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since the time of Bismarck, the conception of the
German state has been transformed. What Ger-
mans for centuries have bitterly fought against
is now set forth as the highest and noblest achieve-



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 141

ment of that race. In 1913, Prince von Billow
was saying, "The strong control exercised by the
authorities of Prussia has always evoked a par-
ticularly vigorous counter-movement among the
German people themselves." But if Professor
Eduard Meyer is right, that control is henceforth
to be regarded as the crowning glory of German
achievement. The triumph of German imperial-
ism, which at the time he wrote seemed to Pro-
fessor Meyer so certain, would in his opinion
create a condition in which the ultimate law for
the German people would be the conscience of the
German emperor. "The world in which we shall
find ourselves after peace has been concluded,"
he says, "will be totally different from the one
with which we have been familiar, even should
there be no outward change, no shifting of the
old-time boundary lines. This war is not only
the greatest war in the history of mankind, it is
the most epoch-making event of modern history.
The world as we knew it before August 1, 1914,
has ceased to be. What precedes that date seems
to belong to a remote past, so far removed from
us that we can hardly realize that we had a share
in it."



142 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

There can be no doubt that the world will
never be the same that it was on August 1, 1914,
when one man, responsible only to his own con-
science, plunged Europe into war; but what is
new and startling in Professor Meyer's concep-
tion of the future is the intended transformation
in the idea of the German Empire which it re-
veals. From its inception the empire was with-
out doubt an autocratic structure with enormously
centralized powers; but neither its author, Prince
von Bismarck, nor its apologist, Prince von
Billow, in their most rapturous moments of devo-
tion to their sovereigns would have called it "a
splendid creative monarchy" in which the con-
science of the sovereign is the highest law of the
nation. Bismarck would have recalled that his
own acts in creating it were performed in a man-
ner that the conscience of William I certainly did
not inspire, and Billow could not have forgot-
ten that in 1908 it was his function as imperial
chancellor to quiet the disturbance of the public
mind caused by the indiscreet utterances of Wil-
liam II in the Daily Telegraph interview, and to
pledge his own honor that he would not again



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 143

permit the emperor to act without the responsible
advice of his councilors.

Before 1914 the constitution of the German
Empire was not interpreted as a monarchy, but as
a confederation of monarchies, which, in its own
terms, is "an eternal alliance for the protection of
the territory of the Confederation, and of the
rights of the same as well as the promotion of the
welfare of the German people." It is a confed-
eration of coordinate monarchs and three free
city-republics. "To the King of Prussia," reads
the eleventh article, "shall belong the presidency
of the Confederation, and he shall have the title
of German Emperor"; but he is nowhere referred
to as a monarch except in Prussia. His imperial
powers of control and appointment are very great,
especially in time of war, since "all German
troops are bound to render unconditional obedi-
ence to the commands of the Emperor"; but his
duties and powers, though broad, are neverthe-
less to some extent enumerated and defined.
They are quite definitely limited by the Bundes-
rat, and apparently, but not really, by the popu-
larly elected Reichstag, which is in effect a mere



144 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

debating society, which the Germans themselves
have named "The hall of echoes." It is of inter-
est to note, however, that the powers of the
Bundesrat and the Reichstag are specified in the
constitution before the presidency is even men-
tioned.

The truth is that the constitution of the Ger-
man Empire is, and probably was designed to be,
an extremely ambiguous document capable of be-
ing construed as creating a truly constitutional
government, but well adapted to such perversions
and usurpations of power as an autocratic ruler,
especially in time of war and in absolute com-
mand of an immense and well-disciplined army,
might choose to make.

It is not surprising, therefore, that tfte war has
developed new interpretations of the imperial con-
stitution, and that in the hours of apparent vic-
tory the Byzantinism that even in time of peace
had become so conspicuous among the German
functionaries and aspirants to imperial favor
should be exaggerated, with the result of attribut-
ing to the emperor powers which the people never
supposed that he legally possessed; for, although



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 145

it was the sovereigns and not the people of Ger-
many who made the constitution of the empire,
the people have assumed that it was made in their
interest and not for their enslavement.

