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inevitable his adoption, either of natural bent, which is extremely
probable, or from a policy in harmony with the wishes of his people,
of a view of the monarch's office that to perhaps most Englishmen
living under parliamentary rule must seem antiquated, not to say
absurd. This attitude apart, the Emperor possesses, as it is hoped has
been sufficiently shown, as modern and progressive a spirit as any of
his contemporaries. His instant recognition of all useful modern
appliances, particularly, of course, those of possible service in war,
is a prominent feature of his mentality. He went, doubtless, too far
in heralding Count Zeppelin, in 1909, as "the greatest man of the
century," but the very words he chose to use marked his appreciation
of the new aeronautical science Count Zeppelin was introducing.
Similarly, the moment the automobile had entered on the stage of
reliability it won a place in the imperial favour, and is now his most
constant means of locomotion. He has never, it is true, emulated the
enterprise of his son, the Crown Prince, whom Mr. Orville Wright had
as a companion for a quarter of an hour in the air at Potsdam three
years ago, but his interest in the aeroplane is none the less keen
because he is too conscious of his responsibilities to subject his
life to unnecessary risk.

Before closing our sketch of the Emperor as a man by quoting
appreciations written by two contemporary writers, one German and the
other English, it may be added that there is a statesman still - it is
pleasant to think - alive who could, an he only would, draw the
Emperor's character perfectly, both as man and monarch. Indeed, as has
been seen, he has more than once sketched parts of it in Parliament,
but only parts - the whole character of the Emperor, on all its sides
and in all its ramifications, has yet to be revealed. Here need only
be quoted what Chancellor Bülow - and also, by the way, Princess
Bülow - publicly said about the Emperor as man. The Prince's most
noteworthy statement was made in the Reichstag in 1903, when, in
answer to Leader-of-the-Opposition Bebel, the Prince said, "One thing
at least, the Emperor is no Philistine," and proceeded to explain,
rather negatively and disappointingly, that the Emperor possesses what
the Greeks call megalopsychia - a great soul. One knows but too well
the English Philistine, that stolid, solid, self-sufficient bulwark of
the British Constitution. The German Philistine is his twin brother,
the narrow-minded, conservative burgher. Other epithets the Prince
applied to the imperial character were "simple," "natural," "hearty,"
"magnanimous," "clear-headed," and "straightforward"; while Princess
Bülow, during a conversation her husband was having with the French
journalist, M. Jules Huret, in 1907, interjected the remark that he
was "a person of good birth, _fils de bonne maison_, the descendant of
distinguished ancestors, and a modern man of great intelligence."

But let us see how the Emperor appears to his contemporaries. Dr. Paul
Liman, who has made the most serious attempt to sketch the character
of the Emperor that has yet appeared in German, writes: -

"We see in him a nature whose ground-tone is enthusiasm,
phantasy, and a passionate impulse towards action. Filled
with the highest sense of the imperial rights and duties
assigned to him, convinced that these are the direct
expression of a divine will, he has inwardly thrown off the
bonds of modern constitutional ideas and in words recently
spoken, where he claimed responsibility for fifty-eight
million people, converted these ideas into a formula that,
while unconstitutional, is yet moral and deeply earnest.
These words were doubly valuable as giving insight into the
soul of a man who can be mistaken in his conclusions and
means, but not in his motives, since these are directed to
the general weal. Here, too, we find the explanation of the
fact that at one time he comes before us surrounded with the
blue and hazy nimbus of the romantic period, and at another
as the most modern prince of our time. Out of the rise in
him of the consciousness of majesty there grows a greater
sense of duty, and instead of keeping watch from his turret
over his people he loses himself in detail. And precisely
here must he fail, because modern life with its development
is far too rich in complications and activities to admit of
its submitting to patriarchal benevolence. And because an
artistic strain and a strong fantasy simultaneously work in
him, he moves joyfully beyond the limits of the actual to
raise before our eyes the highly coloured dream of the
picture of a time in which all men, all nations, will be
friendly and reconciled - an artist's dream. Here is
something characteristic, something unusual, to give
particular charm to a personality which has no parallel in
the history of the dynasty hitherto. There may be concealed
in it the seed of illustrious deeds, but only too often
disappointment and contempt lie scornfully in wait when the
deed is accomplished. For the heaven we erect on earth
always comes to naught, and the idealist is always
vanquished in the strife with fact."

