Copyright
Stanley Shaw.

William of Germany online

. (page 15 of 31)
Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 15 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


afterclap of William's Reichstag and monument orations."

A real concert followed, and supper was taken in the Marble Hall
adjoining. The authoress concludes as follows: -

"I was contemplating these reminiscences (the pictures of La
Barberini) in silent reverie when the door opened and the
Kaiser came in with little Menzel.

"'I have a mind to engage Angeli to paint her Majesty's
picture in the costume of Princess Amalia,' said the Emperor
'What do you think of it?'

"'Angeli is painter to many emperors and kings,' replied the
Professor, and I saw him smile diplomatically as he moved
his spectacles to get a better view of the allegorical
canvas on the left wall that exhibits the nude figure of the
famous mistress in its entirety.

"'I am glad you agree with me on that point,' said the
Emperor, impatient to execute the idea that had crossed his
mind. 'I will telegraph to him to-night.'

"And when, five minutes later, Menzel bent over my hand to
take formal leave, I heard him murmur in his dry,
absent-minded manner - 'Pesne ... Angeli ... Frederick the
Great ... William II!"

We have spoken of the Court atmosphere of this time. The following
extracts from the Memoirs of ex-Chancellor Prince Hohenlohe will
assist the reader, perhaps even better than a connected account, to
enter, in imagination at all events, into it. The conversations cited
between the Emperor and the Prince turn on all sorts of topics - the
pass question in Alsace (where Hohenlohe was then Statthalter), the
possibility of war with Russia, pheasant shooting, projected
monuments, the breach with Bismarck, the Triple Alliance, and a
hundred more of the most different kinds. Once talking domestic
politics, the Emperor said:

"It will end by the Social Democrats getting the upper hand.
Then they will plunder the people. Not that I care. I will
have the palace loop-holed and look on at the plundering.
The burghers will soon call on me for help;"

and on another occasion, in 1889, Hohenlohe tells of a dinner at the
palace, and how after dinner, when the Empress and her ladies had gone
into another _salon_, the Emperor, Hohenlohe, and Dr. Hinzpeter (the
Emperor's old tutor) conversed together for an hour, all standing.
"The first subject touched on," relates the Prince, was the gymnasia
(high schools), the Emperor holding that they made too exacting claims
on the scholars, while Hohenlohe and Hinzpeter pointed out that
otherwise the run on the schools would be too great and cause danger
of a "learned proletariat." Prince Hohenlohe concludes:

"In the whole conversation, which never once came to a
standstill, I was pleased by the fresh, lively manner of the
Emperor, and was in all ways reminded of his grandfather,
Prince Albert."

Next year the Prince was present at an official dinner in the Berlin
palace. He writes: -

"BERLIN, 22 _March_, 1890.

"At seven, dinner in the White Salon (at the palace). I sat
opposite the Empress and between Moltke and Kameke. The
former was very communicative, but was greatly interfered
with by the continuous music, and was very angry at it. Two
bands were placed facing each other, and when one ceased the
other began to play its trumpets. It was hardly endurable.
The Emperor made a speech in honour of the Queen of England
and the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward, present on
the occasion of the investiture of his son Prince George,
now King George V, with the Order of the Black Eagle), and
mentioned his nomination as English admiral (whose uniform
he was wearing) and the comradeship-in-arms at the battle of
Waterloo; he also hoped that the English fleet and the
German army would together maintain peace. Moltke then said
to me: 'Goethe says, "a political song, a discordant song."'

"He also said he hoped the speech wouldn't get into the
papers."

(It did, however.)

The next extract describes a conversation Prince Hohenlohe had with
the Emperor at Potsdam the following year. It gives an idea of the
ordinary nature of conversations between the Emperor and his high
officials on such occasions.

"BERLIN, 13 _December_, 1891.

