FACE TO FACE WITH KAISERISM
JAMES W. GERARD
Late Ambassador to the German Imperial Court, Author of "My Four Years in Germany"
New York George H. Doran Company Copyright, 1918, by George H. Doran Company Copyright, 1918, by The Public Ledger Company Copyright, Canada, 1918, by The Public Ledger Company
Printed in the United States of America
COLONEL EDWARD M. HOUSE
STATESMAN AND FRIEND
DEDICATES THIS BOOK
In some measure this book is a continuation of MY FOUR YEARS IN GERMANY, the narrative here being carried up to the time of my return home, with some observations on the situation I have found in the United States.
What I want especially to impress upon the people of the United States is that we are at war because Germany invaded the United States—an invasion insidiously conceived and vigorously prosecuted for years before hostilities began;—that this war is our war;—that the sanctity of American freedom and of the American home depend upon what we do NOW.
JAMES W. GERARD.
NEW YORK, APRIL FIRST, 1918.
I PERSONALITY OF THE KAISER AND SOMETHING OF THE KING BUSINESS 13
II WHO DOES THE KAISER'S THINKING AND WHO DECIDED ON THE BREAK WITH AMERICA? 32
III WHO SANK THE "LUSITANIA"? 42
IV THE KAISER AND "LESE-MAJESTE" 49
V WHEN THE KAISER THOUGHT WE WERE BLUFFING 55
VI THE INSIDE OF GERMAN DIPLOMACY 73
VII GERMANY'S PLAN TO ATTACK AMERICA 84
VIII GERMANY'S EARLY PLOTS IN MEXICO 111
IX THE KULTUR OF KAISERDOM—THE GERMAN SOUL 129
X THE LITTLE KAISERS 143
XI ROYALTY'S RECREATION 148
XII THE ETERNAL FEMININE 157
XIII HOME LIFE AND "BRUTALITY" OF THE PEOPLE 166
XIV AIMS OF THE AUTOCRACY 174
XV AUSTRIA-HUNGARY—THE KAISER'S VASSAL STATE 196
XVI GERMAN INFLUENCE ON THE NORTHERN NEUTRALS 217
XVII SWITZERLAND—ANOTHER KIND OF NEUTRAL 230
XVIII A GLIMPSE OF FRANCE 237
XIX MY INTERVIEW WITH THE KING OF SPAIN 251
XX GERMAN SPIES AND THEIR METHODS 263
XXI EN ROUTE HOME—KAISERISM IN AMERICA 273
XXII THAT INTERVIEW WITH THE KAISER 300
XXIII THE FUTURE KAISER—THE CROWN PRINCE AND HIS BROTHERS 312
XXIV WHEN GERMANY WILL BREAK DOWN 323
XXV THE ERRORS OF EFFICIENT GERMANY 340
XXVI PRESIDENT WILSON AND PEACE 346
XXVII AFTER THE WAR, WHAT? 368
THE KAISER AND VON TREUTLER Frontispiece
THE IRON CROSS 36
THE UNITED STATES EMBASSY STAFF, BERLIN 50
FACSIMILE OF AN ORDER ISSUED BY COMMANDER OF GERMAN PRISON CAMP OF DOEBERITZ 78
COVER OF PAMPHLET BY JOHN L. STODDARD 104
PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN IN COURTYARD OF EMBASSY, AUGUST, 1916 126
EXAMPLE OF A COMMEMORATIVE MEDAL OFFERED FOR SALE 152
VIEWS OF A TYPICAL HOLSTEIN COUNTRY HOME 188
MAIN STAIRWAY IN THE AMERICAN EMBASSY, BERLIN 210
AMBASSADORS SHARP AND GERARD, PARIS, FEBRUARY, 1917 240
THE "INFANTA ISABELLA" 274
PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN AFTER BANQUET GIVEN AMBASSADOR GERARD ON JANUARY 6TH, 1917 304
THE CROWN PRINCE AND CROWN PRINCESS 316
REPRODUCTION OF ZEPPELIN POST CARD OF PATRIOTIC SENTIMENT 336
ZEPPELIN POST CARD SOLD IN GERMANY 336
FACE TO FACE WITH KAISERISM
PERSONALITY OF THE KAISER AND SOMETHING OF THE KING BUSINESS
To the American mind the Kaiser is the personification of Germany. He is the arch enemy upon whom the world places the responsibility for this most terrible of all wars. I have sat face to face with him in the palace at Berlin where, as the personal representative and envoy of the President of the United States, I had the honor of expressing the viewpoint of a great nation. I have seen him in the field as the commanding general of mighty forces, but I also have seen him in the neutral countries through which I passed on my return home and in my own beloved land—in the evidence of intrigue and plotting which this militaristic monarch has begotten and which is to-day "the Thing," as President Wilson calls it, which has brought the American people face to face with kaiserism in the greatest conflict of all history.
What manner of man is he? What is his character? How much was he responsible for what has happened—how much his General Staff? What of the Crown Prince and what of the neutral peoples and their rulers whom Germany has intimidated and would fain subjugate if it suited her purpose? These are the questions I shall attempt to answer out of my experiences in Germany and my contacts with the rulers of other countries in my journeys to and from Berlin and Washington.
To illustrate the craft of the Kaiser, I believe I can perform no better service to Americans than to reveal an incident which has not hitherto been published. It occurred at the New Year's reception of 1914 when the Ambassadors of all the foreign countries represented at the German court, were ranged in a large room at the Palace. They stood about six feet apart in the order of their residence in Berlin. The Kaiser and his aides entered the room, and the Emperor spoke a few minutes to each envoy. He tarried longest with the Turkish Ambassador and myself, thereby arousing the curiosity of the other diplomats who suspected that the Kaiser did more than merely exchange the greetings of the season. He did.
What the German Emperor said to me interests every American because it shows his subtlety of purpose. The Kaiser talked at length to me about what he called Japan's designs on the United States. He warned me that Mexico was full of Japanese spies and an army of Japanese colonels. He also spoke about France, saying that he had made every effort to make up with France, that he had extended his hand to that country but that the French had refused to meet his overtures, that he was through and would not try again to heal the breach between France and Germany!
All this was in 1914, six months before the outbreak of the European War. Little did I know then what the purpose was back of that conversation, but it is clear now that the Emperor wished to have the government of the United States persuaded through me that he was really trying to keep Europe at peace and that the responsibility for what was going to happen would be on France. The German is so skilful at intrigue that he seeks even in advance of an expected offensive to lay the foundation for self-justification.
But the reference to Japan and alleged hostility against us on the part of fanciful hordes of Japanese in Mexico made me wonder at the time. There were many evidences subsequent to that New Year's Day reception of an attempt to alienate us from Japan. As a climax to it all, as a clarification of what the Emperor had in mind, came the famous Zimmermann note, the instructions to the German Minister in Mexico to align both Japan and Mexico against us when we entered the war against Germany!
Plotting and intriguing for power and mastery! Such is the business of absolute rulers.
I believe that had the old Austrian Kaiser lived a little while longer, the prolongation of his life would have been most disastrous both for Austria and Hungary. I believe after the death of Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo and after a year of war the German Emperor and autocracy were brooding over a plan according to which, on the death of Francis Joseph, the successor should be allowed to rule only as King or Grand-Duke of Austria, the title of Emperor of Austria to disappear and German Princes to be placed upon the thrones of Hungary and of a new kingdom of Bohemia. These and the king or grand-duke of Austria were to be subject-monarchs under the German Kaiser, who was thus to revive an empire, if not greater, at least more powerful, than the empires of Charlemagne and of Charles the Fifth. Many public utterances of the German Kaiser show that trend of mind.
Emperor William deliberately wrote and published, for instance, such a statement as this: "From childhood I have been influenced by five men, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Theodoric II, Frederick the Great and Napoleon. Each of these men dreamed a dream of world empire. They failed. I have dreamed a dream of German world empire and my mailed fist shall succeed."
Could any declaration of a life's ambition be more explicit? It seems impossible for human ambition to stand still. Either a man loses all stimulus of self and becomes as spiritless as a fagged animal or ambition drives him always on—he is never content with any success achieved. The millionaire to whom the first million, when he was a boy, seemed the extreme limit of human wealth and desire, presses on insatiably with the first million in his pocket, more restless, more dissatisfied, than the hungry farmer's boy who first carries his ambitions to the great city.
When these zealous, scheming men gain the power of kingship, they usually bring disaster to their country. Their subjects find no compensation in the personal ambitions which hurry a nation into the miseries of war. Better Charles II, dallying with his ringletted mistresses, than an Alexander the Great; better Henry the Fourth of France, the "ever-green gallant," than Frederick the Great, bathing his people in blood. "Happy nations have no history."
