first essentials.
Simultaneously a new fact of vital importance for Germany's prosperity presented itself for consideration—the growth of world-policy in trade, the expansion of commerce through the development caused by new conditions of transport and intercommunication in which other nations were already engaged. The Prince saw his country's merchants beginning to spread over the earth, and believing in the doctrine that trade follows the flag, he felt that the flag, with the power and protection it affords, must be supplied. For this it appeared to him that a navy was as indispensable as was an efficient army for Germany's internal security. All other great countries had fine navies, while to Germany this complement of Empire was practically wanting. Accordingly he now took up the study of naval science and naval construction.
There was an occasion, however, at this time when the young Prince attracted general attention, if only for a few days. It was when as colonel of the Body Guard Hussars, he ordered his officers to withdraw from a Berlin club in which hazard and high play had ruined some of the younger and less wealthy members. The committee of the club used their influence to cause Emperor William to make the new commander cancel his order. The Emperor sent for his grandson and requested its withdrawal.
"Majesty," said the young commander, "permit me a question—am I still commander of the regiment?"
"Well, then, will your Majesty allow me to maintain the order—or else accept my resignation?"
"Oh," said the Emperor, who was in reality pleased with the young disciplinarian, "there can be no talk of such a thing. I could not find so good a commanding officer again in a hurry."
When the club committee's ambassadors came to the Emperor to learn the result of his intervention, his answer was, "Very sorry, gentlemen; I did my best, but the colonel refuses."
The political situation as regards France was just now highly precarious. General Boulanger, whom Gambetta once described as "one of the four best officers in France," had become Minister of War in the de Freycinet Cabinet of 1886. Relying on a supposed superiority of the French army, he prepared for a war of revenge against Germany and aimed, with the help of Deroulede and Rochfort, at suppressing the parliamentary regime and establishing himself as dictator. His plans were answered in Germany by the acceptance of Bismarck's Septennat proposals for increasing the army and fixing its budget for seven years in advance. The war feeling in France diminished, and though it revived for a time owing to the arrest of the French frontier police commissary Schnaebele, it finally died out on that officer's release at the particular request of the Czar to Emperor William. Boulanger's subsequent history only concerns France. He was sent to a provincial command, but returned to Paris, where he was joyously received and elected to Parliament by a large majority. He might, it is believed, a year or two later, on being elected by the department of the Seine, with Paris at his back, have made a successful coup d'etat on the night of his triumphant election, but his courage at the last moment failed, and on learning that he was about to be arrested he fled to Brussels, where he committed suicide on the grave of his mistress.
The time, however, was approaching, the most interesting, and as the succession of events have shown, the most momentous for the Empire since 1870, when Prince William's accession was obviously at hand. During the year 1887 and the early part of 1888 the attention of the world was fixed, first curiously, then anxiously, then sympathetically on the situation in Berlin. Emperor William was an old man just turned ninety; he was fast breaking up and any week his death might be announced. Hereditarily the Crown Prince Frederick, now fifty-six, should succeed, and a new reign would open which might introduce political changes of moment to other countries as well as Germany. The new reign was indeed to open, but only to prove one of the shortest in history.
In January, 1887, a Shadow fell on the House of Hohenzollern, the Shadow that must one day fall on every living creature. It was noticed that the Crown Prince was hoarse, had caught a cold, or something of the kind. A stay at Ems did him no good, Doctors Tobold and von Bergmann, the leading specialists of the day, were consulted, a laryngoscopic examination followed, the presence of cancer was strongly suspected, and an operation was advised. At this juncture, at the suggestion, it is said, of Queen Victoria, it was decided to summon the specialist of highest reputation in England, Sir Morell Mackenzie, who, having examined the patient, and basing his opinion on a report of Professor Virchow's, declared that the growth was not malignant. It was now May, and on Mackenzie's advice the patient visited England, where, accompanied by Prince William, he was present at the celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Some months after his return to the Continent were spent with his family in Tirol and Italy, until November found him in San Remo, where a meeting of famous surgeons from Vienna, Berlin, and Frankfort-on-Main finally diagnosed the existence of cancer, and Mackenzie coincided with the judgment.
The old Emperor died on March 9th. He had taken cold on March 3rd, and on the 7th a chronic ailment of the kidneys from which he suffered became worse, he could not sleep, his strength began to ebb, and it was clear the end was near. On the 6th, however, he was able to speak for a few minutes with Prince William, with Bismarck, and with his only daughter, the Grand Duchess of Baden, who had arrived post-haste the night before to be present at the death-bed. The Grand Duchess, as the Emperor spoke, besought him not to tire himself by talking. "I have no time to be tired," he murmured, in a flicker of the sense of duty which had been a lifelong feature of his character, and a few hours later he passed quietly away. The funeral, headed by Prince William and the Knights of the Black Eagle, took place on the 20th. The new Emperor Frederick, who had hurried from San Remo on receiving news of the Emperor's condition, was too ill to join it, but stood behind a closed window of his palace and saluted as the coffin went by.
The incidents of the Emperor Frederick's ascent of the throne, the amnesty and liberal-minded proclamations to his people, and in particular the heroic resignation with which he bore his fate, are events of common knowledge. One of them was the so-called Battenberg affair. Queen Victoria desired a marriage between Princess Victoria, the present Emperor's sister, then aged twenty-two, and Prince Alexander of Battenberg, at that time Prince of Bulgaria, so as to secure him against Russia by an alliance with the imperial house of Germany. Prince Bismarck objected on the ground that the marriage would show Germany in an unfriendly light at St. Petersburg, and might subject a Prussian princess to the risk of expulsion from Sofia. Another account is that the Chancellor feared an increase of English influence at the German Court with the Prince of Bulgaria as its channel. In any case, the result of the Chancellor's opposition was to place the sick Emperor in a delicate and painful situation. It was ended by his yielding to the Chancellor's representations, and the marriage did not come off.
Meanwhile, the Emperor's malady was making fatal progress. The Shadow was growing darker and more formidable. A season of patiently-borne suffering followed, until Death in his terrific majesty appeared and another Emperor occupied the throne.
"VON GOTTES GNADEN"
Prince William is now German Emperor and King of Prussia. Before observing him as trustee and manager of his magnificent inheritance a pause may be made to investigate the true meaning of a much-discussed phrase which, while suggesting nothing to the Englishman though he will find it stamped in the words "Dei gratia" on every shilling piece that passes through his hands, is the bed-rock and foundation of the Emperor's system of rule and the key to his nature and conduct.
Government in Germany is dynastic, not, as in England and America, parliamentary or democratic. The King of Prussia possesses his crown—such is the theory of the people as well as of the dynasty—by the grace of God, not by the consent of the people. The same may be said of the German Emperor, who fills his office as King of Prussia. To the Anglo-Saxon foreigner the dynasty in Germany, and particularly in Prussia, appears a sort of fetish, the worship of which begins in the public schools with lessons on the heroic deeds of the Hohenzollerns, and with the Emperor, as high priest, constantly calling on his people to worship with him. This view of the kingly succession may seem Oriental, but it is not surprising when one reflects that the Hohenzollern dynasty is over a thousand years old and during that time has ruled successively in part of Southern Germany, in Brandenburg, in Prussia, until at last, imperially, in all Germany. Moreover, it has ruled wisely on the whole; in the course of centuries it has brought a poor and disunited people, living on a soil to a great extent barren and sandy, to a pitch of power and prosperity which is exciting the envy and apprehension of other nations.
In England government passed centuries ago from the dynasty to the people, and there are people in England to-day who could not name the dynasty that occupies the English throne. Such ignorance in Germany is hardly conceivable. In Prussia government has always been the appanage of the Hohenzollerns, and the Emperor is resolved that, supported by the army, it shall continue to be their appanage in the Empire. Government means guidance, and no one is more conscious of the fact than the Emperor, for he is trying to guide his people all the time. Frederick William IV once said to the Diet: "You are here to represent rights, the rights of your class and, at the same time, the rights of the throne: to represent opinion is not your task." This relation of government and people has become modified of recent years to a very obvious degree, but constitutionally not a step has been taken in the direction of popular, that is to say parliamentary, rule.
England and Germany are both constitutional monarchies, but both the monarch and the Constitution in Germany are different from the monarch and the Constitution in England. The British Constitution is a growth of centuries, not, like the German Constitution, the creation of a day. The British Constitution is unwritten, if it is stamped, as Mary said the word "Calais" would be found stamped on her heart after death, on the heart and brain of every Englishman. The German Constitution is a written document in seventy-eight chapters, not fifty years old, and on which, compared with the British Constitution, the ink is not yet dry. In England to the people the Constitution is the real monarch: in Germany the monarchy is to the people what the British Constitution is to the Englishman; and while in England the monarch is the first counsellor to the Constitution, in Germany the Constitution is the first counsellor to the monarch.
