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Edward Raymond Turner.

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Prussia



house of the legishitiire, and h<ad httle resemblance to the
American Senate or the British House of Lords. It was
composed at first of 58, and later on of 61, members sent
by the various states of the Federation. The delegates
represented not the people but the rulers and governments
of these states; they were bound to vote in accordance
with instructions given by the governments; and they
acted really as ambassadors of the princes who sent them.
In no way did these members depend upon German voters ;
they carried out the policies of the rulers and upper classes
of the German states. No law could be passed without
the assent of the Bundesrath, and as laws usually originated
there, the legislative power of the Empire was to be found
in the Bundesrath, not in the Reichstag. But as Prussia
could always control enough votes in the Bundesrath to
prevent the passage of a measure not approved by her, gov-
ernment was really in the keeping of Prussia, which had,
indeed, three fifths of the population and two thirds of the
territory of the Empire.

The smaller states in the west and the south were less
military and more liberal; Prussia had the most back-
ward government in the Empire. The legislative power
was vested in the Landtag (assembly), of two chambers
or houses. The upper consisted of princes and others
appointed by the king as hereditary members or for life.
The lower contained members elected by the voters.
The upper house represented entirely the upper class and
the king, and, because of a curious contrivance, the
lower house represented them almost as completely.
This was brought about by the famous three-class sys-
tem of voting. "The primary voters," said the Prussian
Constitution of 1850, "shall be divided into three classes
in proportion to the amount of direct taxes they pay,
and in such a manner that each class shall represent a
third of the sum total of the taxes paid by the primary
voters." The result of this was that two thirds of the



THE GERMAN EMPIRE



147



representation and the control of the lower house were
given to one sixth of the voters, who composed the upper
and wealthy class. In Berlin it came to be that a rich
man's vote was worth the votes of fifty poor ones. More-
over, the king of Prussia had an absolute veto upon legisla-
tion, and in practice initiated such laws as were passed.
That is to say, the government of Prussia, which in effect
largely controlled the government of the Empire, was
in the hands of the king of Prussia and the upper class.
This class was made up of the industrial magnates
and especially of the nobles and great landowners, the
Junkers.

The Junkers were among the most aristocratic and con -
servative people in Europe, exceedingly tenacious of their
privileges of class and high position. In Prussia and in
other parts of the Empire they constituted an upper class
apart from the people, having the social superiority of the
aristocracy in England, but with much more real influence
and power. If they could retain their privileges, they
would support the king without flinching. Accordingly,
in last resort the real power in the government of Prussia
was in the hands of the king, and the real government of
the Empire was also in his hands as emperor. The Prus-
sian Constitution implied the doctrine of Divine Right,
and even as late as the years before the Great War the
emperor asserted this. "Looking upon myself as the
instrument of the Lord," he said at Konigsberg, in 1910:
"without regard to contemporary opinions and intention,
I go my way." He possessed the executive power, he
appointed the important officials, he generally could
control the Bundesrath. And his ministers were not
responsible to the Reichstag. In Great Britain, opposi-
tion of a majority in the House of Commons would destroy
the prime minister's power, but just after the Zabern
Affair (1913), adverse debates and adverse votes affected
the chancellor's position not at all. Indeed, he told the



Junkers
and Kaiser



Divine
Right in
Prussia



148



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Sovereigns
and minis-
ters



William I,
1871-1888



members of the Reichstag explicitly then that he was
responsible to the emperor, not to them.

In France and in England, where ministries wield the
executive power, it is necessary to know something about
the character and aspirations of the principal ministers,
while the king of England, even the president of France,
has usually been of far less importance for a comprehension
of affairs. On the other hand, in Germany and in Russia
an understanding of the aims and the character of the
emperors is all important; as is, to be sure, understanding
the character and intentions of the president in studying
the history of the United States. In the United States
the president's power is limited very definitely by a liberal
constitution, and in Russia the tsar was surrounded
and even controlled by a vast bureaucratic system, or
system of important officials whose cooperation was
nearly indispensable; but in the German Empire, the
great officials who assisted the kaiser were strictly sub-
ordinate to him.

