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of Andreas Schliiter at Berlin, and the Renaissance and
rococo work at Liibeck and Danzig, a knowledge and ap-
preciation worthy of a trained architect and archaeologist.

As to his feeling for literature, his addresses on various
occasions show amply that he has read to good pur-
pose, not only in the best authors of his own, but of other
countries. While there is not the slightest tinge of pedan-
try in his speeches or talk, there crop out in them evi-
dences of a curious breadth and universality in his read-
ing. His line of reading for amusement was touched when,
at the close of an hour of serious official business, an il-
lustration of mine from Rudyard Kipling led him to re-
call many of that author's most striking situations, into
which he entered with great zest; and at various other
times he cited sayings of Mark Twain which he seemed
especially to enjoy. Here it may be mentioned that one
may note the same breadth in his love for art; for not
only does he rejoice in the higher achievements of archi-
tecture, sculpture, and painting, but he takes pleasure in
lighter work, and an American may note that he is greatly
interested in the popular illustrations of Gibson.

I once asked some of the leading people nearest him
how he found time to observe so wide a range, and re-



232 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIX

ceived answer that it was as much a marvel to them as
to me ; he himself once told me that he found much time
for reading during his hunting excursions.

Nor does he make excursions into various fields of
knowledge by books alone. Any noteworthy discovery
or gain in any leading field of thought or effort attracts
his attention at once, and must be presented to him by
some one who ranks among its foremost exponents.

But here it should be especially noted that, active and
original as the Emperor is, he is not, and never has been,
caught by fads either in art, science, literature, or in any
other field of human activity. The great artists who can-
not draw or paint, and who, therefore, despise those who
can and are glorified by those who cannot ; the great com-
posers who can give us neither harmony nor melody, and
therefore have a fanatical following among those who
labor under like disabilities; the great writers who are
unable to attain strength, lucidity, or beauty, and there-
fore secure praise for profundity and occult wisdom,
none of these influence him. In these, as in other things,
the Hohenzollern sanity asserts itself. He recognizes the
fact that normal and healthy progress is by an evolution
of the better out of the good, and that the true function
of genius in every field is to promote some phase of this
evolution either by aiding to create a better environment,
or by getting sight of higher ideals.

As to his manner, it is in ordinary intercourse sim-
ple, natural, kindly, and direct, and on great public oc-
casions dignified without the slightest approach to pom-
posity. I have known scores of our excellent fellow-citi-
zens in little offices who were infinitely more assuming.
It was once said of a certain United States senator that
"one must climb a ladder to speak with him"; no one
would dream of making any assertion of this sort re-
garding the present ruler of the Prussian Kingdom and
German Empire.

But it would be unjust to suppose that minor gifts
and acquirements form the whole of his character; they



MY RECOLLECTIONS OF WILLIAM 11-1879-1903 233

are but a part of its garb. He is certainly developing
the characteristics of a successful ruler of men and the
solid qualities of a statesman. It was my fortune, from
time to time, to hear him discuss at some length current
political questions; and his views were presented with
knowledge, clearness, and force. There was nothing at
all flighty in any of his statements or arguments. There
is evidently in him a large fund of that Hohenzollern
common sense which has so often happily modified Ger-
man, and even European, politics. He recognizes, of
course, as his ancestors generally have done, that his is
a military monarchy, and that Germany is and must re-
main a besieged camp; hence his close attention to the
army and navy. Every one of our embassy military at-
taches expressed to me his surprise at the efficiency of
his inspections of troops, of his discrimination between
things essential and not essential, and of his insight into
current military questions. Even more striking testi-
mony was given to me by our naval attaches as to his
minute knowledge not only of his own navy, but of the
navies of other powers, and especially as to the capabili-
ties of various classes of ships and, indeed, of individual
vessels. One thoroughly capable of judging told me that
he doubted whether there was any admiral in our service
who knew more about every American ship of any impor-
tance than does the Kaiser. It has been said that his de-
votion to the German navy is a whim. That view can
hardly command respect among those who have noted his
labor for years upon its development, and his utterances
regarding its connection with the future of his empire.
As a simple matter of fact, he recognizes the triumphs
of German commercial enterprises, and sees in them a
guarantee for the extension of German power and for
a glory more permanent than any likely to be obtained
by military operations in these times. When any candid
American studies what has been done, or, rather, what has
not been done, in his own country, with its immense sea-
coast and its many harbors on two oceans, to build up



