E-text prepared by Robert J. Hall
MY THREE YEARS IN AMERICA
CHAPTER I. GERMANY AND THE UNITED STATES BEFORE THE WAR II. THE GERMAN PROPAGANDA IN THE UNITED STATES III. POLITICAL EVENTS PRECEDING THE "LUSITANIA" INCIDENT IV. ECONOMIC QUESTIONS V. THE SO-CALLED GERMAN CONSPIRACIES VI. THE "LUSITANIA" INCIDENT VII. THE "ARABIC" INCIDENT VIII. THE SECOND "LUSITANIA" INCIDENT IX. THE "SUSSEX" INCIDENT X. AMERICAN MEDIATION XI. THE RUPTURE OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS XII. THE RETURN HOME
MY THREE YEARS IN AMERICA
MY FUNDAMENTAL POLITICAL VIEWS BEFORE AND DURING THE WAR
It was in my own home, the German Embassy in London, where the atmosphere was entirely political, that I learned my first steps in politics. My father did not belong to that class of diplomats, so prevalent to-day, who treat politics as an occupation to be pursued only in their spare time. His whole life was consecrated to the cause of the German nation, and from my earliest childhood my mind was filled with the same idea, to the exclusion of all others.
Owing to my father's share in the negotiations which brought about the marriage of the Emperor Frederick with the Princess Royal of England, the Imperial couple became closely connected with my parents, and, as Crown Prince and Princess, frequently resided at the Embassy in London. It was the entourage of the Emperor Frederick that first inspired in me those political views, which, during a long diplomatic career, gradually crystallized into the deep-rooted convictions of my political outlook. I believed Germany's salvation to lie in the direction of a liberal development of Unification and Parliamentary Government, as also in an attitude of consistent friendliness towards England and the United States of America. Thus, to use a modern phrase, I was an avowed supporter of the Western Policy. At the present moment, while we are standing as mourners at the grave of our national hopes, I am more than ever convinced, that had this policy been steadily pursued, we should have been spared the catastrophe that has overtaken us.
On the other hand, I will not deny, that even the Oriental Policy would have proved a feasible political scheme, if only we had decided to pursue it in good time. Albeit, I am of opinion that even Bismarck had already started us in the direction of the Western Policy, when in 1879 he decided in favor of Austria-Hungary and not Russia. Despite all that the careworn recluse of Friedrichsruhe may have written against Caprivi's policy, which was decidedly Western in tendency, he was himself the founder of the Triple Alliance, which, without the good-will of England, could not have come into existence. Had we pursued an Eastern Policy, though it would ultimately have led to the sacrifice and partition of Austria-Hungary, it would not have secured us those advantages in the Orient of which Marschall speaks. Nevertheless, I have always regretted that we sent such a first-rate man to Constantinople, for him ultimately to become the able director of the false policy which we pursued there. There is an Oriental proverb which says: "Never lay your load on a dead camel's back."
If, as I always used to hope, we had resolved to adopt the Western Policy, we should in any case have had to be prepared, in certain circumstances, to venture with England's help upon a war against Russia. And the experiences of the Five-Years War have taught us that we should have won such a conflict with ease. I never wanted a war with Russia, and was never an enemy of that country; but I believed that our position among the nations of the world would compel us to decide one way or the other, and I felt, just as Caprivi did, that we should not very well be able to avoid war. Even if, in the event of a war between the Triple Alliance and Russia and France, England had only maintained an attitude of friendly neutrality, this would have proved very much more favorable for us than the situation which developed out of the Encirclement Policy (Einkreisungspolitik). Furthermore, had we pursued the Western Policy, we should have had to reckon with the possibility of England's wishing to moderate, even in a perfectly friendly manner, our somewhat explosive economic development. I should not, however, have regarded this altogether as a disadvantage. For, truth to tell, we grew a little too rapidly. We ought, as "junior partners" in Britain's world-empire, to have gathered our strength more slowly. As an example of what I mean, take the policy which France and Japan have pursued since the beginning of the present century. If we had done the same, we should, at all events, have been saved from so seriously overheating the boilers of our industrial development, we should not have outstripped England as quickly as we undoubtedly could have done if we had been left to develop freely, but we should also have escaped the mortal danger which we drew upon ourselves by provoking universal hostility.
It is impossible now for me to demonstrate retrospectively that we should have been able to conclude an alliance with England. Prince Buelow denies that this was ever the case. Maybe that during his tenure of office this possibility did not offer a sufficient guarantee of future security to warrant our incurring the hostility of Russia. I am convinced, however, that an alliance with England would have been within our power, if we had pursued Caprivi's policy consistently, and the Kruger telegram had never been dispatched. Unfortunately we have always had statesmen at the helm in Germany,—Bismarck not excepted,—the bulk of whose views and knowledge were essentially continental, and who never felt quite at home with English ways of thinking. I feel perfectly satisfied on this point, however, that English commercial jealousy, with which we naturally had to reckon, would not have proved an insuperable obstacle to a good understanding with England, provided that we had declared ourselves ready, if necessary, to fight Russia.
The policy of the free hand, which we pursued until the outbreak of war, aimed at the highest possible results. Prince Buelow, who was the inaugurator of this policy, might possibly have known how to steer us through the "Danger-Zone" without provoking war. And then in a few years to come, we should have become so strong and should have left the Danger-Zone so very far behind us, that, as far as human judgment could tell, we should no longer have had any need to fear war. German naval construction from the beginning of the present century certainly made our relationship to England very much worse, while it also materially increased the danger of our position from the standpoint of world-politics. The Buelow-Tirpitz notion of a Risikoflotte,[*] may, however, only have been practicable on condition that our diplomacy were sufficiently skilful to avoid war, as long as the "risk" idea in England was not able, of itself, to maintain peace.
[Footnote *: Literally: a fleet for risks or for taking risks; a fleet to be used at a venture.]
German foreign policy had been ably conducted by Bismarck; but, in keeping with the times, it had been almost exclusively Continental and European. At the very moment when Bismarck withdrew from the arena, Germany's era of world-politics began. It was not the free bloom of our statesmen's own creative powers; but a bitter necessity, born of the imperative need of providing Germany's increasing population with sufficient foodstuffs. But it was not our world-politics, as such, that brought about our downfall; but the way we set to work in prosecuting our policy. The Triple Alliance, with its excellent Reinsurance Treaty, did not constitute a sufficiently powerful springboard from which to take our plunge into world-politics. The Reinsurance contract could not be anything but a makeshift, which merely deferred the inevitable choice which had to be made between Russia and Austria-Hungary. In the course of time, we should either have had to decide entirely in favor of Russia, in the manner outlined above, or we should have had to try to come to an understanding with England, upon terms which, at all events, we should not have been at liberty to choose for ourselves. Unfortunately, however, it was an axiom of post-Bismarckian German politics, that the differences between Russia and England were irreconcilable, and that the Triple Alliance would have to constitute the needle-index of the scales between these two hostile Powers. This proposition was incessantly contested both verbally and in writing by Herr von Holstein, who was then the leading spirit at the Foreign Office. He perceived that its chief flaw was the weak point in the Triple Alliance itself,—that is to say, the differences between Austria-Hungary and Italy on the one hand, and Italy's dependence upon England's superior power in the Mediterranean on the other. Furthermore, he recognized the prodigious possibility, which was not beyond the art of English statesmanship, of a compromise between England and Russia. He did not see, however, how the hostility of the French to ourselves would serve as a medium for this universal coalition against us.
In the last Entente Note of the Five-Years War there is the following passage:
"For many years the rulers of Germany, true to the Prussian tradition, strove for a position of dominance in Europe. They required that they should be able to dictate and tyrannize to a subservient Europe, as they dictated and tyrannized over subservient Germany."
