Thomas Barclay.

The sands of fate; dramatised study of an imperial conscience, a phantasy online

. (page 1 of 11)
Online LibraryThomas BarclayThe sands of fate; dramatised study of an imperial conscience, a phantasy → online text (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




' r


^oofefi 6p ^ir djornas ^arclap






Dramatised Study of an
Imperial Conscience





(Cde mibetjjitie ptt^^ Cambcitise




Published October iqif


Part I and Part II of the present phantasy ap-
peared In August, 1915, and March, 1916, in the
Nineteenth Century, and I have to acknowledge
the courtesy of the Editor, Mr. Wray Skilbeck, in
allowing me to reproduce them.

Of Part I, Dr. Arthur Shadwell wrote in the
January issue of the same Review: —

There was in the August number of this Review a brilliant
sketch, cast in dramatic form, which received far less notice
than it deserved. It was by Sir Thomas Barclay, and was
entitled "The Sands of Fate — Berlin, July 24-31, 1914:
A Historical Phantasy," It purports to give the history
of the week preceding the declaration of war in a series of
scenes enacted at Potsdam between the Kaiser and his
chief advisers, and it represents him vacillating between
peace and war, until the issue is finally decided by the
crowds outside cheering for war.

I believe that this "historical phantasy" represents with
singular felicity the interplay of the several influences
which determined the fatal decision and their relative im-
portance. A good many writers about war and peace and
Germany might study it with advantage. It is undeniable
that the war chimed with popular sentiment in Germany,
and has been supported with general enthusiasm and

This testimony of a keen observer like Dr. Shad-
well is so precious that I venture to give it as a
precursory gloss.

After terminating the above, I hear from Copen-
hagen that the censors have forbidden the pub-



licatlon of a translation of the "phantasy" into
Danish which had been made by a distinguished
Professor of the University.

A similar fate, a short time ago, overtook a
translation into French, when it was about to ap-
pear at The Hague. The prohibition in the latter
case, I have since been informed, was due to the
action of the German Minister Plenipotentiary,
who described it as "poisoned gas"!





When the first part of this phantasy appeared In
the Nineteenth Century, I wrote by way of fore-
word : —

I call this drama a "historical phantasy." In Germany-
it might be called "Wahrheit und Dichtung," as Goethe
called his Memoirs. But is not the imaginative part of
history, as guessed by those who knew the actors person-
ally, possibly nearer the truth than "facts" about which
no two witnesses agree?

In an appendix will, nevertheless, be found a
chronology of the undisputed facts on which it is

The incident of the communication to the Kaiser
of the telegram announcing the assassination of
Franz Ferdinand and his wife was told me by a
distinguished person who was on board the Kaiser's
yacht at the time and caught the tube thrown by
the officer of the motor-boat which overtook the
yacht to deliver it.

Some of the Kaiser's observations and reflections
were made to myself; others have been repeated to
me by those to whom they were made.

References by different personages to matters
and events not generally known, such as Admiral
von TIrpItz's Interest In the working of parlia-
mentary government In England and the Profes-
sor's revelation respecting the Czar's decision for


peace in January, 1904, also belong to my personal

Of the essential characters, only Von Etting and
the Grafin Emma are imaginary. The others are
all living persons. I knew most of them in the flesh
and have selected them to serve as types of differ-
ent tendencies of a civilisation "on the make."
Herren Ballin and Possehl are North-Germans,
characteristic of the independent spirit, common
sense, and commercial integrity of the merchant
princes of the ancient Hanse towns. Prince von
Billow represents the spirit of Jean Paul Richter,
the famous German satirist, a spirit which "cul-
ture" has never succeeded in eradicating. Herren
von Jagow and the imaginary von Etting are more
or less his diplomatic pupils. Herren von Gwinner
and von Helfferich are managers of the Deutsche
Bank; the latter has been chosen by the Kaiser to
be Vice-Chancellor. They are sensible, enterpris-
ing men. Both were intensely pro-English in their
sympathies before the War and both sought to react
against the currents of international hostility which
had been threatening peace for the previous ten
years. Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg is the typical
Prussian ofHcial, honest, pflichtgetreu, short-sighted,
and efficient. Bernhardi is the cast-iron Prussian
soldier, incapable of originality or philosophic de-
tachment (the antithesis of the Horatian Biilow),
a collector of facts favourable to his special thesis,
indifferent to all considerations of generosity, na-
tional honour, or humanity, the man who thinks
war is a Ding an sick, and the spokesman of the

Introduction xi

many foolish Germans who fancy they are express-
ing a wise and unanswerable truth when they tell
you "War is war." Dr. Liebknecht and President
Kaempf speak for themselves. Nobody worked
harder than the latter to avert the present catas-
trophe. He represents the spirit of Neo-Liberalism
in the Empire.

