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our fleet, so that it can protect German interests scat-
tered over the face of the earth. We built our navy
as a means of national defence and to strengthen our
national safety, and we have never used it for any
other purpose.

The problem of modern German international poli-
tics, to secure a foundation for our position as a Great
Power, on the w^hole may be considered to be solved.
No doubt the German Empire w^as unwillingly ac-
cepted as a Great Power by those States which for
centuries had been used to settling questions of over-
sea politics alone. But our right to a voice in inter-

Ii8 Imperial Germany

national matters is recognised to-day in every country
where the German flag is seen. We had to reach this
goal. It was of the same significance as the creation
of our navy, and could only be attained by overcom-
ing considerable difficulties both in the sphere of
foreign, or international, and of home, or national,

During the first decade after the introduction of
the Navy Bill of 1897, we had to pass through a zone
of extreme danger in our foreign policy, for we were
to provide ourselves with adequate sea power to pro-
tect our interests effectually, without at the time
having sufficient strength at sea to defend ourselves.
Germany has emerged from this critical period, un-
harmed and without loss of dignity or prestige. In
the autumn of 1897 the Saturday Review published
that famous article, which culminated in the state-
ment that, if Germany were swept off the face of the
earth to-morrow, there would be no Englishman the
day after but would be the richer for it, and ended
with the words : ''Germaniam esse delendam/'

Twelve years later two important English news-
papers, neither of them particularly pro-German,
declared that the position of Germany was greater
and stronger than at any time since the retirement of

Successes of German World Policy 119

Prince Bismarck. From 1897 onward a significant
development had taken place that was not always
reahsed by contemporaries, but that posterity will
recognise and appreciate. During those years, by
building our fleet, we accomplished the transition to
international politics. Our ascent into the regions of
world-policy was successful. We did not allow our-
selves to be thrust forward by any Power against
another, nor did we permit anyone to use us a cats-
paw. By our calm bearing during the Boer War we
took the first keen edge off the excitement which
reigned in England after the Kriiger telegram; and
in the further course of events we gave England no
cause to thwart us in the building of our fleet. On
the other hand, while we carefully cultivated the
Triple Alliance, we never came into actual conflict
with the Dual Alliance, which would have hindered
us in the gradual acquirement of a navy. What with
the Anglo-French Entente and the Dual Alliance,
we had to follow a narrow path which grew even nar-
rower when the former expanded into a Triple
Entente^ and would have been impassable without ex-
treme caution, when England surrounded us with a
web of alliances and ententes. When at last, during
the Bosnian crisis, the sky of international politics

120 Imperial Germany

cleared, when German power on the Continent burst
its encompassing bonds, we had already got beyond
the stage of preparation in the construction of our


Besides the difficulties of foreign politics there were
the difficulties of home politics, though the latter
were easier to overcome. We Germans have not the
gift of meeting the demands of a new era cheerfully
and spontaneously. Goethe pointed to the heart of
our strength but also of our weakness when he said
that it was characteristic of the Germans that they
take everything heavily. The proverbial struggle
between the old time and the new has suffered less
interruption in the course of our history than in that
of any other nation, and in everj^ phase of any im-
portance in our development it occurs again and again
with undiminished strength. But, though amongst
us innovations may have to encounter more vigorous
opposition than elsewhere, yet in the end our devel-
opment has never been impeded to such an extent as
to cause lasting harm. We can even say that the
uninterrupted continuance of antagonistic criticism
has saved us Germans from dangerous innovations,
and has brought us the steady ascent and sure prog-

The Idea of a Navy in Germany 121

ress in which we may rejoice to-day. That is what
Bismarck meant when he said that rulers in Germany
required the barbed wire of criticism, which kept them
to the right path, because they ran the risk of tearing
their hands to pieces if they engaged in movements
that were too eccentric. Of course, Bismarck did
not imply by this that criticism is always, or even
mostly, in the right. But this spirit of negation
forces men to show gravity, the strength of convic-
tion, and the power of persuasion, and to be really
clear in their minds as to the necessity of treading
new paths. Wherever in Germany it has been possi-
ble to convince the majority of the people, including
those who were at first antagonistic, of the necessity
of a thing, we have found that this new conviction,
though slowly acquired, has taken firm root.

