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revived for a time owing to the arrest of the French frontier police
commissary Schnaebele, it finally died out on that officer's release
at the particular request of the Czar to Emperor William. Boulanger's
subsequent history only concerns France. He was sent to a provincial
command, but returned to Paris, where he was joyously received and
elected to Parliament by a large majority. He might, it is believed, a
year or two later, on being elected by the department of the Seine,
with Paris at his back, have made a successful _coup d'état_ on the
night of his triumphant election, but his courage at the last moment
failed, and on learning that he was about to be arrested he fled to
Brussels, where he committed suicide on the grave of his mistress.

The time, however, was approaching, the most interesting, and as the
succession of events have shown, the most momentous for the Empire
since 1870, when Prince William's accession was obviously at hand.
During the year 1887 and the early part of 1888 the attention of the
world was fixed, first curiously, then anxiously, then sympathetically
on the situation in Berlin. Emperor William was an old man just turned
ninety; he was fast breaking up and any week his death might be
announced. Hereditarily the Crown Prince Frederick, now fifty-six,
should succeed, and a new reign would open which might introduce
political changes of moment to other countries as well as Germany. The
new reign was indeed to open, but only to prove one of the shortest in
history.

In January, 1887, a Shadow fell on the House of Hohenzollern, the
Shadow that must one day fall on every living creature. It was noticed
that the Crown Prince was hoarse, had caught a cold, or something of
the kind. A stay at Ems did him no good, Doctors Tobold and von
Bergmann, the leading specialists of the day, were consulted, a
laryngoscopic examination followed, the presence of cancer was
strongly suspected, and an operation was advised. At this juncture, at
the suggestion, it is said, of Queen Victoria, it was decided to
summon the specialist of highest reputation in England, Sir Morell
Mackenzie, who, having examined the patient, and basing his opinion on
a report of Professor Virchow's, declared that the growth was not
malignant. It was now May, and on Mackenzie's advice the patient
visited England, where, accompanied by Prince William, he was present
at the celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Some months after his
return to the Continent were spent with his family in Tirol and Italy,
until November found him in San Remo, where a meeting of famous
surgeons from Vienna, Berlin, and Frankfort-on-Main finally diagnosed
the existence of cancer, and Mackenzie coincided with the judgment.

The old Emperor died on March 9th. He had taken cold on March 3rd, and
on the 7th a chronic ailment of the kidneys from which he suffered
became worse, he could not sleep, his strength began to ebb, and it
was clear the end was near. On the 6th, however, he was able to speak
for a few minutes with Prince William, with Bismarck, and with his
only daughter, the Grand Duchess of Baden, who had arrived post-haste
the night before to be present at the death-bed. The Grand Duchess, as
the Emperor spoke, besought him not to tire himself by talking. "I
have no time to be tired," he murmured, in a flicker of the sense of
duty which had been a lifelong feature of his character, and a few
hours later he passed quietly away. The funeral, headed by Prince
William and the Knights of the Black Eagle, took place on the 20th.
The new Emperor Frederick, who had hurried from San Remo on receiving
news of the Emperor's condition, was too ill to join it, but stood
behind a closed window of his palace and saluted as the coffin went
by.

The incidents of the Emperor Frederick's ascent of the throne, the
amnesty and liberal-minded proclamations to his people, and in
particular the heroic resignation with which he bore his fate, are
events of common knowledge. One of them was the so-called Battenberg
affair. Queen Victoria desired a marriage between Princess Victoria,
the present Emperor's sister, then aged twenty-two, and Prince
Alexander of Battenberg, at that time Prince of Bulgaria, so as to
secure him against Russia by an alliance with the imperial house of
Germany. Prince Bismarck objected on the ground that the marriage
would show Germany in an unfriendly light at St. Petersburg, and might
subject a Prussian princess to the risk of expulsion from Sofia.
Another account is that the Chancellor feared an increase of English
influence at the German Court with the Prince of Bulgaria as its
channel. In any case, the result of the Chancellor's opposition was to
place the sick Emperor in a delicate and painful situation. It was
ended by his yielding to the Chancellor's representations, and the
marriage did not come off.

