HotFreeBooks.com
William of Germany
by Stanley Shaw
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The Social Democracy being to the Emperor what King Charles's head was to Mr. Dick, it is not surprising to find almost his first statement being to the effect that if boys had been properly taught up to then, there would be no Social Democracy. Up to 1870, he said, the great subject of instruction for youth was the necessity for German unity. Unity had been achieved, the Empire was now founded, and there the matter rested. "Now," said the Emperor, "we must recognize that the school is for the purpose of teaching how the Empire is to be maintained. I see nothing of such teaching, and I ought to know, for I am at the head of the Empire, and all such questions come under my observation. What," he continues,

"is lacking in the education of our youth? The chief fault is that since 1870 the philologists have sat in the high schools as beati possidentes and laid chief stress upon the knowledge to be acquired and not on the formation of character and the demands of the present time. Emphasis has been put on the ability to know, not on the ability to do—the pupil is expected to know, that is the main thing, and whether what he knows is suitable for the conduct of life or not is considered a secondary matter. I am told the school has only to do with the gymnastics of the mind, and that a young man, well trained in these gymnastics, is equipped for the needs of life. This is all wrong and can't go on."

Then the Empire-builder speaks—what is wanted above all is a national basis.

"We must make German the foundation for the gymnasium: we must produce patriotic young Germans, not young Greeks and Romans. We must depart from the centuries-old basis, from the old monastic education of the Middle Ages, when Latin was the main thing and a tincture of Greek besides. That is no longer the standard. German must be the standard. The German exercise must be the pivot on which all things turn. When in the exit examination (Abiturientenexamen) a student hands in a German essay, one can judge from it what are the mental acquirements of the young man and decide whether he is fit for anything or not. Of course people will object—the Latin exercise is very important, very good for instructing students in other languages, and so on. Yes, gentlemen, I have been through the mill. How do we get this Latin exercise? I have often seen a young man get, say 4-1/2 marks, for his German exercise—'satisfactory,' it was considered—and 2 for his Latin exercise. The youngster deserved punishment instead of praise, because it is clear he did not write his Latin exercise in a proper way; and of all the Latin exercises we wrote there was not one in a dozen which was done without cribbing. These exercises were marked 'good,' but when we wrote an essay on 'Minna von Barnhelm' (one of Lessing's dramas) we got hardly 'satisfactory.' So I say, away with the Latin exercise, it only harms us, and robs us of time we might give to German."

The Emperor goes on to recommend the study of the nation's history, geography, and literature ("Der Sage," poetry, he calls it).

"Let us begin at home," he says; "when we have learned enough at home, we can go to the museums. But above all we must know our German history. In my time the Grand Elector was a very foggy personage, the Seven Years' War was quite outside consideration, and history ended with the close of the last century, the French Revolution. The War of Liberation, the most important for the young citizen, was not taught thoroughly, and I only learned to know it, thank God, through the very interesting lectures of Dr. Hinzpeter. This, however, is the punctum saliens. Why are our young men misled? Why do we find so many unclear, confused world-improvers? Why is our government so cavilled at and criticized, and so often told to look at foreign nations? Because the young men do not know how our conditions have developed, and that the roots of the development lie in the period of the French Revolution. Consequently, I am convinced that if they understood the transition period from the Revolution to the nineteenth century in its fundamental features, they would have a far better understanding of the questions of to-day than they now have. At the universities they can supplement their school knowledge."

The Emperor then turned to other points. It was "absolutely necessary" to reduce the hours of work. When he was at school, he said, all German parents were crying out against the evil, and the Government set on foot an inquiry. He and his brother (Henry) had every morning to hand a memorandum to the head master showing how many hours it had taken them to prepare the lessons for the day. In the Emperor's case it took, "honestly," from 5-1/2 to 7 hours' home study. To this was to be added 6 hours in school and 2 hours for eating meals—"How much of the day," the Emperor asks, "was left? If I," he said, "hadn't been able to ride to and from school I wouldn't have known what the world even looked like." The result of this, he continued, was an

"over-production of educated people, more than the nation wanted and more than was tolerable for the sufferers themselves. Hence the class Bismarck called the abiturienten-proletariat, all the so-called hunger candidates, especially the Mr. Journalists, who are often broken-down scholars and a danger to us. This surplus, far too large as it is, is like an irrigation field that cannot soak up any more water, and it must be got rid of."

Another matter touched on by the Emperor was a reduction in the amount to be learned, so that more time might be had for the formation of character. This cannot be done now, he remarks, in a class containing thirty youngsters, who have such a huge amount of subjects to master. The teacher, too, the Emperor said, must learn that his work is not over when he has delivered his lecture. "It isn't a matter of knowledge," he concludes "but a matter of educating the young people for the practical affairs of life."

The Emperor lastly dealt with the subject of shortsightedness. "I am looking for soldiers," he said.

"We need a strong and healthy generation, which will also serve the Fatherland as intellectual leaders and officials. This mass of shortsightedness is no use, since a man who can't use his eyes—how can he do anything later?"

and he went on to mention the extraordinary facts that in some of the primary classes of German schools as many as 74 per cent, were shortsighted, and that in his class at Cassel, of the twenty-one pupils, eighteen wore spectacles, while two of them could not see the desk before them without their glasses.

The Englishman in Germany often attributes German shortsightedness to the Gothic character of German print. It is more probable that the long hours of study spent poring over books without fresh-air exercise, judiciously interposed, is responsible for it.

It has been said that every one, like the Emperor, has his own theory of education, but there is one passage in the Emperor's speech with which almost all men will agree—that, namely, in which he urges that knowledge is not the only—perhaps not the chief—thing, but that young people must be educated for the practical affairs of life. Unfortunately, as to how we are successfully to do this, the Emperor is silent; and it may be that there is no certain or exact way. One could, of course—but we are concerned with the Emperor.

The difference of opinion between the Emperor and Bismarck regarding the Emperor's visit to Russia seems to have left no permanent ill-will in the Emperor's mind, for on returning in October, 1889, from visits to Athens, where he attended the wedding of his sister Sophie with the Heir-Apparent of Greece, Prince Constantine (now King Constantine), and Constantinople, where he was allowed to inspect the Sultan's seraglio, he sent a letter to the Chancellor praying God to grant that the latter's "faithful and experienced counsel might for many years assist him in his difficult and responsible office." In January, 1890, however, the question of renewing the Socialist Laws, which would expire shortly, came up for settlement. A council of Ministers, under the Emperor's presidency, was called to decide it. When the council met, Bismarck was greatly surprised by a proposal of the Emperor to issue edicts developing the principles laid down by his grandfather for working-class reform instead of renewing the Socialist Laws. The Reichstag took the Emperor's view and voted against the renewal of the Laws. It only now remained to give effect to the Emperor's edicts. They were considered at a further council of Ministers, at which the Emperor exhorted them to "leave the Social Democracy to me, I can manage them alone." The Ministers agreed, and Bismarck was in a minority of one. This, however, was only the beginning of the end. Bismarck decided to continue in office until he had carried through Parliament a new military Bill, which was to come before it in May or June. Meanwhile fresh matters of controversy between the Emperor and the Chancellor arose regarding the grant of imperial audiences to Ministers other than the Chancellor. Bismarck insisted that the Chancellor alone had the right to be received by the Emperor for the discussion of State affairs.

The quarrel was accentuated by a lively scene which occurred between the Emperor and the Chancellor about this period in connexion with a visit the leader of the Catholic Centre party had paid the Chancellor, and on March 17th the Emperor sent his chief Adjutant, General von Hahnke, to say he awaited the Chancellor's resignation. Bismarck replied that to resign at this juncture would be an act of desertion; the Emperor could dismiss him. At the same time the Chancellor summoned a meeting of Ministers for the afternoon, but while they were discussing the situation a message was brought from the Emperor telling them he did not require their advice in such a matter and that he had made up his mind about the Chancellor. The messenger on the same occasion expressed to Bismarck the Emperor's surprise at not having received a formal resignation. Bismarck's reply was that it would require some days to prepare such a document, as it was the last official statement of a "Minister who had played a meritorious part in the history of Prussia and Germany, and history should know why he had been dismissed." Three days later, on March 20th, an hour or two after the formal resignation reached the palace, the Emperor's letter granting the Chancellor's request for his release, naming him Duke of Lauenburg and announcing the appointment of General von Caprivi as his successor, was put into the old Chancellor's hands.



