G. H. (George Herbert) Perris.

Germany and the German emperor online

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consciousness and a class war, and to that end work con-
structively, to obtain small immediate benefits, without
sacrificing the ultimate and larger aim ?

The Empire and the Emperor have been served so
far by five Chancellors. Bismarck continued for twenty
years. There has been no second Bismarck. Caprivi
loosened the tariff and enlarged the army in his three
years' term. Hohenlohe, a gentle old man, held office till
October, 1900, years largely concerned with the colonies
and the new navy. It was then Biilow's turn. All
went comparatively well tiU January, 1906, when the
long continued rise of food prices and the agitation for
reform in Prussia came to a head in a series of popular
meetings of unprecedented size and earnestness. The
meagre results of the Algeciras Conference and a series
of new taxes necessary for the increase of the fleet were
received with rising ill-temper. An epidemic of Schwarz-
seherei broke out in the autumn of 1906, and the Kaiser's
protest at Breslau did not cure it. It was discovered
that Germany was isolated, " encircled." The Emperor,
it was hinted, was the plaything of a " Camarilla." When
a rogue, who became famous as " the Captain of



THE GATHERING STORM 491

Kopenick," captured a squad of soldiers and used them
to protect him while robbing a town hall, the outer-world
might laugh, but to Germans it was too significant of the
superstition of the omnipotent uniform in which they
had been trained. Prince Hohenlohe's Memoirs dis-
illusioned the simpler survivors of the days which the
schoolbooks still called heroic. Count E. von Reventlow,
a nationalistic Conservative, in his Kaiser Wilhelm II
und die Byzantiner , complained that, during the past
fifteen years, the Emperor had placed a gulf between him-
self and the people in order to please his flatterers, the
" Byzantines " of divine right. The Centre became more
and more exacting. " I have been reproached," Prince
Billow replied to his critics in the Reichstag, on Novem-
ber 14-15, 1906, " with being too amiable toward foreign
countries, and, on the other hand, with pursuing a pro-
vocative policy. Between these extremes I can pursue
the just mean. It is a German mania — I might almost
say a calamity — to quote Bismarck quite wrongly, and
to make a doctrine, a system, of every one of his gestures.
The incomparable greatness of that statesman was not
in his sparkling uniform, or in his chnking spurs, but
in the just measure he took of men and things. The
Pan-German League, in particular, likes to put on cavalry
boots, and to gird on Bismarck's big sword. It is useless
to make oneself seem terrible. I think we should also put
ourselves on guard against the consequences of a pessi-
mism which there is nothing to justify. The English
themselves are of opinion that no people has such good
reason as the Germans for regarding their future with
optimism. There is no reason for fearing isolation. We
have no need to run after any one, for that would not only
be unworthy of us, but would be stupid. Let us keep



492 POLITICAL REVOLUTION OF TO-MORROW

the just mean, and, above all, let us avoid that nervous-
ness which, high or low, so often takes possession of us."
On December 13, he made a great appeal for " our pres-
tige, our military honour," engaged in the costly Herrero
campaign. Nevertheless, by a majority of nine votes,
the credits were rejected. It was the end of the second
" Blue-Black Block." The Chancellor dissolved the
Reichstag forthwith, and asked for a Conservative-
Liberal majority.

So far, he succeeded. The Centre kept its full strength,
but the Social Democrats lost heavily before the rally
of nationahst forces. In his verbal encounters with Dr.
Spahn and Herr Bebel, Prince Biilow performed prodigies.
The South African credits were voted ; the Colonial
Office was constituted a separate Ministry, under Herr
Dernburg ; the Polish Expropriation law was forced
through the Landtag. But no major problem could be
touched, and the entry of seven Social Democrats into
the Prussian Chamber showed how little the people were
reconciled. Maximilian Harden's articles in Zukunft
implicating, especially, Prince Philip zu Eulenburg, for-
mer Ambassador at Vienna, and Count Kuno von Moltke,
military governor of Berlin, had led, in the first place, to
the Emperor's separation from these leading spirits of the
" round table of Castle Liebenberg," and, afterwards,
to the unsavoury exposures of the Moltke-Harden and
Eulenburg trials. The country had not recovered from
the moral shock of these events when a new bomb ex-
ploded in the shape of the Daily Telegraph " interview "
of October 28, 1908. Perhaps the most disturbing thing
lay not in the article itself, but in the manner of its pub-
lication. The manuscript, it was explained, had been
sent by the Emperor to the Chancellor, who was holi-



THE GATHERING STORM 493

daying at Norderney. Prince Biilow did not read it, as
it came with a mass of other official papers, but passed
it on to the Foreign Office, where again it was simply
initialled, and sent to the Emperor. The Prince offered
his resignation ; it was decHned. Meanwhile, a storm
of complaint and excited criticism, such as no German
sovereign, perhaps no sovereign of any country, had
suffered, broke over the country. Scores of public meet-
ings were held ; newspapers of every colour. Conserva-
tive as well as Radical and Socialist, demanded that the
personal regime should be ended.

