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Imperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character online

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tiiey have already done, the time camiot be very far
distant when Cierman goods will not only be generally
recognized in conse(|uence of their cheapness and adapt-
ability to the market, but also, as in the Middle Ages,
by their honest excellence as well.



Er liigt wie gedruckt.'^ — Popular Saying.


Junius was of the opinion that Englishmen should
sooner give up their Parliament, the responsibility of
their ministers, the Habeas Corpus Act, even the right
of taxing themselves, than surrender the freedom of the
press ; for that alone would bring back all these boons.
Many Anglo-Saxons would be prepared to subscribe
Attitude towani to that cven now, but few Germans. They fear the
the press. power of joumalism, but, as a rule, do not respect it.

Not that the German press is one whit less honorable
and self-respecting than the English, but the German
temperament does not look upon "print" with the
same awe that Englishmen do. As shown by the pop-
ular saying, "He lies like print," the critical German
mind instinctively feels with Bismarck, when he said in
the Reichstag, February 6, 1888 :

As far as the press is concerned, I cannot attach any decisive
opfniori! ^ weight to it. They say in Russia it means more than in France.

I am of the opposite opinion; in France the press is a power
that influences the decisions of the government ; in Russia it is
not the case, nor can it be ; but in bolli cases the press is, in my
eyes, only printing ink on paper, against which we do not war.
For us there can lie no challenge in such materials. Behind
every article in the press there is but one individual, who
handles the pen in order to publish this article to the world ;

1 He lies like print.


The German Press. 277

the same in a Russian paper — let us assume it is an independent
Russian paper that is in connection with French secret funds,
that is perfectly immaterial. The pen that indites therein an
anti-German article has nobody at its back but he who holds it
in his hand, the single individual, who produces this lucubration
in his study, and the protector that a Russian paper usually pos-
sesses, some high official who has got entangled in party poli-
tics, and who perhaps happens to grant this paper his protection,
both weigh but as a feather against the authority of his majesty
the emperor of Russia.

The above sentiments, not only Bismarck but Ger-
mans in general apply to the press of every country
more or less, and hence the German press never had, Power of

. . the press.

and ne\er will have, the power the press wields m Eng-
land. This leads us to beheve that the Germans as a
nation are much more mentally phlegmatic than Eng-
lishmen. Although perhaps more nervously irritable
and e.\citable in some ways, their judgment is more
sober and placid ; they think more for themselves than
Englishmen do.

A German will read a violent newspaper article, and,
instead of being carried away by it, like one of ourselves,
will say to himself: "This is written by that virulent
rascal X ; what can be the matter with him to-day ? ' '
On the other hand, he will casually read a journalistic
ojMnion at variance with his own from mere intellectual
curiosity, where an Englishman will studiously avoid
reading any paper but the one holding his own \iews,
and will generally blindly adopt the views of his favorite
paper, even if they hajjpen to differ from his own. The
German reader retains his independence of judgment far
more, and will unhesitatingl)- stop taking a paper wliose
views no longer suit Iiim.

The late emjieror William could never again be in- i:m..cror
duced to look at the Krcuzzcihing after it had once icscnunent.


hnpcrial Go iiia/iy.

taken a line that offended liim, thoutih this .sin<de act
was strangely at variaiicx- with that great and good
man's character, always so free from e\'erv j^crsonal
feeling of resentment.

Tlie Berlin National Zeihoiff, for instance, in one day
lost thousands of readers when it adopted a line of its
own that did not agree with their views. The journal-

The Fountain ok Professor Bkgas, in front ok the Emperor's

Palace, Herlin.

istic tactics so common in England, of advocating what
was previously opposed, are decried in Germany, and
looked upon as proofs of want of principle. A news-
paper that avowedly changes its views with, or in ad-
vance of, the current of public opinion, would wield
little influence in Germany, its opinion would not com-
mand respect or weight. The journalistic ambition of

The Gennan Press. 279

shaping public opinion — admirably as it works in Eng-
land — does not succeed there.

