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monarchy. The two things in fact are closely identified, and, from the
Emperor's standpoint, on both together depend the security, and to a
large extent the prosperity, of the Empire. He knows or believes that
Germany is surrounded by hordes of potential enemies, as a lighthouse
is often surrounded by an ocean that, while treacherously calm, may at
any time rage about the edifice; that round the lighthouse are
gathered his folk, who look to it for safety; and that the monarchy is
the lighthouse itself, a _rocher de bronze_, towering above all.

In this connexion it may be noted that the army in Germany is not a
mercenary body like the English army, but is simply and solely a
certain portion of the people, naturally the younger men, passing for
two or three years, according as they serve in the infantry or
cavalry, through the ranks. The system of recruiting, as everybody
knows, is called conscription; it ought rather to be described as a
system of national education, whereby the rude and raw youth of the
country is converted into an admirable class of well-disciplined,
self-respecting and healthy, as well as patriotic, citizens. The
Emperor believes, contrary to the opinion of many English army
officers, that a man to be a good soldier must also be a good
Christian, and thus we find him enforcing, or trying to enforce, among
his officers the moral qualities which Christianity is meant to

Among these qualities is simplicity of life, and as a result of
simplicity of life, contentment with simple and not too costly
pleasures. We saw the Emperor as a young colonel forbidding his
officers to join a Berlin club where gambling was prevalent. This
year, after a luxurious lunch at one of the regimental messes, he
issues an order, or rather an edict, expressing his wish that officers
in their messes should content themselves with simpler food and wines,
and in particular that when he himself is a guest, the meal should
consist only of soup, fish, vegetables, a roast and cheese. Ordinary
red or white table-wine, a glass of "bowl" ("cup"), or German
champagne should be handed round. Liqueurs, or other forms of what the
French know as "chasse-café," after dinner were best avoided. The
edict of course caused amusement as well as a certain amount of
discontent with what was felt to be a kind of objectionable paternal
interference, and it is doubtful whether it has had much lasting
effect. Even now, the German officer laughingly tells one that when
the Emperor dines at an officers' mess either French champagne (which
is infinitely superior to German) is poured into German champagne
bottles, or else the French label is carefully shrouded in a napkin
that swathes the bottle up to the neck. Apropos of German champagne, a
story is current that Bismarck, one day dining at the palace, refused
the German champagne being handed round. The Emperor noticed the
refusal and said pointedly to Bismarck: "I always drink German
champagne, because I think it right to encourage our national
industries. Every patriot should do so." "Your Majesty," replied the
grim old Chancellor, "my patriotism does not extend to my stomach."

In the domain of æsthetics this year the Emperor had some pleasant and
some painful experiences. Joachim, the great violinist, and a great
favourite of his, died in August, and his death was followed next
month, September, by that of the composer Grieg, the "Chopin of the
North," as the Emperor called him, whose friendship the Emperor had
acquired on one of his Norwegian trips. Quite at the end of the year
his early tutor, Dr. Hinzpeter, for whom he always had a semi-filial
regard, passed away.

On the other hand, among the Emperor's pleasant experiences may be
reckoned the visit of Mr. Beerbohm Tree and his English company to the
German capital. Their repertory of Shakespearean drama greatly
delighted the Emperor, who expressed his pleasure to Mr. Tree and his
fellow-players personally, and did not dismiss them without
substantial tokens of his appreciation.

Earlier in the year the French actress, Suzanne Deprès, visited Berlin
and appealed strongly to the Emperor's taste for the "classical" in
music and drama. Inviting the actress to the royal box, he said to

"You have shown us such a natural, living Phædra that we
were all strongly moved. How fine a part it is! As a
youngster I used to learn verses from 'Phædra' by heart. I
am told that in France devotion to classical tradition is
growing weaker, and that Molière and Racine are more and
more seldom played. What a pity! Our people, on the
contrary, remain faithful to their great poets and enjoy
their works. After school comes college, and after
college - the theatre. It should elevate and expand the soul.
The people do not need any representation of reality - they
are well acquainted with that in their daily lives. One must
put something greater and nobler before them, something
superior to 'La Dame aux Camélias.'"