So far, Dr. Liman. Mr. Sydney Brooks, in a sketch in _Maclure's
Magazine_ for July, 1910, writes: -

"The drawback to any and to every _régime_ of paternal
absolutism is that the human mind is limited. The Kaiser
will not admit it, but his acts prove it. It is not given to
one man to know more about everything than anybody else
knows about anything; and the Kaiser, who is a good deal of
a dilettante, and believes himself omniscient, at times
speaks from a lamentable half-knowledge, and occasionally
has to call in the imperial authority to back up his
verdicts against the judgments of experts.

"Unquestionably his mind is of an unusual order. It is a
facile, quickly moving instrument; it works in flashes; it
assimilates seemingly without effort, and it is at its best
under the highest pressure. The Kaiser is not to be laughed
at for wanting to know all there is to be known, but he may
justly be criticized for failing to distinguish between the
attempt and its failure....

"Is it all charlatanerie? Is it all of a part with his
speech in Russian to the regiment of which the Czar made him
honorary colonel, a studied trumpery effort, designed for a
momentary effect? Is the Kaiser just glitter and tinsel,
impulse and rhapsody, with nothing solid beneath? Is it his
supreme object to make an impression at any cost, to force,
like another Nero, the popular applause by arts more
becoming to a _cabotin_ than a sovereign? Vanity,
restlessness, a consuming desire for the palm without the
dust - an intense and theatrical egotism - are these the
qualities that give the clue to his character and actions?

"I do not think so altogether. The Kaiser has scattered too
much. In an age of specialists on many subjects he speaks
like an amateur. He is always the hero, and often the
victim, of his own imagination; like a star actor, he cannot
bear to be outshone; he is morbidly, almost pruriently,
conscious of the effect he is producing. And on all matters
of intellect and taste his influence makes for blatant
mediocrity. But he is not meretricious; at bottom he is not
by any means as superficial and insincere as he often seems.
He is one of those men in whom an instinct becomes an
immutable truth, an idea a conviction, and a suspicion a
certainty, by an almost instantaneous process; and, the
process completed, action follows forthwith. The Kaiser is
always resolved to do the right thing; the right thing, by
some quaint but invariable coincidence, is whatever he is
resolved to do."

These appreciations from afar may be as sound as they are brilliant,
but they rather refer to the non-essential parts of the character of
the Emperor in the first flush of imperial glory than to the essential
character as it has developed with the years.

As a man - he will be dealt with as monarch presently - his essential
character must be judged from his conduct, and conduct extending over
a good many years. One might say, conduct and reputation, but that
reputation is so often the result of a confused mixture of superficial
observation, gossip, tittle-tattle, envy, hatred and uncharitableness,
and, in the case of an Emperor, of merely picturesque and effective

There is another source which would materially help us in forming a
judgment, but it is wholly wanting in the case of the Emperor. No
private correspondence of his is, as yet, available to the world.

Again, a man's character is determined by his motives, if it is not
the other way about; in any case, a man's motives are for the most
part inscrutable and can only be deduced from conduct, while the world
usually makes the mistake of explaining conduct by attributing its own
motives. Tried, then, by the standard of conduct, the only one
available, the Emperor, as a man, shows us a high type of humanity. It
may not, probably does not, appeal to Englishmen wholly, but there are
features of it which must command, and do command, the respect of
people of all nationalities. And, first of all, he is a good man; good
as a Christian, good as a husband, good as a father, good as a
patriot. With all the power and temptation to gratify his
inclinations, he has no personal vices of the baser sort. He is
moderate in the satisfaction of his appetites, whether for food or
wine. He is no debauchee, no voluptuary, no gambler. He is faithful to
old friends and comrades. He has high ideals, and is not ashamed of
them. He is neither indolent nor fussy; neither a cynic, nor an
intriguer, nor a fool; he is neither wrong-headed nor stubborn; he is
honest and sincere to a degree that does him honour as a man, if it
has sometimes proved perilous and blameworthy in him as a monarch. He
is optimistic, and on good grounds. He is no physical or intellectual
giant, but he is a man of more than average all-round intelligence and
capacity. If this appreciation is correct, or even approximately
correct, it is a testimonial, whatever may be its worth, to great

