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found at her disposal in her conflict with Russia.
The Japanese War was unpopular in Russia, and it

Anglo-German Alliance Debated 41

had to be waged at an immense distance, like a colo-
nial war. If we had allowed ourselves to be thrust
forward against Russia we should have found our-
selves in a far more difficiilt position. A war against
Germany would not, in these circumstances, have
been unpopular in Russia, and would on the part of
the Russians have been carried on with that national
enthusiasm which is peculiar to them when defending
their native soil. France would have preferred the
excuse of the casus foederis, and would have been
able to wage her war of revenge under favourable
circumstances. England was on the eve of the Boer
War. Her position would have been improved if her
great colonial enterprise had been supported and ac-
companied by a European complication, such as had
rendered her good service in the middle of the eight-
eenth and in the first decade of the nineteenth cen-
turies. In the event of a general conflict, we Ger-
mans would have had to wage strenuous war on land
in two directions, while to England would have faUen
the easier task of further extending her Colonial Em-
pire without much trouble, and of profiting by the
general weakening of the Continental Powers. Last,
but certainly not least, while military operations were
going forward on the Continent, and for a long time

42 Imperial Germany

after, we should have found neither strength nor
means nor leisure to proceed with the building of our
navy, as we have been able to do. Thus the only
course left to us was not to entrench upon English
interests and to avoid both a hostile encounter and
docile dependence.


Thus, unaffected and uninfluenced by England,
we have succeeded in creating that power at sea which
is the real basis of our industrial interests and our in-
ternational policy; a power that the strongest enemy
would not attack without hesitation.

During the first ten years after the introduction
of the Navy Bill of 1897, and while our shipbuilding
was in its infancy, an English Government, ready to
go to any lengths, could have made short work of our
development as a Sea Power, and rendered us harm-
less before we grew formidable at sea. Such action
against Germany was repeatedly demanded in Eng-
land. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, ^Ir. Arthur
Lee, asserted in a public speech on February 3, 1905,
that attention should be directed to the North Sea,
the British fleet should concentrate there, and in the
event of war they must "strike the first blow, before

England and the German Navy 43

the other side found time to read in the newspapers
that war had been declared." The Daily Chronicle
emphasised this utterance with the words: *'If the
German fleet had been smashed in October, 1904,
we should have had peace in Europe for sixty years.
For this reason we consider the statement Mr. Arthur
Lee uttered, assuming that it was on behalf of the
Cabinet, a wise and pacific declaration of the unalter-
able purpose of the Mistress of the Seas." In the au-
tumn of 1904 the Army and Navy Gazette remarked
how intolerable it was that England alone, owing to
the existence of the German fleet, was forced to adopt
measures of defence which she would otherwise not
have needed. The article runs: "Once before we
had to snufl* out a fleet, which we believed might be
employed against us. There are many people, both
in England and on the Continent, who consider the
German fleet the only serious menace to the preser-
vation of peace in Europe. Be that as it may, we
are content to point out that the present moment is
particularly favourable to our demand that the Ger-
man fleet shall not be further increased." About the
same time an English review of good standing wrote :
"If the German fleet were destroyed the peace of
Europe would be assured for two generations. Eng-

44 Imperial Germany

land and France, or England and the United States,
or all three, would guarantee the freedom of the sea
and prevent the building of more ships, which, in
the hands of ambitious Powers, with a growing
population and no Colonies, are dangerous weap-

Just at this time France was preparing to injure
us in JNIorocco. A few months earlier, in June, 1904,
a French publicist told me that the construction of
our fleet called forth widespread and increasing anx-
iety in England; that England could not make up
her mind how best to put a stop to our further ship-
building, whether by direct representations or by en-
couraging the Chauvinistic elements in France. To-
day England gives us our due as a Sea Power — as
the strongest Sea Power next to themselves. When,
in the winter of 1909, an English Member of Parlia-
ment stated the fact that England would not have
needed to continue her sea armaments at such a fever-
ish rate if she had ten years previously prevented the
rise of the German Sea Power, he expressed a thought
that, so far as the policy of mere force is concerned,
is comprehensible and perhaps to the point. But
England would not have found an opportunity to
nip our growing fleet in the bud, a thing she had re-

Peaceful Aims of German World Policy 45

peatedly done in the past in the case of other coun-
tries, because we did not expose ourselves.


