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Imperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character online

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(fidehty to conviction), has laid hold of Bismarck on the
score of his changed opinions, and reproached him with
it. He has been accused of his former leanings toward
Austria, of his con\-ersion to protection, besides his
change of front toward the Vatican. Well did he retort
to such chargfes, that he thought he had therein the ad- Change of

° _ '^ _ opinions a

\-antacre o\-er those who still remained where they were '"ark of

"^ . ■' progress.

a generation ago. And this must seem well founded to
all those who do not share the belief of the supernatural
prescience of statesmen, but rather see their genius in
the capacity of profiting by experience and of turning
the unforeseen to their advantage.

Napoleon, who wrote to his brother Joseph, king of
Spain, "I know I shall find tlie Pillars of Hercules in
Spain, but not the limits of m\- power," would have
come down to posterity a far greater man if bitter ex-
perience had taught him to recant in time, and that the
limits of his power were confined to somewhere about
the Rliine. Has history dealt kindly with him because
the warnings providence sent were lost on him? Has
history not denied him the adjective of "Great,"
notwithstanding his "consistency" in refusing to see Napoleon's
the chances within his reach, of rising above his ambi- "■ consistency.
tiousself, and of profiting in time by the dreadful lessons
of his aberrations ?

Herein is to be found the main difference between the
intellectual power as well as the ambition of a Napoleon
and that of a Bismarck — namely, in llu- difference in
meaning of the latter word. To nuin\-, Bismarck is the
very archetype of an ambitious nature ; and so he may

• Our own stalesiiicn — Lord I5i-.i( misliulil, Mr. ("fhnlsliiiii-, ;iiiil I.()r<l Derby —
iipply strikiiiK inslaiues of changing conviclions.

144 Imperial Germany.

be, only with the proviso whicli his enemies forget —
TiK- meaning of namely, that there is such a thing as an almost divine
ambition. What is. after all, the potentiality of all
earthly ambition compared to the one ambitious hope
most of us confess to and earnestly strive to realize —
that of a happier future hereafter ? Bearing the latter
ambition in mind, how can we ride rouglishod over the
definition of ambition, and qualify it as a questionable
quality? To some, the will to serve one's country
at tlie risk or certainty of unhappiness in this world may
seem as worthy as the ambition that prompts us to
be anxious for our personal welfare hereafter.

If there is such a thing as a noble ambition to serve
one's country, surely that quality in its highest accepta-
B^marck''s °'^ tion is to be found in Bismarck. And, as far as we can
ambition. judge, we may even qualify his desire to serve his

country as one that has its origin in the rights of man ;
the right to exist as an independent country, free to
develop its institutions in peace. For the idea of serv-
ing his country by despoiling alien races, which has
been the excuse of so many victorious conquerors, has
never been one that found favor in his eyes. Without,
perhaps, being one of those fanatical believers in the
gospel of nationalities— for he is far too clear-sighted to
be a blind believer in any set doctrine — it is well known
that he regretted the military necessity of annexing
purely French territory in 1870. All his previous con-
quests have been limited to territory to which the
empire of (iermany was legitimately entitled by ties
of. race and historical traditions. We have only to
gauge the extent of the German military successes
^^^r^l^^ by historical comparisons in order to become convinced

moderation. -^ *

of the clear-headed, sagacious moderation of the man in
the midst of world-striking success. It is interesting to



Imperial Germany.

factures ami

cnits, while combating them, he has yet tried to gain for
himself tlie knowledge of what is practicable in their
demands ; and out of it we see the system of insurance
against sickness, in case of accident, and, lastly, the
project of pensions in old age, come one after the other
for the benefit of the working classes.

He has tried hard to stimulate the manufacturing
His encourage- cUisscs of the country, and, rightly or wronelv, he

ment of maim- . ^ . "

sought the assistance of protection for that purpose.
His aim was plain — to make his country independent of
foreign manufacturers, and to force others to accept
German products. His colonial policy, whether suc-
cessful or not in the future, has at least already had the
one result of giving an enormous moral impetus to the
trade of the country.

While party government shows everywhere a craven
anxiety to employ only its own partisans — as if position
were a reward of the nature of a bribe — Bismarck has
sought cooperation among every shade of opinion down
to that of formerly ostracized Republicans. He himself
has put it : "I welcome cooperation gratefully from
every side, and ask not what party it comes from."