We Germans know that this indictment is a lie; but unfortunately all unprejudiced Germans must acknowledge that for years this lie has been believed outside Germany. We, for our part, cherished similar views about our enemies, nor did we make a sufficient effort to dissipate their prejudices. On the contrary we constantly lent color to them by means of the extravagant and high-flown speeches, which formed the accompaniment to our world and naval policy, and by means of our opposition to pacifism, disarmament, and arbitration schemes, etc., etc. The extent to which our attitude at the Hague Conference damaged us in the eyes of the whole world is no longer a secret to anybody. As Heinrich Friedjung rightly observes:
"At the Hague Conference German diplomacy delivered itself up to the vengeance of the pacifists, like a culprit."
During my tenure of office in Washington I succeeded on three occasions in coming to an agreement with the Government there regarding the terms of an arbitration treaty. All three treaties were, however, rejected in Berlin, and consequently in America I never ceased from being questioned reproachfully as to the reason why the United States had been able to conclude arbitration treaties with every other State in the world, but not with Germany.
The Entente Note, already quoted above, contained this further statement:
"As soon as their preparations were complete, they encouraged a subservient ally to declare war against Serbia at forty-eight hours' notice, knowing full well that a conflict involving the control of the Balkans could not be localized and almost certainly meant a general war. In order to make doubly sure, they refused every attempt at conciliation and conference until it was too late, and the world war was inevitable for which they had plotted, and for which alone among the nations they were fully equipped and prepared."
The leaders of the Entente Powers would like to exalt this distortion of history into a dogma, in order that their various peoples may not bring any unpleasant charges against them. And yet the historical truth is already pretty clear to all who look for it honestly and without prejudice. The German Government believed that the Serbian propaganda would annihilate Austria-Hungary, and hoped, moreover, that her last faithful ally would experience a political renaissance as the result of her chastisement of Serbia. That is why they gave Count Berchtold a free hand, in the belief that Count Buelow's success over the Bosnian crisis could be repeated. Meanwhile, however, the situation had changed. Russia and France, relying upon England's help, wanted to risk a war. When the German Government saw this they tried, like a driver of a car about to collide with another vehicle, to jam on all breaks, and to drive backwards. But it was then too late. The mistake our Government made was to consent to Austria-Hungary's making so daring an experiment, at a moment of such critical tension.
It is not true either that we were thoroughly equipped and prepared for war. We had neither sufficient supplies of munitions, foodstuffs and raw materials, nor any plan of campaign for a war with England. Be this as it may, we should not have been defeated if we had abided firmly by our defensive policy. The heroic spirit displayed by the German people surpassed all bounds, and they believed quite honestly that they were fighting a war of defence. If our policy had been conducted with corresponding consistency we should have saved our position in the world. We ought always to have borne in mind the analogy of the Seven Years War, in order to have been ready at any moment to extricate ourselves from the hopeless business with the least possible amount of loss.
After the first battle of the Marne, President Wilson consistently maintained that a decision was no longer possible by force of arms. This view, which I also shared, gave us some common ground, upon which, despite our other differences, we were able to some extent to work together.
Regarding Dr. Wilson's personality certain doubts have been and are still entertained by many people. He is the most brilliant and most eloquent exponent of the American point of view. But he does not devote the same energy and consistency to the execution of his various programmes as he does to their formation. There can be no question that, as a result both of his origin and his training, the President is very much under the sway of English thought and ideals. Nevertheless, his ambition to be a Peacemaker and an Arbiter Mundi certainly suggested the chance of our winning him over to our side, in the event of our being unable to achieve a decisive victory with the forces at our disposal. In this case, Wilson, as the democratic leader of the strongest neutral Power, was the most suitable person to propose and to bring about a Peace by arrangement.
After the opening of the U-boat campaign, two alternatives remained open to us, one of which we were compelled to choose. If the prospects of a U-boat war promised to secure a victory, it was naturally incumbent upon us to prosecute it with all possible speed and energy. If, as I personally believed, the U-boat war did not guarantee a victory, it ought, owing to the enormous amount of friction to which it could not help giving rise, under all circumstances to have been abandoned; for, by creating American hostility, it did us more harm than good.
I, as the German Ambassador, in the greatest neutral State, with the evidences of American power all about me, could not help feeling it my duty to maintain our diplomatic relations with the United States. I was convinced that we should most certainly lose the war if America stepped in against us. And thus I realized ever more and more the supreme importance of preventing this from taking place.
My communications to the Central Government were framed with a view to inducing them also to adopt this attitude; but they, of course, had to form their conclusions, not from one source, but from all the sources of information they possessed. At all events, isolated as I was at Washington, I could not confine myself merely to the task of furnishing my Government with information; but was compelled on occasion to act on my own initiative, in order to prevent any premature development in the diplomatic situation from becoming utterly hopeless.
The policy for which I stood not only promised the negative success of keeping America out of the war, but it also offered the only prospect there was of obtaining, with neutral help, a Peace by arrangement. My belief that such a peace could have been obtained through Dr. Wilson is, of course, no longer susceptible of proof to-day. It may perhaps sound improbable in view of the President's behavior at Versailles. It is my opinion, however, that, previous to the 31st of January, 1917, Dr. Wilson's attitude towards us was radically different. I base my assumption that Wilson might in those days have assisted us in obtaining a Peace by negotiation upon the following points:
(1) A Peace by mediation was the only way in which the United States could avoid becoming involved in the war, and this is what the American public opinion of the day wished above all to prevent.
(2) It is true that even if he had wished to do so, Wilson could not have declared war on England, neither could he by any exercise of force have prevented the delivery of munitions to the Allies, or have compelled England to observe the rights of nations. He could, however, have obliged England to conclude a Peace by arrangement with us; not only because in so doing he would have had the support of American public opinion, but also because such a policy was in keeping with the best political interests of the United States.
I therefore pursued the policy of Peace with undeviating consistency, and to this day I still believe it to have been the only right policy. A thorough prosecution of the U-boat campaign was also a feasible scheme. But the worst thing that we could possibly do, was, to steer the zigzag course; for by so doing we were certain not only to cause constant vexations to America, but, by our half measures and partial pliancy, also to drive Mr. Wilson even further and further into the inflexible attitude of a policy of prestige. Unfortunately, however, it was precisely this zigzag course that we adopted; and thus, in addition to destroying the prospects which my policy had offered, according to the view of the Naval people, we also crippled the effects of the U-boat campaign.
My policy might best be described as that of "a silent resolve to obtain Peace." It was utterly wrong to publish our readiness for Peace broadcast. We should have presented a strong front to the outside world, and we should have increased the powers of resistance which we actually possessed by emphasizing our strength both to our people at home and to other States. According to my view, we ought, after the first battle of the Marne, to have recognized in our heart of hearts that victory was out of the question, and consequently we should have striven to conclude a Peace, the relatively unfavorable terms of which might perhaps have temporarily staggered public opinion in Germany and created some indignation. It was not right, however, to allow deference to public opinion to outweigh other considerations, as it did in our case. The political leaders of the Empire ought to have kept the High Military Command, which from its point of view naturally demanded firmer "assurances" than the general situation warranted, more thoroughly within bounds, just as Bismarck did. Presumably the High Military Command would have been able to perform its duties quite as efficiently if it had been prevented from exercising too much influence on the policy which aimed at a conclusion of peace.