VI.



THE COURT OF THE EMPEROR

While the ex-Chancellor is bitterly meditating on the unreliability and ingratitude of princes, yet having in his heart, as the records clearly show, the loyal sentiments of a Cardinal Wolsey towards his royal master, even though that master had cast him off, we may be allowed to pause awhile in order to give some account of the Court of which the Emperor now became the centre and pivot.

Human imagination, in its worship of force as the source of ability to achieve the ends of ambition and desire, very early conceived the courts of kings as fairylands of power, wealth, luxury, and magnificence—in a word, of happiness. The same imagination represents the Almighty, whose true nature no one knows, as a monarch in the bright court of heaven, and his great antagonist, Satan, who stands for the king of evil, is enthroned by it amid the shades of hell. The fiction that courts are a species of earthly paradise is still kept up for the entertainment of children; while the adult, whom the annals of all countries has made familiar with a long record of monarchs, bad as well as good, is disposed to regard them as beneficial or otherwise to a country according to the character and conduct of the occupant of the throne, and to believe that they are at least as liable to produce examples of vice and hypocrisy as of virtue and honesty.

The court of the German Emperor in this connexion need not fear comparison with any court described in history. True, courts all over the world have improved wonderfully of recent years. Their monarchs are more enlightened, they are frequented by a very different type of man and woman from the courts of former times, their morale and working are more closely scrutinized and more generally subjected to criticism, and they are occupied with a more public and less selfish order of considerations. The Court of the Emperor is, so far as can be known to a lynx-eyed and not always charitably thinking public, singularly free from the vices and failings the atmosphere of former courts was wont to foster. There is at all times, no doubt, the competition of politicians for influence and power acting and reacting on the Court and its frequenters, but of scandal at the Court of Berlin there has been none that could be fairly said to involve the Emperor or his family. Dame Gossip, of course, busied herself with the Emperor in his youth, but whatever truth she then uttered—and it is probably extremely little—on this head, there is no question that from the day he mounted the throne his Court and that of the Empress has been a model for all institutions of the kind.

The life of courts, the personages who play leading parts in them, their wealth and luxury, and the currents of social, amorous, and political intrigue which are supposed to course through them have in all countries and in all ages strongly appealed to writers, fanciful and serious. Perhaps one-third of the prose and poetic literature of every country deals, directly or indirectly, with the subject, and determines in no small degree the character of its rising generations. The great architects of romance, depicting for us life in high places, and often nobly idealizing it, or working the facts of history into the web of their imaginings and thus pleasantly combining fact with fiction, aim at elevating, not at debasing, the mind of the reader. A second valuable source of information on the topic are the memoirs of those who have set down their observations and recorded experiences made in the courts to which they had access. Among this class, however, are to be found unscrupulous as well as conscientious authors, the former obviously cherishing some personal grievance or as obviously actuated by malice, while the latter are usually moved by an honest desire to tell the world things that are important for it to know, and at the same time, it is not ill-natured to suspect, enhance their own reputation with their contemporaries or with posterity. The multitudinous tribe of anecdote inventors and retailers must also be taken into account. In our own day there is still another source of information, which, agreeably or odiously according to the temperament of the reader, keeps us in touch with courts and what goes on there—the periodical press; while afar off in the future one can imagine the historian bent over his desk, surrounded by books and knee-deep in newspapers, selecting and weighing events, studying characters, developing personalities, and passing what he hopes may be a final judgment on the court and period he is considering.

For a study of the Emperor's life, as it passes in his Court, a large number of works are available, but not many that can be described as authoritative or reliable. Among the latter, however, may be placed Moritz Busch's "Bismarck: Some Secret Pages of His History," three volumes that make Busch almost as interesting to the reader as his subject; Bismarck's own "Gedanke und Erinnerungen," which is chiefly of a political nature; and the "Memorabilia of Prince Chlodwig Hohenlohe-Schillingsfuerst," who was for several years Statthalter of Alsace-Lorraine and subsequently became Imperial Chancellor in succession to General von Caprivi. These works, with the collections of the Emperor's speeches and the speeches and interviews of Chancellor Prince von Buelow, may be ranked in the category of serious and authentic contributions to the Court history of the period they cover. Then there are several German descriptions of the Court, reliable enough in their way which is a dull one, to those who are not impassioned monarchists or hide-bound bureaucrats. In the category of works by unscrupulous writers that entitled "The Private Lives of William II and His Consort," by a lady-in-waiting to the Empress from 1888 to 1898, easily takes first place. Certainly it gives a lively and often entertaining insight into the domestic life of the palace, but it is so clearly informed by spite that it is impossible to distinguish what is true in it from what is false or misrepresented. Finally, for the closer study of individual events and the impressions they made at the time of their happening, the daily press can be consulted. For the Bismarck period the biography of Hans Blum is of exceptional value.

What may be termed the anecdotic literature of the Court is particularly rich and trivial, and this is only to be expected in a country where the monarchy and its representative are so forcibly and constantly brought home to the people's consciousness. Yet it has its uses, and is referred to, though sparingly, in the present work. "The Emperor as Father of a Family," "The Emperor and His Daughter's Uniform," "The Amiable Grandfather," "The Emperor as Husband," "The Emperor as Card Player," "How the Emperor's Family is Photographed," "What does the Emperor's Kitchen Look Like," "Adieu, Auguste" ("Auguste" is the Empress), "The English Lord and the Emperor's Cigarettes," "When My Wife Makes You a Sandwich," "What the Emperor Reads," "The Emperor's Handwriting," "Can the Emperor Vote?" (the answer is, opinions differ), "Washing Day at the Emperor's," "The Emperor and the Empress at Tennis," "Emperor and Auto," are the sort of matters dealt with. Literature of this kind is beyond question intensely interesting to vast numbers of people, but helps very little towards understanding a singularly complex human being placed in a high and extraordinarily responsible position.

Strictly speaking, there is no Imperial Court in Germany, since the King of Prussia, in accordance with the Imperial Constitution, always succeeds to the imperial throne, and therefore officially the Court is that of the King of Prussia only. The distinction is emphasized by the fact that the Court is independent of the Empire as regards its administration and finance. It is a state within a state, an imperium in imperio. In all that pertains to it the Emperor is absolute ruler and his executive is a special Ministry. At the same time it is almost needless to add that the Court of Berlin is practically that of the Empire. It is this character, apart from Prussia's size and importance, that distinguishes it from other courts in Germany and reduces them to comparative insignificance in foreign, though by no means in German, consideration.

The Court of the Empire and Prussia—and the same thing may be said of the various other courts in Germany—engages popular interest and attention to a much larger extent than is the case in England. The fact is almost wholly due to the nature of the monarchy and of its relations to the people. In England a great portion of the popular attention is concentrated on Parliament and the fortunes of its two great political parties. The attention given to the Court and its doings is not of the same general and permanent character, but is intermittent according to the occasion. The Englishman feels deep and abiding popular interest at all times in Parliament, whether in session or not, because it represents the people and is, in fact, and for hundreds of years has been, the Government.

The reverse may fairly be said to be the case in Germany. In Germany popular attention has been from early times concentrated on the monarch, his personality, sayings and doings, since in his hands lay government power and patronage. Monarchy of a more or less absolute character was accepted by the people, not only in Germany but all over the Continent, as the normal and desirable, perhaps the inevitable, state of things; and it is only since the French Revolution that parliaments after the English pattern, that is by two chambers elected by popular vote, yet in many important respects widely differing from it, were demanded by the people or finally established. Up to comparatively recent times the monarch in Prussia was an absolute ruler. Frederick William IV, after the events of 1848, was compelled to grant Prussia a Constitution which explicitly defined the respective rights of the Crown and the people in the sphere of politics; and the Imperial Constitution, drawn up on the formation of the modern Empire, did the same thing as regards the Emperor and the people of the Empire; but neither Constitution altered the nature of the monarchy in the direction of giving governing power to the people. Both secured the people legislative, but not governing power. Government in the Empire and Prussia remains, as of old, an appanage, so to speak, of the Court, and the fact of course tends to concentrate attention on the Court.

