Copyright
Stanley Shaw.

William of Germany online

. (page 25 of 31)
Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 25 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


necessary, their estimate of the Kaiser and his friendship for England
by his Majesty's own words. If they had enjoyed the privilege, which
was mine, of hearing them spoken, they would doubt no longer either
his Majesty's firm desire to live on the best of terms with England or
his growing impatience at the persistent mistrust with which his offer
of friendship is too often received.

There are more indiscretions than one in the interview, but the most
important and most dangerous was the Emperor's statement that at the
time of the Boer War the Governments of France and Russia invited the
German Government to join with them "not only to save the Boer
Republics, but also to humiliate England to the dust." Such a
revelation coming from the Emperor ought, one would suppose, to have
caused serious trouble between Great Britain and her Entente friends.
That it did not is at once testimony to the cynicism of Governments
and the reality and strength of the Entente engagement. In private
life, if a fourth person confidentially told one of the three partners
in a firm that the other two partners had invited him to join them in
humiliating him to the dust, there would have been a pretty brisk, not
to say acrimonious correspondence between the proposed victim and his
partners. Governments, it appears, look on things differently, and so
far as the public knows, England simply took no notice of the
Emperor's communication. Possibly, however, the Emperor had put the
matter too strongly and an explanation of some kind was forthcoming.
If so, it must be looked for among the secret archives of the Foreign
Office. It was at once suggested that the Emperor made the revelation
expressly to weaken, if not destroy, the Entente. One can conceive
Bismarck doing such a thing; but it is more in keeping with the
Emperor's character, and with the indiscreet character of the entire
interview, to suppose it to be a proof of deplorable candour and
sincerity.

The excitement in Germany caused by the publication of the interview
soon took the shape of a determination on the part of the Chancellor
and the Federal Council, for once fully identifying themselves with
the feelings of Parliament, Press, and people, that "something must be
done," and it was decided that the Chancellor should go to Potsdam,
see the Emperor, and try to obtain from him a promise to be more
cautious in his utterances on political topics for the future. The
Chancellor went accordingly, being seen off from the railway terminus
in Berlin by a large crowd of people, among whom were many
journalists. To Dr. Paul Goldmann, who wished him God-speed, he could
only reply that he hoped all would be for the best. He looked pale and
grave, as well he might, since he was about to stake his own position
as well as convey a mandate of national reproach.

What passed at Potsdam between the Emperor and his Chancellor has not
transpired. Naturally there are various accounts of it, one of them
representing the Emperor as flying into a passion and for long
refusing to give the required guarantees; but as yet none of them has
been authenticated. It should not be difficult to imagine the mental
attitudes of the two men on the occasion, and especially not difficult
to imagine the sensations of the Emperor, a Prussian King, on being
impeached by a people - his people - for whom, his feeling would be, he
had done so much, and in whose best interests he felt convinced he had
acted; but whatever occurred, it ended in the Emperor bowing before
the storm and giving the assurances required.

The Chancellor's countenance and expressions on his return to Berlin
showed that his mission had been successful, and there was great
satisfaction in the capital and country. The text of these assurances,
which was published in the _Official Gazette_ the same evening, was as
follows:

"His Majesty, while unaffected by public criticism which he
regards as exaggerated, considers his most honourable
imperial task to consist in securing the stability of the
policy of the Empire while adhering to the principle of
constitutional responsibility. The Kaiser accordingly
endorses the statements of the Imperial Chancellor in
Parliament, and assures Prince von Bülow of his continued
confidence."

After returning to Berlin, Prince Bülow gave in the Reichstag his
impatiently awaited account of the result of his mission, and made
what defence he could of his imperial master's action in allowing the
famous interview to be published. Before giving the speech, which was
delivered on November 10, 1908, it will be as well to quote the five
interpellations introduced in Parliament on the subject, as showing
the unanimity of feeling that existed in all parts of the House: -

1. By Deputy Bassermann (leader of the National Liberals):

"Is the Chancellor prepared to take constitutional
responsibility for the publication of a series of utterances
of his Majesty the Kaiser in the _Daily Telegraph_ and the
facts communicated therein?"