As a politician I consider that the ultimate cause of our misfortune was our lack of a uniform policy both before and during the war. If, at the time of Bismarck's retirement, we had made a timely and resolute decision either in favor of the Western Policy that he advocated, or in favor of the Eastern Policy, we should have prevented the development of a situation in the politics of the world which ultimately led to our own undoing. If, during the war, however, we had completely abandoned the U-boat campaign, and had made every possible effort to come to an understanding with America, we should, in my opinion, have been able to extricate ourselves from it satisfactorily. Be this as it may, it is also possible that if the U-boat campaign had been prosecuted resolutely, and without any shilly-shallying—a thing I never wished—we should not have suffered so complete a collapse from the military, economic, political and moral point of view, as we must otherwise have done. According to my view it is the hesitating zigzag course that we pursued which is chiefly to blame for the fact that of all possible results of the epoch of German world-politics, the unhappiest for ourselves has come to pass. The Wilhelminian Age perished owing to the fact that no definite objects were either selected or pursued in good time, and, above all, because both before and during the war, two systems in the Government of the country were constantly at variance with each other and mutually corroding.
GERMANY AND THE UNITED STATES BEFORE THE WAR
Anyone who has lived some time in the United States will feel with Goethe that "America is better off than our own Continent." Owing to the almost perfect autarchy existing there, grave economic problems never really arise. Nowhere else, during the whole course of my various diplomatic wanderings, have I ever seen a happier people, who looked more cheerfully into the future. In view of the comparatively sparse population of the country, intensive agricultural production has only become necessary in a few isolated districts; there are always purchasers in plenty for the rich surplus of raw materials available, and industry has not yet been directed solely towards export. As a result of these happy conditions, the American citizen feels but little interest for what goes on in other countries. In the period preceding the Five-Years War, if the political interests of the United States ever happened to cross those of Europe, it was almost exclusively in regard to American questions. As a proof of this we have only to think of the Spanish-American War, and of the various incidents relating to Venezuela; whereas it was only with difficulty that the German Government succeeded in inducing President Roosevelt's Administration to take part in the Algeciras Conference, at which the presence of the United States representative in no way alleviated our task.
Up to the time of the Five-Years War, the Foreign Policy conducted from Washington was almost entirely Pan-American, and the Monroe Doctrine was the beginning and end of it; for even if that versatile man, President Roosevelt, was fond of extending his activities to other spheres, as, for instance, when he brought the Russo-Japanese War to an end by the Peace of Portsmouth, the Panama Canal scheme remained his favorite child. But in the case of the Russo-Japanese War, it was home politics, which in America are chiefly responsible for turning the scales in regard to Foreign Policy, that again played the principal part. Mr. Roosevelt wished to win over to his side the very strong pacifist element in America; whereas the Imperialists—particularly later on—deprecated these successful attempts at mediation, because they prevented a further weakening of both of the belligerent parties. Even Roosevelt's Secretary of State, John Hay, concerned himself actively with the Far East, and was known in America as the spiritual founder of the policy of the "Open Door." In this particular matter, the German Government frequently acted hand in hand with the American, and it was owing to this circumstance that the Foreign Office at Berlin very much wished to have the United States represented at the Algeciras Conference. The German Government believed that the Americans would also declare themselves in favor of the "Open Door" even in Morocco. This assumption, however, turned out to be a false one, owing to the fact that the political and economic interest shown by the United States for countries on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean was not sufficiently keen. The Algeciras Conference was a fairly trustworthy forecast of all that subsequently happened at the Peace Conference at Versailles. Equally lacking in foundation was also the assumption, so prevalent in Germany, that, as the result of their energetic Far-Eastern policy, the Americans would plunge themselves into a serious conflict with Japan.
The question of the Philippines, which arose out of the Spanish-American War and the Cuban affair, constitutes a certain contrast to the customary Pan-American Foreign Policy of the United States. A large number of Americans—possibly the majority—would like to relinquish the Philippines as soon as the inhabitants of these islands are in a position to rule themselves. At its inception, the question of the Philippines brought us into a conflict with the United States, which was remembered by Americans for years. Heinrich Friedjung, referring to this incident, says:
"Quite superfluously it occurred to the German Government to make our East-Asiatic Squadron, under Admiral Diederichs, appear before Manila precisely at the moment when, in 1898, the decision was made regarding the Philippines. This was done simply out of a pointless consciousness of power, without any intention to cause offence."
This criticism is partly justified. And yet the affair was somewhat different from the version of it which the American Ambassador, Andrew White, allowed to filter through; for, seeing that, as the United States did not intend to retain the Philippines, they could raise no objection to Germany's wishing to acquire them. Thanks to his friendly attitude towards Germany, Andrew White had, on his own initiative, exceeded his instructions and was duly censured by his Government for his zeal. Nevertheless, a misunderstanding had occurred, as the result of which the Berlin Foreign Office had acted in perfect good faith. In the public mind in the United States, however, the feeling still rankled that Germany had wished to make a demonstration against their Government; and the English Press, which at that time was hostile to us, applied the bellows enthusiastically to the glowing embers of American ill-humor.
The Venezuela affair, in the year 1902, which was a matter of lodging certain complaints against the Venezuelan Government, ended in a similar manner. Germany and England together sent their ultimatum to Venezuela, and when no heed was paid to it, they instituted a blockade of a number of Venezuelan ports. It was at this time that I was appointed Secretary to the Embassy in London, where I had to conduct a good deal of the negotiations regarding the Venezuela question, with the Foreign Office. The whole affair, as initiated by ourselves, was, in proportion to the German claims, much too elaborate. The first suggestion which led to the common action on the part of the British and ourselves, came from the English side; but we should have been wiser, from the point of view of our own advantage, if we had not listened to the suggestion. It was absolutely clear from the start that the American Government would raise objections to this sort of procedure, on the part of European powers, in South America, and that England, true to her usual custom, would climb down before the United States the moment she recognized plainly the latter's displeasure. And when public opinion in America raised a violent protest, and, incidentally, resolutely assumed that Germany wished to obtain a footing in Venezuela, the English Press attacked us in the rear by asserting that the whole affair had been engineered by Germany, in order to embroil England with the United States. At President Roosevelt's wish the matter was finally settled with America's help; but in the United States it left behind the widely prevalent impression that Germany would infringe the Monroe Doctrine the moment she had the power to do so.
President Taft, who in the year 1909 took President Roosevelt's place, endeavored, with his Secretary of State, Philander Knox, to develop still further the policy of the "Open Door," inaugurated by John Hay. Both gentlemen felt the keenest interest in the Far East. The former had been Governor of the Philippines, the latter had been closely connected with the Pittsburgh iron industry, and knew the need of extending its sphere of activities. Mr. Knox suggested the proposal of internationalizing the railways of Manchuria. When, however, this American notion met with response in Germany, and apart from its general rejection elsewhere, had the further effect of drawing Japan and Russia together again, Mr. Knox abandoned his active Far-Eastern policy, and confined himself to stimulating the large banks of America into becoming interested in the building of railways and other economic means of development in China. This policy was described as "Dollar Diplomacy" by the Democratic Opposition, and violently opposed. When, therefore, the votes went against the Republican Party, and President Wilson came to the helm, he let the Far-Eastern policy drop. High Finance immediately seized this opportunity in order to extricate itself from Chinese undertakings. It had only embarked upon "Dollar Diplomacy" at the request of the Government, and the venture had yielded but little profit, owing to the fact that Americans are not inclined to invest in foreign securities.
Secretary of State Knox's policy, which was always supported by us, accounted for the fact that the official relations between the German and American Governments were never more cordial than during the years 1909-13, in spite of a short disturbance resulting from a dispute over our potash exports to the United States. The best proof of how friendly the official relations of the two Governments were is shown by the ease with which this quarrel was settled. We were also successful in concluding a commercial agreement which was satisfactory to both sides, and overcame the danger of a customs war as the result of America's new customs tariffs; whereas Taft's economic plans, which aimed at reciprocity and union with Canada, came to grief for political reasons, as the result of Canadian Opposition, and left behind a bitter after-taste both in the United States, Canada and England.
