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and Lord Rosebery took part, followed, the former - to give the tone,
not the words of his speech - handing in a verdict of "Not guilty, but
don't do it again," against the Emperor, and laying down the principle
that "such a communication as that in question must not be allowed to
create a diplomatic situation different from that which has been
established through official channels and documents"; and Lord
Rosebery, while he recognized the importance of the incident, seeking
to minimize its effects by an attitude of banter. The treatment of the
incident by the House of Commons as a whole gave considerable
satisfaction in Germany, where all efforts were directed to showing
malevolent hostility to Germany on the part of the _Times_.

Prince von BГјlow dealt with the letter in a speech on the second
reading of the Budget on March 24, 1908. After referring to the Union
Internationale Interparlementaire, which was to meet in a few months
in Berlin, and to the "very unsatisfactory situation in Morocco," he
said: -

"From various remarks which have been dropped in the course
of the debate I gather that this honourable House desires me
to make a statement as to the letter which his Majesty the
Kaiser last month wrote to Lord Tweedmouth. On grounds of
discretion, to the observance of which both the sender and
receiver of a private letter are equally entitled, I am not
in a position to lay the text of the letter before you, and
I add that I regret exceedingly that I cannot do so. The
letter could be signed by any one of us, by any sincere
friend of good relations between Germany and England (hear,
hear). The letter, gentlemen, was in form and substance a
private one, and at the same time its contents were of a
political nature. The one fact does not exclude the other;
and the letter of a sovereign, an imperial letter, does not,
from the fact that it deals with political questions, become
an act of State ('Very true,' on the Right).

"This is not - and deputy Count Kanitz yesterday gave
appropriate instances in support - the first political letter
a sovereign has written, and our Kaiser is not the first
sovereign who has addressed to foreign statesmen letters of
a political character which are not subject to control. The
matter here concerns a right of action which all sovereigns
claim and which, in the case of our Kaiser also, no one has
a right to limit. How his Majesty proposes to make use of
this right we can confidently leave to the imperial sense of
duty. It is a gross, in no way justifiable
misrepresentation, to assert that his Majesty's letter to
Lord Tweedmouth amounts to an attempt to influence the
Minister responsible for the naval budget in the interests
of Germany, or that it denotes a secret interference in the
internal affairs of the British Empire. Our Kaiser is the
last person to believe that the patriotism of an English
Minister would suffer him to accept advice from a foreign
country as to the drawing up of the English naval budget
('Quite right,' hear, hear). What is true of English
statesmen is true also of the leading statesmen of every
country which lays claim to respect for its independence
('Very true'). In questions of defence of one's own country
every people rejects foreign interference and is guided only
by considerations bearing on its own security and its own
needs ('Quite right'). Of this right to self-judgment and
self-defence Germany also makes use when she builds a fleet
to secure the necessary protection for her coasts and her
commerce ('Bravo!'). This defensive, this purely defensive
character of our naval programme cannot, in view of the
incessant attempts to attribute to us aggressive views with
regard to England, be too often or too sharply brought
forward ('Bravo!'). We desire to live in peace and quietness
with England, and therefore it is embittering to find a
portion of the English Press ever speaking of the 'German
danger,' although the English fleet is many times stronger
than our own, although other lands have stronger fleets than
us and are working no less zealously at their development.
Nevertheless it is Germany, ever Germany, and only Germany,
against which public opinion on the other side of the
Channel is excited by an utterly valueless polemic ('Quite

"It would be, gentlemen,"

the Chancellor continued,

"in the interests of appeasement between both countries, it
would be in the interest of the general peace of the world,
that this polemic should cease. As little as we challenge
England's right to set up the naval standard her responsible
statesmen consider necessary for the maintenance of British
power in the world without our seeing therein a threat
against ourselves, so little can she take it ill of us if we
do not wish our naval construction to be wrongly represented
as a challenge against England (hear, hear, on the Right and
Left). Gentlemen, these are the thoughts, as I judge from
your assent, which we all entertain, which find expression
in the statements of all speakers, and which are in harmony
with all our views. Accept my additional statement that in
the letter of his Majesty to Lord Tweedmouth one gentleman,
one seaman, talks frankly to another, that our Kaiser highly
appreciates the honour of being an admiral of the British
navy, and that he is a great admirer of the political
education of the British people and of their fleet, and you
will have a just view of the tendency, tone, and contents of
the imperial letter to Lord Tweedmouth. His Majesty
consequently finds himself in this letter not only in full
agreement with the Chancellor - I may mention this specially
for the benefit of Herr Bebel - but, as I am convinced, in
agreement with the entire nation. It would be deeply
regrettable if the honourable opinions by which our Kaiser
was moved in writing this letter should be misconstrued in
England. With satisfaction I note that the attempts at such
misconstruction have been almost unanimously rejected in
England ('Bravo!' on the Right and Left). Above all,
gentlemen, I believe that the admirable way in which the
English Parliament has exemplarily treated the question will
have the best effect in preventing a disturbance of the
friendly relations between Germany and England and in
removing all hostile intention from the discussions over the
matter (agreement, Right and Left).