The fleet that we have built since 1897, and that,
though far inferior to England's, has made us the
second Sea Power of the world, enables us to support
our interests everywhere with all the weight of our
reputation as a Great Power. The foremost duty
of our navy is to protect our world commerce and the
lives and honour of our fellow-countrymen abroad.
German battleships have performed this task in the
West Indies and the Far East. Emphatically, it is
a largely defensive role that we assign to our fleet.
It is self-understood that this defensive role might
become an offensive one in serious international con-
flicts. If the Empire should be wantonly attacked,
from no matter what quarter, the sea, as a theatre of
war, wiU have a very different and much greater im-
portance in our times than it did in 1870. In such a
case the fleet as well as the army would, needless to
say, in accordance with Prussian and German tradi-
tions, consider attack the best form of defence. But
there is absolutely no ground for the fear which the
building of our navy has aroused, that with the rise of

4-6 Imperial Germany

German power at sea the German love of battle will
be awakened.

Of all the nations of the world the Germans are
the peoj^le that have most rarely set out to attack
and conquer. If we except the expeditions against
Rome, led by the German Emperors in the Middle
Ages, which originated rather in a grand if mistaken
political illusion than in love of battle and conquest,
we shall seek in vain in our past for wars of conquest
that may be compared with those of France in the
seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
those of Spain under the Habsburgs, of Sweden in
her best days, or those of the Russian and British
Empires in the course of their fundamentally ex-
pansive national policy. For centuries we Germans
have aimed at nothing but the defence and security
of our country. Just as the Great King did not lead
his unvanquished battalions on adventurous expedi-
tions, after the conquest of Silesia and the safeguard-
ing of the independence of the Prussian monarchy,
so the Emperor William and Bismarck, after the un-
paralleled successes of two great wars, did not dream
of attempting further military exploits. If any na-
tion may boast of political self-restraint, it is the Ger-
mans. We have always set a limit to our successes

Peaceful Aims of German World Policy 47

ourselves, and have not waited till the exhaustion of
our national resources made us halt. Consequently
our evolution lacks periods of a brilliant and sudden
rise ; rather it is a slow and unwearied advance. The
Germans have practically no tinge of that restless-
ness which in other nations urges men to find in suc-
cess the spur to further bold effort. Our political
character is less that of the rash, speculative mer-
chant than that of the plodding peasant who, after
sowing carefully, patiently awaits the harvest.

After the Franco- German War all the world was
filled with dread of further military enterprises on
the part of Germany. There was no scheme of con-
quest, however improbable, that we were not credited
with harbouring. Since then more than four decades
have passed. The strength of our people has grown,
we are richer in material possessions, and our army
has become stronger and stronger. The German
fleet has been created and developed. The number
of great wars that have been waged since 1870 ex-
ceeds the average for such a period of time in earlier
years. Germany did not seek to take part in any
of them, and calmly resisted all attempts to be drawn
into military entanglements.

Without boastfulness or exaggeration, we may say

48 Imperial Germany

that never in the course of history has any Power,
possessing such superior mihtarj^ strength as the Ger-
mans, served the cause of peace in an equal measure.
This fact cannot be explained by our well-known and
undoubted love of peace. The German has always
been peace-loving, and has nevertheless had to draw
his sword again and again in order to defend himself
against foreign attacks. As a matter of fact, peace
has primarily been preserved, not because Germany
herself did not attack other nations, but because
other nations feared a repulse in the event of their
attacking Germany. The strength of our armaments
has proved to be a more effective guarantee of peace
than any in the last tumultuous centuries. An his-
torical judgment is contained in this fact.