Official diplomatic communications excepted, however, it must unfortunately be admitted, that mutual misunderstanding has been the principal feature of German-American relations. In Germany there was no understanding for the curious mixture of political sagacity, commercial acumen, tenacity and sentimentality, which goes to make up the character of the American people. The power of the Union was therefore underestimated by us, and the high-spirited utterances of American youthful strength were more disapproved of than was necessary, because they were interpreted as mere "bluff" and arrogance. We never sufficiently allowed for the fact that the Americans are very "emotional"—that is to say, that they are easily carried away by their feelings and then become uncertain. Political surprises in the United States are almost the rule.
On the other hand, Americans never give themselves time to learn to understand a foreign nation. A knowledge of foreign languages is by no means general in the United States. The Americans unconsciously borrow their thoughts and ideas from England, because it is the only nation whose literature and Press are accessible to them in the original tongue. Naturally this fact contributed very considerably, before the Five-Years War, towards making the comprehension of Germany difficult; because in those days German-English relations were growing more and more unfavorable every day, and this decline in friendliness found a powerful echo in the English Press and other literature. The English language exercises more absolute power in the United States than even in England itself. For example, it would never occur to any diplomat in Washington to transact his business in any other language than English. Whereas, in London, I never once heard the French Ambassador pronounce one word of English—even in an after-dinner speech—M. Jusserand in Washington always spoke English. But, in spite of the claim that the French make, that their language prevails in diplomatic circles, he could not have done otherwise; because I have never, during the whole of the eight years of my official activities in Washington, met one Secretary of State who had mastered any other language than English. It is obvious that this state of affairs opens all doors and avenues to English political and cultural influences.
Thus, before the outbreak of the Five-Years War, the majority of Americans already looked upon the Germans, however unconsciously, through the optics of the English Press and English literary publications. A large number of people in the United States honestly believed, moreover, in the rumored German scheme to seize the empire of the world. Our enormous successes in the economic field provoked unbounded admiration and led, on the one hand, to an over-estimation of our power, which did not prove favorable to us politically, while, on the other hand, the Americans who frequently indulged in generalizations about Germany were prone to judge us according to the German-American Beer-Philistine, whom they disdainfully called a "Dutchman." The Americans' view of the German people wavered between these two extremes; but every year opinion tended to incline more and more in the direction of the former. The phantom of a German world-empire, extending from Hamburg to Bagdad, had already taken possession of the American mind long before the war; and in the United States it was feared that the next step would be that this world-empire would infringe the Monroe Doctrine and found colonies in South America. Professor Baumgarten, in an entertaining book, has pointed out to what extent the publications of the Pan-German party contributed towards promoting such conceptions in America.
Our Press was a little too fond of making attacks on the Monroe Doctrine in particular. I was always of the opinion that we ought, openly and officially, to have recognized this American article of faith. As regards the Monroe Doctrine, the question is not one of Right, but one of Power. We certainly had not the power to infringe the Monroe Doctrine, even if we had had the intention, which was never the case. It would, therefore, have been more wise to acknowledge it, and thus to improve the political attitude, towards ourselves, of a country on which we were so very much dependent for a number of our raw-material supplies. I have often wondered whether the Imperial Government would not have regarded it as its duty to avoid war at all costs, if our economic dependence upon foreign countries had been more clearly recognized. German prosperity was based to a great extent on the Germans overseas, who had settled down in every corner of the earth, just as in former days the Greeks had settled all over the Roman Empire. The Germans overseas constituted a colonial empire, which was a far more precious source of wealth than many a foreign possession belonging to other Powers. In my opinion not sufficient allowance was made for this state of affairs.
Finally, a further cause of misunderstandings, as I have already mentioned in the Introduction, was to be found in the general disfavor with which American pacifist tendencies were regarded in Germany. Nine-tenths of the American nation are pacifists, either through their education and sentimental prepossession in favor of the principle, or out of a sense of commercial expediency. People in the United States did not understand that the German people, owing to their tragic history, are compelled to cultivate and to uphold the martial spirit of their ancestors. The types of the German officer of the reserve and of the members of the student corps are particularly unsympathetic to the American, and, for certain German foibles, all sign of that understanding that readily forgives, is entirely absent in the United States, owing to the fact that our historical development is not realized over there.
Although the Americans are largely and unconsciously swayed by the influence of English ideas, we must be careful to avoid falling into the error, so common in Germany, of regarding them as Anglo-Saxons. The Americans themselves, in their own country, scarcely ever call themselves Anglo-Saxons. This term is used by the English when they are anxious to claim their American cousins as their own. Occasionally, too, an American may use the expression when making an after-dinner speech at some fraternizing function. As a rule, however, the Americans insist on being Americans, and nothing else. On the 11th May, 1914, at a memorial service for the men who fell at Vera Cruz, President Wilson, in one of his finest speeches, said:
"Notice how truly these men were of our blood. I mean of our American blood, which is not drawn from any one country, which is not drawn from any one stock, which is not drawn from any one language of the modern world; but free men everywhere have sent their sons and their brothers and their daughters to this country in order to make that great compounded nation which consists of all the sturdy elements and of all the best elements of the whole globe. I listened again to this list of the dead with a profound interest, because of the mixture of the names, for the names bear the marks of the several national stocks from which these men came. But they are not Irishmen or Germans or Frenchmen or Hebrews or Italians any more. They were not when they went to Vera Cruz; they were Americans; every one of them, with no difference in their Americanism because of the stock from which they came. They were in a peculiar sense of our blood, and they proved it by showing that they were of our spirit, that no matter what their derivation, no matter where their people came from, they thought and wished and did the things that were American; and the flag under which they served was a flag in which all the blood of mankind is united to make a free nation."
The above words of President Wilson are the key to the attitude of the Americans who are of German origin. True, these people, almost without exception, still cling to their old home with heartfelt affection; but they are Americans, like the rest of the nation. "Germania is our mother, and Columbia is our bride," said Carl Schurz, and with these words he described the situation in a nutshell. Just as a man shall "leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife," so the man who is generally styled the German-American decides in favor of his new home-land, when a conflict arises between America and Germany. He will, however, do anything in his power to avoid such a conflict. Even before the war, we in Germany entirely failed to understand the difficult and delicate position of the American of German origin. And during the war this was more than ever the case. The question of the "German-Americans" has never been dealt with tactfully in Germany. Our greatest mistake was to expect too much from them. The Americans of German origin have retained in their new home all the failings and virtues of the German people. We could not, therefore, blame them if they showed less interest and less understanding in regard to political questions than the rest of America; for did they not, on the other hand, distinguish themselves by their respect for the established order of things, and by the fidelity and industry with which they pursued their various callings? The inevitable consequence of these national qualities was that they did not exercise the political influence which would have been only in keeping with their numerical superiority. For instance, I might mention that, on the occasion when I first visited Milwaukee, I was welcomed by an Irish mayor, a circumstance which somewhat surprised me, seeing that at the time the town contained from 300,000 to 400,000 Germans.
In consequence of the state of affairs described above, the principal object of German policy in the United States before the war was to try to bring about a more satisfactory understanding between the two peoples. Prince Henry's journey to America, the exchange of University professors and school teachers, which took place on this occasion, the visits of the two fleets, the American Institute in Berlin, and similar more or less successful undertakings served the same purpose. German diplomatic representatives were instructed to promote this policy with all their power. When I was appointed Ambassador in Washington, the Kaiser's and the Chancellor's principal injunction, in taking leave of me, was that I should enlighten public opinion in the United States regarding the peaceful and friendly intentions of German policy. Prince Buelow also said to me that I must without fail bring the negotiations about an Arbitration Treaty with the United States, which had been left unfinished owing to the death of my predecessor, to a satisfactory conclusion. Despite these definite instructions, the German Government, as I have already pointed out, ultimately blundered and stumbled over legal quibbles. In any case, however, Prince Buelow had meanwhile vacated his office. The effect upon the American mind of our obstruction of this matter should not be under-estimated. It helped not a little to convince public opinion in the United States of the alleged warlike intentions of the German people.