Then there is the Kaiser, who may remain for
history the most conspicuous personality of con-
temporary Europe, who, after having raised his
country to stupendous heights of prosperity, al-
lowed himself to be dragged into the maddest spec-
ulation upon which a nation ever embarked, and
will remain responsible for all time for not having
used his power at the critical moment to avert war.
I have endeavoured to portray him as he was, or as
I knew him, not as a fire-eating, bloodthirsty po-
tentate responsible for the horrors and crimes of the
present War, but as of impulsive character, anxious
for knowledge, impatient of resistance to his own
schemes of national betterment, impetuous in their
realisation, not scholarly like his great ancestor,
but like him in his interest in current problems of
mind and matter.

Lastly, there is the Kaiserin, whose heart at
length revolts, kind, religious, and above all moth-
erly, practical in her outlook, and accessible to
facts which are too near for perception by those
whose eyes are focussed on the horizon.

I have frequently been asked to say whom I
mean by the Professor. I have. It is true, a good,
sound, old-fashioned German in mind, but why

sai Introduction

should I put a name to a character who would be
lynched to-morrow if he expressed a tithe of the
criticism I attribute to him.

I need hardly say that this phantasy is not in-
tended to exacerbate hatred between the belliger-
ents. The War cannot change the geographical fact
that we are all destined, whatever the outcome of
the War, to go on living side by side as before. Per-
haps a future generation will judge the present one
severely for the silence or want of courage of supe-
rior minds at a time when leadership was needed,
for the fact that no statesman was ready to risk his
popularity and warn Europe against the unscrupu-
lous politicians and wire-pullers who, on all sides,
were sowing the seeds of international hatred and
preparing the way for the greatest breakdown
of statesmanship and diplomacy in the annals of

There will be Germans among my readers. Let
them not forget that English and American states-
men struggled in vain to bring Germany to a sense
of the danger of the excessive expenditure on arma-
ments into which she was forcing her neighbours,
that they even humiliated themselves before her in
the hope of bringing her rulers to realise the danger
to European peace; that she threatened to wreck
the Hague Conference of 1907 by withdrawing
from it if the question of armaments was discussed.
On the eve of that conference I wrote in a volume
published on the day it began : ^

^ Problems of International Practice and Diplomacy. (Boston
Book Company, 1907.)

Introduction xiii

Young ambitious nations in the buoyant venturesome-
ness of youth may be tempted to regard the more or less
permanent settlement of the affairs of mankind, in which
the older nations are setting an example, as contrary to
their interest. Isolation of any nation, however, is not only
an economic, but is also a military, danger to itself in the
presence of possible combinations of nations. Advantages
for attack provoke a corresponding counter-development of
the forces of resistance. A state which declines to listen to
the peaceful overtures of its neighbours, on the ground that
it would be quixotic to curtail its disproportionate ability
to assail them, necessarily soon finds itself obliged, in the
alternative, to increase its strength for the purposes of
possible defence. And thus competition in armaments and
combinations continue in response to realities of self-pres-
ervation which can have no end till this insensate rivalry is
checked by an international agreement.