Meanwhile, the Emperor's malady was making fatal progress. The Shadow
was growing darker and more formidable. A season of patiently-borne
suffering followed, until Death in his terrific majesty appeared and
another Emperor occupied the throne.




IV.



"VON GOTTES GNADEN"

Prince William is now German Emperor and King of Prussia. Before
observing him as trustee and manager of his magnificent inheritance a
pause may be made to investigate the true meaning of a much-discussed
phrase which, while suggesting nothing to the Englishman though he
will find it stamped in the words "Dei gratia" on every shilling piece
that passes through his hands, is the bed-rock and foundation of the
Emperor's system of rule and the key to his nature and conduct.

Government in Germany is dynastic, not, as in England and America,
parliamentary or democratic. The King of Prussia possesses his
crown - such is the theory of the people as well as of the dynasty - by
the grace of God, not by the consent of the people. The same may be
said of the German Emperor, who fills his office as King of Prussia.
To the Anglo-Saxon foreigner the dynasty in Germany, and particularly
in Prussia, appears a sort of fetish, the worship of which begins in
the public schools with lessons on the heroic deeds of the
Hohenzollerns, and with the Emperor, as high priest, constantly
calling on his people to worship with him. This view of the kingly
succession may seem Oriental, but it is not surprising when one
reflects that the Hohenzollern dynasty is over a thousand years old
and during that time has ruled successively in part of Southern
Germany, in Brandenburg, in Prussia, until at last, imperially, in all
Germany. Moreover, it has ruled wisely on the whole; in the course of
centuries it has brought a poor and disunited people, living on a soil
to a great extent barren and sandy, to a pitch of power and prosperity
which is exciting the envy and apprehension of other nations.

In England government passed centuries ago from the dynasty to the
people, and there are people in England to-day who could not name the
dynasty that occupies the English throne. Such ignorance in Germany is
hardly conceivable. In Prussia government has always been the appanage
of the Hohenzollerns, and the Emperor is resolved that, supported by
the army, it shall continue to be their appanage in the Empire.
Government means guidance, and no one is more conscious of the fact
than the Emperor, for he is trying to guide his people all the time.
Frederick William IV once said to the Diet: "You are here to represent
rights, the rights of your class and, at the same time, the rights of
the throne: to represent opinion is not your task." This relation of
government and people has become modified of recent years to a very
obvious degree, but constitutionally not a step has been taken in the
direction of popular, that is to say parliamentary, rule.

England and Germany are both constitutional monarchies, but both the
monarch and the Constitution in Germany are different from the monarch
and the Constitution in England. The British Constitution is a growth
of centuries, not, like the German Constitution, the creation of a
day. The British Constitution is unwritten, if it is stamped, as Mary
said the word "Calais" would be found stamped on her heart after
death, on the heart and brain of every Englishman. The German
Constitution is a written document in seventy-eight chapters, not
fifty years old, and on which, compared with the British Constitution,
the ink is not yet dry. In England to the people the Constitution is
the real monarch: in Germany the monarchy is to the people what the
British Constitution is to the Englishman; and while in England the
monarch is the first counsellor to the Constitution, in Germany the
Constitution is the first counsellor to the monarch.

The consequence in England is representative government, with a
political career for every ordinary citizen; the consequence in
Germany is constitutional monarchy, properly so-called, with a
political career for no common citizen. Neither system is perfect, but
both, apparently, give admirable national results. And yet, of course,
an Englishman cannot help thinking that if Herr Bebel were made
Minister to-morrow, Social Democracy would cease to exist.