The consequence in England is representative government, with a political career for every ordinary citizen; the consequence in Germany is constitutional monarchy, properly so-called, with a political career for no common citizen. Neither system is perfect, but both, apparently, give admirable national results. And yet, of course, an Englishman cannot help thinking that if Herr Bebel were made Minister to-morrow, Social Democracy would cease to exist.
The people acquiesce in the Hohenzollern view, not indeed with perfect and entire unanimity, for the small Progressive party demand a parliamentary form of government, if not on the exact model of that established in England. The Social Democrats, evidently, would have no government at all. Many English people suppose that Germans generally must desire parliamentary rule and would help them to get it, for multitudes of English people are firmly persuaded that it is England's mission to extend to other peoples the institutions which have suited her so well, without sufficiently considering how different are their circumstances, geographical position, history, traditions, and national character. A very similar mistake is made in Germany by multitudes of Germans, who believe it is Germany's mission to impose her culture, her views of man and life, on the rest of the world.
The Prussian view of monarchy, expressed in the words "von Gottes Gnaden" ("By the Grace of God"), is a political conception, which, under its customary English translation, "by Divine Right," has often been ridiculed by English writers. Lord Macaulay, it will be remembered, in his "History of England," asserts that the doctrine first emerged into notice when James the Sixth of Scotland ascended the English throne. "It was gravely maintained," writes Macaulay,
"that the Supreme Being regarded hereditary monarchy, as opposed to other systems of government, with peculiar favour; that the rule of succession in order of primogeniture was a divine institution anterior to the Christian, and even to the Mosaic, dispensation; that no human power, not even that of the whole legislature, no length of adverse possession, though it extended to ten centuries, could deprive the legitimate prince of his rights; that his authority was necessarily always despotic; that the laws by which, in England and other countries, the prerogative was limited, were to be regarded merely as concessions which the sovereign had freely made and might at his pleasure resume; and that any treaty into which a king might enter with his people was merely a declaration of his present intention, and not a contract of which the performance could be demanded."
The statement exactly expresses the ideas on the subject attributed abroad to the Emperor.
The distinguished German historian, Heinrich von Treitschke, writes of King Frederick William IV, the predecessor of Emperor William I, as follows:—
"He believed in a mysterious enlightenment which is granted 'von Gottes Gnaden' to kings rather than other mortals. All the blessings of peace, which his People could expect under a Christian monarch, should Proceed from the wisdom of the Crown alone; he regarded his high office like a patriarch of the Old Testament and held the kingship as a fatherly power established by God Himself for the education of the people. Whatever happened in the State he connected with the person of the monarch. If only his age and its royal awakener had understood each other better! He had, however, in his strangely complicated process of development, constructed such extraordinary ideals that though he might sometimes agree in words with his contemporaries he never did as to the things, and spoke a different language from his people. Even General Gerlach, his good friend and servant, used to say: 'The ways of the King are wonderful;' and the not less loyal Bunsen wrote about a complaint of the monarch that 'no one understands me, no one agrees with me,' the commentary—'When one understood him, how could one agree with him?'"
It was this king, be it parenthetically remarked, who said, when his people were clamouring for a Constitution, in 1847: "Now and never will I admit that a written paper, like a second Providence, force itself between our God in Heaven and this land"—and a few months later had to sign the document his people demanded.
Von Treitschke, writing on the last birthday of Emperor William I, thus spoke of the doctrine:
"A generation ago an attempt was made by a theologizing State theory to inculcate the doctrine of a power of the throne, divine, released from all earthly obligations. This mystery of the Jacobins never found entrance into the clear common sense of our people."
Prince Bismarck's view of the doctrine was explained in a speech he made to the Prussian Diet in 1847. He was speaking on "Prussia as a Christian State." "For me," he said,
"the words 'von Gottes Gnaden,' which Christian rulers join to their names, are no empty phrase, but I see in them the recognition that the princes desire to wield the sceptre which God has assigned them according to the will of God on earth. As God's will I can, however, only recognize what is revealed in the Christian gospels, and I believe I am in my right when I call that State a Christian one which has taken as its task the realization, the putting into operation, of the Christian doctrine.... Assuming generally that the State has a religious foundation, in my opinion this foundation can only be Christianity. Take away this religious foundation from the State and we retain nothing of the State but a chance aggregation of rights, a kind of bulwark against the war of all against all, which the old philosophers spoke of."
On the second occasion, thirty years later, the Chancellor's theme was "Obedience to God and the King."
"I refer," he said,
"to the wrong interpretation of a sentence which in itself is right—namely, that one must obey God rather than man. The previous speaker must know me long enough to be aware that I subscribe to the entire correctness of this sentence, and that I believe I obey God when I serve the King under the device 'With God for King and Country.' Now he (the previous speaker) has separated the component parts of the device, for he sees God separated from King and Fatherland. I cannot follow him on this road. I believe I serve my God when I serve my King in the protection of the commonwealth whose monarch 'von Gottes Gnaden' he is, and on whom the emancipation from alien spiritual influence and the independence of his people from Romish pressure have been laid by God as a duty in which I serve the King. The previous speaker would certainly admit in private that we do not believe in the divinity of a State idol, though he seems to assert here that we believe in it."
In these passages, it may be remarked, Bismarck avoids an unconditional endorsement of the Hohenzollern doctrine of divine "right" or even divine appointment. Indeed all he does is to express his belief in the sincerity of rulers who declare their desire to rule in accordance with the will of God as it appears in Holy Scripture. In addition to his dislike of a "Christianity above the State," the fact that he did not subscribe to the doctrine of divine right, as these words are interpreted in England, is shown by another speech in which he said, "The essence of the constitutional monarchy under which we live is the co-operation of the monarchical will and the convictions of the people." But what, one is tempted to ask, if will and convictions differ?
In recent times, Dr. Paul Liman, in an excellent character sketch of the Emperor, devotes his first chapter to the subject, thus recognizing the important place it occupies in the Emperor's mentality. Dr. Liman, like all German writers who have dealt with the topic, animadverts on the Hohenzollern obsession by the theory and attributes it chiefly to the romantic side of the Emperor's nature which was strongly influenced in youth by the "wonderful events" of 1870, by the national outburst of thanks to God at the time, and by the return from victorious war of his father, his grandfather, and other heroes, as they must have appeared to him, like Bismarck, Moltke, and Roon.
It is worth noting that Prince von Buelow, during the ten years of his Chancellorship, made no parliamentary or other specific and public allusion to the doctrine.
Before, however, attempting to offer a somewhat different explanation of the Emperor's attitude in the matter from those just cited, let us see what statements he has himself made publicly about it and how the doctrine has been interpreted by his contemporaries. He made no reference to it in his declarations to the army, the navy, and the people when he ascended the throne. His first allusion to it was in March, 1890, at the annual meeting of the Brandenburg provincial Diet at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin, and then the allusion was not explicit. "I see," said the Emperor,
"in the folk and land which have descended to me a talent entrusted to me by God, which it is my task to increase, and I intend with all my power so to administer this talent that I hope to be able to add much to it. Those who are willing to help me I heartily welcome whoever they may be: those who oppose me in this task I will crush."
His next allusion, at Bremen in April of the same year, when he was laying the foundation-stone of a statue to his grandfather, King William, a few months subsequent to Bismarck's retirement, was more explicit, yet not completely so.
"It is a tradition of our House," so ran his speech,
"that we, the Hohenzollerns, regard ourselves as appointed by God to govern and to lead the people, whom it is given us to rule, for their well-being and the advancement of their material and intellectual interests."
The next reference, and the only one in which a divine "right" to rule in Prussia is formally claimed, occurs four years later at Koenigsberg, the ancient crowning-place of Prussian kings. Here he said:—
"The successor (namely himself) of him who of his own right was sovereign prince in Prussia will follow the same path as his great ancestor; as formerly the first King (of Prussia, Frederick I.) said, 'My crown is born with me,' and as his greater son (the Great Elector) gave his authority the stability of a rock of bronze, so I too, like my imperial grandfather, represent the kingship 'von Gottes Gnaden.'"
