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Impressions of the Kaiser. By David Jayne Hill. New York: Harper
and Brothers. $2.00, pp. 367.
If the scope of this work were not wider than the title would seem to indicate, it might not be appropriate for review in a journal of international law. It is not, however, a mere series of personal anecdotes of William of Hohenzollern or of his entourage. It is, on the other hand, a broad, studious and comprehensive examination of the international ambition, practice and policy of Germany for two generations and of the predominant influence of the Kaiser in creating that ambition and establishing and carrying out that practice and policy during the past thirty years.
Mr. Hill's preparation for this task is obvious. His vigorous and industrious life has been spent in political and historical studies, or in the diplomatic service, or in the Department of State of the United States. He has served as Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, when that office was next to the Secretary and often made him Acting Secretary, as Minister to Switzerland and the Netherlands and Ambassador to Germany, and as one of the delegates to the Second Hague Peace Conference. He is the author of many valued works on many subjects, but especially, during the past twenty-five years, he has dealt copiously with international history and relations and diplomacy.
The present volume covers 367 pages and is divided into ten chapters whose titles indicate its range. They are: “The Sources of the Kaiser's Power," "The Kaiser's Methods of Personal Control," "The Kaiser as a Stage Manager," "The Kaiser under Fire," "The Kaiser's Reversion to Type," "The Kaiser and His People," "The Kaiser's Attitude toward War and Peace,” “The Kaiser's Efforts for British Neutrality,” “The Kaiser's Double Diplomacy,” “The Kaiser's Responsibility for the War."
Dr. Hill in his preface says that it is not merely with William II as a personality that we are here concerned, but with the whole process of seduction by which as German Emperor he has led the German people, at first distrustful of his purposes, to render themselves subservient to the Prussian conception of the State and the ambition of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Under his tuition and guidance, from motives which he has been able to excite and call into action, they have built up a war machine of perilous potency without providing means for its rational control. They have rendered the State omnipotent and irresponsible, and have placed its powers at the disposal of a single will that holds itself without accountability to men.” This is a powerful statement of the origin and result of 80-called Prussianism and may well serve as a warning to any nation which finds itself subject to the beginning of such dominance and feels the pressure of such an egotistical and absolute will.
Dr. Hill says that “actual government always consists more in a spirit than in a form;'' that “a ruler nominally absolute may listen to the voice of his people, while the head of a democracy may exercise and display the qualities of a Cæsar.” He points out that strong central control, essential for Germany and the character of the Prussian monarchy, opened a path toward absolutism ;' that the German Constitution presents a “façade of liberalism but conceals the absolute authority conferred upon the King of Prussia under the most plausible camouflage;' that this was devised by Bismarck to make himself, as Imperial Chancellor, omnipotent under a merely titular head; that the young Kaiser, impressed by the victors returned from France, started his reign by claiming as his heritage “the absolute and indestructible fidelity of the Army,” he regarding it as a “dynastic possession.”
Mr. Hill shows that "although, in other respects not much approved of, America was the model upon which the Kaiser built his plans of material prosperity and the great movements that quickened the economic life of the Empire were initiated by men who took the pains, first of all, to learn the lessons of America. The sympathy between the two countries at that time was intense and sincere;' that “William II thought that German territory should increase with the German population in order that as few Germans as possible should cease to be his subjects;” that he urged that in foreign lands Teutons must be missionaries "for German culture and German trade,” having their own schools and churches to keep the “maternal language” alive; that “no other monarch in the world insisted that personal fealty to himself must be carried into foreign lands;" that by control of the sources of power and advancement, by denying everything to liberal and according everything to servile writers and scholars, he brought the universities under his influence and made them no longer seats of freedom but essential parts of his dynastic propaganda.
Even the great Treitschke was threatened in his later years “with having the archives closed to him” because he had ventured to unfavorably though indefinitely, portray the foibles of the Sovereign, and timely death alone saved the old man from further humiliation; that Quidde, the Munich professor, who wrote “Caligula,” which was recognized as a blasting satire upon William, was charged with lèse Majesté:“Whom have you in mind in writing this article?” demanded the cross-examiner. “Caligula, of course," was the prompt reply, “Whom have you in mind, Mr. Solicitor?” The government was baffled and the prosecution dropped.
Mr. Hill says that knowing personally many of the ninety-three distinguished Germans who signed the manifesto of university professors justifying the violation of Belgian territory, he cannot believe that mere vulgar fear of the consequences of refusal actuated them. “This act,” he says, “was the fruit of twenty-five years of subservi. ency so habitual that they solemnly proclaimed a falsehood because they had been accustomed to think that whatever the Emperor ordered could not be wrong.” He says the Kaiser saw no value in an independent public opinion, a state of mind which by some strange infection seems now for the first time observable in the public life of other nations.