In accordance with American custom, the semi-official and semi-private activities concerned with fostering a better understanding between the two States had to be published to the whole world, and this had the inevitable disadvantage of provoking opposition, both in Germany and in the United States, among all those who had reasons for being hostile. Unfortunately, the official representatives of Germany in Washington were always a thorn in the side of a certain section of the German Press, whenever they tried, in consideration of the American attitude of mind and social customs, to introduce a warmer feeling into the relations between the two sides. Even in the time of my predecessor, Speck von Sternburg, the German Embassy was on such occasions charged with softness and an excessive desire to become adapted to American ways; and this remained the case during my tenure of office.
Our Press in general, moreover, never revealed a sufficient amount of interest or understanding in regard to American affairs. There were only a very few German newspaper correspondents in the United States, and those that did happen to be there were too poorly paid to be able to keep properly in touch with American social life. About twelve months before the war, the well-known wealthy German-American, Hermann Sielcken, offered to help me out of this difficulty by undertaking to pay the salary of a first-rate American journalist, of German origin, who was to reside in Washington, and act as the representative there of Wolff's telegraphic bureau. I immediately took steps to organize this telegraphic service. Very shortly afterwards, however, I was informed by Berlin, that the telegrams would be too expensive, as the subject was not of enough interest, and in this case the Wolff Bureau would only have had to defray the cost of the actual telegrams. This was the way the supply of news was organized in a country that imagined it was practising world-politics.
Mr. Wilson took up his quarters in the White House, Washington, about a year before the war, and opened his period of office with several internal reforms. Then came the American-Mexican crisis, and relations with Europe in general, and Germany in particular, therefore, fell somewhat into the background.
Woodrow Wilson was a University don and an historian. His works are distinguished by their brilliant style and the masterly manner in which he wields the English language—a power which was also manifested in his political speeches and proclamations. Mr. Wilson sprang into political and general fame when he was President of the University of Princeton, and was elected as Governor of the State of New Jersey. Even in those days he displayed, side by side, on the one hand, his democratic bias which led him violently to oppose the aristocratic student-clubs, and on the other, his egocentric and autocratic leanings which made him inaccessible to any advice from outside, and constantly embroiled him with the governing council of the University. As Governor of New Jersey, The Holy Land of "Trusts," Mr. Wilson opened an extraordinarily sharp campaign against their dominion. Mr. Roosevelt, it is true, had spoken a good deal against the trusts, but he had done little. He could not, however, have achieved much real success, because the Republican Party was too much bound up with the trusts, and dependent on them. At the time when Mr. Roosevelt wanted to take action, he also succeeded in splitting up his party, so that real reform could only be expected from the Democratic side. The conviction that this was so was the cause of Mr. Wilson's success in the Presidential election of 1912.
In regard to external politics, Mr. Wilson was pacifistic, as was also his party; whereas the Imperialists belonged almost without exception to the Republican Party. In spite of "Wall Street," and the influence of English ideas and opinions upon American society, Pacifist tendencies largely prevailed in the United States before the outbreak of the Five-Years War; how much more was this the case, therefore, when Mr. Wilson, in accordance with American custom, gave the post of Secretary of State to the politician to whose influence he owed his nomination as candidate for the Presidency by the Democratic Party. Thus did Mr. William Jennings Bryan attain to the dignity of Secretary of State after he had thrice stood as a candidate for the Presidency without success.
In all political questions, Mr. Bryan followed a much more radical tendency than Mr. Wilson. His opponents call him a dishonest demagogue. I, on the contrary, would prefer to call Mr. Bryan an honest visionary and fanatic, whose passionate enthusiasm may go to make an exemplary speechmaker at large meetings, but not a statesman whose concern is the world of realities. He who in his enthusiasm believes he will be able to see his ideal realized in this world next Thursday week is not necessarily dishonest on that account, even if he overlooks the fact that things are going very badly indeed.
It was believed in a large number of circles that Mr. Bryan would not accept the post of Secretary of State, for even at that time everybody who was in the know was already aware that Mr. Wilson could only tolerate subordinates and not men with opinions of their own. Mr. Bryan, however, felt the moral obligation, at least to attempt to give his radical views a chance of succeeding, and declared, as he took over the post, that so long as he was Secretary of State the United States would never go to war. He even wanted this principle to be generally accepted by the rest of the world, and with this end in view, submitted to all foreign Governments the draft of an Arbitration and Peace-Treaty, which was to make war utterly impossible in the future. As is well known, the German Government, unlike all the others, refused to fall in with Mr. Bryan's wishes. The Secretary of State was a little mortified by this, even though he still hoped that we should ultimately follow the example of the other Powers. Every time we met, he used to remind me of his draft Arbitration Treaty, which I had forwarded to Berlin. Later on I often regretted that we did not fall in with Mr. Bryan's wishes; who, by the by, during the war, again returned to the question, but in vain. If the treaty had been signed by us, it would most probably have facilitated the negotiations about the U-boat campaign.
The diplomatic corps in Washington thus found itself confronted by an entirely new situation. The Republican Party had been at the helm for sixteen years, and had now to vacate every one of the administrative posts. Even our personal intercourse with the President was governed by different formalities from those which existed in the days of his predecessors. Mr. Roosevelt liked to maintain friendly relations with those diplomats whose company pleased him. He disregarded the old traditional etiquette, according to which the President was not allowed to visit the Ambassadors or any private houses in Washington. The friendly relations that existed between Mr. Roosevelt and Baron Speck von Sternburg are well known. When in the year 1908, after this gentleman's decease, I assumed his post at Washington, Mr. Roosevelt invited me to the White House on the evening after my first audience, to a private interview, in which every topic of the day was discussed. Invitations of this kind were of frequent occurrence during the last two months of Roosevelt's administration, which, at the time of my entering office, was already drawing to its close. For instance, Mr. Roosevelt showed me the draft of the speech which after his retirement he delivered at the University of Berlin.
My dealings with President Taft were on the same footing; for he also was in favor of an amicable and unconventional relationship. On one occasion he invited me to join him in his private Pullman on a journey to his home in Cincinnati, where we attended the musical festival together. On another occasion, he suddenly appeared, without formal notice, at the Embassy, while we were holding a ball in honor of his daughter, and later on he accepted an invitation to my daughter's wedding.
President Wilson, who by inclination and habit is a recluse and a lonely worker, does not like company. He re-introduced the old etiquette and confined himself only to visiting the houses of Cabinet members, which had been the customary tradition. He also kept himself aloof from the banquets, which are such a favorite feature of social life in America, and severely limited the company at the White House. Thus the New Year Reception was discontinued entirely. This attitude on the part of the President was the outcome of his tastes and inclinations. But I certainly do not believe that he simply developed a theory out of his own peculiar tastes, as so often happens in life. I am more inclined to believe that Mr. Wilson regarded the old American tradition as more expedient, on the grounds that it enabled the President to remain free from all intimacy, and thus to safeguard the complete impartiality which his high office demanded. The peculiar friendship which unites Mr. Wilson with Mr. House is no objection to this theory, for the latter has to some extent always been in the position of a minister without portfolio. An adviser of this sort, who incurs no responsibility by the advice he gives, is more readily accepted by American opinion than by any other, because the President of the United States is known to be alone and exclusively responsible, whereas his ministers are only looked upon as his assistants.
