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us? At worst you can throw a few bombs at Stolp-
miinde or Pillau, and that is all." Bismarck was
right at that time. We were then as good as unas-
sailable to England with her mighty sea power, for
we were invulnerable at sea. We possessed neither
a great mercantile marine, the destruction of which
could sensibly injure us, nor any oversea trade worth
mentioning, the crippling of which we need fear.

22 Imperial Germany

To-day it is different. We are now vulnerable at
sea. We have entrusted millions to the ocean, and
with these millions the weal and woe of many of our
countrymen. If we had not in good time provided
protection for these valuable and indispensable na-
tional possessions, we should have been exposed to
the danger of having one day to look on def encelessly
while we were deprived of them. But then we could
not have returned to the comfortable economic and
political existence of a purely inland State. We
should have been placed in the position of being un-
able to employ and support a considerable number
of our millions of inhabitants at home. The result
would have been an economic crisis which might easily
attain the proportions of a national catastrophe.


Ever since the end of the 'eighties in the nineteenth
century the building of a fleet sufficient to defend
our oversea interests had been a vital question for
the German nation. It is greatly to the credit of
the Emperor William II. that he recognised this,
and devoted all the power of the throne and all the
strength of his own personality to the attainment of
this end. It only adds to his merit that he, as head of

The Buildiag of the Fleet 23

the Empire, championed the building of the German
fleet at the very moment when the German people
had to come to a decision about their future, and when,
as far as man can tell, Germany had the last chance
of forging the sea weapons that she needed.

The fleet was to be built while we maintained our
position on the Continent, without our coming into
conflict with England, whom we could as yet not op-
pose at sea, but also while we preserved intact our
national honour and dignity. Parliamentary oppo-
sition, which at that time was considerable, could only
be overcome if steady pressure were brought to bear
on Parliament by public opinion. In view of the
anxious and discouraged state of feeling that ob-
tained in Germany during the ten j^ears following
Prince Bismarck's retirement, it was only possible
to rouse public opinion by harping on the string of
nationalism, and waking the people to consciousness.
A great oppression which weighed on the spirit of the
nation had been occasioned by the rupture between
the wearer of the Imperial crown and the mighty
man who had brought it up from the depths of Kyff-
hauser. This oppression could be lifted if the Ger-
man Emperor could set before his people, who at
that time were not united either by common hopes or

24 Imperial Germany

demands, a new goal towards which to strive, and
could indicate to them "a place in the sun'* to which
they had a right, and which they must try to attain.
On the other hand, patriotic feeling must not be
roused to such an extent as to damage irreparably
our relations with England, against whom our sea
power would for years still be insufficient, and at
whose mercy we lay in 1897, as a competent judge
remarked at the time, like so much butter before the
knife. To make it possible to build a sufficient fleet
was the foremost and greatest task of German policy
after Bismarck's retirement; a task with which I also
was immediately confronted, when on June 28, 1897,
at Kiel, on board the Hohenzollern, I was entrusted
by His Majesty, the Emperor, with the conduct of
foreign affairs, on the same day and the same spot on
which twelve years later I handed in my resignation.
On March 28, 1897, the Reichstag had passed the
third reading of the Budget Committee's Report,
which had made considerable reduction in the de-
mands of the Government for ships to take the place
of obsolete types, for equipment and for the construc-
tion of additional vessels. On November 27, after
Admiral Hollman, till then Secretary of State at the
.Imperial Admiralty Office, had been replaced by a