In their anxiety for " conscientious conviction " Ger-
mans are often exaggerated and unpractical, and become
Principienreiter — /. e. , men that ride about on a broom
labeled " Uberzeugungstreu " (fidelity of conviction!).
The Liberal politician who before the battle of Sadovva
had dared to hint at the possibility of Bismarck's being
in the right, was morally a dead man. The same fate
awaited him who tweh'e years ago dared to find fault
with the notorious May Laws against the Roman Catho-
lics which are condemned to-day by all parties.

Also, the Germans carry far more personal feeling into
their political opinions than we do, and journalists of The personal

. . . , . element.

opposite ways of thinking are not always ready to give
their opponents that credit for honesty of purpose Eng-
lishmen concede, except in reference to Irish affairs. In
the latter they come very near to German virulence and
invective, as to which the following is an example taken
at random from the next papers at hand.

A polemic between the Democratic Frankforl Gazette
and the North German Gazette, Bismarck's official organ
at the time, yields the following amiable buds of rhetoric:

When some weeks ago the Nortli (ier)iian Gazette undertook
U) cast a vile aspersion on llie Franl^fort Gazette, and we in re-
turn accused that sheet of shameless lying, the voluntary gov-
ernment organ quietly pocketed the accusation. We were not
surjirised at this, ^s there is no accounting for tastes. Still we
could hardly have e.xpecled that the Nortli Germati Gazette
would have the barefacedness to bring up that same lie again.
(Extract Frankfort Gazette, July 24, 1888.)

Pretty severe this, but the North German Gazette
had aggravated its original aspersion by coolly stating
that the Fra7ikfort Gazette was not a Gjcnn:iii i).ipi r at

An instance.

28o Imperial Ccnnany.

all. Now, as that influential journal is the property
of a Jew. that was distinctly hitting below the belt, and
calculated to exasperate the party receiving the blow !
The Noj'th German Gazette seems to have had a rather
lively time of it, for almost on the same day we find the
ultra-Conservati\e New Prussian Cross Gazette declar-
ing it to be "impertinently arrogant," "untruthful,"
and again "impertinent."

Yes, political partisanship in the press is very violent
Strong political jn Germany. The Prussian Conservative papers, in their

partisanship. •'

blind hatred of everything Liberal, attack even those
harmless and charitable convivialists, the Freemasons.
The Liberal and Democratic press become figuratively
black in the face at the mere reference to a Prussian
feudalist, and, sad to say, many are the journalistic
elements in the Fatherland who would often have wel-
comed a humiliation to Bismarck, even if it included an
injury to the country. Thus party politics show no more
amiable characteristics in Germany than elsewhere.
Bismarck's estimate of the press has been referred to,
Bismarck's but in its manipulation he showed his usual skill. The

control of • , i i i it • i •

the press. master mmd, that has used all parties and m turn cast

them in the shade, played sad havoc with German jour-
nalistic conscientious fads. He drove his opponents
wild. He used his press organs either to coax or to
threaten, to butter or to bully, to draw a red herring
across their path, or to set up a scarecrow in their fields.
It is all the same — it invariably answered the purpose he
had in view.

.Some years ago all Europe was kept in a state of

An exam le anxiety by a general cry of the German government
press that the Russians were massing troops on their
eastern frontier. Since then all has long been silence on
that subject, and although in all probability not a Cos-

The German Press. 281

sack has since those days been withdrawn from the Ger-
man frontiers, any paper venturing to hint at Russian
troops would be roundly accused of either trickery or
want of patriotism.

Now and then the public saw through it, and when
the North German Gazette was unusually ' ' ram-
pageous," and the Cologne Gazette joined in, it was
generally understood that the tum-tum at the village
fair was being beaten. Something is coming, and soon
we shall be invited by the ' ' strong man ' ' at the booth
to hurry up, pay our pennies, and see him throw his
hundredweights in the air, .swallow fire, and otherwise
prove again and again that he is the strongest man
alive, and the rest of humanitv mere black-beetles.

Thirty years ago the English press possessed nearly
its present power, and that of France numbered some of Former .status
her most brilliant writers as contributors. In those press,
days the press of Germany was in a very backward
rcMidition, its news of antediluvian fiavor, and its com-
mercial enterprise at the minimum.