234 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIX

a great merchant navy, and compares it with what has been
accomplished during the last fifty years by the steady,
earnest, honest enterprise of Germany, with merely its
little strip of coast on a northern inland sea, and with
only the Hanseatic ports as a basis, he may well have
searchings of heart. The "Shipping Trust" seems to be
the main outcome of our activity, and lines of the finest
steamers running to all parts of the world the outcome
of theirs. There is a history here which we may well
ponder; the young Emperor has not only thought but
acted upon it.

As to yet broader work, the crucial test of a ruler is
his ability to select men, to stand by them when he has
selected them, and to decide wisely how far the plans
which he has thought out, and they have thought out, can
be fused into a policy worthy of his country. Judged by
this test, the young monarch would seem worthy of his
position; the men he has called to the various min-
istries are remarkably fit for their places, several of them
showing very high capacity, and some of them genius.

As to his relation to the legislative bodies, it is some-
times claimed that he has lost much by his too early and
open proclamation of his decisions, intentions, and wishes ;
and it can hardly be denied that something must be par-
doned to the ardor of his patriotic desire to develop the
empire in all its activities; but, after all due allowance
has been made, there remains undeniable evidence of his
statesmanlike ability to impress his views upon the na-
tional and state legislatures. A leading member of one
of the parliamentary groups, very frequently in opposi-
tion to government measures, said to me : ' l After all, it is
impossible for us to resist him; he knows Germany so
well, and his heart is so thoroughly in his proposals, that
he is sure to gain his points sooner or later."

An essential element of strength in this respect is his
acquaintance with men and things in every part of his
empire. Evidences of this were frequent in his public
letters and telegrams to cities, towns, groups, and indi-



MY RECOLLECTIONS OF WILLIAM 11-1879-1903 235

viduals. Nor was it ''meddling and muddling." If any
fine thing was done in any part of the empire, he seemed
the first to take notice of it. Typical of his breadth of
view were the cases of various ship captains and others
who showed heroism in remote parts of the world, his
telegram of hearty approval being usually the first thing
they received on coming within reach of it, and substan-
tial evidence of his gratitude meeting them later.

On the other hand, as to his faculty for minute observa-
tion and prompt action upon it: a captain of one of the
great liners between Hamburg and New York told me
that when his ship was ready to sail the Emperor came
on board, looked it over, and after approving various ar-
rangements said dryly, ' ' Captain, I should think you were
too old a sailor to let people give square corners to your
tables." The captain quietly acted upon this hint; and
when, many months later, the Kaiser revisited the ship,
he said, "Well, captain, I am glad to see that you have
rounded the corners of your tables."

He is certainly a working man. The record of each
of his days at Berlin or Potsdam, as given in the press,
shows that every hour, from dawn to long after dusk,
brings its duties duties demanding wide observation,
close study, concentration of thought, and decision. Nor
is his attention bounded by German interests. He is a
keen student of the world at large. At various interviews
there was ample evidence of his close observation of the
present President of the United States, and of appre-
ciation of his doings and qualities ; so, too, when the strug-
gle for decent government in New York was going on,
he showed an intelligent interest in Mr. Seth Low; and
in various other American matters there was recognition
of the value of any important stroke of good work done
by our countrymen.

As to his view of international questions, two of the
opportunities above referred to especially occur to me
here.