At Coblenz in 1897, in reference to the first Emperor William's labours for the army and people:—
"He (Emperor William) left Coblenz to ascend the throne as the selected instrument of the Lord he always regarded himself to be. For us all, and above all for us princes, he raised once more aloft and lent lustrous beams to a jewel which we should hold high and holy—that is the kingship von Gottes Gnaden, the kingship with its onerous duties, its never-ending, ever-continuing trouble and labour, with its fearful responsibility to the Creator alone, from which no human being, no minister, no parliament, no people can release the prince."
Here, too, if the words "responsibility to the Creator alone" be taken in their ordinary English sense, the allusion to a divine right may be construed, though it is observable that the word "right" is not actually employed.
In Berlin, when unveiling a monument to the Great Elector, the Emperor was filled with the same idea of the God-given mission of the Hohenzollerns. After briefly sketching the deeds of the Elector—how he came young to the throne to find crops down-trodden, villages burnt to the ground, a starved and fallen people, persecuted on every side, his country the arena for barbarous robber-bands who had spread war and devastation throughout Germany for thirty years; how, with "invincible reliance on God" and an iron will, he swept the pieces of the land together, raised trade and commerce, agriculture and industry, in for that period an incredibly short time; how he brought into existence a new army entirely devoted to him; how, in fine, guided by the hope of founding a great northern Empire, which would bring the German peoples together, he became an authority in Europe and laid the corner-stone of the present Empire—after sketching all this, the Emperor continues:
"How is this wonderful success of the house of Hohenzollern to be explained? Solely in this way, that every prince of the House is conscious from the beginning that he is only an earthly vicegerent, who must give an account of his labour to a higher King and Master, and show that he has been a faithful executor of the high commands laid upon him."
One finds exactly the same idea expressed three months later when talking to his "Men of Brandenburg." "You know well," he reminded them,
"that I regard my whole position and my task as laid on me by Heaven, and that I am appointed by a Higher Power to whom I must later render an account. Accordingly I can assure you that not a morning or evening passes without a prayer for my people and a special thought for my Mark Brandenburg."
To the Anglo-Saxon understanding, of course, the theory of divine right has long appeared untenable, obsolete, and, as Macaulay says, absurd. Many people to-day would go farther and argue that there is no such thing as a divine right at all, since "rights" are a purely human idea, possibly a purely legal one. But it is at least doubtful that the Emperor uses the expression "von Gottes Gnaden" in a sense exactly coterminous with that of "divine right" as used by Lord Macaulay and later Anglo-Saxon writers and speakers. The latter, when dealing with things German, not unfrequently fall into the error of mistranslation and are thus at times responsible for national misunderstandings. The Italian saying, "traduttore, tradittore," is the expression of a fact too seldom recognized, especially by those whose business it is to interpret, so to speak, one people to another. Language is as mysterious and elusive a thing as aught connected with humanity, as love, for example, or music; and it may be asserted with some degree of confidence that among every people there are ideas current, and in all departments—in law, society, art—which it is impossible exactly to translate into the speech of other nations. The words used may be the same, but the connotation, all the words imply and suggest, is, perhaps in very important respects, different, and requires a paraphrase, longer or shorter, to explain them. Take the word "false" in English and "falsch" in German. They look alike, yet while the English "false" carries with it a moral reproach, the German word, where the context does not explicitly prove otherwise, means simply "incorrect," "erroneous," without the moral reproach added. Accordingly, when a German Chancellor asserts that the statement of an English Minister is "falsch" he does not necessarily mean anything offensive, but only that the English Minister is mistaken.
From this point of view one may regard the statements of the Emperor concerning his kingly office. He has recently begun to use the expression "German Emperor von Gottes Gnaden," a thing done by none of his imperial predecessors, and certainly a very curious extension of a doctrine which traditionally only applies to wearers of the crown of Prussia. But if he does, it may, it is here suggested, be considered further evidence that he employs the terms "von Gottes Gnaden" in a sense other than that of "divine right" as conceived by the Anglo-Saxon. The German "Gnade" means "favour," "grace," "mercy," "pity," or "blessing," and is at times used in direct contrast with the word "Recht," which means "justice" as well as "right." The point, indeed, need hardly be elaborated, and the Emperor's own explanation of the revelation of God to mankind, with its special reference to his grandfather which we shall find later in the confession of faith to Admiral Hollmann, is highly significant of the sense in which he regards himself and every ruling Hohenzollern as selected for the duties of Prussian kingship. It is the work of the kingship he is divinely appointed to do of which he is always thinking, not the legal right to the kingship vis a vis his people he is mistakenly supposed to claim. He regards himself as a trustee, not as the owner of the property. And is not such a spirit a proper and praiseworthy one? In a sense we Christians, if in a position of responsibility, believe that we are all divinely appointed to the work each of us has to do: instruments of God, who shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we may. The Emperor finely says of the Almighty: "He breathed into man His breath, that is a portion of Himself, a soul." Reason is what chiefly distinguishes man from the brute, though there are those who hold that reason is but a higher form of brutish instinct, which again has its degree among the brutes; but, assuming that reason is of divine origin, enabling us to receive, by one means or another, the dictates of the Almighty, it seems clear that there must be channels through which these dictates become known to us.
This conveyance, this making plain is, as many people, and the Emperor among them, believe, performed by God through the agency of those whom mankind agree to call "great." For the last nineteen centuries a large part of civilized mankind is at one in the belief that Christ was such an agency, while millions again agree to call the agency Buddha, Mahomet, Confucius, or Zoroaster. In the creed of Islam Christ, as a prophet, comes fifth from Adam. In America there are thousands who believe, or did believe, in the agency of a Mrs. Eddy or a Dr. Dowie. And if this is so in matters of religion, itself only a form of the reasoning soul, why should it not be the same in morals or philosophy, art or science, government or administration: why should we not all accept, as many still do, the sayings and writings of the Hebrew prophets (as does the Emperor), of Plato and Aristotle, of Bacon and Hobbes, of Milton and Shakespeare and Goethe, of Kepler and Galileo, or Charlemagne and Napoleon, as divinely intended to convey and make plain to us the dictates of Heaven until such time as yet greater souls shall instruct us afresh and still more fully?
It may be that the Emperor thinks in some such way; his speeches and edicts at least suggest it. Certainly, as already mentioned, he did on one occasion, when speaking of his kingship, employ the word "right" as descriptive of the nature of his appointment by God. But that was early in his reign, and at no time since has he insisted on a Heaven-granted right to rule. It was, no doubt, different with some of his absolute predecessors, but it was not the view of Frederick the Great, who declared himself "the first servant of the State." Moreover, it is hardly conceivable that the Emperor, who is acquainted with the facts of history and is a man of practical common sense besides, does not know that the doctrine of "divine right" has long been rejected by people of intelligence in every civilized country, including his own.
If he really believes in divine right in the Stuart sense he must think that the conditions of Germany are so different from those of the rest of civilized mankind, and his own people so little advanced in knowledge and political science, that a doctrine absurd and dangerous to the peace of enlightened commonwealths is applicable as a basis of rule in his own. It seems a more plausible view, that the Emperor considers the expression "von Gottes Gnaden" an academic formula of government, or what is still more likely, as a moral and religious, not a legal, dogma, which yet expresses one of the leading and most admirable features of his policy as a ruler. If it is not so, he is inconsistent with himself, since he has repeatedly declared himself bound by the Constitution in accordance with which his grandfather and father and he himself have hitherto ruled. At present the doctrine of divine "right" is regarded by Germans no less than by Englishmen as dead and buried, and mention of it in Germany is usually greeted with a smile. Even the notion of appointment by divine "grace," while considered a harmless and praiseworthy article of faith with the Emperor, is no longer regarded as a living principle of government.
With his accession began for the Emperor a period of extraordinary activity which has continued practically undiminished to the present day. During that time he has been the most prominent man and monarch of his generation. From the domestic point of view his life perhaps has not been marked by many notable events, but from the point of view of politics and international relations it has been the history of his reign and to no small extent the history of the world.
When a German Emperor ascends the throne there is no great outburst of national rejoicing, no great series of popular ceremonials. There is no brilliant procession as in England, no impressive coronation like that of an English monarch in Westminster Abbey, no State visit of the monarch to the Houses of Parliament. In Germany Parliament goes to the King, not the King to Parliament.
On the same day that the Emperor began his reign he addressed proclamations to the army and navy. The addresses to the people and the Parliament were to come a few days later. In the proclamation to the army he said:
"I and the army were born for each other. Let us remain indissolubly so connected, come peace or storm, as God may will. You will now take the oath of fidelity and obedience to me, and I swear always to remember that the eyes of my ancestors are bent on me from the other world, and that one day I shall have to give an account touching the fame and the honour of the army."