The Chancellor used all his gifts of diplomatist and
debater to cover his sovereign. The German people,
he suggested, did not want a phantom Emperor, but
one of flesh and blood. His governmental acts must be
distinguished from his personal opinions. But " the
fact that the publication of his conversations has not
produced in England the effect His Majesty expected,
but has made a deep and unhappy impression, will, I
am convinced, lead His Majesty to observe henceforth,
in his private relations, that reserve which is as indis-
pensible for a continuous policy as for the authority of the
Crown. If it were otherwise, neither I nor any of my
successors could bear the weight of the responsibiHty of
office." 1 A week later, in a conference with the Chan-
cellor, William II, according to the official report, " re-
ceived the explanations in a highly serious spirit, and
expressed his will in words to the effect that, notwith-
standing the exaggerated, and, as he considered, unjust
character of the criticisms to which he had been pub-
hcly subjected, he regarded it as his highest Imperial
duty to safeguard the stability of the poHcy of the Em-
1 Reichstag, November lo-ii, 1908.



494 POLITICAL REVOLUTION OF TO-MORROW

pire without prejudice to the responsibilities imposed by
the Constitution," and he " accordingly approved the
statements of the Imperial Chancellor." In a directly-
inspired article on the following day (November i8),
the Kolnische Zeitung explained that the Chancellor
had told the Kaiser plainly the danger of the feeling his
interventions had created. " Not only the Chancellor
and the Prussian Ministry, but the representatives of the
confederate States were unanimous on this point. They
also raised their voices, at once a prayer and a warning,
to show the Emperor the dangers of the path he had
been pursuing." Neither the House nor the country was
satisfied with this assurance. The Radicals and Socialists
demanded full Ministerial responsibihty, the Centre
a milder measure of influence over the Chancellor. The
Government refused to participate in the discussion ; and
the various motions were quietly shelved. In fact, the
substantial end had been gained. Divine right had
been cried out of court, and a real, though undefined,
limit had been put upon the powers of the Emperor. ^
It was not, formally at least, this difficult episode
that broke Prince Biilow, but a problem toward the solu-
tion of which no substantial progress has yet been made,

^ The Emperor's subsequent speech at Konigsberg, in August,
1 910, and his threatening remark about Alsace-Lorraine, already
quoted, gave rise to passing criticism. The Crown Prince, from
whom the Kaiser first heard of the Harden-Eulenburg revela-
tions, was himself the cause of much public and official annoyance
in November, 191 1, when, attending the Morocco debate in the
Reichstag, he made himself conspicuous by applauding the speech
of Herr von Heydebrand, the Conservative leader, in criticism of
the Franco-German settlement. The Crown Prince is Com-
mander of the First Royal Huzzais ; the Princes Eitel Friedrich,
Oscar, and Joachim are also in the army ; Prince Adalbert is in
the navy ; the one civilian membei of the family, Prince August
Wilhelm, ha^ received a legal training,



THE GATHERING STORM 495

the fundamental problem of modern States — finance.
The Empire conspicuously fails to pay its way. The
French milliards were soon spent (except £6 milHons,
still kept in gold at Spandau as a " war chest "). In
1886, the Empire had a debt of about £24 millions. The
chief items in the budget were then, and still are, on the
side of revenue, customs and federal contributions, and
on the side of expenditure, the army and navy, and
federal allocations, that is surplus Customs contributions
returned to the States. Up to 1900, when the cost of
the navy began to alter the balance, more was paid by
the Imperial Exchequer to the States than was demanded
from them. In 1901-5, the allocations were 22 per
cent, less than the contributions, in 1906-8 they were
88 per cent, less.i This is a constant subject of dispute
between the State and Imperial Governments. The
former, with no tariff to fall back upon, have their own
increasing requirements to meet, and share only very
partially the enthusiasm of Berlin for the piling up of
armaments. In 1904, it was decided that the whole
net receipts of the Customs should be retained by the
Empire, the States receiving only the proceeds of the
spirits excise and Imperial stamp duties. In 1906, the
States began to fall into debt to the Empire ; and in
1909 overly millions of arrears had to be wiped out, that
is, added to the funded debt. It was then arranged that
the whole net proceeds of the Imperial stamp duties
should also be retained by the Empire, the States re-
ceiving only the product of the spirit excise, while the
maximum of further contributions from the States to