"Yesterday forenoon was invited to the New Palace at
Potsdam. Besides myself were the Prince and Princess von
Wied, with the Mistress of the Robes and the Court marshal.
Emperor and Empress very amiable. The Emperor spoke of his
hunting in Alsace, and supposed it would be some years
before the game there would be abundant. Then he expressed
his satisfaction at my acquisition of Gensburg, and when I
told him there was not much room in the castle he said, no
matter, he could nevertheless pass a few days there with a
couple of gentlemen very pleasantly. Passing to politics, he
gave vent to his displeasure at the attitude of the
Conservative party, who were hindering the formation of a
Conservative-monarchical combination against the
Progressives and Social Democrats. This was all the more
regrettable as the Progressives, if now and then they
opposed the Social Democrats, still at bottom were with
them. The Emperor approves of the commercial treaties and
seemed to have great confidence in Caprivi generally. As we
came to speak of intrigues and gossip, the Emperor hinted
that Bismarck was behind them. He added that people were
urging him from many quarters to be reconciled with
Bismarck, but it was not for him to take the first step. He
seemed well informed about the situation in Russia and
considered it very dangerous. When I asked the Emperor how
he stood now with the Czar, he replied 'Badly. He went
through here without paying me a visit, and I only write him
ceremonious letters. The Queen of Denmark prevented him
coming to Berlin, for fear he should go to Potsdam. She has
gone now with him to Livadia on the pretext of the silver
wedding, but in reality to keep him away from Berlin.'"

Writing of a lunch at Potsdam, under date Berlin, November 10, 1892,
the Prince notes: -

"The Emperor came late and looked tired, but was in good
spirits. We went immediately to table. Afterwards the
conversation turned on Bismarck. 'When one compares what
Bismarck does with that for which poor Arnim had to suffer!'
He would do nothing, he said, against Bismarck, but the
consequences of the whole thing were very serious. Waldersee
and Bismarck couldn't abide one another. They had, however,
become allies out of common hatred of Caprivi, whose fall
Bismarck desired. What might happen afterwards neither
cared."

The following was penned after the old Chancellor's visit of
reconciliation: -

"BERLIN, 27 _January_, 1894.

"To-night gala performance at the opera. Between the acts I
talked first with different monarchs, the King of
Württemberg, the King of Saxony, the Grand Duke of
Oldenburg, and so on. Then I was sent for by the Empress, of
whom I took leave. The Emperor came shortly afterwards. We
spoke of Bismarck's visit the day before and the good
consequences for the Emperor it would have. 'Yes,' said the
Emperor, 'now they can put up triumphal arches for him in
Vienna and Munich, I am all the time a length ahead. If the
press continues its abuse it only puts itself and Bismarck
in the wrong.' I mentioned that red-hot partisans of
Bismarck were greatly dissatisfied with the visit, and said
the Emperor should have gone to Friedrichsruh (Bismarck's
estate near Hamburg). 'I am well aware of it,' said the
Emperor,'but for that they would have had a long time to
wait. He had to come here.' On the whole the Emperor spoke
very sensibly and decisively, and I did not at all get the
impression that he now wants to change everything."

Prince Hohenlohe was summoned to Potsdam in October, 1894, by a
telegram from the Emperor. All the telegram said was that "important
interests of the Empire" were concerned. Hohenlohe was only aware of
the dismissal of Caprivi from a newspaper he read in Frankfort on his
way to Potsdam. The Emperor met him at the station (Wildpark) and
conveyed him to the New Palace, where the Prince agreed to accept the
Chancellorship "at the Emperor's earnest request." Princess Hohenlohe
was decidedly against her husband, who was now seventy-five, accepting
the post, and even ventured to telegraph to the Empress to prevent it.

The Prince has a note on his intercourse with his imperial master. He
is writing to his son, Prince Alexander: -

"BERLIN, 17 _October_, 1896.

"It is a curious thing - my relations to his Majesty. I come
now and then to the conclusion, owing to his small
inconsideratenesses, that he intentionally avoids me and
that things can't continue so. Then again I talk with him
and see that I am mistaken. Yesterday I had occasion to
report to him, and he poured out his heart to me and took
occasion in the friendliest way to ask my advice. And thus
my distrust is dissipated."

Hunting with the Emperor: -

"15 _December_, 1896.