All Germany to-day is imbued with the idea of the
necessity of having a navy. From the most pro-
nounced Agrarians among the Conservatives, to the
extreme wing of the Democracy, there is no radical
opposition to our German naval policy. The Ultra-
Liberals, as is well known, had partly refused their
support to the great, fundamental Navy Bills.
They really and truly represented the antagonism of
the old era to the new. It was in the year 1900 that.

122 Imperial Germany

after a long and excited session of the Budget Com-
mittee, the leader of the people's party, Eugen Rich-
ter, came to me and said to me privately: "You will
succeed, you will get a majority for your supple-
mentary estimates for the Navy. I would never
have believed it." In the interview that followed I
was at pains to explain to this man, in many ways
so distinguished, why his opposition to the Navy Bill
was inexplicable to me, for the German democracy
had for decades demanded German efficiency at sea.
Herwegh stood at the cradle of the German fleet, and
the first German warships had been built in 1848. I
pointed out all the reasons why we must protect our
commerce and our industries on the ocean. Richter
listened attentively and said at last: "You may be
right. But I am too old, I cannot take part in this
new turn of affairs." The change prophesied by
Eugen Richter was soon to be accomplished. The
opposition of the people's party was based less on
principle than on the general position of party poli-
tics. It was possible to overcome it in the course of
party politics, and during the time of the Block it
was overcome.

Prince Bismarck, the great and victorious man,
who was the exact opposite of a leader of progress,

The Idea of a Navy in Germany 123

bore striking and direct testimony to the recognition
of the dawn of a new era. A few years after the
Prince's retirement that excellent general director,
Herr Ballin, suggested that he should have a look at
the Hamburg harbour, which Bismarck, in spite of
its nearness to Friedrichsruh, had not visited for a
long time. After a tour round the harbour Herr
BalKn took the eighty-year-old Prince on to one of
the new trans-atlantic liners of the Hamburg-
Amerika Company. Prince Bismarck had never yet
seen a ship of such dimensions. He stopped when he
set foot on the giant steamboat, looked at the ship for
a long time, at the many steamers lying in the vicin-
ity, at the docks and huge cranes, at the mighty pic-
ture presented by the harbour, and said at last: "I
am stirred and moved. Yes, this is a new age — a
new world." The mighty founder of the Empire,
who fulfilled our national hopes and solved the prob-
lem of Germany's Continental policy, in his old age,
with the never-failing insight of genius, recognised
the future, the new tasks of the German Empire in
the sphere of world-politics.




The history of our home poHcy, with the exception
of a few bright spots, is a history of pohtical mis-
takes. Despite the abundance of merits and great
quahties with which the German nation is endowed,
pohtical talent has been denied it. No people has
found it so difficult as the Germans to attain solid
and permanent political institutions, although we
were the first, after the downfall of antiquity and the
troublous times of the migration of nations, to acquire
that peace in national existence which is founded on
might, and which is the preliminary condition for the
growth of real political life. Though, thanks to our
military prowess, we found it easy enough to over-
come foreign obstruction and interference in our
national life, at all times we found it very hard to
overcome even small obstacles in our own political

It has often happened to other nations that mili-


128 Imperial Germany

tary disasters, disasters in their foreign policy, have
severely injured and even overthrown their form of
government at home. We Germans, owing to our
pohtical clumsiness, have often defrauded ourselves
of successes won in battle, and for centuries rendered
an effective foreign policy impossible by our narrow-
minded and short-sighted home policy.