William the Second, the present German Emperor, might well be called the Restless Emperor. He is never satisfied to remain more than a few days in any place or in any occupation. He commands his armies in person. He has won distinction as a writer and a public speaker. He is an excellent shot. He has composed music, written verses, superintended the production of a ballet, painted a picture; the beautiful Byzantine chapel in the Castle of Posen shows his genius for architecture; and, clothed in a clergyman's surplice, he has preached a sermon in Jerusalem. What ruler in all history has exhibited such extraordinary versatility?
In my conversations with the Emperor I have been struck by his knowledge of other countries, lands which he had never visited. He was familiar not only with their manners, customs, industries and public men, but with their commercial problems. Through his conversation one can see the keen eye of the Hanseatic trader looking with eager envy on the trade of a rival merchant. The Emperor, incidentally, while instinctively commercial, has an inborn contempt, if not for the law, at least for lawyers. In October, 1915, for instance, he remarked to me, "This is a lawyers' war, Asquith and Lloyd George in England, Poincare and Briand in France."
In appearance and conversation Emperor William is very manly. His voice is strong, with a ring in it. He is a good rider. Following the German custom, he puts on his nightshirt every afternoon after lunch and sleeps for two hours—for the German is more devoted to the siesta than the Spaniard or Mexican. The hours of the Berlin Foreign Office, for example, were from eleven to one and from four to eight. After a heavy lunch at one o'clock all the officials took a nap for an hour or two. Also, the hours of the bank where I did business were from ten to one and from four till six. This meant that after six o'clock the clerks had to sit until perhaps eight making up the books for the day.
In 1916, the Olympic games were to have taken place at Berlin, and in September, 1913, before sailing for Germany, I attended a luncheon at the New York Athletic Club, given by President Page, with the members of the German Commission who had come to America to study athletics and to see what could be done in Germany so that the Germans could make a good showing at the games in their own city.
After my arrival in Germany one of the members of this commission told me that it was impossible, he believed, to organise the Germans as athletes until German meal and business hours had been changed. He said that with us in America young men leaving business at four-thirty, five or five-thirty, had time in which to exercise before their evening meal, but that in Germany the young men ate so much at the midday meal that they required their siesta after it, and that they did not leave their offices until so late in the evening that exercise and practice were impossible.
On the Emperor's table his wine glasses or rather cups are of silver. Possibly this is because he has been forbidden by his physician to drink wine. The Germans maintain the old-fashioned custom of drinking healths at meals. Some one far down the table will lift his glass, look at you and smile. You are then expected to lift your glass and drink with him and then both bow and smile over the glasses. As the Emperor must reciprocate with every one present, his champagne and wine are put in silver cups in order that those drinking wine with him do not see that he consumes no appreciable quantity of alcoholic liquor on the occasion of each health drinking. Some people in America may have often wished for a similar device.
The Emperor is out of uniform only on rare occasions. Occasionally, when in a foreign country, he has appeared in civilian dress, as shown in the accompanying photograph, taken in 1910 at the small town of Odde in Norway, where he had landed from his yacht. He appears to much better advantage in uniform than in civilian attire. Although uniformed while at sea as an Admiral, his favourite uniform is really that of the Hussars. In this picture he is accompanied by Baron von Treutler, Prussian Minister to Bavaria and Foreign Office representative with the Kaiser. Von Treutler is a German of the world. I met him at the Great General Headquarters, at the end of April, 1916, when the submarine question was being discussed. He came to dinner several times at the Chancellor's house, undoubtedly reporting back what was said to the Emperor, and I believe that his voice was against the resumption of ruthless submarine warfare and in favour of peace with America. Shortly after this period he fell into disfavour and went back to occupy his post of Minister in Munich.
In conversation, the Emperor reminds one very much of Roosevelt, talking with the same energy, the same violence of gesture and of voice so characteristic of our great ex-President. When the Emperor talks all his attention is given to you and all his mental energy is concentrated on the conversation. In this violence of manner and voice he seems not at all German. The average German is neither exuberant nor soft-spoken.
His favourite among his ancestors is William of Orange. Once he attended a fancy-dress ball in costume and make-up copied from the well-known picture of that Prince. The Emperor is strongly built and is about five feet nine inches tall. He sits well on his horse and walks, too, with head erect and shoulders thrown back—a picture of military precision.
A friend of mine who was present at Kiel with his yacht, in 1910, tells me that when all the yachts and warships had been assembled along the long narrow waterway which constitutes that harbour, with the crews lined up on deck or manning the yards, with bands crashing and banners floating, the Hohenzollern slowly steamed into the harbour and passed lazily and majestically through the waiting ships. Alone on the upper bridge stood the Monarch, attired in full military uniform, with white coat and tight breeches, high top boots, shining silver breastplate and silver helmet, surmounted by an eagle, the dress of the Prussian Guard Regiment so dear to those who portray romantic and kingly roles upon the stage, a figure on whom all eyes were fixed, as splendid as that of Lohengrin, drawn by his fairy swan, coming to rescue the unjustly accused Princess. And, alas, the Germans like all this pomp and splendour. It appeals to something in the German heart and seems to create a feeling of affection and humility in the German breast.
When I talked at length one day with President Wilson on my visit to America in October, 1916, he remarked, half to himself, in surprise at my tale of war, "Why does all this horror come on the world? What causes it?" "Mr. President," I answered, "it is the king business."
I did not mean nominal kings as harmless as those of Spain and England. I was thinking of the powerful monarchs. A German republic would never have embarked on this war; a German Congress would have thought twice before sending their own sons to death in a deliberate effort to enslave other peoples. In a free Germany teachers, ministers and professors would not have taught the necessity of war. What German merchant in a free Germany would have thought that all the trade of the East, all the riches of Bagdad and Cairo and Mosul could compensate him for the death of his first-born or restore the blind eyes to the youngest son who now crouches, cowering, over the fire, awaiting death? For there was no trade necessity for this war. I know of no place in the world where German merchants were not free to trade. The disclosures of war have shown how German commerce had penetrated every land, to an extent unknown to the best informed. If the German merchants wanted this war in order to gain a German monopoly of the world's trade, then they are rightly suffering from the results of overweening covetousness.
Experts in insanity say that the Roman Emperors as soon as they attained the rule of the world were made mad by the possession of that stupendous power. The sceptre of Emperor William is mighty. No more autocratic influence proceeds from any other monarch or ruler. But you will say how about our President in time of war? Great power can safely be given to a president. Our presidents have all risen from the ranks. Usually they have gone through the school of hard knocks. And there are ways of keeping them abreast of the people.
It is told that hidden from public view, crouched down in the chariot in which the successful Roman pro-consul or general drove triumphantly through the crowded streets of Rome, was a slave celebrated for his impertinence, whose duty it was to make the one honoured feel that, after all, he was nothing more than an ordinary mortal blessed with a certain amount of good luck. Probably as the chariot passed by the forum the slave would say, after a thunderous burst of applause from the populace: "Do not take that applause too seriously. That is the T. Quintus Cassius Association whose chief received a hundred sesterces from your brother-in-law yesterday, on account, with a promise of a hundred more in case the Association's cheers seemed loud and sincere."
So in America the press, serious and comic, takes the place of the humble slave and throws enough cold water on the head of any temporarily successful American to reduce it to normal proportions. Besides, the President knows that some day he must return to the ranks, live again with his neighbours, seek out the threads of a lost law practice or eke out a livelihood on the Chautauqua circuit in the discomfort of tiny hotels, travelling in upper berths instead of private cars and eating on lunch stools in small stations instead of in the sumptuous surroundings of presidential luxury. These are sobering prospects.
Kings, on the other hand, come to look on their subjects as toys. A post-card popular in Austria and Germany showed the old Emperor, Francis Joseph, seated at a table with a little great-grand-nephew on his knee, teaching the child to move toy soldiers about on the boards; and it is unfortunately true that the same youngster—should the system of the Central Empires be perpetuated—will be able to move his subjects across the map of Europe just as he did the toy soldiers on his great-grand-uncle's table. He will be able to tear men from their work and their homes, to seize great scientists, great chemists, great inventors—men who may be on the eve of discoveries or remedies destined to rid the human race of the scourge of cancer or the white plague—and send them to death in the marshes of Macedonia or the fastnesses of the Carpathians because some fellow-king or emperor has deceived or outwitted him.
In a monarchy all subjects seem the personal property of the monarch and all expressions of power become personal. This extends throughout all countries ruled by royalty.