Generally speaking, the political situation in the United States before the Five-Years War was as follows: On the one hand, owing to the influence of English ideas, which I have already mentioned, it was to be expected that a feeling of sympathy with the Entente would probably preponderate in the public mind; while on the other hand, owing to the general indifference that prevailed with regard to all that happened in Europe, and to the strong pacifist tendencies, no interference in the war was to be expected from America, unless unforeseen circumstances provoked it. At all events it was to be feared that the inflammability of the Americans' feelings would once again be under-estimated in Germany, as it had been already. It has never been properly understood in our country, despite the fact that the Manila and Venezuela affairs might have taught us a lesson in this respect. The juxtaposition in the American people's character of Pacifism and an impulsive lust of war should have been known to us, if more sedulous attention had been paid in Germany to American conditions and characteristics. The American judges affairs in Europe, partly from the standpoint of his own private sentiment of justice, and partly under the guidance of merely emotional values; but not, as was generally supposed in Germany, simply from a cold and business-like point of view. If this had been reckoned with in Germany, the terrible effect upon public opinion in America of the invasion of Belgium and of the sinking of the Lusitania—particularly in view of the influence of English propaganda—would have been adequately valued from the start.
On May 17th, 1915, in a report addressed to the Imperial Chancellor, I wrote as follows:
"It is not a bit of good glossing over things. Our best plan, therefore, is frankly to acknowledge that our propaganda in this country has, as the result of the Lusitania incident, completely collapsed. To everyone who is familiar with the American character this could have been foreseen. I therefore beg leave to point out in time, that another event like the present one would certainly mean war with the United States. Side by side in the American character there lie two apparently completely contradictory traits. The cool, calculating man of business is not recognizable when he is deeply moved and excited—that is to say, when he is actuated by what is here called 'emotion.' At such moments he can be compared only to an hysterical woman, to whom talking is of no avail. The only hope is to gain time while the attack passes over. At present it is impossible to foresee what will be the outcome of the Lusitania incident. I can only hope that we shall survive it without war. Be this as it may, however, we can only resume our propaganda when the storm has subsided."
Here I should like to intrude a few of my own views regarding the importance of public opinion in the United States.
In Europe, where people are constantly hearing about the truly extraordinary and far-reaching authority of the American President—the London Times once said that, after the overthrow of the Russian Czar, the President of the United States was the last remaining autocrat—it is difficult to form a correct estimate of the power of public opinion in the Union. In America, just as no mayor can with impunity ignore the public opinion of his city, and no governor the public opinion of his state, so the President of the Republic, despite his far-reaching authority, cannot for long run counter to the public opinion of his country. The fact has often been emphasized by Mr. Wilson himself, among others, that the American President must "keep his ear to the ground"—that is to say, must pay strict attention to public opinion and act in harmony with it. For the American statesman, whose highest ambition consists either in being re-elected, or at least in seeing his party returned to power, any other course would amount to political suicide; for any attempt at swimming against the tide will certainly be avenged at the next elections.
It must be remembered that public opinion in the United States is seldom so homogeneous and unanimous a thing as, for example, in England. Particularly in questions of foreign politics, public opinion in the Union, stretching, as it does, over a whole continent, reacts in widely varying ways in different localities, and to a very different degree. Thus, in the States bordering on the Atlantic coast, which are more closely in touch with the Old World, there is, as a rule, a very definite public opinion on European questions, while the West remains more or less indifferent. On the other hand, in the Gulf States a very lively interest is taken by the public in the Mexican problem, and the Pacific States are closely concerned with the Japanese question, matters which arouse hardly more than academic interest in other localities. This is also reflected in the American Daily Press, which does not produce papers exerting equal influence over the whole nation, but rather, in accordance with the customary geographical division of the Union into seven economic spheres of interest—namely, New York, New England, Middle Atlantic States, Southern States, Middle West, Western and Pacific States, comprises seven different daily presses, each of which gives first place to quite a different problem from the rest. It is true that the New York Press is certainly the most important mirror of American public opinion on European questions. Nevertheless, this importance should not lead to the erroneous assumption that the American Press and the New York Press are synonymous terms. The perusal of the latter does not suffice for the formation of a reliable judgment of American public opinion, with regard to certain questions which concern the whole nation; rather it is necessary also to study the leading papers of New England, the Middle Atlantic States, and particularly the West. The reports of German and English correspondents on feeling in America, which, as so often happens, are based purely on the New York Press, frequently play one false, if one relies on them for an estimate of the public opinion of the whole nation. The "Associated Press," therefore, makes it a rule with all questions of national importance, not only to reproduce extracts from the New York Press, but also to publish precis of the opinions of at least fifty leading journals from all parts of the Union.
The American daily papers are more important as a medium for influencing public opinion than as a mirror for reflecting it. The United States is the land of propaganda par excellence! Every important enterprise, of no matter what nature, has its Press agent; the greatest of all is the propaganda lasting for months, which is carried on before the biennial elections, and of the magnitude of which it is difficult for the average European to gain any conception. It is therefore not surprising that the political leaders of the country make very wide use of the Press in important questions of foreign politics, to influence public opinion in favor of the Government policy. Not only the great news agencies, but also all leading newspapers of the Union maintain their permanent special correspondents in Washington, and these are received almost daily by the Secretary of State, and as a rule once a week by the President. The information that they receive at these interviews they communicate to their papers in the greatest detail, without naming the high officials from whom it has emanated, and in this way they naturally act as megaphones through which the views of the Government are spread throughout the whole country. In foreign questions it was often striking how newspapers would hold back their comments until they had received in this way a mot d'ordre from Washington.
Of course this possibility for the Government to create opinion on concrete questions only applies so long as a firm public opinion has not already set in. As soon as the process of "crystallization," as it is called, is complete, there is nothing left for the Government but to follow the preponderating public opinion. Even a man like Mr. Wilson, who possesses an unusually high degree of self-will, has always followed public opinion, for the correct interpretation of which—apart from his own proverbial instinct—he commands the services of his secretary, Mr. Tumulty, and a large staff, as well as the organization of the Democratic party, which spreads through the length and breadth of the country. If, in a few exceptional cases, the President has set himself in opposition to public opinion, we might be sure that it would not be long before he again set his course on theirs.
THE GERMAN PROPAGANDA IN THE UNITED STATES
When I received the news of the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, I was dining with the Spanish Ambassador at the Metropolitan Club in Washington. Signor Riano and I were not for a moment in doubt as to the very serious, peace-menacing character of the incident, but we found little interest in the matter among the Americans in the club, who, as always, regarded European affairs with indifference. As to the results of the murder, I received in Washington no information, either officially or through the Press.
I therefore, on the 7th July, began my usual summer leave, which had been granted a few weeks before. For the last time I crossed the ocean on one of the proud German liners, and, indeed, on the finest of our whole merchant fleet, the Vaterland. For the last time I saw, on my arrival, the port of Hamburg and the lower Elbe in all their glory. Germans who live at home can hardly imagine with what love and what pride we foreign ambassadors and exiled Germans regarded the German shipping-lines.
A few days after I had arrived in my home at Starnberg there began strong public excitement and uneasiness over the political situation. However, of late years so many crises had been successfully averted at the eleventh hour, that this time, too, I hoped up to the last minute that a change for the better would set in. It seemed as though the responsibility for a war was too great to be borne by anyone man—whoever he might be—who would have to make the final decision.
On the wonderful, still summer evening of the 1st August, we heard across the Starnberger Lake, in all the surrounding villages, the muffled beat of drums announcing mobilization. The dark forebodings with which the sound of the drums filled me have fixed that hour indelibly in my memory.
The following day was devoted to preparations for the journey to Berlin, where I had to receive instructions before returning with all possible speed to Washington. The journey from Munich to Berlin, which could only be made in military trains, occupied forty-eight hours.