The first of these was during the troubles in Crete



236 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIX

between the Greeks and the Turks. As I talked one even-
ing with one of my colleagues who represented a power
especially interested in the matter, the Emperor came up
and at once entered into the discussion. He stated the
position of various powers in relation to it, and suggested
a line of conduct. There was straightforward good sense
in his whole contention, a refreshing absence of conven-
tionalities, and a very clear insight into the realities of
the question, with a shrewd forecast of the result. More
interesting to me was another conversation, in the spring
of 1899. As the time drew near for the sessions of the
Peace Conference at The Hague, I was making prepara-
tions for leaving Berlin to take up my duty in that body,
when one morning there appeared at the embassy a spe-
cial messenger from the Emperor requesting me to come
to the palace. My reception was hearty, and he plunged
at once into the general subject by remarking, ''What the
conference will most need is good common sense; and I
have sent Count Miinster, my ambassador at Paris, because
he has lots of it. ' ' With this preface, he went very fully
into the questions likely to come before the conference,
speaking regarding the attitude of the United States and
the various powers of Europe and Asia with a frankness,
fullness, and pungency which at times rather startled me.
On the relations between the United States, Germany, and
Great Britain he was especially full. Very suggestive
also were his remarks regarding questions in the far East,
and especially on the part likely to be played by Japan and
China the interests of various powers in these questions
being presented in various aspects, some of them decidedly
original and suggestive. While there were points on
which we could hardly agree, there were some suggestions
which proved to be of especial value, and to one of them
is due the fact that on most questions the German delegates
at The Hague stood by the Americans, and that on the
most important question of all they finally, after a wide
divergence from our view, made common cause with Great
Britain and the United States. I regret that the time has



MY RECOLLECTIONS OF WILLIAM 11-1879-1903 237

not come when it is permissible to give his conversation
in detail ; it treated a multitude of current topics, and even
burning questions, with statesmanlike breadth, and at
the same time with the shrewdness of a man of the world.
There were in it sundry personal touches which interested
me; among others, a statement regarding Cecil Rhodes,
the South African magnate, and a reference to sundry
doings and sayings of his own which had been misrepre-
sented, especially in England. One point in this was espe-
cially curious. He said, * ' Some people find fault with me
for traveling so much ; but this is part of my business : I
try to know my empire and my people, to see for myself
what they need and what is going on, what is doing and
who are doing it. It is my duty also to know men and coun-
tries outside the empire. I am not like ," naming a

sovereign well known in history, "who never stirred out of
the house if he could help it, and so let men and things
go on as they pleased."

This union of breadth and minuteness in his view of
his empire and of the world is, perhaps, his most strik-
ing characteristic. It may be safely said that, at any given
moment, he knows directly, or will shortly know, the per-
son and work of every man in his empire who is really
taking the lead in anything worthy of special study or
close attention. The German court is considered very ex-
clusive, but one constantly saw at its assemblages men
noted in worthy fields from every part of Germany and,
indeed, of Europe. Herein is a great difference between
the German and Russian courts. If, during my official
life at St. Petersburg, I wished to make the acquaintance
of a man noted in science, literature, or art, he must be
found at professorial gatherings across the Neva. He
rarely, if ever, appeared in the throng of military and
civil officials at the Winter Palace. But at Berlin such men
took an honored place at the court among those whom the
ruler sought out and was glad to converse with.

As to the world outside the empire, I doubt whether
any other sovereign equals him in personal acquaintance



238 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIX

with leaders in every field of worthy activity. It was
interesting from time to time to look over the official lists
of his guests at breakfast, or luncheon, or dinner, or sup-
per, or at military exercises, or at the theater; for they
usually embraced men noted in civil, ecclesiastical, or
military affairs, in literature, science, art, commerce, or
industry from every nation. One class was conspicuous
by its absence at all such gatherings, large or small;
namely, the merely rich. Rich men there were, but they
were always men who had done something of marked
value to their country or to mankind; for the mere " fatty
tumors ' ' of the financial world he evidently cared nothing.