The people acquiesce in the Hohenzollern view, not indeed with perfect
and entire unanimity, for the small Progressive party demand a
parliamentary form of government, if not on the exact model of that
established in England. The Social Democrats, evidently, would have no
government at all. Many English people suppose that Germans generally
must desire parliamentary rule and would help them to get it, for
multitudes of English people are firmly persuaded that it is England's
mission to extend to other peoples the institutions which have suited
her so well, without sufficiently considering how different are their
circumstances, geographical position, history, traditions, and
national character. A very similar mistake is made in Germany by
multitudes of Germans, who believe it is Germany's mission to impose
her culture, her views of man and life, on the rest of the world.

The Prussian view of monarchy, expressed in the words "von Gottes
Gnaden" ("By the Grace of God"), is a political conception, which,
under its customary English translation, "by Divine Right," has often
been ridiculed by English writers. Lord Macaulay, it will be
remembered, in his "History of England," asserts that the doctrine
first emerged into notice when James the Sixth of Scotland ascended
the English throne. "It was gravely maintained," writes Macaulay,

"that the Supreme Being regarded hereditary monarchy, as
opposed to other systems of government, with peculiar
favour; that the rule of succession in order of
primogeniture was a divine institution anterior to the
Christian, and even to the Mosaic, dispensation; that no
human power, not even that of the whole legislature, no
length of adverse possession, though it extended to ten
centuries, could deprive the legitimate prince of his
rights; that his authority was necessarily always despotic;
that the laws by which, in England and other countries, the
prerogative was limited, were to be regarded merely as
concessions which the sovereign had freely made and might at
his pleasure resume; and that any treaty into which a king
might enter with his people was merely a declaration of his
present intention, and not a contract of which the
performance could be demanded."

The statement exactly expresses the ideas on the subject attributed
abroad to the Emperor.

The distinguished German historian, Heinrich von Treitschke, writes of
King Frederick William IV, the predecessor of Emperor William I, as
follows: -

"He believed in a mysterious enlightenment which is granted
'von Gottes Gnaden' to kings rather than other mortals. All
the blessings of peace, which his People could expect under
a Christian monarch, should Proceed from the wisdom of the
Crown alone; he regarded his high office like a patriarch of
the Old Testament and held the kingship as a fatherly power
established by God Himself for the education of the people.
Whatever happened in the State he connected with the person
of the monarch. If only his age and its royal awakener had
understood each other better! He had, however, in his
strangely complicated process of development, constructed
such extraordinary ideals that though he might sometimes
agree in words with his contemporaries he never did as to
the things, and spoke a different language from his people.
Even General Gerlach, his good friend and servant, used to
say: 'The ways of the King are wonderful;' and the not less
loyal Bunsen wrote about a complaint of the monarch that 'no
one understands me, no one agrees with me,' the
commentary - 'When one understood him, how could one agree
with him?'"

It was this king, be it parenthetically remarked, who said, when his
people were clamouring for a Constitution, in 1847: "Now and never
will I admit that a written paper, like a second Providence, force
itself between our God in Heaven and this land" - and a few months
later had to sign the document his people demanded.

Von Treitschke, writing on the last birthday of Emperor William I,
thus spoke of the doctrine:

"A generation ago an attempt was made by a theologizing
State theory to inculcate the doctrine of a power of the
throne, divine, released from all earthly obligations. This
mystery of the Jacobins never found entrance into the clear
common sense of our people."

Prince Bismarck's view of the doctrine was explained in a speech he
made to the Prussian Diet in 1847. He was speaking on "Prussia as a
Christian State." "For me," he said,

"the words 'von Gottes Gnaden,' which Christian rulers join
to their names, are no empty phrase, but I see in them the
recognition that the princes desire to wield the sceptre
which God has assigned them according to the will of God on
earth. As God's will I can, however, only recognize what is
revealed in the Christian gospels, and I believe I am in my
right when I call that State a Christian one which has taken
as its task the realization, the putting into operation, of
the Christian doctrine.... Assuming generally that the State
has a religious foundation, in my opinion this foundation
can only be Christianity. Take away this religious
foundation from the State and we retain nothing of the State
but a chance aggregation of rights, a kind of bulwark
against the war of all against all, which the old
philosophers spoke of."

