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Imperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character online

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deuKjcratic, if not republican ; they have since become

Thus stood tradition and ailuality u luii tlu' pn-sent
emj)eror, William II., succeeded to the thioiK at the

h.MPHKoR William 11.

Estimates of
William II.


Iinperial Cermany,

death of his father— now nioix- tlian cij^ht years ai>-o.

Public opinion, which had been ready to credit \\\v

late emperor Frederick with every imaginable \ irtue,

Uuke of Saxe-Coburg. Emperor of Germany. Prince of VVaks.

Duke of Coniiaught. Queen Victoria. Empress Frederick.

Emperor William II., his Mother, the Frederick, his Gra.nd-


.showed its usual hasty partiality in estimatin"' his son
If the general im[)ression was one rather mingled
Avith doubt and fear, on the other hand, those who had

The Prussian I\Ionarchy. 99

enjoyed the privilege of personal intercourse with Prince
William were extravagantly optimistic with regard to
what the nation might confidently expect from him as
German emperor and king of Prussia. While many
were inclined to credit the young monarch with belli-
cose leanings — and this was perhaps the most prevalent
impression also outside Germany — those of his admirers
who had enjoyed opportunities for forming a personal An optimistic
opinion did not hesitate to aver tliat their youthful
monarch would turn out to be nothing less than a
Frederick the Great all along the line. Already to-day
it is sufficiently apparent that those who distrusted the
emperor because of his supposed warlike proclivities
did him an injustice. With regard to the more flatter-
ing estimate of his character the emperor William has it
still in his power to prove its justification. For the
l)resent it is obviously too early to judge him either as a
man or as a ruler, although now that he has had over
eight years' experience as a sovereign he is hardly in a
position to claim indulgent criticism for liis actions on
the score of youth and inexperience. His position is
an exceedingly difficult one : for Germany was never Difficulty of his
more in need of a strong character at the helm than ''° ' '°"'
at the present moment. Nor can it in common fairness
be contested that the emperor William has always
shown an earnest desire to act up to the high standard
expected of him and to prove himself to be the man
r'.crmany is in want of for the greater happiness and
welfare of the Fatherland.

It would scarcely be fit to lake lea\e of this chapter
without a word of appreciation for two men, who, ne.xt
to the Hohenzolierns themselves, have of royal jjrinces
done most for the cause of Cjerman unity. TIic Inst is
the ruling Cirand-Duke of Uadcii, the .son-in-law ot the


Inipcyial (uriinviy


late emperor William. in him (iermany possesses a

high-miiKicd i)riiui'. In the most democratic state of

Germany he is the nu)st popular sovereign. He it was

'«sofihe who, in 1.S71, helped more than any one in the creation

id-Duke ol .

of the German Empire,' and gave the late half-crazy
king of Bavaria the option of proposing the measure,
determined to do so himself in case of refusal. And,
again, at the accession of the present emperor, it was
he who, hastening to Berlin, gave the example that

induced e\ery
ruling sovereign
of Germany to be
])resent at the

King Albert of
Saxony is to-day
the one royal
prince left who
held high com-
m and in the
memorable War
of 1870-71. In
fact. Count
Moltke's opinion
of his strategic
abilities was of
the very highest,
for it stands on
record, vouched for by Moltke himself, that at the
battle of Sedan the then crown prince of Saxony in-
stinctively foresaw and on his own responsibility acted
upon the exact instructions which, thought out by the

Grand-Duke ok Baden.

King Albert of

1 This assertion has since been amply proved by the publication of the late
emperor Frederick's diary.

The Prussian Monarchy.


chief of the staff, led to the results of that momentous
day. But King Albert's reputation as a soldier does
not rest alone on his achievements in the War of 1870.
In 1866 in Bohemia his handling of the Saxon army has
been admitted on all hands to have been excellent.
Although he

must m earlier
days ha\e been
a strong anti-
Prussian, King
Albert has loy-
ally accepted the
leadership of
Prussia and to-
day there is no
more trusted ad-
viser of the em-
peror, no man
i n d i \- i d u a 1 1 y
more respected
in Germany than
he. For he has
not only ever
slu)\vn a bold
face to the foe,
but his remark-
able and honest
career bears elo-

Frum a plwlos;rapli by Otto Mayer, photographer to
the kinjf of Saxony.

