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not only proved satisfactory during the existence of
the Block, but still works at the present time, for the
Ultra-Liberals helped to procure a very substantial
increase in the army.


The formation of the group of parties which goes
by the somewhat unfortunate name of the "Block," a
term borrowed from French politicians, was an event
of extraordinary and typical significance, and was
most enlightening. If only because I do not like to
prophesy, I will not attempt any exhaustive discus-
sion ^s to whether the era of the Block was merely an

The Block 179

episode. It can hardly be denied that events may at
any time bring about a similar situation, if not the
same. But this does not convey that I recommend
the Block as a panacea for any and every contingency
in home politics. I was always well aware that such
a combination must be of limited duration, because,
for one thing, it never entered my calculations that
the Centre would permanently be excluded. But it
seems to me that this period, short as it was, sheds a
special light on the most important problems of our
home politics. In my opinion, and that of the major-
ity of my countrymen, these most important problems
are : National questions, and the fight against the So-
cial Democrats. Of course there are many other
problems in addition, by the solving of which we do
nothing towards the solution of the great problems.
A deep scrutiny and proper understanding of our
home policy shows that it is ultimately dominated by
these two great questions.

A distinction must be made between the immediate
occasion and the indirect causes which led to the com-
bination of 1907. The events which necessitated the
dissolution of the Reichstag in 1906 are still present
to the minds of all. Owing to the attitude of the Cen-
tre, an untenable situation had been created, and it

i8o Imperial Germany

was desirable for the Government to take action which
would have more than a transitory effect. The at-
tempts of the Centre to interfere in colonial adminis-
tration had reached such a pitch that, merely in the
interests of discipline, they could be tolerated no
longer. The requisitions for the troops in South-
West Africa, who were heroically fighting a cruel en-
emy amidst great hardships, were rejected by the Cen-
tre and the Social Democrats ; and, finally, there was
an attempt to interfere with the power of chief com-
mand possessed by the Emperor. Principles of
State were at stake which could not be sacrificed. A
Government which in such case does not resort even
to extreme measures of protection is not worthy of
the name. I never for a moment failed to realise
what inconvenience was entailed by dissolving the
Reichstag, and thus breaking with a party so power-
ful and tenacious as the Centre. My political life
would have been much pleasanter if I had consented
to some sort of a compromise, however unsatisfactory.
But this was one of those moments which in the inter-
ests of the country demand battle. A Government
that at such a period hesitates to plunge into the fray
for fear of subsequent difficulties, consults its own in-
terest before the country's. In this case the military

The Block 181

principle holds good that attack is preferable to de-
fence. The Government exists for the good of the
country, not the country for the Government. I had
warned the Centre in good time of the consequences
of their behaviour. If afterwards it was asserted that
the Centre did not realise what the final upshot would
be, I can point to my speeches in the Reichstag and
my declarations in those anxious days, which more
than refute these statements.

If, after speeches such as I made on Xovember 28
and December 4, 1906, I had not either dissolved the
Reichstag or handed in my resignation, I should not
have dared to show myself in public. When the
majority, consisting of the Centre, the Social Demo-
crats, Poles and Alsatians, insisted on reducing the
supplementary estimates for South- West Africa from
29 to 20 million (marks), and also demanded a de-
crease in the colonial force in that part of the country
where the rising had only just been put down, the
Reichstag was dissolved. The important thing then
was to win a majority at the elections for the Conserv-
atives and Liberals of all shades who had supported
the Government.

The attitude of the Centre and the Social Demo-
crats in regard to colonial policj^ and, above all, the

i82 Imperial Germany

attempt to tamper with the Emperor's prerogative
by virtue of his power as chief in command, accorded
by the Constitution, to decide the strength of the
troops required at the time by the military situation
in South- West Africa, were sufficient reason to neces-
sitate a change in the composition of the majority
by means of a General Election. But, apart from
these immediate causes, it seemed to me, and to an
overwhelming number of patriotic Germans as well,
that a change in the grouping of the parties and in
their relative strength was eminently desirable.