1 Percy Ashley: "The Financial Systems of Germany."
Statistical Society Journal, April, 191 2. Mr. Ashley estimates the
present taxation of the Empire at ^3 per head, or ;^i4 per average
family, per annum,



496 POLITICAL REVOLUTION OF TO-MORROW

the Empire should be hmited to 8^^. per head of popula-
tion.

The Imperial debt, which had risen to £g8 millions in
1901, and £177 millions in 1906, now exceeded £213
millions. There was a regular yearly deficit of between
fifteen and eighteen millions sterling. The Chancellor
warned the Reichstag that pubhc credit was being dan-
gerously affected. The Government, therefore, pro-
posed the establishment of a sinking fund, new taxes
on alcohol, beer, wine, tobacco, gas, electricity, and ad-
vertisements, and a new succession duty. This last item
was the stumbling-block. The Junkers declared that
their temporary union with the National Liberals was
not worth this sacrifice. Supported by the confederated
Governments, the Chancellor refused to give way. On
June 24, 1909, the succession duty was finally rejected
by a Conservative-Centre majority of eight votes ; and
a few days later Prince Biilow resigned. It was an
ambiguous victory at once for Parliamentary control —
the first of its kind — and for the reactionary view of
finance.



III. The Verdict of the Empire

His successor, Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, a Conser-
vative bureaucrat of narrow temper, has done nothing
toward the permanent solution of the problems indicated
above, and, by his ultra- Prussian air has more than once
strained the loyalty of the Southern States. The Con-
servative scheme of taxation which he accepted at the



THE VERDICT OF THE EMPIRE 497

outset was a mere postponement of the financial difficulty.
The State Governments called for a reduction of their
matricular contributions ; but Grand Admiral von Tirpitz
and the army authorities must have their miUions. The
Imperial debt is reckoned in 19 12 at £269 millions ;
add to this the State and communal debts, and Germany
owes a larger amount than England has outstanding
after generations of warfare and empire-building.^ Any
Minister who has the temerity to stand out for sound
finance, or a subordination of agrarian to commercial
interests, risks his political career. It was thus that Herr
Dernburg, the first Colonial Minister of the Empire,
fell, in June, 1910. It was reckoned on that occasion
that William II had used up sixty-nine Ministers and
State Secretaries during his reign, a large number for a
country which offers so little inducement for the culti-
vation of Ministerial talent. It was so that Herr Wer-
muth, Secretary for the Imperial Treasury, fell in March,
1912. He had dared, with the approval of the Federal
Council, to insist that there should be no new expendi-
ture without fuU provision to meet it — " not paper pro-
vision of any sort, but cash provision." Scenting death
duties, the Centre and the Conservatives hurried upon
the trail of the imprudently honest official ; the votes

^ In October, 1910, Imperial loans amounted to /250 miUions,
the aggregate of State loans to ;^750 miUions, and communal debts
to over 1^270 millions, a total of £v,'2.']o millions, against the esti-
mated ;^i,254 millions of British national and local indebtedness.
Cf. Ashley, loc. cit. Germany has, however, substantial State
properties to place against these debits.

It may be noted here that the Royal Civil List now amounts to
about ;^95o,ooo a year, the sum having been raised in 1889, and in
1910, each time by /i75,ooo. The Kaiser owns some ninety
estates which have been estimated to yield about ;^40o,ooo a year ;
and he is also a beneficiary under certain trusts of the Prussian
royal family.

KK



498 POLITICAL REVOLUTION OF TO-MORROW

were passed without provision being made, and Heir
Wermuth offered the only protest in his power, a letter
of resignation.