The War is the outcome of the deaf ear consist-
ently turned by German statesmen to overtures of
which the above passage reflects the underlying

Nor must they dream that, because there are
thousands of Americans and Englishmen who have
retained their mental balance, there are any who
think the War can end before Europe is*emanci-
pated from the bullying and perilous insolence of
the Prussian oligarchy, or, shut out as they are
from the outer world and at present inaccessible
to its influences, that their military successes have
excited a moment's doubt among civilised mankind
of the ultimate success of their enemies. To on-
lookers the War appears as a struggle in which the
civilised world is arrayed against states which
have made themselves notorious for the inhuman

xiv Introduction

conduct of their soldiery. Turkish massacres of Ar-
menians, Bulgarian atrocities in the Balkan wars,
the German conduct in Belgium, the sinking of the
Lusitania, the murders of Miss Cavell and Captain
Fryatt, and other gratuitous horrors give a charac-
ter to the struggle in which anxiety for the success
of the more humane, civilised Western Allies is

Why do not the kind, peaceable, hard-working
German people, who have made the industrial and
commercial prosperity and real power of Germany
which the Prussian military caste despised and has
at length been successful in crushing, revolt at the
shame their Prussian leaders have brought upon
them? Have they been so emasculated by drill that
they dare not.^* Signs there are, it is true, that the
scales are falling from their eyes. This phantasy
endeavours to picture a possible denouement in
which wiser men than those who engineered the
War ultimately procure the downfall of Germany's
real foes — the real foes who, under the mask of
saving her, have followed the example of the Na-
poleonic dynasty in 1870 to save themselves.

And so history from generation to generation
repeats itself, and the folly of man shifts its centre
from nation to nation like the wind and the storm,
and the least likely may, in turn, become its vic-
tims, in spite of every argument of reason, interest,
and national tradition.

Before the War there were eminent persons
both in England and America who feared that na-
tional manliness and capacity for the higher moral

Introduction xv

emotions would be undermined by a long period
of peace. I venture, on this subject and by way of
conclusion, to quote another passage from my book
of 1907: —

The growth of democratic feeling has in no country
tended to deprive it of its power to feel the thrill of indig-
nation, of its will to assert its just rights by material sacri-
fice, or of its courage to shed its blood for a righteous cause.
But there have been wars neither righteous nor necessary,
nor even useful, and democracy may become capable of
making distinctions for itself, for unquestionably there are
unconscious workings of the public mind which develop in
capacity. Everybody whose business it is or who chooses
to watch its moods and evolution knows how it is affected
by every breath of feeling, as a tree rustles to every breath
of wind, and how a furious blast may strain it to snapping.
Still the root of human reason gains strength from every
gust; and, if Western peoples grow more peaceful because
more reasonable, this can be no parallel to the historic
cases of sybarite or subject peoples emasculated by long
periods of non-responsibility.

The present War has exemplified the truth of this
anticipation. The democracies of the world have
now all joined hands in the surrounding, for its
destruction, of the last stronghold of a system
which is only different from brigandage in the
scale on which it is conducted.



{BERLIN, JULT 24-31, igi4)



The Kaiser.
The Kaiserin.
The Crown Prince.

Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, Imperial Chancellor,
Herr von Jagow, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, Minister for the N any.
Herr Ballin, General Manager of the Hamburg-
Am erik a Steamship Company.
The Professor.
Grafin Emma, lady-in-waiting.
Herr von Etting, Private Secretary to the Kaiser.
First and Second A.D.C.
A Spy.




The Kaiserin seated at a work-table before an open
window at the Neues-Palais at Potsdam — flowers,
photographs, silver trinkets. Knitting. Few moments.

Enter Grafin Emma, clad in black silk, who stands
respectfully while the Kaiserin, absorbed in
thought, continues knitting.

ICaiserin {on perceiving her)

What a start you gave me, Emma! I wish you
would n't steal into the room like that.

Grafin Emma
Shall I knock before entering?

Like poor old Grandmamma's servants, no ! Well ?

Grafin Emma

His Imperial Highness has arrived and asks if
Your Majesty can receive him.

4 The Sands of Fate [i.

Kaiserin {straightening her sleeves and dress)

Of course ! At once.

[Exit Grafin Emma. The Kaiserin stands
up, pulls a chair closer, adjusts photographs,
smells a rose. Steps heard. Knock at door.

Come In.

Enter the Crown Prince, who folds his mother in his
arms. Unbuckles and hangs his sword on a peg.

My darling boy! Why, what's happened?

Crown Prince
Great things, mother! War, mother!

Good God, Willie! With whom?

Crown Prince

Everybody, perhaps, — but war as sure as there
is a God In heaven.

Oh, no, no, no. We want no more wars.

