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explained that the German Government deplored the war not only because
it was between two Christian and white races, that were, moreover, of
the same Germanic stock, but also because it drew within the evil
circle of its consequences important German economic and political
interests. He went on to describe their nature, enumerating under the
one head the thousands of German settlers in South Africa, the
industrial establishments and banks they had founded there, the busy
trade and the millions sterling of invested capital; while, as
regarded the other head, the Government had to take care that the war
exercised no injurious influence on German territory in that region.

The Government, the Chancellor claimed, had done everything consistent
with neutrality and the conservation of German interests to hinder the
outbreak of the war. It had "loyally" warned the two Dutch republics
of the disposition in Europe, and left them in no doubt as to the
attitude Germany would adopt if war should come. These communications
were not made directly, but through the Hague authorities and the
Consul-General of the Netherlands in Pretoria. At that time the United
States Government had come forward with a proposal for a submission of
the quarrel to its arbitration, but the proposal had been rejected by
President Kruger.

A little later the President changed his mind, but it was then too
late and war was declared. Once the die was cast, Germany could only
with propriety have interfered, provided she had reason to believe her
mediation would be accepted by both parties: otherwise her conduct
would not be mediation, but be regarded, in accordance with diplomatic
usage, as intervention with coercive measures in the background. For
such a policy Germany had no disposition, for it meant running the
risk of a diplomatic defeat on the one hand and of an armed conflict
with England on the other.

As regards the visit of the President to Berlin and the Emperor's
refusal to receive him, the Chancellor asked would a reception have
done any good either to the President or to Germany, and he answered
his own question with an emphatic negative. To the President an
audience would have been of no more use than the ovations and
demonstrations he was greeted with in Paris. To Germany a reception
would have meant a shifting of international relations to the
disadvantage of the country: in other words, would have meant the
risk, almost the certainty, of war. "Wars," said the Chancellor in
this connexion,

"are much more easily unchained through elementary popular
passions, through the passionate excitation of public
opinion, than in the old days through the ambitions of
monarchs or through the jealousies of Ministers."

And he concluded:

"With regard to England we stand entirely independent of
her: we are not a hair's-breadth more dependent on England
than England is on us. But we are ready on the basis of
mutual consideration and complete equality - about this
obvious preliminary condition for a proper relation between
two Great Powers we have never left any Power in doubt: I
say, we are ready on this basis to live with England in
peace, friendship, and harmony. To play the Don Quixote and
to lay the lance in rest and attack wherever in the world
English windmills are to be found, for that we are not
called upon."

But just then there was little prospect of "peace friendship, and
harmony" with England. The world remembers, and unfortunately the
English people do not forget, that they had nowhere more bitter and
offensive critics than in Germany. One refined method of opprobrium
was the unprohibited sale in the main streets of Berlin of spittoons
bearing the countenance of the English Colonial Minister, Mr.
Chamberlain. A war with England would at that moment have been highly
popular in Germany, but as the Chancellor wisely reminded the
Parliament, it was the duty of the statesman to protect international
relations from disturbance by intrigue or by popular demonstration.

Finally the Chancellor dealt with a report widely current in England
and Germany at the time, to the effect that the Emperor's refusal to
receive President Kruger was due to the influence of his uncle, King
Edward. The Chancellor emphatically denied that any pressure of the
kind from the English Court, or from any other source, had been
employed, and ended by saying:

"To suppose that his Majesty the Kaiser could allow himself
to be influenced by family relations shows little
understanding of his character, or of his love of country.
For his Majesty solely the national standpoint is decisive,
and if it were otherwise, and family relations or dynastic
considerations determined our foreign policy, I would not
remain Minister a day longer."

A precisely similar and unfounded charge, it will be remembered, was
made against King Edward VII in 1902, to the effect that it was Court
influence, not the deliberate judgment of the Cabinet, that was the
efficient cause of the co-operation of the British with the German
fleet in the demonstration off the coast of Venezuela.