2. By Deputy Dr. Ablass (Progressive Party):

"Through the publication of utterances of the German Kaiser
in the _Daily Telegraph_, and through the communication of
the real facts in the _Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung_
caused by the Chancellor, matters have become known which
demonstrate serious short-comings in the treatment of
foreign affairs, and are calculated to influence
unfavourably the relations of the German Empire to other
Powers. What does the Chancellor propose to do to devise a
remedy and to give full effect to the responsibility
attributed to him by the Constitution of the German Empire?"

3. By Deputy Albrecht (Socialist):

"What is the Chancellor prepared to do to prevent such
occurrences as have become known through the _Daily
Telegraph's_ communications regarding acts and utterances of
the German Kaiser?"

4. By Deputy von Norman (Conservative Party):

"Is the Chancellor prepared to submit further information
regarding the circumstances which led to the publication of
utterances of his Majesty the Kaiser in the English Press?"

5. By Prince von Hatzfeldt and Freiherr von Gamp (Imperial
Party - Conservative):

"Is the Chancellor willing to take precautions that such
occurrences as that brought to light by the publication in
the _Daily Telegraph_ shall not recur?"

In reply to the interpellations Prince von Bülow said: -

"Gentlemen, I shall not apply myself to every point which
has just been raised by previous speakers. I have to
consider the effect of my words abroad, and will not add to
the great harm already caused by the publication in the
_Daily Telegraph_ (hear, hear, on the Left and Socialists).

"In reply to the interpellations submitted, I have to
declare as follows: -

"His Majesty the Kaiser has at different times, and to
different private English personalities, made private
utterances which, linked together, have been published in
the _Daily Telegraph_. I must suppose that not all details
of the utterances have been correctly reproduced (hear,
hear, on the Right). One I know is not correct: that is the
story about the plan of campaign (hear, hear, on the right).
The plan in question was not a field campaign worked out in
detail, but a purely academic (laughter among the
Socialists) - Gentlemen, we are engaged in a serious
discussion. The matters on which I speak are of an earnest
kind and of great political importance - be good enough to
listen to me quietly: I will be as brief as possible. I
repeat therefore: the matter is not concerned with a field
campaign worked out in detail, but with certain purely
academic thoughts - I believe they were expressly described
as 'aphorisms' - about the conduct of war in general, which
the Kaiser communicated in his interchange of correspondence
with the late Queen Victoria. They are theoretical
observations of no practical moment for the course of
operations and the issue of the war. The chief of the
General Staff, General von Moltke, and his predecessor,
General Count Schlieffen, have declared that the General
Staff reported to the Kaiser on the Boer War as on every
war, great or small, which has occurred on the earth during
the last ten years. Both, however, have given assurances
that our General Staff never examined a field plan of
campaign, or anything similar, prepared by the Kaiser in
view of the Boer War, or forwarded such to England (hear,
hear, on the Right and Centre). But I must also defend our
policy against the reproach of being ambiguous _vis-à-vis_
the Boers. We had - the documents show it - given timely
warning to the Transvaal Government. We called its attention
to the fact that in case of a war with England it would
stand alone. We put it to her directly, and through the
friendly Dutch Government in May, 1899, peacefully to come
to an understanding with England, since there could be no
doubt as to the result of a war.