We are not a political people. Not that we ever
lacked penetration and understanding for the se-
quence of political things, or for the essence and
association of the religious, moral, social, legal and
industrial forces which condition politics. We have
always possessed this political knowledge to the same
extent as our contemporaries, and even to a greater.
We did not either fail to realise our own peculiar po-
litical shortcomings. But what we did lack, and what
we still often lack, is the art of proceeding from in-
sight to practical application, and the greater art of
doing the right thing, politically, by a sure creative in-
stinct, instead of only after much thought and consid-
erable cogitation.

How can it otherwise be explained that in the
struggle between different nationalities the German
has so often succumbed to the Czech and the Slovene,
the Magyar and the Pole, the French and the Italian,

Introduction 129

and that he still is at a disadvantage to-day? That in
this sphere he usually comes off second best in com-
parison with almost all his neighbours?

Politically, as in no other sphere of life, there is an
obvious disproportion between our knowledge and
our power. We can boast at present of a particu-
larly flourishing state of political science and espe-
cially political economy. We shall seldom feel the
influence of deep learning on practical politics. This
is not because only a small class of educated men, and
not the mass of the people, participate and take an
interest in knowledge. The German nation, on the
contrar}% more than any other people, and particu-
larly as regards the lower classes, is eager to learn
and capable of so doing. Among many fine traits of
character that is one of the finest our nation possesses.
But for the German the knowledge of political things
is usually a purely intellectual matter, which he does
not care to connect with the actual occurrences of
political life. It would be possible for him to do so
only in the rarest cases. For, although well-devel-
oped logical powers result in good judgment, yet
there is too often a lack of that political discernment
which can grasp the bearing of acquired knowledge
on the hfe of the community. The want of political

130 Imperial Germany

aptitude sets a narrow limit, even to highly developed
political science. During my term of office I took a
lively interest in furthering political instruction, and
I expect the results to be better and better the more
Germans of all classes and all degrees of culture are
given the opportunity of following such courses of in-
struction. But much water will flow under the
bridges before these weaknesses and deficiencies in
our political character, which are partly innate and
partly acquired by education, can be so removed. In
the meantime Fate, who, as we all know, is an excel-
lent but expensive teacher, might undertake to edu-
cate us politically, and that by means of the injuries
which our innate political failings must inflict on us
again and again. Failings, even political ones, are
seldom cured by knowledge, mostly only by experi-
ence. Let us hope that the experience, which shall
enable us to acquire a political talent in addition to
so many other fine gifts, will not be too painful an
one. In spite of a past full of political disasters, we
do not yet possess that talent. I once had a conver-
sation on this subject with the late Ministerial Di-
rector Althoff. "Well, what can j^ou expect?"
replied that distinguished man in his humorous way.
"We Germans are the most learned nation in the

Introduction 13 1

world and the best soldiers. We have achieved great
things in all the sciences and arts ; the greatest philos-
ophers, the greatest poets and musicians are Germans.
Of late we have occupied the foremost place in the
natural sciences and in almost all technical spheres,
and in addition to that we have accomplished an enor-
mous industrial development. How can you wonder
that we are political asses? There must be a weak
point somewhere."

Political sense connotes a sense of the general good.
That is just what the Germans lack. Politically-
gifted nations, sometimes consciously, sometimes in-
stinctively, at the right moment, and even without
being driven by necessity, set the general interests of
the nation above their particular pursuits and desires.
It is a characteristic of the German to employ his
energy individually, and to subordinate the general
good to his narrower and more immediate interests.
That was what Goethe was thinking of in his cruel re-
mark, so often quoted, that the Germans are very capa-
ble individually, and wretchedly inefficient in the bulk.

The instinct, proper to man, to unite in societies,
associations and communities for special purposes,
this natural, political instinct reaches its highest de-
velopment in the community which forms a State.