The Building of the Fleet 25

man of first-rate capabilities, Admiral von Tirpitz,
the Government brought out a new Navy Bill which
demanded the construction of seven additional ships
of the line, of two large and seven small cruisers, fixed
the date of completion of the new constructions for
the end of the financial year 1904, and, by limiting the
period of service of the ships, and determining what
squadrons were to be kept on permanent active serv-
ice, ensured the building in due time of the ships which
were to take the place of out-of-date vessels. The
Bill runs as follows: "Without prejudice to the rights
of the Reichstag, and without demanding the impo-
sition of new taxes, the allied Governments are not
pursuing an aimless policy with regard to the navy;
their sole object is to create within a definite time a
national fleet, merely of such strength and power as
to protect efl*ectively the naval interests of the Em-
pire." The Bill set the fleet on an entirely new foot-
ing. Up till then new ships had from time to time
been demanded and to some extent granted; but the
navy had lacked the solid foundation that the army
possessed in its absolutely definite constitution. By
the limitation of the period of service of the ships on
the one hand, and the determination of the number
of eff*ective ships on the other, the navy became a

26 Imperial Germany

definite constituent part of our national defence.
The building of the German fleet, like other great
undertakings in the course of our national history,
had to be carried out with an eye to foreign coun-
tries. It was only to be expected that this important
strengthening of our national power would rouse un-
easiness and suspicion in England.


The policy of no State in the world is so firmly
bound by tradition as that of England; and it is in
no small degree due to the unbroken continuity of her
Foreign policy, handed down from centurj^ to cen-
tury, pursuing its aims on definite lines, independent
of the changes of party government, that England
has won such magnificent success in international pol-
itics. The alpha and omega of English policy has
alwaj^s been the attainment and maintenance of Eng-
lish naval supremacy. To this aim all other consid-
erations, friendships as well as enmities, have always
been subordinated. It would be foolish to dismiss
English policy with the hackneyed phrase '' per fide
Albion" In reality this supposed treachery is noth-
ing but a sound and justifiable egoism, which, to-

The Traditional Policy of England 27

gether with other great qualities of the English peo-
ple, other nations would do well to imitate.

During the second half of the eighteenth and the
first half of the nineteenth centuries England lent her
support to Prussia, aid which, moreover, was just at
critical times in Prussian history, in the Seven Years'
War, and in the time of Napoleon I. But the Eng-
lish attitude was hardly determined by spiritual sym-
pathy with the kindred State in the north of Ger-
many, struggling so manfully and laboriously to
rise. To gain her own ends England supported the
strongest opponent of the greatest European power;
and when she had attained her object, coolly left in
the lurch Frederick the Great in his hour of need,
and Prussia at the Congress of Vienna. While the
power of France was being strained to the uttermost
by the Seven Years' War, England secured her pos-
sessions in North America. In the great years of
1813 to 1815 Prussia, with impetuous courage, finally
shattered Napoleon's power. When in Vienna Prus-
sia had to fight bitterly for every inch of land, Eng-
land had already won her supremacy, and, after the
downfall of her French opponent, could look upon it
as assured for a considerable time. As the enemy

28 Imperial Germany

of the strongest European power, we were England's
friend. In consequence of the events of 1866 and
1870, Prussia with Germany became the greatest
Power on the Continent, and to English ideas, grad-
ually took the place that France had occupied under
the ''Roi SoleiV and the two Bonapartes. English
policy followed its traditional trend and opposed the
Continental Power which for the time being was
strongest. After the downfall of the Habsburg rule
in Spain, Bourbon France became England's natural
opponent, from the time of the distinguished part
played by Marlborough in the War of the Spanish
Succession to that of the Alliance with the victor of
the Battle of Rossbach, which was celebrated in Lon-
don as a triumph of British arms. After decades of
jealous mistrust of Russia, which, under Catherine
II., had gained enormously in power, English poMcy
was tm-ned anew with full vigour against France,
when Napoleon led the armies of the Republic to vic-
tory over all the States of the Continent. In the
struggle between the First Empire and England,
the latter was victorious, no doubt primarily owing to
the unswerving and magnificent continuity of her pol-
icy, to the heroism of her bluejackets at Aboukir and
Trafalgar, and the successes of the Iron Duke in