* * * * *
When, for example, a member of the royal family dies, even in another country, it must be lamented by the court circle of other lands. Here is the official notice sent to all diplomats and members of the Imperial German Court on the occasion of the death of the Queen of Sweden.
"The Court goes into mourning to-day for Her Majesty the Queen-Mother of Sweden for three weeks up to and including the 19th of January, 1914.
"Ladies wear black silk dresses, for the first fourteen days, including January 12th, with black hair ornaments, black gloves, black fans and black jewelry; the last eight days with white hair ornaments, grey gloves, white fans and pearls.
"Gentlemen wear the whole time a black band on the left sleeve. Civilians wear with the embroidered coat, during the first fourteen days, including January 12th, on occasions of Grand Gala, black buckles and swords with black sheathes. During the last eight days bright buckles; on occasions of 'Half Gala' gold or silver embroidered trousers of the color of the uniform and in the one as in the other case gold or silver embroidered hat with white plume; with the 'small' uniform, however, black trousers (or knee-breeches, black silk stockings, shoes with black bows and the 'three-cornered' hat with black plume). During the first fourteen days gentlemen wear black woolen vests and black gloves, in the last eight days black silk vests and grey gloves.
"Berlin, December 30, 1913.
"The Ober-Ceremonienmeister. "GRAF A. EULENBURG.
"By command of His Majesty the Emperor, mourning will be suspended for New Year's Day and the 17th and 18th of January."
So, it is apparent what a close corporation all the royal families make and the peoples are simply viewed as the personal property of the ruling princes. In his telegram which the German Kaiser wrote to President Wilson on August tenth, observe that all is personal. The Kaiser says, "I telegraphed to His Majesty the King, personally, but that if, etc., I would employ my troops elsewhere.... His Majesty answered that he thought my offer...." He speaks of the King of the Belgians "having refused my petition for a free passage." He refers to "my Ambassador in London."
This telegram shows, on the other hand, another thing,—the great ability of the Kaiser. Undoubtedly he knew why I was coming to see him—to present the offer of mediation of President Wilson—but from our conversation I do not think that he had even in his mind prepared the answer, which sets forth his position in entering the war.
He said, "Wait a moment, I shall write something for the President." Then taking the telegraph blanks lying on the table, he wrote rapidly and fluently. It was a message in a foreign language, and, whatever we may think of its content, at any rate it is clear, concise, consecutive and forceful.
The personal touch runs through that extraordinary series of telegrams in the famous "Willy-Nicky" correspondence between Kaiser Wilhelm and the last of the Romanoffs, discovered in Petrograd by Herman Bernstein. These reveal, moreover, the surpassing craft of the German Kaiser. He was the master schemer. Touting for German trade, always for his advantage, he twists the poor half-wit of the Winter Palace like a piece of straw.
Emperor William was not satisfied with a quiet life as patron of trade. As he studied the portraits of his ancestors, he felt that they gazed at him with reproachful eyes, demanded that he add, as did they, to the domains of the Hohenzollerns, that he return from war in triumph at the head of a victorious army with the keys of fallen cities borne before him in conquering march.
One-tenth of Frederick the Great's people fell, but to the poverty-stricken peasant woman of Prussia, lamenting her husband and dead sons, did it matter that the rich province of Silesia had been added to the Prussian Crown? What was it to that broken mother whether the Silesian peasants acknowledged the Prussian King or the Austrian Empress? Despots both. And what countless serfs fell in the wars between the King and the Empress! I once asked von Jagow when this war would end. He answered, "An old history of the Seven Years' War concludes, 'The King and the Empress were tired of war, so they made peace.' That is how this war will end." Will it? Will it end in a draw, to be resumed when some king feels the war fever on him? No, this war must end despots, and with them all wars!
It is all such a matter of personal whim. For instance before Bulgaria entered the war on the side of Germany, even the best informed Germans predicted that King Ferdinand would never join Germany because of an incident which occurred in the Royal Palace of Berlin. This is how it happened:
It is the custom for one monarch to make his pals in the King business officers of his army or navy. Thus the German Emperor was General Field Marshal and Proprietor of the 34th "William the first, German Emperor and King of Prussia" Infantry, and of the 7th "William the Second, German Emperor and King of Prussia" Hussars, in the Austro-Hungarian Army; Chief of the "King Frederick William III St. Petersburg Life Guards," the 85th "Viburg" Infantry and the 13th "Narva" Hussars, and the "Grodno" Hussars of the Guard, in the Russian Army; Field Marshal in British Army; Hon. Admiral of the British Fleet and Colonel-in-Chief 1st Dragoons; General in the Swedish Army and Flag Admiral of the Fleet; Hon. Admiral of the Norwegian and Danish Fleets; Admiral of the Russian Fleet; Hon. Captain-General in the Spanish Army and Hon. Colonel of the 11th "Naumancia" Spanish Dragoons; and Hon. Admiral of the Greek Fleet.
The King of Bulgaria was Chief of the 4th Thuringia Infantry Regiment No. 72, in the Prussian Army. As per custom, on a visit to Berlin he donned his uniform of the Thuringian Infantry. He had put on a little weight, and military unmentionables, be it known, are notoriously tight. So as he leaned far out of the Palace window to admire the passing troops, he presented a mark so tempting that the Emperor, in jovial mood, was impelled to administer a resounding spank on the sacred seat of the Czar of all the Balkans. Instead of taking the slap in the same jovial spirit in which it was given the Czar Ferdinand, a little jealous of the self-assumed title of Czar, became furiously angry—so angry that even the old diplomats of the Metternich school believed for a time that he never would forgive the whack and even might refuse to join Germany. But Czar Ferdinand, believing in the military power of Germany, cast his already war-worn people in the war against the Allies, much to the regret of many Bulgarian statesmen who, having been educated at Robert College, near Constantinople, a college founded and maintained by Americans, and having imbibed somewhat of the American spirit there, were not over-pleased to think of themselves arrayed against the United States of America.
But there is no monarch in all Europe who is more wily than Czar Ferdinand. At a great feast in Bulgaria at which Emperor William was present, Czar Ferdinand toasted the Emperor in Latin and alluded to him as "Miles Gloriosus"—which all present took to mean "glorious soldier"; but the exact Latin meaning of "gloriosus" is "glorious" in its first meaning and "boastful" in its second, a meaning well known in Berlin where, at the "Little Theatre," in a series of plays of all ages, the "Miles Gloriosus" of Plautus had just been presented—a boastful, conceited soldier, the "Miles Gloriosus," the chief character of the comedy.
Nothing illustrates more vividly the belief of the royal families of the Central Empires in their God-given right to rule the plain people than those few words of Maximilian written before his ill-fated expedition to Mexico. Speaking of the Palace at Caserta, near Naples, he wrote, "The monumental stairway is worthy of Majesty. What can be finer than to imagine the sovereign placed at its head, resplendent in the midst of these marble pillars,—to fancy this monarch, like a God, graciously permitting the approach of human beings. The crowd surges upward. The King vouchsafes a gracious glance, but from a very lofty elevation. All powerful, imperial, he makes one step towards them with a smile of infinite condescension. Could Charles V, could Maria Theresa appear thus at the head of this ascending stair, who would not bow their heads before that majestic, God-given power?"
What was the condition of the people under Maria Theresa, whom Maximilian spoke of as possessing a power that, according to him, was so God-given no one could fail to bow the head before her majestic presence? The peasants, under her rule, were practically slaves, as they could not leave the lord's lands nor even marry without his permission, nor could they bring their children up to any profession other than that of labourer. In other words, the children of the slave must remain slaves.
Poor Maximilian! He was a brother of the late Emperor Francis Joseph and a member of that Kaiserbund and royal system which, while America was busy with domestic difficulties between the North and South, sought to wrest from Mexico her liberty. I wonder if the Mexicans have forgotten the incident and its implications.
But one-man power always fails in the end. No man, king or president, whatever he may himself think, has a brain all powerful and all knowing. There is wisdom in counsel. Too much of some favourite dish may lead to indigestion and that to bad judgment at a critical time and disaster. Napoleon III, just before 1870, was suffering from a wasting disease and so allowed himself to be ruled by the beautiful, narrow, fascinating, foolish Spanish Empress whom he gave to the French in a moment of passion because, as she said to him, "The way to her room lay through the church door." Colonel Stoffel, the French Military Attache to the Berlin Embassy, wrote confidentially report after report to the Emperor telling him of the immense military strength of Prussia and of her readiness for immediate war. But most of these reports were afterwards found unopened in the desk of the doting, sick and fallen Emperor.