"Yesterday I obeyed the royal invitation to hunt at Springe.
I had to leave Berlin as early as 7 a.m. to catch the royal
train at Potsdam. From Springe railway station we passed
immediately into the hunting district. Only sows were shot.
I brought down six. Then we drove to the Schloss, rested for
a few hours and then dined. The Emperor was in very good
humour and talked incessantly; in addition the Uhlan band
and the usually noisy conversation."

When presenting his resignation to the Emperor at Hamburg in October,
1900, the Prince, who had evidently been for some time aware that his
term of office was drawing to a close, describes his conversation with
the Emperor: -

"At noon, as I came to the Emperor, he received me in a very
friendly way. We first settled about summoning the
Reichstag, and then his Majesty said, 'I have received a
very distressing letter' - an allusion to the Chancellor's
official letter of resignation, which he had placed in the
Emperor's hands through Tschirschky, Foreign Minister. 'As I
then,' continued Hohenlohe, 'explained the necessity of my
resignation on the ground of my health and age the Emperor,
apparently quite satisfied, agreed, so that I could see he
had already expected my request and consequently that it was
high time I should make it. We talked further over the
question of my successor, and I was agreeably surprised when
he forthwith mentioned Bülow, who certainly at the moment is
the best man available. His Majesty then said he would
telegraph to Lucanus (Chief of the Civil Cabinet) to bring
Bülow to Homburg so that we might consult about details. I
breakfasted with their Majesties and went calmly home.'"

Writing to his daughter next day Prince Hohenlohe, in words that do
equal credit to himself and the imperial family, says:

"It is always a pleasure to me when on such occasions I can
convince myself of the Christian disposition of the imperial
family. In our for the most part unbelieving age this family
seems to me like an oasis in the desert."

Prince Hohenlohe was succeeded as Chancellor by Prince von Bülow, who
had held the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the
preceding two years, and practically conducted the Emperor's foreign
policy during that time. He had served as Secretary of Embassy in St.
Petersburg, Vienna, and Athens, was a Secretary to the Congress of
Berlin, fought in the war with France and after seven years as
Minister in Bucharest spent four years as Ambassador in Rome. Here he
married a divorced Italian lady, the Countess Minghetti. After acting
as deputy Foreign Secretary for the late Baron Marschall von
Bieberstein, he was appointed permanent Foreign Secretary, and on
October 17, 1900, was called by the Emperor to the most responsible
post in the Empire next to his own, that of Imperial Chancellor. The
Emperor's choice was fully justified, for the new Chancellor proved
himself to be the most brilliant diplomatist and parliamentarian since
Bismarck.




IX



THE NEW CENTURY



1900-1901

German writers, commenting on the turn of the century, claim to
discover a change in the Emperor's character about this period. He has
lost much of his imaginative, his Lohengrin, vein, and has become more
practical, more prosaic and matter-of-fact. To use the German word, he
is now a _Realpolitiker_, one who deals in things, not words or
theories, and drawing his gaze from the stars makes them dwell more
attentively on the immediate practical considerations of the world
about him. His nature has not changed, of course, nor his manner, but
he has begun to see that he must employ means and ways different from
those he employed previously. He has not become a Bismarck, for he
still pursues his aims more in the spirit of the colonel of a regiment
leading his men to the attack with banners flying, drums beating,
swords rattling in their scabbards and mailed gauntlets held
threateningly aloft, than in that of the cool and calculating
politician ruminating in his closet on the tactics of his opponents,
and deliberating how best to meet and confound them; but he gives more
thought to what is going on about him, to party politics, to the
economic necessities of the hour, and to modern science and its
inventions.

What strikes the Englishman perhaps as much as anything in the
Emperor's character at this time is the Cromwellian trait in it. This
is a side of his Protean nature which never seems to have been
adequately recognized in England, yet in a singularly baffling
character-composition it is one of the fundamental elements. The view
of Prussian monarchy, inherited from one Hohenzollern to another for
generation after generation, that the race of people to which he
belonged (with any other race he could include by conquest in it) has
been handed over by Heaven for all eternity to his family, naturally
predisposes him to take a religious, a patriarchal, one might say an
Hebraic, view of government; but in addition we find the warrior
spirit at all times going hand in hand with the religious spirit,
almost as strongly as in the case of Mahomet with the Koran in one
hand and the sword in the other.