His address to the navy was in the same vein.
"We have only just put off mourning for my unforgettable grandfather, Kaiser William I, and already we have had to lower the flag for my beloved father, who took such an interest in the growth and progress of the navy. A time of earnest and sincere sorrow, however, strengthens the mind and heart of man, and so let us, keeping at heart the example of my grandfather and father, look with confidence to the future. I have learned to appreciate the high sense of honour and of duty which lives in the navy, and know that every man is ready faithfully to stake his life for the honour of the German flag, be it where it may. Accordingly I can, in this serious hour, feel fully assured that we shall stand strongly and steadily together in good or bad days, in storm or sunshine, always mindful of the Fatherland and always ready to shed our heart's blood for the honour of the flag."
To his people he promised that he would be a
"just and mild prince, observant of piety and religion, a protector of peace, a promoter of the country's prosperity, a helper to the poor and needy, a faithful guardian of the right."
To the Parliament a week later he announced that he meant to walk in the footsteps of his grandfather, particularly in regard to the working classes, to acquire the confidence of the federated princes, the affection of the people, and the friendly recognition of foreign countries. He said that in his opinion the
"most important duties of the German Emperor lay in the domain of the military and political security of the nation externally, and internally in the supervision of the carrying out of imperial laws."
The highest of these laws, he explained, was the Imperial Constitution and "to preserve and protect the Constitution, and in especial the rights it gives to the legislative bodies, to every German, but also to the Emperor and the federated states," he considered "among the most honourable duties of the Emperor."
While the order of these addresses is different to what it would be in England, it entirely accords with the spirit of the Prussian monarchy and the political system of the German people. Settled in the heart of Europe, the nation rests on the army, and it is hardly too much to say that, from the Emperor's point of view, possibly also from the popular German point of view, the interests of the army must be considered before the interests of the rest of the population. An English monarch, who issued his first address to the British navy, would be as justified in doing so by the real necessities of Great Britain as a German Emperor who first addresses the German army is justified by the real necessities of Germany; for the British navy is as vital to the British as the German army is to the German nation. In England, however, the monarch's respect for the people and Parliament takes precedence of his respect for the army, not vice versa as in Germany.
In a speech from the throne to the Prussian Diet the Emperor took the Constitutional Oath: "I swear to hold firmly and unbrokenly to the Constitution of the Kingdom and to rule in agreement with it and the laws ... so help me God!" and went on to proclaim the continuance in Prussia and the Empire of his grandfather's and father's policy and work. He said at the same time, while undertaking not to make the People uneasy by trying to extend Crown rights, that he would take care that the constitutional rights of the Crown were respected and used, and that he meant to hand them over unimpaired to his successor. He concluded by saying that he would always bear in mind the words of Frederick the Great, who described himself as the "first servant of the State."
At Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, a few months later, he declared, when unveiling a monument to his uncle, Prince Frederick Karl, a hero of the Franco-Prussian War, that he meant never to surrender a stone of the acquisitions made in the war and
"believed he voiced the feeling of the entire army in saying that Germany, rather than do so, would suffer its eighteen army corps and its whole population of 42 millions to perish on the field of battle."
At this period of his career the Emperor was, first and foremost, a thoroughgoing Hohenzollern. Doubtless he is so still, if he talks less about the dynasty. He admired Frederick the Great, then as now, and in the first place as military commander, but the ancestor with whom he even more sympathized, and sympathizes, was the Great Elector. "The ancestor," he said himself,
"for whom I have the most liking (Schwaermen, a hardly translatable German verb, is the word he used) and who always shone before me as an example in my youth, was the Great Elector, the man who loved his country with all his heart and strength, and unrestingly devoted himself to rescuing the Mark Brandenburg out of its deep distress and made it a strong and united whole."
What particularly attracted the Emperor in the history of the Elector was the fact that he was the first Hohenzollern who saw the importance of promoting trade and industry, building a navy, and acquiring colonies. As yet, however, the Emperor had only clear and fairly definite ideas about the need for a navy. The world-policy may have been in embryo in his mind, but it was not born.
The imaginative side of the Emperor's character at this period is well illustrated in a speech he made in 1890 to his favourite "Men of the Mark." He was talking of his travels, to which allusion had been made by a previous speaker.
"My travels," said the Emperor,
"have not only had the object of making myself acquainted with foreign countries and institutions, or to create friendly relations with neighbouring monarchs, but these journeys, which have been the subject of much misunderstanding, had for me the great value that, withdrawn from the heat of party faction, I could review our domestic conditions from a distance and submit them to calm consideration. Any one who, standing on a ship's bridge far out at sea, with only God's starry heaven above him, communes with himself, will not fail to appreciate the worth of such a journey. For many of my fellow-countrymen I would wish that they might live through such an hour, in which one can make up an account as to what he has attempted and what achieved. Then would he be cured of exaggerated self-estimation, and that we all need."
Having discharged the duty of addressing his own subjects, the Emperor's next care, after a stay at Kiel where a German Emperor and King now for the first time in history appeared in the uniform of an admiral, was personally to announce his accession at the courts of his fellow-European sovereigns. We find him, accordingly, paying visits to Alexander II in St. Petersburg, to King Oscar II in Stockholm (where he received a telegram announcing the birth of his fifth son), to Christian IX in Copenhagen, to Kaiser Franz Joseph in Vienna and to King Humbert in Rome. To both the last-mentioned he presented himself in the additional capacity of Triplice ally.
In August of the year following his accession he paid his first visit as Emperor to England. It was a very different thing, one may imagine, from the earliest recorded visit of a German Emperor to the English Court. That was in 1416, when the Emperor Sigismund (1411-1437) arrived there and was received by Henry V. Henry postponed the opening of Parliament specially on his account, made him a Knight of the Garter, and signed with him at Canterbury an offensive and defensive alliance against France. How poor the German Empire and the German Emperor were at that epoch may be judged from the fact that on his way home Sigismund had to pawn the costly gifts he had received in England.
On the present occasion a grand naval review of over a hundred warships, with crews totalling 25,000 men, was held in honour of the Emperor at Osborne. This was followed, a few days afterwards, by a parade of the troops at Aldershot under the command of General Sir Evelyn Wood. On this occasion, after expressing his admiration for the British troops, the Emperor concluded: "At Malplaquet and Waterloo, Prussian and British blood flowed in the prosecution of a common enterprise." In a little speech after the review the Emperor spoke of the English navy as "the finest in the world." The impression made by the Emperor on Sir Evelyn has been recorded by that general. "The Emperor is extremely wide-awake," he writes to a friend, "with a decided, straightforward manner. He is a good rider. His quick and very intelligent spirit seizes every detail at a glance, and he possesses a wonderful memory." The Emperor was now nominated an honorary Admiral of the British navy and as a return compliment made Queen Victoria honorary "Chef" of his own First Dragoon Guards. At the naval review a journalist asked an English naval officer what would happen if the Emperor, in command of a German fleet, should meet a British fleet in time of war between England and Germany?—"Would the British fleet have to salute the Emperor?" "Certainly," replied the naval officer; "it would fire 100 guns at him."
Next year the Emperor was again in England, this time to be present at the Cowes regatta, which he took part in regularly during the four succeeding years, noting, doubtless, all that might prove useful for the development of the Kiel yachting "week," the success of which he had then, as always since, particularly at heart. He was received by Queen Victoria with the simple and homely words, "Welcome, William!"
A State visit to the City of London followed, when he was accompanied by the Empress, and was entertained to a luncheon given by the City Fathers in the Guildhall. The entertainment, which took place on July 10, 1891, was remarkable for a speech delivered by the Emperor in English, in which, besides declaring his intention of maintaining the "historical friendship" between England and Germany, he proclaimed that his great object "above all" was the preservation of peace, "since peace alone can inspire that confidence which is requisite for a healthy development of science, art, and commerce." On the same occasion he expressed his feeling of "being at home" in England—"this delightful country"—and spoke of the "same blood which flows alike in the veins of Germans and English." Shortly afterwards he attended a review of volunteers at Wimbledon, and, as he said, was "agreeably astonished at the spectacle of so many citizen-soldiers in a country that had no conscription."
