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as in Germany. Besides, the spirit of laws in England, as naturally
follows from the Englishman's political history, is a much more
liberal one than the German spirit, which is still to some extent
under the influence of the age of absolutism.

The German conception of the _Rechtstaat_ entails, as one of its
consequences, a sharp contrast between the rights and privileges of
the Crown and the rights and privileges of the people; and therefore,
while the Emperor is never without apprehension that the people may
try to increase their rights and privileges at the expense of those of
the Crown, the people are not without apprehension that the Crown may
try to increase its rights and privileges at the expense of the
political liberties of the people. To this apprehension on the part of
the people is to be attributed their widespread dissatisfaction with
the Emperor's so-called "personal regiment," which, until recently,
was the chief hindrance to his popularity. In truth the Emperor is in
a difficult position. To be popular with the people he must be popular
with the Parliament, but if he were to seek popularity with the
Parliament he would lose popularity and prestige with the aristocracy
and large landowners, who have still a good deal of the old-time
contempt for the mere "folk," the burgher, and he would lose it with
the military officer class, which is aristocratic in spirit, and is,
as the Emperor is constantly assuring it, the sole support of throne
and Empire. In addition to this it has to be remembered that a large
majority of South Germany is Catholic, and, generally speaking, no
great lover of Prussia, its people, and their airs of stiff
superiority.

The personal relations of the Emperor to his people, and in especial
to the vast burghertum, are precisely those to be expected from his
traditional and constitutional relations. He is not popular, but he is
widely and sincerely respected. His preference for the army,
intelligible though it is, and the cleavage that separates Government
and people, explain to some extent the want of popularity, using
that word in its "popular" sense; while the consciousness of all
the nation owes to his "goodwill," his initiative and energy, his
conscientiousness in all directions, is quite sufficient to account
for the respect. It is, in truth, in part at least, the respect which
excludes the popularity. No one is ever likely to be popular,
anywhere, who is constantly endeavouring to teach people how to live
and what to think, and at the same time seems to have no social
weaknesses to reconcile him with those - no small number - who are fond
of cakes and ale. Some of the Emperor's acts and speeches have
postponed, if not precluded, eventual popularity - his breach with
Bismarck, for example, the whole "personal regiment," and speeches
like that at Potsdam in 1891, when he told his recruits that if he had
to order them to shoot down their brothers, or even their parents,
they must obey without a murmur. Speeches of this last kind live long
in public memory. In his dealings with his people the Emperor is
neither arrogant - "high-nosed" is the elegant German expression:
"arrogant" is no German word, Prince Bülow would doubtless say -
towards his subjects, nor are they cringing towards him, though this
statement does not exclude the excusable embarrassment an ordinary
mortal may be expected to feel in the presence of a monarch. The
Emperor himself desires no "tail-wagging" from his subjects, and
though there is something of the autocrat in him, there is nothing of
the despot.

Certainly for the present, Germans, with rare exceptions, are
satisfied with him. They are prospering under him. The shoe pinches
here and there, and if it pinches too hard they will cry out and
perhaps do more than cry out. They do not consider the Emperor
perfect, but they forgive his errors, and particularly the errors of
his impetuous youth, even though on three or four occasions they
brought the country into danger. Monarchy has been defined as a State
in which the attention of the nation is concentrated on one person
doing interesting things: a republic, as a State in which the
attention is divided between many who are all doing uninteresting
things: Germans find their Emperor interesting, and that is a stage on
the road to popularity.