It has been said that in 1907 we started a campaign
against the Centre, and by chance beat the Social
Democrats. That, of course, is a misinterpretation
of the facts. If a Government brings about a Gen-
eral Election, it is not a question of a punitive expe-
dition against one particular party; but it is because
the Government wants to make a change in the com-
position of the majority. The Cartel elections of
1887 followed the same course as the Block elections
twenty years later. The Centre emerged from both
unharmed. But both fulfilled their object by shat-
tering the other parties which at the time united with
the Centre in forming the opposition. In the first
case it was the Ultra-Liberals, later it was the Social

The Centre 183

Democrats. War was declared on the oppositional
majority as such. Compared with this primary ob-
ject, the question as to which party should be weak-
ened in order to decimate the majority was of
secondary importance. At the Block elections I pre-
ferred a weakening of the Social Democrats to a cor-
responding loss of seats on the part of the Centre.
At that time, and, what is more, entirely on my own
initiative, at the second ballots I passed the word for
the Centre against the Social Democrats. It was at
my express request that the former burgomaster of
Cologne, His Excellency Herr Becker, invited sup-
port for the Centre against the Social Democrats.
Since then I have often been told that this was a mis-
take, and that I myself had assisted in creating a ma-
jority of Conservatives and the Centre, which made
it very difficult for me to govern later on. To this
very day I am of opinion that I did quite right at the
time. On the one hand, I had no intention of per-
manently excluding the Centre; on the other, there
was never any question of my being supported by the
Social Democrats.


The Centre is the strong bastion built by the Ro-
man Catholic section of the people to protect itself

184 Imperial Germany

from interference on the part of the Protestant ma-
jority. The previous history of the Centre may be
traced back to the times when in the old Empire the
Corpus Evangelicorum was opposed by the Corpus
Catholicorum. But whereas in the old Empire Ca-
thohcism and Protestantism were more or less evenly
balanced, in the new Empire the CathoHcs are in the
minority ; the old Catholic Empire has been succeeded
by the new Protestant one.

It must, however, be admitted that the Catholic
minority has a great advantage over the Protestant
majority in its unity and solidarity. Good Protes-
tant as I am, I do not deny that, though the Prot-
estants often have reason to complain of lack of
perception on the part of the Catholics, yet, on the
other hand, in Protestant circles there is often a lack
of toleration towards the Catholics. Members of
both religions would do well to take to heart the beau-
tiful words of Gorres: "All of us. Catholics and
Protestants, have sinned in our fathers, and still
weave the tissue of human error in one way or an-
other. No one has the right to set himself above
another in his pride, and God will tolerate it in none,
least of all in those who call themselves His friends."
My old Commander, later General Field-Marshal

The Centre 185

Freiherr von Loe, a good Prussian and a good Catho-
lic, once said to me that in this respect matters would
not improve until the well-known principle of French
law, "que la recherche de la paternite etait interdite,"
were changed for us into "la recherche de la confes-
sion etait interdite." He also replied to this effect
to a Royal lady from abroad, who asked what was the
percentage of Protestant and Catholic officers in his
army corps: "I know how many battalions, squad-
rons and batteries I command, but I take no interest
in what church my officers belong to." That is what
they think in the army, and in the Diplomatic Corps,
and this manner of thinking must hold in other posi-
tions as well. The feeling of being slighted, which
still obtains in many Catholic circles, can only be over-
come by an absolutely undenominational policy, a
policy in which, as I once expressed it in the Chamber
of Deputies, there is neither a Protestant nor a Cath-
olic Germany, but only the one indivisible nation, in-
divisible in material as in spiritual matters.