"In the question of intervention the colours in the article
of the _Daily Telegraph_ are too thickly laid on. The thing
itself had long been known (hear, hear). It was some time
previously the subject of controversy between the _National
Review_ and the _Deutsche Revue_. There can be no talk of a
'revelation.' It was said that the imperial communication to
the Queen of England, that Germany had not paid any
attention to a suggestion for mediation or intervention, is
a breach of the rules of diplomatic intercourse. Gentlemen,
I will not recall indiscretions to memory, for they are
frequent in the diplomatic history of all nations and at all
times ('Quite right,' on the Right). The safest policy is
perhaps that which need fear no indiscretion ('Quite right,'
on the Left). To pass judgment in particular cases as to
whether or not a breach of confidence has occurred, one must
know more of the closely connected circumstances than
appears in the article of the _Daily Telegraph_. The
communication might be justified if it were attempted in one
quarter or another to misrepresent our refusal or to throw
suspicion on our attitude; circumstances may have previously
happened which make allusion to the subject in a
confidential correspondence at least intelligible.
Gentlemen, I said before that many of the expressions used
in the _Daily Telegraph_ article are too strong. That is
true, in the first place, of the passage where the Kaiser is
represented as having said that the majority of the German
people are inimically disposed towards England. Between
Germany and England misunderstandings have occurred,
serious, regrettable misunderstandings. But I am conscious
of being at one with this entire honourable House in the
view that the German people desire peaceful and friendly
relations with England on the basis of mutual esteem (loud
and general applause) - and I take note that the speakers of
all parties have spoken to-day in the same sense ('Quite
right'). The colours are also too thickly laid on in the
place where reference is made to our interests in the
Pacific Ocean. It has been construed in a sense hostile to
Japan. Wrongly: we have never in the Far East thought of
anything but this - to acquire and maintain for Germany a
share of the commerce of Eastern Asia in view of the great
economic future of this region. We are not thinking of
maritime adventure there: aggressive tendencies have as
little to say to our naval construction in the Pacific as in
Europe. Moreover, his Majesty the Kaiser entirely agrees
with the responsible director of foreign policy in the
complete recognition of the high political importance which
the Japanese people have achieved by their political
strength and military ability. German policy does not regard
it as its task to detract from the enjoyment and development
of what Japan has acquired.

"Gentlemen, I am, generally speaking, under the impression
that if the material facts - completely, in their proper
shape - were individually known, the sensation would be no
great one; in this instance, too, the whole is more than all
the parts taken together. But above all, gentlemen, one must
not, while considering the material things, quite forget the
psychology, the tendency. For two decades our Kaiser has
striven, often under very difficult circumstances, to bring
about friendly relations between Germany and England. This
honest endeavour has had to contend with obstacles which
would have discouraged many. The passionate partisanship of
our people for the Boers was humanly intelligible; feeling
for the weaker certainly appeals to the sympathy. But this
partisanship has led to unjustified, and often unmeasured,
attacks on England, and similarly unjust and hateful attacks
have been made against Germany from the side of the English.
Our aims were misconstrued, and hostile plans against
England were foisted on us which we had never thought of.
The Kaiser, rightly convinced that this state of things was
a calamity for both countries and a danger for the civilized
world, kept undeviatingly on the course he had adopted. The
Kaiser is particularly wronged by any doubt as to the purity
of his intentions, his ideal way of thinking, and his deep
love of country.

"Gentlemen, let us avoid anything that looks like
exaggerated seeking for foreign favour, anything that looks
like uncertainty or obsequiousness. But I understand that
the Kaiser, precisely because he was anxious to work
zealously and honestly for good relationship with England,
felt embittered at being ever the object of attacks casting
suspicion on his best motives. Has one not gone so far as to
attribute to his interest in the German fleet secret views
against vital English interests - views which are far from
him. And so in private conversation with English friends he
sought to bring the proof, by pointing to his conduct, that
in England he was misunderstood and wrongly judged.

"Gentlemen, the perception that the publication of these
conversations in England has not had the effect the Kaiser
wished, and in our own country has caused profound agitation
and painful regret, will - this firm conviction I have
acquired during these anxious days - lead the Kaiser for the
future, in private conversation also, to maintain the
reserve that is equally indispensable in the interest of a
uniform policy and for the authority of the Crown ('Bravo!'
on the Right).