In the Wilhelmstrasse I had interviews with the authorities, the substance of which was instructions to enlighten the Government and people of the United States on the German standpoint. In doing so I was to avoid any appearance of aggression towards England, because an understanding with Great Britain had to be concluded as soon as possible. The Berlin view on the question of guilt was even then very much the same as has been set down in the memorandum of the commission of four of the 27th May, 1919, at Versailles, namely, that Russia was the originator of the war.
Further, I was informed at the Foreign Office, that in addition to some other additions to the staff of the Washington Embassy, the former Secretary of State of the Colonial Office, Dr. Dernburg, and Privy Councillor Albert, of the Ministry of the Interior, were to accompany me; the former as representative of the German Red Cross, the latter as agent of the "Central Purchasing Company." Dr. Dernburg's chief task, however, was to raise a loan in the United States, the proceeds of which were to pay for Herr Albert's purchases for the aforesaid company. For this purpose the Imperial Treasury supplied us with Treasury notes, which could only be made negotiable by my signature. This gave rise later to the legend that Dr. Dernburg was armed with millions for propaganda purposes.
Our journey was wearisome but passed off without incident. In forty-eight hours we reached Rotterdam, where we boarded the Dutch steamer Noordam. As we went aboard we were all in high spirits, for we had seen everywhere in Germany a wonderful, self-sacrificing and noble enthusiasm. On the steamer, however, which incidentally was badly overloaded, the picture changed. We suddenly found ourselves surrounded by hostile feeling, and among our fellow-passengers there were only a few friendly to the German cause. The bitter daily struggle toward which we were travelling was to begin on the ship. We plunged straight into it, and tried as far as possible to influence our fellow passengers.
At Dover the ship was inspected by a British officer; the inspection, however, passed off without any inconvenience to us, as in those first days of the war the regulations of international law were still to some extent respected. We had already made all preparations to throw the Treasury notes overboard, in case we were searched. As a curiosity I mention a comic interlude that occurred after we had left Dover Harbor. A friendly German-American from a Western State, who did not know who I was, but had recognized me as a German, accosted me with the remark: "Take care that you don't expose yourself to annoyance; the people on board think you are the German Ambassador in Washington." The excellent man was overcome with amazement when I admitted my identity. We had not had our names entered on the passengers' list, but apart from this made no secret of our journey, as it was already known in Rotterdam.
After an eleven days' voyage, we landed in New York on the 23rd August. Our arrival was a relief, as during the journey we had been overwhelmed exclusively with enemy wireless reports of French victories. Every day we had received news of the annihilation of a fresh German Army Corps. In comparison with this mental torture, the cross-fire of questions from countless American Pressmen, not altogether friendly towards Germany, was comparatively easy to bear.
As is known, American public opinion at that time had been given a one-sided view of the causes and course of the war, for England, who, immediately after the declaration of war, had cut our Transatlantic cable, held the whole of the Transatlantic news apparatus in her hands. Apart from this, however, our enemies found from the beginning very important Allies in a number of leading American newspapers, which, in their daily issue of from three to six editions, did all they could to spread anti-German feeling. In New York the bitterest attacks on Germany were made by the Herald and the Evening Telegram, which were in close touch with France, as well as the Tribune and Times, which followed in England's wake; somewhat more moderate were the Sun and the Globe; the only neutrals were the Evening Post and the American. Outside New York the Press raged against us, particularly in New England and the Middle-Atlantic States. In the South and West we were also baited by the Press, but with considerably less intensity. The only papers which could be called neutral were those of the Hearst Press, which took up an outspoken National-American standpoint, and, in addition, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and a few minor newspapers. It was already very significant that papers like the Boston Transcript, the Brooklyn Eagle, the Baltimore Sun, and a few others opened their letter-boxes to anti-German articles, which, it is true, they condemned with fair regularity in their leading articles or editorial notes. Against this campaign, fed systematically and daily with British propaganda information—especially on the subject of German atrocities in Belgium—the small number of papers in the German language, which, moreover, were little heeded by public opinion, and at the head of which stood the old New Yorker Staatszeitung and the courageous weekly Fatherland, founded shortly after the outbreak of war by the young German-American, G. S. Vierick, could make but little headway.
On my arrival in New York, and during the next few weeks, I made an honest effort by daily interviews of the representatives of the leading daily newspapers to explain the German standpoint to the American public. I soon noticed, however, that these efforts were not only practically fruitless but that they were even fraught with certain dangers for me. The daily struggle with the Press was threatening to undermine my official position and to compromise my relations with the Washington Government so seriously that I should not have been in a position to carry through with success the diplomatic negotiations which were likely to be called for. I therefore considered it as my duty to the German people to give up, as far as I personally was concerned, all propaganda in favor of the German cause. Certainly I have had a good deal further to do with American journalists until the final rupture; but I categorically refused to grant interviews or to receive newspaper correspondents who were not prepared to treat my statements purely as confidential, private information.
I should like to take this opportunity to remark that the American journalist is far better than the reputation he enjoys in Europe. In spite of the hostile atmosphere which surrounded me in America I have never had to complain of an indiscretion. True, many minor New York reporters whom I did not receive invented statements which I had never made; but such experiences are common to all politicians in America. Moreover, the results of these journalistic tricks were almost always local and were easily contradicted. In Washington such things never occurred. The journalists there were quite extraordinarily capable and trustworthy men, who always behaved like "gentlemen." My relations with them remained very friendly to the last. In so far as I was not forced to keep silence for political reasons I have always told them the real truth. Of course, I was as little capable as the American journalists of foreseeing that the policy I was representing was doomed to ultimate failure.
Just at the time when I gave up personal propaganda in order to devote myself to my political and diplomatic activities in Washington, the financial mission of Secretary of State Dr. Dernburg had failed. President Wilson had stated clearly that it would be an unneutral act for loans to be raised in the Union by the combatant States. Our friends in high financial circles in New York regarded this decision as favorable to Germany, for they foresaw—what actually happened—that for every million received by us, our enemies would raise a hundred millions. As a result of this decision of the President, Privy Councillor Albert had to finance his purchases as far as possible privately, while Dr. Dernburg, whose time was not fully occupied by his duties as delegate of the Red Cross, which had meanwhile been organized by Geheim Oberregierungrat Meyer Gerhardt and Rittmeister Hecker, would have left America if there had remained any possibility of doing so. There was not, however, as the English inspected all neutral ships shortly after they left the American ports and—in flagrant contravention of international law, which only allows the arrest of persons who are already enrolled in the fighting forces—summarily arrested and interned every German capable of bearing arms. As Dr. Dernburg was thus an unwilling prisoner in New York he began to write articles on the world-war for the daily Press. He had a gift for explaining the causes of the war in a quiet, interesting manner, and particularly for setting out the German standpoint in a conciliatory form. His propaganda work therefore met with extraordinary success. The editors of newspapers and periodicals pressed him to contribute to their columns, and the whole New York Press readily printed all the articles he sent in to contradict the statements of the anti-Germans.