The Traditional Policy of England 29

Spain, but also to the tenacity of the Russians and
Austrians, and to the impetuosity of our old Bliicher
and his Prussians. When, after the fall of Napo-
leon, the military ascendancy seemed to move from
the west of Europe to the east, England made a po-
litical change of front. England was largely respon-
sible for the result of the Crimean War, so
disastrous to the Russians, and for the ruin of
the ambitious plans of the proud Emperor Nicholas
I. ; moreover, the Emperor Alexander II., too, found
the policy of the English barring his way, more
especially in the Near East, for so long the centre
of Russian ambitions and hopes. The English
alliance with Japan owed its birth to considerations
similar to those which led to the entente cordiale
with France, which latter is of great weight in the
international politics of the present day.

The interest that England takes in the balance of
power on the Continent is, of course, not confined to
the welfare of such Powers as feel themselves op-
pressed or threatened by the superior strength of an-
other. Such humane sympathy rarely has decisive
influence on the political resolves of the Government
of a great State. The direction of English policy
depends primarily on the way in which the distribu-

30 Imperial Germany

tion of power in Europe reacts on English naval su-
premacy, and any shifting of the distribution of
power, which is not likely to entail such a reaction,
has always been more or less a matter of indifference
to the English Government. If England tradition-
ally — that is to say, in accordance with her unchang-
ing national interests — takes up a hostile or at least a
suspicious attitude with regard to the European
Power which for the time being is strongest, the cause
must be sought in the importance which England at-
tributes to a superior Continental Power with respect
to overseas politics. A Great Power of Europe that
has proved its military strength in so striking a man-
ner that, in the normal course of affairs, it need fear
no attack on its frontiers has practically developed
the conditions of national existence by means of which
England has become the greatest sea and commercial
power in the world. England with her strength and
her courage, could fare forth unconcernedly on the
ocean, for she knew that, having the sea for a protec-
tion, her borders were safe from hostile attacks. If
the borders of a Continental Power are similarly pro-
tected by the fear which its victorious and superior
army inspires, it obtains the freedom of action in over-
sea affairs which England owes to her geographical

The Traditional Policy of England 31

position. It becomes a competitor in the field in
which England claims supremacy. In this, English
policy is based on historical experience — one might
almost say on the law of the evolution of nations and
states. Every nation with sound instincts and a via-
ble organisation of the State, has attempted to win its
way to the sea coast if, owing to its geographical po-
sition, it had no coast-line. The bitterest and most
protracted struggles have always raged round coast-
lines and harbours, from Corcyra and Potidsea, which
were the cause of the Peloponnesian War, to Kavalla,
about which the Greeks and Bulgarians quarrelled in
our times. Nations which could not reach the sea,
or were forced away from it, silently retired from the
universal contest. Now the possession of the coast-
line means neither more nor less than the opportunity
to develop oversea power, and, finally, the opportu-
nity to transform Continental politics into interna-
tional politics. Those European nations that have
not made use of their coasts and harbours for this pur-
pose, were unable to do so because they required all
their forces to defend their borders against their op-
ponents on the Continent. Thus the extensive colo-
nial schemes of the Great Elector had to be aban-
doned by his successors.

32 Imperial Germany

Access to the paths of international politics was
always easiest for the strongest Continental Power.
But England guarded these paths. WTien Louis
XIV. proposed a Franco-English alliance to Charles
II., the English king, who, in other respects was very
friendly to the French, replied that certain obstacles
stood in the way of a sincere alliance, and that the
most considerable of these were the efforts France
was making to become a Sea Power that would com-
pel respect. For England, whose only importance
lay in her commerce and her fleet, this would be such a
cause of suspicion that every step which France took
in that direction would rouse afresh the jealousy be-
tween the two nations.