"Gentlemen, one more observation of a general nature.
Deputies von Hertling and Bassermann have recommended us, in
view of the suspicions spread about us abroad, a calm and
watchful attitude of reserve, and for the treatment of the
country's foreign affairs consistency, union, and firmness.
I believe that the foreign policy we must follow cannot be
characterized better or more rightly (applause)."

A German saying has it that one is wiser coming from, than going to,
the Rathaus, the place of counsel. It is easy to see now that it would
have been better had the Emperor not written the letter, better had
the _Times_ not brought it to public notice, better, also, had the
Emperor or Lord Tweedmouth or Sir Edward Grey - for one of them must
have spoken of it to a third person - not let its existence become
known to anyone save themselves, at least not until the international
situation which prompted it had ceased. As regards the Emperor in
particular, judgment must be based on the answer to the question, Was
the letter a private letter or a public document? The _Times_ regarded
it as the latter, and many politicians took that view, but probably
nine people out of ten now regard it as the former. For such, the
reflection that it was part of a private correspondence between two
friendly statesmen, both well known to be sincere in their views that
a country's navy - that all military preparations - are based on motives
of national defence, not of high-handed aggression, must absolve the
Emperor from any suspicion of political immorality. It was unfortunate
that the letter was written, unfortunate that it was made known
publicly, but, as it is an ill wind that blows nobody good, the
episode may profit monarchs as well as meaner folk as an object lesson
in the advantages of discretion.

Discussion of the Tweedmouth letter had hardly ceased when the whole
question of the "personal regiment" was again, and as it now, five
years after, appears, finally thrashed out between the Emperor and his
folk. Before, however, considering the _Daily Telegraph_ interview and
the Emperor's part in it, something should be said as to the state of
international ill-feeling which caused him to sanction its

The ill-feeling was no sudden wave of hostility or pique, but a
sentiment which had for years existed in the minds of both nations - a
sentiment of mutual suspicion. The Englishman thought Germany was
prepared to dispute with him the maritime supremacy of Great Britain,
the German that England intended to attack Germany before Germany
could carry her great design into execution. The proximate cause of
the irritation - for it has not yet got beyond that - was the decision,
as announced in her Navy Law of 1898, to build a fleet of battleships
which Germany, but especially the Emperor, considered necessary to
complete the defences, and appropriate for affirming the dignity, of
the Empire.

This was the _origo_, but not the _fons_. The source was the Boer War
and the Kruger telegram, though the philosophic historian might with
some reason refer it in a large measure also to the surprise and
uneasiness with which the leading colonial and commercial, as well as
maritime, nation of the world saw the material progress, the waxing
military power, and the longing for expansion of the not yet
forty-year-old German Empire. Forty years ago the word "Germany" had
no territorial, but only a descriptive and poetical, significance;
certainly it had no political significance; for the North German
Union, out of which the modern German Empire grew, meant for
Englishmen, and indeed for politicians everywhere, only Prussia.
Prussia was less liked by the world then than she is now, when she is
not liked too well; and accordingly there was already in existence the
disposition in England to criticize sharply the conduct of Prussia and
to apply the same criticism to the Empire Prussia founded. In this
condition of international feeling England's long quarrel with the
Transvaal Republic came nearer to the breaking-point; at the same time
there was an idea prevalent in England that Germany was coquetting
with the Boers - if not looking to a seizure of Transvaal territory, at
least hoping for Boer favour and Boer commercial privileges. The
Jameson Raid was made and failed; the Emperor and his advisers sent
the fateful telegram to President Kruger; and the peace of the world
has been in jeopardy ever since!

The "storm" arose from the publication, in the London _Daily
Telegraph_ of October 28, 1908, of an interview coming, as the editor
said in introducing it, "from a source of such unimpeachable authority
that we can without hesitation commend the obvious message which it
conveys to the attention of the public." As to the origin and
composition of the interview a good deal of mystery still exists. All
that has become known is that some one, whose identity has hitherto
successfully been concealed, with the object of demonstrating the
sentiments of warm friendship with which the Emperor regarded England,
put together, in England or in Germany, a number of statements made by
the Emperor and sanctioned by him for publication. Whether the Emperor
read the interview previous to publication or not, no official
statement has been made; it is, however, quite certain that he did. At
all events it was sent, or sent back, to England and published in due
course. The immediate effect was a hubbub of discussion, accompanied
with general astonishment in England, a storm of popular resentment
and humiliation in Germany, and voluminous comment in other countries,
some of it favourable, some of it unfavourable, to the Emperor.