"If it were not so, I could not, nor could my successor,
bear the responsibility ('Bravo!' on the Right and National
Liberals).

"For the fault which occurred in dealing with the manuscript
I accept, as I have caused to be said in the _Norddeutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung_, entire responsibility. It also goes
against my personal feelings that officials who have done
their duty all their lives should be stamped as
transgressors because, in a single case, they relied too
much on the fact that I usually read and finally decide
everything myself.

"With Herr von Heydebrand I regret that in the mechanism of
the Foreign Office, which for eleven years has worked
smoothly under me, a defect should on one occasion occur. I
will answer for it that such a thing does not happen again,
and that with this object, without respect to persons,
though also without injustice, what is needful will be done
('Bravo!').

"When the article in the _Daily Telegraph_ appeared, its
fateful effect could not for a moment be doubtful to me, and
I handed in my resignation. This decision was unavoidable,
and was not difficult to come to. The most serious and most
difficult decision which I ever took in my political life
was, in obedience to the Kaiser's wish, to remain in office.
I brought myself to this decision only because I saw in it a
command of my political duty, precisely in the time of
trouble, to continue to serve his Majesty the Kaiser and the
country (repeated 'Bravo!'). How long that will be possible
for me, I cannot say.

"Let me say one thing more: at a moment when the fact that
in the world much is once again changing requires serious
attention to be given to the entire situation, wherever it
is matter of concern to maintain our position abroad, and
without pushing ourselves forward with quiet constancy to
make good our interests - at such a moment we ought not to
show ourselves small-spirited in foreign eyes, nor make out
of a misfortune a catastrophe. I will refrain from all
criticism of the exaggerations we have lived through during
these last days. The harm is - as calm reflection will
show - not so great that it cannot with circumspection be
made good. Certainly no one should forget the warning which
the events of these days has given us ('Bravo!') - but there
is no reason to lose our heads and awake in our opponents
the hope that the Empire, inwardly or outwardly, is maimed.

"It is for the chosen representatives of the nation to
exhibit the prudence which the time demands. I do not say it
for myself, I say it for the country: the support required
for this is no favour, it is a duty which this honourable
House will not evade (loud applause on the Right, hisses
from the Socialists)."

Prince Bülow's speech requires but little comment - its importance for
Germany is the fact that it brought to a head the country's feeling,
that if the Emperor's unlimited and unrestrained idea of his
heaven-sent mission as sole arbiter of the nation's destinies was not
checked, disaster must ensue. The speech itself is rather an apology
and an explanation than a defence, and in this spirit it was accepted
in Germany. It is fair to say that the Emperor has faithfully kept the
engagement made through Prince Bülow with his people so far, and
unless human nature is incurable there seems no reason why he should
not keep it to the end of the reign. More than four years have passed
since the incidents narrated occurred. The storm has blown over, the
sea of popular indignation has gone down, and at present no cloud is
visible on the horizon.

Besides the Tweedmouth Letter and the "November Storm" there were one
or two other notable events in the parliamentary proceedings of the
year. The Reichstag dealt with Prussian electoral reform and the
attitude of Germany towards the question of disarmament. As to the
first, the Government refused to regard it as an imperial concern,
though the popular claim was and is that the suffrage should be the
same in Prussia as in the Empire, viz., universal, direct, and secret.
This claim the Emperor will not listen to, on the ground that it would
injure the influence of the middle classes by the admission of
undesirable elements (meaning the Socialists); that the electoral
system for the Empire, with the latter's national tasks, should be on
a broader basis than in the case of the individual States, where the
electors are chiefly concerned with administration, the school, and
the Church; and that it would bring the Imperial and Prussian
Parliaments into conflict to the injury of German unity. The Emperor
has made only one reference to electoral reform in Prussia, a promise,
namely, he gave the Diet in October of this year, that the regulations
concerning the voting should experience

"an organic further development, which should correspond to
the economic progress, the spread of education and political
understanding, and the strengthening of the feeling of State
responsibility."