A recent writer, Dr. Adolf Stein, gives an account of the sending of
the famous telegram which corroborates that of Prince von Bülow. The
telegram, according to this version, was a well-considered answer to a
question from the Transvaal Government put to the German Government a
month before the Raid occurred, and when the Transvaal Government got
the first inkling of the preparations being made for it. President
Kruger asked what attitude Germany would adopt in case of a war
between England and the Boer republics. The answer given to the person
who made the inquiry on behalf of the Transvaal Government was that
President Kruger might rest assured of Germany's

"diplomatic support in so far as it was also Germany's
interest that the independence of the Boer States should be
maintained, but that for anything beyond this he should not
reckon on Germany's assistance or that of any Great Power."

This answer, Dr. Stein says, was in course of transmission by the post
when the Raid occurred.

The Raid was made on January 1st. The event was at once telegraphed to
Berlin, where Prince Hohenlohe was Chancellor, with Freiherr Marschall
von Bieberstein, afterwards German Ambassador in Constantinople and
London, as his Foreign Secretary. According to Dr. Stein, they drew up
a telegram to President Kruger, and on the morning of the 3rd laid it
before the Emperor, who had come early from Potsdam for consultation
on the matter. The Chancellor, it should be mentioned, had been at
Potsdam the day previous, but at that time the news of the Raid had
not reached the Emperor. The Emperor, Chancellor, and Foreign
Secretary now decided that a telegram congratulating President Kruger
for having repulsed the Raid "without foreign aid" was the best
non-committal form to adopt. The Emperor, Dr. Stein continues, raised
some objections, but was over-persuaded by Prince Hohenlohe and von
Bieberstein.

As confirming this version, a little note in Lord Goschen's Biography
may be recalled, in which Lord Goschen confides to a friend a few
weeks before the Raid that the "Germans were taking the Boers under
their wing, as the Americans had done with the Venezuelans."

Enough perhaps has been said to show that the sending of the telegram
had nothing to do with the Emperor's "impulsive" character, and it
will only be fair to him to let the notion that it had drop finally
out of contemporary history. As an act of State it was in consonance
with German policy at the time. That policy, if it did not look to
acquiring possession of the Transvaal, may very well have looked to
enlisting the sympathies and friendship of the Dutch in South Africa,
and finding in them and their country a field for German enterprise
and a market for German goods; and there was therefore nothing
impulsive, however mistaken the act may have been as a matter of
foreign policy, in the German Government's congratulating President
Kruger on successful resistance to a private raid.

We have suggested that the telegram was partly due to a certain
element of chivalry in the Emperor's character. The Emperor was well
acquainted with other forms of government and other social systems
besides his own, and though a Hohenzollern could put himself in the
position of the chief of the little Boer republic, threatened as he
was with annihilation by a mighty and powerful opponent. Moreover,
there is always to be remembered the sympathy of view, particularly of
religious view, that existed in the two men as regarded their attitude
and duties to their respective "folk." The President had appealed to
the Emperor for help. The Emperor had had to refuse it, but had wired
that he would do all he could "diplomatically." He knew that this was
but a poor sort of assistance, but it was something, and when the Raid
occurred he gave the diplomatic assistance he had promised by sending
a telegram of congratulation. In any case - _tempi passati_. Foreign
policy is not concerned with sympathies or antipathies, and the whole
episode should be ignored, or, better still, forgotten.

The Kruger telegram, it turned out, was to usher in a long period of
tension between two countries of the same race, singularly alike in
their ideals of whatever is sound and praiseworthy in Christian
civilization, and almost equally mutual admirers of the fundamental
features of each other's national character. Unfortunately, along with
these fundamental features of the English and German national
characters, the love of money, the _auri sacra fames_, has to be
reckoned with, and in the race of nations for wealth and power the
fundamental qualities are apt, for a time, to be overborne and cease
to act. The rise of the modern German Empire to power and prosperity,
and the new world-situation thus created, largely by the Emperor, is
at the bottom of Anglo-German tension. As a main contributory cause of
both the power and the prosperity, was the creation of the German navy
at the period of which we write.