In 1871, William I, already for ten years king of Prussia,
became first emperor of the new state. He ruled until
1888. He was a tall and stately man, and the portraits
that were painted of him recalled to his subjects the
strong German heroes of old. He was an elderly man
when he came to Prussia's throne, already conservative
with age. Always he had been slow, steady, and strong,
not one to go after new matters, or sympathize with
reform or ideas of other people, yet just and honorable
as he saw things. He had served against Napoleon in
the War of Liberation, and all through his life he was fond
of his army and delighted in military things. In politics
the newer ideas never appealed to him at all. He was
filled with the old Prussian conception of the high position
of kings, and believed in divine right of monarchs as thor-
oughly as the rulers of a hundred years before. "The
kings of Prussia receive their crowns from God," he said,



THE GERMAN EMPIRE



149



when he came to the throne. The gigantic success of
Germany during his years tlirew glamor alxjut liis i>erson
and added to the prestige of the crown. His character
did not alter, nor in later years did he tend any more to
follow the changing principles of his time. He was a good
judge of councillors, and where he gave his confidence
he gave loyal and faithful support. Actually during his
reign the destinies of the Empire were guided by his
trusted servant Bismarck, whose ideas about government
were always much like his own.

During the long, splendid reign of William I, then,
there could be little tendency toward a real parliamentary
system of government or greater control by the people. It
seemed that this might come about in the time of his son,
Frederick III, who disliked Bismarck, and was disposed
to alter the Prussian conception of kingship. He did,
indeed, favor parliamentary control, which he may have
come to admire partly through the influence of his wife,
who was a daughter of Queen Victoria of England. But
he had long been suffering from cancer in the throat, and
when at last, in 1888, he came to the throne, he reigned
only three months, and his ideas left no permanent trace.

He was followed by the third and last of the sovereigns
of the German Empire, William II. William had been a
great admirer of Bismarck and that leader's system, and
he cherished the olden ideas. "The king's will is the
supreme law," he declared on one occasion. Strong in
mind, vigorous and aggressive, he tried to take part in
all things. It is difficult to estimate his ability, and his
character remains an enigma. So brilliant was his success
for a while that some considered him a genius, while there
were not a few in the meantime who whispered that he
was headstrong, irresponsible, and rash. There can be no
doubt, however, that with respect to ideas of government,
he looked back to the past more than he regarded the pres-
ent. Like his grandfather he tolerated the Reichstag^



Frederick
in, 1888



William II,
1888-1918



150



EUROPE SINCE 1870



The spirit of
the past



Origin of the

German

system



Germany
once weak
and helpless



but considered the ministers as his ministers, and was
resolved to abate his prerogative not a bit. He loved to
conceive of himself as medieval lord or strong knight,
and a heroic statue represented him as a crusader of the
Middle Ages. It is not surprising, then, that neither
during the short time he remained under the influence of
Bismarck, nor afterward during the much longer period
when he himself governed, was there any important change
in the German Constitution, or any change in the spirit
of administering it, which tended to bring greater partici-
pation or control by the German people.

It must be remembered that such explanation of the
German Government is from the point of view generally
taken in English-speaking countries, where a different
system, of real control by representatives of the people,
has long prevailed, is much revered, and is assumed to be
right. It must be remembered that the German system
arose in the midst of circumstances very different from
those which prevailed in England and the United States.
The English-speaking peoples, protected by the sea,
of which they had command, were generally safe from
attacks and interference by their foes. In this favorable
condition slowly, generation after generation, they devel-
oped self-government controlled by the people, gradually
taking away from the king the power which once he had
held. It was very different in Germany, especially in Prus-
sia. Prussia had no natural frontiers to protect her ; she was
not made safe by waters which her foes could not cross.
For ages Germany was despised by her enemies because
she was weak and divided. In the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries she was ravaged by destructive wars,
and the German people endured almost everything that
invading armies and lawless soldiery could inflict. Small
wonder then that they should come at last to desire above
all things the strength which comes from union, and prize
much more the security which a strong ruler can give