There was nothing in the Emperor's youth to show the existence of
deeply religious conviction, but as soon as he mounted the throne, and
all through the reign up to the close of the century, indeed some
years beyond it, his speeches, especially when he was addressing his
soldiery, were filled with expressions of religious fervour. "Von
Gotten Gnaden," he writes as a preface for a Leipzig publication
appearing on January 1, 1900,

"is the King; therefore to God alone is he responsible. He
must choose his way and conduct himself solely from this
standpoint. This fearfully heavy responsibility which the
King bears for his folk gives him a claim on the faithful
co-operation of his subjects. Accordingly, every man among
the people must be thoroughly persuaded that he is, along
with the King, responsible for the general welfare."

It may be noted in passing that Cromwell and the Emperor are alike in
being the founders of the great war navies of their respective
countries.

On the date mentioned (New Year's Day), in the Berlin arsenal when
consecrating some flags, he addressed the garrison on the turn of the
year:

"The first day of the new century finds our army, that is
our folk in arms, gathered round its standards, kneeling
before the Lord of Hosts - and certainly if anyone has reason
to bend the knee before God, it is our army."

"A glance at our standards," the Emperor continued,

"is sufficient explanation, for they incorporate our
history. What was the state of our army at the beginning of
the century? The glorious army of Frederick the Great had
gone to sleep on its laurels, ossified in pipeclay details,
led by old, incapable generals, its officers shy of work,
sunk in luxury, good living, and foolish self-satisfaction.
In a word, the army was no longer not only not equal to its
task, but had forgotten it. Heavy was the punishment of
Heaven, which overtook it and our folk. They were flung into
the dust, Frederick's glory faded, the standards were cast
down. In seven years of painful servitude God taught our
folk to bethink itself of itself, and under the pressure of
the feet of an arrogant usurper (Napoleon) was born the
thought that it is the highest honour to devote in arms
one's life and property to the Fatherland - the thought, in
short, of universal conscription."

The word for conscription, it may be here remarked, is in German
_Wehrpflicht_, the duty of defence. To most people in England it means
simply "compulsory military service." It is important to note the
difference, as it explains the German national idea, and the Emperor's
idea, that all military and naval forces are primarily for defence,
not offence. This is, indeed, equally true of the British, or perhaps
any other, army and navy; but how many Englishmen, when they think of
Germany, can get the idea into the foreground of their thoughts or
accustom themselves to it?

However, we have not yet done with the Emperor's baffling character.
There was a third element that now developed in it - the modern, the
twentieth-century, the American, the Rockefeller element. It is
intimately connected with his Weltpolitik, as his Weltpolitik is with
his foreign policy in general - indeed one might say his Weltpolitik is
his foreign policy - a policy of economic expansion, with a desperate
apprehension of losing any of the Empire's property, and a
determination to have a voice in the matter when there is any loose
property anywhere in the world to be disposed of. To the Hebraic
element and the warrior element (an entirely un-Christlike
combination, as the Emperor must be aware) there now began to be added
the mercantile, the modern, the American element - the interest in all
the concerns of national material prosperity, in the national
accumulation of wealth, the interest in inventions, in commercial
science, in labour-saving machinery, the effort to win American
favour, to facilitate intercourse and establish close and profitable
relations with that wealthy land and people.

We know that the Emperor has English blood in him, greatly admires
England, and is immensely proud of being a British admiral. We have
seen him exhibiting traits of character that remind one of Lohengrin
or Tancred. He has played many parts in the spirit of a Hebrew prophet
and patriarch, of a Frederick the Great, a Cromwell, a Nelson, a
Theodore Roosevelt. Preacher, teacher, soldier, sailor, he has been
all four, now at one moment, now at another. We shall find him anon as
art and dramatic critic, to end - so far as we are concerned with
him - as farmer. Is it any wonder if such a man, mediæval in his nature
and modern in his character, defies clear and definite portrayal by
his contemporaries?

Taking the year 1900 as the first year of the new century, not as some
calculators, and the Emperor among them, take it, as the last year of
the old, the twentieth century may be said to have opened with a
dramatic historical episode in which the Emperor and his Empire took
very prominent parts - the Boxer movement.