The recent revelation that the war may not
bring forth a German victory has created a wide-
spread interest in the real meaning of the consti-
tution and a new desire for popular control of the
government. The German Empire is undoubt-
edly on the brink of changes which are at present
incalculable, for the character of these changes
will depend upon the eventualities of the war. A
German defeat would unquestionably result in
radical revision of the constitutional organization
of the empire and important restrictions upon the
powers of the emperor, not excluding a possibil-
ity of even more fundamental changes. If, on
the other hand, the Central Powers suffer no seri-
ous defeat, and especially if the plans of the Pan-
Germamsts are in any important degree success-
ful, it is with this new conception of imperial au-
tocracy that the rest of the world will hereafter
have to contend. The complete triumph of the
Central Powers would mean the triumph of the



146 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

Prussian monarchy, and would confirm its su-
premacy over the entire German Empire and its
present allies.

It is of the highest importance to the peace of
the world to take into account the critical situa-
tion which is created for Europe by this new con-
ception which the war has generated of the Ger-
man Empire as "a splendid creative monarchy."
There is in this conception no repudiation of the
Pan-German plans of expansion. On the con-
trary, there is an explicit assertion that if they are
now destined to be defeated, the world's peace
will suffer for it, since nothing short of an im-
perial victory will prevent the prospect of future
wars. The "hammer and anvil" philosophy of
history is vigorously reasserted, and Germany in-
tends to be always the hammer and never the
anvil. "It is impossible," writes Professor
Meyer, "to pierce the veil that hides the future,
and to foretell that which will come to pass. Yet
even now every German must clearly discern that,
if the German nation would maintain its position
in the world, there are three things that we must
cleave to as the inviolable basis of our independ-
ent and vigorous existence." These, he says, are



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 147

"our military organization, our economic organ-
ization, together with protection for our agricul-
tural industries, for by these the necessities of life
are assured to us and we are made independent
of supplies from abroad; and, lastly, a virile
monarchial government, wholly independent to
act, that it may be free to combine and utilize
in creative activity all the forces of which the na-
tion is capable. For the beneficent results of this
activity we had every reason to be grateful," he
concludes, "when the outbreak of the war found
us fully supplied with material and thoroughly
prepared, while every day that the war continues
gives us renewed evidence of its efficiency."

It is, in fact, the efficiency of the German Em-
pire in war, its perfection as a form of power, that
constitutes its great merit in this writer's eyes, for
the end of the state is power, not only creative and
constructive power, but destructive power as well.
"The truth of the whole matter undoubtedly is,"
he says, "that the time has arrived when two dis-
tinct forms of state organization" the German
and the English "must face each other in a
struggle for life or death." They cannot, it



148 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

seems, longer live together in the same world.

It is then with this new Germany, if she is vic-
torious always prepared for war, trusting only
to the sword, believing in the necessity of future
wars, bent on "creative activity" in the develop-
ment of her "vigorous existence," under the com-
mand of "one man wholly independent to act,"
and opposed to internationalism, that, if this
interpretation of imperial purpose is correct, the
other nations of the earth will have to live. If
there is to be peace, Germany contends, it must
be a peace imposed by the conqueror in which
other forms of state organization will have to
yield to imperial supremacy. Such is the claim,
and such is the be&st.