The imperial ego, which is quite consistent with the German view of
monarchical rule and conformity with the _Rechtstaat_, is specially
advertised by the pictures and statues of the Emperor which are to be
found all over Germany, to the apparent exclusion of the pictures and
statues of national and local men of distinction. The Emperor's
picture almost monopolizes the walls of every public and municipal
office, every railway-station refreshment-room, every shop, every
restaurant throughout the Empire. Wherever it turns the eye is
confronted by the portrait or bust of the Emperor, and if it is not
his portrait or bust, it is the portrait or bust of one or other of
his ancestors. An exception should be made in the case of Bismarck,
the reproduction of whose rugged features, shaggy eyebrows, and bulky
frame are not infrequent; statues and portraits, too, of Moltke and
Roon, though much more rarely met with than those of Bismarck, are to
be seen, while those of Goethe, Schiller, Kant, Lessing, Wagner, or
other German "Immortal," are still rarer. Only once, or perhaps twice,
in all Germany is there to be found a public statue of Heine - for
Heine was a Jew and said many unpleasant, because true, things about
his country. The travelling foreigner in Germany after a while begins
to wonder if he is not in some far Eastern country where
ancestor-worship obtains, and where one tremendous personality
overshadows, obscures, and obliterates all the rest. In truth,
however, this is not the lesson of the imperial images for the
foreigner. They teach him that he is in a country with a system of
government and views of the State different from his own, that the
Empire is ruled in a military, not a civic spirit, and that the
counterfeit presentment of the Emperor, always in dazzling uniform, is
the sign of the national acceptance of system, views, and spirit.

A similar lesson is taught by the Emperor's speeches. In England the
King rarely speaks in public, and then with well-calculated brevity
and reserve. In five words he will open a museum and with a sentence
unveil a monument. The Emperor's speeches fill four stout volumes - and
he is only fifty-four. The speeches deal with every sort of topic, and
have been delivered in all parts of the Empire - now to Parliament, now
to his assembled generals, now at the celebration of some national or
individual jubilee, now at the dedication of a building or the opening
of a bridge. The style is always clear and logical, in this respect
contrasting favourably with the German style of twenty years ago, when
the language wriggled from clause to clause in vermiform articulations
until the thought found final expression in a mob of participles and
infinitives. Metaphors abound in the speeches, some of them slightly
far-fetched, but others of uncommon beauty, appropriateness, and pith.
There is no brilliant employment of words, but not seldom one comes
across such terse and happy phrases as the famous "We stand under the
star of commerce," "Our future lies on the water," "We demand a place
in the sun."

On the English reader the speeches will be apt to pall, unless he is
thoroughly saturated with Prussian historic, military, and romantic
lore and can place himself mentally in the position of the Emperor.
The tone, never quite detached from consciousness of the imperial ego,
hardly ever descends to the level of familiar conversation nor rises
to heights of eloquence that carry away the hearer. With three or four
exceptions, there is no argumentation in the speeches, for they are
not meant to persuade or convince, but to enjoin and command. They do
not contain any of the important and interesting facts and figures of
which, nevertheless, the Emperor's mind must be full, and they are
wanting in wit and humour, though nature has endowed the Emperor with
both.

On the other hand, it should be remembered that they are the speeches
of an Emperor, not of a statesman. The speeches have no political
timeliness or object save that of rousing and directing imperial
spirit among the people by appeals to their imagination and
patriotism. Had the Emperor been actuated by the spirit of a Minister
or statesman, he would have been far more alive to the fact than he
appears to have been, that every word he uttered would instantly find
an echo in the Parliament, Press, and Stock Exchange of all other
countries.

The Emperor's fundamental mistakes, as disclosed by his speeches,
appear to an Englishman to have been in assuming when they were made
that the Empire was in a less advanced stage of consolidation and
settlement than it in fact was, and in underrating the intelligence,
knowledge, and patriotism of his people. From this point of view his
early speeches in particular sound jejune or superfluous. What would
the Englishman say to a king who began his reign by a series of
homilies on Alfred the Great or Elizabeth or Queen Victoria; by using
strong language about the Labour party or the Fabian Society; by
appeals to throne and altar; by describing to Parliament the chief
duties of the monarch; by recommending the London County Council to
build plenty of churches; by calling journalists "hunger-candidates";
by frequent references to the battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar? Yet,
_mutatis mutandis_, this is not so very unlike what the young Emperor
did, and not for a year or two, but for several years after his
accession. To an Englishman such addresses would appear rather
ill-timed academic declamation.