The Emperor returned from England to receive the visit of his chief Triplice ally, the Emperor Franz Joseph, and to discuss with him doubtless the European situation. Bismarck has been pictured as sitting at the European chessboard pondering the moves necessary tor Germany to win the game of which the great prize was the hegemony of Europe. The chief opposing Pieces, whose aid or neutrality was desirable, were for long France, Russia, Austria, and Italy; but in 1883, with the conclusion of the Triple Alliance, Austria and Italy needed less to be considered, and the only two really important opposing pieces left were France and Russia. Still, Germany, through her allies of the Triplice, might be dragged into war, and consequently the doings of Austria and Italy, both in relation to one another and to France and Russia were, as they now are, of great importance to her.
At the time of the accession, the chessboard of our metaphor was mainly occupied with Franco-German relations and with Russian designs on Constantinople, the Dardanelles, and the Black Sea. The danger to Germany of war with France, which had arisen out of the Boulanger and Schnaebele incidents, had died down, but not altogether ceased. Hohenlohe tells us how at this time, in conversation with the Emperor, the latter ventured the forecast: "Boulanger is sure to succeed. I prophesy that as Kaiser Ernest he will pay a visit to Berlin." He was wrong, we know, as so many prophets are.
Russian designs on Turkey had had to reckon with the opposition of England and Austria. As regards these designs, Bismarck says:
"Germany's policy should be one of reserve. Germany would act very foolishly if in Oriental questions, without having special interests, she took a side before the other Powers, who were more nearly interested: she would therefore do well to refrain from making her move as long as possible, and thus, besides, gain the benefit of longer peace."
The Chancellor, however, admitted that against the advantages of a policy of reserve had to be set the disadvantage of Germany's position in the centre of Europe with its frontiers exposed to the attacks of a coalition. "From this situation," said the Chancellor, "it results that Germany is perhaps the only Great Power in Europe which is not tempted to attain its ends by victorious war."
"Our interest," he goes on,
"is to maintain peace, whereas our continental neighbours without exception have wishes, either secret or officially admitted, which can only be fulfilled through war. Consequently, German policy must be to prevent war or confine it as much as possible: to keep in the background while the European game of cards is going on: and not by loss of patience or concession at the cost of the country, or vanity, or provocation from friends, allow ourselves to be driven from the waiting attitude: otherwise—plectuntur Achivi!—third parties will rejoice."
That was the Bismarckian policy twenty-five years ago, and though new economic conditions have had great influence in modifying it since, particularly as it regards the East, it is practically Germany's policy now.
In his first speech from the throne to the Reichstag the Emperor thus referred to the Triple Alliance:
"Our Alliance with Austria-Hungary is publicly known. I hold to the same with German fidelity, not merely because it has been concluded, but because I see in this defensive union a foundation for the balance of power in Europe and a legacy of German history, the importance of which is recognized by the whole of the German people, while it accords with European international law as undeniably in force up to 1866. Similar historical relations and similar national exigences of the time bind us to Italy. Both Germany and Italy desire to prolong the blessings of peace that they may pursue in tranquillity the consolidation of their newly acquired unity, the betterment of their national institutions, and the increase of their prosperity."
In a speech a few months later he declared that the Alliance had no other purpose than to strengthen the peaceful relations of Germany to other foreign Powers. His next public reference to it was in May, 1900, when Kaiser Franz Joseph visited Berlin on the occasion of the coming of age of the German Crown Prince. "Truly," exclaimed the Emperor, in a vein of some exaggeration,
"this Alliance is not alone an agreement in the eyes of the monarchs, but the longer it has existed, the deeper has it taken root in the convictions of the peoples, and the moment that the hearts of the peoples beat in unison nothing can tear them asunder. Common interests, common feelings, joy and sorrow shared together, unite our three nations for now twenty years, and although often enough misunderstandings and sarcasm and criticisms have been poured out on them, the three peoples have succeeded in maintaining peace hitherto, and are regarded by the whole world as its champions."
The history of the Triplice may be shortly related here as, along with his navy, it is regarded by the Emperor as the chief factor in the preservation of the world's peace, and is, in fact, as has been said, the foundation of his foreign policy. It arose from Bismarck's desire to be independent of Russia and from his dread of a European coalition—for example, that of France, Austria, and Russia—against the German Empire. "We had," Bismarck writes,
"carried on successful war against two of the European Great Powers (Austria and France), and it became advisable to withdraw at least one of them from the temptation to revenge which lay in the prospect an alliance with others offered. It could not be France, as any one who knew the history and temperament of the two peoples could see, nor England owing to her dislike of permanent alliances, nor Italy as her support alone was insufficient against an anti-German coalition; so that the choice lay between Austria-Hungary and Russia."
For many reasons Bismarck would have preferred the Russian alliance, among others the traditional dynastic friendship between the two countries and the fact that no natural political or religious causes of conflict existed between them; while a union with Austria was less reliable, owing to the changeable nature of her public opinion, the heterogeneousness of her Magyar, Slav, and Catholic populations, and the loss of influence by the German element with the governing body. On the other hand, however, an alliance with Austria would be nothing new, internationally, as such a connection theoretically arose from the former connection of Germany and Austria in the Holy Roman Empire. While weighing the matter, a threatening letter from Czar Alexander II to William I, in which he called on Germany to support his Balkan policy, and said that if he refused peace could not last between their two countries, decided Bismarck in favour of Austria. The chief opponent of the new Alliance was William I, who was moved by personal chivalric feelings towards his nephew, Czar Alexander; but, disregarding this, because confident of eventually persuading his imperial master, Bismarck went to Gastein and there settled with the Austrian Minister, Count Andrassy, the principles of the Alliance. Italy came into the Alliance in 1883 as the immediate result of France obtaining a protectorate in Tunis, in return, partly, for her acquiescence in the English acquisition of Cyprus. The protectorate aroused general indignation and fear in Italy, and though it meant a large expenditure on naval and military armament, on May 20, 1882, she joined the Dual Alliance for five years, and thus turned it into the Triplice.
The Triple Alliance rests on three treaties: one between Germany and Austria-Hungary, one between Germany and Italy, and one between Austria-Hungary and Italy. While by the first Germany and Austria-Hungary bind themselves to combine in case of an attack on either by Russia, whether as original foe or as ally, and to observe "at least" benevolent neutrality in case of attack from any other quarter, by the second Germany and Italy bind themselves to mutual support in case of an attack on either by France. The third, between Austria-Hungary and Italy, binds the signatories to benevolent neutrality in case Austria-Hungary is attacked by Russia, or Italy by France.
That there are weak points in the Triple Alliance is obvious. If Austria-Hungary were a purely homogeneous country like France or Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, even without Italy, could face with confidence an attack from either or both their powerful neighbours. But Austria-Hungary is not homogeneous. A large proportion of her population is anti-German, or at least non-German, and Italy is always subject to be tempted by an opportunity of obtaining some of Austria-Hungary's Adriatic possessions. Moreover, a large party is even now to be found in Austria-Hungary which desires revenge for the humiliation of her defeat by Germany in 1866.
The relations of Germany to Russia have always been rather those of friendship between the monarchs of the two countries than of friendship between the two peoples; and it is easy to understand that the fear of revolution, Socialism, or "government of the people, by the people, for the people," to use Lincoln's celebrated phrase, at all times forms a strong and active bond of sympathy between the monarchs. In the case of Russia there is also always to be considered the obstinate, or as the Emperor would call it knightly, spirit in which his grandfather, King William I, regarded his obligation to maintain friendship with the Czar, and which for a long time made him hostile to the idea of alliance with Austria instead of alliance with Russia. The feeling, it is highly probable, is strong, if not equally strong, in the mind of the Emperor to-day, if only out of respect for the memory of his ancestor. There is not, to use a popular expression, much love lost between the two peoples, not only because of racial differences between Teuton and Slav, but because of the differences in religion and in degree of civilization. There are not a few Germans who assert that Germany's next war will be with Russia, and that from the dominions of the Czar will be obtained the fresh territory Germany needs for her constantly expanding population.
The Czar returned the Emperor's accession visit in Berlin in October, 1889, and it was on this occasion that the first sign of trouble between the Emperor and the old Chancellor showed itself. When the Emperor first proposed to make his round of visits of accession to foreign sovereigns, Bismarck agreed except as regarded Russia and England, objecting that visits to these countries would have an alternatively bad effect in each. The Emperor, however, as has been noted, went to Russia. During the return visit in Berlin, Bismarck had an interview with the Czar which resulted in the final adjustment of Russo-German relations, but at its close the Czar said, "Yes, I believe you and have confidence in you, but are you sure you will remain in office?" Bismarck looked surprised, and said, "Certainly, Majesty; I am quite certain I shall remain in office all my life"—an odd thing, one may remark, for a man to say, who must have been familiar with the saying, "Put not your trust in princes."