The following is a parable which he who runs may read: -

In a certain town, with a large and heterogeneous
population, there was once a "monster" shop. The firm (there
were three partners) had been established for hundreds of
years, had thrown out several branches, and by hard work,
enterprise, and honesty had acquired a leading position in
the trade of the town: so much so, indeed, that as time went
on it had also come to do the carriage and delivery of goods
for most of the smaller shops, though some of these were
large houses themselves and the majority of them in a fair
way of business. The smaller shops were naturally a little
jealous of the "monster," and it was the dream of every
owner of them to enlarge his premises and become the
proprietor of an equally great emporium as the "monster."
One day, therefore, a little cluster of shops, at some
distance from the "monster," suddenly resolved to form a
combination, and after settling a dispute with a neighbour
in consideration of a sum of money and a fruitful tract of
land, issued the prospectus of the new company and began to
do business on modern lines.

Almost from the very beginning the new company was a great
success: its situation was central; the company inspired its
members with enterprise and spirit; it was industrious,
energetic, and splendidly organized; and at last it began to
cut into the trade of the old-established "monster."
Competition might have gone on in the ordinary way had not
the new company made a departure in business methods that
gradually roused special uneasiness among the members of the
"monster" firm. Hitherto the latter had its delivery vans
travel all over the town, and so well was this part of its
system carried on that the firm acquired all but a monopoly
of carrying and delivery. The new company, however, now
began to do a little in the same line, whereupon the
"monster" took to building a superior type of van much more
powerful and imposing, if also much more expensive, than the
one previously in use. The new company naturally followed
suit, and in a surprisingly short time had built, or had
under construction, several vans of an exactly similar kind.
The "monster" saw the new departure of their rivals at first
with curiosity, then with contempt, then with anxiety, and
finally with suspicion and alarm. At the time of writing the
alarm appears to have abated, but a good deal of the
suspicion remains. The town is the world, the "monster"
Great Britain, and the rival company the modern German
Empire.

It would require the Emperor himself properly to tell the story of his
creation of the modern German navy, and if he has a right to call any
part of his people's property his own, he is justified in speaking, as
he invariably does, of "my navy." As Prince William, his interest in
the subject may have been originally due, as has been seen, to his
partly English parentage, his frequent visits to England, and the fact
that his physical disability threatened to prevent him taking an
active part in the more strenuous duties of the soldier. It is very
probable that it was in the region that cradled the British navy the
idea of a great German navy was conceived by him. We have seen that
the Emperor, as Prince William, showed his enthusiasm in the matter by
delivering lectures on it in military circles, though it was not his
lot, but that of his brother Henry, to be assigned the navy as a
profession. In his Order to the Navy on ascending the throne, he spoke
of the "lively and warm interest" that bound him to the navy, shortly
afterwards issued directions for a new marine uniform on the English
model, and caused the introduction into the Lutheran Church service of
a special prayer for the arm. He gave a parliamentary soirée at the
New Palace in Potsdam, and before allowing his Conservative and
National Liberal guests to sit down to supper, made them listen to a
lecture which occupied two hours, giving particular attention, with
the aid of maps and plans, to the battle of the Yalu between the
fleets of China and Japan. He founded the Technical Shipbuilding
Society, and took, and takes, an animated part in its proceedings,
suggesting positions for the guns, the disposition of armour, the
dimensions of submarines, and a hundred other details. In 1908 he
delivered an after-dinner lecture at the "Villa Achilleion" in Corfu
on Nelson and the battle of Trafalgar, based on the writings of
Captain Mark Kerr of the _Implacable_, at which the situations of the
French, English, and Spanish fleets were sketched by the imperial
hand. To his admiration for the writings of Captain Mahan his
persistence in enlarging the fleet is said largely to be due. He is,
of course, assisted by a host of able experts, among whom Admiral von
Tirpitz - the ablest German since Bismarck, many Germans say - is the
most distinguished; but as he is his own Foreign Minister and own
Commander-in-Chief, he is, in the fullest sense, his own First Lord of
the Admiralty.