Albkrt, King of Saxony.

quent testimony to the victory he must have achieved
over his narrower self.




For forms of government let fools contest ;
Whate'er is best administered is best.



Among students of history, as well as of political
science, two schools of thought stand at daggers drawn.
The one would have us believe that every ripple of the
tide in the af?airs of man is the result of infinite, remote,
collective, and at last overpowering influence ; some-
thing like the cracking of the earth's crust when the
gases in its bowels seek and find an outlet. Therefore,
The "let-alone" this particular school is against all undue and premature
initiative and interference of the state in the affairs of the
community. This is the thought underlying the English
national political organization of the present day, and, if
human temperament may be brought into analogy with
an intellectual conviction, it may safely be put down as a
manifestation of the phlegmatic, unimaginative, negative
disposition. It may be an unattractive creed to some,
but England's insular position has allowed her to be-
come the nation she is while practicing it.

The other school leans on the past, on the lessons of
the great epoch-making figures in history, those who
were not so much children of their time as themselves
part creators of the events they directed. It pins its
faith to a strong and high-minded monarchy, assisted
by capable advisers, and working out its ruling mission

The aggressive

Paternal Government. 103

by harmonizing- a strong traditional state power with
the just pretension of the present time. This school
holds that parliamentary party government is unsuited
to direct the destinies of a great nation ; that the
opinions of a majority offer no guarantee of its sound-


It has been said that w-e are never so thoroughly in
the right that our opponents are wholly in the wrong.
May it not be so with two opposing schools of political
thought? May not both be right in much, while each
bears distinct evidence of its peculiar shortcomings?

An aristocratic monarchy run to seed was the cause c^useofPrus-
of the batde of Jena and the temporary effacement of sia-s decline.
Prussia from tin- map of Europe as a great power.
The history of the decay of republics is equally sug-

The form of government which succeeds best in de-
velo])ing the central idea of the state, backed up by the
best instincts and unselfish devotion of its subjects, is the
best ; and every form of government, except, perhaps,
an elective monarchy, has from time to time succeeded
in solving the problem, and high-minded men ha\e
always been the means of its solution. The first condi- The first

f • .1 • . t ^\ i. t. '. condition

tion or every government is tlie j)unty 01 tlie lountain- of government,
head. Every plan for the happiness of man suffers
shipwreck when mean natures are allowed to influence
its working. Tlie United .States does not owe its great-
ness merely to the chance of its being dubbed a republic.
America is studded with roilcn ri'imblics, but the United
.States owes its stability to ihe fac I of its founders liaving
been great characters sprung from one of tlic fmest races
of manhood in the world. I'urifn d by a l)aptisni of


Ii)tpcrial Genua II V.

The greatest
factors in a

political creed.

blood, they framed a great constitution, which tended to
bring- out what was good in the people and to render
impotent what was vile. This constitution was suited to
the Anglo-Saxon race.

But are not, after all, the natural conditions of a
nation's existence the deciding factors in the choice of
the means of its salvation ? In other words, are not the
race, the climate of a country, its geographical position,
greater factors than a chance constitution? Is the con-
tinuity of England's national independence and progress
not owing more to natural conditions than to any set
political creed ? Our political system may have suited
our requirements, but the silver streak that separates us
from the Continent fixed its character.

One of the reasons why some nations have an instinct-
ive antipathy to a powerful executive is tliat tliey have
never known any that was not at the same time
thoroughly rotten and corrupt. If ihe choice lie be-
tween a vicious paternal government and a corrupt
Parliament, it is natural to hesitate.

Thus, in England we are brought up to look askance
at state interference and, above all, at "grandmotherly
legislation." Up to the present, circumstances have
enabled us to feel that we were justified in doing so, and
Manchester theories' may be all very well when there are
no frontiers to guard, no external enemies that threaten.
If, however, such be not the fortunate condition of
a nation, and its whole destiny and policy are not to be
evolved from the free expression of public opinion, then
the success of Louis XIV. dragonading the Palatinate,
and the ease with which the left bank of the Rhine sub-
sequently became French in sympathies, show us what

1 The so-called Manchester school of political economists stands for a policy
of non-interference by the state in industrial and commercial affairs.