The last twenty years ha\e wrought a great change
in this as in so many other matters. Although the
]>ress is hardly, as w ith us, the road to fame or fortune
('excei)t in very rare cases), although comjjaratively "^ ^'^^■^"<^"^-
few men of kn(,iwn literary attainments contribute to it
fe.xcept in \\\c feuillcton^ as essay- writers ), to-day it is
an energetic exponent of public opinion, its niws is
almost as varied as our own, and althtjugh without
nuich political influence, it is carried on on broad com-
mercial principles.

I The part of a conliricntal iic\vsp;i|>ii that is di-votcd to iJKhl hliiatiiii-,
(jcrial Atories, or criticisms.

282 Imperial Gcrniaii)'.

Germany does not, like Engkuul, possess one intel-
lectual and political capital, but rather a number of
such, and thus no one exposition of opinion could
possibly command the influence or enjoy the circulation
possessed by any of our great daily papers. The Berlin
newspapers permeate the north of Germany, but Saxony
clings with strong local feelings to those of Leipzig and
Dresden. The Breslau papers are read in Silesia and
Eastern Prussia, the Cologne Gazette circulates prin-
Most important cipally in the West, besides possessing, like the Berliner

newspapers. '■ ^

Tageblatt and the Frankfo7-t Gazette, a large foreign
pirculation. The Frankfort Gazette is the most im-
portant paper in South Germany (with the Cologne
Gazette it is perhaps the best edited paper in all Ger-
many), which possesses but few other papers of note
— the Allgemeiyie Zeitujig of Munich and the Neueste
Milnchner Nachrichten. Nor must we forget the
Hamburger Nachrichten, which since Prince Bismarck
is popularly supposed to contribute to its columns is
read all over the Continent.

Thus it will be seen that there is no strong centrality
in the press, as in England ; for although one or two of
Lack of cen- the Berlin papers may be the most widely circulated, no
single one of them has the political or literary standing
of one or two provincial papers. Also certain of these,
including the Vienna Free Press,^ have a more diffused
circulation all over the country than some of the Berlin
papers, the two most popular of which are perhaps the
Berliner Tageblatt and the Lokalanzeiger, the latter
boasting of as many as 200,000 subscribers.

Although no German newspaper can be mentioned
for commercial enterprise beside English or American

1 Although in reality Austrian, this paper must be considered German in the
same sense that many other things in Austria are German.


The German Press. - 283

leading journals, yet there are a few that have out-
stripped all home competitors in this respect. Here
may be mentioned as preeminent in this respect the
Berliner Tageblatl, the Berliner Lokalanzeiger, the
Vossische Zeihing, the Frankfort Gazette, the Cologne
Gazette, and the Vienna New Free Press.

German newspapers are, unlike English, chiefly sub-
scribed for and received regularly, and taken in this way
cost about two cents daily. Some of them appear as
often as three or four times a day, in morning, after- Distribution.
noon, and evening numbers, with various supplements.
Bought singly, they are somewhat dearer. The system
by which all German papers can be ordered, paid for,
and delivered through the post-office, works admirably.
As the price of the newspapers does not exceed the
cost of paper and printing, their principal income is
derived from advertisements, and hence, too, they
cannot afford to offend the interests that advertise, or
take an independent line that might jeopardize their
circulation, and are forced to adhere to the plain com-
mercial principles that alone enable them to exist. To
increase their circulation almost all German papers
adopt the fcuilleton with its anecdotal gossip, and many
of them are forced to publish serial stories, as that gives
them a greater chance of gaining subscribers than any
other literary merit or loftiness of purpose or principle.


From a literary point of \iew, there is a great differ-
ence between (ierman and Mnglish jiapers. In that
peculiar ff)rm of editorial writing, that talent for group- literature"
ing of which enables them to put a fjucstion super-
ficially, but pithily and clearly, before the reader, so
cleverly that he almost loses sight of the fact of its being

284 Imperial Geniuinj.

written frDin a party standpoint (and thus without im-
Points of partial logical value), the Germans do noi come up to

mfei lonty. If?'' 1

the English. Also, as graphic reporters of passing-
events, the field of the special correspondent, they can-
not compare with English or American writers.