It has been said that the Court is a state within a state, an imperium in imperio. In this state, within Prussia or within the Empire, it is the same thing for our purpose, there are two main departments, that of the Lord Chamberlain (Oberstkammeramt) and that of the Master of the Household (Ministerium des Koeniglichen Hauses). The first deals with all questions of court etiquette, court ceremonial, court mourning, precedence, superintendence of the courts of the Emperor's sons and near relatives, and of all Prussian court offices. The second deals with the personal affairs of the Emperor and his sons, the domestic administration of the palace, the management of the Crown estates and castles, and is the tribunal that decides all Hohenzollern differences and disputes that are not subject to the ordinary legal tribunals. Connected with this Ministry are the Herald's office and the Court Archives office. The chief Court officials include, beside the Lord Chamberlain and the Master of the Household, a Chief Court Marshal. The Master of the Household is also Chief Master of Ceremonies, with a Deputy Master of Ceremonies who is also Introducer of Ambassadors, two Court Marshals, a Captain of the Palace Guards, a Court Chaplain, Court Physician, an Intendant in charge of the royal theatres, a Master of the Horse who has charge of the royal stables, a House Marshal, and a Master of the Kitchen. All these officials are princes (Fuerst) or counts (Graf), with the title Highness (Durchlaucht) or Excellency.

Court officials also include the various nobles in charge of the royal palaces, castles, and hunting lodges at Potsdam, Charlottenburg, Breslau, Stettin, Marienburg, Posen, Letzlingen, Hohkoenigsberg, Homberg von der Hoehe, Springe, Hubertusstock, Rominten, Korfu (the "Achilleion"), Wiesbaden, Koenigsberg, etc., to the number of thirty or more. The Empress has her own Court officials, including a Mistress of the Robes and Ladies of the Bedchamber, also with the title of Excellency, the Ladies being chosen from the most aristocratic families of Germany. The Empress has her own Master of the Household, physician, treasurer, and so on. Similarly with the households of the Crown Prince, other royal princes and the Emperor's near relatives.

Every order the Emperor gives that is not of a purely domestic kind passes through one of his three cabinets—the Civil Cabinet, the Military Cabinet, or the Marine Cabinet. The cost of the first, with its chief, who receives L1,000 a year, and half a dozen subordinate officials on salaries of L200 to L350, is budgeted at about L10,000 a year. The Military Cabinet is a much larger establishment, having several departments and a staff of half a hundred councillors and clerks. The Naval Cabinet, on the other hand, is composed of only three upper officials and five clerks. The Emperor's "civil list" is returned in the Budget as L860,000 roughly. His entire annual revenue does not exceed L1,000,000. Out of this he has to pay the expenses of his married sons' households and make large contributions to public charities. He was left, however, a very considerable sum of money by the Emperor William. The Crown Prince, as such, receives a grant of L20,000 a year, chiefly derived from the royal domain of Oels in Silesia. Like all fathers of large families, the Emperor has been more than once heard to complain that he finds it difficult to make both ends meet.

The Emperor's staff of adjutants are exceptionally useful and important people. At their head is the chief of the Emperor's Military Cabinet. Not less important are the members of the Emperor's Marine Cabinet, consisting of admirals, vice-admirals, and wing-admirals. The personal adjutants divide the day and night service between them, so that there may always be three adjutants at the Emperor's immediate disposal. The adjutant announces Ministers or other visitors to the Emperor, telegraphs to say that His Majesty has an hour or an hour and a half at his disposal at such-and-such a time, or intimates that an audience of half an hour can be given in the train between two given points. They act as living memorandum books, knock at the Emperor's door to announce that it is time for him to go to this or that appointment, remind him that a congratulatory telegram on some one's seventieth birthday or other jubilee has to be sent, or perhaps whispers that Her Majesty the Empress wishes to see him. All the Emperor's correspondence passes through their hands. They accompany the Emperor on his journeys and voyages, and when thus employed are usually invited to his table. The Emperor reads of some new book and tells an adjutant to order it, and the latter does so by communicating with the Civil Cabinet.

Court society in Berlin includes the German "higher" and "lower" nobility, with the exception of the so-called Fronde, who proudly absent themselves from it; the Ministers; the diplomatic corps; Court officials; and such members of the burghertum, or middle class, as hold offices which entitle them to attend court. The wives, however, of those in the last category are not "court-capable" on this account, nor is the middle class generally, nor even members of the Imperial or Prussian Parliaments as such. Members of Parliament are invited to the Court's seasonal festivities, but as a rule only members of the Conservative parties or other supporters of the Government. The nobility, as in England, is hereditary or only nominated for life, and the hereditary nobility is divided into an upper and lower class. To the former belongs members of houses that were ruling when the modern Empire was established, and, while excluding the Emperor, who stands above them, includes sovereign houses and mediatized houses. Some of the ancient privileges of the nobility, such as exemption from taxation, and the right to certain high offices, have been abolished, but in practice the nobility still occupy the most important charges in the administration and in the army. The privileges of the mediatized princes consist of exemption from conscription, the enjoyment of the Principle called "equality of birth," which prevents the burgher wife of a noble acquiring her husband's rank, and the right to have their own "house law" for the regulation of family disputes and family affairs generally. No increase to the high nobility of Germany can accrue as no addition will ever be made to the once sovereign and mediatized families. With the exception of these houses the rest of the German nobility, hereditary and non-hereditary, is accounted as belonging to the lower nobility. That part of the German aristocracy who refuse to go to court, and are accordingly called by the name Fronde, first given to the opponents of Cardinal Mazarin, in the reign of Louis XIV, consist chiefly of a few old families of Prussian Poland, Hannover (the Guelphs), Brunswick, Nassau, Hessen, and other annexed German territories, and of some great Catholic houses in Bavaria and the Rhineland. Their dislike is directed not so much against the Empire as against Prussia. The Kulturkampf had the effect of setting a small number of ancient Prussian ultramontane families against the Government.

Not much that is complimentary can be said of the German aristocracy as a whole. "Serenissimus" is to-day as frequently the subject of bitter, if often humorous, caricature in the comic press as ever he was. A few of the class, like Prince Fuerstenberg, Prince Hohenlohe, Count Henkel-Donnersmarck and some others engage successfully in commerce; many are practical farmers and have done a good deal for agriculture; several are deputies to Parliament; but on the whole the foreigner gets the impression that the class as such contributes but a small percentage of what it might and should in the way of brains, industry, or example to the welfare and the progress of the Empire.

It is difficult to communicate an impression of the Court, whether at the Schloss in Berlin or the New Palace in Potsdam, and at the same time avoid the dry and dusty descriptions of the guide-books. If the reader is not in Berlin, let him imagine the fragment of a mediaeval town, situated on a river and fronted by a bridge; and on the bank of the river a dark, square, massive and weather-stained pile of four stories, with barred windows on the ground floor as defence against a possibly angry populace, and a sentry-box at each of its two lofty wrought-iron gates. It may be, as Baedeker informs us it is, a "handsome example of the German renaissance," but to the foreigner it can as equally suggest a large and grimy barracks as the five-hundred-years-old palace of a long line of kings and emperors. And yet, to any one acquainted with the blood-stained annals of Prussian history, who knows something of the massive stone buildings about it and of the people who have inhabited them, who strolls through its interior divided into sombre squares, each with its cold and bare parade-ground, who reflects on the relations between king and people, closely identified by their historical associations, yet sundered by the feudal spirit which still keeps the Crown at a distance from the crowd, above all to the German versed in his country's story—how eloquently it speaks!

When one thinks of the Court of Berlin one should not forget that the New Palace, the Emperor's residence at Potsdam, sixteen miles distant from the capital, is as much, and as important, a part of it as the royal palace in Berlin itself. The Emperor divides his time between them, the former, when he is not travelling, being his more permanent residence, and the latter only claiming his presence during the winter season and for periods of a day or so at other parts of the year, when occasion requires it. It is only during the six or eight weeks of the winter season that the Empress and her daughter, Princess Victoria Louise (now Duchess of Brunswick), go into residence at the Berlin royal palace. There is a railway between Potsdam and Berlin, but since the introduction of the motor-car the Emperor almost always uses that means of conveyance for the half-hour's run between his Berlin and Potsdam palaces.