Yet there was much, and perhaps is still much, to account for, if not
quite justify, the Emperor's rhetoric. The peculiarity of Germany's
monarchic system placed, and places, the monarch in a patriarchal
position not very different from that of Moses towards the
Israelites - a leader, preacher, and prophet. Again, the Empire, when
the Emperor came to the throne, was not a homogeneous nation inspired
by a centuries-old national spirit, but suffered, as it still in a
measure suffers, from the particularism of the various kingdoms and
States composing it: in other words, from too local a patriotism and
stagnation of the imperial idea. Thirdly, the Empire had no navy,
while an Empire to-day without a navy is at a tremendous and dangerous
disadvantage in world-politics, and the mere conception that a navy
was indispensable had to be created in a country lying in the heart of
Europe and with only one short coast-line.

The Englishman is as loyal to his King as the German is to his
Emperor, and England, as little as Germany, is disposed to change from
monarchy to republicanism. But the Englishman's political and social
governor, guide, and executive is not the King, but the Parliament;
because while in the King he has a worthy representative of the
nation's historical development and dignity, in the Parliament he sees
a powerful and immediate reflection of himself, his own wishes, and
his own judgments. Moreover, with the spread of democratic ideas, the
position of a monarch anywhere in the civilized world to-day is not
what it was fifty years ago. The general progress in education since
then; the drawing together of the nations by common commercial and
financial interests; the incessant activity of writers and publishers;
the circulation and power of the Press - themselves almost threatening
to become a despotism - such facts as these tend to change the
relations between kings and peoples. Monarchs and men are changing
places; the ruler becomes the subject, the subject ruler; it is the
people who govern, and the monarch obeys the people's will.

Such is not the view of the German Emperor nor of the German people.
To both the monarch is no "shadow-king," as both are fond of calling
the King of England, but an Emperor of flesh and blood, commissioned
to take the leading part in decisions binding on the nation,
responsible to no one but the Almighty, and the sole bestower of State
honours. There are, it is true, three factors of imperial government
constitutionally - the Emperor, the Federal Council, and the Imperial
Parliament; but while the Council has only very indirect relations
with the people, the Parliament, a consultative body for legislation,
is not the depositary of power or authority, or an assembly to which
either the Emperor, or the Council, or the Imperial Chancellor is
responsible. It must be admitted that, while such is the
constitutional theory, the actual practice is to a considerable extent
different. The Emperor is no absolute monarch, even in the domain of
foreign affairs, as he is often said to be, but is influenced and
guided, certainly of late years, both by the Federal Council and by
public opinion, the power of which latter has greatly augmented in
recent times. Whether the Reichstag really represents public opinion
in the Empire is a moot-point in Germany itself. It can hardly be
denied that it does so, at least in financial matters, since with
regard to them it has all the powers, or almost all, possessed by the
English House of Commons in this respect. Where its powers fail, it is
said, is in regard to administration; for though it deliberates on and
passes legislation, it is left by the Constitution to the Emperor and
his Ministers to issue instructions as to how legislation is to be
carried into effect. The result is to throw excessive power over
public comfort and convenience into the hands of the official class of
all degrees, which naturally employs it to maintain its own dignity
and privileged position.

Towards one class of the population, and that a highly important and
exceptional one, the Emperor's attitude of unprejudiced goodwill has
never varied. Israelites form only a small proportion - about 1 per
cent. - of the whole people, and are to be found in very large numbers
only in Berlin and Frankfurt; but to their financial and commercial
ability Germany owes a debt one may almost describe as incalculable.
There is a strong national prejudice against them in all parts of the
Empire, as there probably is in all countries, and it must be admitted
that the manners and customs of the lower-class Jew, his unpleasant
and insistent curiosity, his intrusiveness where he is not desired,
his want of cleanliness, his sharpness at a bargain, his oily bearing
to those he wishes to propitiate and his ruthless sweating of the
worker in all fields when in his power, are all disagreeable personal
qualities. There is also, as a concomitant of the nation's growth in
wealth of every sort, and mostly perhaps to be found in the capital a
class of Jewish parvenu, remarkable for snobbishness, ostentation, and
affectation.