132 Imperial Germany

Where this highest form of development is attained
consciously, the lower forms become of less and less
importance as a rule. Society, united for national
purposes, subordinates to itself all the smaller indi-
vidual societies which serve ideal or material ends;
not forcibly or suddenly, but in the course of the
gradual expansion of national consciousness. The
progress of this development indicates the progress
of national unity and solidarity. Nations with a
strong political sense meet this development half
way, the German has often vigorously opposed it —
not on account of ill-will, or a lack of patriotic feel-
ing, but following the dictates of his nature, which
feels more at home in small associations than when
included in the community of the whole nation.
Herr von Miquel once said to me in his caustic way,
as the result of forty years of parliamentary experi-
ence: "German Parliaments, in a comparatively
short space of time, mostly sink to the level of a dis-
trict council, interested in nothing but local questions
and personal squabbles. In our Parliament a debate
rarely maintains a high level for more than one day;
on the second day the ebb begins, and then bagatelles
are discussed as futilely and in as much detail as pos-
sible." This inclination for individual and particular

Introduction 133

things is responsible for the vogue for Associations
and Clubs in Germany. The old joke that two Ger-
mans cannot meet without founding a club has a
serious significance. The German feels at home in
his clubs and societies. And if such an association
exist for greater purposes of an industrial or a politi-
cal kind, then its members, and especially its leaders,
soon see in it the Archimedian point whence they
would like to unhinge the whole political world. The
late member of the Reichstag, von KardorfF, said to
me, not long before his death: "Look, what maniacs
we are about associations. The association itself be-
comes our be-all and end-all. The Alliance Fran-
paise collected millions to establish French schools
abroad, but it never dreamt of shaping the policy of
the Government. Our Pan-German Association has
done much to arouse national feeling, but, on the
other hand, it considers itself the supreme court of
appeal in questions of foreign policy. The Navy
League has done great service in popularising the
idea of a navy, but has not always resisted the temp-
tation to prescribe to the Government and Reichstag
what course to pursue in naval policy. The Associa-
tion of Farmers, founded at a time of great stress in
the agricultural world, has benefited the farmers as

134 Imperial Germany

a whole very greatly, but has now reached such a
point that it wants to treat everything in its own way,
and runs great risk of overshooting the mark. We
get so wrapped up in the idea of our association that
we can see nothing beyond it."

In smaller things the German can easily find men
of like ideas and like interests, but in great matters,
very rarely. The more specialised the aim, the more
quickly is a German association founded to further
it; and, what is more, such associations are not tem-
porary, but permanent. The wider the aim, the more
slowly do the Germans unite to attain it, and the
more liable they are, on the slightest excuse, to for-
sake this fellowship which cost so much trouble to


Our nation is undoubtedly, in a high degree, capa-
ble of uniting in strong and purposeful action in
national movements. There are plenty of instances
in our history. Thank Heaven, we have never en-
tirel}'- lacked national consciousness, enthusiasm, and
self-sacrifice, and, in the times of gi'eatest disruption,
the feeling that all belonged to one nation never died
out, but, on the contrary, grew to a passionate long-

Political Past of the German People 135

ing. Our periods of greatest political weakness,
times when the State was clearly in a state of col-
lapse, were the most flourishing days of the intel-
lectual life of our nation. The classic writers of the
Middle Ages, as well as those of modern times, cre-
ated our national literature in the midst of the decay-
ing and decayed public life of the nation.

On the other hand, we, as a people, never lost the
consciousness of our political unity and independence
to such an extent as to bear the yoke of foreign rule
for any length of time. In the hour of need the Ger-
mans found, in the depths of their hearts, the will and
the strength to overcome the national disintegration.
The War of Liberation a hundred years ago, which
has lesser prototypes in earlier centuries, will ever
remain a token of German national will-power and
love of liberty.

But in contradistinction to the nations that are,
politically speaking, more happily endowed, the ex-
pressions of German national unity are rather occa-
sional than permanent.