A month later, however, he made one of his extremely rare visits to an
ordinary Berlin theatre to see - "The Hound of the Baskervilles"!

Meanwhile in domestic politics Chancellor von Bülow's famous "bloc"
continued to work satisfactorily, notwithstanding difficulties arising
from the conflicting interests of industry and agriculture, Free Trade
and Protection and differences of creed and race. At the end of this
year it was near falling asunder in connection with the question of
judicial reform, but Prince von Bülow kept it together for a while by
an impassioned appeal to the patriotism of both parties. In the course
of the speech he told the House how, when he was standing at
Bismarck's death-bed, he noticed on the wall the portrait of a man,
Ludwig Uhland, who had said "no head could rule over Germany that was
not well anointed with democratic oil," and drew the conclusion from
the contrast between the dying man of action and the poet that only
the union of old Prussian conservative energy and discipline with
German broad-hearted, liberal spirit could secure a happy future for
the nation. The "bloc," as we shall see, broke up in 1909 and Prince
von Bülow resigned. The Chancellor afterwards attributed his fall
entirely to the Conservatives, but it is possible, even probable, that
it was in at least some measure due to the events of the _annus
mirabilis_, 1908, which now opened.




The "November Storm" was a collision between the Emperor and his folk,
a result of his so-called "personal regiment."

In a general way the latter phrase is intended to describe and
characterize the method of rule adopted by the Emperor from the very
beginning of his reign, especially as exhibited in his semi-official
utterances, public and private, in his correspondence, private
conversation, and public and private conduct generally. According to
the popular interpretation of the Imperial Constitution - the nearest
thing to a Magna Charta in Germany - the Emperor should observe, in his
words and acts, a reserve which would prevent all chance of creating
dissension among the federated States and in particular would secure
the avoidance of anything which might disturb Germany's relations to
foreign countries or interfere with the course of Germany's foreign
policy as carried on through the regular official channel, the Foreign
Office. The ground for this popular interpretation is a constitutional
device which to an Englishman, if it be not offensive to say so, can
only recall the well-known definition of a metaphysician as "a blind
man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat, _which is not there_."

The device is known as the Chancellor's "responsibility," which was
regarded, and is still regarded in Germany, as at once "covering" the
Emperor and offering to his folk a safeguard against unwisdom or
caprice on his part. The nature of this responsibility which is
evidenced by the Chancellor signing the Emperor's edicts and other
official statements, is so frequently discussed by German politicians,
the position of the Chancellor - the Grand Vizier of Germany he has
been picturesquely called - is so influential, and the intercourse
between the Emperor and the Chancellor is so close, exclusive, and
confidential, that an examination of the meaning of the term
"responsibility" in this connexion is desirable.

Whenever the Emperor does anything important or surprising, especially
in foreign policy, the first question asked by his subjects is, has he
taken the step with the knowledge, and therefore with the joint
responsibility, of the Chancellor? If the answer is in the negative,
it is the "personal regiment" again, and people are angry: if the
latter, they may disapprove of the step and grumble at it, but it is
covered by the Chancellor's signature and they can raise no
constitutional objection. Hence the demand usually made on such
occasions for an Act of Parliament once for all defining fully and
clearly the Chancellor's responsibilities. According to Prince von
Bülow, and it is doubtless the Emperor's own view, the responsibility
mentioned in the Constitution is a "moral responsibility," and only
refers to such acts and orders of the Emperor as immediately arise out
of the governing rights vested in him, not to personal expressions of
opinion, even though these may be made on formal occasions; and the
Prince goes on to say that if a Chancellor cannot prevent what he
honestly thinks would permanently and in an important respect be
injurious to the Empire, he is bound to resign.

