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Title: The Young Emperor, William II of Germany - A Study in Character Development on a Throne
Author: Frederic, Harold
Language: English
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A Study In Character Development On A Throne

By Harold Frederic

Author Of “In The Valley “The Lawton Girl”

With Portraits

New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons


[Illustration: 0011]

[Illustration: 0012]






In June of 1888, an army of workmen were toiling in the Champ de Mars
upon the foundations of a noble World’s Exhibition, planned to celebrate
the centenary of the death by violence of the Divine Right of Kings.
Four thousand miles westward, in the city of Chicago, some seven
hundred delegates were assembled in National Convention, to select the
twenty-third President of a great Republic, which also stood upon the
threshold of its hundredth birthday. These were both suggestive facts,
full of hopeful and inspiring thoughts to the serious mind. Considered
together by themselves they seemed very eloquent proofs of the progress
which Liberty, Enlightenment, the Rights of Man, and other admirable
abstractions spelled with capital letters, had made during the century.

But, unfortunately or otherwise, history will not take them by
themselves. That same June of 1888 witnessed a spectacle of quite
another sort in a third large city--a spectacle which gave the lie
direct to everything that Paris and Chicago seemed to say. This sharp
and clamorous note of contradiction came from Berlin, where a helmeted
and crimson-cloaked young man, still in his thirtieth year, stood erect
on a throne, surrounded by the bowing forms of twenty ruling sovereigns,
and proclaimed, with the harsh, peremptory voice of a drill-sergeant,
that he was a War Lord, a Mailed Hand of Providence, and a sovereign
specially conceived, created, and invested with power by God, for the
personal government of some fifty millions of people.

It is much to be feared that, in the ears of the muse of history, the
resounding shrillness of this voice drowned alike the noise of the
hammers on the banks of the Seine and the cheering of the delegates at

Any man, standing on that throne in the White Saloon of the old
Schloss at Berlin, would have to be a good deal considered by his
fellow-creatures. Even if we put aside the tremendous international
importance of the position of a German Emperor, in that gravely open
question of peace or war, he must compel attention as the visible
embodiment of a fact, the existence of which those who like it least
must still recognize. This is the fact: that the Hohenzollerns, having
done many notable things in other times, have in our day revivified
and popularized the monarchical idea, not only in Germany, but to a
considerable extent elsewhere throughout Europe. It is too much to say,
perhaps, that they have made it beloved in any quarter which was hostile
before. But they have brought it to the front under new conditions, and
secured for it admiring notice as the mainspring of a most efficient,
exact, vigorous, and competent system of government. They have made an
Empire with it--a magnificent modern machine, in which army and civil
service and subsidiary federal administrations all move together like
the wheels of a watch. Under the impulse of this idea they have not only
brought governmental order out of the old-time chaos of German divisions
and dissensions, but they have given their subjects a public service,
which, taken all in all, is more effective and well-ordered than its
equivalent produced by popular institutions in America, France, or
England, and they have built up a fighting force for the protection of
German frontiers which is at once the marvel and the terror of Europe.

Thus they have, as has been said, rescued the ancient and time-worn
function of kingship from the contempt and odium into which it had
fallen during the first half of the century, and rendered it once more
respectable in the eyes of a utilitarian world.

But it is not enough to be useful, diligent, and capable. If it were,
the Orleans Princes might still be living in the Tuileries. A kingly
race, to maintain or increase its strength, must appeal to the national
imagination. The Hohenzollerns have been able to do this. The Prussian
imagination is largely made up of appetite, and their Kings, however
fatuous and limited of vision they may have been in other matters, have
never lost sight of this fact. If we include the Great Elector, there
have been ten of these Kings, and of the ten eight have made Prussia
bigger than they found her. Sometimes the gain has been clutched out of
the smoke and flame of battle; sometimes it has more closely resembled
burglary, or bank embezzlement on a large scale; once or twice it has
come in the form of gifts from interested neighbours, in which category,
perhaps, the cession of Heligoland may be placed--but gain of some sort
there has always been, save only in the reign of Frederic William IV and
the melancholy three months of Frederic III.

That there should be a great affection for and pride in the
Hohenzollerns in Prussia was natural enough. They typified the strength
of beak, the power of talons and sweeping wings, which had made Prussia
what she was. But nothing save a very remarkable train of surprising
events could have brought the rest of Germany to share this affection
and pride.

The truth is, of course, that up to 1866 most other Germans disliked
the Prussians thoroughly and vehemently, and decorated those head
Prussians, the Hohenzollerns, with an extremity of antipathy. That
brief war in Bohemia, with the consequent annexation of Hanover,
Hesse-Cassel, Nassau, and Frankfort, did not inspire any new love for
the Prussians anywhere, we may be sure, but it did open the eyes of
other Germans to the fact that their sovereigns--Kings, Electors, Grand
Dukes, and what not--were all collectively not worth the right arm of a
single Hohenzollern.

It was a good deal to learn even this--and, turning over this revelation
in their minds, the Germans by 1871 were in a mood to move almost
abreast of Prussia in the apotheosis of the victor of Sedan and Paris.
To the end of old William’s life in 1888, there was always more or less
of the apotheosis about the Germans’ attitude toward him. He was never
quite real to them in the sense that Leopold is real in Brussels
or Humbert in Rome. The German imagination always saw him as he is
portrayed in the fine fresco by Wislicenus in the ancient imperial
palace at Goslar--a majestic figure, clad in modern war trappings yet of
mythical aspect, surrounded, it is true, by the effigies of recognizable
living Kings, Queens, and Generals, but escorted also by heroic
ancestral shades, as he rides forward out of the canvas. Close behind
him rides his son, Fritz, and he, too, following in the immediate shadow
of his father to the last, lives only now in pictures and in sad musing
dreams of what might have been.

But William II--the young Kaiser and King--_is_ a reality. He has won no
battles. No antique legends wreathe their romantic mists about him. It
has occurred to no artist to paint him on a palace wall, with the mailed
shadows of mediaeval Barbarossas and Conrads and Sigismunds overhead.

The group of helmeted warriors who cluster about those two mounted
figures in the Goslar picture, and who, in the popular fancy, bring
down to our own time some of the attributes of mediaeval devotion and
prowess--this group is dispersed now. Moltke, Prince Frederic Charles,
Roon, Manteuffel, and many others are dead; Blumenthal is in
dignified retirement; Bismarck is at Friedrichsruh. New men crowd the
scene--clever organizers, bright and adroit parliamentarians, competent
administrators, but still fashioned quite of our own clay--busy new men
whom we may look at without hurting our eyes.

For the first time, therefore, it is possible to study this prodigious
new Germany, its rulers and its people, in a practical way, without
being either dazzled by the disproportionate brilliancy of a few
individuals or drawn into side-paths after picturesque unrealities.


Three years of this new reign have shown us Germany by daylight
instead of under the glamour and glare of camp fires and triumphal
illuminations. We see now that the Hohenzollern stands out in the far
front, and that the other German royalties, Wendish, Slavonic, heirs
of Wittekind, portentously ancient barbaric dynasties of all sorts, are
only vaguely discernible in the background. During the lifetime of the
old Kaiser it seemed possible that their eclipse might be of only a
temporary nature. Nowhere can such an idea be cherished now. Young
William dwarfs them all by comparison even more strikingly than did his

They all came to Berlin to do him homage at the opening of the
Reichstag, which inaugurated his reign on June 25, 1888. They will never
make so brave a show again; even then they twinkled like poor tallow
dips beside the shining personality of their young Prussian chief.

Almost all of them are of royal lines older than that of the
Hohenzollerns. Five of the principal personages among them--the King of
Saxony, the Regent representing Bavaria’s crazy King, the heir-apparent
representing the semi-crazy King of Wurtemberg, the Grand Duke of Baden,
and the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt--owe their titles in their present
form to Napoleon, who paid their ancestors in this cheap coin for
their wretched treason and cowardice in joining with him to crush and
dismember Prussia. Now they are at the feet of Prussia, not indeed in
the posture of conquered equals, but as liveried political subordinates.
No such wiping out of sovereign authorities and emasculation of
sovereign dignities has been seen before since Louis XI consolidated
France 500 years ago. Let us glance at some of these vanishing royalties
for a moment, that we may the better measure the altitude to which the
Hohenzollern has climbed.

There was a long time during the last century when people looked upon
Saxony as the most powerful and important State in the Protestant part
of Germany. It is an Elector of Saxony who shines forth in history as
Luther’s best friend and resolute protector. For more than a hundred
years thereafter Saxony led in the armed struggles of Protestantism to
maintain itself against the leagued Catholic powers.

Then, in 1694, there ascended the electoral throne the cleverest and
most showy man of the whole Albertine family, who for nearly thirty
years was to hold the admiring attention of Europe. We can see now that
it was a purblind and debased Europe which believed August _der Starke_
to be a great man; but in his own times there was no end to what he
thought of himself or to what others thought of him. It was regarded as
a superb stroke of policy when, in 1697, he got himself elected King of
Poland--a promotion which inspired the jealous Elector of Branden-berg
to proclaim himself King of Prussia four years later. August abjured
Protestantism to obtain the Polish crown, and his descendants are
Catholics to this day, though Saxony is strongly Protestant. August
did many wonderful things in his time--made Dresden the superb city of
palaces and museums it is, among other matters, and was the father of
354 natural children, as his own proud computation ran. A tremendous
fellow, truly, who liked to be called the Louis XIV of Germany, and
tried his best to live up to the ideal!

Contemporary observers would have laughed at the idea that Frederick
William, the surly, bearish Prussian King, with his tobacco orgies and
giant grenadiers, was worth considering beside the brilliant, luxurious,
kingly August. Ah, “gay eupeptic son of Belial,” where is thy dynasty

There is to-day a King of Saxony, descended six removes from this
August, who is distinctly the most interesting and valuable of these
minor sovereigns. He is a sagacious, prudent, soldierlike man, nominal
ruler of over three millions of people, actual Field Marshal in the
German Army which has a Hohenzollern for its head. Although he really
did some of the best fighting which the Franco-German war called forth,
nobody outside his own court and German military circles knows much
about it, or cares particularly about him. The very fact of his rank
prevents his generalship securing popular recognition. If he had been
merely of noble birth, or even a commoner, the chances are that he
would now be chief of the German General Staff instead of Count
von Schlieffen. Being only a king, his merits as a commander are
comprehended alone by experts.

There is just a bare possibility that this King Albert may be forced by
circumstances out of his present obscurity. He is only sixty-three years
old, and if a war should come within the next decade and involve defeat
to the German Army in the field, there would be a strong effort made
by the other subsidiary German sovereigns to bring him to the front as

As it is, his advice upon military matters is listened to in Berlin
more than is generally known, but in other respects his position is
a melancholy one. Even the kindliness with which the Kaisers have
personally treated him since 1870, cannot but wear to him the annoying
guise of patronage. He was a man of thirty-eight when his father, King
John, was driven out of Dresden by Prussian troops, along with the royal
family, and when for weeks it seemed probable that the whole kingdom of
Saxony would be annexed to Prussia. Bismarck’s failure to insist upon
this was bitterly criticised in Berlin at the time, and Gustav Frey-tag
actually wrote a book deprecating the further independent existence
of Saxony. Freytag and the Prussians generally confessed their mistake
after the young Saxon Crown Prince’s splendid achievement at Sedan; but
that could scarcely wipe from his memory what had gone before, and
even now, after the lapse of a quarter century, King Albert’s delicate,
clear-cut, white-whiskered face still bears the impress of melancholy
stamped on it by the humiliations of 1866.

Two other kings lurk much further back in the shadow of the
Hohenzollern--idiotic Otto of Bavaria and silly Charles of Wurtemberg.
Of the former much has been written, by way of complement to the
picturesque literature evoked by the tragedy of his strange brother
Louis’s death. In these two brothers the fantastic Wittelsbach blood,
filtering down from the Middle Ages through strata of princely scrofula
and imperial luxury, clotted rankly in utter madness.

As for the King of Würtemberg, whose undignified experiences in the
hands of foreign adventurers excited a year or two ago the wonderment
and mirth of mankind, he also pays the grievous penalty of heredity’s
laws. Writing thirty years back, Carlyle commented in this fashion upon
the royal house of Stuttgart: “There is something of the abstruse in
all these Beutelsbachers, from Ulric downwards--a mute _ennui_, an
inexorable obstinacy, a certain streak of natural gloom which no
illumination can abolish; articulate intellect defective: hence a
strange, stiff perversity of conduct visible among them, often marring
what wisdom they have. It is the royal stamp of Fate put upon these
men--what are called fateful or fated men.” * The present King Charles
was personally an unknown quantity when this picture of his house was
drawn. He is an old man now, and decidedly the most “abstruse” of his
whole family.

     * “History of Friedrich II, of Prussia,” book vii. chapter

Thus these two ancient dynasties of Southern Germany, which helped to
make history for so many centuries, have come down into the mud. There
is an elderly regent uncle in Bavaria who possesses sense and
respectable abilities; and in Würtemberg there is an heir-apparent of
forty-three, the product of a marriage between first cousins, who is
said to possess ordinary intelligence. These will in time succeed to the
thrones which lunacy and asininity hold now in commission, but no one
expects that they will do more than render commonplace what is now
grotesquely impossible.

Of another line which was celebrated a thousand years ago, and which
flared into martial prominence for a little in its dying days, when this
century was young, nothing whatever is left. The Fighting Brunswickers
are all gone.