These are much more than personal, or even party,
questions. They exhibit one corner, at least, of the chaos
of greedy intrigue and rivalry into which the offices
which Bismarck ruled with a rod of iron have fallen.
If there must be stages between monarchical and parlia-
mentary government, the sooner they are got through
the better for any modern State. The Imperial Govern-
ment of Germany, brave as is the front it presents to the
outer world, is stricken with a deep impotency. Its eva-
sions speed the day of reckoning. Not daring to go back,
and unwilHng to go forward, it lives from hand to mouth,
half its strength exhausted in the effort to keep its " block ' '
together by perpetual transactions, to reconcile rival
Ministers, and to please the Court. Dr. Haussman,
a leading Bavarian Radical deputy to the Reichstag,
and editor of the Munich review Maerz, draws a lurid
picture of the " lack of cohesion and lack of plan in the
higher Imperial departments," which he illustrates by
an account of the surreptitious propaganda carried on by
Admiral von Tirpitz for the glorification of his office
and the aggrandizement of his estimates. Admiral von
Tirpitz is, by the letter of the Constitution, a mere expert
assistant of the Chancellor, the only responsible Minister.
Under Hohenlohe and Biilow, however, the heads of
departments obtained a degree of independence unknown
in the old days. A much discussed dilemma has, there-
fore, arisen among constitutionalists : whether is it better
to support a single real responsibility already formally
in being, or to risk a period of disorder through the growth
of Ministerial independence, in the hope of obtaining at



THE VERDICT OF THE EMPIRE



499



length a collectively responsible Cabinet ? Meanwhile,
the disorder deepens ; and neither Herr von Bethmann-
HoUweg nor, for instance. Admiral Tirpitz is a Dernburg
or a Wermuth, to be disposed of summarily.

It was, then, no simple account that was to be settled
in the most remarkable of all the conflicts of word and
vote in modern Germany — the general election of January,
1912. The Protectionist tariff, with its attendant ills of
high prices and low wages ; the policy of colonial adven-
ture and vast armaments, with its consequence in a
dangerous feud with England ; the whole absurd fabric
of romantic monarchism ; the subservience of the Imperial
Government to the Junkers, and its consequent inability
to evolve an honest finance and an efficient administra-
tion ; the irresponsibility of Ministers entrenched be-
hind the property vote of the Prussian Landtag : all these
weak places in the armour of the German Michael were
exposed in this unwonted assault. If party divisions
were fewer — in other words, if the country were further
advanced toward moral unity, and the people were poli-
tically grown up — if the Liberal and Radical parties
had not so often compromised themselves, the challengers
would have swept all before them. With a score of
parties appealing on programmes of great diversity to
constituencies having a marked diversity of interest,
the emphasis of the result was necessarily modified.
The Government helped greatly to simphfy the issue by
appealing to all to unite against the Social Democrats.
But, especially among party stalwarts, old divisions are
not to be thus easily conjured away. The Cathohcs
have been in close alHance with the Conservatives ; but
they must, at least, make a show of democratic leanings.
The National Liberals have been an anti-Governmental



500 POLITICAL REVOLUTION OF TO-MORROW

party, and want a sounder finance, but are strongly Pro-
tectionist and Imperialist. The Radical Volkspartei
are in favour of Free Trade, but do not wish to risk the
disorder that a sudden departure from Protection would
bring about. To throw these and other shades of opinion,
expressed with Teutonic turgidity, before the workmen
of any town in the world would be to invite confusion.
In such a case, the people follow their instincts ; and
the general instinct was to reply to the cry of the Berlin
bureaucrats, " AU against the Socialists," with the
counter-cry, " Any against the Government." The
Socialists had given evidence of vitality by winning ten
bye-elections since 1907 ; it was only a question of how
far they could reach.

The first baUots,wliich took place on January 14, showed
that this was further than had been expected : from fifty-
three seats, the party had already risen to sixty-four, with
others half won, capturing among other places the Clerical
stronghold, Cologne. The National Liberals, Radicals,
Conservatives, and Catholics had all lost ground sub-
stantially. Among 207 members, only four National
Liberals had been elected outright, and no Radical ; to
such a pass had the more moderate types of political
thought come. Everything now depended upon whether
they would, in the last resort, gravitate toward the Right
or the Left. The Radicals heartily, the National Liberals
less generally, decided for the Left. The final result is
shown in our Reichstag table. The Social Democrats
doubled their representation, only losing by nine votes the
one seat in Berlin which they do not hold. The Centre,
the next strongest party, returned with a loss of thirteen
seats held on the eve of the contest. The National Liberals
and Radicals, saved by their second-ballot compacts,



THE VERDICT OF THE EMPIRE



501



lost only thirteen seats ; the Conservatives lost forty-
three, the severest punishment Junkerdom has yet re-
ceived. The Left, if we count the National Liberals there,
had a small majority over all the remaining parties.