Given a rightly guided foreign policy, the com-
pletion of our Lines of Defence by the navy consti-
tutes an additional and increased guarantee of peace.
Just as the army prevents any wanton interruption
of the course of Germany's Continental policj^ so the
navy prevents any interruption in the development of
our world policy. As long as we had no navy, our
rapidly growing international industrial interests,
which are also inalienably bound up with our national

Peaceful Aims of German World Policy 49

economic interests, presented a vulnerable surface to
our opponents. By protecting this weak point, and
also rendering a naval attack on the Empire an under-
taking of great risk for the enemy, we preser\"ed not
only the peace of our own country, but also that of
Europe. We were concerned with the acquirement
of means of defence, not of attack. After entering
the ranks of the Sea Powers we continued quietly on
the same course as heretofore. The new era of un-
bounded German world-policy, which was so often
foretold abroad, has not dawned. But we certainly
have acquired the means of effectively protecting our
interests, of resisting aggression, and of maintaining
and developing our position everywhere, especially
in Asia Minor and Africa.

As our problems in world-politics increased, the
web of our international relations had to be extended.
Distant oversea States, which at the time of our purely
Continental policy concerned us but little, grew of
more and more importance to us. It became the most
significant duty of our present-day policy to cultivate
good and, if possible, friendly relations with these.
This refers primarily to the two Great Powers of
the West and the East, the United States of America

50 Imperial Germany

and Japan. In both cases we had to overcome tem-
porary differences before there could be any ques-
tion of entering into friendly relations.


During the Spanish- American War a section of
German public opinion manifested strong sympathy
with Spain, which was resented in the States. Ger-
man relations with America had also been clouded by
the way in which part of the English and American
Press had interpreted certain incidents which had oc-
curred between our squadrons and the American fleet
off Manila. This difference reached its height in
February, 1899, so that it seemed desirable strongly
to advocate preparations for a better understanding
between the two nations of kindred race. What I
said on this point in the Reichstag has subsequently
proved true. "From the point of view of a common-
sense pohcy, there is no reason why the best relations
should not subsist between Germany and America.
I see no single point in which the German and Ameri-
can interests are opposed, nor any in the future where,
in the course of their development, they are likely to
clash. We can say without hesitation that during the
last century the United States have nowhere found

Germany and the United States 51

better understanding or juster recognition than in
this country." More than anyone else the Emperor
WiHiam II. manifested this understanding and ap-
preciation of the United States of America. It was
he who first paved the way for our friendly and sound
relations. He won over the Americans by his con-
sistently friendly and sympathetic attitude. He was
bound to President Roosevelt by ties of personal
friendship. The mission of Prince Henry to Amer-
ica was crowned with the success we had anticipated.
It contributed largely to making both nations realise
how many common interests united them, and how
few real differences divided them. It was a happy
thought of the Emperor's, too, to knit the two Ger-
manic nations together intellectually, by the exchange
of teachers of repute in the German and American
Universities. German intellect, poetry, philosophy,
and science have met nowhere with more sincere admi-
ration than in the United States. On the other hand
Germany, more than any other country, studied and
welcomed the wonderful technical inventions of
America. This intimate exchange of ideas in the
field of intellectual and scientific achievement found
its outward manifestation in the arrangements for
exchanging professors. These ties between the two

52 Imperial Germany

nations and also between their rulers, as they grew
closer, prompted a friendly political relation between
us and the United States. Not only did we settle
the question of Samoa amicably, but during the crit-
ical period through which our country passed at the
beginning of the new century America never once
opposed our policy. With the exception of Austria,
there is probably no country where existing circum-
stances contribute so naturally to permanent friendly
relations with us as in North America. About 12,-
000,000 Germans live in the United States. Since
the formation of the "Deutsch-Amerikanischen Na-
tionalbund" (National German- American Union)
in 1910, they are anunated more and more by the de-
sire to maintain and encourage a close connection
with their old German home, while at the same time
remaining perfectly loyal to their adopted country.
As long as policy in Germany and in America is di-
rected by cool-headed men, who avoid with equal
scrupulousness exaggerated expressions of friend-
ship or nervous impatience when confronted with oc-
casional differences (which can always arise in the
sphere of industry) , we need not fear for our relations
with the United States. Respect for each other, on
the basis and within the bounds of self-respect, will