A special characteristic in the German ruler is inde-
pendence of thought. This quality should not be con-
founded, as it often is, with mere offhand decision based
upon prejudices or whimsies. One example, which I
have given elsewhere, may be here referred to as showing
that his rapid judgments are based upon clear insight:
his own insight, and not that of others. On my giving him
news of the destruction of the Maine at Havana, he at once
asked me whether the explosion was from the outside;
and from first to last, against the opinions of his admirals
and captains, insisted that it must have been so.

He is certainly, in the opinion of all who know him, im-
pulsive indeed, a very large proportion of his acts which
strike the attention of the world seem the result of im-
pulse; but, as a rule, it will be found that beneath these
impulses is a calm judgment. Even when this seems not
to be the case, they are likely to appeal all the more
strongly to humanity at large. Typical was his impulsive
proposal to make up to the Regent of Bavaria the art
appropriation denied by sundry unpatriotic bigots. Its
immediate result was a temporary triumph for the com-
mon enemy, but it certainly drew to the Emperor the
hearts of an immense number of people, not only inside,
but outside his empire ; and, in the long run, it will doubt-
less be found to have wrought powerfully for right rea-
son. As an example of an utterance of his which to many



MY RECOLLECTIONS OF WILLIAM 11-1879-1903 239

might seem to be the result of a momentary impulse, but
which reveals sober contemplation of problems looming
large before the United States as well as Germany, I might
cite a remark made last year to an American eminent in
public affairs. He said, "You in America may do what
you please, but I will not suffer capitalists in Germany
to suck the life out of the workingmen and then fling them
like squeezed lemon-skins into the gutter. ' '

Any one who runs through the printed volume of his
speeches will see that he is fertile in ideas on many sub-
jects, and knows how to impress them upon his audiences.
His voice and manner are good, and at times there are
evidences of deep feeling, showing the man beneath the
garb of the sovereign. This was especially the case in
his speech at the coming of age of his son. The audience
was noteworthy, there being present the Austrian Em-
peror, members of all the great ruling houses of Europe,
the foremost men in contemporary German history, and
the diplomatic representatives of foreign powers an au-
dience representing wide differences in points of view and
in lines of thought, yet no one of them could fail to be
impressed by sundry references to the significance of
the occasion.

Even the most rapid sketch of the Emperor would be
inadequate without some reference to his religious views.
It is curious to note that while Frederick the Great is
one of the gods of his idolatry, the two monarchs are
separated by a whole orb of thought in their religious
theories and feelings. While a philosophical observer
may see in this the result of careful training in view of
the evident interests of the monarchy in these days, he
must none the less acknowledge the reality and depth of
those feelings in the present sovereign. No one who has
observed his conduct and utterances, and especially no
one who has read his sermon and prayer on the deck of
one of his war-ships just at the beginning of the Chinese
war, can doubt that there is in his thinking a genuine sub-
stratum of religious feeling. It is true that at times one is



240 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIX

reminded of the remark made to an American ecclesiastic
by an eminent German theological professor regarding
that tough old monarch, Frederick William I; namely,
that while he was deeply religious, his religion was "of
an Old Testament type." Of course, the religion of the
present Emperor is of a type vastly higher than that of
his ancestor, whose harshness to the youth who after-
ward became the great Frederick has been depicted
in the "Memoirs" of the Margravine of Bayreuth; but
there remains clearly in the religion of the present Em-
peror a certain "Old Testament" character a feeling
of direct reliance upon the Almighty, a consciousness
of his own part in guiding a chosen people, and a readi-
ness, if need be, to smite the Philistines. One phase of
this feeling appears in the music at the great anniver-
saries, when the leading men of the empire are brought
together beneath the dome of the Palace Church. The an-
thems executed by the bands and choirs, and the great
chorals sung by the congregation, breathe anything but
the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount ; they seem rather
to echo the grim old battle-hymns of the Thirty Years'
War and the war in the Netherlands.