No reform, however, has yet been effected by legislation.

As to disarmament, Germany's position is simply negative, though it
may be noticed by anticipation that she has recently (1913) expressed
her disposition to accept the proportion of ten German to sixteen
English first-class battleships suggested by Sir Edward Grey in 1912
as offering the basis of a possibly permanent arrangement. At the time
now dealt with, however, Chancellor von Bülow asserted that no
proposal that could serve as a basis had ever been submitted to his
Government, and added that even if such a proposal were made it was
doubtful if it could be accepted. It was not merely the number of
ships, he said, that was involved; there were a host of technical
questions - standards, criteria of all sorts, which could not be
expressed in figures, economic progress abroad and the possible effect
of new scientific inventions - to be considered. Lastly there were the
navy laws, which the Government was pledged to carry out. As for
military disarmament, the Emperor and his advisers regard it as
impossible, considering the unfavourable strategic situation of
Germany in the midst of Europe, with exposed frontiers on every side.

This year the Emperor and his family took up their quarters for the
first time in their new Corfu spring residence "Achilleion." They were
met by the Royal Family of Greece, who showed them over the Castle,
and in the evening were welcomed by the mayor of Corfu, who, in a
flight of metaphor, said his people desired to wreathe the Emperor's
"Olympic brow" with a crown of olive. That the Emperor did not pass
his days wholly in admiring the beauty of the scenery was shown by the
fact that a few days after his arrival he delivered a lecture in the
Castle on "Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar," being prompted thereto
by a book on the subject by Captain Mark Kerr, of H.M.S. _Implacable_.
The Emperor illustrated his lecture with sketches drawn by himself of
the positions of the united French and Spanish fleets during the
battle.

Almost every year sees some specialty produced at the Royal Opera in
Berlin. This year it was Meyerbeer's "Les Huguenots," performed in the
presence of the French Ambassador in Berlin, Monsieur Jules Cambon,
and two directors of the Paris Opera. The Emperor told Monsieur
Messager, one of the latter, that he had taken an infinity of trouble
to get the right character, colour, and movement of the period of the
opera, and explained his interest in the work by the fact that he had
lost two of his ancestors, Admiral Coligny and the Prince of Orange,
in the historic massacre. This opera, with Verdi's "Aida," are still,
as given at the Royal Opera, the favourite operas of the Berlin
public.

Americans, like all other people, regard the Emperor with friendly
feelings, but for a time this year their respect for him suffered some
diminution owing to what was known as the Tower-Hill affair. When the
American Ambassador in Berlin, Mr. Charlemagne Tower, resigned his
post in 1908, the Washington authorities found difficulty in choosing
a suitable successor. Mr. Tower was a wealthy man, who by his personal
qualities, aided by a talented wife, whom the Emperor once described
as "the Moltke of society," and by frequent entertainments in one of
the finest houses of the fashionable Tiergarten quarter, had fully
satisfied the Emperor of his fitness to represent a great nation at
the Court of a great Empire. The Emperor has a high opinion of his
country, and, in small things as in great, will not have it treated as
a _quantité négligeable_: consequently a millionaire was not too good
for Berlin. The impression produced by Mr. Tower on Republican America
was not quite the same. When Ambassador in St. Petersburg, Mr. Tower
had invented a Court uniform for himself and staff of a highly ornate,
not to say fantastic, kind, and when in Berlin was thought to take too
little trouble to win popularity among his American fellow-colonists.
This non-republican attitude, as it seemed to be, met with a good deal
of adverse criticism in America, and the Washington authorities, for
that or for some other reason, considered it advisable to choose as
Mr. Tower's successor a man of another type. Their choice fell on Dr.



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 25 of 31)