For, after all, however divine the King, Emperor or Kaiser may consider himself, he is but a vulnerable human being—and no accident of birth should give even a small number of people on this earth into the hands of a single mortal.
WHO DOES THE KAISER'S THINKING AND WHO DECIDED ON THE BREAK WITH AMERICA?
Because the German Emperor possesses talents of no mean order, because of his fiery energy, because of the charm of his conversation and personality, his ambitions for world conquest are most dangerous to the peace of the world.
Certainly of all the ruling houses of the world, the Hohenzollerns have shown themselves the most able, and of the six sons of the Kaiser there is not one who is unable or unworthy from the autocratic standpoint to carry on the traditions of the house. They are all young men who in any field of human endeavour are more than a match for men of their age, and by reason of these qualities, so rare in kings and princes, it has been easy to arouse a great feeling of devotion for the royal house of Prussia among all classes in Germany, with the possible exception of the Social Democrats. The other kings and princes of Germany have been overshadowed, mere puppets in the king business, by the surpassing talents of the Hohenzollerns, and so the task of those who, in Germany and out, hope for that evolution towards liberalism or even democracy which alone can make the nations of the world feel safe in making peace with Germany, is beset with numerous difficulties.
Before the war the Emperor turned much of his enterprising talent into peaceful channels, into the development of commercial and industrial Germany. No one has a greater respect for wealth and commercial success than the Emperor. He would have made a wonderful success as a man of business. He ought to be the richest person in the Empire, but the militaristic system which he fostered gave that distinction to another. For the richest person in Germany before the war was Frau Krupp-Bohlen, daughter of the late manufacturer of cannon. She inherited control of the factories and the greater part of the fortune of her father and was rated at about $75,000,000. It was a contest between Prince Henckel-Donnersmarck and the Emperor for second place, each being reputed to possess about sixty to sixty-five million dollars. Most of the Emperor's wealth is in landed estates, and of these he has, I believe, about sixty scattered through the Empire. The Emperor is credited with being a large stockholder in both the Krupp works and the Hamburg-American Line. What a sensation it would make in this country were the President to become a large stockholder in Bethlehem Steel or the Winchester Arms Company!
The earnings of the Krupp's factory since the War have been immense and doubtless the fortune of the Krupp heiress since then has more than doubled. The subscriptions to war loans and war charities, thrown by Frau Krupp-Bohlen and the Krupp directors as sops to public opinion, are mere nothings to the fat earnings made by that renowned factory in this war.
And what a sensation, too, would be caused in America if the Bethlehem Steel Company or the United States Steel Corporation were to purchase newspapers or take over The Associated Press in order to control public opinion! Yet the German nation stands by, apathetic, propagandised to a standstill, stuffed and fed by news handed them by the Krupps and the alliance of six great industrial iron and steel companies of western Germany.
* * * * *
A question which interests every inhabitant of the world to-day is, where does the ultimate power reside in Germany?
Where is the force which controls the country? The Reichstag, of course, has no real power; the twenty-five ruling princes of Germany, voting in the Bundesrat through their representatives, control the Reichstag, and the Chancellor is not responsible to either but only to the Emperor.
Consider, for a moment, the personality of von Bethmann-Hollweg, Chancellor of the Empire for eight or nine years. He lacked both determination and decision. Lovable, good, kind, respected, the Chancellor, to a surprising degree, was minus that quality which we call "punch." He never led, but followed. He sought always to find out first which side of the question seemed likely to win,—where the majority would stand. Usually he poised himself on middle ground. He could not have been the ultimate power in the State.
I have a feeling that the Kaiser himself always felt in some vague way that his luck lay with America, and I imagine that he himself was against anything that might lead to a break with this country. What, then, was the mysterious power which changed, for instance, the policy of the German Empire towards America and ordered unrestricted submarine war at the risk of bringing against the Empire a rich and powerful nation of over a hundred million population?
The Foreign Office did not have this decision. Its members, made up of men who had travelled in other countries, who knew the latent power of America, did not advise this step—with the exception, however, of Zimmermann, who, carried away by his sudden elevation, and by the glamour of personal contact with the Emperor, the Princes and the military chiefs, yielded to the arguments of military expediency.
The one force in Germany which ultimately decides every great question, except the fate of its own head, is the Great General Staff.
On one side of the Koenigs-Platz, in Berlin, stands the great building of the Reichstag, floridly decorated, glittering with gold, surrounded by statues and filled, during the sessions of the Reichstag, with a crowd of representatives who do not represent and who, like monkeys in a cage, jibber and debate questions which they have no power to decide. Across the square and covering the entire block in a building that resembles in external appearance a jail, built of dark red brick without ornament or display, is the home of the Great General Staff. This institution has its own spies, its own secret service, its own newspaper censors. Here the picked officers of the German army, the inheritors of the power of von Moltke, work industriously. Apart from the people of Germany, they wield the supreme power of the State and when the Staff decides a matter of foreign policy or even an internal measure, that decision is final.
The peculiar relations of the Emperor to the Great General Staff make it possible for him to dismiss in disgrace a head of the Staff who has failed. But at all times the Kaiser is more or less controlled in his action by the Staff as a whole and at a time when the chief of the Great General Staff is successful, the latter, even on questions of foreign policy, claims the right then to make a decision which the Emperor may find it difficult to disregard. This is because in an autocratic government, as in any other, personality counts for much. Von Tirpitz controlled all departments of the navy, although only at the head of one. The Ludendorff-Hindenburg combination, especially if backed by Mackensen, can bend the will of the Emperor.
Yet while the head of the Great General Staff may fall, the system always remains. An unknown, mysterious power it is, unchanging, and relentless, a power that watches over the German army with unseen eyes. It seeks always additions to its own ranks from those young officers who have distinguished themselves by their talents in the profession of arms. What does it mean to them?
It is January twenty-seventh, the birthday of the Kaiser in a German garrison town. The officers of the regiment are assembled in the mess-hall, the regimental band plays the national air of Prussia, "Heil Dir im Sieger Kranz" (Hail, thou, in the conqueror's wreath). (The music is familiar to us because we sing it to the words of "America." The British sing the air to the words of "God Save the King." This music was originally written for Louis XIV.) The health of the Emperor is proposed and drunk with "Hurrahs" and again "Hurrahs," and then comes a telegram from Berlin announcing the promotions and decorations granted to some of the officers of the regiment: the most envied of all is that younger officer, perhaps the student among them, who receives the laconic despatch telling him that he is detailed to the Great General Staff!
Then commences for the young officer a life of almost monastic devotion. No amusements, no social obligations or entertainments must interfere in the slightest with his earnest work in that plain building of mystery which so calmly, and with such mock modesty, faces the garish home of the Reichstag on the Koenigs-Platz, in Berlin.
Who decided on the break with America? It was not the Chancellor, notoriously opposed; it was not the Foreign Office, nor the Reichstag, nor the Princes of Germany who decided to brave the consequences of a rupture with the United States on the submarine question. It was not the Emperor; but a personality of great power of persuasion. It was Ludendorff, Quartermaster General, chief aid and brains to Hindenburg, Chief of the Great General Staff, who decided upon this step.
Unquestionably a party in the navy, undoubtedly von Tirpitz himself, backed by the navy and by many naval officers and the Naval League, advocated the policy and promised all Germany peace within three months after it was adopted; unquestionably public opinion made by the Krupps and the League of Six (the great iron and steel companies), desiring annexation of the coal and iron lands of France, demanded this as a quick road to peace. But it was the deciding vote of the Great General Staff that finally embarked the German nation on this dangerous course.
I do not think the Emperor himself, unless backed by the whole public opinion of Germany, would dare to withstand the Great General Staff which he himself creates. They are so much his devotees that they would overrule him in what they consider his interest.
Whatever thinking the Emperor does nowadays is more or less on his own account. There is to-day no shining favourite who has his ear to the exclusion of others. The last known favourite was Prince Max Egon von Fuerstenberg, a man now about fifty-four years old, tall, handsome, possessed at one time of great wealth and a commanding position in Austria as well as Germany, with the privilege of citizenship in both countries. The Prince in his capacity as Grand Marshal accompanied the Emperor, walking in his train as the latter entered the White Hall at a great ball early in the winter of 1914. The Emperor was stopping at the Prince's palace in southern Germany at Donnaueschingen when the affair at Zabern and the cutting down of the lame shoemaker there shook the political and military foundations of the German Empire. Prince Max together with Prince Hohenlohe, Duke of Ugest, embarked, however, on a career of vast speculation in an association known as the Princes' Trust. They built, for instance, the great Hotel Esplanade in Berlin, and a hotel of the same name in Hamburg, and an enormous combined beer restaurant, theatre and moving picture hall on the Nollendorff Platz in Berlin. They organised banks, and the name of the princely house of Fuerstenberg appeared as an advertisement for light beer. They even, through their interest in a department store on the east end of the Leipziger Strasse, sold pins and stockings and ribbons to the working classes of Berlin. As this top-heavy structure of foolish business enterprise tumbled, the favour of Prince Max at the Imperial Court fell with it. For the Emperor never brooks failure.