The Chancellor, then, takes responsibility of some kind. But
responsibility to whom? To the Emperor? To the Parliament? To the
people? The answer is, solely to the Emperor, for it is the Emperor
who appoints and dismisses him as well as every other Minister,
imperial or Prussian, and the Emperor is only responsible to his
conscience. In parliamentarily ruled countries like England Ministers
are responsible to Parliament, which expresses its disapproval by the
vote of a hostile majority, or in certain circumstances by a vote of
censure or even impeachment. In Germany, where the parliamentary
system of government does not exist, and where there is no upsetting
Ministries by a hostile majority, and no parliamentary vote of censure
or impeachment, no Minister, including the Chancellor, is responsible,
in the English sense of the word, to Parliament; accordingly, a German
Chancellor may continue in office in spite of Parliament, provided of
course the Emperor supports him. At the same time the Chancellor
to-day is to some indefinable extent responsible to Parliament, and
therefore to the people, in so far as they are represented by it, for
he must keep on tolerable terms with Parliament as well as with the
Emperor, or he will have to give up office. How he is to keep on terms
with a Parliament consisting of half a dozen powerful parties and as
many more smaller fractions and factions is probably the part of his
duties that gives him most trouble and at times, doubtless, very
disagreeably interferes with the placidity of his slumbers.

There is no struggle for government in Germany between the Crown and
the people: Germans have no ancient Magna Charta, no Habeas Corpus, no
Declaration of Rights to look back to on the long road to liberty. In
the protracted struggle for government between the English people and
their rulers, the people's victory took the form of parliamentary
control while retaining the monarch as their highest and most honoured
representative. Socially he is their master, politically their
servant, the "first servant of the State." In Germany there has never,
save for a few months in 1848, been any struggle of a similar
political extent or kind. German monarchs including the Emperor, have
applied the expression "first servant of the State" to themselves, but
they did not apply it in the English sense. They applied it more
accurately. In Germany the State means the system, the mechanism of
government, inclusive of the monarch's office: in England the word
"State" is more nearly equivalent to the word "people." To serve the
system, the government machinery, is the first duty of the monarch,
and government is not a changing reflection of the people's will, but
a permanent apparatus for maintaining the power of the Crown,
harmonizing and reconciling the sentiments and interests of all parts
of the Empire, and for conducting foreign policy.

It may be objected that legislation is made by the Reichstag, that the
Reichstag has the power of the purse, and that it is elected by
universal suffrage; but in Germany the Government is above and
independent of the Reichstag; legislation is not made by the Reichstag
alone, since it requires the agreement of the Federal Council and of
the Emperor, and - what is of great practical importance - Government
issues directions as to how legislation shall be carried into effect.
The law of 1872 passed against the Jesuits forbade the "activity" of
the Order, but the interpretation of the word "activity," and with it
the effects of the law, were left to the Government.

Kings of Prussia and German Emperors have never shown much affection
for their Parliaments: Parliaments are apt to act as a check upon
monarchy, and in Prussia in particular to interfere with the carrying
out of the divinely imposed mission. This is not said sarcastically;
and the Emperor, like some of his ancestors, has more than once
expressed the same thought. Parliaments in Germany only date from
after the French Revolution. After that event there came into
existence in Germany the Frankfurt Parliament (1848), the Erfurt
Parliament (1850), and the Parliament of the German Customs Union
(1867). These, however, were not popularly elected Parliaments like
those of the present day, but gatherings of class delegates from the
various Kingdoms and States composing the Germany and Austria of the
time. Since the Middle Ages there had always been quasi-popular
assemblies in Prussia, but they too were not elected, and only
represented classes, not constituencies. The present Parliaments in
Prussia and the Empire are Constitutional Parliaments in the English
sense, elected by universal suffrage, the one indirectly, the other

The present Prussian Diet dates from the "First Unified Diet,"
summoned by Frederick William IV in 1847, which was transformed next
year under pressure of the revolutionists into a "national assembly."
This was treated a year after by General Wrangel almost exactly as
Cromwell treated the Rump. The General entered Berlin with the troops
which a few weeks before had fought against the revolutionists of the
"March days." He passed along the Linden to the royal theatre, where
the "national assembly" was in session, and was met at the door by the
leader of the citizens' guard with the proud words, "The guard is
resolved to protect the honour of the National Assembly and the
freedom of the people, and will only yield to force."