The text of the interview in the _Daily Telegraph_ was introduced, as
mentioned, with the words: -

We have received the following communication from a source
of such unimpeachable authority that we can without
hesitation commend the obvious message which it conveys to
the attention of the public.

And continued as follows: -

Discretion is the first and last quality requisite in a
diplomatist, and should still be observed by those who, like
myself, have long passed from public into private life. Yet
moments sometimes occur in the history of nations when a
calculated indiscretion proves of the highest public
service, and it is for that reason that I have decided to
make known the substance of a lengthy conversation which it
was my recent privilege to have with his Majesty the German
Emperor. I do so in the hope that it may help to remove that
obstinate misconception of the character of the Kaiser's
feelings towards England which, I fear, is deeply rooted in
the ordinary Englishman's breast. It is the Emperor's
sincere wish that it should be eradicated. He has given
repeated proofs of his desire by word and deed. But, to
speak frankly, his patience is sorely tried now that he
finds himself so continually misrepresented, and has so
often experienced the mortification of finding that any
momentary improvement of relations is followed by renewed
out-bursts of prejudice, and a prompt return to the old
attitude of suspicion.

As I have said, his Majesty honoured me with a long conversation, and
spoke with impulsive and unusual frankness. "You English," he said,

"are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you
that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite
unworthy of a great nation? What more can I do than I have
done? I declared with all the emphasis at my command, in my
speech at Guildhall, that my heart is set upon peace, and
that it is one of my dearest wishes to live on the best of
terms with England. Have I ever been false to my word?
Falsehood and prevarication are alien to my nature. My
actions ought to speak for themselves, but you listen not to
them but to those who misinterpret and distort them. That is
a personal insult which I feel and resent. To be for ever
misjudged, to have my repeated offers of friendship weighed
and scrutinized with jealous, mistrustful eyes, taxes my
patience severely. I have said time after time that I am a
friend of England, and your Press - or, at least, a
considerable section of it - bids the people of England
refuse my proffered hand, and insinuates that the other
holds a dagger. How can I convince a nation against its

"I repeat," continued his Majesty,

"that I am the friend of England, but you make things
difficult for me. My task is not of the easiest. The
prevailing sentiment among large sections _of_ the middle
and lower classes of my own people is not friendly to
England. I am, therefore, so to speak, in a minority in my
own land, but it is a minority of the best elements, just as
it is in England with respect to Germany. That is another
reason why I resent your refusal to accept my pledged word
that I am the friend of England. I strive without ceasing to
improve relations, and you retort that I am your arch-enemy.
You make it very hard for me. Why is it?"

Thereupon I ventured to remind his Majesty that not England alone, but
the whole of Europe had viewed with disapproval the recent action of
Germany in allowing the German Consul to return from Tangier to Fez,
and in anticipating the joint action of France and Spain by suggesting
to the Powers that the time had come for Europe to recognize Muley
Hand as the new Sultan of Morocco.

His Majesty made a gesture of impatience. "Yes," he said,

"that is an excellent example of the way in which German
action is misrepresented. First, then, as regards the
journey of Dr. Vassel. The German Government, in sending Dr.
Vassel back to his post at Fez, was only guided by the wish
that he should look after the private interests of German
subjects in that city, who cried for help and protection
after the long absence of a Consular representative. And why
not send him? Are those who charge Germany with having
stolen a march on the other Powers aware that the French
Consular representative had already been in Fez for several
months when Dr. Vassel set out? Then, as to the recognition
of Muley I Hand. The Press of Europe has complained with
much acerbity that Germany ought not to have suggested his
recognition until he had notified to Europe his full
acceptance of the Act of Algeciras, as being binding upon
him as Sultan of Morocco and successor of his brother. My
answer is that Muley Hafid notified the Powers to that
effect weeks ago, before the decisive battle was fought. He
sent, as far back as the middle of last July, an identical
communication to the Governments of Germany, France, and
Great Britain, containing an explicit acknowledgment that he
was prepared to recognize all the obligations towards Europe
which were incurred by Abdul Aziz during his Sultanate. The
German Government interpreted that communication as a final
and authoritative expression of Muley Hand's intentions, and
therefore they considered that there was no reason to wait
until he had sent a second communication, before recognizing
him as the _de facto_ Sultan of Morocco, who had succeeded
to his brother's throne by right of victory in the field."