The other section of the Court, if Potsdam may be so described, is hardly less rich in memories than the old palace by the Spree. Indeed it is richer from the cosmopolitan point of view, for though Frederick the Great was born in the Berlin Schloss and spent some of his time there, it was at Potsdam that, when not campaigning, he may be said to have lived and died. To this day, for the foreigner, his personality still pervades the place, and that of the Emperor sinks, comparatively, into the background. The tourist who has pored over his Baedeker will learn that Potsdam has 53,000 inhabitants and is "charmingly situated"—it depends on your temperament what the charm is, and to guide-book framers all tourists have the same temperament—on an island in the Havel "which here expands into a series of lakes bounded by wooded hills." He will learn that the old town-palace, which few visitors give a thought to, was built by the Great Elector, that Frederick the Great lived here in "richly decorated apartments with sumptuous furniture and noteworthy pictures by Pater, Lancret, and Pesne"; that it contains a cabinet in which the dining-table could be let up and down by means of a trap-door, and "where the King occasionally dined with friends without risk of being overheard by his attendants"; that the present Emperor, then Prince William, lived here with his young wife when he was still only a lieutenant. He will drive to the New Palace—now old, for it was built by Frederick the Great in 1769, during the Seven Years' War, at a cost of nearly half a million sterling—and gaze with interest at the summer residence of the Emperor. If he is an American he may think of his multi-millionaire fellow-citizen, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, when driving up to call on his erstwhile imperial schoolfellow and friend, was nearly shot at by a sentry for whom the name Vanderbilt was no "Open Sesame." He will see before him a main building, seven hundred feet in length, three stories high, with the central portion surmounted by a dome, its chief facade looking towards a park. The whole, of course—for Baedeker is talking—forms an "imposing pile," with "mediocre sculptures, but the effect of the weathered sandstone figures against the red brick is very pleasing." Here the Emperor's father, Frederick III, was born, lived as Crown Prince, reigned for ninety-nine days, and died. Here, too, are more "apartments of Frederick the Great," with pictures by Rubens, including an "Adoration of the Magi," a good example of Watteau and a portrait of Voltaire drawn by Frederick's own hand. In the north wing are situated the present Emperor's suite of chambers, where distinguished men of all countries have discussed almost every conceivable topic, political, social, religious, martial, artistic, financial, and commercial, with one of the most interesting talkers of his time. No bloody tragedy has defiled the palace, as did the murder of Lord Darnley at Holyrood, that of the Duke of Guise (Sir Walter Scott's "Le Balafre") the chateau of Blois, the execution of the Bourbon Duc d'Enghien the palace of Vincennes, or the murder of the boy princes the Tower of London. But bloodless tragedy, and exquisite comedy, and farce too, have doubtless had their hour within the walls. One such incident of the politico-tragic kind was that which passed only two years ago between the Emperor and his Imperial Chancellor, when Prince von Buelow went as deputy from the Federal Council, the Parliament, and the people to pray the Emperor to exercise more caution in his public, or semi-public statements; and the historian may possibly find another, and not without its touch of comedy, in the reception by the Emperor of the Chinese prince, who headed the "mission of atonement" for the murder of the Emperor's Minister in Pekin during the Boxer troubles.

From the New Palace our foreigner will probably drive to the Marble Palace, which (for Baedeker is ever at one's elbow with the facts) he will mark was built in 1796 by Frederick William II, who died here, was completed in 1845 by Frederick William IV, and was the residence of the present Emperor at the time of his accession.

But while our foreigner has been hurrying from one palace to another, with his mind in a fog of historical and topographical confusion—if he is an American, half-hoping, half-expecting to meet the Emperor or Empress and secure a bow from one or other, or—why not?—one of William's well-known vigorous poignees de main, there is always one thought predominant in his mind—Sans Souci. That is the real object of his quest, the main attraction that has brought him, all unconscious of it, to Berlin, and not the laudable, but wholly mistaken efforts of the "Society for the Promotion of Tourist Traffic," which seeks to lure the moneyed and reluctant foreigner to the German capital. Our foreigner enters the Park of Sans Souci and his spirit is at rest. Now he knows where he really is—not in the wonderful new German Empire, not in modern Berlin with its splendid and to him unspeaking streets, its garish "night-life," its faultily-faultless municipal propriety, not in Potsdam, "the true cradle of the Prussian army," as Baedeker, deviating for an instant into metaphor, describes it, but simply in Sans Souci. He is now no longer in the twentieth century, but the eighteenth—one hundred and fifty years ago or more—in Frederick's day, the period of pigtails, of giant grenadiers in the old-time blue and red coats, the high and fantastic shako made of metal and tapering to a point, of three-cornered hats resting on powdered wigs, of yellow top-boots, and exhaling the general air of ruffianly geniality characteristic of the manners and soldiers of the age.

As our foreigner advances through the park, where, as he is told, the Emperor makes a promenade each Christmas Eve distributing ten-mark pieces (spiteful chroniclers make it three marks) to all and sundry poor, he will notice the fountain "the water of which rises to a height of 130 feet," with its twelve figures by French artists of the eighteenth century, and ascend the broad terraced flight of marble steps up which the present Crown Prince is credited with once urging his trembling steed—leading to the Mecca of his imagination, the palace Sans Souci itself. The building is only one story high, not large, reminding one somewhat of the Trianon at Versailles, though lacking the Trianon's finished lightness and elegance, yet with its semicircular colonnade distinctly French, and impressive by its elevated situation. The chief, the enduring, the magical impression, however, begins to form as our foreigner commences his pilgrimage through the rooms in which Frederick passed most of his later years. As he pauses in the Voltaire Chamber he imagines the two great figures, seated in stiff-backed chairs at a little table on which stand, perhaps, a pair of cut Venetian wine-glasses and a tall bottle of old Rheinish—the great man of thought and the great man of action, the two great atheists and freethinkers of Europe, with their earnest, sharply featured faces, and their wigs bobbing at each other, discussing the events and tendencies of their time. And how they must have talked—no wonder Frederick, though the idol of his subjects, withdrew for such discourse from the society of the day, with its twaddle of the tea-cups and its parade-ground platitudes.

As in our own time, there was then no lack of stimulating topics. The influence of the old Catholicism and the old feudalism was rapidly diminishing, the night of superstition was passing, and the age of reason, that was to culminate with such tremendous and horrible force in the French Revolution, was beginning to dawn. The encyclopaedists, with Diderot and d'Alembert in the van, were holding council in France, mobilizing the intellects of the time, and, like Bacon, taking all knowledge for their province, for a fierce attack on the old philosophy, the old statecraft, the old art, and the old religion. Are such topics and such men to deal with them to be found to-day, or have all the great problems of humanity and its intellect been started, studied, and resolved? And are motor-cars, aeroplanes, dances, Dreadnoughts, millinery, rag-time reviews, auction bridge, the rise and fall of stocks, and the last extraordinary round of golf, all that is left for the present generation to discuss?

However, the guardian of the palace has moved on, the other members of the party are getting bored, and our foreigner follows the guardian's lead. Thus conducted, he passes through half a dozen rooms, each a museum of historical associations—the dining-room with its round table made famous by Menzel's picture (now in the Berlin National Gallery) in which Frederick and his guests are seen seated, but in which it is difficult if not impossible to be certain which is the host; the concert-room with the clock which Frederick was in the habit of winding up, and which "is said to have stopped at the precise moment of his death, 2.20 a.m., August 17th, 1786"; the death-chamber with its eloquent and pathetic statue, Magnussen's "Last Moments of Frederick the Great"; the library and picture gallery. Strangely enough, Baedeker has no mention of a female subject portrayed in the concert-room in all sorts of attitudes and in all sorts and no sort of costume. Yet every one has heard of La Barberini, the only woman, the chroniclers (and Voltaire among them) assure us, Frederick ever loved. She was no woman of birth or wit like the Pompadour, Recamier or Stael, but of merely ordinary understanding and the wife of a subordinate official of the Court. She charmed Frederick, however, and may have loved him. If so, let us remember that the morals of those days were not those of ours, and not grudge the lonely King his enjoyment of her beauty and amiability.

One thing only remains for our foreigner to see—the coffin of Frederick in the old Garrison Church. It lies in a small chamber behind the pulpit and looks more like the strong box of a miser than the last resting-place of a great king. For such a man it seems poor and mean, but probably Frederick himself did not wish for better. He must have known that his real monument would be his reputation with posterity. In fact the chroniclers agree, and the noble statue of Magnussen confirms the impression, that at the close of his stormy life he was glad finally to be at rest anywhere. "Quand je serai la," he was wont to say, pointing to where his dogs were buried in the palace park, "je serai sans souci."