Yet the Emperor as man has his failings and drawbacks, though they are
such as time is almost sure to diminish or eradicate. Notably in his
earlier years he lacked judgment, the power of balancing
considerations and arriving at conclusions from them which men more
gifted with poise would endorse as logical and inevitable. He does
not, like spare Cassius, see quite through the deeds of men, as his
friendship for Count Phili Eulenburg and the malodorous "Camarilla" go
to show, and his choice of Imperial Chancellors, his grand viziers,
has not in every instance been happy. He has less tact than character,
as he showed once in Vienna, where he greatly pained the Foreign
Minister, Count Goluchowski, one day at a club by calling to him,
"Golu, Golu, come and sit beside your Kaiser." He has the German
masculine enjoyment in a kind of humour which would have delighted Fox
and the three-bottle men, but would sadly shock the susceptibilities
of an Oxford æsthete. He has a share of personal vanity, but it
springs from the desire to look the Emperor he is, not because he
supposes for a moment that he is an Adonis. He is theatrical in
exactly the same spirit - the desire imperially to impress his folk in
the sense of the German word _imponieren_, a word that needs no
translation. If he has lost much of Dr. Liman's "romantik," he still
retains the "scatteredness" of Mr. Sidney Brooks, though the Emperor
would rather hear it called "many-sidedness." _En résumé_ he has the
defects of his qualities, but to no man or woman's unmerited loss or
injury, and if we weigh the good qualities with the bad, we find a
fine balance remaining to his credit as a man.

The fierce light which beats upon a throne, if it is apt to dazzle the
bystander, helps those at a distance, especially in these days of the
still fiercer light of modern publicity, to judge fairly the throne's
occupant. The character of the Emperor as monarch ought, therefore, as
far as is possible in the absence of archives marked "secret and
confidential" and yet lying in the ministries of all countries, to
disclose itself nowadays with reasonable clearness. Yet, even still,
different and conflicting opinions regarding it are to be gathered in
Germany and out of it.

Indeed, his own people are among the severest critics. One of them,
Professor Quidde, early in the reign, made an extraordinarily
ingenious, but quite unjustifiable, comparison of him to Caligula,
which, though only consisting of classical quotations and making no
mention of the Emperor, was seen by everybody to refer to him and has
caused discussion ever since. While many foreign critics have done the
Emperor justice, others in turn have made him out to be arrogant,
snobbish, bombastic, superficial, incompetent, and insincere. To
writers of this class he is always the German War Lord, ready to
pounce, like a highwayman or pirate, on any unprotected person or
property he may come across, regardless of treaty obligations, of
international disaster, or of the dictates of humanity. One day they
announce he is planning the annexation of Holland in order to get a
further set of naval bases, the next that he means to take Belgium to
make a road for his armies into France, a third that he is about to
set at naught the Monroe doctrine and with his Dreadnoughts seize
Brazil. All these things are conceivable and not impossible, but they
are in the very highest degree improbable, and, as yet at least, ought
not to be considered seriously. To sensible and better-informed people
everywhere he is a Prussian king of the best type, a sincere friend of
peace, with a mania for pushing the maxim "_Si vis pacem para bellum_"
to extremes, politically the most influential man in Europe, and, with
all his faults, one of the greatest Germans of his time.

The character of the Emperor, as monarch, is reflected very largely in
the character of the Germany of to-day.