Certainly, this is not the old Germany that we
knew and loved, the teacher of music and poetry,
science and philosophy, art and literature. A
thousand memories of kindly faces and sweet
voices and delicate attentions flood in upon our
minds as we compare the present with the past.
The land of song, the home of the humanities,
the embodiment of Gemutlichkeit, are they really
gone forever? And what has any one done to
Germany that she should now wish to estrange



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 149

herself from all the world? Does she really re-
pudiate internationalism? Hereafter will there
be in the world no welcome ports for her great
fleets of merchantmen as of old? Shall we not
again sail the wide ocean with her great captains ?
Shall we not learn again of the great masters who
have been our teachers? Tear out that page,
Professor Meyer, and write it in another mood.
What can the German Empire expect of a world
in which there is no internationalism? What is
to be its place among the nations? And whose
fault is it that there is to be no internationalism?
Who has been the first to violate treaties? Who
has been the first to decline to let Europe decide
what was from its very nature a European ques-
tion? Who first declared war in the midst of
negotiations? Who first proceeded not against
an enemy in arms, but against an unarmed and
neutralized people? Who first challenged all
neutrals by a campaign of frightfulness in which
innocent non-combatants, men, women, and even
little children, were shattered into fragments by
explosions, or mercilessly drowned in the sea?
Is the right to live in the world a question for the
conscience of one man? Shall the burden of guilt



150 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

in the struggle for empire be made to rest upon
one human being and not fall also upon those
who have intended to profit by it ? And, finally,
can it be expected that the world will remain
friendly with a nation that organizes assassina-
tion as a means to power?

We may as well frankly recognize the fact first
as last, that German imperial aggression does not
grow entirely out of the adoration of a dynasty
nor out of its compulsion, nor is it purely the re-
sult of a philosophic theory of the state. It is
because dynasties serve national purposes that
they are invested with peculiar sanctity, and it is
because an imperial government can increase the
power of a people over other peoples that the aid
of philosophy is invoked to sustain its prestige.
When we appeal to history the evidence of this is
overwhelming. What has reconciled Germany
to the overlordship of Prussia is the material ad-
vantages that have been derived from German
unity. For the wave of conquest, which orig-
inally proceeded from the Mark Brandenburg
and derived the name of Prussia (Bo-Russia)
from the annexation of a Slavic province of Po-



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 151

land obtained by a union of war and diplomacy,
there is no sentiment of reverence in the German
heart. The Germans know too well their own
history. An empire ruled by Prussia would have
been repudiated in the first decades of its exist-
ence had it not brought extensive economical ad-
vantages to all the German states. This it un-
doubtedly has done, and the appreciation of it is
heightened by the expectation that the centralized
power of a unified Germany will procure further
gains to the German people, new employment for
their labor, new markets for their goods, new re-
sources -for their exploitation. The Pan-Ger-
manist program is not really founded on race
affinity or sentiment of any kind. It aims at the
extension of the empire because it is regarded as
a fruitful tree, the growth of which will not only
cast a protecting shade, but bear rich fruits for
the German people.

This aspect of German imperialism is well
illustrated in such works as Dr. Friedrich Nau-
mann's "Central Europe" ("Mittel-Europa")
and Professor Harms on "Germany's Share in the
World's Trade"; the latter manifesting a very
lively sense of the economic importance to Ger-



152 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

many of international trade, and of the disadvan-
tage that would be incurred if foreign markets
were lost to her.

It is Dr. Naumann, however, whose circle of
readers is very wide and whose authority as a
popular writer and as a member of the Reichstag
is very great, who best interprets the dominat-
ing thought in current German political plans
for the future. Writing in the midst of war and
under the inspiration of war, he presents to us
his vision of a new Central Europe great enough
and strong enough to hold an undisputed place
in the midst of permanently hostile nations, giv-
ing to Deutschtum a rock-ribbed security in which
to abide its time for that military development
and that economic expansion to which he believes
that the German peoples are entitled. Only in
the midst of war, it is contended, could the mind
be prepared to comprehend the need and the im-
port of such a vast conception; for Mitt el-Euro pa
the further extended, further energized, and
further fortified Teutonic empire of the future
could never even be conceived by the ordinary
every-day spirit. "As Bismarck, in the midst
of the war of 1870 and not after it had ended, be-



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 153

held a vision of the German Empire," he writes,
"so in the midst of war, in the flowing of blood
and the commotion of peoples, will be laid by our
statesmen the foundations of the new construc-
tion."