When the Czar was going away, both the Emperor and Bismarck accompanied him to the station, and on their return the Emperor gave the old Chancellor a seat in his carriage. The talk concerned the visit just over, and the Emperor again announced his intention of spending some time in Russia the following year. Bismarck now advised against the project on the ground that it would arouse hostility in Austria, and because "it was not suitable considering the Czar's disposition towards the Emperor."
"What disposition? What do you mean? How do you know?" questioned the Emperor quickly.
"From confidential letters I am in the habit of receiving from St. Petersburg, in addition to official reports," replied the Chancellor.
The Emperor expressed a wish to see the letters, but Bismarck gave an evasive answer. The result was a temporary coolness between Emperor and Chancellor.
From a memorandum of Prince Hohenlohe's we get a glimpse of one of the political currents and anti-currents just now running high. Prince Hohenlohe writes under date, June 27, 1888, when the Emperor was hardly a fortnight on the throne:—
"Last evening at 8 left Berlin with Thaden after supping with Victor and Franz (son and nephew) in the Kaiserhof Hotel. Paid several visits during the day. I found Friedberg somewhat depressed. He is no longer the big man he was in the Emperor Frederick's time, when everybody courted him. He knows that the Emperor does not favour Jews. Then I visited the new chief of the Cabinet (civil), Lucanus, a courtly, polished, obliging man, who looks more like an elegant Austrian privy councillor. Wilmoski inspires me with more confidence. At 5 to Bleichroeder's (Bleichroeder was the great Jew banker). We spoke, or rather he spoke first, about the political situation. He is satisfied, and says Bismarck is too. Only the Emperor must take care to keep out of the hands of the Orthodox. People in the country wouldn't stand that. (He is right there, comments Hohenlohe.) Waldersee and his followers, he said, was another danger. Waldersee was a foe of Bismarck's and thought himself fit for anything and everything. Who knows but that these gentlemen wouldn't begin the old game and say to the Emperor, 'You are simply nothing but a doll. Bismarck is the real ruler.' On the old Emperor this would have made no impression, but the young one would be more sensitive. Bismarck, therefore, wanted Waldersee's banishment, and would, if he could, send him to Strasburg (where Hohenlohe was Statthalter) as commanding general. Perhaps he was only aiming at making me (Hohenlohe) sick of my post and so get rid of Waldersee, his enemy, when I cleared out. Bleichroeder said Bismarck only introduced the compulsory pass system to show the Emperor that he too could act sharply against the French, and so as to take the wind out of the sails of the military party. Bismarck was thinking above all about seating his son Herbert firmly in the saddle (Herbert was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs). That is the sole motive of his action and thought. There was therefore no prospect of matters in the Rhineland improving. As to Russia, Bleichroeder expected some occurrence, something out of the way (exotisches) by which Russia might be won, either the withdrawal of troops from the frontier or a meeting of Emperors. The Emperor, Bismarck said, would not begin a war. If it came, however, it would not be unwelcome to him."
Prince Hohenlohe also tells of a visit he paid in the month of the accession to the widowed Empress Frederick. "She is much bowed down," he said,
"very harassed-looking, and I feel sure that all this recent time, all the last year in fact, she has been displaying an artificial good-humour, for now I find her in deep distress. At first she could not speak for weeping. We spoke of the Emperor Frederick's last days, then she recovered herself a little and complained of the wickedness and meanness of men, by which she meant to allude to certain people.... Herbert Bismarck had had the impudence to tell the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) that an Emperor who could not talk and discuss things should not be allowed to reign, and so on. The Prince of Wales, the Empress said, told Herbert that if it were not that he valued good relations between England and Germany, he would have thrown him out of the door.... Waldersee was a false, unprincipled wretch, who would think nothing of ruining his country if he could only satisfy his own personal ambition."
Prince Hohenlohe finally called on the Prince of Wales, who "spoke prudently, but showed his disgust at the roughness of the Bismarcks, and could not understand their policy of irritating France."
The particular question concerning France that was agitating Germany at the time of the accession was the state of affairs in Alsace-Lorraine, and particularly Bismarck's measure requiring French citizens entering the provinces to provide themselves with a pass from the German Ambassador in Paris. The amiable and conciliatory Statthalter, Prince Hohenlohe, had to make a reluctant journey to Berlin in connexion with this question. There was another question also weighing on his mind—the question whether or not he should have a sentry guard before his official residence in Strasburg. The military authorities, whose rivalry with the civil authorities everywhere in Germany for influence and power still continues, wanted to have the sentries abolished, but the Prince eventually had his way. He showed Bismarck that they were necessary for his reputation with the population, which had already begun to think less of his influence as Statthalter owing to his one day at a review having incautiously and gallantly taken a back seat in his carriage in favour of some lady guests.
In normal times the composers of speeches from the throne are accustomed to describe the relations between their own and foreign countries as "friendly." When the relations are not friendly, yet not the opposite, they are usually registered on the political barometer as "correct." The attitude on both sides is formal, rigorously polite, reserved; such as would become a pair of people who had once been at feud and after their quarrel had been fought out agreed, if only for the sake of appearances, to show no outward animosity, but on the other hand not give an inch of way. The position of France and Germany is "correct"; it has never been friendly since 1870; and it must be many a long year before it can be friendly again. Apart from the difference between the Latin and Teutonic temperaments, apart from the legacy of hate left in Germany against France by the sufferings and humiliations the great Napoleon caused her, apart from the fact that one people is republican and the other monarchical, there is always one thing that will prevent reconciliation—the loss by France of the fair provinces Alsace and Lorraine. It is of no use for Germany to remind France that up to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 this territory belonged to Germany, or rather to what then was known by that name. It was useless as well as ungracious for Bismarck to tell France to seek compensation in Africa for what she had lost in Europe. Like Rachel mourning for her children, France will not be comforted; and now, as from the heavy hour in which she lost the provinces, she grieves over the memory of them and nurses the hope, still mingled with hate, of one glorious day regaining them. There are sanguine spirits who assert that the old feeling is dying out, and the German Government studiously encourages that view. It may be so; time is having its obliterating effects; and in externals at least the Germanization of the provinces is slowly making progress. Still the wound is deep, and there seems no prospect of its healing.
Several suggestions have been made with a view to an arrangement that might leave France without reason, or with less reason, for constant meditation on revenge One of them is the neutralization of Alsace-Lorraine on the model of Belgium, while another is the distribution of the territory, so that while Alsace is divided between Baden and Bavaria, Lorraine becomes a part of Prussia A third would divide the provinces between the two nations. An illustration of the yet prevailing feeling is found in the fact that large Alsatian firms invariably use French in their correspondence with Berlin firms, and almost as invariably refer to the "customs-arrangement" with Germany in 1871. They cannot bring themselves to use the word "annexation."
Yet of late years—to anticipate somewhat the course of events—Germany has made two important concessions to Alsace-Lorraine. The first was the abrogation of the so-called "Dictator-Paragraph," which was part of the law for administering the new provinces after the war of 1870. Under the paragraph the Lieutenant-Governor (Oberpresident) of the Reichsland, as the newly incorporated territory is now officially known, was empowered in case of need to take command of the military forces and proclaim a state of siege. When announcing the abrogation of the Paragraph in the Reichstag in 1902, Chancellor von Buelow gave a resume of the relations of the provinces to the Empire since 1870. He stated that immediately after the war the population were not disposed to incorporation in the Empire, as they thought the new state of things would only be temporary and that France would soon reconquer the provinces. This state of feeling, the Chancellor explained, naturally reacted on the Government, which accordingly laid down the principle that the claims of the provinces to equal political rights with other parts of the Empire could only be recognized step by step, as the Government was satisfied that the population conformed to the new order of things.
The second important concession to the Provinces was made only recently, when the provincial committee was replaced by a popularly elected Diet and the Provinces were granted three seats in the Federal Council. There is a proviso that in case of equality in the Council meetings the votes shall not be allowed to turn the scale in favour of Prussia. The limitation is a concession to the susceptibilities of the other Federal states.
Germany's relations with Great Britain at the time of the accession were unclouded. Mr. Gladstone had been defeated on his Home Rule proposals and Lord Salisbury was back in power. A lull had occurred in British relations with the Transvaal. All nations, including Germany, were beginning to turn their attention to the Orient with a view to the acquisition in Asia of "spheres of influence and spheres of interest," but as yet English and German interests had not come anywhere into conflict.