In every court there is a disposition on the part of courtiers to agree with everything the monarch says, to flatter him as dexterously as they can, to minister to princely vanity, if vanity there be, to "crawl on their bellies," in the choice language of hostile court critics, or "wag their tails" and double up their bodies at every bow; show, in short, in different ways, often all unconsciously, the presence of a servile and self-interested mind. The disposition is not to be found in courts alone. It is one of the commonest and most malignant qualities of humanity, and can any day and at any hour be observed in action in any Ministry of State, any mercantile office, any great warehouse, any public institution, in every scene, in fact, where one or many men are dependent for their living on the favour or caprice of another. On the other hand, let it not be forgotten that this innate tendency of human nature is at times replaced by another which has frequently the same outward manifestations, but is not the same feeling, the sentiment, namely, of embarrassment arising from the fear of being servile, and the equally frequent embarrassment arising from that principle which is always at work in the mind, the association of ideas, which in the case of a monarch presents him to the ordinary mortal as embodying ideas of grandeur, power, might, and intellect to which the latter is unaccustomed. Education, economic changes, and the art of manners have done much to conceal, if not eradicate, human proneness to servility, and the Byzantinism of the time of Caligula and Nero, of Tiberius, Constantine, or Nikiphoros, of the Stuarts and the Bourbons, has long been modified into respect for oneself as well as for the person one addresses. There are, however, still traces of the old evil in the German atmosphere, and in especial a tendency among officials of all grades to be humble and submissive to those above them and haughty and domineering to those below them. The tendency is perhaps not confined to Germany, but it seems, to the inhabitant of countries where bureaucracy is not a powerful caste, to penetrate German society and ordinary life to a greater degree—yet not to a great degree—than in more democratic societies.

The Emperor naturally knows nothing of such a thing, for there is no one superior to him in the Empire in point of rank, and he is much too modern, too well educated, and of too kindly and liberal a nature to encourage or permit Byzantinism towards him on the part of others. Indeed Byzantinism was never a Hohenzollern failing. In his able work on German civilization Professor Richard tells of some Silesian peasants who knelt down when presenting a petition to Frederick William I, and were promptly told to get up, as "such an attitude was unworthy of a human being." Only on one occasion in the reign has an action of the Emperor's afforded ground for the suspicion that he was for a moment filled with the spirit of the Byzantine emperors—namely, when he demanded the "kotow" from the Chinese Prince Tschun, who led the "mission of atonement" to Germany. This, however, was not really the result of a Byzantine character or spirit, but of the excusable anger of a man whose innocent representative had been treacherously killed.

Of affinity with the idea of Byzantinism is that as frequently occurring idea in German court and ordinary life conveyed by the word "reaction." Here again we have one of those qualities to be found among mankind everywhere and always: the instinct opposed to change, even to those changes for the good we call progress, the disposition that made Horace deride the laudator temporis acti se puero of his day, the feeling of the man who laments the passing of the "good old times" and the military veteran who assures us that "the country, sir, is going to the dogs." In political life such men are usually to be found professing conservatism, owners of land, dearer to them often than life itself, which they fear political change will damage or diminish. In Germany the Conservative forces are the old agrarian aristocracy, the military nobility, and the official hierarchy, who make a worship of tradition, hold for the most part the tenets of orthodox Protestantism, dread the growing influence of industrialism, and are members of the Landlords' Association: types of a dying feudalism, disposed to believe nothing advantageous to the community if it conflicts with any privilege of their class. Under the name of Junker, the Conservative landowners of the region of Prussia east of the Elbe, they have become everywhere a byword for pride, selfishness, in a word—reaction. They and men of their kidney are to be distinguished from the German "people" in the English sense, and hold themselves vastly superior to the burghertum, the vast middle class. They dislike the "academic freedom" of the university professor, would limit the liberty of the press and restrain the right of public meeting, and increase rather than curtail the powers of the police. On the other hand, if they are a powerful drag on the Emperor's Liberal tendencies—Liberal, that is, in the Prussian sense—towards a comprehensive and well-organized social policy, they are at least reliable supporters of his Government for the military and naval budgets, since they believe as whole-heartedly in the rule of force as the Emperor himself. The German Conservative would infinitely prefer a return to absolute government to the introduction of parliamentary government. At the same time it should not be supposed that the Emperor or his Chancellor, or even his Court, are reactionary in the sense or measure in which the Socialist papers are wont to assert. It is doubtful if nowadays the Emperor would venture to be reactionary in any despotic way. Given that his monarchy and the spirit that informs it are secure, that Caesar gets all that is due to Caesar, and that he and his Government are left the direction of foreign policy, he is quite willing that the people should legislate for themselves, enjoy all the rights that belong to them under the Rechtsstaat established by Frederick the Great, and, in short, enjoy life as best they can.



VII.



"DROPPING THE PILOT"

Heinrich von Treitschke, the German historian, writing to a friend, speaks of the dismissal of Prince Bismarck as "an indelible stain on Prussian history and a tragic stroke of fate the like of which the world has never seen since the days of Themistocles."

Opinions may differ as to the indelibility of the stain—which must be taken as a reflection on the conduct of the Emperor; and parallels might perhaps be found, at least by students of English history, in the dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII, or that of the elder Pitt by George III. But there may well be general agreement as to the tragic nature of the fall, for it was a struggle between a strong personality and the unknown, but irresistible, laws of fate.

The historic quarrel between the Emperor and his Chancellor was not merely the inevitable clash between two dispositions fundamentally different, but between—to adapt the expression of a modern poet—"an age that was dying and one that was coming to birth." Old Prussia was giving place to New Germany. The atmosphere of war had changed to an atmosphere of peace. The standards of education and comfort were rising fast. The old German idealism was being pushed aside by materialism and commercialism, and the thoughts of the nation were turning from problems of philosophy and art to problems of practical science and experiment. Thought was to be followed by action. Mankind, after conversing with the ancients for centuries, now began to converse with one another. The desire for national expansion, if it could not be gratified by conquest, was to be satisfied by the spread of German influence, power, activity, and enterprise in all parts of the world. Such a collision of the ages is tragedy on the largest scale, for nothing can be more tragic—more inevitable or inexorable—than the march of Progress.

The natures of the two men were, in important respects, fundamentally different. Bismarck's nature was prosaic, primitive, unscrupulous, domineering: a type which in an English schoolboy would be described as a bully, with the modification that while the bully in an English school is always depicted as a coward at heart (a supposition, however, by no means always borne out in after-life), Bismarck had the courage of a bull-dog. Moreover, Bismarck was a Conservative, a statesman of expediency. The Emperor is a man of principle; and as expediency, in a world of change, is a note of Conservatism, so, in the same world, is principle the leit-motiv of Liberalism. To call the Emperor a man of principle may appear to be at variance with general opinion as founded on exceptional occurrences, but these do not supply sufficient material for a fair judgment, and there are many acts of his reign which show him to be Liberal in disposition.

Not, it need hardly be said, Liberal in the English political sense. Liberalism in England—the two-party country—usually means a strong desire to vote against a Conservative on the assumption that the Conservative is nearly always completely wrong and never completely right. As will be seen later, there is no political Liberalism in the English sense in Germany. The Emperor's Liberalism shows itself in his sympathy with his people in their desire for improvement as a society of which he is the head, selected by God and only restricted by a constitutional compact solemnly sworn to by the contracting parties. Proofs of this sympathy might be adduced—his determination to carry through his grandfather's social policy against Bismarck's wish, however hostile he was and is to Social Democracy; his steadfast peace policy, however nearly he has brought his country to war; his encouragement of the arts among the lower classes, however limited his views on art may be; his friendly intercourse with people of all nationalities and occupations.

The characters also of the two men were different. Bismarck's was the result of civilian training; the Emperor's of military training. Bismarck had small regard for manners, and would have scoffed had anyone told him "manners makyth man"; the Emperor is courtesy itself, as every one who meets him testifies. Bismarck was fond of eating and drinking, with the appetite of a horse and the thirst of a drayman, until he was nearly eighty, and smoked strong cigars from morning to night—a very pleasant thing, of course, if you can stand it. The Emperor has never cared particularly for what are called the pleasures of the table, is fond of apples and one or two simple German dishes, and has never been what in Germany is called a "chain-smoker." Bismarck appears not to have had the faintest interest in art; the Emperor, while of late disclaiming in all art company his lack of expert knowledge, has always found delight in art's most classical forms.