Wrangel took out his watch - one can imagine the old silver
"turnip" - and with his thumb on the dial replied:

"Tell your city guard that the force is here. I will be
responsible for the maintenance of order. The National
Assembly has fifteen minutes in which to leave the building
and the city guard in which to withdraw."

In a quarter of an hour the building was empty, and next day the city
guard was dissolved. A month later the King, Frederick William IV,
granted his _octroyierte_ Constitution - that is, a concession of his
own royal personal will - which established the Diet as it is to-day.

Emperor William I, as King of Prussia, had a good deal of trouble with
his Parliament, and in 1852 wanted to abdicate rather than rule in
obedience to a parliamentary majority - it was the "conflict time"
about funds for army reorganization. Bismarck dissuaded him from doing
so by promising to become Minister and carry on the government, if
need were, without a parliament and without a budget. He actually did
so for some years, but there was no change in the Constitution as a

Nor has there been any constitutional change in the relations of Crown
to Parliament during the present reign. As a young man, the Emperor
had of course nothing to do with Parliament, Prussian or Imperial, and
since his accession, though there is always latent antagonism and has
been even friction at times, he has, generally speaking, lived on
"correct," if not friendly terms with it. There is little, if any, of
the devoted affection one finds for the monarch in the English

And not unnaturally. Early in his reign, in 1891, he made a reference
to Parliament little calculated to evoke affection. "The soldier and
the army," he said to his generals at a banquet in the palace, "not
parliamentary majorities and decisions, have welded together the
German Empire. My confidence is in the army - as my grandfather said at
Coblenz: 'These are the gentlemen on whom I can rely.'" Again, a year
or two afterwards he dissolved the Reichstag for refusing to accept a
military bill and did not conceal his anger with the recalcitrant
majority. In 1895 he telegraphed to Bismarck his indignation with the
Reichstag for refusing to vote its congratulations on the old
statesman's eightieth birthday. In 1897, speaking of the kingship "von
Gottes Gnaden" he took occasion to quote his grandfather's declaration
that "it was a kingship with onerous duties from which no man, no
Minister, no Parliament, no people" could release the Prince. In 1903
his Chancellor, Prince Bülow, had to defend in Parliament his action
in the case of the Swinemunde despatch already mentioned. Attention
was called to the telegram in the Reichstag and the Chancellor
defended the Emperor. He denied that the telegram was an act of
State - it was a personal matter between two sovereigns, the statement
of a friend to a friend. "The idea," said the Chancellor, who
contended that the Emperor had a right to express his opinions like
any citizen,

"that the monarch's expression of opinion is to be limited
by a stipulation that every such expression must be endorsed
with the signature of the Chancellor is wholly foreign to
the Constitution."

Next day the Chancellor had again occasion to defend his imperial
master against a charge of being "anti-social," brought by the
Socialist von Vollmar, who coupled the charge with insinuations of
absolutism and Cæsarism. Prince Bülow said:

"Absolutism is not a German word, and is not a German
institution. It is an Asiatic plant, and one cannot talk of
absolutism in Germany so long as our circumstances develop
in an organic and legal manner, respecting the rights of the
Crown, which are just as sacred as the rights of the
burgher; respecting also law and order, which are not
disregarded 'from above,' and will not be disregarded. If
ever our circumstances take on an absolute, a Cæsarian,
form, it will be as the consequence of revolution, of
convulsion. For on revolution follows Cæsarism as W follows
U - that is the rule in the A B C of the world's history."

There is no harm in reminding Prince Bülow that the letter V - which
may be a very important link in the chain of events - comes between U
and W. It is clear also that the Chancellor must have forgotten his
English history for the moment, for though Cromwell's rule may be
called Cæsarism of a kind, the reign of William III, of "glorious,
pious, and immortal memory," which followed the revolution of 1688,
could not fairly be so named.