The Emperor closed one of his naval lectures with an anecdote which
the papers reported next day as being received with "stormy
amusement." It was about the metacentrum, the centre of gravity in
ship construction. The Emperor told of his having asked an old sea
lieutenant to explain to him the metacentrum. "I received the answer,"
said the Emperor, "that he did not know very exactly himself - it was a
secret. 'All I can say is,' the old seaman went on, 'that if the
metacentrum was in the topmast, the ship would over-turn.'" The
success of a jest, one is told, lies in the ear of the hearer.
Possibly something of the "stormy amusement" may have been called
forth by the reflection that the imperial metacentrum had on occasion
got misplaced.

In addition to the natural and accidental predispositions of the
Emperor, certain general considerations, which imposed themselves
irresistibly on all men's attention as the century drew to its close,
impelled him to more energetic action. A student of the history of
other countries as well as his own, and a watchful observer of the
tendencies of the time, he felt that the young Empire was incomplete
as long as it was without a navy corresponding in size and power to
its army, the organization of which had been completed. With its army
alone he regarded the Empire as a colossus, no doubt, but a colossus
standing on one leg, and was convinced that if the Empire was to be a
success it must have a navy at least able to withstand attack by any
of his continental neighbours and potential enemies.

On ascending the throne the Emperor was naturally most occupied with
the internal situation of his new inheritance, and spent a good deal
of his time railing at Social Democracy and the press, explaining the
nature of his Heaven-appointed kingship, and rousing his somewhat
lethargic people to a sense of their power and possibilities; but he
found a moment in 1891 to write under a photograph he gave the
retiring Postmaster-General Stephan:

"The world, at the end of the nineteenth century, stands
under the star of commerce; commerce breaks down the
barriers which separate the peoples and creates new
relations between the nations."

Then the idea slumbered in his mind for a few years, while he
continued to make his own people restless with criticism, perhaps
deserved, of their sluggishness, their pessimism, their party strife,
and foreign peoples equally restless with phrases like "_nemo me
impune lacessit_"; until the idea came suddenly to utterance in 1897,
when, on seeing the figure of Neptune on a monument to the Emperor
William, he broke out: "The trident should be in our grip!" From this
time, and for the next few years, the growth of the navy may be said
to have never long been far from his thoughts. In sending Prince Henry
to Kiautschau at the close of 1898 he made the remark that "imperial
power means sea power, and sea power and imperial power are dependent
on each other." Nine months afterwards at Stettin he used a phrase
alone sufficient to keep his name alive in history: "Our future lies
on the water!"

At Hamburg, in 1899, he laid emphasis on the changes in the world
which justify a naval policy one can see now was almost inevitable.

"A strong German fleet," he said, "is a thing of which we stand in
bitter need." And he continued:

"In Hamburg especially one can understand how necessary is a
powerful protection for German interests abroad. If we look
around us we see how greatly the aspect of the world has
altered in recent years. Old-world empires pass away and new
ones begin to arise. Nations suddenly appear before the
peoples and compete with them, nations of whom a little
before the ordinary man had been hardly aware. Products
which bring about radical changes in the domain of
international relations, as well as in the political economy
of the people, and which in old times took hundreds of years
to ripen, come to maturity in a few months. The result is
that the tasks of our German Empire and people have grown to
enormous proportions and demand of me and my Government
unusual and great efforts, which can then only be crowned
with success when, united and decided, without respect to
party, Germans stand behind us. Our people, moreover, must
resolve to make some sacrifice. Above all they must put
aside their endeavour to seek the excellent through the ever
more-sharply contrasted party factions. They must cease to
put party above the welfare of the whole. They must put a
curb on their ancient and inherited weakness - to subject
everything to the most unlicensed criticism; and they must
stop at the point where their most vital interests become
concerned. For it is precisely these political sins which
revenge themselves so deeply on our sea interests and our
fleet. Had the strengthening of the fleet not been refused
me during the past eight years of my Government,
notwithstanding all appeals and warnings - and not without
contumely and abuse for my person - how differently could we
not have promoted our growing trade and our interests beyond
the sea!"