Crown Prince

Can't be helped. Sit down, mother dear, and I
will explain the whole thing to you. ,

That's why you came?

I.] The Sands of Fate 5

Crown Prince
Yes, of course.

Darling boy! What about your father?

Crown Prince
Oh, he'll know In good time.


Heavens, Willie. You don't mean he knows
nothing about what you are going to tell me?

Crown Prince

Oh, yes, he does, but you know his happy-go-
lucky way, always thinking things will come out
right by merely waiting. People are getting so im-
patient about his dilly-dallying — always preparing
for war, and beating the drum and doing nothing —
that the guns will go off by themselves, and the
wrong way, and then exeunt the Hohenzollerns.


I know your father has too many irons in the iire,
and he won't listen to anybody but that awful
Professor and his Jew friends.

Crown Prince

It's very trying.


Yes, but we must just put up with what God has
given us.

The Sands of Fate [i.

Crown Prince

He'll be awfully wild. There he is with some forty
men-of-war boring himself and all his staif at Bal-
holmen with peasant regattas, lunching with every
Tom, Dick, and Harry, making iield-marshals stand
about in idleness, while that awful band makes you
deaf.^ Says it's a good thing for their nerves to have
nothing to do or think about for a few weeks 1


Don't talk disrespectfully of your father like that,

Crown Prince

I can't help it. You know it, too, mother. It's
exasperating, this dilettante optimism of father's.
He forgets that I have to succeed him. ... To think
that I have never been able to have a serious con-
versation with him . . .

I can't allow you ...

Crown Prince

Sorry. But things are too serious, and he is n't
serious enough. {Rising and walking up and down
angrily.) A nice mess we are in! After all the ex-
pense and effort! We'll be out of it now, thanks to
never-mind-whom. Well, this is what I came to tell
you, mother.

Kaiserin {leaning back to listen)
Go on, dear.

I.] The Sands of Fate 7

Crown Prince

You won't interrupt me, will you, mother, because
I feel anxious and irritable, and I can't help men-
tioning father with irritation? After all, children are
only what their parents make them, and if I am
disrespectful I am only just as he was himself be-
fore me. [ The Kaiserin frowns.

All right, dearest mother! you, at any rate, are a
good sound German. There is no English dilettan-
teism about you, thank God !

Kaiserin {laughing)

Why, my darling, your cousins say you are the
most English of the family.

Crown Prince {testily)

Thanks ! Please let us be serious . . . {A pause.)
You know Germany is the laughing-stock of the
world. Everybody is a laughing-stock who gallops his
horse to the edge of the ditch and then wheels
round. That's what we have been doing ever since
father came to the throne.

But he has kept the peace, dear.

Crown Prince

But at what price? The ridicule and contempt of
everybody !

[The Kaiserin gives an incredulous look.

Yes, mother, the contempt of the whole world.
Every twopenny-halfpenny little State thinks it can

8 The Sands of Fate [i.

smack Germany in the face with impunity. And as
for the Great Powers, look at this meeting at Peters-
burg, the contemptuous way in which the French
have walked round Germany to go there, as if
we were a sleeping dog. It makes my blood boil.
Father has no sense of dignity or he would . . .

My darling, you forget yourself.

Crown Prince
Then look at Italy. Even our ally snaps her finger
at us, takes the best slices of Africa without even
consulting us, while we have to go hat-in-hand to
get any dirty swamp any other Power is kind enough
not to want. Look at the way England puts her foot
down and dictates to us. We can't get a coaling-
station, because she puts her foot down. We can't
get a railway completed, though it is built with
German capital in an independent country, because
England puts her foot down. France takes a huge
quarter of the best that Africa can offer, and we are
not allowed to have even an inch of it, though we
have more important interests there than France.
Why.f* Because England puts her foot down. It
makes me boil. Yet father . . .

Do leave your father out of it.

Crown Prince
I can't, mother. I feel it too strongly . . . Well,
we are sick of it. We are sick of this constant hu-

I.] The Sands of Fate



Crown Prince

Yes, the whole German people is sick of it, and it
is coming to this : either father must move with his
subjects or his subjects will move without him.

Wliat do you mean?

Crown Prince

I mean father is becoming thoroughly unpopular


Why don't you tell your father this ?