He points out that no one ever interfered with peaceful German commerce, to•which all ports were open and for which all waters were safe, yet the Kaiser expanded his navy to carry his militarism beyond the frontiers of Germany and to dominate the sea, seeking to make it a German lake as his fathers had made the Rhine a German river. Mr. Hill says of the Kaiser on his histrionic side: “Beneath the flowing robe of the peace-maker the protruding scabbard of the sword has always trailed across the stage.” He points out that at various times the Kaiser earnestly desired peace with other nations, as with England and the United States, but this was merely such neutrality as would leave him to destroy or devour other nations which were the proximate objects of his enmity or his greed; that he expected the great number of persons of German blood in America to determine her course in that way.
Mr. Hill tells of his first presentation to the Emperor. He found him waiting in the palace garden, clad in white with a silver helmet on his head, looking like Lohengrin, and records his personal charm, but found “a mind distorted, led into captivity and condemned to crime by the obsession that God has but one people and they are his people; that the people have but one will and that is his will; that God has but one purpose and that is his purpose; and, being responsible only to the God of his imagination, a purely tribal divinity, the reflection of his own power-loving nature, that he has no definite responsibility to men.” He shows that, he being subject to this obsession, no restraints were possible upon the Kaiser and no promises binding. Under pretense of danger to the fatherland he increased armament by sea and land, when the only danger to the peace of Europe rose from the trespasses and machinations of Germany and its dependent ally, Austria-Hungary.
He examines the claim of divine appointment made by the Kaiser, and shows the vassalage, negotiations and vicissitudes through which the Hohenzollerns advanced to the throne. He shows that no moral principle but success alone was the Kaiser's test of divine intention, “and so the Hohenzollern prerogatives, which obtain but little comfort from science, seek their safe asylum in the mysteries of religion.”
In no country of Europe has the feudal system continued to affect the social organization to the extent it has in Germany. When the French were proclaiming the “Rights of Man” as axioms of the human mind, German princes were selling their subjects as foreign mercenaries in the same spirit as they would enter upon a transaction for the shipment of cattle; and there was no suggestion of revolt.
He shows that German philosophy, from Hegel down, has represented the State as a superior entity for whose aggrandizement the individual exists; that all society is modeled on the army, “a system of super-imposed classes,” every one tenacious of his title, petty or otherwise; that under this system the higher may with impunity neglect or abuse the lower, but that any inattention to a superior is held to deserve punishment. There was no craving for individual liberty in the English or American sense, and “freedom meant only exemption from want and misery.” That the Kaiser in his personal addresses never refers to the prescriptions of international law or to principles of any kind, but speaks on great questions like a primitive
oriental despot. “Sic volo, sic jubeo" seemed his motto, but a decision once made he regarded thereafter as the act of God.
He points out that in the negotiations between Germany with England, through Lord Haldane, in 1912, the former proposed absolute neutrality for each country in case the other was at war with a third; but the purpose of this was not peace, but aggressive war, the very war that has followed, with England with her hands tied. Fortunately the negotiations were not successful. Bernhardi wrote that if England consented to the expansion of Germany and Austria as both European and colonial Powers and in military and naval equipment, “European peace would be assured and a powerful counterpoise would be created to the growing influence of the United States." Perhaps to cover these machinations, Fried published his book “The German Emperor and the World Peace,” in which the Kaiser was posed as the most pacific of rulers.
Dr. Hill says that the Kaiser offers no defense of his procedure in bringing on the most bloody and destructive war of all history, except to complain that Great Britain complicated his plans by not observing the neutrality he had desired, but which England had not pledged herself to, and which would have meant the destruction of her allies as a preliminary to her own humiliation. When on July 26, 1914, Sir Edward Grey, alarmed at the prospect of a war engulfing all Europe, proposed a conference to prevent it, the German Government refused to“fall in with” the suggestion and deemed it “not practicable." To cause England to desist in her rôle of peace-maker, on the 29th the German Ambassador informed Sir Edward that the German Chancellor would mediate between Vienna and St. Petersburg, and the Kaiser promised his good offices to the Czar. The Kaiser, in his message to President Wilson, represents that on the morning of July 31st, while preparing a note to the Czar to inform him that Vienna, London and Berlin were agreed, he was interrupted by a telephone message from his Chancellor saying that on the night before the Czar had ordered the whole Russian army mobilized. Mr. Hill shows that this information was actually received not in the morning, but the evening of July 31st, and the Russian mobilization was not ordered until the afternoon of that day. So that on the evening of the 31st, when the Kaiser had a modified consent from Vienna to comply with Sir Edward's suggestion and from the Czar suggesting arbitration at The Hague, an alternative was telegraphed St. Petersburg that if Russia