On the second occasion, thirty years later, the Chancellor's theme was
"Obedience to God and the King."

"I refer," he said,

"to the wrong interpretation of a sentence which in itself
is right - namely, that one must obey God rather than man.
The previous speaker must know me long enough to be aware
that I subscribe to the entire correctness of this sentence,
and that I believe I obey God when I serve the King under
the device 'With God for King and Country.' Now he (the
previous speaker) has separated the component parts of the
device, for he sees God separated from King and Fatherland.
I cannot follow him on this road. I believe I serve my God
when I serve my King in the protection of the commonwealth
whose monarch 'von Gottes Gnaden' he is, and on whom the
emancipation from alien spiritual influence and the
independence of his people from Romish pressure have been
laid by God as a duty in which I serve the King. The
previous speaker would certainly admit in private that we do
not believe in the divinity of a State idol, though he seems
to assert here that we believe in it."

In these passages, it may be remarked, Bismarck avoids an
unconditional endorsement of the Hohenzollern doctrine of divine
"right" or even divine appointment. Indeed all he does is to express
his belief in the sincerity of rulers who declare their desire to rule
in accordance with the will of God as it appears in Holy Scripture. In
addition to his dislike of a "Christianity above the State," the fact
that he did not subscribe to the doctrine of divine right, as these
words are interpreted in England, is shown by another speech in which
he said, "The essence of the constitutional monarchy under which we
live is the co-operation of the monarchical will and the convictions
of the people." But what, one is tempted to ask, if will and
convictions differ?

In recent times, Dr. Paul Liman, in an excellent character sketch of
the Emperor, devotes his first chapter to the subject, thus
recognizing the important place it occupies in the Emperor's
mentality. Dr. Liman, like all German writers who have dealt with the
topic, animadverts on the Hohenzollern obsession by the theory and
attributes it chiefly to the romantic side of the Emperor's nature
which was strongly influenced in youth by the "wonderful events" of
1870, by the national outburst of thanks to God at the time, and by
the return from victorious war of his father, his grandfather, and
other heroes, as they must have appeared to him, like Bismarck,
Moltke, and Roon.

It is worth noting that Prince von Bülow, during the ten years of his
Chancellorship, made no parliamentary or other specific and public
allusion to the doctrine.

Before, however, attempting to offer a somewhat different explanation
of the Emperor's attitude in the matter from those just cited, let us
see what statements he has himself made publicly about it and how the
doctrine has been interpreted by his contemporaries. He made no
reference to it in his declarations to the army, the navy, and the
people when he ascended the throne. His first allusion to it was in
March, 1890, at the annual meeting of the Brandenburg provincial Diet
at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin, and then the allusion was not
explicit. "I see," said the Emperor,

"in the folk and land which have descended to me a talent
entrusted to me by God, which it is my task to increase, and
I intend with all my power so to administer this talent that
I hope to be able to add much to it. Those who are willing
to help me I heartily welcome whoever they may be: those who
oppose me in this task I will crush."

His next allusion, at Bremen in April of the same year, when he was
laying the foundation-stone of a statue to his grandfather, King
William, a few months subsequent to Bismarck's retirement, was more
explicit, yet not completely so.

"It is a tradition of our House," so ran his speech,

"that we, the Hohenzollerns, regard ourselves as appointed
by God to govern and to lead the people, whom it is given us
to rule, for their well-being and the advancement of their
material and intellectual interests."

The next reference, and the only one in which a divine "right" to rule
in Prussia is formally claimed, occurs four years later at
Koenigsberg, the ancient crowning-place of Prussian kings. Here he
said: -

"The successor (namely himself) of him who _of his own
right_ was sovereign prince in Prussia will follow the same
path as his great ancestor; as formerly the first King (of
Prussia, Frederick I.) said, 'My crown is born with me,' and
as his greater son (the Great Elector) gave his authority
the stability of a rock of bronze, so I too, like my
imperial grandfather, represent the kingship 'von Gottes
Gnaden.'"