They had a fair right to this name, had the Guelphs of the old
homestead, for of the forty-five of them buried in the crypt of the
Brunswick Burg Kirche nine fell on the battlefield. This direct line
died out seven years ago with a curiously-original old Duke who bitterly
resented the new order of things, and took many whimsical ways of
showing his wrath. In the sense that he scorned to live in remodeled
Germany, and defied Prussia by ostentatiously exhibiting his sympathy
for the exiled Hanoverian house, he too may be said to have died
fighting. The collateral Guelphs who survive in other lands are anything
but fighters. The Prince of Wales is the foremost living male of the
family, and Bismarck’s acrid jeer that he was the only European Crown
Prince whom one did not occasionally meet on the battlefield, though
unjustly cruel, serves to point the difference between his placid walk
of life and the stormy careers of his mother’s progenitors. Another
Guelph, who is _de jure_ heir to both Brunswick and Hanover--Ernest,
Duke of Cumberland--has a larger strain of the ancestral Berserker
blood, but alas! no weapon remains for him but obdurate sulkiness. He
buries himself in his sullen retreat at Gmunden in uncompromising rage,
and the powers at Berlin have left off striving to placate him with
money--his relatives not even daring now to broach the subject to him.

And so there is an end to the Fighting Bruns-wickers, and a Hohenzollern
has been put in their stead. Prince Albert of Prussia--a good, wooden,
ceremonious man of large stature, who stands straight in jack boots and
cuirass and is invaluable as an imposing family figure at christenings
and funerals--reigns as Regent in Brunswick. So omnipotent are the
Hohenzollerns grown that he was placed there without a murmur of
protest--and when the time comes for the Prussian octopus to gather in
this duchy, that also will be done in silence.

Of the sixteen remaining sovereigns-below-the-salt, the Grand Duke of
Baden is a fairly-able and wholly-amiable man, much engrossed in these
latter days in the fact that his wife is the Kaiser’s aunt. This makes
him feel like one of the family, and he takes the aggrandizement of the
Hohenzollerns as quite a personal compliment. The venerable Duke Ernest,
of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, has an active mind and certain qualities which
under other conditions might have made him a power in Germany. But
Bismarck was far too rough an antagonist for him to cope with openly,
and he fell into the feeble device of writing political pamphlets
anonymously against the existing order of things, using the ingenuity of
a jealous woman to circulate them and denying their authorship before
he was accused. This has, of course, been fatal to his influence in the
empire. Duke George, of Saxe-Meiningen, is another able and accomplished
prince, who has devoted his energies and fortune to the establishment
and perfecting of a very remarkable theatrical company. The rest are
mere dead wood--presiding over dull little country Courts, wearing
Prussian uniforms at parades and reviews, and desiring nothing else so
much as the reception of invitations to visit Berlin and shine in the
reflected radiance of the Hohenzollern’s smile.

The word “invitations” does indeed suggest that the elderly Prince Henry
XIV, of Reuss-Schleiz, should receive separate mention, as having but
recently abandoned a determined feud with Prussia. It is true that
Reuss-Schleiz has only 323 miles of territory and 110,000 people,
but that did not prevent the feud being of an embittered, not to say
menacing, character. When the invitations were sent out for the Berlin
palace celebration of old Kaiser Wilhelm’s ninetieth birthday, in 1887,
by some accident Henry of Reuss-Schleiz was overlooked. There are so
many of these Reusses, all named Henry, all descended from Henry the
Fowler, and all standing so erect with pride that they bend backward!
The mistake was discovered in a day or two and a belated invitation
sent, which Henry grumblingly accepted. On the appointed day he arrived
at the palace in Berlin and went up to the banqueting hall with the
other princes. Being extremely near-sighted, he made a tour of the
table, peering through his spectacles to discover his name-card. Horror
of horrors! No place had been provided for him, and everybody in the
room had observed him searching for one! Trembling with wrath, he
stalked out, brushing aside the chamberlains who essayed to pacify him,
and during that reign he never came to Berlin again. Not death itself
could mollify him, for when Kaiser Wilhelm died the implacable Henry
XIV, who personally owns most of his principality, refused his subjects
a grant of land on which to rear a monument to his memory. But even he
is reconciled to Berlin now.

Thus with practical completeness had the ancient dynasties of old
Germany been subordinated to and absorbed by the ascendency of the
Hohenzollerns, when young William II stepped upon the throne. Thus, too,
with this passing glance at their abasement or annihilation, the way is
cleared for us to study the young chief of this mighty and consolidated
Empire, to examine his personality and his power, and, by tracing their
growth during the first three years of his reign, to forecast their
ultimate mark upon the history of his time.


[Illustration: 0039]

The young Emperor was born in the first month of 1859. The prolonged
life of his grandfather, and the apparently superb physical vitality of
his father, made him seem much further removed from the throne than fate
really intended, and he grew up into manhood with only scant attention
from the general public. There was an unexpressed feeling that he
belonged to the twentieth century, and that it would be time enough
then to study him. When of a sudden the world learned that the stalwart
middle-aged Crown Prince had a mortal malady, and saw that it was a race
toward the grave between him and his venerable father, haste was made
to repair this negligent error, and find out things about the hitherto
unconsidered young man who was to be so prematurely called upon the
stage. Unfortunately, this swift and unexpected shifting of history’s
lime-light revealed young William in extremely repellent colours. Many
circumstances, working together in the shadows behind the throne, had
combined to put him into a temporary attitude toward his parents, which
showed very badly under this sudden and fierce illumination. “Ho, ho!
He is a bad son, then, is he?” we all said, and made up our minds to
dislike him on the spot. Three years have passed, and during that
time many things have happened, many other things have come to light,
calculated to convince us that this early judgment was an over-hasty

So far as I have been able to learn, the first hint given to the world
that there was a young Prince in Berlin distinctly worth watching
appeared in the book “Sociétiê de Berlin. Par le Comte Paul Vasili,”
 published at the end of 1883. This volume was, perhaps, the cleverest of
the anonymous series projected by a Parisian publisher to make money out
of the collected gossip and scandal of the chief European capitals, and
utilized by more than one bright familiar of Mme. Adam’s _salon_ to pay
off old grudges and market afresh moss-grown libels. The authorship
of these books was never clearly established. There is a general
understanding in Berlin that the one about that city was for the most
part written by a Parisian journalist named Gerard, then stationed
in Germany. At all events, the evidence was regarded at the time as
sufficient as to warrant his being chased summarily out of Berlin, while
the book itself was prohibited, confiscated, almost burned by the common
hangman. Perhaps Gerard, if he be still alive, might profitably return
to Berlin now, for to him belongs the credit of having first put into
type an intelligent character study of the young man who now monopolizes
European attention.

“The Prince William,” said this anonymous writer, “is only twenty-four
years of age. It is, therefore, difficult as yet to say what he will
become; but what is clearly apparent even now is that he is a young
man of promise in mind and head and heart. He is by far the most
intellectual of the Princes of this royal family. Withal courageous,
enterprising, ambitious, hot-headed, but with a heart of gold,
sympathetic in the highest degree, impulsive, spirited, vivacious in
character, and gifted with a talent for repartee in conversation which
would almost make the listener doubt his being a German. He adores the
army, by which he is idolized in return. He has known how, despite his
extreme youth, to win popularity in all classes of society. He is highly
educated, well read, busies his mind with projects for the welfare of
his country, and has a striking keenness of perception for everything
relating to politics.

“He will certainly, be a distinguished man, and very probably a great
sovereign. Prussia will perhaps have in him a second Frederic II, but
minus his scepticism. In addition, he possesses a fund of gaiety and
good humour that will soften the little angularities of character
without which he would not be a true Hohenzollern.

“He will be essentially a personal king--never allowing himself to be
blindly led, and ruling with sound and direct judgment, prompt decision,
energy in action, and an unbending will. When he attains the throne, he
will continue the work of his grandfather, and will as certainly undo
that of his father, whatever it may have been. In him the enemies of
Germany will have a formidable adversary; he may easily become the Henri
IV of his country.”

I have ventured upon this extended extract from a book eight years old
because the prophecy seems a remarkable one--far nearer what we see now
to be the truth than any of the later predictions have turned out to
be. “Paul Vasili” continues his sketch with some paragraphs about the
Prince’s vast penchant for lower-class dissipated females, concluding
with the warning that if ever he comes under the influence of a’ really
able woman “it will be necessary to follow his actions with great
caution.” All this may be unhesitatingly put down to the French writer’s

There is no city where more frankness about talking scandal exists than
in Berlin, yet I have sought in vain to find any justification for this
view of the Kaiser’s character, either past or present. The impression
brought from many talks with people who know him and his life intimately
is that this special accusation is less true of him than of almost any
other prince of his generation.

William’s boyhood was marked by one innovation in the family traditions
of a Hohenzollern’s training, the importance of which it is not easy
to exaggerate. His father had been the first of these royal heirs to
be sent to a university. He in his turn was the first to go to a public

It is a solemn and portentous sort of thing--this training of a
Hohenzollern. The progress of the family has been one long, sustained
object lesson to the world on the value of education. No doubt it is in
great part due to the influence of this standing example that Prussia
leads the van of civilization in its proportion of scholars and
teachers, and has made its name a synonym for all that is thorough and
exhaustive in educational systems and theories. The dawn of this notion
of a specially Spartan and severe practical schooling for his heir, in
the primitive and curiously-limited brain of the first King Frederic
William, really marked an era in the world’s conception of what
education meant.

We have all read, with swift-chasing mirth, wonder, incredulity and
wrath, the stories of the way in which this luckless heir, afterward
to be Frederic the Great, got his education stamped, beaten, burned,
frozen, almost strangled into him. The account reads like a nightmare
of lunatic savagery--yet in it were the germs of a lofty idea. From the
brutal cudgeling, cursing, and manacling of Frederic’s experience grew
the tradition of a unique kind of training for a Hohenzollern prince.
The very violence and wild barbarity of his treatment fixed the
attention of the family upon the theory of education--with very notable

Historically we are all familiar with the excessive military twist given
to this education of the youths born to be Kings of Prussia. The picture
books are full of portraits of them--quaint little manikins dressed in
officers’ uniforms--stepping from the cradle into war’s paraphernalia.
The picture of the Great Fritz beating a drum at the age of three, of
which the rapturous Carlyle makes so much, has its modern counterpart in
the photographs of the present child Crown Prince, clad in regimentals
and saluting the camera, which are in every Berlin shop window. But
another element of this stern regimen, not so much kept in view, is
the absolute dependence of the son upon the father, or rather the King,
which is insisted upon.

We know to what abnormal lengths this ran in the youth and early manhood
of Frederic the Great. It did not alter much in the next reign. In 1784,
when this same Frederic was seventy-two years old, a travelling French
noble was his guest at a great review in Silesia. There was also present
the King’s nephew and heir, who two years later was to ascend the throne
as Frederic William II, and who now was in his fortieth year. Yet of
this forty-year-old Prince the Frenchman writes in his diary: “The heir
presumptive lodges at a brewer’s house, and in a very mean way; is not
allowed to sleep from home without permission from the King.”

The results in this particular instance were not of a flattering kind,
and among the decaying forms of the dying eighteenth century--in an
atmosphere poisoned by the accumulated putridities of that luxurious
and evil epoch--even the Hohenzollern of the next generation was not a
shining success. He was at least, however, much superior to the other
German sovereigns of his time, and he had the unspeakable fortune,
moreover, to be the husband of that Queen Louise who is enshrined as
the patron saint of Prussian history. It was she who engrafted a humane
spirit upon the rough drill-sergeant body of Hohenzollern education.
She made her sons love her--and it seems but yesterday since the last
of these sons, a tottering old man of ninety, used to go to the
Charlottenburg mausoleum on the anniversary of her death, and pray and
weep in solitude beside the recumbent marble effigy of the mother who
had died in 1810.

The introduction of filial affection into the relation between
Hohenzollern parents and children dates from this Queen Louise, and
belongs to our own century. Before that it was the rule for the heirs
of Prussia to detest their immediate progenitors. From the time of
the Great Elector, every rising generation of this royal house sulked,
cursed under its breath, went into opposition as far as it dared, and
every fading generation disliked and distrusted those who were coming
after it. Nor were these harsh relations confined to sovereign and heir.
Wilhelmine, Margravine of Baireuth, records in her memoirs how, at the
age of six, she was so much surprised at being fondled and caressed by
her mother, on the latter’s return from a prolonged journey, that she
broke a blood vessel. * It seems safe to say that down to the family of
Frederic William III and Louise, no other reigning race in Europe had
ever managed to engender so much bitterness and bad blood between elders
and juniors within its domestic fold. The change then was abrupt. The
two older boys of this family, Frederic William IV and William I, lived
lives as young men which were poems of filial reverence and tenderness.
The cruel misfortunes of the Napoleonic wars made the mutual affection
within this hunted and homeless royal family very sweet and touching.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the reminiscences called forth by
the death of the old Kaiser was furnished by the publication of
the letters he wrote as a young man to his father--that strange
correspondence which reveals him resolutely breaking his own heart and
tearing from it the image of the Princess Radziwill, in loving obedience
to his father’s wish.

     * “Memoirs of Wilhelmine, Margravine of Baireuth,”
      translated by H.R.H. Princess Chri of Wilhelmine, Margravine
     of Baireuth, translated by H.R.H. Princess Christian,
     London, 1887

This trait of filial piety did not loom so largely in William’s son, the
late Frederic III, as one or two random allusions in his diary show. And
in his son, in turn, its pulse beats with such varying and intermittent
fervour that sometimes one misses it altogether.

