Page images

energetically against the recruiting of mercenaries in Germany and refused to allow them to march across his territory unless they paid the tax usually levied on cattle going to the slaughter pens.

Moreover the Great Frederic asked no salary for his work on behalf of American Independence.

Then why not put Steuben in the cellar and restore Frederic to an honorable pedestal, just to let the world know that we are a grateful people, in spite of the World War.

But this is a digression. No one admired the great Iron Chancelor more than his young pupil who ascended the throne in 1888. Moreover that year 1888 was one so crowded with momentous happenings that a stronger character than that of William II might have been pardoned for a political tort at some point or other. He stood at the close of a great historical era and was opening a new one under conditions most perplexing for a Prussian.

On the one hand, the venerable William I who had lived more than 90 years in the full possession of his faculties; who had fought against the Great Napoleon; who had seen Prussia laid waste after Jena; who had fled with Queen Louisa, his mother, to Tilsit in that dreary winter of 1806-7; who had entered Paris in triumph in 1814, in 1815 and finally in 1871. The Venerable William hated war as much as did the

Philosophical Frederic; and so soon as he had achieved what he regarded as essential-the unity of Germany and protection from future invasion, he wished for only a long life of rest. Old William, in harmony with his contemporary warriors and statesmen, was satisfied on land and took little if any interest in tropical colonies or over sea ventures. William II in these matters diverged from the tradition of his house, altho he made a poor excuse by pretending that once in a hazy past there had been a Hohenzollern attempt on the African coast under the so-called Great Elector. William the Venerable and Bismarck had a wholesome contempt for government by majorities; on the contrary, their experience in the Revolution of 1848 had confirmed their faith in government by one ostensible chief-unity of command, as we would say in military parlance. Both believed in the rule of an Autocrathowbeit they held that faith because they regarded the monarch as the only force capable of being benevolent and strong at the same time.

On the other side was the Emperor Frederic who had for wife the gifted daughter of Queen Victoria, a sister of the beloved Edward VII. Emperor Frederic and his wife were each cast in modern mould, where Bismarck and his royal master embodied a modernized feudalism. Frederic ascended the throne on the death of his venerable father in 1888. He was a

dying man and lived but 100 days thereafter. But those days nearly made a palace revolution; for the court and the army chiefs looked upon Frederic the Noble as a conservative banker would regard an anarchist mob leader; they dreaded the reign of one who had openly consorted with men of political independence and whose wife was known to have praised a parliamentary system of government. These details which today sound childish were in 1888 material for political earthquakes likely to drench the country in the blood of a new civil war. t is on its

Between these eddies and whirlpools the young Kaiser had to paddle his canoe. He loved his father and mother from a domestic point of view; but politically he saw no salvation in democracy or even in representative government. Bismarck was his model statesman and William I his ideal King. 'Ï


Once, I think it was in 1891, I urged the Kaiser to make war on Russia. His army was in excellent state; his fellow Germans in Russia were being shamefully persecuted by the religious authorities backed by the police; the Poles were suffering equally from administrative diserimination and the state of Europe was then such as to have promised him success and new territory at less cost than the Great Frederic expended for Silesia.

My proposition was rejected, but not upon its

merits. William II looked at me intently and then, as one making up his mind to do his duty at whatever cost, said that it was impossible that on his death bed, he had received the monition of his venerable grandfather to cultivate at any cost the friendship of Russia. SVA

And you of self governing ideals may pause to ask why the land of universal education and religious tolerance should so zealously desire unity with an Empire conspicuous for illiteracy and barbarie intolerance! The Kaiser's reason to me was that at that moment there were but two great nations based broadly and solidly on Autocracy, Prussia and Russia!

And now as I gaze at the wreckage of Romanoff and Hohenzollern thrones, those words have a portentous value in explaining many an error in his reign of thirty years.

He was an Autocrat an avowed one a benevolent ruler, a deeply religious Christian, and at the same time I venture to think that he was the most universally admired if not the most beloved figure in the whole wide world.

He dismissed Bismarck for two good reasons and I repeat them as he gave them to me at the time.

The first reason was that Bismarck, whilst professing support of an absolute monarchy, actually had come to regard himself as the ruler of the Empire instead

of the first subject of its Emperor. You may for yourself see that from the accession of Bismarck in 1862 until the close of the French War ten years afterwards, each step of the Iron Chancelor meant an aggrandisement of Prussia, because it was taken hand in hand with a victorious Prussian army. The wars that made of Germany the arbiter of Europe were the three fought within a space of seven years-between 1864 and 1871. Diplomacy is a comparatively simple game when one party is a victorious army and the other must accept whatever terms are offered. The Iron Chancelor stood at the zenith of his fame and power when France lay bruised and bleeding at his feet in 1871. He did not permit her to rise and bind those wounds until she had signed the bond by which her fairest provinces were surrendered and by which a money payment was exacted so heavy that all the world thought the terms ruinous.

Moreover the great diplomatist accepted no promissory notes or promises of any kind. He demanded blood and-coin. And until his demands were met to the uttermost farthing he kept a Prussian army camped on the soil of France and that army lived on the fat of the land.

But after the bruising of Denmark, Austria and France, Germany needed no longer a bruiser, but a statesman; and you who have his life at your elbow


« PreviousContinue »