THE GERMAN EMPIRE



151



than a system of parliainonlary self-government. It had
been so in Erance before the Hundred Years War was over,
and in England after the troubles of the fifteenth century.
In both countries strong centralized and despotic govern-
ment arose and flourished for a long time, and Divine Right
was cherished by many of the people. Evil conditions
had continued longer in Germany, and the consequences
had persisted longer. Accordingly, most Germans looked
at these things the old way. There were many who de-
sired the greater liberalization of their government, and
hoped that soon there might be a parliamentary system
more like that of England, with ministers responsible to
the will of tlie people; but, on the other hand, there were a
great many who declared that the German system was
not only better for the German people but that it was
really superior to any other. They said that the personal
liberty of the Anglo-Saxon peoples was only license;
that parliamentary control could never make Germany
so strong or well fitted for the greatness before her as the
strong executive control which she had; that while
their government might be "autocratic," it was far more
efficient than the "democratic" systems of America and
Britain; and that it was able to give to its subjects far
greater happiness and good. Truly they did not rule
themselves, being governed from the top, but they were
governed well and were better off, so they said, than any
other people in the world. Many things were forbidden
(verboten), but this was only restricting the behavior
of individuals for the greater good of them all. Because
all this was so sincerely maintained, and was true as the
Germans looked at it, the Great War of 1914 came to be
partly a struggle between democracy and the older, more
autocratic systems.

It should be said that in one respect the Germans un-
doubtedly had more success than Americans, though not
more than the British. The government of their cities



Weakness
and anarchy
make strong
government
desired



Alleged ex-
cellence of
the German
system



Excellent
municipal
government



152



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Economic
advance



Agriculture



was clean, efficient, and well-administered, as British
municipal government came to be. It is well known that
the people of the United States have been far less success-
ful; and that especially since the Civil War the govern-
ment of their cities has all too frequently been character-
ized by poor management, corruption, graft, and wasting
of public money.

The unification of Germany brought wonderful pros-
perity, and this strengthened and justified the government
that had been set up. Seldom has such success ever
come to any people. It is customary to affirm that the
story may be better told by statistics than anj^ other way ;
and that is true, except that statistics are not apt to make
much impression. Suffice it to say that after the Zoll-
verein was formed, and especially after the North German
Confederation and the Empire, in almost every form of
endeavor the German people went forward so far that it
seemed at last only a matter of time when they would
be first in whatever they attempted.

In the middle of the nineteenth century Germany was
mainly an agricultural country. For most people, living
was hard, since the soil, unlike that of America or France,
was poor. Accordingly, in spite of the industry of the
people, the wealth of the country was low. All through
the following period, however, the most careful fertilizing
and the best methods that science had devised were
applied, so that as time went on the yields were increased.
Moreover, Germany adopting a system which England had
abandoned with the repeal of the Corn Laws, imposed
protective duties to aid the agricultural classes. This
was done not only because of the political influence of the
Junkers, the great landed proprietors, but because the
government desired that the country should continue to
raise as much of its food as could be. The result was well
seen when the Great War came. At that time England
produced so little of the food eaten by her people that a



THE GERMAN EMPIRE



153



blockade would have starved her into surrender in a few
months; but Germany, blockaded though she was, held
out for more than four years.