Yet the two men had some deeply marked traits of character in common. The Emperor, as was Bismarck, is Prussian, that is to say mediaeval, to the core, notwithstanding that he had an English mother and lived in early childhood under English influences. He has always exhibited, as Bismarck always did, the genuine qualities of the Prussian—self-confidence, tenacity of purpose, absolute trust in his own ideals and intolerance of those of other people, impatience of rivalry, selfishness for the advantage of Prussia as against other German States, as strong as that for the newly born Empire against other countries. Finally, the Emperor is convinced, as Bismarck was convinced, that in the first and last resort, a society, a people, a nation, is based on force and by force alone can prosper, or even be held together. Neither Bismarck nor the Emperor could ever sympathize with those who look to a time when one strong and sensible policeman will be of more value to a community than a thousand unproductive soldiers.

Long before he became Imperial Chancellor Bismarck had done masterly and important work for the country. In 1862 he began his career by filling the post of interim Minister President of Prussia at a time when the present Emperor was still an infant. It was on taking up the position that he made the celebrated statement that "great questions cannot be decided by speeches and majority-votes, but must be resolved by blood and iron." Born in April, 1815, two months before the battle of Waterloo, at Schoenhausen, in the Prussian Province of Saxony, not far from Magdeburg, he studied at the universities of Gottingen and Berlin and passed two steps of the official ladder—Auscultator and Referendar—which may be translated respectively protocolist and junior counsel. His parliamentary career began in 1846, two years before the second French Revolution. At that time Prussia was an absolute monarchy, without a Constitution or a Parliament. There was no conscription, that foundation-stone of Prussian power and of the modern German Empire. Then came the agitated days of 1848, the sanguinary "March Days" in Berlin. Frederick William IV was on the throne, and in 1847 permitted the calling of a Parliament, the forerunner of the present Reichstag; but only to represent the "rights," not the "opinions," of the people. "No piece of paper," cried the King, "shall come, like a second Providence, between God in heaven and this land!" That, too, was Bismarck's sentiment, courageously expressed by him when the Diet was debating the idea of introducing the English parliamentary system, and proved by him in character and conduct until the day of his death. He would have made a splendid Jacobite!

The three "March Days," the 18th, 19th, and 20th of March, 1848, form one of the few occasions in Prussian or German history on which Crown and people came into direct and serious conflict. According to German accounts of the episode the outbreak of the revolution in France was followed by a large influx into Berlin of Poles and Frenchmen, who instigated the populace to violence. Collisions with the police occurred, and on March 15th barricades began to be erected. Traffic in the streets was only possible with the aid of the military. The King was in despair, not so much, the accounts say, at the danger he was in of losing his throne as at the shedding of the blood of his folk, and issued a proclamation promising to grant all desirable reforms, abolishing the censorship of the press, and summoning the Diet to discuss the terms of a Constitution. The citizens, however, continued to build barricades, made their way into the courtyards of the palace, and demanded the withdrawal of the troops. The King ordered the courtyards to be cleared, the palace guard advanced, and, either by accident or design, the guns of two grenadiers went off. No one was hit, but cries of "Treason!" and "Murder!" were raised. Within an hour a score of barricades were set up in various parts of the town and manned by a medley of workmen, university students, artists, and even men of the Landwehr, or military reserve.

At this time there were about 14,000 troops at the King's disposal, and with these the authorities proceeded against the mob. A series of scattered engagements between mob and military began. They lasted for eight hours, until at midnight General von Prittwitz, who was in command of the troops, was able to report to the King that the revolution was subdued.

Next morning, however, the 19th, numerous deputations of citizens presented themselves at the palace, and assuring the King that it was the only means of preventing the further effusion of blood, renewed the request for the withdrawal of the troops. The King consented, notwithstanding the opposition of Prince, afterwards Emperor, William, and the troops were drawn off to Potsdam. The citizens thereupon appointed a National Guard, which took charge of the palace, and in the evening a vast crowd appeared beneath the King's windows bearing the corpses of those who had fallen at the barricades during the two preceding days. The dead bodies were laid in rows in the palace courtyard, and the King was invited out to see them. He could not but obey, and bowed to the crowd as he stood bareheaded before the bodies.

It is clear from the occurrences in Berlin in 1848 that while the Prussian idea of monarchy is deeply rooted in the German mind, the possibility of a sudden change in public sentiment and a radical alteration of the relations between Crown and people are never at any time to be wholly disregarded. Hence it is that the Emperor and his Government are so insistent on the doctrine of Heaven-granted sovereignty, so ready to support more or less autocratic monarchies in other parts of the world, and so sensitive to popular movements like Anarchism and Nihilism in Russia, or the always-smouldering Polish agitation and the propaganda of the Social Democracy in Germany. When King Frederick William IV said to his assembled generals at Potsdam a week after the "March Days," "Never have I felt more free or more secure than when under the protection of my burghers," his words were drowned in the buzz of murmurs and the angry clanking of swords. The Emperor to-day might, or might not, endorse the words of his ancestor. Most probably he would not; for, judging by his speeches, his care for the army, the military state with which he surrounds himself, and his habitual appearance in uniform, he, though in truth far more a civil monarch than the War Lord foreign writers delight in painting him, is evidently determined to rely only on his soldiers for every eventuality at home as well as abroad.

Perhaps the best German authorities on Bismarck's falling-out with the young Emperor are the statements regarding it to be found in the memoranda supplied at the time by Prince Bismarck himself to Dr. Moritz Busch; the Memoirs of Prince Hohenlohe-Schillingsfuerst, subsequently Imperial Chancellor; and the monograph on Bismarck by Dr. Hans Blum, one of the Chancellor's confidants. The memoranda supplied to Busch make regrettably few references to the subject, beyond giving the terms of the official resignation and some scanty addenda thereto; but enough is said generally by Busch concerning Bismarck's conversations to show that the Chancellor was deeply mortified by his dismissal. Bismarck indeed expressly denies this in a conversational statement quoted by an able Bismarckian writer of our own time, Dr. Paul Liman; but in view of subsequent events and statements the denial can hardly be taken as sincere. The passage referred to is as follows:—

"I bear no grudge against my young master, who is fiery and lively. He wishes to make all men happy, and that is very natural at his age. I, for my part, believe perhaps less in this possibility, and have told him so too. It is very natural that a mentor like myself does not please him, and that he therefore rejects my advice. An old carthorse and a young courser go ill in harness together. Only politics are not so easy as a chemical combination: they deal with human beings. I wish certainly that his experiments may succeed, and am not in the least angry with him. I stand towards him like a father whom a son has grieved; the father may suffer thereby, but all the same he says to himself, 'He is a fine young fellow.' When I was young I followed my King everywhere: now that I am old I can no longer accompany my master when he travels so far. Accordingly it is unavoidable that counsellors who remained closer to him should win his confidence at my expense. He is very easily influenced when one puts before him ideas which he supposes will happily affect the condition of the people, and he can hardly wait to put them into operation. The Kaiser will achieve reputation at once: I have my own to watch over, to defend. I have sacrificed myself for renown and will not place it in jeopardy."

Prince Hohenlohe's Memoirs are much more valuable in respect of positive information, and especially in supplying an account of the incident taken from the lips of the Emperor himself. The Prince was without his great predecessor's ability, but was much more amiable and sincere. He was, moreover, a friend of both the parties concerned, and he impartially jotted down events at the time they occurred. Lastly, if he was a courtier at heart, he was that not wholly unknown thing, an honest one. Dr. Hans Blum is obviously a partisan of the great Chancellor's, but he may also be referred to for a fairly connected account of the fall and the events that succeeded it up to the time of Bismarck's death on July 30, 1898.

Apart from the differences in the ages and temperaments of the Emperor and the Chancellor, there were differences in their views as to certain measures of policy. There was a difference of opinion as to German policy regarding Russia. Friendship with that country had been the policy of both Emperor William I and Bismarck, and the latter had effected a reinsurance treaty with Russia, stipulating for Russian neutrality in case of a war between Germany and France, notwithstanding the subsistence of the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy. The reinsurance treaty, which had been made for a period of three years, was now about to expire, and while Bismarck desired its renewal, the Emperor, in a spirit of loyalty to Austria, was against the renewal, and the treaty was not renewed. This was the "new course" as it regarded Russia. The difference with regard to the anti-Socialist Laws has been referred to in our chapter on the accession.