"I have sung of the Germans' June,
But that will not last till October,"

was Goethe's lament not long after the War of Lib-
eration. Only too often with us the union dictated

136 Imperial Germany

by necessity was followed again by disruption into
smaller political associations, states, tribes, classes;
or, in modern times, into parties that preferred their
own narrower tasks and aims to those of the nation
at large, and degraded the great deeds of national
unity by making them the object of ugly party

In German history national unity is the exception,
and separatism in various forms, adapted to the cir-
cumstances of the times, is the rule. This is true of
the present as it was of the past.

Hardly any nation's history is so full of great
successes and achievements in every sphere of man's
activity. German mihtary and intellectual exploits
are unrivalled. But the history of no nation can tell
of such an utter disproportion for centuries and cen-
tui'ies, between political progress on the one hand and
capability and achievements on the other. The cen-
turies of political impotence, during which Germany
was crowded out of the ranks of the Great Powers,
have little to tjell of the defeat of German arms by
foreign forces, with the exception of the time of
Napoleon I. Our prolonged national misfortune was
not due to foreigners; it was our own fault.

We first appear in history as a nation split up into

Political Past of the German People 137

hostile tribes. The German Empire of mediaeval
times was not founded by the voluntary union of the
tribes, but by the victory of one single tribe over
the others, who for a long time unwillingly bore the
rule of the stronger. The most brilliant period of
our history, the period when the German Empire led
Europe unopposed, was a time of national unity, in
which the tribes and princes found a limit to their
self-will in the will and the power of the Emperor.
The Empire of the Middle Ages only succumbed in
battle to the Papacy, because Roman politicians had
succeeded in rousing opposition to the Emperor in
Germany. The weakening of Imperial power af-
forded the princes a welcome opportunity for
strengthening their own. While political life in
Germany was split up into a large number of inde-
pendent urban and territorial communities, in France,
under the strong rule of her kings, a united State
was formed, which took the place of Germany as
leader of Europe.

Then came the religious split. The German terri-
torial States, that for long had been united with the
Empire in appearance only, became open enemies
owing to the religious quarrel, and (a thing that is
essentially characteristic of our nation) the German

138 Imperial Germany

States, Protestant as well as Catholic, did not hesi-
tate to ally themselves with foreigners of a different
persuasion, in order to fight fellow countrymen of a
different persuasion. The religious wars set the
German nation back centuries in its development;
they almost destroyed the old Empire, except in
name; they created the single independent States
whose rivalry brought about struggles that filled the
next two and a half centuries, until the foundation
of the new German Empire, The Western and
Northern Marches of Germany were lost and had to
be recovered, in our times, at the point of the sword.
The newly discovered world beyond the ocean was
divided up among the other nations, and the Ger-
man flag disappeared from the seas, and has only
regained its rights within the last decades.

The ultimate national union was not achieved by
peaceful settlement, but in the battle of German
against German. And as the old Empire was
founded by a superior tribe, so the new was founded
by the strongest of the individual States. German
history completed a circle, as it were. In a modern
form, but in the old way, the German nation has,
after a thousand years, once again, and more per-
fectly, completed the work which it accomplished in

The Separatist Spirit 139

early times, and for whose destruction it alone was to

Only a nation, somid to the core, and of indestruc-
tible vitality, could achieve this. True, we Germans
have taken a thousand years to create, destroy and
recreate, what for centuries other nations have pos-
sessed as the firm basis of their development — a
national State. If we want to advance along the
paths that the founding of our Empire has opened
anew to us, we must insist on the suppression of such
forces as might again endanger the unity of our na-
tional life. The best powers of Germany must not,
as in olden times, be dissipated in struggles of the
Imperial Government against individual States, and
in struggles of the individual States against each
other, without any consideration for the interests of
the Empire.


The founding of the Empire overcame Germany's
political disruption and changed our poHtical life
completely; but it was unable to change the character
of the German people at the same time, or to trans-
form our political shortcomings into virtues. The

140 Imperial Germany

German remained a separatist, even after 1871; dif-
ferent, and more modern, but still a separatist.

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