Paternal Goveriiment.


to expect. High aims dwell only in the few high-strung
natures, whatever their birth.

One consideration we cannot ignore— namely, that no

., , . , . , , The formation

country can possibly lormulate its laws and policy by "f public •

1 1 1 • • -1 1 • (• r J J opinion.

the gradual, irresistible expression of public opinion,
unless the following essential conditions are present,
and allow a strong healthy public opinion to come




HE KI,|i:ilSI.\G JJL'H.UI.NG, Bl-.Rl.I.N.

into existence : national independence ; strong, healthy,
national self-consciousness ; final subordination of class
interest to the welfare of the state.

Till lately (icrmany possessed none of these three in-
dispensable fiualifications, and without them it was use-

I 1 111 l>{ 'UlirtttUlC

less to talk of a nation's public opinion. The want ;i'';'i.''''^ai'"'is
of them not only caused the dismemberment of the old
German Emjjire and niatU- ( iermany the battle-field
of Kurope for two centuries, but precluded the possi-
bility of a public o|)iiiion coming into existence whicli




Imperial Germany.

The need of
Ki-niiis and

The price of



could have materially helped to produce them. They
had to be created against the machinations of old and
powerful enemies at home and abroad. If France had
understood her true policy, German unity would never
have been accomplished. Thus the three necessary
qualities of national life had to be conquered, and genius
alone could hold aloft the banner around which those
should congregate who were resolved to do or die in
their attainment. Men had to be called upon who would
be ready to shed blood — their own and their enemies' .

The wealthy middle classes of to-day, for instance, are
distinctly averse to blood-letting. And yet in time and
season there is no cement like blood. Even the history
of the greatest republic of our time — the United States,
a country the practical philanthropy of which none can
deny— absolutely proves that.

Thus the Germans shed blood — rivers of it — and
attained national independence. But even now they
hold it only by the power of the sword ; for national
consciousness has not yet had time to form, and the
feeling of subordination of class interests is still very
weak, as also, in many places, the feeling of patriotism.
Yet the Germans can only hope to retain what they
have gained by strengthening those qualities which are
still unreliable. Hence the straining of every nerve by
their rulers to attain that end, and paternal government,
based on the cooperation of all, is the means to that end.


A strong, healthy, public opinion, born of a long and
prosperous political education, which might dispense
with paternal government and work out its own will
unfettered, does not, and cannot, exist as yet. Among
other things, the small interest shown by the voters

Paternal Government. 107

at elections proves this. For the Social Democrats are
at present the most earnest political party in Germany,
judging by polling results. It should also be remem-
bered that public opinion in Germany was never in- The influence of

_ ' ■' public opinion

tended to rule directly, as it does with us ; but at most '"direct.
only indirectly, by intrusting men of mark with the direc-
tion of affairs. When public opinion has no longer the
"touch" to recognize leaders, it is time for it to give
way, and allow something better to take its place.

Yet, notwithstanding that what has been gained is
distinctly traceable to the action of genius guiding the
sword, there was till recently a strong party in Germany
which believed in English political methods. These
people would fain have seen our principles adopted, and
prophesied all sorts of evil from their non-acceptance.
Their adherents failed to see that their countrymen had
no choice ; they had either to accept salvation the way methods!^ °
it came, or go on in the hopeless helplessness of the

The Germans never had independent leisure to work
out their political and economical life according to
laissez-faii-c^ principles. They could not af?ord to ask
themselves whether great men come too rarely to
intrust one, when he does appear, with powers that
might descend to reckless or unworthy wielders. The
circumstances of the country's existence left them no
choice but to be thankful when light did appear.