But one must distinguish; and of a large percentage of the educated
class of Jew in Germany it would be difficult to speak too highly.
Germans may be the "salt of the earth," as the Emperor once told them
they were, but Jewish talent can with quite as much, perhaps more,
justice be called the salt of German prosperity. And not alone in the
region of finance and commerce. Some of the best intellect, most of
the leading enterprise in Germany, in all important directions, is
Jewish. Many of her ablest newspaper proprietors and editors are Jews.
Many of her finest actors and actresses are Jews and Jewesses. Many of
her cleverest lawyers, doctors, and artists are Jews. The career of
Herr Albert Ballin, the Jewish director of the Hamburg-Amerika line,
the Emperor's friend, to whom Germany owes a great deal of her
mercantile marine expansion, is a long romance illustrative of Jewish
organizing power and success.

The Emperor's friendship for Herr Ballin is obviously not entirely
disinterested, but the interest at the root of it is an imperial one.
In this spirit he cultivates to-day, as he has done since he took over
the Empire, the society of all his subjects, German or Jew, who either
by their talents or through their wealth can contribute to the success
of the mighty task which occupies his waking thoughts, and for all one
knows, his sleeping thoughts - his dreams - as well. Accordingly, the
wealthy German is quite aware that if he is to be reckoned among the
Emperor's friends he must be prepared to pay for the privilege, since
the Emperor is neither slow nor shy about using his influence in order
to make the more fortunate members of the community put their hands
deeply into their pockets for national purposes. A little time ago he
invited a number of merchant princes and captains of industry, as
American papers invariably call wealthy Germans, to a _Bier-abend_ at
the palace. When the score or so of guests were seated, he announced
that he was collecting subscriptions for some public object - the
national airship fund, perhaps - and sent a sheet of paper to Herr
Friedlander Fuld, the "coal-king" of Germany, to head the list. Herr
Fuld wrote down £5,000, and the paper was taken back to the Emperor.
"Oh, this will never do, lieber Fuld," he exclaimed, on seeing the
amount. "At this rate people will be putting down their names for £50.
You must at least double it." And Herr Fuld had to do so. A few weeks
afterwards there was another invitation to the palace, and the same
sort of scene took place. A little later still Herr Fuld got a third
invitation, and as an imperial invitation is equivalent to a command,
he had to go. When he arrived he noticed his fellow-industrials
looking uneasy, not to say sad. The Emperor noticed it too, for his
first words were: "Dear gentlemen, to-night the beer costs nothing."

Throughout the reign Germany has made it her constant policy to
cultivate friendly relations with the United States. Chancellor von
Bülow, in 1899, apropos of Samoa, said in the Reichstag: "We can
confidently say that in no other country has America during the last
hundred years found better understanding and more just recognition
than in Germany." This is true of the educated classes, professional,
professorial, and scientific; but the ordinary European German, who
does not know and understand America, still displays no particular
love for the ordinary American. At the same time he probably prefers
him to the people of any other nation. American outspokenness in
politics, for example, must be refreshing to minds penned within the
limits of the _Rechtstaat_. He sees in them, too, millionaires, or at
least people who come from a country where money is so abundant that,
as many country-people still think, you have only to stoop to pick it
up. When it comes to business, however, he is a little afraid of their
somewhat too sanguine enterprise, and is given to suspect that a
"bluff" of some sort is behind the simplest business proposition. Much
of this, of course, is due to ignorance heightened by yellow
journalism, for as a rule only the vastly interesting, but mostly
untrue, "stories" regarding Germany printed in the yellow press come
back to the Fatherland.