I suggested to his Majesty that an important and influential section
of the German Press had placed a very different interpretation upon
the action of the German Government, and, in fact, had given it their
effusive approbation precisely because they saw in it a strong act
instead of mere words, and a decisive indication that Germany was once
more about to intervene in the shaping of events in Morocco. "There
are mischief-makers," replied the Emperor,

"in both countries. I will not attempt to weigh their
relative capacity for misrepresentation. But the facts are
as I have stated. There has been nothing in Germany's recent
action with regard to Morocco which runs contrary to the
explicit declaration of my love of peace which I made both
at Guildhall and in my latest speech at Strassburg."

His Majesty then reverted to the subject uppermost in his mind - his
proved friendship for England. "I have referred," he said,

"to the speeches in which I have done all that a sovereign
can to proclaim my goodwill. But, as actions speak louder
than words, let me also refer to my acts. It is commonly
believed in England that throughout the South African War
Germany was hostile to her. German opinion undoubtedly was
hostile - bitterly hostile. The Press was hostile; private
opinion was hostile. But what of official Germany? Let my
critics ask themselves what brought _to_ a sudden stop, and,
indeed, to absolute collapse, the European tour of the Boer
delegates who were striving to obtain European intervention?
They were feted in Holland; France gave them a rapturous
welcome. They wished to come to Berlin, where the German
people would have crowned them with flowers. But when they
asked me to receive them - I refused. The agitation
immediately died away, and the delegation returned
empty-handed. Was that, I ask, the action of a secret enemy?

"Again, when the struggle was at its height, the German
Government was invited by the Governments of France and
Russia to join with them in calling upon England to put an
end to the war. The moment had come, they said, not only to
save the Boer Republics, but also to humiliate England to
the dust. What was my reply? I said that so far from Germany
joining in any concerted European action to put pressure
upon England and bring about her downfall, Germany would
always keep aloof from politics that could bring her into
complications with a Sea Power like England. Posterity will
one day read the exact terms of the telegram - now in the
archives of Windsor Castle - in which I informed the
Sovereign of England of the answer I had returned to the
Powers which then sought to compass her fall. Englishmen who
now insult me by doubting my word should know what were my
actions in the hour of their adversity.

"Nor was that all. Just at the time of your Black Week, in
the December of 1899, when disasters followed one another in
rapid succession, I received a letter from Queen Victoria,
my revered grandmother, written in sorrow and affliction,
and bearing manifest traces of the anxieties which were
preying upon her mind and health. I at once returned a
sympathetic reply. Nay, I did more. I bade one of my
officers procure for me as exact an account as he could
obtain of the number of combatants in South Africa on both
sides, and of the actual position of the opposing forces.
With the figures before me, I worked out what I considered
to be the best plan of campaign under the circumstances, and
submitted it to my General Staff for their criticism. Then I
dispatched it to England, and that document, likewise, is
among the State papers at Windsor Castle, awaiting the
serenely impartial verdict of history. And, as a matter of
curious coincidence, let me add that the plan which I
formulated ran very much on the same lines as that which was
actually adopted by Lord Roberts, and carried by him into
successful operation. Was that, I repeat, the act of one who
wished England ill? Let Englishmen be just and say!

"But, you will say, what of the German navy? Surely that is
a menace to England! Against whom but England are my
squadrons being prepared? If England is not in the minds of
those Germans who are bent on creating a powerful fleet, why
is Germany asked to consent to such new and heavy burdens of
taxation? My answer is clear. Germany is a young and growing
Empire. She has a world-wide commerce, which is rapidly
expanding, and to which the legitimate ambition of patriotic
Germans refuses to assign any bounds. Germany must have a
powerful fleet to protect that commerce, and her manifold
interests in even the most distant seas. She expects those
interests to go on growing, and she must be able to champion
them manfully in any quarter of the globe. Germany looks
ahead. Her horizons stretch far away. She must be prepared
for any eventualities in the Far East. Who can foresee what
may take place in the Pacific in the days to come - days not
so distant as some believe, but days, at any rate, for which
all European Powers with Far Eastern interests ought
steadily to prepare? Look at the accomplished rise of Japan;
think of the possible national awakening of China; and then
judge of the vast problems of the Pacific. Only those Powers
which have great navies will be listened to with respect
when the future of the Pacific comes to be solved; and if
for that reason only Germany must have a powerful fleet. It
may even be that England herself will be glad that Germany
has a fleet when they speak together on the same side in the
great debates of the future."

Such was the purport of the Emperor's conversation. He spoke with all
that earnestness which marks his manner when speaking on deeply
pondered subjects. I would ask my fellow-countrymen who value the
cause of peace to weigh what I have written, and to revise, if

Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 24 of 31)