On the contrary, in the dispassionate, thorough
resume of a political or social question, as well as in
criticism, particularly on art and science, they surpass
the English. Passing over those sheets that seem prin-
cipally to live on a continual round of political squab-
bling, there are some papers — notably, the Munich
Allgemeine Zeitung — that not only reach a high stand-
ard of literary excellence,' but also combine a rare im-
partiality of opinion with serious breadth of treatment.

The Allgemeine Zeitung is one of the few German
papers that has traditions. It was formerly published in

I he Allgemeine ^ "^ _ ^ ' _

Zeihing. Augsburg, and to its columns the poet Heine con-

tributed his well-known Paris letters. Also for a long
time it withstood the temptation of adding to its circula-
tion by the introduction of the feuilleton. In fact, we
cannot but consider the Allgemeine Zeitung an orna-
ment and a credit to the journalism of the country. For
solidity of information on the scientific topics it touches,
it is unrivaled among daily papers, and reminds us
in this of some of our best reviews without their party
bias. It contains more solid intellectual information, as
distinct from news, than any paper we know of. Daily
it brings exhaustive articles, sometimes in a series, on
all sorts of topics of cosmopolitan interest, and the
reader is sure to learn something on whatever subject it
treats. In London it is only in the leading papers that
we find now and then special articles, chiefly reviews, of

1 In this respect the Berlin National Zeitung also deserves to be mentioned ;
many of its articles are signed by the writers.

The German Press.


a similar exhaustive character. The following headings

of leading articles, taken at random day by day, will Scope of sub-

* ' J J J 1 ject matter.

enable the reader to judge of the scope of its matter :
" Prussia's Agricultural Administration in the Years
1884-S7 "; "The Inundations of Hwangho " (giving a
graphic description of the inundations of this great
Chinese river during the last thousand years, and its

The Cathedral of Cologne.

bearing on the civilization of the country); "The Con-
stitution of Jaj)an " ; " King Louis I. of Bavaria, as the
Educator u\ his People," etc., etc. Many of these
articles are signed, run through several numbers of the
paper, and are written by well-known authorities on thr
subjects of which they treat.

That a paj)er of the stamp of the Allgcmciiic Ztilung
must be a popular educator as well as a means of keep-
ing its readers conversant wiih ilu- current news of the


Imperial Germany

The feuilletoti.

day goes without saying' ; and we can only express the
wish that some capitalists could see their way to start a
newspaper on similar lines in other countries.

The main typical distinction between English and
German papers consists in i\\e feiu'l/eton — it includes the
matter printed under the black line that runs horizon-
tally across the middle of the paper. Although often
devoted to sensational or other novels and personal
anecdotes, notes on art and literature, it also includes
serious criticisms of current art topics. Pictures,
theaters, and above all music, are treated and criti-
cised in the fetdlletoii ; although the value of German
criticism on painting is disputed bv some there can
be no doubt of the invariable excellence of the average
theatrical and musical articles. In fact, a regular perusal
of them is almost a liberal education on these subjects.
Also such names as Llibke, Schnase, Jordan, Frenzel,
Avenarius, Pietsch, as feidlletoii writers, speak well for
the standard which is current in the German feidlleton.

Moral aspect
of the German


Let us take last a point of view of journalism that
journalists are fond of presenting to us before all else —
the moral aspect. With regard to the publication of in-
decent tales and anecdotes, the German press stands far
purer than the French. A paper that would publish a
serial story such as "La Terre" of Zola, which appeared
first in the Gil Bias (and was even confiscated in Rus-
sia), would be seized immediately and excluded hence-
forth from every respectable German household.

In regard to the publication of obscene trials, the con-
cise laws on the subject remove the most enterprising
newspaper proprietors out of the reach of temptation.
The public is excluded \nm^ such trials, and, although

The German Press. 287

the press is admitted, the law ordains that no press
reports of such trials are allowed, except with the con-
sent of the court, and after perusal of such reports by
the state advocate. There are some people left in Ger-
many who think these officials are more likely to know
what is good for public consumption than enterprising-
newspaper proprietors.

In theory the powers possessed by the court are
certainly liable to be arbitrarily used, for they go be-
yond the right of forbidding the publication of inde- Foibidden
cency, they apply to high treason and other matters ;
hence here the captious critic may well detect the cloven
foot of paternal government. But the high character
of the German bench has hitherto proved to be a suffi-
cient guarantee against bias and undue influence ; and,
after all, the benefit of the community being safe from
sewer filth and flooding is very great and cannot easily
be paid for too dearly. The idea of a discretionary
limit of publicity endangering the liberty of the subject
nowadays is one only fit for the nursery.