Three years later, in 1906, Prince Bülow found it necessary to defend
the Emperor on the score of the "personal regiment." "The view,"
Prince Bülow said,

"that the monarch should have no individual thoughts of his own
about State and government, but should only think with the heads
of his Ministers and only say what they tell him to say, is
fundamentally wrong - is inconsistent with State rights and with
the wish of the German people";

and he concluded by challenging the House to mention a single case in
which the Emperor had acted unconstitutionally. None of these
bickerings between Crown and Parliament went to the root of the
constitutional relations between them, but they betrayed the existence
of popular dissatisfaction with the Emperor, which in a couple of
years was to culminate in an outbreak of national anger.

An occurrence calls for mention here, not only as a kind of harbinger
of the "storm," but as one of the chief incidents which in the course
of recent years have troubled Anglo-German relations. The incident
referred to is that of the so-called "Tweedmouth Letter," which was an
autograph letter from the Emperor to Lord Tweedmouth, First Lord of
the British Admiralty at the time, dated February 17, 1908, and
containing among other matters a lengthy disquisition on naval
construction, with reference to the excited state of feeling in
England caused by Germany's warship-building policy. The letter has
never been published, but it is supposed to have been prompted by a
statement made publicly by Lord Esher, Warden of Windsor Castle, in
the London _Observer_, to the effect that nothing would more please
the German Emperor than the retirement of Sir John Fisher, the
originator of the Dreadnought policy, who was at the time First Lord
of the Admiralty; and to have contained the remark that "Lord Esher
had better attend to the drains at Windsor and leave alone matters
which he did not understand." The Emperor was apparently unaware that
Lord Esher was one of the foremost military authorities in England.

The sending of the letter became known through the appearance of a
communication in the London _Times_ of March 6th, with the caption
"Under which King?" - an allusion to Shakespeare's "Under which king,
Bezonian, speak or die" - and signed "Your Military Correspondent." The
writer announced that it had come to his knowledge that the German
Emperor had recently addressed a letter to Lord Tweedmouth on the
subject of British and German naval policy, and that it was supposed
that the letter amounted to an attempt to influence, in German
interests, the Minister's responsibility for the British Naval
Estimates. The correspondent concluded by demanding that the letter
should be laid before Parliament without delay. The _Times_, in a
leading article, prognosticated the "painful surprise and just
indignation" which must be felt by the people of Great Britain on
learning of such "secret appeals to the head of a department on which
the nation's safety depends," and argued that there could be no
question of privacy in a matter of the kind. The article concluded
with the assertion that the letter was obviously an attempt to "make
it more easy for German preparations to overtake our own." The
incident was immediately discussed in all countries, publicly and

Everywhere opinion was divided as to the defensibility of the
Emperor's action; in France the division was reported by the _Times_
correspondent to be "bewildering." All the evidence available to prove
the Emperor's impulsiveness was recalled - the Kruger telegram, the
telegram to Count Goluchowski, the Austrian Minister of Foreign
Affairs, after the Morocco Conference, characterizing him as a
"brilliant second (to Germany) in the bout at Algeciras," the
premature telegram conferring the Order of Merit on General Stoessel
after the fall of Port Arthur, and other evidence, relevant and
irrelevant. Reuter's agent in Berlin telegraphed on official authority
that the Emperor "had written as a naval expert."

On the whole, continental opinion may be said to have leaned in favour
of the Emperor. Mr. Asquith, the English Prime Minister, at once made
the statement that the letter was a "purely private communication,
couched in an entirely friendly spirit," that it had not been laid
before the Cabinet, and that the latter had come to a decision about
the Estimates before the letter arrived.

All eyes and ears were now turned to Lord Tweedmouth, and on March
10th he briefly referred to the matter in the House of Lords. He
received the letter, he said, in the ordinary postal way; it was "very
friendly in tone and quite informal"; he showed it to Sir Edward Grey,
who agreed with him that it should be treated as a private letter, not
as an official one; and he replied to it on February 20th, "also in an
informal and friendly manner." A discussion, in which Lord Lansdowne

Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 23 of 31)