Germany and Japan 53

be the best means of preserving our friendship with


Our relations with Japan, as with the United States
of America, passed through a period of strain to-
wards the end of the nineteenth century. Up to the
bginning of the 'nineties we had served as a model
for the Japanese and had been their friend. This
warlike nation of the Far East warmly admired our
military organisation and our warlike history; and
after the defeat of China the Japanese boasted that
they were the Prussians of the East. Our relations
with them received a severe shock when, in 1895, we
together with France and Russia forced victorious
Japan to reduce her demands on China. When we
thus interfered with Japan we lost much of the sym-
pathy which she had for many years accorded us, and
we did not earn particular gratitude from France and
Russia. The German Emperor^s scheme, which was
to have served the ideal of promoting peace, was
eagerly and successfully taken advantage of by our
antagonists and competitors to injure us with the
Japanese. By dint of prolonged efforts we suc-
ceeded at last in reviving a better state of feeling to-
wards Germany in Japan.

54 Imperial Germany

It is not to our interest to have that eminently
capable and brave nation for an enemy. On the
other hand, we have no intention, of course, of allow-
ing Japan to use us as a catspaw. It would have very
considerably facilitated matters not only for Japan
but also for England if, for the sake of their interests
in the Far East, we had allowed ourselves to be thrust
forward against Russia. We ourselves should have
fared badly in the matter. Just as we did not wel-
come the idea of offending and estranging Japan for
the sake of France and Russia, so we did not care to
fall out with Russia on account of the interests in the
Far East of other Powers.

Towards the end of the 'eighties Prince Bismarck
once said to me, with reference to Russia and Asia:
"In Russia there is a very serious amount of unrest
and agitation, which may easily result in an explo-
sion. It would be best for the peace of the world if
the explosion took place in Asia and not in Europe.
We must be careful not to stand just in the way, oth-
erwise we may have to bear the brunt of it." If we
had allowed ourselves to be thrust forward against
Russia before the Russo-Japanese War, we should
have had to bear the brunt. I also heard him say on
some occasion: "If Mr. N. proposes something to

Continental Policy and World Policy 55

you that would be useful to him and harmful to you,
it does not by any means follow that Mr. N. is a fool.
But you are a fool if you agree to it."


If Germany, after attaining the great aim of her
Continental policy, is in a position, with her largely
increased and steadily increasing powers, to reach
out into the wide world, that by no means implies
that we are at liberty to expend the whole of our na-
tional strength on enterprises outside the Continent
of Europe.

The transition to international politics has opened
to us new political courses and discovered to us new
national problems; but it does not imply the aban-
donment of all our old courses, or a fundamental
change in our tasks. Our new world-policy is an
extension, not a shifting of the field of our political

We must never forget that the consolidation of our
position as a Great Power in Europe has made it pos-
sible for us to transform our industrial activity from
a national into an international one, and our Conti-
nental policy into international poHcy. Our world-
pohcy is based upon the successes of our European

56 Imperial Germany

policy. The moment the firm foundation consti-
tuted by Germany's jiosition as a Great European
Power begins to totter, the whole fabric of our world-
policy wull collapse. It is quite possible that a de-
feat in international politics might leave our position
in Europe unchanged; but it is unthinkable that a
sensible diminution of power and influence in Europe
would leave our position in international politics un-
shaken. We can only pursue our world-policy on
the basis of our European policy. The conservation
of our position of power on the Continent is still, as
it was in Bismarck's day, the first and last aim of
our national policy. If, at the behest of our national
needs, we have gone beyond Bismarck in international
affairs, nevertheless we must always maintain the
principles of his European policj^ as the firm gi'ound
on which we take our stand. The new era must be
rooted in the traditions of the old. A healthy devel-
opment may in this case, too, be ensured by a com-
mon-sense compromise between the old and the new,
between presei-vation and progress. To renounce
international politics would have been equivalent to
condemning our national vitality to slow but sure
decay. An adventurous international policy, which