Young William, as has been said, was the first of his race to be sent
to a public school, the big gymnasium at Cassel being selected for
the purpose. The innovation was credited at the time to the eccentric
liberalizing notions of his mother, the English Crown Princess. The old
Kaiser did not like the idea, and Bismarck vehemently opposed it, but
the parents had their way, and at the age of fifteen the lad went, along
with his twelve-year-old brother Henry, and their tutor, Dr. Hinzpeter.
They were lodged in an old schloss, which had been one of the Electoral
residences, and out of school hours maintained a considerable seclusion.
But in the school itself William was treated quite like any ordinary
citizen’s son.

It may have been a difficult matter for some of the teachers to act as
if they were unconscious that this particular pupil was the heir of the
Hohenzollerns, but men who were at the school at the time assure me they
did so, with only one exception. This solitary flunkey, knowing that
William was more backward in his Greek than most of his class, sought
to curry favour with the Prince by warning him that the morrow’s
examination was to be, let us say, upon a certain chapter of Xenophon.
The boy William received this hint in silence, but early the next
morning went down to the classroom and wrote upon the blackboard in
big letters the information he had received, so that he might have no
advantage over his fellows. This struck me when I heard it as a curious
illustration of the boy’s character. There seems to have been no excited
indignation at the meanness of the tutor--but only the manifestation of
a towering personal and family pride, which would not allow him to win a
prize through profiting by knowledge withhold from the others.

During his three years at Cassel William was very democratic in his
intercourse with the other boys. He may have been helped to this by
the fact that he was one of the worst-dressed boys in the school--in
accordance with an ancient family rule which makes the Hohenzollern
children wear out their old clothes in a way that would astonish the
average grocer’s progeny. He was only an ordinary scholar so far as his
studies went. At that time his brother Henry, who went to a different
school, was conspicuously the brighter pupil of the two. Those who were
at Cassel with the future Emperor have the idea that he was contented
there, but he himself, upon reflection, is convinced that he did not
like it. At all events, he gathered there a very intimate knowledge of
the gymnasium system which, as will be seen later on, he now greatly

At the age of eighteen William left Cassel and entered upon his
university course at Bonn. Here his tutor, Hinzpeter, who had been his
daily companion and mentor from childhood, parted company with him, and
the young Prince passed into the hands of soldiers and men of the world.
The change marks an important epoch in the formation of his character.

There is a photograph of him belonging to the earlier part of this
Cassel period which depicts a refined, gentle, dreamy-faced German
boy, with a soft, girlish chin, small arched lips with a suggestion of
dimples at the corners, and fine meditative eyes. The forehead, though
not broad, is of fair height and fulness. The dominant effect of the
face is that of sweetness. Looking at it, one instinctively thinks “How
fond that boy’s parents must have been of him!” And they were fond in
the extreme.

In the Crown Prince Frederic’s diary, written while the German
headquarters were at Versailles, are these words:--

“_This is William’s thirteenth birthday. May he grow up to be an able,
honest, and upright man, a true German, prepared to continue without
prejudice what has now been begun! Heaven be praised; between him and
us there is a simple, hearty, and natural relationship, which we shall
strive to preserve, so that he may thus always look upon us as his
best and truest friends. It is really an oppressive reflection when one
realizes what hopes have already been placed on the head of this child,
and how great is our responsibility to the nation for his education,
which family considerations and questions of rank, and the whole
Court life at Berlin and other things will tend to make so much more

The retirement of Dr. Hinzpeter from his charge was an event the
significance of which recent occurrences have helped us to appreciate.
When history is called upon to make her final summing up upon William’s
character and career, she will allot a very prominent place to the
influence of this relatively unknown man. A curious romance of time’s
revenge hangs about Dr. Hinzpeter. He is a native of the Westphalian
manufacturing town, Bielefeld, and was a poor young tutor at Darmstadt
when he was recommended to the parents of William as one exceptionally
fitted to take charge of their son. The man who gave this recommendation
was the then Mr. Robert Morier, British Minister at Darmstadt. Nearly a
quarter of a century later Sir Robert Morier was able to see his ancient
and implacable enemy, Bismarck, tripped, thrown, and thrust out of
power, and to sweeten the spectacle by reflecting that he owed this
ideal vengeance to the work of the tutor he had befriended in the old
Darmstadt days.

It is more than probable that the idea of sending the young Prince to
the Cassel gymnasium originated with Dr. Hinzpeter. At all events, we
know that he held advanced and even extreme views as to the necessity of
emphasizing the popular side of the Hohenzollern tradition.

This Prussian family has always differed radically from its other German
neighbours in professing to be solicitous for the poor people rather
than for the nobility’s privileges and claims. Sometimes this has sunk
to be a profession merely; more often it has been an active guiding
principle. The lives of the second and third Kings of Prussia are filled
with the most astonishing details of vigilant, ceaseless intermeddling
in the affairs of peasant farmers, artisans, and wage-earners generally,
hearing complaints, spying out injustice, and roughly seeing wrongs
righted. When Prussia grew too big to be thus paternally administered
by a King poking about on his rounds with a rattan and a taker of notes,
the tradition still survived. We find traces of it all along down to our
times in the legislation of the Diet in the direction of what is called
State Socialism.

Dr. Hinzpeter felt the full inspiration of this tradition. He longed
to make it more a reality in the mind of his princely pupil than it had
ever been before. Thus it was that the lad was sent to Cassel, to sit on
hard benches with the sons of simple citizens, and to get to know what
the life of the people was like. Years afterwards this inspiration was
to bear fruit.

But in 1877 the work of creating an ideally democratic and popular
Hohenzollern was abruptly interrupted. Dr. Hinzpeter went back to
Bielefeld, and young William entered the University of Bonn. The
soft-faced, gentle-minded boy, still full of his mother’s milk, his
young mind sweetened and strengthened by the dreams of clemency,
compassion, and earnest searchings after duty which he had imbibed from
his teacher, suddenly found himself transplanted in new ground. The
atmosphere was absolutely novel. Instead of being a boy among boys,
he all at once found himself a prince amongst aristocratic toadies. In
place of Hinzpeter, he had a military _aide_ given him for principal
companion, friend, and guide.

These next few years at the Rhenish university did not, we see now,
wholly efface what Dr. Hinz-peter had done. But they obscured and
buried his work, and reared upon it a superstructure of another sort--a
different kind of William, redolent of royal pretensions and youthful
self-conceit, delighting in the rattle and clank of spurs and swords and
dreaming of battlefields.

Poor Hinzpeter, in his Bielefeld retreat, could have had but small
satisfaction in learning of the growth of the new William. The parents
at Potsdam, too, who had built such loving hopes upon the tender and
gracious promise of boyhood--they could not have been happy either.


The act of matriculation at Bonn meant to young William many things
apart from the beginning of a university career. In fact, it was almost
a sign of his emancipation from academic studies. He was a student
among students in only a formal sense. The theory of a complete civic
education was respected by his attendance at certain lectures, and by
his perfunctory compliance with sundry university regulations. But, in
reality, he now belonged to the army. He had attained his majority, like
other Prussian princes, at the age of eighteen, and thereupon had been
given his Second Lieutenant’s commission in the First Foot Regiment of
the Guards, where his father had been trained before him. The routine of
his military service, and the exigencies of the martial education which
now supplanted all else, kept him much more in Berlin than at Bonn.

Both at the Prussian capital and Rhenish university town he now wore his
uniform, his sword, and his epaulets, and, chin well in air, sniffed his
fill of the incense burned before him by the young men of the army. The
glitter and colour of the parade ground, the peremptory discipline,
the sense of power given by these superb wheeling lines and walls of
bayonets and exact geometrical movements as of some mighty machine,
fascinated his imagination. He threw himself into military work with
feverish eagerness. Pacific Cassel, with its gymnasium and the kindly
figure of the tutor, Hinzpeter, faded away into a remote memory of

Public events, meanwhile, had been working out a condition of affairs
which gave a marked importance to this change in William’s character.
The German peoples, having got over the first rapt enthusiasm at
beholding their ancient Frankish enemy rolled in the dust at their
feet, and at finding themselves once more all together under an imperial
German flag, began to devote attention to domestic politics. It was high
time that they did so.

Prussia had roared as gently as any sucking dove the while the question
was still one of enticing the smaller German States into the federated
empire. But once the Emperor-King felt his footing secure upon the
imperial throne, the old hungry Hohenzollern blood began stirring in his
veins. His great Chancellor, Prince Bismarck, needed no prompting; every
fibre of his bulky frame responded intuitively to this inborn Prussian
instinct of aggrandisement. Together these two began putting the screws
upon the minor States. “Solidifying the Empire” was what they called
their work. The Hohenzollerns were always notable “solidifiers,” as
their neighbours have had frequent occasion to observe tearfully during
the last three centuries.

The humiliation and expulsion of Austria had been the pivot upon which
the creation of the new Germany turned. In its most obvious aspect
this had appeared to all men to be the triumph of a Protestant over
a Catholic power. Later events had contributed to associate Prussia’s
ascendency with the religious issue. The great OEcumenical Council at
Rome had been followed by a French declaration of war, which every good
Lutheran confidently ascribed to the dictation of the Jesuits.

These things grouped themselves together in the public mind just as
similar arguments did in England in the days of the Armada. To be a
Catholic grew to seem synonymous with being a sympathizer with Austria
and France. It is an old law of human action that if you persistently
impute certain views to a man, and persecute him on account of them, the
effect is to reconcile his mind to those views. The melancholy history
of theologico-political quarrels is peculiarly filled with examples of
this. The Catholics of Germany were in the main as loyal to the idea of
imperial unity as their Protestant neighbours, and they had shed their
blood quite as freely to establish it as a fact. Their bishops and
priests had over and over again testified by deeds their independence
of Rome in matters which affected them as Germans. But when they found
Bismarck ceaselessly insisting that they were hostile to Prussia, it was
natural enough that they should discover that they did dislike his kind
of a Prussia, and that some of the least cautious among them should say

Prussia’s answer--coming with the promptness of deliberate
preparation--was the _Kulturkampf_, Into the miserable chaos which
followed we need not go. Bishops were exiled or imprisoned; schools
were broken up and Catholic professors chased from the universities;
a thousand parishes were bereft of their priests; the whole empire was
filled with angry suspicions, recriminations, and violence, hot-tempered
roughness on one side, grim obstinacy of hate on the other--to the joy
of all Germany’s enemies outside and the confusion of all her friends.

Despotism begets lawlessness, and Bismarck and old William, busy with
their priest hunt, suddenly discovered that out of this disorder had
somehow sprouted a strange new thing called Socialism. They halted
briefly to stamp this evil growth out--and lo! from an upper window
of the beer house on Unter den Linden, called the Three Ravens, the
Socialist Nobiling fired two charges of buckshot into the head and
shoulders of the aged Emperor, riddling his helmet like a sieve and
laying him on a sick bed for the ensuing six months.

As a consequence, the Crown Prince Frederic was installed as Regent from
June till December of 1878, and from this period dates young William’s
public attitude of antagonism to the policy of his parents.

For the present we need examine this only in its outer and political
phases. It is too much, perhaps, to say that heretofore there had been
no divisions inside the Hohenzollern family. The Crown Prince and his
English wife had been in tacit opposition to the Kaiser-Chancellor
_régime_ for many years. But this opposition took on palpable form and
substance during the Regency of 1878.

A new Pope--the present Leo XIII--had been elected only a few
months before, and with him the Regent Frederic opened a personal
correspondence, with a view to compromising the unhappy religious
wrangles which were doing such injury to Germany. The letters written
from Berlin were models of gentle firmness and wise statesmanship, and
they laid a foundation of conciliatory understanding upon which Bismarck
afterward gladly reared his superstructure of partial settlement when
the time came for him to need and bargain for the Clerical vote in the
Reichstag. But at the time their friendly tone gave grave offence to the
Prussian Protestants, and was peculiarly repugnant to the Junker court
circles of Berlin.

It is no pleasant task to picture to one’s self the grief and chagrin
with which the Regent and his wife must have noted that their elder son
ranged himself among their foes. The change which had been wrought in
him during the year in the regiment and at Bonn revealed itself now
in open and unmistakable fashion. Prince William ostentatiously joined
himself with those who criticised the Regent. He assiduously cultivated
the friendship of the men who led hostile attacks upon his parents.
He had his greatest pride in being known for a staunch supporter of
Bismarck, a firm believer in divine right, Protestant supremacy, and all
the other catchwords of the absolutist party. The praises which these
reactionary people sang in his honour mounted like the fumes of spirits
to his young brain. Instinctively he began posing as the Hope of the
Monarchy--as the providential young prince, handsome, wise and strong,
who was in good time to ascend the throne and gloriously undo all
that the weak dreamer, his father, had done toward liberalizing the
institutions of Prussia and Germany.

A lamentable and odious attitude this, truly! Yet, which of us was
wholly wise at nineteen? And which of us, it may be added fairly, has
encountered such magnificent and overpowering temptations to foolishness
as these that beset young William?

Remember that all his associates, alike in his daily routine with his
regiment or at the University and in his larger intercourse among
the aristocratic social circles of Berlin, took only one view of this
subject. At their head were Bismarck, the most powerful and impressive
personality in Europe, and the aged Emperor, the one furiously
inveighing against the manner in which the Protestant religion and
political security were being endangered, the other deploring from his
sick-bed the grievous inroads which were threatened upon the personal
rights and prerogatives of the Hohenzollerns.

It is not strange that young William adopted the opinion of his
grandfather and of Bismarck, chiming as it did with the new impulses of
militarism that had risen so strongly within him, and being re-echoed,
as it was, from the lips of all his friends.

But the event of this brief Regency which most clearly marked the
chasm separating the Crown Prince from the Junker circles of his son’s
adoption, was the appointment of Dr. Friedberg to high office. And this
is particularly worth studying, because its effects are still felt in
German social and political life.