But these figures do not fully display the extent of the
national awakening. The distribution of seats in the
Reichstag remains as it stood forty years ago. There
should be one deputy to about 150,000 of population.
In fact, petty States Hke Lauenburg and Schaumburg-
Lippe count against city constituencies like the sixth
division of Berhn, with its 700,000 inhabitants, and
the third division of Hamburg, with over half a mil-
hon. Taking only the record of the chief parties in
the first ballots, we find the following relative voting
strength ;





Votes, 1 91 2.


Per cent, of
Total Vote.


Votes, 1907.


Social Democrats .

Radicals

National Liberals .


4,250,329
1,558,330
1,672,619


35

12-5

13-


3,259,020

1,233,933
1,637,048




7,481,278


60-5




Conservatives ....
Centre


1,855.946
2,035,290


15-5

17


2,004,602
2,179,743




3,891,236


32-5




Total Vote . . .


12,206,808





11,262,775



By proportional representation, the Social Democrats
and Radicals, with only fifteen Liberal allies, would hold



502 POLITICAL REVOLUTION OF TO-MORROW

a majority in the Parliament of the Empire, as it might
then be properly called.^

It would be foolish to build upon these facts expecta-
tions of some early and sudden transformation of German
society. A violent upheaval may, indeed, come, though
the probabilities are against it. The desirable revolution
which would mould the institutions of the Fatherland
to modern needs could only be gradual, for it must work
in and through hearts and minds born in penury and
trained to subjection. Enlightened Germans recognize
how large a change must be wrought in the national
temper ere there can be a liberal Germany. Comparing
English and German society. Professor Hermann Levy,
of Heidelberg, says : ^ " English snobbishness is of a
merely private character. In Germany, it is the place
one has in Society which is the beginning of the ladder
reaching to official position and public influence. The
position one has in Society largely determines the position
one has as a citizen ; and this is certainly in contrast to
the idea that the public or national merits of any man
ought to determine his social position. . . . For more than
twenty-five years,the Government has been identified with
the interests, privileges, and wishes of the higher classes,
or the aristocracy ; and, as a consequence, it has sought
to make those who are not identified with official policy
bear the stamp of inferiority as regards public usefulness
and value. Accordingly, we see that many great busi-

^ In the elections to the Bavarian Landtag which shortly
followed, the Clerical majority was greatly reduced. Out of 163
seats, the Socialists obtained 30, a gain of 9, the Liberal groups 39,
a gain of 12, the Centre 87, a loss of 11, and the Conservatives 7,
a loss of 10.

* In an address before the Sociological Society of London, on
June II, 1912.



THE VERDICT OF THE EMPIRE 503

ness men whose interest it would be to stand, in many
ways, for liberty are reactionary in their public opinions.
. . . Titles, honours, decorations, and the fact of belonging
to a certain class largely determine the valuation of a
man in pubhc hfe. This state of affairs is feudal, mediae-
val ; it reflects in part the gild spirit. It is, at any rate,
opposed to the idea that everybody, whatever his place
in society, may have equal rights as a citizen, and that
the worth of his labour must be the measure of his public
distinction and remuneration." In these respects as in
others. Professor Levy invites a more generous exchange
of thought between the two countries. " You can learn
from us in matters of organization, and, more particularly
as regards the spirit which informs our organizations —
for they are not mere machinery : behind them is the
German mind. And we, on our part, have much to learn
from you, if Germany is to become a country giving fuU
play to individual initiative and efficiency."

Individual initiative and efficiency. To suppose th,at
any large kind of efficiency can be obtained without a
development of upstanding manhood is to show Uttle
insight into character. In the graver emergencies of life,
especially, a confident, because weU-poised and free-mov-
ing, mind is everything ; and that nation is strongest,
whatever its resources of money or arms, that has the
largest number of such minds. Let us assume an average
of abihty among nations. In one country, the roads are
open to talent, pubhc as weU as private ; it varies rapidly,
and produces an ideal of free variety. In the other, only



Online LibraryG. H. (George Herbert) PerrisGermany and the German emperor → online text (page 37 of 39)