Perhaps; but perhaps, too, it was as well for the peace of the world
that Germany had no great war fleet during those eight years of
troubled international relations, and that the gentle and adjusting
hand of Providence, not the mailed fist of the Emperor, was guiding
the destinies of nations.

Previous to the opening of the reign a German navy can hardly be said
to have existed. Yet it should not be forgotten that Germany also has
maritime traditions of no small interest, if of no great importance,
to the world. The Great Elector, the ancestor of the Emperor who ruled
Brandenburg from 1640 to 1688, was fully conscious of the profit his
people might acquire by sea commerce, and the little navy of high-sea
frigates which he built stood manfully, and often successfully, up to
the more powerful navies of Sweden and Spain. This fleet was known,
too, far away from Brandenburg, for the records tell how the Pope and
the Maltese Knights and Louis XIV willingly admitted it to their
harbours.

But there was lacking what until lately has always hemmed German
progress - money; and the commercially-minded Dutch, a people
themselves with many German characteristics, kept the Germans from the
sea. Then came Frederick the Great, who ruled from 1740 to 1786, and
those Germans who are fond of claiming Shakespeare for their own will
also tell you that the plan drawn up by Frederick for Pitt's seven
years' struggle with France - that plan so unfortunately imitated
afterwards by the Emperor in his correspondence with Queen Victoria
during the Boer War - was the foundation-stone of British naval
supremacy! Frederick, too, saw the advantage of possessing a fleet,
but he had his hands full with France and Russia, and reluctantly had
to decline the offer of the French naval hero, Labourdonnais, to build
him a battle-fleet. At this period, and in the Great Elector's time,
Emden was the Plymouth of Prussia. When Frederick died, there followed
that time of which Germans themselves are ashamed - the hole-and-corner
time, the time when the parochial spirit was abroad and no German
burgher saw beyond the village church and the village pump; the
Biedermeier time (that comic figure of the German _Punch_), the time
of genuine German philistinism, when the people were lapped in an
idyllic repose and were content, as many are to-day, with the smallest
and simplest pleasures.

This spirit continued until the early quarter of the nineteenth
century, when Professor Frederick List roused the attention of his
countrymen, and notably that of Bismarck, to the necessity of an
independent national existence and a national economic policy. In 1836
a committee recommended naval coast protection, but it was not until
1848, when Denmark blockaded the German coast, that anything was done
to provide for it. In that year the National Assembly of delegates
from various German Diets, which met at Frankfort, voted for the
marine a million sterling to be levied on the German States, but only
one-half of the money could be collected. Still, three steam frigates,
one large and six small steam corvettes, and two sailing corvettes
were got together, but in 1852, owing to the poverty of the States,
two of the ships were sold to Prussia for £60,000 and the rest
disposed of by auction at less than a fourth of their value. The
officers and men were disbanded with a year's pay.

To this humiliating state of things Bismarck refers in his "Gedanken
und Erinnerungen." "The German fleet," he writes,

"and Kiel harbour as a foundation for its institution, were
from 1848 on one of the most burning thoughts at whose fire
German aspirations for unity were accustomed to warm
themselves and to concentrate. Meanwhile, however, the
hatred of my parliamentary opponents was stronger than the
interest for a German fleet, and it seemed to me that the
Progressive party at that time preferred to see the



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 13 of 31)