Little notice has been taken in our account of Germany's spacious days
of her relations to China and the Far East generally. They were,
nevertheless, all through that period intimately connected with her
expansion or dreams of expansion. About 1890 the Flowery Land awoke to
the benefits of European civilization and in particular of European
ingenuity; and in 1891, for the first time in Chinese history, foreign
diplomatists were granted the privilege of an annual reception
at the Chinese Court. So exclusive was the Manchu dynasty - the
Hohenzollerns of China in point of antiquity; yet not a score of
years later the Manchu monarchy had been quietly removed from its
five-thousand-year-old throne, and China, apparently the most
conservative and monarchical people on earth, proclaimed itself a
republic - a regular modern republic! - an operation that among peoples
claiming infinite superiority to the Chinese would have cost thousands
of lives and a vast expenditure of money.

Naturally, once China showed a willingness to abandon its axenic
attitude towards foreign devils and all things foreign-devilish, the
European Powers turned their eyes and energies towards her, and a
strenuous commercial and diplomatic race after prospective concessions
for railways, mines, and undertakings of all kinds began. Each Power
feared that China would be gobbled up by a rival, or that at least a
partition of the vast Chinese Empire was at hand. Consequently, when
China was beaten in her war with Japan, and made the unfavourable
treaty of Shimonoseki, the European Powers were ready to appear as
helpers in time of need. Russia, Germany, and France got the
Shimonoseki Treaty altered, and the Laotung Peninsula with Port Arthur
given back, and in return Russia acquired the right to build a railway
through Manchuria (the first step towards "penetration" and
occupation), French engineers obtained several valuable mining and
railway concessions, and Germany got certain privileges in Hankow and
Tientsin.

Meantime the old, deeply-rooted hatred of the foreign devil, the
European, was spreading among the population, which was still, in the
mass, conservative. Missionaries were murdered, and among them, in
1897, two German priests. Germany demanded compensation, and in
default sent a cruiser squadron to Kiautschau Bay. Russia immediately
hurried a fleet to Port Arthur and obtained from China a lease of that
port for twenty-five years. England and France now put in a claim for
their share of the good things going. England obtained Wei-hai-Wei,
France a lease of Kwang-tschau and Hainan. China was evidently
throwing herself into the arms of Europe, when, in 1898, the Dowager
Empress took the government out of the hands of the young Emperor and
a period of reaction set in. The appearance of Italy with a demand for
a lease of the San-mun Bay in 1899 brought the Chinese anti-foreign
movement to a head, and the Boxer conspiracy grew to great dimensions.

The movement was caused not merely by religious and race fanaticism,
but by the popular fear that the new European era would change the
economic life of China and deprive millions of Chinese of their wonted
means of livelihood. The Dowager Empress and a number of Chinese
princes now joined it. Massacres soon became the order of the day, and
it is calculated that in the spring of 1900 alone more than 30,000
Christians were barbarously done to death. Among the victims were
reckoned 118 English, 79 Americans, 25 French, and 40 of other
nationalities. The Ambassadors and Ministers of all nations, conscious
of their danger, applied to the Tsungli Yamen (Foreign Office),
demanding that the Imperial Government should crush the Boxer
movement. The Government took no steps, the diplomatists were
beleaguered in their embassies, and were only saved by friendly police
from being murdered.

This, however, was but a temporary respite, and it became necessary to
bring marines from the foreign ships of war lying at the mouth of the
Pei-ho River just out of range of the formidable Taku Forts. These
troops, 2,000 in all, were led by Admiral Seymour. They tried to reach
Pekin, but failed owing to the destruction of the railway, and retired
to Tientsin, from whence, however, on June 16th, a detachment set out
to capture the Taku Forts. The capture was effected, the German
gunboat _Iltis_, under Captain Lans, playing a conspicuously brave
part. Tientsin was now in danger from the Boxer bands, but was
relieved by a mixed detachment of Russians and Germans under General
Stoessel, the subsequent defender of Port Arthur.

The alarm meantime at Pekin was intense. The Chinese Government,
throwing off all disguise, ordered the diplomatists to leave the city.



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 15 of 31)