Dr. Friedberg was then a man of sixty-five, and one of the most
distinguished jurists of Germany. He had adorned a responsible post in
the Ministry of Justice for over twenty years, and had written numerous
valuable works, those relating to his special subject of prison reform
and the efficacy of criminal law in social improvement standing in the
very front rank of literature of that kind. His promotion, however,
had been hopelessly blocked by two considerations; he was professedly a
Liberal in politics and a close friend of the Crown Prince and Princess,
and, what was still worse, he was a Jew.

On the second day of his Regency, Frederic astounded and scandalized
aristocratic Berlin by appointing Dr. Friedberg to the highest
judicial-administrative post in the kingdom. To glance forward for a
moment, it may be noted that when old Kaiser Wilhelm returned to active
power in December, he refused to remove Friedberg, out of a feeling
of loyalty to his son’s actions as Regent. But he vented his wrath in
another way by conspicuously neglecting to give Friedberg the Black
Eagle after he had served nine years in the Ministry, though all his
associates obtained the decoration upon only six years’ service. This
slight upon the Hebrew Minister explains the well-remembered action of
Frederic, when he was on his journey home from San Remo to ascend the
throne after his father’s death:--as the Ministerial delegation met his
train at Leipsic, and entered the carriage, he took the Black Eagle from
his own neck and placed it about that of Friedberg.

This action of the emotional sick man, returning through the March
snowstorm to play his brief part of phantom Kaiser, created much talk in
Germany three years ago, and Friedberg, upon the strength of it, plumed
himself greatly as the chief friend of the new monarch. He was the first
Jew ever decorated by that exalted and exclusive Black Eagle--and during
the short reign of ninety-nine days he held himself like the foremost
man in the Empire.

It is a melancholy reflection that this mean-spirited old man, as soon
as Frederic died, made haste to lend himself to the work of blackening
his benefactor’s memory. He had owed more to Frederic’s friendship and
loyalty than any other in Germany, and he requited the debt to the dead
Kaiser with such base ingratitude that even Frederic’s enemies were
disgusted, and, under the pressure of general disfavour, he had soon to
quit his post. But enough of Friedberg’s unpleasant personality. Let us
return to 1878.

The Regent’s action in giving Prussia a Jewish Minister lent an enormous
original impulse to the anti-Semitic movement in Berlin, which soon grew
into a veritable _Judenhetze_. This Jewish question, while it ran its
course of excitement in Germany, completely dwarfed the earlier clerical
issue, just as it in turn has been submerged by the rising tide of
Socialistic agitation. But though the anti-semitic party has ceased to
exert any power at the polls the feeling back of it is still a potent
factor in Berlin life.

In the new Berlin, of which I shall speak presently, the Jews occupy
a more commanding and dominant position than they have ever had in any
other important city since the fall of Jerusalem. For this the Germans
have themselves largely to blame. The military bent of the ascendant
Prussians has warped the whole Teutonic mind toward unduly glorifying
the army. The prizes of German upper-class life are all of a military
sort. Every nobleman’s son, every bright boy in the wealthier citizens’
stratum, aspires to the uniform. The tacit rule which excludes the Jews
from positions in this epauletted aristocracy drives them into the other
professions. They may not wear the sword: they revenge themselves by
owning the vast bulk of the newspapers, by writing most of the books, by
almost monopolizing law, medicine, banking, architecture, engineering,
and the more intellectual branches of the civil service.

This preponderance of Hebrews in the liberal professions seems unnatural
to the Tory German, who has vainly tried to break it down by political
action and by social ostracism. These attempts in turn have thrown the
Jews into opposition. Of the seven Israelites in the present Reichstag
six are Socialist Democrats and one is a Freisinnige leader. Every paper
in Germany owned or edited by a Jew is uncompromisingly Radical in its
politics. This in turn further exasperates the German Tories and keeps
alive the latent fires of hatred which bigots like Stocker from time to
time fan into flame.

In finance, too, the German aristocrats find themselves getting more and
more helplessly into Jewish hands. Their wonderful new city of Berlin
not only acts as a sieve for the great wave of Hebrew migration steadily
moving westward from Russia, but it is becoming the Jewish banking and
money centre of Europe. The grain trade of Russia is concentrated in
Berlin. To buy wheat from Odessa you apply to one of the three hundred
Jewish middleman firms at Berlin. To borrow money in Europe you go with
equal certainty to Berlin. The German nobleman was never very rich; he
has of late years become distinctly poor--and all the mortgages which
mar his sleep o’ nights are locked in Jewish safes at Berlin.

To revenge himself the German aristocrat can only assume an added
contempt for literature and the peaceful professions generally because
they are Jewish; insist more strongly than ever that the army is the
only place for German gentlemen because it is not Jewish, and dream of
the time when a beneficent fate shall once more hand Jerusalem over to
conquest and rapine.

This German nobleman, however, does not disdain in the meanwhile to
lend himself to the spoliation of the loathed tribes when chance offers
itself. There is a famous Jewish banker in Berlin, who, in his senile
years, is weak enough to desire social position for his children. One
of his sons, a stupid and debauched youngster, is permitted to associate
with sundry fashionable German officers--just up to the point where
he loses his money to them with sufficient regularity--and, of course,
never gets an inch beyond that point.

A daughter of this old banker had an even more disastrous experience.
She was an ugly girl, but with her enormous dower the ambitious parents
were able to buy a titled husband in the person of a penniless German
Baron. Delighted with this success, the banker settled upon the couple a
handsome estate in Silesia, The Baron and his bride were provided with
a special train to convey them to their future home, and in that very
train the Baron installed his mistress, and with her a lawyer friend
who had already arranged for the sale of the estate. The Jewish bride
arrived in Silesia to find herself contemptuously deserted by her
husband and robbed of her estate. She returned to Berlin, obtained
a divorce, and as soon as might be was married again--this time to a
diamond merchant of her own race.

As for the Baron who perpetrated this unspeakably brutal and callous
outrage, I did not learn that he had lost caste among his friends by the
exploit. Indeed, the story was told to me as a merry joke on the Jews.

Prince Bismarck, almost alone among the Junker group, did not associate
himself with this anti-Semitic agitation. In the work which he was
carrying forward Jewish bankers were extremely useful. Both in a visibly
regular way, and by subterranean means, capitalists like Bleichroder
played a most important part in his performance of the task of
centralizing power at Berlin. Hence he always held aloof from the
movement against the Jews, and on occasions made his dislike for it

Doubtless it was his counsel which restrained the impetuous young
William from openly identifying himself with this bigoted and
proscriptive demonstration. At all events, the youthful Prince avoided
any overt sign of his sympathy with the anti-Jewish outcry, yet
continued to find all his friends among the class which supported the
_Judenhetze_. It seems a curious fact now that in those days he created
the impression of a silent and reserved young man--almost taciturn.
As to where his likes and dislikes lay, no uncertainty existed. He was
heart and soul with the aristocratic Court party and against all the
tendencies and theories of the small academic group attached to his
father. He made this obvious enough by his choice of associations, but
kept a dignified curb on his tongue.

In addition to his course of studies at Bonn and his practical labours
with his regiment, the Prince devoted a set amount of time each week to
instruction of a less common order. He had regular weekly appointments
with two very distinguished professors--the Emperor William, who spoke
on Kingcraft, and Chancellor Bismarck, whose theme was Statecraft. The
former series of discourses was continued almost without intermission,
even during the old Kaiser’s period of retirement after Nobiling’s
attempt on his life. The Prince saw these eminent instructors regularly,
but it did not enter into their scheme of education that he should
profess to learn anything from his father.

Among the ideas which the impressionable young man imbibed from Bismarck
there could be nothing calculated to increase his filial affection or
respect. Bismarck had cherished a bitter dislike for the English
Crown Princess, conceived even before her marriage, at a time when
she represented to him only the girlish embodiment of an impolitic
matrimonial alliance, and strengthened year by year after she came to
Berlin to live. He did not scruple to charge to a conspiracy between her
and the Empress Augusta all the political obstacles which from time to
time blocked his path. He not only believed, but openly declared, that
the Crown Princess was responsible for the whole Arnim episode; and it
is an open secret that even the State papers emanating from the German
Foreign Office during his Chancellorship contain the grossest and most
insulting allusions to her. As for the Crown Prince, Bismarck was at no
pains to conceal his contempt for one of whom he habitually thought as a
henpecked husband.

Enough of this feeling about his parents must have filtered through into
young William’s mind, from his intercourse with the powerful Chancellor,
to render any reassertion of parental influence impossible.

In the summer of 1880 the Emperor and his Chancellor decided that it
was time for their pupil to marry, and they selected for his bride an
amiable, robust and comely-faced German princess of the dispossessed
Schleswig-Holstein family. I gain no information anywhere as to
William’s parents having been more than formally consulted in this
matter--and no hint that William himself took any deep personal interest
in the transaction. The marriage ceremony came in February of 1881, and
William was now installed in a residence of his own--the pretty little
Marble Palace at Potsdam. His daily life remained otherwise unaltered.
He worked hard at his military and civil tasks, and continued to
pose--not at all through mere levity of character, but inspired by a
genuine, if misguided, sense of duty--as the darling of all reactionary
elements in modern Germany.


Six years of married and semi-independent life went by, and left Prince
William of Prussia but little changed. He worked diligently up through
the grades of military training and responsibility, fulfilling all the
public duties of his position with exactness, but showing no inclination
to create a separate _rôle_ in the State for himself. The young men
of the German upper and middle classes, alive with the new spirit of
absolutism and lust for conquest with which boyish memories of 1870
imbued their minds, looked toward him and spoke of him as their leader
that was to be when their generation should come into its own--but
that seemed something an indefinite way ahead. He could afford to wait

His summer home at Marmorpalais, charmingly situated on the shore of the
Heiligen Sea at Potsdam, did not in any obvious sense become a political
centre. The men who came to it were chiefly hard-working officers, and
the talk of their scant leisure, over wine and cigars, was of military
tasks, hunting experiences, and personal gossip rather than of graver
matters. The library, which was William’s workroom in these days, has
most of its walls covered with racks arranged to hold maps, presumably
for strategic studies and _Kriegspiel_ work. The next most important
piece of furniture in the room is a tall cabinet for cigars. The
bookcase is much smaller.

When winter came Prince William and his family returned to their
apartments in the Schloss at Berlin. Nurses clad in the picturesque
Wendish dress of the Spreewald bore an increasing prominent part in this
annual exodus from Potsdam--for almost every year brought its new male

Thus the early spring of 1887 found William, now past his twenty-eighth
year, a major, commanding a battalion of Foot guards, the father of four
handsome, sturdy boys, and two lives removed from the throne.

Then came, without warning, one of those terrible, world-changing
moments wherein destiny reveals her face to the awed beholder--moments
about which the imagination of the outside public lingers with curiosity
forever unsatisfied. No one will ever tell what happens in that
soul-trying instant of time, We shall never know, for example, just what
William felt and thought one March day in 1887, when somebody--identity
unknown to us as well--whispered in his ear that the Crown Prince, his
father, had a cancer in the throat.

The world heard this sinister news some weeks later, and was so grieved
at the intelligence that for over a year thereafter it fostered the
hope of its falsity, and was even grateful to courtier physicians and
interested flatterers who encouraged this hope. Civilization had elected
Frederic to a place among its heroes, and clung despairingly to the
belief that his life might, after all, be saved.

But in the inner family circle of the Hohenzollerns there was from the
first no illusion on this point. The old Emperor and his Chancellor and
the Prince William knew that the malady was cancerous. Their information
came from Ems, whither Frederic went upon medical advice in the spring
of 1887, to be treated for “a bad cold with bronchial complications.”
 Later a strenuous and determined attempt was made to represent the
disease as something else, and out of this grew one of the most painful
and cruel domestic tragedies known to history. At this point it is
enough to say that the Emperor and his grandson knew about the cancer
before even rumours of it reached the general public, and that their
belief in its fatal character remained unshaken throughout.

To comprehend fully and fairly what followed, it will be necessary to
try to look at Frederic through the eyes of the Court party. The view
of him which we of England and America take has been, beyond doubt, of
great and lasting service to the human race--in much the same sense that
the world has been benefited by the idealized purities and sweetnesses
of the Arthurian legend. We are helped by our heroes in this practical,
work-a-day, modern world as truly as were our pagan fathers who followed
the sons of Woden. Every one of us is the richer and stronger for this
image of Frederic the Noble which the English-speaking peoples have
erected in their Valhalla.

But it is fair to reflect, on the other hand, that this fine, handsome,
able, and good-hearted Prince could not have created for himself such
hosts of hostile critics in his own country, could not have continually
found himself year by year losing his hold upon even the minority of his
fellow-countrymen, without reason. It is certain that in 1886--the
year before his illness befell--he had come to a minimum of usefulness,
influence, and popularity in the Empire. Deplore this as we may, it
would be unintelligent to refuse to inquire into its causes.

Moreover, we are engaged upon the study of a living man, holding a great
position, possibly destined to do great things. All our thoughts of
this living man are instinctively coloured by prejudices based upon his
relations with his father, who is dead. Justice to William demands that
we shall strive fairly to get at the opinions and feelings which swayed
him and his advisers in their attitude of antagonism to our hero, his

[Illustration: 0076]

His critics say that Frederic was an actor. They do not insist upon
his insincerity--in fact, for the most part credit him with honesty and
candour--but regard him as the victim of hereditary histrionism. His
mother, the late Empress Augusta, had always impressed Berliners in
the same way--as playing in the _rôle_ of an exiled Princess, with
her little property Court accessories, her little tea-party circle
of imitation French _littérateurs_, and her “Mrs. Haller” sighs and
headshakings over the coarseness and cruelty of the big roaring world
outside. And her grandfather was that play-actor gone mad, Czar Paul of
Russia, who tore the passion so into tatters that his own sons rose and
killed him.

