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ness, his inexperience, and his inde- what this imaginative, spontaneous, and pendence of character, awakened in seri as yet undisciplined potentate might ous minds much apprehension.
rashly undertake to say or do that would In his proclamation of June 18, 1888,
involve danger to his country. to the people, William II apparently With violently militaristic inclinaendeavored in some degree to mollify tions the Emperor combined a disposithis feeling of popular distrust. His filial tion to introduce the practice of personal references to his father, whose noble government and personal diplomacy. qualities had won for him the love and The first public acts of the new reign trust of the people, aided, perhaps, to were hardly over before William II, to dissipate the rumor that they had not the dread of the conservatively minded, been in close accord. “Looking to the started out upon a round of personal King of all kings,” he said, “I have visits to the neighboring courts. On vowed to God, following the example of July 14th he reviewed the fleet at Kiel in my father, to be a righteous and gentle the
uniform of a Prussian admiral, which prince, to foster piety and the fear of no King of Prussia had ever worn. The God, to maintain peace, to be a help to next fortnight was consumed in calls the poor and oppressed, and to be a upon his Baltic neighbors. Cruising from righteous man, a true protector." port to Port on the Hohenzollern, he
Notwithstanding this effusion of lofty spent five days at Cronstadt with the sentiments, and the formal declaration Czar of Russia, and followed this with of public policies, on June 25th, before personal visits to the King of Sweden the Reichstag-in which the hand of and the King of Denmark. A little later Bismarck is plainly visible—there re Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna, and Rome mained for some time in the minds of were visited; and the year ended with thoughtful Germans a deep solicitude the laying of the first stone of the free for the future of the Empire, and a fear, port of Hamburg and an inspection of often freely expressed in private conver the shipyards of the Vulkan Gesellschaft sation, that the impetuosity of the young
at Stettin. Already the thought was Emperor might involve the country in plainly in the Kaiser's active mind serious complications, especially in rela which he afterward expressed in the tion to foreign powers.
sentence, “Germany's future lies on the Conscious of this, and determined not water. to be influenced by it, William II took Germany was not at that time quite his own counsel, but not without resent ready for so great a widening of its horiment toward his critics. Years after zon, but William II evidently intended ward he said, referring to this period to make it so. The staid conservatism doubt: “I assumed the crown with a of Bismarck, tempered with the moderheavy heart; my capacity was every
ate liberalism of Unser Fritz, as the Gerwhere doubted, and everywhere 'I was mans affectionately called Frederick wrongly judged. Only one had confi- III, would have been far more acceptadence in me, only one believed in me, ble to those who had played a great rôle and that was the army; and, with its in the founding of the Empire; but, so support, and trusting in our old God, I far as sounding the depths of the German undertook my responsible office, know- soul is concerned, William II was a ing full well that the army is the main better psychologist than either of them. stay of my country and the chief pillar The people might distrust the Kaiser's of the Prussian throne, to which God in personal diplomacy, but they were inHis wisdom has summoned me.”
spired by his imagination. He was bent This passage reveals not only Kaiser
on creating a new age; and Germany, William's original and persistent basis of especially Young Germany, was ready self-confidence, but the ground of the to welcome it. public anxiety regarding his want of What the new Kaiser most comdiscretion. In a sense, all Germany was pletely represented was that vague enmilitary, and relied upon the army for tity known as Deutschtum. From myth its protection; but many a shoulder was and saga and song, from the clash and significantly shrugged at the thought of rattle of arms and the blare of trumpets,
he knew how to evoke it. What Richard with any sense always be referred to as Wagner caught and put into music “the old German God”? Only thus can that William II caught and put into he be spoken of as “our unconditional government. All that lingered about the and avowed ally.” “Unconditional, ” Rhine was laid on German lips to sing because whatever Germans do is right; again. All that was heroic in chivalrous and “avowed” because success in arms adventure was once more recalled, and is the sufficient evidence of his alliance. it was all made to seem German-only What made William II the master of German.