The Emperor's great internal foe and the object of his special enmity is the Social Democracy, and practically from the day of his accession he has waged war with it. His attitude towards the Socialists requires no long description, since it logically results from his traditional conception of Prussian monarchy and from the revolutionary character of Social Democratic aims. While a young man he paid little or no attention to the movement, and probably regarded it as the "passing phenomenon" he subsequently declared it to be. In 1884 the number of Social Democratic voters was something over half a million, and the number of Social Democratic members returned to the Reichstag 25: in 1890, two years after the accession, the figures were a million and a half and 35 respectively.
The Emperor's denunciation of Social Democrats has always been unmeasured. "A crew undeserving the name of Germans," a "plague that must be extirpated," "traitors," "people without a country and enemies to religion," "foes to the Empire and the country"—such were a few of the expressions he then and during the next few years publicly applied to three millions of his subjects. To-day, it may be added, the number of Social Democrats in Germany is well over four millions.
In 1889, in reply to a deputation of three coal miners' representatives, the Emperor said:
"As regards your demands, I will have them carefully investigated (a phrase, by the way, not unknown in England) by my Government, and let you know the result through the usual official channels. Should, however, offences against public peace and order occur, should a connexion between your movement and Social Democratic circles be demonstrated, I would not be in a position to weigh your wishes with my royal goodwill, since for me every Social Democrat is the same thing as a foe to the Empire and the Fatherland. Accordingly, if I see that Social Democratic tendencies mix with the movement and lead to unlawful opposition, I will intervene with all my powers—and they are great."
And a month later:
"That the Radical agitation of the Social Democracy has turned so many heads and hearts is due to the fact that in schools, high and low, too little is taught about the cruel deeds of the French Revolution and too little about the heroic deeds of the War of Liberation, which was (with the help of English bayonets, be it parenthetically remarked) the salvation of the Fatherland."
In 1892, to anticipate by a year or two, in reply to a guest who had observed that Social Democrats were not decreasing in numbers, the Emperor remarked:
"The moment the Social Democracy feels itself in possession of power it will not hesitate for an instant to attack the Burghertum (middle classes) very energetically. No exhibition of general benevolence is of any use against these people—here only religious feeling, founded on decided faith, can have any influence."
The Emperor, referring to the murder of a manufacturer in Mulhausen, said: "Another victim to the revolutionary movement kept alive by the Socialists. If only our people would act like men!"
And yet it is obvious, looking at it from the standpoint of to-day, that an admirably organized movement with four million parliamentary voters in an electorate of fourteen millions, with no members in an Imperial Parliament of 397 with representatives, more or less numerous, on almost every municipal board of any importance in the Empire, with the power of disturbing at any moment the relations between capital and labour, upon which the prosperity, security, and comfort of the whole population depend, and in intimate relations with the Socialists of all other countries, cannot be merely ignored or disposed of by scornful and sarcastic speeches, by official anathema, or even by close police supervision. There must be something behind it all which ought to be susceptible of explanation.
Before, however, attempting to conjecture what the something is, it will be advisable, familiar to many though the facts must be, to recapitulate, as briefly as possible, the history of the movement. Old as the story is, it is necessary to have some knowledge of it, for Social Democracy is the great, perhaps the only, domestic political thorn in the Emperor's side.
It is a truism to say that the "social question," the question how best to organize society, is as old as society itself. Great thinkers all down the ages, from Plato to Sir Thomas More, from More to Jean Jacques Rousseau, from Rousseau to Saint Simon, Fourier, Louis Blanc, Lassalle, and Karl Marx, have devoted their attention to it. The French Revolutionists tried to solve it, and the revolutionary movement of 1848 took up the problem in its turn.
German Social Democracy may be referred for its source to the teachings of Louis Blanc, who formed in 1840 a workmen's society in Paris. Blanc held, as the Social Democrats hold, that capitalism was the cause of all social evil, and that the workman was powerless against it. He therefore proposed the establishment of workmen's societies for purposes of production, and the grant of the necessary capital at a low rate of interest by the State. The doctrine was taken up in Germany with fiery enthusiasm by Ferdinand Lassalle, who, in May, 1863, founded the General German Workmen's Society for a "peaceful, lawful agitation" in favour of universal suffrage as a first means to the desired end. Universal suffrage was granted by the North German Confederation in 1867, and in 1873 Lassalle's adherents numbered 60,000.
Meanwhile, Karl Marx and his disciple, Frederic Engels, had been propagating their theories, and in 1848 the former published his famous work on the ideal social state. At first Marx was a partizan of revolutionary methods, but he subsequently recanted this view and proclaimed that the Socialistic aim in future should be the "strengthening of the economic and political power of the workman so that the expropriation of private property could be obtained by legislation." The Marxian doctrine was adopted in Germany by Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel, who, at Eisenach in 1869, founded the Association of Social Democratic Workmen, to which the present German party owes its name. The Eisenach programme declared "the economic dependence of the workmen on the monopolists of the tools of labour the foundation of servitude and social evil," and demanded "the economic emancipation of the working classes." An attempt to get the Lassalle society to join the Eisenacher society on an international basis failed for the time, but the two associations finally coalesced at the Gotha Congress of 1875.
The attempt on the life of William I in 1878 by the anarchist Nobiling had an important effect on the fortunes of the party and the character of its programme. The Socialist Laws were passed and the police began a campaign against the Socialists, of which the mildest features were the dissolution of societies, the searching of houses, the expulsion of suspected persons, and the interdiction of Socialist newspapers and periodicals.
For the next few years the party held its annual congresses in Switzerland or Denmark, but as the Socialist Laws ceased to have effect after three years, and were not then renewed, the party resumed its congresses in Germany. The Congress at Erfurt in 1891 resulted in the issue of a new programme rejecting the Lassalle plan for the establishment of workmen's societies for productive purposes and substituting for it the transfer of all capitalistic private property engaged in the means of production, such as lands, mines, raw material, tools, machinery, and means of transport, to the State. The term used in the programme is "state," not "society," but the State is in fact nothing but the society armed with coercive powers.
Other objects are universal suffrage for both sexes over twenty, electoral reform, two-year parliaments, direct legislation "through the people," some form of parliamentary government, autonomy of the people in Empire, State, Province, and Parish, conscription, national militia instead of standing army, international arbitration, abolition of State religion, free and compulsory education, abolition of capital punishment, free burial, free medical assistance, free legal advice and advocacy, progressive succession duties, inheritance tax, abolition of indirect taxation and customs, parliamentary decisions as to peace and war, and undenominationalism in schools.
Especially for the working classes are intended the following: National and international protective legislation for workmen on the basis of a normal eight hours day, prohibition of child labour under fourteen years, prohibition of night work save rendered necessary by the nature of the work or the welfare of society, superintendence of labour and its relations by a Ministry of Labour, thorough workshop hygiene, equality of status between the agricultural labourer, servant class, and the artisan, right of association, and State insurance, as to which the working class should have an authoritative voice.
The programme contains nothing as to the practical consequences of the provisions it contains, but Herr Bebel, in his book on "Woman and Social Democracy," gives some examples. One is that the working time will be alike for men and women, another that domestic life will be limited to the cohabitation of man and woman, for children are to be brought up by society, and a third that cooking and washing will be the care of central public kitchens and washhouses. Meanwhile, all these years, it may be noted, Herr Bebel and his millions of followers have been living exactly like everybody else.
The student of working-class conditions in Germany is unlikely to think clearly unless he distinguishes between such terms as Social Democracy, Socialism, Trade Unionism, and Labour party. Social Democracy is a species of Socialism. All Social Democrats are Socialists, but not all Socialists Social Democrats. The latter, as an enrolled political party, paying annual subscriptions and looking forward to the future state as conceived by Marx, and now by Bebel, number something under a million; the remaining three millions who voted for Social Democratic candidates at the last general election may have included men who believe in Social Democratic ideals, but the vast majority of them, unless one does grave injustice to their common sense, voted for such candidates owing to dissatisfaction with the policy of the Government and present conditions generally—the high cost of living, the pressure of taxation, the severity of class distinctions, and like grievances, real or imaginary. These people are Socialists in the English or international sense of the word, not Social Democrats strictly speaking; and with these people the Emperor is most angry because he knows they form the element most capable of dangerous expansion.