At Coblenz in 1897, in reference to the first Emperor William's
labours for the army and people: -

"He (Emperor William) left Coblenz to ascend the throne as
the selected instrument of the Lord he always regarded
himself to be. For us all, and above all for us princes, he
raised once more aloft and lent lustrous beams to a jewel
which we should hold high and holy - that is the kingship von
Gottes Gnaden, the kingship with its onerous duties, its
never-ending, ever-continuing trouble and labour, with its
fearful responsibility to the Creator alone, from which no
human being, no minister, no parliament, no people can
release the prince."

Here, too, if the words "responsibility to the Creator alone" be taken
in their ordinary English sense, the allusion to a divine right may be
construed, though it is observable that the word "right" is not
actually employed.

In Berlin, when unveiling a monument to the Great Elector, the Emperor
was filled with the same idea of the God-given mission of the
Hohenzollerns. After briefly sketching the deeds of the Elector - how
he came young to the throne to find crops down-trodden, villages burnt
to the ground, a starved and fallen people, persecuted on every side,
his country the arena for barbarous robber-bands who had spread war
and devastation throughout Germany for thirty years; how, with
"invincible reliance on God" and an iron will, he swept the pieces of
the land together, raised trade and commerce, agriculture and
industry, in for that period an incredibly short time; how he brought
into existence a new army entirely devoted to him; how, in fine,
guided by the hope of founding a great northern Empire, which would
bring the German peoples together, he became an authority in Europe
and laid the corner-stone of the present Empire - after sketching all
this, the Emperor continues:

"How is this wonderful success of the house of Hohenzollern
to be explained? Solely in this way, that every prince of
the House is conscious from the beginning that he is only an
earthly vicegerent, who must give an account of his labour
to a higher King and Master, and show that he has been a
faithful executor of the high commands laid upon him."

One finds exactly the same idea expressed three months later when
talking to his "Men of Brandenburg." "You know well," he reminded
them,

"that I regard my whole position and my task as laid on me
by Heaven, and that I am appointed by a Higher Power to whom
I must later render an account. Accordingly I can assure you
that not a morning or evening passes without a prayer for my
people and a special thought for my Mark Brandenburg."

To the Anglo-Saxon understanding, of course, the theory of divine
right has long appeared untenable, obsolete, and, as Macaulay says,
absurd. Many people to-day would go farther and argue that there is no
such thing as a divine right at all, since "rights" are a purely human
idea, possibly a purely legal one. But it is at least doubtful that
the Emperor uses the expression "von Gottes Gnaden" in a sense exactly
coterminous with that of "divine right" as used by Lord Macaulay and
later Anglo-Saxon writers and speakers. The latter, when dealing with
things German, not unfrequently fall into the error of mistranslation
and are thus at times responsible for national misunderstandings. The
Italian saying, "_traduttore, tradittore_," is the expression of a
fact too seldom recognized, especially by those whose business it is
to interpret, so to speak, one people to another. Language is as
mysterious and elusive a thing as aught connected with humanity, as
love, for example, or music; and it may be asserted with some degree
of confidence that among every people there are ideas current, and in
all departments - in law, society, art - which it is impossible exactly
to translate into the speech of other nations. The words used may be
the same, but the connotation, all the words imply and suggest, is,
perhaps in very important respects, different, and requires a
paraphrase, longer or shorter, to explain them. Take the word "false"
in English and "falsch" in German. They look alike, yet while the
English "false" carries with it a moral reproach, the German word,
where the context does not explicitly prove otherwise, means simply
"incorrect," "erroneous," without the moral reproach added.
Accordingly, when a German Chancellor asserts that the statement of an
English Minister is "falsch" he does not necessarily mean anything
offensive, but only that the English Minister is mistaken.

From this point of view one may regard the statements of the Emperor
concerning his kingly office. He has recently begun to use the
expression "German Emperor von Gottes Gnaden," a thing done by none of
his imperial predecessors, and certainly a very curious extension of a



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 5 of 31)