German destinies was the fact that he, Running through all this was the more than any other, was the embodilegend of the Kaiseridee—the religious ment of these tribal rhapsodies. sanctity of God's anointed shepherd And, in spite of all opposition, he beof the people. Barbarossa had at last came the master. His idealism, his awakened from his long sleep and come impetuosity, his self-confidence, to Bisforth from the mountain fastnesses marck appeared positively dangerous. which had hidden and guarded his tomb To many the venerable Chancellor, the until the day of his deliverance, and his virtual creator of the Empire, seemed spirit had become reincarnated in the the essential counterpoise and balancenew Emperor.
wheel to the young Emperor's spontaIt is difficult for strangers to realize neity; and this was the opinion of the forces wrapped up in the revival of a Prince Bismarck himself, who intended national culture restored from the mold to keep “this young man” within proper of ages. As a German writer has phrased bounds. it:
It is unnecessary here to repeat the It was as if the golden lute of Walther von
story, so often told, of the “dropping of der Vogelweide sang again softly through the
the pilot.” Bismarck himself believed ruined castles; as if unseen hands touched
it to be impossible. When they apthe bells in the weatherbeaten cathedral, and peared upon the streets of Berlin, where a glint of the morning rose over consecrated I often saw them pass in open carriages, cities. There was a rushing in the deep, as the Chancellor received as many signs if the treasure of the Nibelungen moved in of deference and devotion as the Emthe green house of the water; there was a
In truth, to all observers, in thrill in the air, as if Siegfried's horn sounded
1888-89, Bismarck seemed to be the in the distance.
corner - stone of the whole imperial If the dim remembrance of an old, structure. The best asset of the young almost dead, national culture worked Emperor was the fact that this seasoned such wonders, how much more would a statesman was by his side as friend and new, living culture be the sanctuary counselor. around which in the future the Germans In the Emperor's eyes the country should gather from near and far? Ger- squire, whom his grandfather had made man power and German beauty—these a prince, was, notwithstanding his abilshould be the goals of the new Germany! ity and his services, merely the creature As the fathers had made the Rhine a and the temporary instrument of the German river, so the sons should make Hohenzollern dynasty, for that alone the ocean a German lake! “Noch lebt possessed true authority, which God der alte Gott in unserem Blut!”
had directly bestowed upon it. The difFrankly, this is a revival of primitive ference, he thought, must be underpaganism. “The old German God” is
stood. not the sorrow-burdened Saviour of the Personally, William, as Crown Prince, world. He is a god of battles, made
had learned much from the astute statespotent through the swing and blows of man, and Bismarck's great services to his hammer. He is not the All-Holy, or the House of Hohenzollern were diseven the Creator of the universe, the All- tinctly recognized by him; but from the Father. He is a purely tribal divinity, moment of his accession the Emperor the apotheosis of tribal power and tribal felt that he was overshadowed in the hate, whose plans and protection are for world's esteem and made distinctly secGermans only. How otherwise can he ondary—he who should be first.
For the break, which in the Emper- that it was only in compliance with a or's mind was inevitable, there were promise to William I that he had conmany reasons. Not only was the Prince sented to remain in the service of his too conscious of his importance, but he grandson, and that he was ready to was scheming to cast the mantle of suc retire. cession to the chancellorship upon the Contrary to the Chancellor's expectashoulders of his unprincipled son, Count tion, the Émperor cried out, “I accept Herbert, for whom he had an inordinate your resignation," and left the room in affection. The Prince had aimed to a rage, without being accompanied by stamp out Socialism; but William in- the Chancellor, as the etiquette of the tended, to the Chancellor's disgust, to court required. destroy it as a party by winning it as a For days Bismarck struggled with his beneficiary. Bismarck, after forming pride, his ambition, and his indignation, the Triple Alliance with Austria and holding back the resignation on the Italy, believed he had a reinsurance for ground that so important a step repeace in a close friendship with Russia; quired careful preparation. In the end but William, who had seen with indigna it was peremptorily sent for and delivtion the grim fortifications at Brest ered. Unwilling to admit that he was Litovsk—a name recently made famous forced out of office, the Prince aimed a in an attempt at peace negotiations, parting arrow in his words to Moritz had conceived a profound distrust of the Busch, that he "did not wish to take Czar's purposes, and was disposed to upon his shoulders at the close of his cultivate the good-will of France and career the stupidities and mistakes of a hold firmly to the Austrian alliance. presumptuous and inexperienced mind.
It was a risk of some magnitude for To Holstein, who had worked with him the young Kaiser to base the Chancel in the Foreign Office, he said: “It is lor's overthrow on a question of foreign all over, and destiny wants me to look policy, in which he was regarded by all upon the destruction of my own work. Germans as a past-master.