Germany is optimistic, ardently desirous of peace, bent on worthily
maintaining the great place she has won, and deserved to win, among
the nations, and so materially prosperous as to make many Germans
tremble at the thought that the prosperity may be too great to last.
This, however, is not to assert that in Germany everything is _couleur
de rose_. There are not a few things in the Empire's social and
political conditions which are antiquated or promise no good. Noxious
as well as beneficial forces have been introduced into the social life
of the country and are beginning to make themselves felt. German
home-life is ceasing to be the admirable and exemplary thing it was
before the present era of class rivalry, commercialism, the parvenu
and the snob. The idealism which made the Empire a possibility is
passing away. There is need, and a general demand, for franchise
reform in Prussia, and a change in the spirit of Prussian bureaucratic
administration would be acceptable, though it is, perhaps, hopeless to
expect it. The opposition in Germany between the monarchic and the
democratic principle, if not more marked than it was twenty or thirty
years ago, is manifesting itself over a wider and perhaps deeper area.
The relations between capital and labour are far from satisfactory
adjustment. Social democracy is yearly gaining fresh adherents, and if
guilty of no political violence, is yet a constant source of danger to
domestic peace. The German middle class, that bourgeoisie which is the
backbone and strength of the Empire, is losing its Spartan simplicity
and its content with small and moderate pleasures; and the national
virtues of thrift and self-denial are yielding to the temptations of
wealth and luxury. Business credit is unduly stretched, speculation in
land has attained disturbing proportions, and the banking world is in
too many instances allied with hazardous or doubtful enterprises.
Nevertheless the country as a whole is sound, intellectually, morally,
and financially.

It would be difficult to mention any of the greater tasks of imperial
administration to which the Emperor does not continue to devote
personal attention. He is the life and soul of the army and navy,
though it should not be forgotten that as regards the latter he has in
Admiral Tirpitz an executive talent worthy of his own directive. His
interest in the mercantile marine remains what it was when in 1887, as
Prince William, he drew up an expert opinion which decided the
Hamburg-Amerika Company to build their fast ocean-going steamers at
home instead of abroad, and by the success of the experiment commenced
the modern development of Germany's shipbuilding industry. Indeed, his
attention to the Hamburg line, familiarly known as the "Hapag" line,
from the initial letters of its legal title, "Hamburg-Amerika
Packetfahrt-Aktien Gesellschaft," and to the Norddeutsche line from
Bremen, has given rise to the unfounded belief that he is heavily
interested in their financial success. Herr Albert Ballin, the
Director of the Hamburg line, though a Jew, is among his intimates and
advisers, and the Emperor is said to have caused umbrage more than
once to Court officials and the aristocracy by giving directors of
both lines precedence at his table. Without the Emperor's personal
support it is probable that neither the firm of Krupp at Essen nor the
splendid shipbuilding yards at Hamburg, Bremen, Stettin and elsewhere
would continue to progress as they are doing. He neglects no
opportunity of stimulating Germany's internal and external trade.
He is at all times ready to encourage the introduction of useful
achievements of modern science and invention. And lastly, by
tactful treatment of other German rulers, and a wise policy of
non-interference with their States, he is promoting a feeling of
federal solidarity.

The Emperor's conception of his relations to the people remains to-day
what he was brought up in and what it was when he mounted the throne.
In England, America, and France the people are the real rulers, and
their monarch or president is their highest official servant and
representative. The idea is not perhaps constitutionally expressed,
but it is universally and deeply felt in the countries named. In
Germany the opposite theory obtains - for how long it must be left to
the future to say. In Germany the Emperor is the real ruler, the
genuine monarch, and the people are his subjects, the country his
country. Hence, while an English king in an official document or
public statement would not think of putting himself first and the
people or country second, the German Emperor's official statements and
speeches constantly repeat such expressions as "I and my people," "I
and the army," "my capital," "me and the Fatherland," and a score
more; so that Anglo-Saxons and other foreigners acquire the impression
that the word "my" is no figure of rhetoric or pride, but a simple
claim of ownership or possession. And the official relation between
monarch and people is reflected in the people's ordinary life. To the
foreigner it continually appears that the public are the servants of
the official, not the contrary, whether officialism takes the shape of
a post-office clerk, a tramcar conductor, a shop salesman, a
policeman, or a waiter. All these functionaries are the possessors of
an authority which the citizen is expected to, and usually does, obey.
The explanation of such a state of things is a little abstruse, but an
attempt may be made at giving it.