On the other hand, however, there are many
weighty reasons why a religious party should not wield
such an extraordinary and decisive influence in poli-
tics as was the case for many years in this country.
The Centre is, and will remain, a party held together

i86 Imperial Germany

by religious views, however subtly opinion in Cologne
and Berlin may argue about the idea of a religious
party. The Centre is the representative of the re-
ligious minority. As such its existence is justified;
but it must not arrogate to itself a predominant posi-
tion in politics. Doubtless every party which, owing
to the constitution of the majority and to its own
strength, occupies an exceptionally strong position
in Parliament, is inclined to abuse its power. The
Ultra-Liberals did so in the years of struggle; the
National Liberals in the first half of the 'seventies;
the Conservatives in the Prussian Chamber of Depu-
ties, when they thwarted the well-thought-out and far-
reaching plans for the canal; and finally the Centre
did so. All my predecessors in office were in such a
position as to have to ward off the Centre's claims to
power. Many of the conflicts in home politics during
the last decades had their origin in the necessity the
Governments were under to defend themselves; the
conflict of 1887, that of 1893, and, finally, the battle of

For a party which is in an almost impregnable
position, such as the Centre occupies, the temptation
to pursue a policy of power pure and simple is very
great. It is doubly tempting if the Centre is in a po-

The Centre 187

sition to form a majority together with the Social
Democrats, and with their help can prevent the pass-
ing of any and every Bill. A majority composed of
the Centre and the Social Democrats, that resists na-
tional demands, is not only injurious to our national
life, but constitutes a serious danger.

Before 1906 the Centre allowed itself to be tempted
to turn to its own advantage the systematic opposi-
tion of the Social Democrats towards national requi-
sitions, if together with these it could obtain a major-
ity, and if it fitted in with its policy of power
to discomfit the Government by the rejection of
such requisitions. In the same way, before the storm
which cleared the air in 1906, it happened more than
once that the Centre laid down difficult or even impos-
sible conditions, before giving its consent to national
requisitions, knowing full well that without its help
it was impossible to get a national majority. From
the defeat of the Cartel at the February elections of
1890 up to the Block elections of 1907, after which the
Centre did not oppose any Army, Navy or Colonial
Bills, the Government lived uninterruptedly under
the shadow of a threat of union between the Centre
and the Social Democrats, to form a majority for the
Opposition. In the seventeen years between the Car-

l88 Imperial Germany

tel and the Block, the Centre certainly rendered val-
uable services in furthering national affairs, especially
in respect of the Navy Bills, the Tariif Bills, and in »
notable manner in the development of social policy,
But events in the sphere of colonial politics in the
winter of 1906 proved that the Centre still regarded
the rejection of national requisitions, with the aid of
the Social Democrats, as a welcome and legitimate
means of carrying out its policy of power.


It was necessary to settle the conflict conjured up
by the Centre together with the Social Democrats, the
Poles and the Alsatians, not only for the time being,
but with an eye to the past and the future. The need
of forming a majority for national questions without
the Centre had really existed since the split in the Bis-
marckian Cartel, and was created by the conclusions
that the Centre had drawn from the fact that its as-
sistance was indispensable for the furtherance of na-
tional affairs. So it was an old problem that was set
for solution in 1907, one that was made urgent by the
divisions of the preceding months, but that was not
originally raised by them: a national majority with-
out the Centre. Not a majority against the Centre,

The Task of 1907 189

nor a national majority from which the Centre was
to be excluded, but a national majority, powerful and
strong enough in itself to do justice to national exi-
gencies, if need be without the help of the Centre.
If this were achieved the Centre could no more har-
bour the seductive idea that it was indispensable, and
tlie danger of a majority formed by the Centre and
the Social Democrats would no longer be acute.
When the People's party voted with the Conserva-
tives and National Liberals for the Colonial Bills, I
perceived the possibility of forming a new national
majority. I should have seized this opportunity,
even if I had not been convinced that it was possible
to smooth away the differences between the Conserv-
atives and Liberals, and that the co-operation of these
two parties would have great educative value. In
pursuing this course I did my duty. The Block ma-
jority was formed not against the Centre as such, but
against the Centre, allied in opposition, with the So-
cial Democrats. The nation looked upon the Block
elections as a purely national matter. The temper
of the people, when success was assured, was not such
as would be roused by a triumph in party politics, but
as would emanate from a feeling of patriotic satisfac-
tion. The Block had been matured by the experience

190 , Imperial Germany

of nearly two decades of home policy. There was
promise for the coming decade in the fact that the
last of the middle-class parties had been won over in
support of the national tasks of the Empire.