This, however, from no mere accommodation to self-
interest. Every action of his was intended to kindle
the national spirit, and in this conciliation was but a
means to an end. Thus, if Bismarck is in part re-
sponsible for a certain boisterous self-assertion in the
academical youth of Germany, the increase of students'
pugnacity, etc., it must be taken in this light. Also his
well-known refusal to receive a German book printed in
Roman characters, which well might seem surprising to
us in its pettiness if judged from a personal point of
view, was doubtless part of a well-weighed system of
national propaganda.

His desire for

Bismarck. 149

As he has never disdained to avail himself of the
smallest advantage in foreign politics, so also no means t^;'!//^^'''^ ^^^
are too trifling to gain the end in view nearer home, for
the end justifies them.

But narrow natures — political faddists — who ride
about on the broomsticks of ragged principles, would
fain judge Bismarck according to their intolerant stand-
ards, while recommending their own methods as to how
to raise a people out of the political mud of the past.
His opponents have not shown that they possess the
magnanimity they pretend to find lacking in him.
There has been too much wounded vanity turned to

Much of the opposition Bismarck ever encountered in
his home policy may be traced to the spirit of jealousy opposition
felt by advocates of social reform because they were not jeaUnfsy.
allowed to carry out their own measures — a feature of
parliamentary government in all countries. Many also
have been too sensitively anxious to show that they were
not led captive by the glamor of military success, and in
some notable instances this feeling has been the result of
excessive vanity. The average Germans have acute per-
ception, and yet they have never been appreciators of a
great man. A sort of self-consciousness makes them
loth to surrender their judgment to unqualified admira-
tion for home genius. Goethe, vSchiller, and other
great fiermans knew something of this ; and Bismarck
himself has si>oken sarcastically on this subject, as
referred to elsewhere.

Thus, although long all-j)owerfiiI, lie has been the
subject of Nenomous hatred in his own c()Uiilr\-, whicli, il ' '',^'';''''^'^'°'^
must be admitted, he has given back in current coin. It
was perhaps only natural, in an age that loves to make
itself believe everything can be done in kid glo\es, thai


I nipt rial (it i in 1 1 )i\ •

Kisniarck and
Count Arnini.

Bismarck a
good hater.

Bismarck's remark to Count Beust, that wlun once we
get our enemv in our power it is our duty to crush him,
should have caused surprise to some and horrified
others. (This animus does not seem to nulHfy an-
other saying of his, that we ought to be outwardly
polite to our enemies even to the steps of the scaffold !)

The memorable conflict between Bismarck and Count
Arnim is a case in point. He pursued the count even
to the jaws of death, and there can be no doubt that the
punishment of Arnim seems to some to have been out of
all j)roportion to his guilt. But we must remember that
behind Arnim stood the violent hatred of an entire
clique, whom Bismarck struck at in their leader. This
was Avell known at the time, for the emperor declared
himself powerless to save Arnim from the hatred of the
chancellor. Yet even here it is necessary to bear in
mind that, let Bismarck's resentment against Count Ar-
nim have been never so violent, this in itself was insulifi-
cient to secure the latter' s legal condemnation and pun-
ishment in Germany. These were impartially meted
out to Count Arnim by the legal tribunal of the land,
which on a later occasion — that of the prosecution of
Professor Gef?eken by Bismarck — clearly demonstrated
its independence by acquitting the accused.

There are battles in political life in which the price of
defeat in some countries must be annihilation. That
Bismarck is a good hater — enough so to delight the
heart of Dr. Johnson — he has abundantly proved ; and
that his nervous irritability — his impatience of opposi-
tion — largely increased as he grew older is generally
understood. That he allowed himself to be carried
away by the opposition of his enemies, even to impugn
their motives without sufficient cause, notably in the de-
bate on the tobacco monopoly, will hardly be denied.

Bismarck. 1 5 1

Yet even here Bismarck never allowed personal pique to
sway his acts when his sense of duty was called into play.

For all that, we do not believe that a wound to his
self-esteem alone could ever have led Bismarck to show
personal animus in a political matter. There are plenty
of incidents known when he rose superior to it, among
them the following :

Count d'Herisson, an officer of the French general

rr 11 • 1 • 1 i Count

Staff, tells US m his book, "Journal of an Artillerv ti'Herisson's

/ - > n- ? 1 1 1 ^ Stratagem.