It was individual genius that l)urst the shutters of
medieval darkness, and hailed the dawn of a new era,
when Luther uttered those memorable words at Worms:
"Here I stand. 1 cannot do otherwise, (iod help me.
Amen !" It was the lack of national consciousness, the

1 iMiarz-fairr ("let alone") is the classical phrase which descrihes the
non-intervention policy.


Imperial (urmany.

Struggle for



want of national independence, and of the due subordi-
nation of petty ruling interests which robbed the Ger-
man nation (.)f tlie first fruits of what has since become
the common property of mankind. It was the possession
of those requisites in Eng-land which enabled us to hold
up the standard of the Reformation against the power of
Catholic Spain.

Again, in our time we have seen political genius in
Germany, having achieved national independence, striv-
ing honestly to attain national well-being and endeavor-
ing to strengthen the sentiment of national consciousness.
It asked all classes alike to cooperate in the work of
national greatness. No country was in such need of
great men, and in few countries hitherto have the masses
been so unable to realize the imperious necessity of their

Whereas there is not an Italian living who does not
mourn the death of Cavour, there are yet many men in
Germany who would welcome the death of a Bismarck !
Others appreciate great men. Germany has produced
them in our time.

Nature of




To judge the atmospherical conditions of a room full
of people, you must come in from the open air, and you
will quickly be able to make a comparison. A nation's
civilization is like artificial temperature : you must gauge
it from outside ; you must compare it.

Is Germany's greatness a plant of recent and tender
growth which requires constant care in order to enable
it to develop in the future and stand on its own merits,
a bulwark of civilization in Europe ? We think it is.

Are those who are responsible for its destinies con-
scious of the difificulties of the task before them, and

Paternal Government. 109

honestly intent on meeting them ? We feel convinced
that they are, and we shall endeavor to point out in how
far we can show reason for this belief.

One of the reasons why the French so easily gained

. iifi'iriT-ii' II' Cause of

popularity on the left bank of the Rhme at the begm- French


ning of the century was, that they represented a young,
healthy, popular principle and the Germans an old,
antiquated, feudal system.

The principal reason why the Alsatians so soon lost
the old ties with the German Empire (for Strassburg
was treacherously seized upon by Louis XIV. in the
midst of peace) and still partially cling to France was,
that they grew into the traditions of the powerful state
they joined. The old German Empire was ef?ete, if
not rotten to the core, and when the French Revo-
lution came it found the Alsatians belonging to a nation xiie
that proclaimed the "rights of man," and, casting •'^^^"^"*-
medieval lumber to the flames, declared every channel
open to the ambition of the humblest. .Small wonder
that the good Alsatian peasants and burghers were
proud of their new country, and forgot the violent
manner in which their nt-w paternity had been foisted
on them !

Now all this has changed, and the Alsatians have
(jnly to rul) their eyes in order to see that in coming
back to their original Fatherland they have come back
to the victorious mother-country with far more to tempt
them than the country which treated them so step-
motherly while they belonged to it. If the Alsatians
were practical Englishmen they would see the ]M)sition
<jf affairs in a trice, and, after the last fair stand-u])
fight, make the of it and i)e friend.s will) the new
f)rder of things. But the poor Alsatians are sentimental
Germans ; ihey feel the sorrows of tin ir late fellow-


Imperial Gennany.

Desire of the

Danger of
through public

countrymen, antl, in their sympathy, are stiU bhnd to
their own interests, and to tlie real facts of the case.
Time will enlighten them, ainl a strong, healthy,
paternal goxernineiil not one a la Metternich, but
conducted in harmony with the spirit of the age -will

assist in doing so.


German Liberals chafe under the restraints of their
paternal government, and doubtless the stern system
which holds them together has its drawbacks. They
would prefer public opinion, expressed through their
party, to rule the nation and supply its needs. A look
at their past efforts in this direction and at their latest
action does not lead an outsider to feel that Germany is
ripe for that humanitarian democracy which substitutes
the tyranny of the many for the honest and conscien-
tious effort of a concentrated executive.