The underlying idea of the so-called Block was sim-
ilar to that which was at the foundation of the Cartel.
I might almost say: the Block was the modern real-
isation of an old idea adapted to the changed circum-
stances of the times. For a long time it had not been
feasible to repeat the Cartel formed by Conservatives
and National Liberals. The old parties of the Cartel
had been ground so small between the millstones of
the Centre and the Social Democrats that there was
no longer hope of renewing the Cartel majority for
some time to come. In order to be able, if need be,
to dispense with the help of the Centre in forming a
national majority, it was necessary to include Ultra-
Liberalism. When in 1906 the Ultra-Liberals of-
fered to co-operate in national work, the Government
had to seize the helping hand held out to them — and
hold it fast. It was not so much a question of win-
ning over a party to the Government side, as of ex-
tending the sphere of the national idea among
the people. For the first time since the founding of
the Empire, the old Ultra-Liberalism wheeled into

The Task of 1907 IQl

the front rank of the nation. The way in which this
was done hardly left a doubt that the change was in-
tended to be permanent rather than temporary.
What Eugen Richter had prophesied to me, not long
before he retired from political life, had come true.
With sure instinct, all classes of the nation felt and
understood the real significance of this turn of affairs
in 1906, till later on the fads of party programmes
obscured the clear facts, as they have so often done.

The years of the Block brought great success and
taught an important lesson. The national vanguard
was widened, and it was proved that the Social Dem-
ocrats can be repulsed : both points of significant gain
in the solution of the most important problems of our
home policy.

Since 1907 the Ultra-Liberals have been ranged on
the side of the National party. The small Army and
Navy Bills of the spring of 1912 were accepted by
them in the same way as were the great increase in the
Army in the summer of 1913, and the demands of co-
lonial policy. To estimate the value of the assistance
of the Ultra-Liberals, it is not sufficient to consider
whether the Armament Bills would have had a ma-
jority in the Reichstag without them. The advan-
tage lies in this, that whereas formerly a majority of

192 Imperial Germany

middle-class parties stood security for the national
needs of the Empire, a majority which was mostly got
together with great difficulty, now all the middle-class
parties stand united against the Social Democrats and
the Nationalistic parties and fragments of parties.
The national questions of the Empire have ceased
to be a subject of anxiety in home politics. And the
solid force with which the national idea finds expres-
sion in all sections of the middle classes, when the de-
fence of the Empire is concerned, must be set down as
a valuable asset for the prestige of Germany abroad.


In order to measure the progress made, it is only
necessary to consider the fate of the bigger Arma-
ment Bills during the last decades. This is all the
more significant as the national idea must act, not
only in the direction of the Continental policy of Prus-
sia and Germany so glorious in the past, but also in
the direction of the new world policy, whose impor-
tance in the meantime lies more in the future. Not
only the army, but also the navy, is concerned to-day.
The middle-class parties in the Reichstag have to ad-
vocate considerable material sacrifices in the country

History of German Policy of Armaments 193

for disbursements for national purposes, and they
must therefore lay greater stress on the national idea.
It is certainly a curious fact that in the most mili-
tary and most warlike of the European nations the
parties have resigned themselves so unwillingly to
new demands for the defence of the Empire that it has
taken more than three and a half decades to achieve
unanimity, at least among the middle-class parties.
The blame for this attitude attaches, not so much to
lack of patriotism, as to that desire for power in party
politics, and that obstinate devotion to the party pro-
gramme, to which I have earlier referred. It was the
task of the Government to waken the latent patriotic
feelings of all middle-class parties, to animate them,
and spontaneously, and without prejudice, to uphold
them when they seemed strong enough to co-operate
in a practical manner in the work of the Empire.
A German Government would act against the wel-
fare of the nation if, owing to party prejudices of its
own, it should repulse the national zeal of a party,
and if the sacrifices of a party in the interests of the
nation should seem of less value because its general
trend in politics did not fall in with the Government's
ideas. For the Government the intensity of national
feeling is by far the most important quality of a party.