Far more important was industrial growth. In the
second half of the nineteenth century the German people
left their hamlets and towns, and went to factories in the
cities. These urban communities increased so wondrously
tliat whereas in 1871 half of the population had been
engaged in agriculture, in 1914 rural work kept less than
a third. Berlin grew as fast as Chicago in the New World,
and cities that had been quiet places or asleep since the
Thirty Years' War woke up and expanded and became
vast emporiums in a lifetime. Up and down the valley
of the Rhine, in Saxony, and central Prussia there were
huge factories and forests of chimneys as in central
England, or in Pittsburgh, or Detroit.

The Germans were fortunate in having the basis of
great industrial development in huge stores of coal and
iron. After 1871 coal production was enormously in-
creased. In 1905, when Great Britain, the principal
coal-producing country after the United States, mined
236,000,000 tons, Germany already produced 173,000,000.
Before tlie Franco-Prussian War the German states had
no large supply of iron ore; but in Lorraine the new Em-
pire acquired a part of the Briey Basin, the greatest de-
posit of ore in Europe. The deposit which is "low-grade "
was not deemed very valuable until the later discovei-y of
a new process of extraction of iron from the ore. There-
after the German Empire drew from the Lorraine fields
the greater part of its supply, some 4,870,000 metric tons
out of 7,000,000, in 1910. It was afterward said, with
some reason, perhaps, that had the Germans realized the
value of this possession, they would have taken all of it
when they imposed their terms on France in the Treaty of
Frankfort. At all events, Germany came to be the greatest
producer, excepting only the United States, of pig-iron and



Industrial
growth



Coal and
iron



154



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Causes of
industrial
success



Application
of science to
industry



steel; and although it was not understood by many until
later, this leadership was to make possible her enormous
preponderance in the next great war fought in Europe.
The Germans entered upon their industrial revolution
later than England or France. Thus they could profit
by the experience of those who had gone before. It was
soon found, moreover, that the genius of the German with
his aptitude for organization and study of details was
admirably adapted for the large-scale production of the
later stages of the Industrial Revolution. Starting lower
down than their more fortunate rivals, the German work-
men were accustomed to a lower standard of living and
so worked for lower wages; while habits of the past still
made them willing to work industriously for longer hours.
Furthermore, the rapidly increasing population, which
had previously been emigrating to America and other
places, was now absorbed in the enlarging industry and
furnished a constant and abundant supply of labor; while
the excellent system of education, particularly of technical
instruction, made these workmen able to sustain any
competition. In no other country was there such im-
mense scientific activity and progress, and especially such
successful adaptation of science to practical uses. The
Germans made few brilliant discoveries, but by enormous
industry and patient research they immensely extended
scientific knowledge and then used it in furthering their
industry and arts. Soon German goods were being
sold all over the world. At first, just as with Japanese
goods now, German manufactures were sold from their
cheapness rather than their worth, but presently they
were so much improved that their reputation was every-
where known. The result of this was that Germany, once
low in the industrial scale, rose until she had passed by
France and Great Britain, and finally had exceeded every
one of her rivals save only the United States.

The rising industry was protected by high customs



THE GERMAN EMPIRE



155



duties. This device had been common in the Middle
Ages and later, and was well knowTi in the United States.
England somewhat earlier had adopted the policy of free
trade; but Bismarck was convinced that lack of regulation,
laissez-faire, was wrong, and that industry and conmierce
should be regulated and fostered by the State. In 1879
he abandoned free trade and caused the adoption of a
protective tariff. The result was tremendous stimula-
tion of all the industries of the Empire.

Along with this industrial expansion went enormous
increase in commerce. Some Germans in the IVIiddle Ages
had been great mariners and merchants, and for a long
time the masters of the Hanseatic League were renowned.
But with the discovery of America and the change of
trade routes and the decline of German power all of this
completely disappeared. In the early part of the nine-
teenth century German ships were seldom seen in foreign
ports. After the middle of the century came a change.
In the year when the Empire was founded there were only
a million tons of German shipping, but this had doubled
by 1900, and the increase was more rapid thereafter. A
vast fleet of ships was created, some of them among the
finest in the world; and the German mercantile marine
everywhere competed for passenger business and carrying
of freight. The government assisted this development by
subsidies and state supervision. After 1900 the Hamburg-
America and the North German Lloyd steamship compa-
nies had few rivals anywhere in the world. Hamburg
was the greatest seaport on the Continent. From a
lowly position Germany had in shipping and commerce
passed all of her competitors except England.