The German, again, is made uneasy by what he thinks the hasty manners
of the Americans; he considers them uncivil. So, let it be admitted,
they sometimes appear to be to people of other nationalities; but then
as a rule Americans who jar on European nerves will be found to hail
from places where life, to use the American expression, is "woolly,"
or too strenuous to allow of the delicacies of real refinement. The
ordinary idea of the German in Germany, held by the stay-at-home
American, is a vague species of dislike, founded on the conviction
that the American, not the German, is the salt of the earth; that the
German regard for tradition makes them a slow and slowly moving race;
and that the Emperor as War Lord - for he is almost solely known to him
in that capacity - must be ever desirous of war, in particular wishes
to seize a coaling-station or even a country, in South America, and,
generally speaking, set at naught the Monroe doctrine. The Governments
on both sides, of course, know and understand each other better. In
November, 1906, Prince Bülow publicly thanked America for her attitude
at Algeciras, implying that it was due to her representative's
conciliatory and reconciliatory conduct that the Conference did not
end in a fiasco. "This," said the Chancellor, "was the second great
service to the world rendered by America; the other," he added, "being
the bringing about of peace between Russia and Japan."

A great deal of the increased intercourse between the two countries is
due to the personal endeavours of the Emperor. What his motives are
may be conjectured with fair accuracy from a general knowledge of his
"up-to-date" character, the commercial policy of his Empire, and the
events of recent years. He has a whole-hearted admiration for the
American character and genius, so akin in many ways to his own
character and genius; and if he refuses to recommend for Germans
similar institutions to those in States, federated in a manner
somewhat analogous to that of the kingdoms and States composing his
own Empire, it is not from want of liberality of mind, but because
they are wholly opposed to Prussian tradition, because his people do
not demand them, and because he honestly believes that in respect of
topographical situation, climate, historical development, and race
feelings and sentiment, the safeguards and requirements of Germany are
widely different from those of America.

As a young man he naturally had very little to do with America or
Americans, though among his schoolboy playmates was a young American,
Poulteney Bigelow, who afterwards wrote an excellent appreciation of
the fine traits in the Emperor's character. At the same time the
Emperor himself has stated that the country always interested him, and
recent visitors bear out the statement fully. In 1889, a year after
his accession, he expressed his admiration for America, when receiving
the American Ambassador, Mr. Phelps. "From my youth on," the Emperor
said,

"I have had a great admiration for that powerful and
progressive commonwealth which you are called on to
represent, and the study of its history in peace and war has
had for me at all times a special interest. Among the many
distinguished characteristics of your people, which draw to
them the attention of the whole world, are their
enterprising spirit, their love of order, and their talent
for invention. The predominant sentiment of both peoples is
that of affinity and tested friendship, and the future can
only strengthen the heartiness of their relations."

More than twenty years have elapsed since the words were uttered, and
the prediction has been fulfilled.

Scores of anecdotes, it need hardly be said, are current in connexion
with the Emperor and American friends. One of them is that of an
American, Mr. Frank Wyberg, the husband of a lady who, with her
children, used often to visit Mr. and Mrs. Armour on their yacht
_Uttowana_ at Kiel, there met the Emperor, and was invariably kindly
greeted by him. Mr. Wyberg was summoned with his friend, General
Miles, to an audience of the Emperor in Berlin. Before going to the
palace Mr. Wyberg went to a well-known picture-dealer in the city and
bought a small but artistic painting costing about £1,000. He had the
picture neatly done up, and carried it off under his arm to the hotel
where he was to meet General Miles. As they were leaving for the
palace the General asked Mr. Wyberg what he was carrying. "Oh, only a
trifle for the Kaiser!" was the reply. The General was horrified, and
tried to dissuade his friend from bringing the picture, telling him
that the proper procedure was to ask through the Foreign Office or the
American Embassy for the Emperor's gracious acceptance of it.
Otherwise the Emperor would be annoyed, he would think badly of
American manners, and so on. Mr. Wyberg, however, was not to be
deterred, and insisted that it would be "all right." While waiting in
the reception-room for the Emperor, Mr. Wyberg unwrapped the picture
and placed it leaning against the wall on a piano. By and by the
Emperor came in, and almost the first thing he said, after shaking
hands, was to ask what the presence of the picture meant. Mr. Wyberg
explained that it was a mark of gratitude for the kindness the Emperor
had shown his wife and children at Kiel. The Emperor smiled, said it
was a very kind thought, and willingly accepted the gift. The story



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 30 of 31)