The Royal Order of September, 1852, which has been mentioned as leading immediately to the resignation, regulated intercourse between the Prussian Ministers and the Crown, its chief provision being that only the Minister President, and not individual Ministers, should have audience of the Emperor regarding matters of home and foreign policy. The Emperor desired the abrogation of the Order, for he wished to consult with the Ministers individually. The text of Bismarck's official resignation, after describing the origin of the Order, continues:

"If each individual Minister can receive commands from his Sovereign without previous arrangement with his colleagues, a coherent policy, for which some one is to be responsible, is an impossibility. It would be impossible for any of the Ministers, and especially for the Minister President, to bear the constitutional responsibility for the Cabinet as a whole. Such a provision as that contained in the Order of 1852 could be dispensed with under the absolute monarchy and could also be dispensed with to-day if we returned to absolutism without ministerial responsibility. But according to the constitutional arrangements now legally in force the control of the Cabinet by a President under the Order of 1852 is indispensable."

The Emperor replied to Prince Bismarck's resignation in a communication which the reader, according to his disposition, will regard as an effusion of the heart, immensely creditable to its composer, a model of an official reply as demanded by circumstances, a striking example of the art of throwing dust in the public eye, or an equally striking contribution to the literature of excusable hypocrisy. It was as follows:—

"MY DEAR PRINCE,—With deep emotion I learn from your request of the 18th instant that you have decided to retire from the offices which you have filled for long years with incomparable success. I had hoped not to have been compelled to entertain the thought of separation during our lives. While, however, in full consciousness of the important consequences of your retirement, I am forced to accustom myself to the thought. I do so, it is true, with a heavy heart, but in the strong confidence that the grant of your request will contribute as much as possible to the protection and preservation for as long as possible of a life and strength of unreplaceable value to the Fatherland.

"The grounds you offer for your resignation convince me that any further attempt to induce you to reconsider your determination would have no prospect of success. I acquiesce, therefore, in your wish by hereby graciously releasing you from your offices as Imperial Chancellor, President of my State Ministry, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and trust that your counsels and energy, your loyalty and devotion, will not be wanting to me and the country in the future also.

"I have considered it as one of the most valued privileges in my life that at the commencement of my reign I had you at my side as my first counsellor. What you have done and achieved for Prussia and Germany, what you have done for my House, my ancestors, and me, will remain to me and the German people in grateful and imperishable memory. But also in foreign countries your wise and energetic peace policy, which I, too, in the future also, as a result of sincere conviction, decide to take as the guiding line of my conduct, will be always gloriously recognized. It is not in my power to requite your services as they deserve. I must rest satisfied with assuring you of my own and the country's ineffaceable thanks. As a sign of this thanks I confer on you the rank of a Duke of Lauenburg. I will also send you a life-sized picture of myself.

"God bless you, my dear Prince, and grant you still many years of an old age undisturbed and blessed with the consciousness of duty faithfully done.

"In this disposition I remain to you and yours in the future also your sincere, obliged, and grateful Emperor and King,

"WILLIAM I.R."

The Emperor has never, so far as is publicly known, issued, or caused to be issued, an official account of the episode and its peripeties, but the story he poured, evidently out of a full heart, into the ears of Prince Hohenlohe, then Statthalter of Alsace-Lorraine, during a midnight drive from the railway station at Hagenau to the hunting lodge at Sufflenheim, is an historical document of practically official authenticity. It appears as follows in the Prince's Memoirs:—

"STRASBURG, 26 April, 1890.

"On the evening of the 23rd, nine o'clock, I drove with Thaden and Moritz to Hagenau, there to await the arrival of the Emperor. We spent the evening with circle-officer Klemm. I went to bed at eleven o'clock in the guest-room, and slept until half-past twelve. Moritz and Thaden drove to the station with a view to changing their clothes in the train. At one o'clock I was again at the station, when the Emperor punctually arrived. I presented the gentlemen to him, and turned over General Hahnke to Baron Charpentier and Lieutenant Cramer, for them to conduct him to the hunting ground. Our journey lasted about an hour, during which the Emperor related without a pause the whole story of his quarrel with Bismarck. According to this the coolness had already begun in December. The Emperor then demanded that something should be done about the Working Class Question. The Chancellor was against doing anything. The Emperor held the view that if the Government did not take the initiative, the Reichstag, i.e. the Socialists, Centre and Progressives, would take the matter in hand, and then the Government would lag behind. The Chancellor wanted to lay the anti-Socialist Bill with the expulsion paragraph again before the Reichstag, dissolving the chamber if it did not accept the Bill, and then, if it came to disturbances, to take energetic measures. The Emperor objected, saying that if his grandfather, after a long and glorious reign, were forced to repress disturbances no one would think ill of him. It was different in his case, who had as yet accomplished nothing. People would reproach him with beginning his reign by shooting down his subjects. He was ready to act, but he wished to do it with a good conscience after endeavouring to redress the well-founded grievances of the workmen, or at least after doing everything to meet their justifiable claims.

"The Emperor therefore demanded at a ministerial conference the submission of ministerial edicts which should contain what subsequently they in fact did contain. Bismarck would not hear of it. The Emperor then laid the question before the Council of State, and eventually obtained the edicts in spite of Bismarck's opposition. Bismarck, however, secretly continued his opposition, and tried to persuade Switzerland to persevere with its idea of an International Labour Conference. The attempt was rendered nugatory by the loyal attitude of the Swiss Minister in Berlin, Roth. At the very same time Bismarck was trying to influence the diplomatists against the conference.

"The relations between the Emperor and Bismarck, already shaken by these dissensions, were still further embittered by the question of the Cabinet Order of 1852. Bismarck had often advised the Emperor to summon the Ministers to him. This the Emperor did, and as the intercourse became more frequent Bismarck took it ill, was jealous, and dragged out the Order of 1852 so as to keep Ministers from the Emperor. The Emperor resisted and acquired the abrogation of the Cabinet Order. Bismarck at first agreed, but gave no further sign in the matter. The Emperor now demanded either that the recission of the Order should be laid before him, or that Bismarck should resign—a demand which the Emperor communicated to Bismarck through General von Hahnke. The Chancellor delayed, but at length gave in the resignation on March 18th. It should be added that already, at the beginning of February, Bismarck had told the Emperor that he would retire. Afterwards, however, he declared that he had thought the position over and would remain—a thing not agreeable to the Emperor, though he made no remonstrance until the affair of the Cabinet Order came in addition. The visit of Windthorst to the Chancellor also gave rise to unpleasantness, though it was not the deciding factor. In any case the last three weeks were filled with disagreeable conversations between the Emperor and the Chancellor. It was, as the Emperor expressed it, a 'devil of a time,' and the question was, as the Emperor himself said, whether the dynasty Bismarck or the dynasty Hohenzollern should reign. The Emperor spoke very angrily, too, about the article in the Hamburg News. In foreign policy Bismarck, according to the Emperor, went his own way, and kept back from the Emperor much of what he did. 'Yes,' he said, 'Bismarck had it conveyed to St. Petersburg that I wanted to adopt an anti-Russian policy. But for that,' the Emperor added, 'he had no proofs.'

"This conversation," concludes Prince Hohenlohe, "between the Emperor and myself was told partly on the way to the lodge and partly on the way back. Between came the shooting; but there was no sport, as the Emperor took his stand in the dark under a tree on which was a cock that did not 'call.'"

The following further extracts from the Hohenlohe Memoirs are given rather with the object of showing the state of the political and social atmosphere in which the quarrel took place than as throwing any fresh light on its course. In June of the preceding year (1889) occurs an entry which registers the first signs of the coming storm. Prince Hohenlohe is telling of a visit he made in June to the Grand Duke of Baden, whom he found irritated by Bismarck's proposal, made in connection with the arrest of a Prussian police officer by the Swiss, to close the frontier against the canton Aargau. The Grand Duke, the Prince relates, quoted Herbert Bismarck as saying he "could not understand his father any longer and that people were beginning to believe he was not right in his head."

The next entry in the Journal is dated Strasburg, August 24th. It concerns another meeting with the Grand Duke, who now told him that Bismarck had changed his views and that these oscillations had puzzled the Emperor and at the same time heightened his self-consciousness; moreover, that the Emperor noticed that things were being kept back from him and was becoming suspicious. There had already been a collision between the Emperor and the Chancellor and the latter might have to go. What then? Probably the Emperor thought of conducting foreign policy himself—but that, added the Grand Duke, would be very dangerous.