During the present war Von Gontard, related by marriage, I believe, to brewer Busch in St. Louis; von Treutler, who represented the Foreign Office; von Falkenhayn, for a while head of the Great General Staff and Minister of War, and the Prince of Pless, and von Plessen with several minor adjutants, have constituted the principal figures in the surroundings of the Emperor. Falkenhayn fell because of his failure in the attack of Verdun, ordered by him or for which he was the responsible commander. Von Treutler probably told the truth; he was against the breaking of the submarine pledges to America; and Prince Pless, who remains still in favour, never took a decided stand on any of these questions. Prince Pless, as Prince Max was, is rich. His fortune before the war, represented mostly by great landed estates in Silesia, mines, etc., amounted approximately to thirty million dollars. His wife is an Englishwoman, once celebrated as one of the great beauties of London, daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Cornwallis-West, and sister of the Duchess of Westminster and Cornwallis-West, formerly married to Lady Randolph Churchill, and now the husband of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the well-known actress. And therefore the position of Princess Pless has not been enviable during this war.
Emperor William does not, like many kings and dictators, confine himself in his search for general information regarding men and conditions to the reports of a few persons. He always has been accessible, seeking even to meet strangers, not merely his own people but foreigners, thus escaping the penalty of those rulers who shut themselves up and who have all their information and thoughts coloured for them by the preferences and desires of prejudiced counsellors.
The chiefs of the army are always in close touch with the Kaiser, but he is consulted on army commands and promotions much less than on civil and even naval promotions.
Always with him is the head of the Civil Cabinet, who advises with the Emperor on all appointments and promotions on the civil side of the Government, helping even to make and unmake Ambassadors and Chancellors. Admiral von Mueller, head of the Marine Cabinet, is constantly in the Emperor's company. He is a shrewd, capable, reasonable man; for a long time Admiral von Mueller was against taking the chance of war with America and perhaps, even to the end, persisted in this course. After the fall of von Tirpitz, von Mueller acquired more real power. But in a sense it is incorrect to speak of the forced retirement of von Tirpitz as a "fall," because from his retirement he was able to carry on such a campaign in favour of "ruthless" submarine war that the mass of the people, Reichstag deputies, the General Staff, and all came over to his point of view and von Bethmann-Hollweg, who had brought about his dismissal, was forced officially to adopt the policy first sponsored by this skilful old sea-dog and politician.
WHO SANK THE "LUSITANIA"?
Who is responsible for the sinking of the Lusitania, for the deliberate murder which has always remained deep in the consciousness of every American, and which at the outset turned this great nation against Germany?
In the first place there was no mistake—no question of orders exceeded or disobeyed. Count von Bernstorff frankly, boldly, defiantly, and impudently advertised to the world, with the authority of the German Government, that the attempt to sink the Lusitania would be made. The Foreign Office, no doubt, acquainted him with the new policy. Von Tirpitz, then actual head of the Navy Department and virtual head of the whole navy, openly showed his approval of the act, and threw all his influence in favor of a continuation of ruthless tactics. But a question which involved a breach of international law, a possible break with a friendly power, could not be decided by even the Foreign Office and Navy together.
The Great General Staff claims a hand in the decision of all questions of foreign policy which even remotely affect the conduct of the war. Similarly it was the duty of the Foreign Office to point out the possible consequences under the rules of international law; but when the question of submarine warfare was to be determined, the consultation was usually at the Great General Headquarters. At these meetings von Tirpitz or the navy presented their views and the Great General Staff sat with the Emperor in council, although it was reported in Charleville at the time of the settlement of May, 1916, that Falkenhayn, speaking in favour of submarine war, had been rebuked by the Emperor, and told to stick to military affairs.
All the evidence points to the Emperor himself as the responsible head who at this time ordered or permitted this form of murder. The orders were given at a time when the Emperor dominated the General Staff, not in one of those periods, as outlined in a previous chapter when the General Staff, as at present, dominated the Emperor. When I saw the Kaiser in October, 1915, he said that he would not have sunk the Lusitania, that no gentleman would have killed so many women and children. Yet he never disapproved the order. Other boats were sunk thereafter in the same manner and only by chance was the loss of life smaller when the Arabic was torpedoed. It is argued that, had the Emperor considered beforehand how many non-combatants would be killed, he would not have given the order to sink that particular boat. But what a lame excuse! A man is responsible for the natural and logical results of his own acts. It may be too that Charles IX, when he ordered, perhaps reluctantly, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, did not know that so many would be killed, but there can be no Pilate-washing-of-the-hands,—Emperor William was responsible. He must bear the blame before the world.
Blood-shed in honorable war is soon forgotten; but the cowardly stroke by which the Kaiser sought to terrorise America, by which he sent to a struggling death of agony in the sea, the peaceful men and women and children passengers of the Lusitania, may ever remain a cold boundary line between Germany and America unless the German people utter a condemnation of the tragedy that rings true and repentant.
We want to live at peace with the world when this war is over, to be able to grasp once more the hands of those now our enemies, but how can any American clasp in friendship the hand of Germans who approve this and the many other outrages that have turned the conscience of the world against Germany?
To Americans in Berlin, the sinking of the Lusitania came like a lightning stroke. No Bernstorff warnings had prepared us. I believed I would be recalled immediately. In making preparations to leave, I sent a secretary to see the head of one of the largest banks in Germany, a personal friend, to ask him, in case we should leave, to take for safe-keeping into his bank our silver, pictures, etc. He said to my secretary, "Tell Judge Gerard that I will take care of his valuables for him, but tell him also, that if the Mauretania comes out to-morrow we shall sink her, too."
That was the attitude of a majority of the business men of Germany. German casualties at that time had been great so that the mere loss of human life did not appal as would have been the case in a country unused to the daily posting of long lists of dead and wounded. Consequently the one feeling of Germany was of rejoicing, believing indeed that victory was near, that the "damned Yankees" would be so scared that they would not dare travel on British ships, that the submarine war would be a great success, that France and England deprived of food, steel and supplies from America soon would be compelled to sue for peace, especially since the strategically clever, if unlawful, invasion of France by way of Belgium had driven the French from the best coal and iron districts of their country.
I do recall that one Imperial Minister, a reasonable individual whose name I think it best not to mention, expressed in private his sorrow, not only for the deed itself, but for the mistaken policy which he saw, even then, would completely turn in the end the sympathies of America to the Entente Allies. And there were others,—among the intellectuals, and, especially, among the merchants of Hamburg and Frankfort who had travelled in the outer world both on pleasure and business, who realised what a profound effect the drowning of innocent men, women and children would have on our peace-loving people.
Many of these men said to me, "The sinking of the Lusitania is the greatest German defeat of all the war. Its consequences will be far-reaching; its impression, deep and lasting."
The Teutonic Knights, from whom the ruling class of Prussia is descended, kept the Slavic population in subjection by a reign of physical terror. This class believes that to rule one must terrorise. The Kaiser himself referring to the widespread indignation caused by German outrages of the present war, has said: "The German sword will command respect."
Terrorism—"Schrecklichkeit"—has always formed a part, not only of German military inclination, but of German military policy. I often said to Germans of the Government, "Are you yourselves subject to being terrorised? If another nation murdered or outraged your women, your children, would it cause you to cringe in submission or would you fight to the last? If you would fight yourselves, what is there in the history of America which makes you think that Americans will submit to mere frightfulness; in what particular do you think Americans are so different from Germans?" But they shrugged their shoulders.
I have heard that in parts of Germany school children were given a holiday to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania. I was busy with preparations, too anxious about the future to devote much time to the study of the psychology of the Germans in other parts of Germany at this moment, but with the exception of the one Cabinet Minister aforementioned, and expressions of regret from certain merchants and intellectuals, it cannot be denied that a great wave of exultation swept over Germany. It was felt that this was a master stroke, that victory was appreciably nearer and that no power on earth could withstand the brute force of the Empire.