Out of this activity developed, in co-operation with the Foreign Office, Dr. Dernburg's New York Press Bureau, a solution of the propaganda question which was exceedingly welcome to me. As a private person Dr. Dernburg could say and write much that could not be said officially and therefore could not come from me. Consequently I took it for granted that—in spite of certain suggestions to the contrary—Dr. Dernburg would not be attached to the Embassy, which would only hamper his work, and also that the Press Bureau would retain its independent and unofficial character. I may take it as a well-known fact that Washington is the political, and New York the economic, capital of the United States, which has always resulted in a certain geographical division of the corresponding diplomatic duties. It naturally had its disadvantages that there should be, apart from the Consulate-General, four other independent German establishments in New York, namely, the offices of Dr. Dernburg, Privy Councillor Albert, the military attache Captain von Papen and the naval attache Commander Boy-Ed. In order to keep, to some extent, in touch with these gentlemen, I occasionally travelled to New York and interviewed them together in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where I usually stayed and in which Dr. Dernburg lived; for their offices, scattered as they were over the lower town, and which, moreover, I never entered, were unsuitable for the purpose. Our mutual personal relations were always of the best. On the other hand, it was naturally difficult to make any headway with our official business, since each received independent instructions from Berlin. This was least the case with Dr. Dernburg, because his responsible authority as far as propaganda was concerned was partly the Foreign Office itself and partly the semi-official "Central Office for Foreign Service." The other three gentlemen, however, were all responsible to home departments other than mine. Captain von Papen and Commander Boy-Ed frequently held back from me the instructions they had received from Berlin in order not to embarrass the Embassy by passing on military or naval information. Financially, too, the four officials were completely independent and had their own banking accounts, for which they had to account individually to their respective departments at home. Only Privy Councillor Albert had, for the purchase on a large scale of raw material, definite funds which were in any event under my control. Concerning the activities of these four gentlemen, countless legends have been spread in America and in part have found their way to Germany. In spite of all the reproaches levelled against them, and indirectly against myself, with regard to propaganda—I shall speak of the so-called conspiracies in Chapter V.—nothing has reached my ears of which these gentlemen need in any way be ashamed. Individual mistakes we have, of course, all made; in view of the ferocity and protraction of the struggle they were inevitable. But in general the German propaganda in America in no way deserves the abuse with which it has been covered, in part, too, at home. If it had really been so clumsy or ineffective as the enemy Press afterwards claimed, the Entente and their American partisans would not have set in motion such gigantic machinery to combat it. One need only read G. Lechartier's book, "Intrigues et Diplomaties a Washington," to see what importance was attached to our propaganda by the enemy. In spite of all the bitterness which the author infuses into his fictitious narration, admiration for the German activity in the United States shines through the whole book. Further, at the end of 1918 a Commission of the Senate appointed to investigate German propaganda, as a result of the publication of protocols on this subject, repeatedly stated that its work had in no way been in vain, but rather its after effects had made themselves strongly felt "like poison gas" long after America's entry into the war. One may well venture to say that, had it not been for the serious crisis caused by the submarine war, it would probably in time have succeeded in completely neutralizing the anti-German campaign.
As regards our justification for openly championing the German cause before the people of the United States by written and spoken word, this is self-evident in a country which recognizes the principles of freedom of the Press and free speech. Apart from this, however, the American Government have themselves provided a precedent in this connection during the civil war, when President Lincoln in 1863 sent to England the famous preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, whose sympathies were strongly on the side of the Federals. Through his speeches, afterwards published as "Patriotic Addresses," he did much towards swaying public opinion in favor of the Northern States. In this war, too, America, after abandoning her neutrality, has carried out vigorous propaganda in neutral countries, as is shown by the mission of the well-known New York supporter of woman suffrage, Mrs. Norman Whitehouse, under the auspices of the official Press Bureau and with the special approval of Secretary of State Lansing. Moreover our justification has been expressly upheld by a statement of Commissioner Bruce Bielaski of the American Law Department, who appeared as chief witness against us before the above mentioned Commission of Inquiry. He declared that there was no law in the United States which, before her entry into the war, rendered illegal German or any other foreign propaganda. Why all this noise then?—it is reasonable to ask. Why, then, has the suggestion persisted at home and abroad, almost from the appearance of Dr. Dernburg until the present day, that we had, with our propaganda campaign, made ourselves guilty of treachery to the United States?
From the moral point of view, too, no exception can be taken to the German propaganda. The United States was neutral and wished to remain so. The German propaganda was working for the same end. I have never heard of a single case of bribery by our representatives. If money was spent on our side, it was purely for the purpose of spreading articles and pamphlets pleading United States neutrality. Applications were frequently made to us by writers and editors who from inner conviction were ready to write and circulate articles of this kind, but were not financially in a position to do so. The leaders of German propaganda would surely have been neglectful of their duty if in such cases they had not provided the necessary funds. All Governments in the world have always proceeded in a similar way, and in particular that of the United States since their entry into the war, as is shown by the case of the Freie Zeitung of Bern—therefore equally in a neutral country. These facts must throw a strange light on the inquiry of the American Senate into German propaganda, delayed as it was until last winter and carried through with such elaborate machinery. It is obvious that beneath it all there lay—what irony!—a purely propagandist purpose, namely, that of humiliating Germany in the person of her late official representative accredited to the United States, and to make her appear contemptible in the eyes of the uncritical public!
Whereas in the first months of the war no one in America had thought of connecting "German Propaganda" with anything shocking, our opponents afterwards succeeded in disseminating the idea that a few offences against the law committed by Imperial and American Germans represented an important, even the most important, part of the German propaganda work. So it was brought about that even in the time before America's entry into the war, everyone who openly stood up for Germany's cause was stamped by the expression "German Propagandist" as a person of doubtful integrity. The gradual official perpetuation of this admittedly misleading identification of our absolutely unexceptionable propaganda with a few regrettable offences against the American penal code—this and no other was the object of that inquiry by the Senate. The prejudicial headlines under which the published articles were printed, such as "Brewery and Brandy Interests" and "German-Bolshevist Propaganda," themselves sufficed to indicate that our propaganda was to be crucified between two "malefactors"; for to the average American citizen there is nothing more horrifying than the distillery on the one hand and Bolshevism on the other. In this connection I must not omit to mention that the great majority of the documents laid before the Commission had been secured by means of bribery or theft. It is also worth while to remind the reader of the significant words of Senator Reed, a member of the Commission, who said at one point in the examination: "I am interested in trying to distil some truth from a mass of statements which are so manifestly unfair and distorted that it is hard to characterize them in parliamentary language."
As for the fantastic figures with which the Americans have undertaken to estimate the cost of our propaganda, they rest—in so far as they are not simply the fruit of a malicious imagination—on the, to say the least of it, superficial hypothesis that all the money paid out by the different German offices from the outbreak of war until the breaking off of diplomatic relations between Germany and America, the amount of which has been arrived at on the strength of a minute scrutiny of the books of all the banks with which these offices have done business, were used for purposes of propaganda. As a matter of fact, of course, far the greater part of this outlay went to finance the very extensive purchases of Privy Councillor Albert as well as certain business transactions concluded by Captain von Papen, which will be discussed later. In comparison with this the sum we devoted to propaganda work was quite small. The Press Bureau was frequently very appreciably hampered by the fact that even for quite minor expenditure outside the fixed budget, previous sanction had to be obtained from Berlin. Consequently much useful work would have had to remain undone if, particularly in the first months of the war, self-sacrificing German-Americans to whom it was only of the slightest interest that the German point of view should be accurately and emphatically explained, had not placed small sums at the disposal of the leaders of our propaganda. In the two and a half years between the outbreak of war and the rupture between Germany and America the sums paid out from official funds for propaganda work in the Union—including minor contributions for other countries, as, for example, the pictures distributed from New York over South America and Eastern Asia—do not, all told, exceed a million dollars. That is surely only a small fraction of what England and France have expended during the war in order, in spite of very thorough preparation in peace time, to win over American public opinion to their cause. It is actually only a sixth of what, according to the Chicago Tribune on the 1st November, 1919, the official American Press Bureau of Mr. George Creel has spent in order to "cement enthusiasm for the war" during the eighteen months between America's entry into the war and the conclusion of the Armistice. The thirty-five to fifty million dollars which, according to the statements of our enemies, were swallowed up by German propaganda in the United States belong, therefore, to the realms of fable.