Once given the key to this view of Frederic’s character, a strange cloud
of corroborative witnesses are at hand. Take one example. Most of the
pictures of him drawn at the period of his greatest popularity--during
and just after the Franco-German war--pourtray him with a long-bowled
porcelain pipe in his hand. The artists in the field made much of this:
every war correspondent wrote about it. The effect upon the public
mind was that of a kindly, unostentatious, pipe-loving burgher--and
so lasting was it that when, seventeen years later, he was attacked by
cancer, many good people hastened to ascribe it to excessive smoking.
I had this same notion, too, and therefore was vastly surprised, in
Berlin, years after, when a General Staff officer told me that Frederic
rather disliked tobacco. I instanced the familiar pictures of him with
his pipe. The instant reply was: “Ah, yes, that was like him. He
always carried a pipe about at headquarters to produce an impression of
comradeship on the soldiers, although it often made him sick.”

It was hard work to credit this theory--until it was confirmed by a
passage in Sir Morell Mackenzie’s book. In response to the physician’s
question, Frederic said the report of his being a great smoker was
“quite untrue, and that for many years he had hardly smoked at all.” He
added that probably this report, coming from soldiers who had seen him
sometimes solacing himself after a hard-fought battle with a pipe, had
given him his “perfectly undeserved reputation” as a devotee of tobacco.*

     * “The Fatal Illness of Frederic the Noble,” p. 20.

But the most striking illustrations of this trait, which Germans
suspected in Frederic, are given in Gustav Freytag’s interesting book,
“The Crown Prince and the Imperial Crown.” It may be said in passing
that even among Conservatives in Berlin there is a feeling that Freytag
should not have published this book. No doubt it tells the truth, but
then Freytag owed very much to the tender friendship and liking of
Frederic, who conspicuously favoured him above other German writers, and
wrote kindly things about him in his diary--and, if the truth had to be
told, some other than Freytag should have told it. Coupled as it is in
the public mind with Dr. Friedberg’s desertion, heretofore spoken of,
this behaviour of another of the dead Prince’s friends is felt to
help justify the low opinion of German gratitude held among scoffing
neighbours. As a Berlin official said in comment to the writer: “When
men like Friedberg and Freytag do these things to the memory of their
dead patron, it is no wonder that foreigners call us Prussians a pack of
wolves, ready always to leap upon and devour any comrade who is down.”

Freytag was the foremost correspondent attached to Frederic’s
headquarters in 1870-71, and enjoyed the confidence of the Crown Prince
in extraordinary measure. Thus he is able to give us a detailed picture
of the man’s moods and mental workings, day by day, during that eventful
time. And this picture is a perfect panorama of varying phases of

The Crown Prince was sedulously cultivating the popular impression of
himself as a plain, hail-fellow-well-met, friendly Prince. But
Freytag says: “The traditional conception of rank and position dwelt
ineradicably in his soul; when he had occasion to remember his own
claims, he stood more vehemently on his dignity than others of his
class.... Had destiny allowed him a real reign, this peculiarity would
probably have shown itself in a manner unpleasantly surprising to his
contemporaries.” *

     * “The Crown Prince and the German Imperial Crown,” by
     Gustav Freytag, p. 27.

More important still is this remark on the following page: “The idea of
the German Empire grew out of princely pride in his soul; it became an
ardent wish, and I think he was the originator and motive power of this

The fact that it was Frederic who conceived the idea of the Empire first
came to the world when Dr. Geffcken printed that famous portion of the
Crown Prince’s diary which led to prosecutions and infinite scandal.
Freytag’s subsequent publication surrounds the fact with most curious
minutiae of detail.

As early as August 1st, before his Third Army had even crossed the
Rhine, Frederic had broached the idea of an empire, with Prussia at its
head. All through the campaign which followed his head was full of it.
He busied his mind with questions of titles, precedence, &c., to grow
out of the new creation. One afternoon--August 11th--he strolled on the
hillside with Freytag for a talk. “He had put on his general’s cloak so
that it fell around his tall figure like a king’s mantle, and had thrown
around his neck the gold chain of the Hohenzollern order, which he was
not wont to wear in the quiet of the camp--and paced elated along the
village green. Filled with the importance which the emperor idea had for
him, he evidently adapted his external appearance to the conversation.”
 During this talk he asked what the new title of the King of Prussia
should be, and the anti-imperialist Freytag suggested Duke of Germany.
Then “the Crown Prince broke out with emphasis, his eyes flashing: ‘No!
he must be Emperor!’” * To create this empire Frederic was quite ready
to forcibly coerce the Southern German States. Bismarck and William
I., whom we think of as rough, hard, arbitrary men, shrank from even
considering such a course. To the enthusiastic and slightly unreal
Frederic it seemed the most natural thing in the world. The account in
his diary of the long interview of Nov. 16, 1870, with Bismarck makes
all this curiously clear. “What about the South Germans? Would you
threaten them, then?” asks the Chancellor. “Yes, indeed!” answers our
ideal constitutional Frederic, with a light heart. The interview was
protracted and stormy, Bismarck ending it by resort to his accustomed
trick of threatening to resign, a well-worn device which twenty years
later was to be used just once too often.

     * Freytag, p. 20.

In this same diary, under date of the following March (1871), Frederic
writes: “I doubt whether the necessary uprightness exists for the free
development of the Empire, and think that only a new epoch, which shall
one day come to terms with me, will see that.... More especially I shall
be the first Prince who has to appear before his people after having
honourably declared for constitutional methods without any reserve.”

One feels that these two passages from his own diary--the utterances of
November and the reflections of March--show distinctly why the practical
rulers, soldiers, and statesmen of Prussia distrusted Frederic. They saw
him more eager and strenuous about grasping the imperial dignity than
any one else--willing even to break treaties and force Bavaria, Saxony,
and Würtemberg into the empire at the cannon’s mouth, and then they
heard him lamenting that until he came to the throne there would not
be enough “uprightness” to insure The Empress Frederic “constitutional
methods.” Candidly, it is impossible to wonder at their failure to
reconcile the two.

[Illustration: 0084]

An even more acute reason for this suspicion and dislike lay in
Frederic’s relations with the English Court. To begin with, there was
a sensational and fantastic uxoriousness about his attitude toward his
wife which could not command sympathy in Germany. Freytag tells of his
lying on his camp bed watching the photographs of his wife and children
on the table before him, with tears in his eyes, and rhapsodizing
about his wife’s qualities of heart and intellect to the newspaper
correspondent, until Freytag promised to dedicate his next book to her.
“He gave me a look of assent and lay back satisfied.” This in itself
would rather pall on the German taste.

Worse still, Frederic used to write long letters home to his wife every
day--often the work of striking the camp would be delayed until these
epistles could be finished--and then the Crown Princess at Berlin would
as regularly send the purport of these to her royal relatives in England
and thence it would be telegraphed to France. Bismarck always believed,
or professed to believe, that there was concerted treachery in this
business. No one else is likely to credit this assumption. But at
all events the fact is that this embarrassing diffusion of news was
discovered and complained of at the time, and charged against Frederic,
and was the reason, as Bismarck bluntly declared during the discussion
over the diary, why the Crown Prince was not trusted by his father or
allowed to share state secrets.

As for the Empire itself, though the original idea of it was his,
Frederic suffered the fate of many other inventors in having very
little to do with it after it was put into working order. He presented a
magnificently heroic figure on horseback in out-of-door spectacles, and
his cultured tastes made the task of presiding over museums and learned
societies congenial. But there his participation in public affairs

The Empire he had dreamed of was of a wholly different sort from
this prosaic, machine-like, departmental structure which Bismarck
and Delbruck made. Frederic’s vision had been of some splendid,
picturesque, richly-decorated revival of the Holy Roman Empire. There
are a number of delightful pages in Freytag’s book giving the Crown
Prince’s romantic views on this point. * When the first Reichstag met in
1871, to acclaim the new Emperor in his own capital, Frederic introduced
into the ceremony the ancient throne chair of the Saxon Emperors, which
may now be seen in Henry’s palace at Goslar, and which, having lain
unknown for centuries in a Harz village, was discovered by being offered
for sale by a peasant as old metal some seventy years ago.

     * Fryetag, pp. 115-130.

Among practical Germans this attempt to link their new Empire with the
discredited and disreputable old fabric, which had been too rotten for
even the Hapsburgs to hold together, was extremely distasteful. Yet
Frederic clung to this pseudo-mediævalism to the last. When he came to
the throne as Kaiser his first proclamation spoke of “the re-established
Empire.” And those who were in Berlin at the time know how a whole day’s
delay was caused by the dissension over what title the new ruler should
assume--the secret of which was that he desired to call himself Kaiser
Friedrich IV, thus going back for imperial continuity to that Friedrich
III who died while Martin Luther was a boy, and who is remembered
only because he was the father of the great Max and was the original
possessor of the Austrian under lip.

Freytag indeed says that to that first proclamation Frederic did affix a
signature with an IV--the assumption being that Bismarck altered it.

The reader has been shown this less satisfying aspect of Frederic, as
his associates saw him, because without understanding it the attitude of
both his father and his son towards him would be flatly unintelligible.
They did not believe that he would make a safe Emperor for Germany.

The old William all the same loved his son deeply, and manifested an
almost extravagant delight at the creditable way in which he carried
himself through the Bohemian and French campaigns. In the succeeding
years of peace it is obvious enough that the venerable Kaiser grew
despondent about his son’s association with Radicals and their
dreams--and it is equally clear that there were plenty of advisers at
hand to confirm the old man in these gloomy doubts. Hence, though he
cherished a sincere affection for “Unser Fritz” and his English wife,
and would gladly have had them much about him, he could not help being
of the party opposed to them--the party which lost no opportunity of
exalting young William in his grandfather’s eyes as the real hope of
the Hohenzollerns. Thus there was a growing, though tacit, estrangement
between the father and son.

When Frederic was stricken with disease, however, the kindly old father
suffered keenly. There was great sweetness of nature in the tough
martial frame of William I, and there is an abiding pathos in the
picture we have of his last moments--the stout nonogenarian who fought
death so valiantly even to his last breath that it seemed as if he could
not die, rolling his white head on the pillow, and moaning piteously,
“Poor Fritz! Poor Fritz!” with his rambling thoughts beyond the
snow-clad Alps, where his son was also in the destroyer’s grasp.

As for young William, his estrangement from his father, if less noted,
had been more complete. He belonged openly to another party, and
moreover smarted under the reproach of being unfilial, which the friends
of his parents, largely of the writing and printing class, publicly
levelled at him.

Placed in this position, the shock of the news that his father had an
incurable disease must have come upon him with peculiar force. We can
only dimly imagine to ourselves the great struggles fought out in
his breast between grief for the father, who had really been an ideal
parent, loving, gentle, solicitous, and tenderly proud, and concern for
the Empire, which might be doomed to have a wasting invalid at its head
for years. On the one side was the repellent thought that this father’s
death would mean his own swift advancement, for the grandfather could
clearly live but little longer. On the other side, if his father’s life
was prolonged, it meant the elevation to the throne of a sick man, whose
fitness for the crown of this armed and beleaguered nation would at all
times have been doubtful, and who, in his enfeebled state, at the mercy
of the radical agitators and adventurers about him, might jeopardize the
fortunes of Empire and dynasty alike.

Torn between these conflicting views, it is not strange that William
welcomed a middle course, suggested, I am authoritatively informed, by
Frederic himself.

The Crown Prince returned to Berlin from Ems thoroughly frightened. He
had no doubt whatever that he was suffering from cancer and expected
to die within the year. Like all men of an expansive and impressionable
temperament, he was subject to fits of profound melancholia--as Freytag
puts it, “fond of indulging in gloomy thoughts and pessimistic humours;”
 so much so that he “sometimes cherished the idea of renouncing the
throne, in case of its being vacant, and leaving the government to his
son.” * He had grown lethargic and dispirited through years of inaction
and systematic exclusion from governmental labours and interests. He
returned from Ems now, in this April of 1887, in a state of complete

     * Freytag, p. 78,

The evident affection and sympathy with which both his father and son
received him, gave an added impulse to the despairing ideas which
had conquered his mind since his sentence of death by cancer had been

In the course of a touching interview between the three Hohenzollerns,
Frederic with tears in his eyes declared that he did not desire to
reign, and that if by chance he survived his father he would waive his
rights of succession in favour of his elder son. This declaration
was within a brief space of time repeated in the presence of Prince
Bismarck, and was by him reduced to writing. The paper was deposited
among the official private archives of the Crown at Berlin, and
presumably is still in existence there.


The fact that the Crown Prince Frederic, despondent and unnerved in
the presence of a mortal disease, had voluntarily pledged himself to
renounce his rights of succession, was naturally not published to the
world. Although it is beyond doubt that such a pledge was given, nothing
more definite than a roundabout hint has to this day been printed in
Germany upon the subject. There are no means of ascertaining the exact
number of personages in high position to whom this intelligence was
imparted at the time. As has been said, the Emperor, the Chancellor,
and the young heir were parties to Frederic’s original action. Certain
indications exist that for a time the secret was kept locked in the
breasts of these four men. Then Frederic confessed to his wife what he
had done.

The strangest feature of this whole curious business is that Frederic
should ever have taken this gravely important step, not only without his
wife’s knowledge, but against all her interests. Her influence over
him was of such commanding completeness, and his devotion to her so
dominated his whole career and character, that the thing can only be
explained by laying stress upon his admitted tendency to melancholia and
assuming that his shaken nerves collapsed under the emotional strain of
meeting his father and son with sympathetic tears in their eyes.

With the moment when the wife first learned of this abdication the
active drama begins. She did not for an instant dream of suffering the
arrangement to be carried out--at least until every conceivable form
of resistance had been exhausted. We can fancy this proud, energetic
princess casting about anxiously here, there, everywhere, for means with
which to fight the grimly-powerful combination against her husband’s
future and her own, and can well believe that in the darkest hour of the
struggle which ensued this true daughter of the Fighting Guelphs never
lost heart.

For friends it was hopeless to look anywhere in Germany. She had lived
in Berlin and Potsdam for nearly thirty years, devoting her large
talents and wide sympathies to the encouragement of literature, science,
and the arts, to the inculcation of softening and merciful thoughts
embodied in new hospitals, asylums, and charitable institutions, and
the formation of orders of nurses; most earnestly of all, to the task
of lifting the women of Germany up in the domestic and social scale,
and making of them something higher than mere mothers of families and
household drudges. Nobody thanked her for her pains, least of all
the women she had striven to befriend. Her undoubted want of tact and
reserve in commenting upon the foibles of her adopted countrymen kept
her an alien in the German mind, in spite of everything she did to
foster a kindlier attitude. The feelings of the country at large were
passively hostile to her. The influential classes hated her vehemently.

That she should link together in her mind this widespread and
assiduously-cultivated enmity to her, and this new and alarming
conspiracy to keep her husband from the throne, was most natural. She
leaped to the conclusion that it was all a plot, planned by her ancient
and implacable foe, Bismarck. That her own son was in it made the thing
more acutely painful, but only increased her determination to fight.

Instinctively she turned to her English home for help. Although nearly
two centuries have passed since George I entered upon his English
inheritance, and more than half a century has gone by since the last
signs of British dominion were removed from Hanover, the dynastic family
politics of Windsor and Balmoral remain almost exclusively German. In
all the confused and embittered squabbles which have kept the royal and
princely houses of Germany by the ears since the close of the Napoleonic
wars, the interference of the British Guelph has been steadily pitted
against the influence of the Prussian Hohenzollern. Hardly one of the
changes which, taken altogether, have whittled the reigning families of
Germany from thirty down to a shadowy score since 1820, has been made
without the active meddling of English royalty on one side or the
other--most generally on the losing side. Hence, while it was natural
that the Crown Princess should remember in her time of sore trial that
she was also Princess Royal in England, it was equally to be expected
that Germany should prepare itself to resent this fresh case of British

The scheme of battle which the Crown Princess, in counsel with her
insular relatives, decided upon was at once ingenious and bold. It could
not, unfortunately, be gainsaid that her husband, Frederic, had formally
pledged himself to relinquish the crown _if_ he proved to be afflicted
with a mortal disease. Very well; the war must be waged upon that “if”.

A good many momentous letters had crossed the North Sea, heavily sealed
and borne by trusted messengers, before the system of defence was
disclosed by the first overt movement. On the 20th of May, 1887,
Dr. Morell Mackenzie, the best known of London specialists in throat
diseases, arrived in Berlin, and was immediately introduced to a
conference of German physicians, heretofore in charge of the case, as
a colleague who was to take henceforth the leading part. They told him
that to the best of their belief they had to deal with a cancer, but
were awaiting his diagnosis. On the following day, and a fortnight
later, he performed operations upon the illustrious patient’s throat to
serve as the basis for a microscopical examination. With his forceps he
drew out bits of flesh, which were sent to Prof. Virchow for scientific
scrutiny. Upon examining these Prof. Virchow reported he discovered
nothing to “excite the suspicion of wider and graver disease,” * thus
giving the most powerful support imaginable to Dr. Mackenzie’s diagnosis
of “a benign growth.”

     * Mackenzie’s “Frederic the Noble,” p. 34.

The German physicians allege that Dr. Mackenzie drew out pieces of the
comparatively healthful right vocal cord. The London specialist denies
this. Nothing could be further from the purpose of this work than to
take sides upon any phase of the unhappy and undignified controversy
which ensued. It is enough here to note the charge, as indicating the
view which Prof. Gerhardt and his German colleagues took from the first
of Mackenzie’s mission in Berlin.

This double declaration against the theory of cancer having been
obtained, the next step was to secure the removal of Frederic. The
celebration of the Queen’s jubilee afforded a most valuable occasion. He
came to England on June 14th--and he never again stepped foot in Berlin
until he returned as Kaiser the following year. Nearly three months were
spent at Norwood, and in Scotland and the Isle of Wight. A brief stop
in the Austrian Tyrol followed, and then the Crown Prince settled in his
winter home at San Remo. On the day of his arrival there Mackenzie was
telegraphed for, as very dangerous symptoms had presented themselves.
He reached San Remo on November 5, 1887, and discovered so grave a
situation that Prince William was immediately summoned from Berlin.

That the young Prince had been placed in a most trying position by
the quarrel which now raged about his father’s sick-room, need not be
pointed out. The physicians who stood highest in Berlin, and who were
backed by the liking and confidence of William’s friends, were deeply
indignant at having been superseded by two Englishmen like Mackenzie and
Hovell. This national prejudice became easily confounded with partisan
antagonisms. The Germans are not celebrated for calm, or for skill in
conducting controversies with delicacy, and in this instance the worst
side of everybody concerned was exhibited.

One recalls now with astonishment the boundless rancour and recklessness
of accusation which characterized that bitter wrangle. Many good people
of one party seriously believed that the German physicians wanted to
gain access to Frederic in order to kill him. On the other hand, a
great number insisted that Mackenzie was deceiving the public, and had
subjected Frederic to the most terrible maimings and tortures in order
to conceal from Germany the fact of the cancer. The basest motives were
ascribed by either side to the other. The Court circle asked what they
were doing, then, to the Crown Prince that they hid him away in Italy;
the answering insinuation was that very good reasons existed for not
allowing him to fall into the hands of the Berlin doctors, who were so
openly devoted to his heir.

In a state of public mind where hints of assassination grow familiar to
the ear, the mere charge of a lack of filial affection sounds very tame

That William deserved during this painful period the reproaches heaped
upon him by the whole English-speaking world is by no means clear. Such
fault as may be with fairness imputed to him, seems to have grown quite
naturally out of the circumstances. He was on the side of the German
physicians as against Mackenzie; but after all that has happened that
can scarcely be regarded as a crime. He could not but range himself with
those who resented the tone Dr. Mackenzie and his friends assumed toward
what they called “the Court circles of Berlin.”

When he reached San Remo in November, it was to note the death
mark clearly stamped on his father’s face; yet he heard the English
_entourage_ still talking about the possibility of the disease not being
cancer. The German doctors had grievous stories to tell him about how
they had been crowded out and put under the heel of the foreigner.
Whether he would or not, he was made a party to the whole wretched
wrangle which henceforth vexed the atmosphere of the Villa Zirio.

The outside world was subjecting this villa and its inhabitants to the
most tirelessly inquisitive scrutiny. Newspaper correspondents engirdled
San Remo with a cordon of espionage, through which filtered the gossip
of servants and the stray babbling of tradespeople. Dr. Mackenzie--now
become Sir Morell--confided his views of the case to journalists who
desired them. The German physicians furtively promulgated stories of
quite a different hue, through the medium of the German press. Thus it
came about that, while Germany as a whole disliked deeply the manner in
which Frederic’s case was managed, the English-speaking peoples espoused
the opposite view and condemned as cruel and unnatural the position
occupied by the Germans, with young William at their head.

As the winter of 1887-8 went forward, it became apparent that the
Kaiser’s prolonged life had run its span. The question which would
die first, old William or middle-aged Frederic, hung in a fluttering
balance. Germany watched the uncertain development of this dual tragedy
with bated breath, and all Christendom bent its attention upon Germany
and her two dying Hohenzollerns.

March came, with its black skies and drifting snow wreaths and bitter
winds blown a thousand miles across the Sclavonic sand plains, and laid
the aged Kaiser upon his deathbed. Prince William, having alternated
through the winter between Berlin and San Remo, was at the last in
attendance upon his grandfather. The dying old man spoke to him as if
he were the immediate heir. Upon him all the injunctions of state and
family policy which the departing monarch wished to utter were directly
laid. The story of those conferences will doubtless never be revealed
in its entirety. But it is known that, if any notion had up to that
time existed of keeping Frederic from the throne, it was now abandoned.
William was counselled to loving patience and submission during the
little reign which his father at best could have. Bismarck was pledged
to remain in office upon any and all terms short of peremptory dismissal
through this same brief period.

It was to William, too, that that last exhortation to be “considerate”
 with Russia was muttered by the dying man--that strange domestic legacy
of the Hohenzollerns which hints at the murder of Charles XII, recalls
the partition of Poland, the despair of Jena, and the triumph of
Waterloo, and has yet in store we know not what still stranger things.

William I died on March 9, 1888. On the morning of the following day
Frederic and his wife and daughters left San Remo in a special train
and arrived at Berlin on the night of the 11th, having made the swiftest
long journey known in the records of continental railways. The new
Kaiser’s proclamation--“To my People”--bears the date of March 12th, but
it was really not issued until the next day.

During that period of delay, the Schloss at Charlottenburg, which had
been hastily fitted up for the reception of the invalid, was the
scene of protracted conferences between Frederic, his son William, and
Bismarck. Hints are not lacking that these interviews had their stormy
and unpleasant side, for Frederic had up to this time fairly maintained
his general health, and could to a limited extent make use of his voice.
But all that is visible to us of this is the fact that some sort of
understanding was arrived at, by which Bismarck could remain in office
and accept responsibility for the acts of the reign.

The story of those melancholy ninety-nine days need not detain us long.
Young William himself, though standing now in the strong light of public
scrutiny, on the steps of the throne, remained silent, and for the most
part motionless. The world gossiped busily about his heartless conduct
toward his mother, his callous behaviour in the presence of his father’s
terrible affliction, his sympathy with those who most fiercely abused
the good Sir Morell Mackenzie. As there had been tales of his unfilial
actions at San Remo, so now there were stories of his shameless haste
to snatch the reins of power from his father’s hands. So late as August,
1889, an anonymous writer alleged in “The New Review” that “the watchers
by the sick bed in Charlottenburg were always in dread when ‘Willie’
visited his father lest he might brusquely demand the establishment of a

Next to no proof of these assertions can be discovered in Berlin. If
there was talk of a Regency--as well there might be among those who knew
of the existence of Frederic’s offer to abdicate--it did not in any way
come before the public. I know of no one qualified to speak who says
that it ever came before even Frederic.

That a feeling of bitterness existed between William and his parents
is not to be denied. All the events of the past year had contributed to
intensify this feeling and to put them wider and wider apart. Even if
the young man had been able to divest himself of the last emotion of
self-sensitiveness, there would still have remained the dislike for
the whole England-Mackenzie-San Remo episode which rankled in every
conservative German mind. But neither the blood nor the training of
princes helps them to put thoughts of self aside--and in William’s case
a long chain of circumstances bound him to a position which, though
we may find it extremely unpleasant to the eye, seemed to him a simple
matter of duty and of justice to himself and to Prussia.

The world gladly preserves and cherishes an idealized picture of the
knightly Kaiser Frederic, facing certain death with intrepid calm, and
labouring devotedly to turn what fleeting days might be left him to
the advantage of liberalism in Germany. It is a beautiful and elevating
picture, and we are all of us the richer for its possession.

But, in truth, Frederic practically accomplished but one reform during
his reign, and that came in the very last week of his life and was
bought at a heavy price. To the end he gave a surprisingly regular
attention to the tasks of a ruler. Both at Charlottenburg and, later,
at Potsdam, he forced himself, dying though he was, to daily devote two
hours or more to audiences with ministers and officials, and an even
greater space of time in his library to signing State papers and writing
up his diary. But this labour was almost wholly upon routine matters.

Two incidents of the brief reign are remembered--the frustrated
attempt to marry one of the Prussian Princesses to a Battenberg and
the successful expulsion of Puttkamer from the Prussian Ministry of the

The Battenberg episode attracted much the greater share of public
attention at the time, not only from the element of romance inherent in
the subject, but because it seemed to be an obvious continuation of
the Anglo-German feud which had been flashing its lightnings about
Frederic’s devoted head for a twelvemonth. Of the four Battenberg
Princes--cousins of the Grand Duke of Hesse by a morganatic marriage,
and hence, according to Prussian notions, not “born” at all--one had
married a daughter, another a granddaughter of the Queen of England.
This seemed to the German aristocracy a most remarkable thing, and
excited a good deal of class feeling, but was not important so long as
these upstart _protégés_ of English eccentricity kept out of reach of
German snubs.

A third Battenberg, Alexander, had made for himself a considerable name
as Prince of Bulgaria: in fact, had done so well that the Germans
felt like liking him in spite of his brothers. The way in which he had
completely thrashed the Servians, moreover, reflected credit upon the
training he had had in the German Army. In his sensational quarrel with
the Czar, too, German opinion leaned to his side, and altogether there
was a kindly feeling toward him. Perhaps if there had been no antecedent
quarrel about English interference, even his matrimonial adoption into
the Hohenzollern family might have been tolerated with good grace.

As it was, the announcement at the end of March that he was to be
betrothed to the Princess Victoria, the second daughter of Frederic,
provoked on the instant a furious uproar. The Junker class all over
Germany protested indignantly. The “reptile” press promptly raised the
cry that this was more of the alien work of the English Empress, who had
been prompted by her English mother to put this fresh affront upon all
true Germans. Prince Bismarck himself hastened to Berlin and sternly
insisted upon the abandonment of the obnoxious idea. There was a fierce
struggle before a result was reached, with hot feminine words and tears
of rage on one side, with square-jawed, gruff-voiced obstinacy and much
plain talk on the other. At last Bismarck overbore opposition and had
his way. Prince William manifested almost effusive gratitude to
the Chancellor for having dispelled this nightmare of a Battenberg

The solicitude about this project seems to have been largely maternal.
Sir Morell Mackenzie says of the popular excitement over the subject:
“I cannot say that it produced much effect on the Emperor.” As for the
Princess Victoria, she has now for some time been the wife of Prince
Adolph of Schaumburg-Lippe.

Although it did not attract a tithe of the attention given the
Battenberg marriage sensation, the dismissal of Puttkamer was really
an important act, the effects of which were lasting in Germany. This
official had been Minister of the Interior since 1881--a thoroughgoing
Bismarckian administrator, whose use of the great machinery of his
office to coerce voters, intimidate opposition, and generally grease
the wheels of despotic government, had become the terror and despair of
Prussian Liberalism; To have thrown him out of office it was worth while
to reign only ninety-nine days.

Ostensibly his retirement was a condition imposed by Frederic before he
would sign the Reichstag’s bill lengthening the Parliamentary term to
five years. The Radicals had hoped he would veto it, and the overthrow
of Puttkamer was offered as a solace to these wounded hopes. But in
reality Puttkamer had been doomed from the outset of the new reign. He
was conspicuous among those who spoke with contempt of Frederic, and in
his ministerial announcement of the old Kaiser’s death to the public,
insolently neglected to say a word about his successor. Questioned about
this later, he had the impertinence to say that he could not find out
what title the new Kaiser would choose to assume.

Puttkamer’s resignation was gazetted on June 11th, and that very evening
Prince Bismarck gave a great dinner, at which the fallen Minister was
the guest of honour. In one sense the insult was wasted, for out at
Potsdam the invalid at whom it was levelled could no longer eat, and was
obviously close to death. Indirectly, however, the affront made a mark
upon the world’s memory. We shall hear of Puttkamer again.

On the 1st day of June Frederic had been conveyed by boat to Potsdam,
where he wished to spend his remaining weeks in the most familiar of
his former homes, the New Palace, the name of which he changed to
Friedrichskron. He was already a dying man. Two clever observers, who
were on the little pier at Gleinicke, described to me the appearance of
the Emperor when he was carried up out of the cabin to land. Said one:
“He was crouched down, wretched, scared, and pallid, like a man going
to execution.” The other added: “Say rather like an enfeebled maniac in
charge of his keepers.”

Yet, broken and crushed as he was, he was Kaiser to the last. The
announcement of Putt-kamer’s downfall came on June 11th. Frederic died
on June 15th.

It was in the late forenoon of that rainy, gray summer day that the
black and white royal standard above the palace fell--signifying that
the eighth King of Prussia was no more. A moment later orderlies were
running hither and thither outside; the troops within the palace park
hastily threw themselves into line, and detachments were at once marched
to each of the gates to draw a cordon between Friedrichskron and all the
world besides.

In an inner room in the great palace the elder son of the dead Kaiser,
all at once become William II, German Emperor, King in Prussia, eighteen
times a Duke, twice a Grand Duke, ten times a Count, fifteen times a
Seigneur, and three times a Margrave--this young man, with fifty-four
titles thus suddenly plumped down upon him, * seated himself to write
proclamations to his Army and his Navy.

     * With the possible exception of the Emperor of Austria,
     William is the most betitled man in Europe. Beside being
     German Emperor and King of Prussia, he is Margrave of
     Brandenburg, and the two Lausitzes; Grand Duke of Lower
     Rhineland and Posen; Duke of Silesia, Glatz, Saxony,
     Westphalia, Engern, Pomerania, Luneburg, Holstein-Schleswig,
     Magdeburg, Bremen, Geldern, Cleve, Juliers and Berg,
     Crossen, Lauenburg, Mecklenburg, of the Wends and of the
     Cassubes; Landgrave of Hesse and Thuringia; Prince of
     Orange; Count-Prince of Henneburg; Count of the Mark, of
     Ravensberg, of Hohenstein, of Lingen and Tecklenburg, of
     Mansfeld, Sigmaringen, Veringen, and of Hohenzollern;
     Burgrave of Nuremberg; Seigneur of Frankfurt, Rügen, East
     Friesland, Paderborn, Pyrmont, Halber-stadt, Münster,
     Minden, Osnabrück, Hildesheim, Verden, Kammin, Fulda, Nassau
     and Moers.


During the three days between the death and burial of Frederic
the world saw and heard nothing of his successor save these two
proclamations to the Army and Navy. This in itself was sufficiently
strange. It was like a slap in the face of nineteenth-century
civilization that this young man, upon whom the vast task of ruling an
empire rich in historical memories of peaceful progress had devolved,
should take such a barbaric view of his position. In this country
which gave birth to the art of printing, this Germany wherein Dürer
and Cranach worked and Luther changed the moral history of mankind and
Lessing cleared the way for that noble band of poets of whom Goethe
stands first and Wagner is not last, it seemed nothing less than
monstrous that a youth called to be Emperor should see only columns of
troops and iron-clads.

The purport of these proclamations, shot forth from the printing press
while the news of Frederic’s death was still in the air, fitted well the
precipitancy of their appearance. William delivered a long eulogy upon
his grandfather, made only a passing allusion to his father, recited the
warlike achievements and character of his remoter ancestors, and closed
by saying: “Thus we belong to each other, I and the army; thus we were
born for one another; and firmly and inseparably will we hold together,
whether it is God’s will to give us peace or storm.”

Exultant militarism rang out from every line of these utterances. The
world listened to this young man boasting about being a war lord, with
feelings nicely graded upon a scale of distances. Those near by put
hands on sword hilts; those further away laughed contemptuously; but all
alike, far and near, felt that an evil day for Germany had dawned.

The funeral of old William at Berlin in March had been a spectacle
memorable in the history of mankind--the climacteric demonstration of
the pomp and circumstance of European monarchical systems. A simple
military funeral, a trifle more ornate than that of a General of
division, was given to his successor. The day, June 18th, was the
anniversary of Waterloo.

It may have been due to thoughts upon what this day meant in Prussian
history; more probably it reflected the chastened and softening
influences of these three days’ meditation in the palace of death; from
whatever cause, William’s address to the Prussian people, issued on the
18th, was a much more satisfactory performance. The tone of the drill
sergeant was entirely lacking, and the words about his father, the
departed Frederic, were full of filial sweetness. The closing paragraph
fairly mirrors the whole proclamation:

“I have vowed to God that, after the example of my fathers, I will be a
just and clement Prince to my people, that I will foster piety and the
fear of God, and that I will protect the peace, promote the welfare of
the country, be a helper of the poor and distressed, and a true guardian
of the right.” Pondering upon the marked difference between this address
and the excited and vain-glorious harangue to the fighting men of
Germany which heralded William’s accession, it occurred to me to inquire
whether or not Dr. Hinzpeter had in the interim made his appearance at
Potsdam. No one could remember, but the point may be worth the attention
of the future historian.

Studying all that has since happened in the variant lights of these
proclamations of June 15th and June 18th, one sees a constant struggle
between two Williams--between the gentle, dreamy-eyed, soft-faced boy of
Cassel, and the vain, arrogant youth who learned to clank a sword at his
heels and twist a baby moustache in Bonn. Such conflicts and clashings
between two hostile inner selves have a part in the personal history
of each of us. Only we are not out under the searching glare of
illumination which beats upon a prince, and the records and results of
these internal warrings are of interest to ourselves alone.

William, moreover, has one of those nervous, delicately-poised,
highly-sensitized temperaments which responds readily and without
reserve to the emotion of the moment. Increasing years seem to be
strengthening his judgment, but they do not advance him out of the
impressionable age. In the romantic idealism and mysticism of his mind,
and in the histrionic bent of his impulses, he is a true son of his
father, a genuine heir of the strange fantastic Ascanien strain, which
meant greatness in Catharine II, madness in her son Paul, and whimsical
staginess in his grand-daughter Augusta.

Like his father, too, his nature is peculiarly susceptible to the
domination of a stronger and more deeply rooted personality. The wide
difference between them arises from this very similitude. Frederic spent
all his adult life under the influence of the broad-minded, cultured,
and high-thinking English Princess, his wife. William, during these
years now under notice, was in the grip of the Bismarcks.

The ascendency of this family, which attained its zenith in these first
months of the young Kaiser’s reign, is a unique thing in the history of
Prussia. The Hohenzollerns have been hereditarily a stiff-backed race,
much addicted to personal government, and not at all given to leaning
on other people. From 1660 to 1860 you will search their records in
vain for the name of a minister who was allowed to usurp functions not
strictly his own. The first Frederic William was a good deal pulled
about and managed by inferiors, it is true, but they did it only by
making themselves seem more his inferiors than any others about him. No
Wolsey or Richelieu or Metternich could thrive in the keen air of the
Mark of Brandenburg, under the old kingly traditions of Prussia.

Bismarck rose upon the ruins of those traditions. In 1862 the Prussian
Diet and Prussian society generally were in open revolt against the new
king, William I. Constitutionalism and the spread of modern ideas had
made the old absolutist system of the Hohenzollerns impossible; budgets
were thrown out, constituencies were abetted in their mutiny by the
nobles, and the newspaper press was fiercely hostile. The King, a frank,
kindly, slow-minded old soldier, did not know what to do. The thought of
surrendering his historic prerogatives under pressure, and the resource
of sweeping Berlin’s streets with grape-shot, were equally hateful to
him. In his perplexity he summoned his Ambassador at Paris to Berlin,
and begged him to undertake the defence of the monarchy against its
enemies. He made this statesman, Otto von Bismarck, Minister of the
King’s House and of Foreign Affairs, and avowedly a Premier who had
undertaken to rule Prussia without a Parliament.

It was the old story of the Saxons, being invited to defend the British
homestead, and remaining to enjoy it themselves.

The lapse of a quarter of a century found this King magnified into an
Emperor, enjoying the peaceful semblance of a reign over 48,000,000 of
people, where before he had stormily failed to govern much less than
half that number. He had grown into the foremost place among European
sovereigns so easily and without friction, and was withal so honest and
amiable an old gentleman, that it did not disturb him to note how much
greater a man than himself his Minister had come to be.

The relations between William I and Bismarck were always frank, loyal,
and extremely simple. They were fond of each other, mutually grateful
for what each had helped the other to do and to be. It illumines one of
the finest traits in the great Chancellor’s character to realize that,
during the last eighteen years of the old Kaiser’s life.

Bismarck would never go to the opera or theatre for fear the popular
reception given to him might wound the royal sensitiveness of his

Bismarck, having all power in his own hands, became possessed of that
most human of passions, the desire to found a dynasty, and hand this
authority down to his posterity. There was a certain amount of
promising material in his older son Herbert--a robust, rough-natured,
fairly-acute, and altogether industrious man--ten years older than the
Prince William, now become Kaiser. The strength of Prince Bismarck’s
hold upon the old William was only matched by the supremacy he had thus
far managed to exert over the imperial grandson. He dreamed a vision of
having Herbert as omnipotent in the Germany of the twentieth century as
he had been in the last half of the nineteenth.

The story of his terrible disillusion belongs to a later stage. At
the time with which we are dealing, and indeed for nearly a year after
William’s accession in June of 1888, the ascendency of the Bismarcks was
complete. Men with fewer infirmities of temper and feminine capacities
for personal grudges and jealousies might possibly have maintained
that ascendency, or the semblance of it, for years. But a long lease of
absolute power had developed the petty sides of their characters. During
the brief reign of Frederic they had had to suffer certain slights and
rebuffs at the hands of his Liberal friends who were temporarily brought
to the front. To their swollen _amour propre_ nothing else seemed
so important now as to avenge these indignities. The new Kaiser they
thought of as wholly their man, and they proceeded to use him as a rod
for the backs of their enemies.

It remains a surprising thing that they were allowed to go so far in
this evil direction before William revolted and called a halt. For what
they did before a stop was put to their career it is impossible not to
blame him as well as them. In truth, he began by being so wholly under
their influence that even his own individual acts were coloured by their
prejudices and hates.

If he had been momentarily softened by the pathetic conditions
surrounding his father’s funeral, his heart steeled itself again soon
enough under the sway of the Bismarcks. He entered with gratuitous zest
upon a course of demonstrative disrespect to his father’s memory.

Frederic had been born in the spacious, rambling New Palace at Potsdam,
and in adult life had made it his principal home. Here all his children
save William were born, and here William himself spent his boyhood, as
Mr. Bigelow has so pleasantly told us, * playing with his brother Henry
in their attic nursery, or cruising in their little toy frigate on the
neighbouring lakes. Here Frederic at the end came home to die, and in
the last fortnight of his life formally decreed that the name of the New
Palace should henceforth be Friedrichskron--or Frederic’s Crown.

     * New Review, August, 1889.

All who have seen the splendid edifice, embowered in the ancient royal
forest parks, will recognize the poetic and historic fitness of the
name. From its centre rises a dome, surmounted by three female figures
supporting an enormous kingly crown. There was a time when Europe talked
as much about this emblematic dome as we did a year or so ago about the
Eiffel Tower, though for widely different reasons. It was not remarkable
from any scientific point of view, but it embodied in visible bronze
a colossal insult levelled by Frederic the Great at the three most
powerful women in the world. When that tireless creature emerged from
the Seven Years’ War, he began busying himself by the construction of
this palace. Everybody had supposed him to be ruined financially, but he
had his father’s secret hoards almost intact, and during the six years
1763-9 drew from them over £2,000,000 to complete this structure.
With characteristic insolence he reared upon the dome, in the act of
upholding his crown, three naked figures having the faces of Catherine
of Russia, Maria Theresa of Austria, and Mme. Pompadour of France,
each with her back turned toward her respective country. The irony was
coarse, but perhaps it may be forgiven to a man who had so notably come
through the prolonged life-and-death struggle forced upon him by these

At all events, it was an intelligent and proper thing to give the palace
the name of Friedrichskron, and one would think that, even if the
change had been less fitting than it was, the wish of the dying man
about the house of his birth could not but command respect.