Mingled with this was a deep hate of all things American inculcated by the Berlin Government. And we must understand, therefore, that no trick and no evasion, no brutality will be untried by Germany in this war. It was against the rules of war to use poison gas, but first the newspapers of Germany were carefully filled with official statements saying the British and French had used this unfair means. Coincidentally with these reports the German army was trying by this dastardly innovation to break the British lines. It was not a new procedure. Months before the Lusitania crime, the newspapers and people had been poisoned with official statements inflaming the people against America, particularly for our commerce with the Entente in war supplies.
It was the right, guaranteed by a treaty to which Germany was a signatory, of our private individuals to sell munitions and supplies, but as Prince von Buelow once remarked on December 13th, 1900, in the Reichstag, "I feel no embarrassment in saying here, publicly, that for Germany, right can never be a determining consideration."
Indeed the tame professors were let loose and many of them rushed into government-paid print to prove that, according to law, the murders of the Lusitania were justified. A German chemist friend of mine told me that the chemists of Germany were called on, after poison gas had been met by British and French, to devise some new and deadly chemical. Flame throwers soon appeared together with more insidious gases. And it is only because of the vigilance of other nations that German spies have not succeeded in sowing the microbes of pestilence in countries arrayed against lawless Germany.
Remember there is nothing that Kaiserism is not capable of trying in the hope of victory.
THE KAISER AND "LESE-MAJESTE"
The talents and ability and agreeable personality of the German Emperor must not blind us to the fact that he is the centre of the system which has brought the world to a despair and misery such as it never has known since the dawn of history. We must remember that all his utterances disclose the soul of the conqueror, of a man intensely anxious for earthly fame and a conspicuous place in the gallery of human events; envious, too, of the great names of the past, his ears so tuned for admiration and applause that they fail to hear the great, long drawn wail of agony that echoes around the world. His eyes are so blinded with the sheen of his own glory that they do not see the mutilated corpses, the crime, the pestilence, the hunger, the incalculable sorrow that sweeps the earth from the jungles of Africa to the frozen plains of the North, from Siberia to Saskatchewan, from Texas to Trieste, from Alaska to Afghanistan—everywhere he has brought the dark angel of mourning to millions upon millions of desolate homes.
Do you remember that picture of the Conquerors, Caesar and Alexander, Attila and Napoleon, Charlemagne and Cambyses, astride their horses or in chariots in the centre of the picture, dark, gloomy, menacing? On each side of them, lining a vast plain that fades in the distance, lie the dead—stiff, cold, grey, reproachful;—yet all the victims of those conquerors, as well as all their battalions do not equal the countless number that have already drenched a forgiving earth with their dying blood in this war:—victims all of the vain-glorious ambition of a single mortal—the German Kaiser.
But the despot who sends his subjects to die, as Frederick the Great said, "in order to be talked about" is not indigenous to any one particular country. Like conditions produce like results. The career of Louis XIV, the "Sun King," for instance, whose wars and extravagances sowed the seeds of the French Revolution, is epitomised in two phrases uttered by him: "I am the State" and "I almost had to wait."
After the French Revolution, another despot, the first Napoleon, not only sought the conquest of the world, but made his ex-waiter and ex-groom marshals and his washerwomen duchesses ape the manners and customs of the old regime. Despotism has been characteristic of many generations but the world had thought itself rid of the worst offenders.
Royalty still lives to torture and retard civilisation. Its methods of perpetuation are unchanged from the middle ages. What is lese-majeste but a survival of feudalism, a kind of slavery to inviolable tradition—the immunity of the monarch and his family from that criticism and freedom of discussion which is the essence of democracy?
To commit lese-majeste, to speak slightingly of royalty in Germany, is a very serious offence.
I have taken the following examples of decisions in lese-majeste cases not from the records of the lower courts, the decisions of which may be reversed, but from the records of the Imperial Supreme Court at Leipzig, the highest court in the land.
For instance: The defendant, a speaker at a meeting consisting chiefly of sympathisers with the socialist cause, made the following statement in reference to a speech of the Kaiser:
"Under the protection of the highest power of the State the gauntlet has been flung before the (socialist) Party, the gauntlet which means a combat for life and death. Well, then, so far as the insult concerns our Party, we are so far above it, that the mudslinging—no matter from what direction it may come—cannot touch us."
The defence pointed out that the defendant "had considered each word carefully before he had made the speech, and that in doing so, wanted to avoid any possibility of lese-majeste."
The Supreme Court held that although the defendant carefully selected his words and tried to evade prosecution, he must be adjudged guilty, because his audience could not have misunderstood the insinuation. The sentence was affirmed.
Dangerous as it is to say anything that can be construed as derogatory of the authority, of the Kaiser it is equally dangerous to attack the dead members of the Royal House.
The editor of the Volkswacht had published in his paper an article entitled "The German Characteristics of the Hohenzollerns" which the Lower Court interpreted to be a reply to a statement of the Kaiser, which had referred to a group of people considered unworthy by him to be called "Germans." Without doubt the editor was alluding to the Kaiser's speech, made at Koenigsberg to the newly enlisted army recruits, in which he called the socialists "vaterlandslose Gesellen," i.e., scoundrels without any country. The writer, however, discussed "the conduct of the Elector Joachim of Brandenburg and of his brother Albrecht, Elector of Mainz, before and during the election of Emperor Charles V."
The defence claimed that the defendant could not be held guilty of lese-majeste against the Kaiser since the defendant "criticised the Kaiser's ancestors and not the Kaiser himself." But the Court held that it was the intent of the defendant to discredit the "House of the Hohenzollerns, and that the Kaiser by implication, being the living head of the Hohenzollern family, was thereby insulted." The Court further states that the defendant's article could not be regarded as a scientific or historical contribution since the Volkswacht's subscribers, consisting chiefly of workingmen, had neither any understanding of nor interest in dynastic intrigues of the sixteenth century.
Even those Americans who have expressed themselves freely about the Kaiser will, after the war is over, be compelled to take their "cures" in some country other than Germany, for in one case it was held that an American citizen was rightfully convicted in Baden of lese-majeste because of statements made by him in Switzerland.
The Court held that the judgment of the Lower Court must be sustained, since the German Imperial Laws have precedence over any treaties engaged in by the Grand Duchy of Baden and the United States and "that the fact that the defendant had become a citizen of the United States does not exempt him from prosecution in the German Imperial Courts."
In another case a newspaper editor criticised a speech delivered by the Kaiser before the Reichstag on December 6th, 1898. The defendant did not refer to the person of the emperor himself, but simply attacked and ridiculed the propositions and proposals made by His Imperial Majesty. The defence pointed out that the Kaiser's speech was not an act of the Kaiser's own personal will, but only an act of government for which the Imperial Chancellor should be responsible, and that the defendant was not conscious of the fact that the criticism contained in his article could be an insult to the person of the Kaiser.
It was held, however, by the Court that a criticism of the Kaiser's speech at the opening of the Reichstag is always to be regarded as a criticism of the Kaiser's person, and that the plea that the Imperial Chancellor should be responsible for acts of government of this sort is not sustained.
In other words it is, in Germany, a crime to criticise or ridicule any proposition uttered by the sacred lips of the Kaiser.
If the Kaiser announces that two and two make five, jail awaits the subject who dares to ridicule that novel arithmetical proposition.
It is because of these convictions for lese-majeste that the Berliners, when discussing the Emperor at their favourite table or "Stammtisch" in the beer halls and cafes, always refer to him as "Lehmann."
WHEN THE KAISER THOUGHT WE WERE BLUFFING
An Unpublished Diary
Kaiserdom is an institution with which the American people are really unacquainted—a complex institution the parallel of which does not exist elsewhere. How it sought to play double with the United States is in a general way familiar to Americans, but I think the record of what happened in the eighteen months preceding our break with Germany will illustrate exactly the currents and cross-currents of official opinion which led the United States to be scrupulously cautious in its course before entering the war. As I talked with the Emperor or the Chancellor or the Foreign Minister, I jotted down from time to time notes of their conversation as well as brief summaries of the information available to me from other sources. Naturally I cabled to the Department of State the most significant news, but much of this was not published because our Government was proceeding cautiously and did not wish to be embarrassed by publicity of its negotiations. There is every reason now, however, why the facts should be known. I am reproducing here the diary I kept from June, 1915, to the end of January, 1917, when unrestricted submarine warfare was resumed and our break with Germany came. I did not have the idea then of ever publishing my memoranda, so my comments were written without restraint. They show, I am sure, what the general trend of sentiment was in Germany for and against submarine warfare and disclose, too, that while the Emperor was often in the background and seemingly not the most powerful factor in the situation, it was his system that dominated Germany, his spirit that bred the lust for military gain at whatever cost—even the respect of the whole civilised world. Here are the notes as I penned them at the time:
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June, 1915. Lincoln never passed through a crisis greater than that with which the President is contending. He is fighting, first, for humanity and some decency in war, and, second, determining whether a European Emperor shall or shall not dictate the political attitude of certain of our citizens.