Crown Prince

It's no use. He takes nothing seriously. I know
what he would say: "My dear boy" — he forgets I
am a man and a father — "my dear boy, I have
pledged my life to the prosperity and peace of Ger-
many. For what you do after me you will be respon-
sible. Meanwhile, let me attend to my job my own
way." I don't think that fair to me, and it is not
serious. Father is too pleasure-loving . . .


My dear boy, how mistaken you are about your
father! You may say he is frivolous — he is so
dreadfully English, just like his poor mother —

lo The Sands of Fate [i.

always fussing about this and that. Yet she did get
things done, and so does your father. How the Ber-
liners hated her for giving lessons in hygiene to the
German architects. Yet there you are. They did
what she told them, and Berlin is a model of clean-
liness to the world. You don't know what an awful
place your Marmor-palais was till she took it in
hand. Your father is just like her. I dare say after
he's dead he'll be appreciated. [Whimpering.

Crown Prince (shortly)

Perhaps . . . He's meanwhile very, very trying.
Well, let me go on. The Powers of the Entente are
preparing for war as hard as they can. England is
leading them on.

England !

Crown Prince

Yes, mother, England and France. Russia plays
the fool's part.

Don't believe that, Willie.

Crown Prince
I say "plays."

Kaiserin (takes up her knitting)
I see — that may be.

I.] The Sands of Fate ii

Crown Prince

They are all eaten up with jealousy — especially

Jealousy of what, dear?

Crown Prince
Why, of Germany's prosperity, of course.


Crown Prince

Well, they want to destroy her prosperity. As
soon as they are ready, they will fall on her like wild
beasts and tear her to pieces out of mere spite. We
can't wait for that. If fight we must, we must choose
the moment which suits us best and not let them
choose It. [A pause.



Crown Prince
That moment Is now.

Kaiserin {standing up and putting her hands on the
Crown Prince's shoulders and looking into his
eyes) [A pause.

My boy, you know how dear you are to me, my
first-born. ... I hope you are only relieving your

1 2 The Sands of Fate [i.

feelings in speaking to me like this, merely confess-
ing your inner self to your loving mother. What
does your father say to this?

Crown Prince
He knows nothing.

What.? Your father . . .

Crown Prince
That's why I am telling you, mother.

Telling me what?

Crown Prince
There will be war before a week is out.

Kaiserin {almost shrieking)

Crown Prince

It can't be helped. What did you think we wanted
the war levy for? [The Kaiserin speechless.

We have just got our siege-guns. We are ready,
ready, ready as we have never been before, and
everybody else is unprepared. The war will be over
before Christmas, and we shall be supreme in
Europe. Instead of being sneered at as mere swash-
bucklers, even England will no longer put her foot
down — Oh! the brutes. You don't know how I

I.] The Sands of Fate 1 3

hate England. We all do. Every true German hates

Then your war would be against England ?

Crown Prince

Indeed It would. This Is the plan. We shall be In
Paris before Russia Is mobilised or before England
has made up her mind, and then we smash up Eng-
land, and that opens up America to us.

I Kaiserin (surprised)
America! And the Americans?

Crown Prince

The Americans ! Another of father's fads ! As If
the Americans would ever do anything for senti-
ment's sake! Besides, It's a mean sort of thing —
going about seeking friends for Germany. The only
true friends are those who are afraid to be your ene-
mies. We must have Brazil, and have it we shall.


Why, dear, these are terrible things, and the
United States your father loves so much.

[Rather scornfully.

Crown Prince

"Much noise and little wool." We shall soon
double them up when England's power Is gone.

Kaiserin (in a tone of humouring an angry man)
But what would the war be about .^

14 The Sands of Fate [i.

Crown Prince

Oh ! really nothing very particular — probably the
Austrian grievance.

The Austrian grievance!

Crown Prince

It's the same thing. We'll come In as Austria's
saviour again. That's better than having a griev-
ance of our own, and it will appeal to German


Oh, men, men! How you all like fighting!

Crown Prince {buckling on his sword again)

I wanted to tell you beforehand, because you have
a great influence over father and I hope you will not

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryThomas BarclayThe sands of fate; dramatised study of an imperial conscience, a phantasy → online text (page 1 of 11)