And yet it must be said that there goes with this a
remarkable feeling of justice to his subjects of other con-
fessions than his own, and a still more remarkable breadth
of view as regards the relations of modern science to what
is generally held as orthodox theology. The fearlessness
with which he recently summoned Professor Delitzsch to
unfold to him and to his family and court the newly re-
vealed relations of Assyrian research to biblical study,
which gave such alarm in highly orthodox circles, and
his fairness in estimating these researches, certainly re-
vealed breadth of mind as well as trust in what he con-
sidered the fundamental verities of religion.

A good example of the curious union, in his mind, of
religious feeling, tolerance, and shrewd policy is shown
in various dealings with his Roman Catholic subjects.

Of course he is not ignorant that his very existence as



MY RECOLLECTIONS OF WILLIAM 11-1879-1903 241

King of Prussia and German Emperor is a thorn in the
side of the Roman Curia; he knows, as every thinking
German knows, that, with the possible exception of the
British monarchy, no other is so hated by the Vatican
monsignori as his own. He is perfectly aware of the part
taken in that quarter against his country and dynasty
at all times, and especially during the recent wars; and
yet all this seems not to influence him in the slightest as
regards justice to his Roman Catholic subjects. He does,
indeed, resist the return of the Jesuits into the empire,
his keen insight forbids him to imitate the policy of Fred-
erick the Great in this respect, but his dealings with the
Roman Catholic Church at large show not merely wisdom,
but kindliness. If he felt bound to resist, and did suc-
cessfully resist, the efforts of Cardinal Rampolla to un-
dermine German rule and influence in Alsace and Lor-
raine, there was a quiet fairness and justice in his action
which showed a vast deal of tolerant wisdom. His visits
to the old Abbey of Laach, his former relations with
its young abbot, his settlement of a vexed question by
the transfer of the abbot to the bishopric of Metz, his
bringing of a loyal German into episcopal power at
Strasburg, his recent treatment of the prince bishop of
Breslau and the archbishop of Cologne, all show a wise
breadth of view. Perhaps one of the brightest diplo-
matic strokes in his career was his dealing with a Vatican
question during his journey in the East. For years there
had been growing up in world politics the theory that
France, no matter how she may deal with monks and
nuns and ultramontane efforts within her own imme-
diate boundaries, is their protector in all the world be-
side, and especially in the Holy Land. The relation of
this theory to the Crimean War, fifty years ago, is one
of the curious things of history, and from that day to
this it has seemed to be hardening more and more into
a fixed policy even into something like a doctrine of
international law. Interesting was it, then, to see the Em-
peror, on his visit to the Sultan, knock the ground from



II. 16



242 IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE-XIX

under the feet of all this doctrine by securing for the
Roman Catholic interest at Jerusalem what the French
had never been able to obtain the piece of ground at the
Holy City, so long coveted by pious Catholics, whereon,
according to tradition, once stood the lodging of the Virgin
Mary. This the Emperor quietly obtained of the Sultan,
and, after assisting at the dedication of a Lutheran church
at Jerusalem, he telegraphed to the Pope and to other rep-
resentatives of the older church that he had made a gift
of this sacred site to those who had so long and so ar-
dently desired it.

Considerable criticism has been made on the score of
his evident appreciation of his position, and his theory
of his relation to it ; but when his point of view is cited,
one perhaps appreciates it more justly. I have already
shown this point of view in the account of the part taken
by him at the two-hundredth anniversary of the Royal
Academy, and of his remark, afterward, contrasting his
theory of monarchy with that of Dom Pedro of Brazil.
Jocose as was the manner of it, it throws light upon his
idea of his duty in the state. While a constitutional mon-
arch, he is not so in the British sense. British consti-
tutional monarchy is made possible by the "silver
streak"; but around the German Empire, as every Ger-
man feels in his heart, is no "silver streak." This fact
should be constantly borne in mind by those who care
really to understand the conditions of national existence
on the continent of Europe. Herein lies the answer to
one charge that has been so often made against the Ger-
man Emperor of undue solicitude regarding his official
and personal position, as shown in sundry petty treason
trials. The simple fact is that German public opinion,
embodied in German law, has arrived at the conclusion
that it is not best to allow the head of the state to be



Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 54)