... Can you understand what it is therefore, on an issue of personal pri to feel that one has become nothing macy that the rupture was staged. after having been everything?"
On March 15, 1890, having repri It was the Kaiser's victory. Men manded the Chancellor on the day be called him light-minded, but he had fore, through a court officer, for having appropriated the last ounce of personal held conversation with Windthorst, chief power, and that is what he desired. The of the Catholic party, without the pre- appointment of Caprivi, a general withvious assent of the Emperor, and having out experience in foreign, or even civil, received the Chancellor's reply that he affairs, as Chancellor seemed the acme would allow no one to say whom he of rashness. Yet no one was disposed to should receive in his house, William II challenge “this young man.”. drove to the palace of the Prince and At one moment, after the indignities demanded to see him in person. heaped upon the fallen Chancellor when
Although it was ten o'clock in the the Kaiser intervened to prevent his morning, the Chancellor was still in bed promised audience by Franz Joseph at and had to rise and dress.
Vienna, and other honors he was expectinterview followed, in which William II ing on the occasion of his visit to Austria asked Bismarck what he meant by nego to attend Count Herbert's wedding to tiations with Windthorst without previ an Austrian lady, Bismarck was disposed ously consulting him. The Prince re to react openly against his royal and plied that there were no negotiations, imperial master. Holstein had gone to only a private conversation; whereupon him to negotiate a peace with the he was instructed that in the future he Kaiser, and as a last argument had said, must keep the Emperor informed when what if his sovereign should in his anger he conferred with parliamentary leaders. have him imprisoned.
“I wish he Deeply resentful, the Prince replied would," answered the old Prince; "that that he could not permit interference would be the end of the Hohenzollern with his relations with any one, affirmed dynasty.”
But this was only an ebullition of the that the dismissal of the Chancellor was Prince's long pent-up wrath. Bismarck to him a painful act of duty. Two days himself had closed the door to revolu after the Prince was relieved of his tion. In framing the Imperial Consti office the Kaiser telegraphed to Count tution he had introduced a "joker" for Gorz Schlitz at Weimar: “I suffer as if himself, but the card was in the Emper- I had for a second time just lost my or's hand. He had made the Emperor grandfather. But God has so willed it
. absolute, irresponsible, with no tribunal I must support it.” And then, as if to before which he could be summoned, justify his action as a high political and no legal power in the hands of gov- necessity, he adds: “I have the position ernment or people by which his personal of officer of the watch on the bridge of will could be controlled. He who had the Ship of State. The course remains dealt a death blow to parliamentary the same; and now, full steam ahead!" government could not appeal to the But neither in spirit nor in fact did Reichstag, which he had emasculated the course remain the same. Between At a word from the Emperor it would be William II and Prince Bismarck, who dissolved. If it resisted, the army was was by no means pacified by being crethere to execute the law. In the Bun- ated Duke of Lauenburg at the time of desrat the case was equally hopeless. his retirement, there were differences of Nothing but a general revolution could view so wide as to be utterly incompatishake the power of the Kaiser. The ease ble, and this was recognized by both. with which the Chancellor had been The result was that the influences emaoverthrown by a single message, deliv- nating from Bismarck's estate at Friedered through a court officer, was richsruhe had to be officially repressed. conclusive demonstration of his utter On May 23d a general order was issued impotence, except as he spoke by the by the new Chancellor, Caprivi, to all Emperor's authority.
the diplomatic representatives of GerThere was, moreover, something else many to inform the governments to besides the Constitution and the army; which they were accredited “that His there was the German tribal religion, of Majesty distinguishes between the Biswhich the Kaiser was the High Priest. marck of other days and the Bismarck “My grandfather,” the Emperor said to of the present," and that “no imporhis faithful Brandenburgers a few days tance should be attached to what the before Bismarck's fall — "my grandfa press may say regarding the views of ther considered that the office of king Bismarck." was a task that God had assigned to A later Chancellor, Prince von Hohenhim, to which up to the last moment he lohe, who heard from the Kaiser's own consecrated all his forces. That which lips, as the Prince reports in his memoirs, he thought I also think, and I see in the the story of the estrangement, quotes people and the country that have been William II as saying to him—and for transmitted to me a trust that is con this revelation the Kaiser never forgave fided to me by God, which it is my duty him—that for the three weeks before his to increase. Those who wish to aid dismissal of Bismarck he had had "a devme in that task, whoever they are, I il of a time” with him, the question being welcome with all my heart; those who "whether the dynasty Bismarck or the oppose me in this work I shall crush.”