Officer, how he was sent to Versailles to deliver to
Prince Bismarck the document signed by the French
government embodying the capitulation of Paris. On
the road thither he conceived the bold idea of endeavor-
ing, on his own account, to obtain the release from one
onerous condition of the capitulation — namely, the sur-
render of the flags of the Paris garrison. He therefore
told Bismarck that he had brought the document ready
signed, but with instructions only to deliver it up if the
Germans would relinquish their claim to the I->ench
flags. At first Bismarck was very irritated and excited,
l»ut gave in at last ; thus Count d'H[erisson's stratagem successful. When his book appeared, this passage its success.
was met with strong doubts by the public. But it
turned out to Ijc perfecdy true, for Bismarck caused a
litter to be written to Count d'Herisson telling him that
lu- r( ad liis book with great interest, and he compli-
mented Count d'Herisson on the patricjtic \ictory he
had gained over him. In this, as in many other in-
stances, Bismarck has shown a g(Mierosity of fet'ling
toward foreign fcjes that he has rarely shown to op-
ponents of liis own nationality.

Even Bisman k's deficiencies are interesting and f)ften

1^2 Imperial Germany

arouse our sympathies. At a time when many states-
men divide their energies between the task of ruHng and
horse-racing, the collecting of old china, casuistic discus-
sion, and other pastimes, it is almost refreshing to find a
man who honestly tells you that he understands nothing
of the old masters, that he is too old to learn to ap-
preciate " high art," that he does not know the inside of
an opera-house or of a concert hall, and that he prefers
an Italian organ-grinder to a remarkable tenor.

Bismarck's dislike of the press is well known, but
Bismarck's dis- is not Surprising when we bear in mind how he has been

like of ihe press. i i i • • i • • i •

treated by his pen-wielding enemies during the greater
part of his political career. How often during his tenure
of ofifice public opinion expressed through the press
announced his approaching decline, only to see him rise
through each succeeding crisis higher and higher in
influence and power. But strong characters, such as
his, are not so likely to be appreciated by those of whom
Spencer says :

Therefore the vulgar did about him flocke,
And cluster thicke unto his leasings vaine,

(Like foolish Flies about an Honey crocke, )
In hope by him great benefite to gaine,
And uncontrolled Freedome to obtaine.

Also, Bismarck has been denied the dangerous gift of
Bismarck not Oratory, of which its detractors say, with some reason,
that it has done more harm than good in the world.
Orators have rarely been statesmen. Curiously enough,
too, history teaches us that most great orators have ap-
peared coeval with a nation's decay : witness Demos-
thenes and Cicero. Also the thunderbolts that the late
M. Gambetta hurled from his jaws only served to re-
echo the cry of a defeated country ! Neither Richelieu
nor Cromwell nor Washington was an orator, yet his-

an orator.



tory does not tell us that their statesmanship suffered
from the lack of this accomplishment.

Bismarck's is not a nature we can imagine delivering
well-turned periods or emitting polished Ciceronic shafts, vigor of his

i "^ ^ speecli.

But if his periods are nervously jagged and lack rotund-
ity, they fiy as straight as a dart, and, where they strike,
they pierce the enemy through and through, and thence
pursue their
winged course
right across the

The question
of Bismarck's re-
])orted dislike of
England and the
English has been
too often mooted
not to warrant a
])assiiig refer-
ence. If we may
draw our con-
clusi(jns from
many references
to England in his
private corre-
spondence, from
the fact of both
his sons receiving
F.nglish baptis-
mal names (Herbert and William'), as also from the
m;iny opjjortunities the writer has been privileged to
enjoy of conxersing witii I'rincc iiismarck of late years,
we should say that, ne.xt t(j ( jermanx', llicrc is no coun-

• He is called " Bill " in llio faiiiilv circle.



J'luni an autoi;niph pui Iruil.