It is regrettable to be compelled to think that the German nation knows no treaty or law except the limit of its own desires.
We are still awaiting the second Lusitania note and I fear that Germany will never consent to abandon its present hideous method of submarine war. It is extraordinary to hear Germans of all classes extoll mere brute force as the only rule of international life. It is a warning to us to create and increase our fleet and coast defences.
The Germans not only do not fear war with us, but state frankly they do not believe we dare to declare it, call us cowardly bluffers and say our notes are worse than waste paper. Breaking diplomatic relations means nothing.
Von Wiegand, the newspaper correspondent, is just back from Przemysl and says the Russians were defeated by woful lack of artillery and ammunition. Their power for offence is broken for many months. From the West I hear the French are rather discouraged.
Germany has ample food and gets all copper, etc., necessary for war purposes through Sweden in exchange for potash and other commodities.
An officer of the war ministry, who comes to see me about prisoners, etc., told me last night that because the French have kept several hundred Germans as prisoners in Dahomey and other places in Africa, fifteen thousand French prisoners will be sent to work in the unhealthy swamps of Holstein. I have cabled the State Department often about this Dahomey business, transmitting the request of Germany that these prisoners be sent to Europe. Germans cannot be beaten on reprisals.
* * * * *
Two or three German-Americans have attacked the President, Secretary Bryan and our Government, some publicly. I have ordered their passports taken away and hope to be sustained. To permit them to continue poisoning the atmosphere would be taken as a sign of weakness here. No one who abuses his own country, its government or its Chief is entitled to protection from that country.
We have the visiting of British prisoners in good shape now, that prohibition put on our visiting and inspecting the camps was abolished in March by the "treaty" I arranged between England and Germany. It was not until March twenty-ninth that we finally got passes to visit camps under the "treaty." The prisoners say they are badly treated when they are first captured, but we know only of their treatment in the camps.
I do not believe all the atrocity stories; but one of our servants in this house came back from the East front recently and said the orders were to kill all Cossacks. Our washerwoman reports that her son was ordered to shoot a woman in Belgium and I myself have heard an officer calmly describe the shooting of a seven-year-old Belgian girl child, the excuse being that she had tried to fire at an officer.
If the Lusitania business settles down, I hope the suggestion made to me by the authorities here and cabled to the State Department, will be carried into effect. This was that each American and Spanish Ambassador, having charge of prisoners in belligerent countries, should meet in Switzerland and discuss the whole prison situation. Each Ambassador would be accompanied by representatives of whatever authorities deal with prisoners (here the War Ministry) in the country to which he is accredited. To prevent unseemly discussions the actual talking would be done by the Ambassadors (coached by those representatives). In addition to doing away with many misunderstandings and helping the prisoners, there are great possibilities in such a meeting. We could all give each other useful "tips" on the caring for prisoners, inspections, camps, package delivery, mail, etc.
There is plenty of food in Germany now and enough raw materials to carry on the war. Raw materials for peaceful industries are needed.
A suggestion—why not start a great government chemical school or give protection for a certain number of years to dyestuffs, medicine, chemical, and cyanide material? All these industries are run here by the trustiest trusts that ever trusted, and by their methods keep American manufacturers from starting the business. A Congressman represents one of the best firms, hence his statements that it is impossible to start such manufactures in America. Our annual tribute to these trusts is enormous. One dyestuff company here employs over five hundred chemists. Only big or protected business can compete. This war has shown that we should not be dependent on other countries for so many manufactures.
* * * * *
Gifts from America within the last week have been refused in Saxony.
* * * * *
I fear that Germany will not give up its present method of submarine war. Each month new and more powerful submarines are added.
* * * * *
Perhaps it is worth a war to have it decided that the United States of America is not to be run from Berlin.
Germans in authority feel that our "New Freedom" is against their ideas and ideals. They hate President Wilson because he embodies peace and learning rather than war.
* * * * *
In regard to prisoners, Mr. Harte reports prisoners in Russia and Siberia better treated than was reported.
* * * * *
I hear for the first time of growing dissatisfaction among the plain people, especially at the great rise in food prices. Germany is getting everything she wants, however, through Sweden, including copper, lard, etc. Von Tirpitz and his Press Bureau were too much for the Chancellor; the latter is not a good fighter. Zimmermann, if left to himself, would, of course, have stopped this submarine murder.
I hope the President never gives in on the embargo on arms; if he ever gives in on that, we might as well hoist the German Eagle on the Capitol.
* * * * *
July, 1915. I think that the firm tone of the President's note (of June 9, 1915) will make the Germans climb down. There seems a general disposition to be pleased with the note and an expectation that matters can be arranged. The great danger is that the Germans may again get the idea that we do not dare to declare war. In such case they will again become difficult to handle.
Zimmermann and von Jagow are both quite pleased with the tone of the note.
They both talk now of keeping Belgium, the excuse being that the Belgians hate the Germans so that if Belgium again became independent it would be only an English outpost. Meyer Gerhard, Bernstorff's special envoy, has arrived and has broken into print over the sentiment in America. I am afraid he makes it too peaceful, and, therefore, the Germans will be encouraged to despise America.
While the authorities here think the idea of freedom of the seas good, they think the idea of freedom of land too vague. They want to know exactly what it means and say the seas should be free because they belong to no one, but that land is the private property of various nations. They compare the situation to a city street, where every one is interested in keeping the streets free but would resent a proposal that private houses also should be made common meeting ground if not common property. Unfortunately for Germany and the world, the German armies are winning and this will be considered a complete vindication of the military and caste system and everything which now exists. As Cleveland said, we are confronted by a condition, not a theory. Germany, unless beaten, will never directly or indirectly agree to any freedom of land or disarmament proposal.
* * * * *
The Emperor probably will see me soon. He has been rabid on the export of arms from the United States to the Allies, but like all Germans, when they see we cannot be scared into a change of policy, he is making a nice recovery.
Was told by a friend at the Foreign Office that the German note would contain a proposition that regular passenger ships should not be torpedoed without notice, but must carry no cargo other than passengers' baggage. Have heard Marine Department rather opposes this, but may favor proposition as to ships inspected and certified to carry no arms or ammunition. No note until after July fourth, they say at Foreign Office, on tip from Washington. (Note—German note was delivered to me July 8, 1915.)
* * * * *
Chancellor and von Jagow have been in Vienna, probably over Balkan question. The situation there hinges on Bulgaria. Germany wants a direct strip of territory for itself or Austria to Constantinople. Thirteen million pounds in gold sent recently by Germany to Turkey to keep the boys in line. Principal Socialist paper, the Vorwaerts, has been suppressed because it spoke of peace; reason given is that this kind of talk would encourage enemies of Germany.
* * * * *
The Germans are becoming more strict, even women now entering Germany must strip to the skin and take down their back hair. The wife of Hearst's correspondent here had to submit to this the other day.
* * * * *
At first, newspaper correspondents had to promise they would not go to enemy territory, next that they would not go to neutral territory (after one correspondent went to Denmark and sent out dispatches about the movement against annexing Belgium). Now the correspondents must promise not to go home. This is to keep secret the internal conditions. The women stormed a butter shop here the other day and our Consul reports, in Chemnitz, quite a serious food riot. The military were called out and the fire department turned hose on the crowd.
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In Austria, I hear men up to fifty-five are being called to the colours and even the infirm taken for the army. There are said to be seven German and five Austrian army corps invading Servia. The losses of the invaders are reported to be heavy. To date, the German dead in this war number about seven hundred thousand. People who offered private hospitals at the beginning of the war and who were told these were not needed, have been requested to open them. I was told the remaining civil population of Vouziers, France (in German hands), had been removed to make room for German wounded.
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The note of July 21, 1915, in which the President said he would regard the sinking of ships without warning as "deliberately unfriendly," is received with hostility by press and Government. Of course, the party of frightfulness has conquered those of milder views, owing largely to the aggressive newspaper campaign conducted by von Tirpitz, Reventlow and Company. The Germans generally are, at present, in rather a waiting attitude, perhaps anxious to see what our attitude toward England will be—but this will not affect their submarine policy. The Foreign Office now claims, I hear, that I am hostile to Germany, but that claim was to be expected. Of course, I had no more to do with the American note than they did, but it is impossible to convince them of that, so I shall not try.