As a consequence of this industrial and commercial
development immense quantities of German goods were
sold all over the world. Gradually the Russian market
came largely under German control, great progress was
made in South America, and there was no part of the world



Protection



Commercial
development



Trade
expansion



156



EUROPE SINCE 1870



Study of
markets and
customers
abroad



The German
Government
and trade



National
wealth



where German merchants and traders were not seen.
Much ingenuity and skill were shown in the opening of
new markets. They entered the competition late, when
such rivals as the English had had a long start, had long
enjoyed monopoly of some of the markets, and had made
their names widely known. The Germans now not only
tried to make cheaper goods, and sometimes better goods,
but they took great pains to study their customers'
desires and then suit their wishes. The attitude of the
English and others was that they had good wares to sell,
the customer might buy or not as he chose, but if he did
purchase he must buy what the manufacturer pleased to
make. The Germans never insisted upon this. To every
part of the world they sent commercial representatives
to study the markets, find what customers wanted, and
offer them easy terms. As the most enterprising young
men of Britain went out to govern or work in the colonial
pK)ssessions, so from Germany they went forth to reside
in other countries, learn the language of the inhabitants,
their customs and wishes, and establish business con-
nections with them.

Not all the success that followed came merely from
the care of German merchants and their representatives
abroad. Not a little of it was because the German Govern-
ment constantly lent its powerful assistance to forwarding
and increasing German trade. Some of the methods by
which this was accomplished afterward seemed insidious
and unfair, and not unlike those by which "trusts" were
built up in the United States. At a later time these
methods brought hostility and condemnation such as
attacked "big business" in the United States.

This making and selling of goods was accompanied by
tremendous growth in population and wealth. Before
the Empire the Germans were a poor people. The wealthy
states were Great Britain and France, with the United
States of America rising up like a giant and presently



THE GERMAN EMPIRE



1.57



surpassing them both. But the two generations after
1871 saw amazing progress. An increasing popuhition of
industrious and Iiighly intelligent people, urged forward
by aggressive leaders, and suceecdiiig in business, ac-
cumulated huge stores of wealth and rapidly passed older
rivals. Figures representing national wealth cannot
possibly be very exact, and, indeed, they are mere esti-
mates which have to be constantly changed as circum-
stances alter; but ,just before the (ireat War it was
believed that the wealth of France was perhaps more than
50 billion dollars, that of Great Britain between 80 and
90, that of the German Empire between 80 and 90, that of
the United States about 200 billions. By that time it was
believed that Germany had passed every rival except the
United States, though slie always remained at immeasur-
able distance behind that wealthy and fortunate country.
Marvellous achievement and increasing wealth were
partly the cause and partly the result of increase in number
of people. This was, indeed, one of the most striking
and important things in Europe in the nineteenth century.
In 1816 there were within the limits of the present German
Empire, 24,000,000 people. By 1837 the number had
risen to 31,000,000; the German Empire began in 1871
with 41,000,000; by 1890 there were 49,000,000; in 1900,
56,000,000; in 1910, 65,000,000; and in 1914 the number
was believed to be little short of 70,000,000. By that time
the increase was nearly a million a year. During the
nineteenth century the population of Great Britain had
risen from 10,500,000 to 36,000,000; that of France
from 27,000,000 to barely 40,000,000. At the beginning
of that century France had been the most populous of tlie
highly civilized states of Europe, but just before the war
she had been so far displaced that Germany had nearly



Online LibraryEdward Raymond TurnerEurope since 1870 → online text (page 13 of 49)