The period immediately preceding the reign of Frederick the Great was
a period of absolute monarchy in Germany, a system introduced from
France, where Louis XIV had proclaimed the doctrine _L'etat, c'est
moi_, according to which the lives and property of the subject
belonged to the Prince, whose will was to be obeyed without question
or demur. There were now four hundred courts in Germany in imitation
of the Court of Versailles, and the smaller the principality the
greater the absolutism. Absolutism, however, required an army to
support it; hence the establishment of standing and mercenary armies
and the disuse of arms by the citizen. The result, to quote Professor
Ernst Richard's work on "German Civilization," was that

"the pride of the burgher and the peasant was broken. A
submissive servility hopelessly pervaded the masses, and
even the best had lost all social and national feeling, all
sense of being part of a greater body.... The luxurious life
and the arrogance of the ruling classes were accepted as a
matter of course, one might say as a divine institution.
Thus those traits of character, which had come to light
under the cruel stress of the Thirty Years War, fostered by
the rule of despotism and the worst vices, took deeper root.
To these belong that greed for social position, for titles
and the smiles of the great; servility towards those who
hold a higher position as bearers of official titles and
dignity, a fear of publicity, above all a rather remarkable
inclination to a peevish, petty, and sceptical attitude as
regards the knowledge and ability of others. The exaltation
of the position of the prince extended to his Court and his
officials, as well as to the nobility, which had long since
become a Court nobility."

But absolutism had to go with the changes in human thought under the
influence of Rationalism, which brought with it the idea of the State,
not the absolute prince, as ruler. This idea was embodied in the
_Rechtstaat_, or State based on law, which was introduced by Frederick
the Great, the "first servant of the State." The State, he said,
exists for the sake of the citizens. "One must be insane," he wrote,

"to imagine that men should have said to one of their
equals, 'We will raise you so that we may be your slaves, we
will give you the power to guide our thoughts according to
yours.' They rather said: 'We need you in order to execute
our laws, that you show us the way, and defend us. But we
understand that you will respect our liberties.'"

The _Rechtstaat_ exists in Germany to the present day, the Emperor is
at the head of it, and the people are content to live within its
confines. It is not, as has been seen, coterminous with the whole
liberty of the subject, but is yet a vast bundle of rights and
obligations which in public, and much of private, life leaves as
little as possible to the unaided or undirected intelligence or
goodwill of the citizen. It is an exaggeration, but still expresses a
popular feeling even in Germany itself - and certainly describes an
impression made on the Anglo-Saxon - to say that outside this bundle of
laws and regulations, which, clearly and logically paragraphed, orders
to a nicety all the public, and many of the private, relations of the
citizens, everything is forbidden or discouraged by authority. Yet, as
has been said, the people are satisfied with it, and it must be
admitted that if it confines individual liberty within what to the
Anglo-Saxon seem narrow limits, still, by directing the individual to
common ends, it works great public advantage. It is in truth a very
intelligent and practical form of Socialism, infinitely less
oppressive to the people than would be the socialism of the professed

It left, however, the German caste system of Frederick's day
undisturbed; as Professor Richard says:

"The nobility retained its privileged position. It was
considered a law of nature that the noblemen should assist
the monarch in the administration of the State and as
leaders of the army; the peasant should cultivate the fields
and provide food; the commoner should provide money through
industry and commerce."

To the Anglo-Saxon, of course, brought up with individualistic views
of life and demanding complete personal freedom, the German
_Rechtstaat_ would be galling, not to say intolerable. The Englishman,
however, has his _Rechtstaat_ too, but the limits it places on his
liberty are not nearly so restrictive in regard to public meeting,
public talking, public writing, in short, public action of all sorts,

Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 29 of 31)