dynasty Hohenzollern should reign." The overthrow of Bismarck was a In the public speeches immediately convincing object-lesson. Fortified by following Prince Bismarck's retirement the law, the army, and the religious sen the Kaiser took pains to make it undertiment of the people, the Kaiser was stood, both at home and abroad, that supreme.
in foreign relations it was the head of But William II was too intelligent to the state alone who should be reckoned permit himself to be considered ungrate with. At a banquet in the royal palace ful for the immense services rendered to at Christiania, for example, he said: the House of Hohenzollern by the recog “I consider it necessary for a sovereign nized creator of the German Empire. that he should personally inform himself In every way
he tried to make it appear about everything; that he should form
his opinion for himself; that he should 1879, and completed by similar agreebecome acquainted with his neighbors, ments between Austria and Italy and in order to establish and maintain good Germany and Italy in 1882. But the relations with them: such is the object friendship of Prussia with Russia was a of my foreign journeys.". In the next far older one, and in Bismarck's mind it six months he made six visits to foreign was still of great importance to Gercourts.
many. He had been anxious to retain It was this personal diplomacy, this it, and had taken measures to do so. attempt to base international relations In fact, had he not feared making Gerupon personal sentiments and compli- many altogether dependent upon Russia, ments and toasts after dinner, that had and liable in this relation to be held in seriously disturbed the mind of Bis check by her in any future attack upon marck; and, as we shall have occasion France, he might even have preferred to see in following the consequences of an alliance with Russia rather than with this policy, in opposition to a policy of Austria; for, as he once said, “In point foreign affairs based on legal principles of material force I held a union with and a reasoned understanding of mutual Russia to have the advantage.” It was, interests, it is this attitude that has kept in fact, the policy which Emperor Willthe German Empire in a ferment and all iam I would have preferred. Europe in a state of periodical crises Bismarck's alter ego, Herr Holstein, ever since the reign of William II began. the cunning spider at the center of the “It is very natural,” said Bismarck, web in Wilhelmstrasse, has left on record after his resentment had cooled down, a sentence that reveals the mainspring “that a mentor like myself does not of Bismarck's diplomacy with a sudden please him, and that he rejects my ad- glare of light: "With Russia as an ally vice. An old cart-horse and a young we might crush Austria, but we could courser go ill in harness together. Only never destroy France, and it is France political problems are not so easy as a that must be destroyed before the Gerchemical combination: they deal with man Empire can develop itself, as it is human beings."
essential it should do in the future." In the opinion of William II, the only A friendship with Russia strong enough human beings to be considered in inter to secure her neutrality in the future as national politics were the sovereigns; in the past, but not the obligations of an but Bismarck understood that diplo- alliance--unless it became necessary to macy has also to do with the interests of peace—that, in Holstein's mind, was the nations. The Prince had warned him policy of Bismarck. not to trust to merely personal relations went on, in a confidential interview, "the and impressions, but the Kaiser had next war is bound to be for us a quespursued his own course. His early visit tion of existence. If we fight it successto Alexander III, a man of experience fully, then we shall be able to proceed and calculation, immediately after his to a general disarmament of Europe, toaccession as German Emperor, had left gether with a restriction of our own him with a deep prejudice against Rus- military forces. Therefore, we ought to sia. The Czar had not taken his youth- watch carefully for the moment when ful enthusiasms very seriously, and the this war can be brought about with the Kaiser had not failed to resent this. minimum of risk to ourselves and the When, therefore, Bismarck insisted that maximum to our foes. When we concare must be given to the friendship sider this moment to have arrived we with Russia, William II was disposed must begin it, whether we like it or not; to think lightly of it.
and what neither Bismarck nor myself What Bismarck had feared was a pos was sure of was, whether Russia would sible alliance between France and Rus- allow us to seize it, whereas with Austria sia, both of which were left isolated by no such complication could be feared. the situation that had been created on
With "Austria beside us who the Continent by the formation of the knows—perhaps one or two Balkan Triple Alliance, begun by the defensive states, we can crush both France and agreement of Germany and Austria in Russia and neutralize England."