Ills attitixle
l()\v:iiil the

154 Imperial Germany.

\x\ ami IK) people he originally felt so much sympathy
with as England and the English. On the other hand,
there are some who aver that the continual upholding
of English doctrines and methods he has had to en-
counter in Parliament, not to mention certain occult
English influences constantly brought up in even higher
places to counteract his plans, have had their share in
prejudicing him against England. Tliat Bismarck is
only too happy if he comes in contact with a repre-
sentative of England who is congenial to him is abun-
dantly proved by his studied attention and courtesy to
Lord Beaconsfield' during the Berlin Congress.

To many it may come as a surprise when we say that
His religious Bismarck's nature is in its root essentially religious.
The categorical imperative of Kant is by him translated
into a dominating influence, and in the light of his own
private confession we must regard him as drawing his
strength and foresight from the constant sense of de-
pendence on a higher will which has called him to his
place at the head of the German people. For instance,
we find this frank and almost brusque statesman thus
writing in the autumn of 1870, while the victories of the
war were yet fresh :

If I were not a Christian, I would not serve my king another
hour. If I did not obey my Ciod and put my trust in him, my
respect for earthly rulers would be but small. I have enough
to live upon, and, as a private man, I should enjoy as much
consideration as I desire. Why, then, should I exhaust myself
with unwearying labor in this world, why e.xpose myself to
difficulties, unpleasantness, and ill-treatment, if I had not the
feeling that I must do my duty before God and {ox his sake ? If
I did not believe in a divine government of the world which

1 It may be interesting to English readers to remember that Lord Beacons-
. field — at all times a great judge of character — was one of the few who were im-
pressed with Bismarck's frank statement of his ambitious aims in 1862, and
anticipated their fulfilment.

Bismarck. 155

had predestined the German nation to something great and
good, I would abandon the trade of diplomacy at once, or,
rather, I should never have undertaken it. I do not know j^jg g^^j.^ ^j-
whence my sense of duty should come except from God. duty God-given.
Titles and decorations have no charm for me. Tlie confident
belief in life after death — that is it — that is why I am a Royalist;
without it, I should by nature be a Republican. All the stead-
fastness with which I have for ten years resisted every conceiv-
able absurdity has been derived only from my resolute faith.
Take this faith from me, and you take my country too. . . .
How willingly would I leave it all ! I am fond of country life,
of the fields and the woods. Take away from me my belief in
my personal relation to God, and I am the man to pack up my
things to-morrow, to escape to Varzin, and look after my
crops !

To us these words bear the impress of deep sincerity.
They are clear water welling' down the old gray rock,
fresh, sweet, ptire, and beautiful, round whose course as
it flows fragrant flowers may grow, making the hard,
harsh outline soft and radiant.

It is indeed no easy matter to gain a clear, unbiased
estimate of the gigantic personality of Prince Bismarck. V.^'"".^!'^ °'^
To a contenijiurary it is nearly impossible. It is as if we impossible.
stood before an imposing Alpine landscape, near enough
in order to perceive the rifts in the rocky structure, but
not far enough away to ajjjjreciate the majestic beauty
of the c)utlincs and tlic harmony of color of the whole.

If tliis be true of his contem])oraii(s, how nun h more
so must it be the case with those who stand nearest to
him — his own couiUrymen. Tiie aspect is l)lurred by
the many iK)ints of attack of his political oi)])onents.
I)Ut one fact stands out preeminent amid the chaos of
criticism, hatred, and admiration, namelv, that since
1870 the many years of i'rince Bismarck's political \\kv

156 Imperial Germany.

ponderance meant peace in Europe and increasing pros-
perity in Germany.

And now that this Titanic figure of our century has
retired into the seclusion of private life — to live on and
to witness still the stability of his work outlast the period
of his own personal direction — who can say that the fitful
glimpes we get of his mighty individuality contradict the
essentially harmonious human estimate we have formed
of his character?

The cry of anguish, " I cannot lie down like a hiber-
nating bear," does not lead us into temptation to quibble
and sling arrows at the human weakness of a man whose
foibles are sometimes fraught with more greatness than
the life achievements of many a popular hero.