Again, though the vast majority of German Socialists in the broader sense are Trade Unionists, not all Trade Unionists are Socialists. Trade Unionism—the organization of labour against capital—is represented in Germany by two main bodies; the free or Socialist Unions containing about two million working men, and the "Christian" or loyal "National" Unions, which are anti-Social Democrat and anti-Socialist. These have a membership of about 300,000. The Hirsch-Duncker Unions, with 100,000 members, are Liberal, but also loyal and anti-Socialist. In labour conflicts, naturally, as distinguished from politics, all workmen of the particular branch in conflict work together, whether they are Socialist or not. It need only be added that there is no so-called "Labour party" in the German Parliaments. The Social Democratic party in the Reichstag represents labour interests generally, and promote them much more insistently and successfully than they do the Utopia of their dreams.
But enough has been said to show the comprehensive and revolutionary nature of Social Democratic doctrine. The only other feature that requires mention in connexion with the movement is the desire on the part of a section of the party for a revision of its programme. The party of revision is usually identified with the names of Heinrich von Vollmar, who first suggested it, and Eduard Bernstein, who is in favour of trying to realize that portion of the programme which deals with the social needs of the existing generation, the demands of the present day, and would leave to posterity the attainment of the final goal. The views of the Revisionists differ also from those of the Radicals in respect of two other main questions which divide the party, that of voting budgets and that of going to court. The Revisionists are willing to do both, and the Radicals to do neither. A decisive split in the party is annually looked for, but hitherto, when congress-day came, the Revisionists, for the sake of peace and unity in the party, have refrained from pushing their views to extremes. One might suppose that professors of the tenets of Social Democracy would get into trouble with the police, but they avoid arrest and imprisonment by taking care to avoid attacking property or the family, advocating a republic, or introducing religious questions into their discussions.
In dealing with the growth of Social Democracy in Germany the philosophic historian would doubtless refer to the French Revolution, or go still farther back to the Reformation, as the starting-point of every great change in the views of civilized mankind during the last four and a half centuries; but it is with more recent times these pages are chiefly concerned and consequently with causes now operative. The main specific cause is the change from agriculture to industry, and with it the growth of what is generally spoken of as "industrialism." Industrialism means the assemblage of large masses of intelligent men forming a community of their own, with its special conditions and the wants and wishes arising from them. This is the most fertile field for Socialism, for a new organization of society. In Germany Socialistic ideas kept growing with the increase of industrialism, and came to a head with the attempts by Hoedel and Nobiling on the life of the Emperor William. The anti-Socialist laws, passed for a definite period, followed, but they were not renewed; the Emperor and his Government pressed on instead with a great and far-reaching social policy, and Socialism, in the form of Social Democracy, freed from restraint, took a new lease of life.
Another cause of as general, but less ponderable, a nature is the remnant of the feudal spirit and feudal manners which lingers in the attitude of the German governing and official classes towards the rest of the population. The most objectionable features of the feudal system have passed away, the cruel and exclusive rights and privileges which only men in ignorant personal servitude to an all-powerful master could permanently endure; but traces of the system still exist in the official attitude towards the public and in the tone of the official communications issued by the administrative services generally. Attitude and tone may be referred in part to the traditional character of the Prussian monarchy, which regards the people as a flock of sheep, or as a "talent," as the Emperor has called it, entrusted to its care and management by Heaven; but it is also due in part to the systematization of public life—and largely of private life—which at times makes the foreigner inclined to think Germany at once the most Socialistic and at the same time the most tyrannically ruled country in the world. Everything in Germany must be done systematically, and the system must be the result of development. But there is no use in having a system unless it is enforced—otherwise it remains, like Social Democracy, a theory. Compulsion, therefore, is necessary, and the Government provides it through its official machinery and its police. The systematization has enormous public advantages, but it is difficult for the Anglo-Saxon, jealous of his individual right to direct his public life through his own representatives and his private life according to his own judgment, to accommodate himself to a system which seems to him unduly to interfere with both right and judgment.
Perhaps it is the manner in which, under the name of authority, compulsion is exercised by subordinate officialdom and in especial by the police, as much as the compulsion itself, which irritates in Germany. Every profession, business, trade, and occupation, down to that of selling matches and newspapers in the streets, is meticulously regulated; and while there is nothing to object to in this, what strikes the Anglo-Saxon as objectionable is that the regulations are enforced with the manners and in the tone of a drill-sergeant. The official in Germany, he finds, is not the servant of the public. There is a story current in England of a Duke of Norfolk, when Postmaster-General, going into a district post-office and asking for a penny stamp. The clerk was dilatory, and the Duke remonstrated. "Who are you, I should like to know?" asked the clerk impertinently, "that you are laying down the law." "I am the public," replied the Duke simply, at the same time showing the clerk his card. An English Foreign Secretary once told a deputation that the Ministry was "waiting for instructions from their employers—the people." In Germany it is the opposite; the official is the master and the public his dutiful servant. In Germany the official expects marked deference from the public: the post-office clerk is "Mr. Official," the guardian of the law "Mr. Policeman" (with your hat off). The Anglo-Saxon rather expects the deference to be on the other side, and has a sordid subconsciousness that he pays the official for his services. Perhaps the Social Democrat has something of the same feeling.
One of the chief consequences of industrialism in Germany is that the people of the country are migrating to the towns. To the country bumpkin the city is an Eldorado and a lordly pleasure-house. In truth, he is much better off in it than in the stagnant life of the country. In the city he sees comfort on every hand, with possibilities of enjoyment of every kind, and if he does not soon get a share of the good things going he grows discontented and turns Socialist. In the city, too, he learns to think and compare, he perceives the distinction of classes and notices that certain classes have open to them careers from which he is excluded. Then there is the apparently inevitable antagonism between labour and capital, between the employer and employed, which drives the worker to Social Democracy, as offering the prospect of his becoming his own master and enjoying the whole fruits of his labour. He may not know Matthew Arnold's "Sick King in Bokhara," but he would endorse Arnold's lines:—
"And these all, for a lord Eat not the fruit of their own hands; Which is the heaviest of all plagues To that man's mind, who understands."
But whatever its causes, Social Democracy is one of the most curious and anomalous societies extant. In a country which worships order, it calls for absolute disorder. A revolutionary movement, it anxiously avoids revolution. It is a magnificent organization for no apparent practical, direct, or immediate purpose. Proclaiming the protection of the law and enjoying the blessing of efficient government, it yet refuses to vote the budget to pay for them. It supports a large parliamentary party without any clear or consistent parliamentary policy in internal or external affairs, unless to be "agin the Government" is a policy. And lastly, if some of its economic demands are justifiable, and have in several respects been satisfied by modern legislation, its fundamental doctrine, the basis of the entire edifice, is a wild hallucination, sickening to common sense, and completely out of harmony with the progressive economic development of all nations, including its own.
In conclusion, it may be added that the social side of the Social Democracy is perhaps too often unrecognized or ignored by the foreign observer. Life for the poorer classes in Germany is apt to be more monotonous and dull than for the poorer classes of any country which nature has blessed with more fertility, more sunshine, more diversity of hill and dale, and where people are more mutually sociable and accommodating. Social Democracy offers something by way of remedy to this: a field of interest in which the workers can organize and make processions and public demonstrations and can talk and theorize and dispute, and in which the woman can share the interest with the man; or a club, a social club with the largest membership in the world except freemasonry.
We must return, however, to the Emperor. During this period, in December, 1890, he, like every one else with his own ideas on education as well as on art and religion, delivered his views on popular instruction. At this time—he was then thirty—he called together forty-five of the ablest educational experts of the country and addressed them on the subject of high-school education. His Minister of Education, Dr. von Grossler, had drawn up a programme of fourteen points for discussion, and the Emperor added to these a few others he wished to have considered.
German high-school education, be it remarked, is a different thing from English public-school education, and ought rather to be spoken of as German information than as German education. We have seen that the spirit of the German university differs largely from that of the English university, in that it is not concerned with the formation of character or the inculcation of manners. The same may be said of the German gymnasium, or high school, the institution from which the German youth, as a rule, goes to college. No teaching institution, English or German, be it further said on our own account, makes any serious attempt to teach what will prepare youth for intercourse with the extremely complicated world of to-day, to give him, to take but one example, the faintest notion of contract, which, if he possessed it, would save him from many a foolish undertaking and protect him from many a business betrayal, Far from it. All the disagreeable, and many of the painful incidents of his subsequent life, all equally avoidable if knowledge regarding them had been instilled into him in his early years, he must buy with money and suffering and disgust in after-years.
But the Emperor is waiting to be heard. His entire speech need not be quoted, but only its chief contentions. In introducing his remarks he claimed to speak with knowledge as having himself sat on a public-school bench at Cassel.