What then is this new imperial edifice to in-
clude? It is, in the words of its projector, to
consist in nothing less than "the coalescence of
those states which belong neither to the Anglo-
French Alliance nor to the Russian Empire; but,
above all, the combination of the German Empire
and the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, since
all further plans for the uniting of the Central
European peoples depend upon the success at-
tending the union of the two Central States."

The necessity for this union, Naumann thinks,
is absolute, for the reason that the day for the
role of small states in history is forever past. In
the old Europe the small states had a natural
place. Germany was entirely composed of them,
but, always discordant, they presented a shifting
picture of struggling princes, each actuated by
his own interest and rarely forming combinations
of historical significance. Like clouds they sud-
denly gathered and as suddenly were dissipated.



154 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

The so-called Holy Roman Empire of the Ger-
man Nation, in which the German states nomi-
nally existed, was under the house of Hapsburg
utterly devoid of unity, the greater half nearly
always subject to foreign influence insinuated un-
der the pretense of protecting them against the
authority of the empire of which they formed a
part.

To-day, under the pressure of a common hos-
tility, the German Empire, unified by Prussia,
and the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, feel-
ing their common necessity of cooperation, are
aware of being united in a struggle for their ex-
istence. No longer is separatism to be defended.
War has created a Central European soul, which
must now, he thinks, take on a body fitted to its
needs.

But it is not a mere temporary exigency that
has brought about this result. Great business
has necessitated great politics, and the organiza-
tion of the state must correspond to them. We
must, says Naumann, as Cecil Rhodes expressed
it, "think in continents." Sovereignty in any
real sense can hardly any longer be ascribed to
the little peoples. Without allies they are noth-



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 155

ing. Isolation is weakness and danger. Even
Prussia, alone, is too small for a modern state.
"The State," Treitschke taught, "is power"; and
he added, "There is something laughable in the
idea of a small State." No doubt amidst the
battle of giants it may seem laughable for the
physically feeble to demand freedom or even jus-
tice, and yet, as has been well said, "there is
something unpardonably brutal in such laugh-
ter." There being no historical role for the small
states according to this philosophy, they do not
enter at all into the groundwork of Central Eu-
rope. They would prove too independent, too
refractory, and certainly too feebly inspired by
the imperial spirit, to be combined in the active
and potent nucleus of power required for the real-
ization of this great political conception. Italy,
if it were more amenable to Teutonic influence,
might be an acceptable acquisition; but, at pres-
ent, it is too Latin in its affinities to be incor-
porated in the body of Central Europe. Like
Holland, Switzerland, the Balkan States, Tur-
key and the Scandinavian countries, Italy is on
the whole too peripheral to form a vital organ in
this new organism. All these countries, despite



156 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

the greatly enhanced quantitative conception of
the modern state as a great power, "since they still
have before them historical waiting-time for their
decision," are to be held for the time being in
solution. The first and pressing necessity is to
create that nucleus of Central Europe the com-
bination of the German Empire and Austria-
Hungary around which the little states may
ultimately crystallize; for these, Naumann thinks,
when they once "see with open eyes" what their
future position will be, will one by one seek safety
and advantage by adhering to the Central Powers.

Such, in outline, is Naumann's program for
the future. It is a program only, but it is one
upon which he expends a lavish art in order to
give it all possible attractiveness.

In his estimation, the critical moment, will be
in the negotiations for peace. What the terms of
peace will be he prudently does not attempt to
say; but whatever they are, "whether the outer
limits of the central empires of Middle Europe
are to be bent somewhat more toward the West
or toward the East, upon the ground of military
triumph, the question in all circumstances re-



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 157

mains : whether the plenipotentiaries from Berlin,
Vienna, and Budapest leave the hall of the Peace
Congress as clear, true friends or as secret
enemies." "We wish," he continues, "that they
return to their peoples with the solution: 'Eter-
nally undivided/ '