After the conclusion of the Peace of Hubertus-
burg, the elder Pitt expressed in Parliament his re-
gret that France had been afforded the opportunity
to build up her fleet again. It was mainly as an op-
ponent of French oversea policy that England took
sides against France in the war of the Spanish Suc-
cession, a war which dealt France's supremacy in
Europe the first searching blow, and in which Eng-
land not only obtained the key of the ocean by win-
ning Gibraltar, but also gained possession of the
heart of Canada, for which France had fought so

Germany and England 33

strenuously. In the middle of the eighteenth cen-
tury Lord Chatham said: "The only danger that
England need fear will arise on the day that sees
France attain the rank of a great sea, commercial,
and Colonial power." And before the Crimean War
David Urquhart wrote: "Our insular position leaves
us only the choice between omnipotence and impo-
tence. Britannia will either become mistress of the
seas or will be swallowed up by them." English pol-
icy has remained true to itself up to the present time,
because England is still, as she was formerly, the
first Sea Power. Subtler diplomatic conflicts have
taken the place of the more violent struggles of olden
times. The political aim remains the same.


When Germany, after the solution of her Conti-
nental problems — after securing her power in Europe
— was neither willing nor able to refrain from em-
barking on international politics, she was bound to
inconvenience England. The consequences of this
turn of affairs could be mitigated by diplomacj^ they
could not be prevented.

But even if we can understand the traditions of
English policy, such understanding in no wise im-

34 Imperial Germany

plies the admission that England has any reason to
contemplate with mistrust the expansion of German
national industries into international industries, of
German Continental policy into international policy,
and especially the construction of a German navy.
This mistrust was perhaps justified in other centu-
ries in the case of other Powers.

The course of our international policy differs com-
pletely in means as well as ends, from the old-time at-
tempts at conquering the world made by Spain,
France, and at one time by Holland and Russia.
The international policy against which England made
such a determined stand in the past mostly aimed at
a more or less violent change in the international sit-
uation. We only keep in view the change in the con-
ditions of our national life. The international pol-
icy of other countries which England opposed was of
an offensive nature, ours is defensive. It was both
necessary and desirable for us to be so strong at sea
that no Sea Power could attack us without grave risk,
so that we might be free to protect our oversea inter-
ests, independently of the influence and the choice of
other Sea Powers. Our vigorous national develop-
ment, mainly in the industrial sphere, forced us to
cross the ocean. For the sake of our interests, as

Germany and England 35

well as of our honour and dignity, we were obliged to
see that we won for our international policy the same
independence that we had secured for our European
policy. The fulfilment of this national duty might
eventually be rendered more difficult by English op-
position, but no opposition in the world could release
us from it.

Our fleet had to be built with an eye to English
policy — and in this way it was built. My efforts in
the field of international politics had to be directed to
the fulfilment of this task. For two reasons Ger-
many had to take up an internationally independent
position. We could not be guided in our decisions
and acts by a policy directed against England, nor
might we, for the sake of England's friendship, be-
come dependent upon her. Both dangers existed,
and more than once were perilously imminent. In
our development as a Sea Power we could not reach
our goal either as England's satellite, or as her antag-
onist. England's unreserved and certain friendship
could only have been bought at the price of those very
international plans for the sake of which we had
sought British friendship. Had we followed this
course we should have made the mistake to which the
Roman poet refers when he says that one must not

'36 Imperial Germany

"propter vitam vivendi perdere causas." But as
England's enemy we should have had little prospect
of reaching such a point in our development as a Sea
and Commercial Power as we have actually attained.


During the Boer War, which strained the forces
of the British Empire to the uttermost, and led Eng-
land into great difficulties, there seemed to be an op-
portunity of dealing the secret opponent of our inter-
national policy a shrewd blow. As in the rest of
Europe, enthusiasm for the Boers ran high in Ger-
many. Had the Government undertaken to put a
spoke in England's wheel, it would have been sure of
popular approval. To many it seemed that the Euro-
pean situation was favourable to a momentary suc-
cess against England, and that French assistance
was assured. But there was only a seeming com-
munity of interests against England in Euro} ?, and
any eventual political success against England in the
Boer question would have had no real value for us.
An attempt to proceed to action at the bidding of the
pro-Boer feelings of that time would soon have had
a sobering effect. Among the French the deeply
rooted national hatred against the German Empire