The feeling at Court regarding Bismarck's fall is shown by a passage in the Memoirs about this time. It runs:

"At 1.30 p.m. dinner (at the palace) at which I sat between Stosch and Kameke. The former told me much about his own quarrel with Bismarck, and was as gay as a snow-king that he can now speak freely and that the great man is no longer to be feared. This comfortable sentiment is obvious here on all sides."

The anecdote still current in Berlin, that Bismarck actually threw an inkstand at the Emperor's head is reduced to its proper proportions by the following entry:

"The Grand Duke of Baden, with whom I was yesterday, knows a good deal about the recent crisis. He says the cause of the breach between the Emperor and Chancellor was a question of power, and that all other differences of opinion about social legislation and other things were only secondary. The chief ground was the Cabinet Order of 1852, which Bismarck pressed on the attention of the Ministers without the Emperor's knowledge, and so hindered them from going to make their reports to the Emperor. The Emperor wanted the Order rescinded, while Bismarck was against it. Nor had the conversation with Windthorst led to the breach. A talk between the Emperor and Bismarck about this conversation is said to have been so tempestuous that the Emperor subsequently said when describing it, 'He (Bismarck) all but threw the inkstand at me.'" To Hohenlohe Bismarck said, as Hohenlohe remarked that the resignation had surprised him, "Me also," and that three weeks before he did not think things would end as they had. Bismarck added: "However, it was to be expected, for the Emperor is now quite determined to rule alone."

Finally the Prince's Journal has the following:

"Two things struck me in these last three days: one that no one has any time and every one is in a greater hurry than before; and secondly, that individualities have expanded. Every individual is conscious of himself, while before, under the predominating influence of Prince Bismarck, individualities shrank and were kept down. Now they are all swollen like sponges placed in water. That has its advantages, but also its dangers. The single-minded will is lacking."

The period between the great Chancellor's fall and his death nine years later was marked by so many incidents as to make it almost as mouvemente as the period of the fall itself. He retired to Friedrichsruh, all the more immediately as the new Chancellor, General von Caprivi, showed such indecent haste in taking possession of the official residence that a portion of Bismarck's furniture was broken and rendered useless. That Bismarck retired with the angry feelings of a Coriolanus in his heart, or, as Anglo-Saxon slang would have it, of a "bear with a sore head," became evident only a few weeks later. He was visited by the inevitable interviewer, and chose the Hamburg News as the medium of communicating to the world his opinion of the new regime and the men who were conducting it; and made use of that paper with such instant vigour and acerbity that little more than two months from his retirement elapsed before the new Chancellor thought it advisable to issue instructions to Germany's diplomatic representatives warning them carefully to distinguish between the "present sentiments and views of the Duke of Lauenburg and those of the erstwhile Prince Bismarck," and to pay no serious attention to the former. Bismarck replied in the Hamburg News that he would not allow his mouth to be closed, and set about proving that he meant what he said. Nothing the men of the "new course" could do met with his approval. The first thing he fell foul of was the Anglo-German agreement of July 1, 1890, which gave Germany Heligoland in exchange for Zanzibar, deploring the badness of the bargain for Germany, and evidently not foreseeing the importance that island's position, commanding the approaches to the mouths of the Elbe and the Weser, was afterwards to possess. Besides the friendliness with England, the detachment of Germany from Russia in favour of Austria, also a feature of the "new course," did not please him as tending to drive Russia into the arms of France.

His prescience, however, in this respect was demonstrated when a year later the Czar saluted a French squadron in the harbour of Cronstadt to the strains of the "Marseillaise" and signed a secret agreement that was alluded to four years later by the French Premier, M. Ribot, in the French Chamber of Deputies, who spoke of Russia as "our ally," and was publicly announced in 1897, on the occasion of President Felix Faure's visit to St. Petersburg, by the Czar's now famous employment of the words "deux nations amies et alliees."

The ex-Chancellor was as little satisfied with the new tariff treaties entered into by General Caprivi with Austria, Italy, Belgium, and other countries, which the Emperor, wiser, as events have shown, than his former Minister, characterized on their passage by Parliament as the country's "salvation" (eine rettende Tat). The ex-Chancellor's caustic but mistaken criticism was punished by the calculated neglect of the Berlin authorities to invite him to the ceremonies attending the celebration of the ninetieth birthday of his old comrade, General von Moltke, in October, 1890, and that of his funeral in the following April: still more publicly punished in connexion with the marriage of his son Herbert.

The wedding of the latter to Countess Marguerite Hoyos was to take place in Vienna on June 21, 1892, and on the 18th Prince Bismarck started with his family to attend it. The journey was a species of triumphal progress to Vienna, but it was to end in disappointment and chagrin. As the result of representations from Germany, made doubtless with the Emperor's assent, if not at his suggestion, Bismarck was met on his arrival with the news that the German Ambassador, Prince Reuss, and the Embassy staff had orders to absent themselves from the wedding, that the widow of the Crown Prince Rudolph, who had accepted a card of invitation to it, had suddenly left Vienna, and that the Emperor Franz Joseph would not receive him. The German action was explained by the publication two months later of the edict, stigmatized by Bismarck as an "Urias Letter," in which Caprivi warned foreign Governments against attaching any importance to the utterances of the Duke of Lauenburg. The Bismarckian and anti-Bismarckian storm came up afresh in Germany. Bismarck was reproached by the Government as "injuring monarchical feeling," and by his enemies as a traitor to his country; while the angry statesman published a statement expressing the opinion that

"the control of private social intercourse abroad, and the influencing of dinner invitations, were not tasks for which high officers of State were selected nor public money for the payment of diplomatic representatives voted":

doubting, at the same time, "if the foreign archives of any other country than Germany could show a parallel to the incident."

The storm, notwithstanding, had a good effect, for it brought out in bold relief the immense regard and respect the overwhelming majority of his countrymen entertained for the chief architect of their Empire; and when Bismarck fell ill at Kissingen in 1893 the Emperor, subordinating his political animosities to the chivalrous instincts of his nature, telegraphed his sorrow to the patient and offered to lend him one of the royal castles for the purpose of his convalescence. Bismarck declined, but not ungratefully, and the way to a reconciliation was opened. Next year, 1894, Bismarck suffered from influenza, and when this time the Emperor sent an adjutant to Friedrichsruh to express his regret, invited him to attend the festivities on the forthcoming royal birthday, and sent along with the invitation a flask of Steinberger Cabinet from the imperial cellar in characteristic German proof of the sincerity of his feelings, the country was delighted. Bismarck accepted the invitation and doubtless drank the Steinberger; and the visit to Berlin followed in due time.

The reconciliation was completed amid sympathetic popular rejoicing. The Emperor sent his brother, Prince Henry, to bring the ex-Chancellor from the railway station to the palace, where the Emperor himself, surrounded by a brilliant staff, stood to welcome the guest. Bismarck spent the day at the palace with the Royal Family and was taken back to the railway station in the evening by the Emperor. A few days later the Emperor returned the visit at Friedrichsruh.

The quiet of the ex-Chancellor's last years was once unpleasantly affected by the Reichstag in 1895, at the instance of his parliamentary enemies, rejecting, to its everlasting discredit, a proposal for an official vote of congratulation to the ex-Chancellor on his eightieth birthday; but against this unpleasantness may be set his gratification at the receipt of a telegram from the Emperor expressing his "deepest indignation" at the rejection.

Prince Bismarck died on July 30th, 1898, and was laid to rest at Friedrichsruh in the presence of the Emperor and Empress, while the world paused for a moment in its occupations to discuss with sympathetic admiration the dead man's personality and career. Bismarck's spirit is still abroad in Germany, and the popular memory of him is as fresh now as though he died but yesterday. It is more than probable, much rather is it certain, that all trace of irritation with the proud old Chancellor has long faded from the Emperor's mind: indeed at no time does there seem to have been sentiments of personal or permanent rancour on one side or the other. The episode, in short, was an inevitable collision of ages, temperaments, and times, regrettable no doubt as a possibly harmful example of political discord among the leaders of the nation, but—with due respect for the judgment of so capable an historian as von Treitschke—leaving no "indelible stain" either on the pages of German history or on the reputations of Bismarck or the Emperor.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse