Germany from the Earliest Period Vol. 4
Wolfgang Menzel, Trans. Mrs. George Horrocks
Part 8 out of 8
Another difficulty which demanded government interference was the
Judenhetze, or persecution of the Jews, which reached a climax in
1881. A further difficulty was encountered in the quick growth of
socialism. Two attempts on the life of the kaiser were attributed to
it, and a plot being discovered, which had for object the elimination
of the emperor and other German rulers, repressive measures resulted.
Meanwhile an alliance offensive and defensive between Germany and
Austria had been formed, into which Italy subsequently entered.
On March 9, 1888, the Emperor William I. died. His son, Frederick, at
that time suffering from a cancerous affection of the throat, became
kaiser. Three months later he also died, and William II. succeeded
The latter's first step of any importance was to get in front of half
a million bayonets. Coincidently he declared that those bayonets and
he--or rather he and those bayonets--were born for one another.
Incidentally he announced that he was a monarch, specially conceived,
specially created, specially ordained by the Almighty.
The step and the remarks were tantamount to a call to quarters. It
would be dramatic to state that the circumjacent territories trembled,
but it is exact to affirm that there was a war scare at once, one
which by no means diminished when a little later he showed Bismarck
As already noted, the refounding of the empire was Bismarck's work. To
achieve his purpose he had--to again quote Colonel Malleson--defied
parliaments and people. He had led his master and his country over
abysses, in the traversing of which one false step would have been
fatal. Aided a great deal by the wretched diplomacy of Austria, by the
deterioration of the powers of the French emperor, and by his sublime
audacity, he had compelled to his will all the moral difficulties of
the undertaking. Von Boon and Moltke had done the rest. No longer,
however, was he allowed to put forth his hand to sustain the work
which he had created. For him it had been better to die, like Von
Boon, like Moltke, keeping to the end the confidence of his sovereign,
than to feel himself impelled, dismissed from office, to pour out his
grievances to every passing listener, to speak in terms not far
removed from treason of the sovereign who had declined to be his
pupil. Was it for this, he must have muttered, that I forced on the
war which gave Prussia Schleswig and Holstein in 1864; that I
compelled unwilling Austria to declare war in 1866; that, by the
freest circulation of exaggerated statements, I roused a bitter
feeling in Germany against France, and excited the statesmen, and,
above all, the mob, of Paris in 1870?--for this, that, the work
accomplished, an empire given to the Hohenzollerns, I might be cast
aside like a squeezed-out orange? Well might these be his thoughts,
for it was he who made possible the task of German unity, though in a
manner which will commend itself only to those who argue that the end
justifies the means.
A journalist wrote a pamphlet on the subject. In it he compared the
kaiser to Caligula. For his pains he was sent to jail. He might better
have been sent to school. Caligula was a poet in love with the moon.
The kaiser is a poseur in love with himself. One of Caligula's many
diversions was killing his people. Such slaughter as the kaiser has
effected consists in twenty-five thousand head of game. The career of
Caligula is horrible, yet in the horrible is sometimes the sublime.
The career of the kaiser has been theatrical, and in the theatrical is
always the absurd. The single parallel between the two lies in the
fact that all young emperors stand on a peak so lofty that, do they
look below, vertigo rises, while from above delirium comes. There is
nothing astonishing in that. It would be astonishing were it
otherwise. What does astonish is the equilibrium which the kaiser, in
spite of his words, his threats and actions, has managed to maintain.
Regarded as a firebrand and a menace to the peace of Europe, with the
exception of two big blunders--an invitation to King Humbert to
promenade with him through Strasburg, and the message which he sent to
President Kruger of the Transvaal after the failure of the Jameson
raid--with these exceptions he has exhibited a regard for
international etiquette entirely immaculate, and not always returned.
In recompense for overtures to France he has been snubbed. In
recompense for others to Russia he has been ignored. Neither Austria
nor Italy love him. He has weakened the Triple Alliance, alienated
England, and lost his place. When he ascended the throne Germany's
position on the continent was preponderant. That position is Russia's
Had he had the power--which he has always denied--to return to France
the keys of Metz and Strasburg, and had he had the ability--which
others have denied for him--to coalesce with France and Russia he
would have been warlord indeed. As it is, failing in an effort to
realize the dream of Napoleon I., he has at present writing subsided
into a martinet.
What the future holds for Germany and for him the future will tell.
But into the future it is not given to any one, even to an emperor, to
[Footnote 1: G. B. Malleson: The Refounding of the German Empire.]
[Footnote 2: The house is called "A la derniere Cartouche," and is the
subject of De Neuville's splendid painting.]
[Footnote 3: "Not having been able to die in the midst of my troops,
nothing remains for me but to place my sword in the hands of your
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