If it be granted that a strong military government is
essential to the nation's existence — and that cannot
be denied, though it may be deplored — then the dis-
satisfaction at its unavoidable drawbacks must be taken
for w^hat it is worth. Without underrating the great
value of a strong and healthy public opinion, it is yet
permissible to hold that its expression is not the only
source of salvation of a country, the less so as it is
likely to wield as much power when diseased as when it
is sound. England herself has been saved more than
once by miracle from the consequences of some of its
diseased manifestations. The cry of misery and despair
of millions has forced public opinion to remedy some of
our imperious wants, but much remains undone that
paternal government in Germany has accomplished, as
a few illustrations later on may enable us to judge.

Paternal Government. 1 1 1

An English member of Parliament writes to the
Times deploring that a public meeting cannot be held
in Berlin without the presence of a police agent, who
can close it at a moment's notice. This is a sad truth ;

Freedom of

but the freedom of talk has not vet led to a millennium speech a

T-i 1- • J r dangerous

in Other countries. Far from it. The unlimited free luxury,
expression of public opinion is all very well where there
are no enemies at the gates ; but it is a dangerous
pastime for a nation which might be called upon to-
morrow to fight for its existence, and which would be
jeopardized by talk. Germany is not stable enough to
allow itself such a luxury.

If the happiness of the greatest number be — once End and aim of
national independence is secured — the end and aim of government,
all go\ernment, it is but fair to glance backward and
determine, as far as possible, in how far paternal gov-
ernment endeavors to secure that end.

In the first place, the ascendency of Prussia, which
led to German unity, was gained against the almost
universal expression of public opinion. Public opinion
has since recanted in this instance, and thus the book is
closed ; but history is nevertheless bound to take note
of the fact.

Unity accomplished, Germany expected to see capa-
ble, conscientious men at the head of every department
of the state. We know how uniformly these expecta-
tions ha\e hitherto been realized. This has all been
d(jne without the assistance of public oi)iiiioii to guide
the choice of the directing minds. But neither was it
neccssarv. Without the action of public opinion, the

1 f f 1 • II -11 1 • I f 1 Potency of the

shaft of duty is sunk deep in the Jieart and mind ot the sense of duty,
people and their rulers.

With us public oi)inion is invariably "surprised" and
extravagantly "grateful" when it linds anybody equal

I 12

Imperial Geniiany.

Success of
foreign policy.

Policy of

The case of



to the emergencies of a position of responsibility. And,
unfortunately, ignominious failure, even involving dis-
aster and national humiliation, still allows a man to con-
tinue posing in public as the expresser of the sentiments
of the nation.

The uniform success of German foreign policy under
Prince Bismarck's guidance is well known and admitted
on every hand, even down to that mysterious little Bul-
garian-Battenberg incident, ten years ago, which public
opinion was only too willing to fan into a European con-
flagration, until stopped by a jet of cold water from

Not so well known may be the success of Prussia in
conciliating the countries annexed in 1864 and 1866.
Schleswig-Holstein, which certain powers wished to pro-
tect against itself, is thoroughly German to-day. The
electorate of Hesse-Cassel is thoroughly Prussianized,
and as for Hanover, the great center of Guelphic mem-
ories and partisanship, the freely elected Parliament
(Landtag) of Hanover recently showed only three
Guelphic adherents, against twenty-eight belonging to
the Bismarckian National Liberal party. Alsace, it is
true, is a long way from such a satisfactory state of
things; but it will come —gradually, but surely.

Even the conciliation of a single town has not been
beneath the earnest attention of paternal government.
The town of Frankfort, after being terribly frightened
and feeling the grip of the conqueror round its neck,
has since been petted and pampered in every conceiv-
able way. Showy cavalry regiments were quartered in
the town to see what effect bright colors and the accom-
plishments of the pick of officers could have on the
female heart ; the late emperor William came repeatedly
in person ; e\en the treaty of 1871 was signed in Frank-

Paternal Government. 113

fort-on-the-Main. Thus, the commerce-gorged citizen
t)f that ilk, after raving at the wickedness of Prussia, and
accepting Swiss naturaUzation in order to avoid mihtary
serv'ice, has long since come back to the Prussian sheep-
fokl, humble and full of contrition. And to-day the
bleary eye of the regulation type of Frankfort patrician

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