In that case no doubt Europe will enter upon
a period of development differing widely from
the past. But will that union be achieved? No
one better than the projector of Central Europe
understands that the answer to the question can
not be certain. "All wars of coalition since re-
mote antiquity," he says, "have been attended
with difficult conclusions of peace, for they have
always ended with gains and losses that must be
reconciled with one another." Such a peace as
that of 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, Naumann
insists, must not be repeated. The one really
great trophy of the war will be wrapped up in the
question of permanent union. If the Austro-
Hungarian Monarchy and the German Empire
can be kept asunder, that will be for the En-
tente Powers a great and permanent victory. If,
on the other hand, they unite to form a new
Central Europe, the sons of Germany and



158 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

Austria-Hungary, he thinks, will not have died in
vain.

It is not, however, a general reorganization of
national life and a better assurance of general
peace that are expected from the coalescence of
the Central empires. It is rather their mutual
defense and a quicker and firmer preparation for
new military emergencies. In the negotiations
for peace, it is admitted, each of the belligerents
will seek its freedom as well as its advantage;
but, insists Naumann, "it is an unhistorical form
of apprehension if one believes that five or eight
Great Powers will leave the hall of the Peace
Congress without already having new treaties in
their pockets." In any case, it will not, he
thinks, be the beginning of everlasting peace.
There will be pacific endeavors and perhaps new
assurances; but there will remain unsettled an
incredible number of new as well as old questions
that will awaken solicitude for the future. "All
the ministries of war, all the general staffs, all
the admiralties," Naumann contends, "will re-
flect upon the lessons of the war when it is over;
a still more scientific technique will invent new
weapons; the frontier strongholds will be made



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 159

broader and more extended." And the inference
from all this is that no single state can remain
alone. The German Empire and the Austro-
Hungarian Monarchy, if they are to survive, he
urges, must combine for their mutual safety and
support.

This necessity arises in part from their terri-
torial unity, viewed from an orographical point
of view. Nature, from the North Sea and the
Baltic to the Alps, the Adriatic, and the southern
plain of the Danube, has so ordained it. "Open
the map," says Naumann, "and see what lies be-
tween the Vistula and the Vosges, what between
Galicia and the Bodensee! This area can be
conceived only as a unit, as a well-articulated
brother-land, as a confederation of defense, as a
self-sufficing economic district. Here must all
historic particularism in the stress of the world-
war so far vanish that it confirms the idea of
unity."

And as unity is favored, so must it be perma-
nently secured by physical conditions. What
these conditions are the war has revealed. The
best-established result of a technical military
character is that in the future fighting will be



160 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

only in long-drawn-out lines, and trenches will
furnish the basis of the defense of the Father-
land. The policy of the trench consists in this,
that every state must calculate within what
limits it can or cannot establish its trench-de-
fense position. Had the French entrenched them-
selves from Belfort to Dunkirk, it is asserted, the
invasion of France through Belgium would prob-
ably have proved impossible. The same, it is
insisted, holds good for the East Prussian and
Austro-Galician frontiers. After the war fron-
tier entrenchments will everywhere be erected
where the possibilities of war are present. New
Chinese walls must arise if the nations are to live
in friendship. Two long walls from north to
south will divide the European continent into
three strips. The Middle European question is
whether between the walls running north and
south still another between Germany and Aus-
tria-Hungary will be needed. Naumann urges
that if the unity of future policies is not secured,
the necessity will be imperative; but, if thus ren-
dered necessary, it will be in the highest degree
injurious and full of evil portent for both sides.
Inclusion or exclusion these are the alterna-



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 161

tives offered to Austria by this new system of for-
tified insularity, here presented as the only possi-
ble method of securing friendly relations. What
is it that demands these insurmountable barriers
between nation and nation? Is it utter de-
spair of all moral and legal means of reconcilia-
tion between them? Whence, then, this inerad-
icable incompatibility between the nations east
and west of these mural barricades? What is
it that makes it necessary for all the future to
part them by impassable and eternally guarded


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Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 8 of 15)