Bismarck has never assumed the placidity of the Stoic.
A typical As we Ventured to point out, when still in the height of

C'.erniati. , . , 1 1 • • 1 • •

his power, we do not seek his counterpart m tlie stoicism
of the Roman dictator. His heart, his blunt honesty,
his instincts, were ever German to the core. In order
to accomplish his work it was as imperative that they
.should have been so as it was that Martin Luther should
have been able to throw his mighty German individu-
ality in the scale against the cunning of the priesthood
of Rome. Genius even cannot mark the records of a
people for all time, unless its inspiration is fraught \\\\\\
the fragrance of the soil of its birth. Thus the heart-
burnings of this great man only bring him nearer to us
from the human nature of their source.

It has been well said that no one can know the utter

contemjitibility of human nature like a fallen minister.

His service to But cvcu Others need but have studied the past in order

imappreciared. to ha\e expcctccl the howl of triumph of his enemies

which followed the fall of this great man. Are we not

even told that the death of Frederick the Great — the

Bismarck. 157

policeman of Europe — was greeted with a sigh of reUef
by the community at large? And yet who heeds old
Frederick's detractors to-day, while the luster of his
deeds is more resplendent now than at the time of their
execution. Thus it is ever the fate of truly great men ;
they gain by the perspective succeeding ages lend to
their contemplation.

Still, even Bismarck's fall fortunately affords, now that
he is still living, an opportunity of qualifying a pessi-
mistic estimate of mankind in general.

There was a glorious ray of human sunshine in that
manifestation of svmpathv when the grand old paladin His retirement

^ ' ° 'to private life.

left Berlin, amid the beautiful German cry, "Auf Wie-
dersehen."' It docs us good to hear of mothers hold-
ing up their children to catch another glimpse of those
mighty features. This is a privilege enjoyed by many
thousand patriots since, who from time to time have
made their pilgrimage to Friedrichsruh in the hope of
seeing once more Germany's Iron Chancellor in his
rural retreat^ — retired from business, but still living on
lustily in the hearts of his countrymen.

It is not for us — in fact it is too early for anv man —
to presume to judge of what is hidden from our gaze .■Mapseoftime

, , 'r-1 1 -1 r • 1 1- ■ c iiecessaiy toa

and ken. 1 lie details 01 mternal pohtics 01 a great clear judgment.
foreign country may call forth our interest, but they are,
at least for the time being, beyond the scope of our
judgment. However, time need not roll on in order to
enable us to fcil that no incident with which we are
acquainted can detract from our estimate of the genuine
human nature underlying the vast genius of Germany's
greatest statesman.

1 " I'litil we meet again."



Nullus mortaliuni arniis aut l\dv ante Germanos esse.'

— Tacifiis.


Victory has given the German army a unique posi-
tion in the eyes of the world. There is no denying that
its composition and characteristics excite an interest tlie
extent of which can only be compared to its achieve-

If a great standing army be a grim, unavoidable evil,
Am army of at Icast it Can be said of the German army that its end
justifies the means that called it into existence. It is an
army of peace. It is a nation in arms to secure peace.
Its moral standing is by far the highest of any army the
world has yet seen. Armies are too often sources of im-
morality and rowdyism in all times and countries, but
this one is a decided agent of discipline and morality.
The habits of punctuality, of obedience, of discipline,
the inculcation of the instincts of honor in the humblest,
Us effect on the the meeting of all classes in the nation on one common
.erman peop e. gj.Q^j.jj^ ^f feeling and duty, have physically and morally
strengthened the whole German people. This fact is
visible to the naked eye of any observant traveler who
crosses the German frontier at different points, and com-
pares the populations of the different countries.

We English, who are proverbially slow to recognize or
to acknowledge foreign prowess — and not without some

1 None surpass the Germans in war and faithfulness.


The Army.


excuse, for we have plenty of our own to look back
upon — we even ha\e come to look upon the German
army as something to be admired. " The sternest man-
slaying system since the days of Sparta," one of our
most able periodicals termed it.

Even a Frenchman could not help saying that
although the German soldiers could not, "of course,"
compare with the French, still there was no denying the
merit of the German officers ! "I have seen them
driving their men forward with sword-blows," he said.
But not alone Frenchmen : it has often seemed to
Englishmen that the victories of the Germans have
failed to impress many others with
the idea of their individual prow-
ess. When we say individual
prowess, we mean that glamor of
individual valor and dash in the
rank and file that has ever had a
touch of romance to the eyes of
the crowd.

If failure to impress in this way
be a fact, and one that was based
on accurate observation, then in-
deed the qualities of supreme ani-

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