Germany and England During Boer War 37

would speedily and completely have ousted the mo-
mentary ill-feeling against England as soon as we had
definitely committed ourselves to a course hostile to her
interests; and a fundamental change of front in
French policy would have resulted directly after.
However painful the memory of the then recent events
at Fashoda might be to French pride, it could not
suffice to turn the scale against the memory of Sedan.
The Eg}^ptian Sudan and the White Nile had not
driven the thought of Metz and Strassburg from the
hearts of the French. There was great danger that
we should be thrust forward against England by
France, who at the psychological moment would re-
fuse her aid. As in Schiller's beautiful poem, "Die
Ideale" ("The Ideals"), our companions would have
vanished midway.

But even if, by taking action in Europe, we had
succeeded in thwarting England's South African pol-
icy, our immediate national interests would not have
benefited thereby. From that moment onward for
many a long day our relations with England would
have been poisoned. England's passive resistance
to the international policy of new Germany would
have changed to very active hostility. During those
years we were occupied in founding our sea power by

38 Imperial Germany

building the German navy, and even in the event of
defeat in the South African War, it was possible for
England to stifle our sea power in the embryo. Our
neutral attitude during the Boer War had its origin
in weighty considerations of the national interests of
the German Empire.

Our navy was not strong enough for us forcibly to
achieve a sufficient sea power in the teeth of English
interests. Nor could we, by being towed in the wake
of English policy, reach the desired goal of possess-
ing a strong fleet.


The thought occurred to many that English oppo-
sition against German international policy, and above
all against the construction of a German navy, might
be overcome most easily by an alliance between Ger-
many and England. Indeed, at times the idea of
an Anglo-German alliance has been discussed in the
Press of both countries. It had already occupied
Bismarck's thoughts, but the final result was only the
resigned remark: "We would be willing enough to
love the English, but they will not allow us to do so."
Later on, too, Germany might perhaps not have been

Anglo-German Alliance Debated 39

disinclined to conclude a treaty with England, on a
basis of absolute equality and with mutual obliga-
tions. German interests would have gained nothing
by stipulations which England might disregard in the
event of a change of Ministry, or the occurrence of
any other circumstances over which we had no con-
trol, while we continued bound to them. Nor would
it have sufficed us that some Minister or other was in
favour of an Anglo-German treaty. To make a
lasting agreement the whole Cabinet, and above all
the Prime Minister, would have had to support it.
Bismarck pointed out how difficult it was to estab-
lish firm relations with England, because treaties of
long duration were not in accordance with English
traditions, and the expression of opinion of English
politicians, even those in a prominent position, and
the transitory moods of the English Press were
by no means equivalent to immutable pledges.
For many reasons English public opinion is more
favourable to France than to us, for England no
longer looks upon her as a rival, and certainly not as
a serious competitor, at sea; consequently France
occupies a different position from ours with regard
to England. In consideration of the widespread
jealousy roused in England by Germany's industrial

40 Imperial Germany

progress, and especially by the increase of the Ger-
man navy, it was only on condition of absolutely bind-
ing pledges on the part of England that we could
have set foot on the bridge of an Anglo- German
alliance. We could only thus unite ourselves with
England on the assumption that the bridge which
was to help us over the real and supposed differences
between England and Germany was strong enough
to bear our weight.

At the time this question of an alliance was being
ventilated the European situation differed in many
respects from the present one. Russia had not then
been weakened by the Japanese War, but intended
to secure and expand her newly-won position in the
Far East, in particular on the Gulf of Pechili. Ow-
ing to the Asiatic questions pending between the two
empires, relations between England and Russia were
then rather strained. The danger was imminent
that if Germany allied herself with England she
would have to undertake the role against Russia that
Japan assumed later single-handed. But we should
have had to play this part under very different condi-
tions from the very favourable ones which Japan

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