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Germany has the Balkan situation well in hand. Roumania can do nothing in the face of recent Russian defeats and has just consented to allow grain to be exported to Austria and Germany, but has, I think, not yet consented to allow the passage of ammunition to Turkey. The pressure, however, is great. If not successful, perhaps German troops will invade Servia so as to get a passage through to Turkey.
A minister from one of the Balkan States told me the situation of Roumania, Greece and Bulgaria was about the same, each state can last in war only about three months, so all are trying to gauge three months before the end and then come in on the winning side.
The Bulgarian Minister of the Public Debt got in here by mistake the other day, insisting he had an appointment; he had an appointment with the Treasurer, Helfferich, whose office is nearby. This shows, perhaps, that Bulgaria is getting money here.
Also the Germans are sending back to Russia, Russians of revolutionary tendencies, who were prisoners here, with money and passports in order that they may stir up trouble at home.
The Germans are making a great effort to take Warsaw, even old Landsturm men are in the fighting line; I think they will get it, and then they hope to turn two million men and strike a great blow in France—thus they expect to end the war by October.
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I notice now a slight reaction from annexation toward giving up all or part of Belgium; but I must say I hear very little of popular dissatisfaction with the war. Everything seems to be going smoothly; but they are scraping the bottom of the box on getting men for the army.
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It is not pleasant to be hated by so many millions. The Germans naturally make me the object of their concentrated hate. I received an anonymous letter in which the kindly writer rejoices that so many Americans were drowned in the Chicago disaster. This shows the state of mind.
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The Emperor is at the front, "Somewhere in Galicia." They keep him very much in the background, I think, with the idea of disabusing the popular mind of the idea that this is "his war." After all, accidents may happen, and even after a victorious war there may be a day of reckoning. The Chancellor went to the front yesterday, probably to see the Emperor about the American question.
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August, 1915. I had a conversation last week of one hour and a half with the Chancellor. He sent for me because I had written him to take no more trouble about my seeing the Emperor. He explained, of course, first that he did not know I wanted to see the Emperor, and second that it was impossible to see the Emperor. They keep the Emperor well surrounded. Now I do not want to see him. He is hot against Americans and the matters I wanted to talk of are all settled—one way. I cabled an interesting report on the Emperor's conversation re America.
The Chancellor is still wrong in his head; says it was necessary to invade Belgium, break all international laws, etc. I think, however, that he was personally against the fierce Dernburg propaganda in America. I judge that von Tirpitz, through his press bureau, has egged on the people so that this submarine war will continue. An official confessed to me that they had tried to get England to interfere, together with them, in Mexico, and Germans "Gott strafe" the Monroe Doctrine in their daily prayers of hate.
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Warsaw, as I predicted officially, long ago, will soon fall.
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No great news—we are simply waiting for the inevitable submarine "accident."
Unless there is a change of sentiment in the Government I think the submarine commanders will be careful.
The Chancellor talked rather freely but again said it was impossible to leave Belgium to become an outpost of the English, but possibly with Germans in possession of the forts, the railways and with commercial rights in Antwerp it might be arranged.
There is a faction here led by deputy Bassermann, Stresemann, Fahrmann, etc., who are attacking the Chancellor. They represent great industrials who want to annex Belgium, Northern France, Poland and anything else that can be had, for their own ultimate advantage. A man named Hirsch is hired by the Krupp firm to "accelerate" this work. Krupps also pay the expenses of the "Oversea Service" which is feeding news to America.
A paper against annexation of Belgium has been signed, I am told, by Dernburg, Prince Hatzfeld and others, and will be presented to the Chancellor to-day. I believe many are to sign it; but of those who have signed are Hatzfeld, who is one of the three big Dukes of Prussia; Prince Henckel-Donnersmarck, who is the second richest subject in Germany—(85 years old, he was in 1870 first Governor of Lorraine)—von Harrach, who is a man of great ability, highly respected, as is also Professor Delbrueck.
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The Reichstag meets in a few days. The Socialists are holding daily caucuses, but have not yet decided on any party action. Undoubtedly they will vote for the new ten milliard loan, with Liebknecht and a few others dissenting. Probably a split will also develop in the National Liberal Party; Bassermann and others have been attacking the Chancellor, but I think other members will dissent. It is quite probable that there will be a discussion about the object of the war, and permission will be asked for public discussion, the Socialists perhaps claiming that they have consented to a defensive war only, and that now that the war is on enemy territory peace should be at least discussed. There may also be talk about the annexation of Belgium and food prices. The Socialists are greatly incensed at those who are holding food for high prices.
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Personally, I think that Germany now wants peace but does not want to say so openly.
A relative of a Field Marshal told me to-day that Germany's killed to date were 600,000 and 200,000 crippled for life.
I must say that the plain people still seem perfectly tame and ready to continue the war. However, there may also be a protest in the Reichstag about the treatment by non-commissioned officers of Landsturm men who have never served but who now, in the process of scraping the box, are called to the colors.
The Germans hope by a great movement to capture a great part of the Russian army; probably they will fail. They also entertain hopes that in such case Sweden will enter Finland and two Balkan States declare for them. Balkan Ministers here tell me the defeat of Russia makes it impossible for Roumania to enter, but they fear an invasion by the Germans. All diplomatic work is now centred in the Balkans.
* * * * *
Successes in Russia have made the people here very cocky. Hence, probably, the torpedoing of the Arabic. Also great hope of Bulgaria coming in with Germany; there is no more dissatisfaction heard over the war. I have as yet received nothing from Washington regarding the Arabic.
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I have just spent four half days at Ruhleben, where civilian Britishers are interned, so as to give every prisoner a chance to speak to me personally.
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There is much talk of creating an independent Poland. The Reichstag session has developed no opposition.
A fac-simile of that infernal advertisement[A] of the Cleveland Automatic Tool Company in the American Machinist was laid on the desk of every member of the Reichstag; and the papers are full of accounts of great deliveries of war munitions by America, possibly preparing people for a break. If Bulgaria comes in, Germany will undoubtedly take a strip in Servia and keep a road to Constantinople and the East. The new Turkish Ambassador has just arrived. The old one was not friendly to Enver Bey and so was bounced; he remains here, however, as he fears if he went to Turkey he would get some "special" coffee. The hate for Americans grows daily.
[Footnote A: This was an advertisement in an American newspaper about machines for the manufacture of particularly deadly shells and was much used in Germany to show how America was helping the Entente.]
* * * * *
All rumours are that in the recent council at Posen the Chancellor, advocating concessions in submarine war, won out over von Tirpitz. But von Tirpitz will die hard, and there will be trouble yet, as the Navy will be very angry if the present methods are abandoned. Members of the Reichstag have telegraphed backing up the Chancellor; but it is hard for any civilian idea to prevail against Army or Navy.
Probably the Admiralty will say that the submarine which torpedoed the Arabic was lost, in order to avoid disgracing an officer.
If the Arabic question is not complicated with the Lusitania a solution will be easier. The common people have been aroused by von Tirpitz's press bureau and it will be simpler for the Chancellor to "back track," taking as an example a case like the Arabic when the ship was going West and carried no ammunition.
* * * * *
The defeat of the Russians is undoubtedly crushing. Is England waking up too late? There will be a big offensive soon against the West lines.
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I have heard nothing up to to-day from the State Department re the Arabic, except one cable asking me to request a report.
A correspondent has just been in and says that the General Staff people threaten to expel him because he went to Copenhagen and sent out news about the petition to the Chancellor not to annex Belgium. The Foreign Office had no objection; this shows how the line is forming between the Chancellor and the Military. All correspondents to-day say the Germans are trying to dragoon them into sending only news which the General Staff wants sent, and the Military have added their censorship to that of the Foreign Office.
An official told me that Bernstorff, while not exactly exceeding his instructions in his "Arabic Note" (of Sept. 1, 1915), had put the matter in a manner they did not approve.
* * * * *
Orders have now, apparently, been given to all German officials to say that the war will last a long time—at least a year and a half.
It is expected that Persia will come in under German leadership and attack India.
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Our Military Attache, Colonel Kuhn, was finally presented to the Kaiser and had a pleasant chat with him. Colonel Kuhn says all fighting on the West is with artillery and hand grenades. Rifles are thrown aside.
Germans have spies "piking off" our Embassies in Paris, London and Petrograd.
Great airship attacks on London may be expected. In one of the recent attacks nine thousand eight hundred bombs (fire and explosive) were dropped. I get this from good authority.