Continental Policy and World Policy 57

should take no account of our old European interests,
might at first seem attractive and impressive, but it
would soon lead to a crisis if not to a catastrophe in
our development.

Sound political success is achieved much in the
same way as mercantile success; by keeping a steady
course between the Scylla of over-carefulness and the
Charybdis of speculation. A conflict between Ger-
many and England would be a great misfortune for
both countries, for Europe and for mankind in gen-
eral. Ever since the day when I undertook the af-
fairs of the Foreign Office, I have been convinced that
such a conflict would never come to pass : —

i. If we built a fleet which could not be attacked
without very grave risk to the attacking party.

ii. If we did not, beyond that, indulge in undue
and unlimited shipbuilding and armaments, and did
not overheat our marme boiler.

iii. If we allowed no Power to injure our reputa-
tion or our dignity.

iv. If we allowed nothing to make an irremediable
breach between us and England. That is why I al-
ways repelled any impertinent attack which was hkely
to hurt our feehngs as a nation, from whatever quar-

jS Imperial Germany

ter It came, but resisted all temptations to interfere
in the Boer War, as that would have dealt English
self-esteem a wound that would not heal.

V. If we kept calm and cool, and neither injured
England nor ran after her.

"The basis of a sound and sensible world-policy is
a strong, national home policy." So I said in Decem-
ber, 1901, when a member of the Reichstag, Eugen
Richter, tried to prove that the policy, which under-
lay the new tariff and aimed at the protection of
home industries and especially agi'arian interests, was
antagonistic to the new world-policy which was
founded on the Interests of commerce. The apparent
antagonism between the two was really a compro-
mise; for German Industrial activity In the Inter-
national field had had its origin In the extremely
jBiourishIng condition of home industries.

The connection between politics and national in-
dustry Is far closer in our times than it was In the
past. The home and foreign policies of modern
States re-act directly upon the fluctuations and
changes of their very highly developed Industrial life,
and every considerable Industrial Interest ultimately
finds political expression In one way or another. In-
ternational commerce, with all the various Interests

Continental Policy and World Policy 59

depending on it, has made our international policy a
necessity. Our industrial activities at home demand
a corresponding home policy. Between the two,
some compromise must be sought and found.

Seven years after the tariif debates the worth of
this compromise between the home policy and inter-
national policy, much discussed then in political and
industrial circles, was proved in the sphere of inter-
national politics on the occasion of the Bosnian crisis
in the year 1908. This event demonstrates more
clearly than any academic discussion could do the real
relation in which our oversea policy and our Euro-
pean policy stand to one another. German policy,
up to the time when the Bosnian question was raised,
was mainly controlled by consideration of our inter-
national policy. Not that Germany directed her for-
eign relations in accordance with her oversea inter-
ests, but that England's displeasure at the develop-
ment of German foreign trade and especially at the
growth of German sea power, influenced the group-
ing of the Powers and their attitude towards the
German Empire. Public opinion amongst the Eng-
lish, who are usually so cool and courageous, gave
way temporarily to fear of a German invasion; and
this fear was so groundless and so senseless that it al-

6o Imperial Germany

most amounted to a panic. This, moreover, was sys-
tematically encouraged by a large section of the Eng-
lish Press, which has a very powerful and widespread


Since the beginning of the new century the influ-
ence of King Edward VII. had made itself felt in
English foreign politics. He was a monarch of ex-

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Online LibraryBernhard BülowImperial Germany → online text (page 3 of 18)