194 Imperial Germany

It will and must be possible to work with a party that
is at bottom reliable from the national standpoint,
for such a party will ultimately allow itself to be influ-
enced in favour of national interests in the choice,
often so hard in Germany, between the interests of
the community in general and those of the party.
"No German Minister need give up this cheerful op-
timism, no matter how sceptically he may regard the
parties in the ordinary course of politics. Firm be-
lief in the ultimate victory of the national idea is the
first condition of a really national policy. Day and
night every German politician should remember the
glorious words which Schleiermacher uttered in the
dark year of 1807: "Germany is still there, and her
invisible strength is unimpaired." This belief we
Germans must not forgo in the hurly-burly of our
party squabbles, which still makes the display of spon-
taneous national feeling seem transitory, like a rare
hour of rest.

A review of the fate of the German Armament
Bills affords at the same time a picture of the changes
in the parties with regard to the national idea. The
Conservatives have a right to the reputation of never
having refused to serve their country, and the Na-
tional Liberals, too, have never endangered the fate

History of German Policy of Armaments 195

of an Armament Bill. In this respect the old parties
of the Cartel hold the foremost place, and it was a
loss, not only to them but to the Empire, when the
elections of 1890 destroyed their majority and at the
same time all prospect of their recovering this ma-
jority. Prince Bismarck had bequeathed an Army
Bill to the new Reichstag of 1890; this Bill was in-
troduced in a form of much less scope than that of
the original draft, as conceived by the old Imperial
Chancellor. Count Caprivi asked for 18,000 men
and 70 batteries. In spite of the fact that the vener-
able Moltke spoke in favour of the Bill, its fate was
doubtful for a long time. Eugen Richter refused it
in the name of the whole Ultra-Liberal party. With
the help of the Centre the Bill was passed by the Car-
tel parties, but the Centre only gave its consent on
condition that subsequently a Bill for two-year mili-
tary service should be introduced.

The great Army Bill of 1893 became a necessity so
soon owing to the fact that the demands made by the
preceding Bill had been insufficient for requirements;
this showed how uncertain the foothold of the national
majority of the middle-class parties was. The Cen-
tre vented on the Army Bill its resentment for the
disappointment of its hopes with regard to educa-

196 Imperial Germany

tional policy in Prussia. Although its demand for
two-year military service was included in the new Bill,
the party could not make up its mind to vote for it.
Among the Ultra-Liberals the national idea at that
time was trying to find expression. But only six Ul-
tra-Liberal deputies at last consented to vote for the
Bill. In 1893, sixteen years before its realisation,
there rose for a moment the hope of co-operation be-
tween the Conservatives and Liberals, including the
Ultra-Liberals. The time, however, was not yet
ripe. The rejection of the Bill by the Centre, Ultra-
Liberals and Social Democrats was followed by the
dissolution of the Reichstag. In the elections the
Ultra-Liberals in favour of the Army separated from
the party of progress ; but the elections did not result
in a national majority without the Centre. The So-
cial Democrats increased the number of their seats.
The bulk of the Ultra-Liberals remained in opposi-
tion. The majority — 201 against 185 — was only ob-
tained by means of the Polish party, which had In-
creased from sixteen to nineteen. The national idea
had gained ground among the Ultra-Liberals, but
had not won the victory, and had been unable to get
ahead of the party Interests of the Centre.

Six years later the Government had to put up with

History of German Policy of Armaments 197

very considerable reductions in its Bills, and never-
theless only succeeded in passing the new Army Bill
with the help of the Centre after a violent struggle
against the opposition of the Ultra-Liberals and So-
cial Democrats. There was no question of ready or
enthusiastic acceptance, and a conflict in home politics
seemed veiy imminent. I found the majority which
had passed the Tariff Bill ready to accept the Army
increase of 10,000 men in the spring of 1905, but the

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