There are also here and there a few Germans left who
think it a doubtful testimony to a country's institutions
t(j have to admit that its vilest abuses can only hope to
be remedied, and its filth to be cleansed away, by the
indiscriminate action of the press pandering to the sen-
.sational cravings of a half-educated public.

The*German jiress has nrjt yet, in its self-conscious-
ness, come to regard itself as the Augean stable-
cleansing Hercules of the community. The Germans ckansii.K
look abroad, and do not feel impressed by the success press! "'"^'
of the- jjrcss in tliat character in other countries. How-
ever dreamy and unpractical they may be in some
mahers, they have connnon sense enough to suspect an
indignation, the source of which doui^les the circulation,

288 Imperial Germany.

for tlie time, of the righteous organ of public opinion.

The one moral blot on German journalism is the

character of its advertisements ; they are not always

Character of abovc suspicion, though flagrant cases of impropriety

advertisements. ^ ... . i i • ^ i t ii

are rare. Still, m the advertisement columns of the
German press, the petty spirit of hatred, spite, and
slander of the Philistine airs itself. Anonymous attacks
on personal character are occasionally met with such as
an English jury would deal with severely. But this
occurs more in places outside the main stream of
national life, in places where the press is intellectually
poor, spiteful, and contemptible. There we find sheets
that appeal to every local prejudice, alternately cringing
and slandering, blatant with beery patriotism while
living- on envious tittle-tattle and scandal. Wherever
such sheets are found, it is interesting to note the want
of healthy public life, the low state of morality of the
population, and the underground spread of socialism
among the working classes. Thus, if a sound press be
not always an infallible mentor of public morals, a
vicious newspaper is a certain indicator of popular

One tendency of the German press merits reproba-
tion : the proclivity to comment on cases under judg-
ment, in contrast with the English press, which, in this
respect, is well restrained. This latter assertion as
regards the self-restraint of the English press can, how-
ever, we fear, hardly be upheld in its entirety since
recent events in South Africa. But while on important
matters restriction is advisable, needless interference is
certainly irritating and impolitic. It is a question
whether even Bismarck might not, in some instances,
have magnanimously followed the example of Frederick
the Great, who, when offensive pasquils were issued

The German Piess.


against him, would order the phicards to be put kjwer
down on the walls, that the people might read them the
more easily.

We have referred to the strong personal and passion-

, , „ , , Tone of the

ate character or the German press to-day, but we cannot press during

, , . , ^ ■' the\VarofiS7o

conclude without

a word of admi-
ration for its tone
during the War
of 1870. It was
worth)- of a great
nation. Its earn-
est tone, totally
r e m o \' e d from
bounce and blus-
ter, in those
days was as ad-
mirable as some
of its excess of
passi on , when
dealing with in-
ternal party pol-
itics to-day, is to
be regretted. But
even in dealing
with our own time there is one more wortl to be said.
Whatcxer the shortcomings of the German picss ina\
be, it is at all exents not yet venal. What thai means
will i)e best understood ulicn the historian <il the last
quarter of this century comes to handli- the interesting
subjects of Panama and South Airica.

The Town Hall, Hamburg.

Lack of





If circumstances lead me, I will find

Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed

Within the center.



We have striven to point to a few characteristics of
Germany in the present day. In conclusion, we will
endeavor to review our impressions and add to them.
For we believe that, without being blind to its social,
political, and other shortcomings, there is much in Ger-
many to-day of the deepest interest to us.

Far be it from our thoughts that Germany is ever
destined to distance the Anglo-Saxon race in the com-
petition for the world's markets. The mass of the
German people have hitherto not shown themselves to
possess that peculiar aggressive vitality which has made
the English race the pioneers of colonization all over the
world. Though the Germans spare no pains .in tapping
trade, if hard work can do it, .they have hitherto not
been eager in risking human lives, and above all money,
in order to secure remote ultimate commercial results.

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Online LibrarySidney WhitmanImperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character → online text (page 19 of 23)