One of William’s first acts was to order the discontinuance of the new
name, and in his proclamation he ostentatiously reverted to the former
usage of “New Palace.”

To glance ahead for a moment, there came in September an even more
painful illustration of the unfilial attitude to which William had
hardened himself. The _Deutsche Rundschau_ created a sudden sensation by
printing the diary of Frederic, from July 11, 1870, to March 12th of
the following year, covering the entire French campaign and all
the negotiations leading up to the formation of the German Empire.
Quotations have already been made in these pages showing that this diary
demonstrated authoritatively the fallacy of Bismarck’s claim to be the
originator of the Empire. Frederic and the others had had, in fact, to
drag him into a reluctant acceptance of the imperial idea. The shock
of now all at once learning this was felt all over Germany. Every mind
comprehended that the blow had been aimed straight at the Chancellor’s
head. Nobody seemed to see, least of all Bismarck, that the diary really
gave the Chancellor a higher title than that of inventor of the Empire,
and revealed him as a wise, far-seeing statesman, who would not submit
to the fascination of the imperial scheme until he made sure that its
realization would be of genuine benefit to all Germany. So far, indeed,
was he from recognizing this that he allowed the publication to rob him
of all control over his temper.

The edition of the _Rundschau_ was at once confiscated, and on September
23rd Bismarck sent a “report” to the Emperor upon the diary. He set up
the pretence of doubting its genuineness as a cloak for saying the most
brutal things about its dead author. The charge was openly made that
Frederic could not be trusted with any State secrets owing to the fear
of “indiscreet revelations to the English Court,” and therefore “stood
without the sphere of all business negotiations.” Further, he asserted
that the portions of the diary expressing willingness to force the
Southern States into the Empire must be forgeries, because “such ideas
are equally contemptible from the standpoint of honourable feeling and
that of policy.” In conclusion he pointed out that, even if the diary
were genuine, Frederic in giving it for publication would be a traitor
under Article XCII of the Penal Code.

Of the genuineness of the diary there was, of course, no question
whatever in anybody’s mind, least of all in Bismarck’s or William’s. Yet
the young Kaiser permitted this gross attack by the Chancellor upon his
father’s honour and patriotism to be officially published, and gave his
consent to a prosecution of those responsible for the appearance of the
diary in the _Rundschau_.

The story of the prosecution is a familiar one. Dr. Geffcken was found
to be the friend to whom Frederic had entrusted this portion of his
diary, and he was arrested and thrown into prison, to be brought before
the imperial tribunal at Leipsic. The ingrate Friedberg put his talents
at the disposal of the Bismarcks to draw up the case against him.
The houses of Geffcken and Baron von Roggenbach were ransacked, and a
correspondence covering many years was seized and searched by Bismarck’s
emissaries. These letters were said to contain many compromising
references to the Crown Princess, Princess Alice, Sir Robert Morier,
and others whom Bismarck alleged to be in a conspiracy against him. This
charge of being desirous of the Chancellor’s downfall grew indeed to be
the principal item in the attack upon Geffcken.

The indictment for high treason was at last, on January 2, 1889, brought
before the Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Leipsic, and
they threw it out with ignominious swiftness. Geffcken himself, badly
broken in health and mind, was released on the 4th. This was Bismarck’s
first public mishap under the new reign, and it attracted much surprised
attention at the time, as showing both the Chancellor’s lack of
intelligent self-restraint in getting into a fury over a revelation which
really redounded to his credit, and his ignorance of German law. The
opening month of the year 1889, in which this happened, was invested
with importance in another way, as we shall see in due course.

But for the time, returning now to the middle of 1888, William seemed
to delight in exhibiting himself to the public eye as the man of the
Bismarcks. One of his earliest acts was to make a special journey to
Friedrichsruh to visit the Chancellor, and the most popular photograph
of the year was that representing him standing on the lawn in front of
this château, in company with Bismarck and the famous “Reichshund.” In
Berlin, too, people noted his custom of paying early morning calls at
the house of Herbert Bismarck, and wondered how long this enthusiastic
self-abasement would last.

While it did last, this influence of the Bismarcks was so powerful and
all-pervasive that it is very difficult to follow the thread of the
young Kaiser’s own personality through the busy period of his first
half-year’s reign. One continually confronts this embarrassment of
inability to separate what he himself wanted to do from what was
suggested by these powers behind the throne. We know now that the Kaiser
possesses a strongly-marked individuality and an unusually active and
fertile mind. Doubtless these asserted themselves a great deal at
even this early stage, but there is little or nothing to guide us in
distinguishing their effects.

The truth seems to be that at this time, in these opening months of his
reign, William’s inclinations ran so wholly in Bismarckian channels that
even what he himself initiated was in practice a part of the Bismarcks’

This is especially true of the young Kaiser’s first important step in
the field of international politics. He had been on the throne for less
than four weeks when he started off to pay a State visit to the Czar of
Russia. He had not been invited, and it was apparent enough in Russian
Court circles that his hasty and impulsive descent upon their summer
leisure was as unwelcome as it was surprising. He himself appears to
have been swayed both by memories of his grandfather’s injunction
to friendliness toward Russia, and by Bismarck’s desire to make a
demonstration of unfriendliness to England.

This note of anti-English prejudice is dominant throughout all that
immediately followed. During Frederic’s brief tenure of power, in April
of 1888, Queen Victoria had made a journey to Berlin, and had spent
several days in the company of her dying son-in-law and afflicted
daughter at the palace of Charlottenburg. Her coming was not at all
grateful to the Junker class, and it was rendered highly unpopular among
Berliners generally by a curiously tactless performance on the part
of the Empress Frederic. To properly receive her royal mother it
was necessary to refurnish and decorate a suite of rooms in the
Charlottenburg Schloss, and orders were sent to London for all this new
furniture, and for English workmen to make the needed alterations. As
may be imagined, this slight upon the tradesmen and artizans of Berlin
was deeply resented, and there was considerable ground for nervousness
lest the Queen should have some manifestation of this dislike thrust
upon her notice during her stay. Fortunately, this did not happen, but
Prince William behaved so coldly toward his grandmother that her Majesty
could have had no doubt as to the attitude of his friends.

Later on, after Frederic’s death? came confused stories about the
arbitrary and unjust way in which his widow had been treated, both
personally and as regarded her property rights. These matters are all
settled now, and were the subject of great exaggeration even then, but
they created so much bad blood at the time that the Prince of Wales in
the following autumn left Vienna upon a hastily improvised and wholly
fictitious hunting tour, rather than remain and meet his nephew, Kaiser
William, who was coming that way.

Nothing very notable occurred during the July journeys to Russia,
Sweden, and Denmark, and the autumnal trip to Austria and Italy
presented no incidents of importance save this sudden flight of the
indignant Prince of Wales, and a distinctly unpleasant bungling of the
visit to the Pope. This latter episode has become famous in the annals
of Prussian brusqueness and incivility. The young Kaiser in his white
cuirassier uniform and eagle-capped helmet bluntly told the venerable
Pontiff that his dreams of regaining temporal power were all childish
nonsense, and the still ruder Herbert Bismarck broke up the interview
by forcing his way into the Pope’s private apartments, dragging amiable
young Prince Henry with him as a pretext for his boisterous insolence.
This was thought to be a smart trick at the time, and Herbert and the
German Ambassador openly chuckled over it.

William himself is said to have remarked to King Humbert after his
return from the call upon Leo XIII: “I have destroyed his illusions.” At
least the Holy Father no longer indulged illusions as to what the German
Emperor was like--but in his mild, tranquil manner confided to certain
members of his intimate household the pious fear that William was a
conceited and headstrong young man, whose reign would end in disaster.

These journeys did little more than confirm the world in sharing the
Pope’s unfavourable opinion of William. Both by his ostentatious visit
to Russia before even his two allies of the triple compact had been
greeted, and by his marked avoidance of England while visiting all the
other maritime nations of the north, he was credited with desiring to
offend the country of his mother’s birth. That country returned his
dislike with interest.

Finally, on the 1st day of January, 1889, he put the capstone upon this
evil and unfilial reputation which he had been for a year building up in
the minds of English-speaking people. Badly as the outside world thought
of him by this time, it learned now with amazement that he had selected
for special New Year’s honours the ex-Minister Puttkamer. The one
important act of Frederic’s reign had been the dismissal of this man, to
whom William now, with marks of peculiar distinction, gave the order of
the Black Eagle.

A groan of despairing disgust rose from every part of the globe where
people were watching German affairs. How could any good thing whatsoever
be expected from such a son?


The opening month of 1889 was a momentous period in the history of the
young Emperor. The decoration of Puttkamer, who stood in all eyes as
a type of the late Kaiser’s bitterest and most malignant foes, put the
finishing touch to the demonstrative unfilial stage of William’s career.
Men had been brought by this deed to think as badly of him as they
could--when lo! the whole situation suddenly changed. This crowning
act of affront to his father’s memory was also the last. From that very
month it is a new William who presents himself for consideration.

It is not possible to put the finger upon any one special cause for the
change in the Kaiser’s views and feelings which from this time began to
manifest itself. There were in truth many reasons working together to
effect this alteration, at once so subtle and so swift.

In its essence the abrupt new departure was due to the awakened
consciousness in William’s mind that the Bismarcks had been making a
fool of him. Royalty can bear any calamity better than this. The
saying ascribed to Louis XVIII, “For the love of God, do not render me
ridiculous!” puts into words the thought that has lain closest to every
monarch’s heart since kings have had a being. And it was in William’s
nature to regard himself and his position with exceptional seriousness.

It would be extremely interesting to follow the mental processes by
which William all at once reached this realizing sense of his position,
and saw how poor and contemptible a figure he had been made to cut in
the eyes of the civilized world. As it is, we can only glance briefly at
the more obvious of the causes which led to this welcome awakening.

First of all, the High Court of Leipsic, on January 4th, threw out the
indictment which Bismarck had been so savagely pressing against Dr.
Geffcken, for the treasonable publication of a part of the Emperor
Frederic’s diary. The official ransacking of all his correspondence,
and that of his most intimate associates, had revealed nothing save
additional proof that the late Princess Alice of Hesse, Sir Robert
Morier, and Dr. Geffcken were close friends of Frederic and his
wife--which, of course, everybody knew before, but which the Bismarckian
journals had paraded afresh as a reason for new insults to the dead
Kaiser’s memory and to the widowed Empress Frederic. The prompt adverse
decision of the court dealt a sharp blow to this scandalous abuse of

In addition, the Bismarcks were meanwhile conducting a fierce public
campaign against Sir Robert Morier, the British Ambassador at St.
Petersburg--or rather, through him, against the honour of the late
Emperor. Their accusation, based upon some alleged verbal statement of
Marshal Bazaine, made at a time when he was most hopelessly discredited
and new in exile, was that Frederic had systematically revealed the
secrets of the German Army plans to Morier, who had sent them to England
to be wired across to France. When Sir Robert Morier produced Bazaine’s
written denial of the alleged utterances and sent it to Herbert
Bismarck, with a polite request for a withdrawal of the odious charge,
he received a letter of refusal, couched in grossly insulting terms.
This controversy, culminating about the time of the collapse of the
Geffcken prosecution, no doubt contributed much to the opening of
William’s eyes.

There were not wanting at Berlin clever people ready to take advantage
of these foolish excesses of the arrogant and over-confident Bismarcks.
Their arbitrary and despotic courses had offended many besides those who
would naturally be opposed to them politically, and there now sprang
up, as out of the earth, a singular combination of the most diverse
political elements, united only in their hatred for the Bismarcks. In
this incongruous alliance Radicals and Jew-baiters joined hands, and
ultra-Conservatives stood side by side with the Empress Frederic’s
Liberal faction. The headquarters of this odd combination were at the
residence of Alfred Count von Waldersee.

This powerful personage, who for years, as Quartermaster-General, was in
training as Moltke’s visible heir, and was until recently at the head
of the greatest fighting machine the human race ever saw, is still but
little known to the general public. This is because press popularity and
interesting personal qualities and connections have nothing whatever
to do with a man’s promotion in the German Army. Heroic actions on the
field advance him no more than does the advertising faculty in times
of peace. He rises to each place because he is judged to be fittest
for that particular post, and this judgment sternly sets aside all
considerations not immediately concerned with the duties of that post.

Thus it happens that of Count von Waldersee, who is one of the most
important military officers in the world, not much is known save that he
is now grey and bald, and has for his wife a very astute and influential
American lady.

Twenty-seven years ago an elderly prince of the Schleswig-Holstein
family produced a temporary sensation by renouncing his ancestral rank,
in order to marry a beautiful young Miss Lee, whom he had met at Paris.
He was then just the age of the century--sixty-four--and the bride,
who, with true American courage, states the year of her birth in
the _Almanach de Gotha_, was twenty-six. Less than a year later the
bridegroom, who had been given the title of Prince de Noër at the
Austrian Court, died in Syria. Nine years afterwards--in 1874--his widow
married Count Waldersee, and went to Berlin to live.

It happened, in 1881, that young Prince William of Prussia was wedded
to a Schleswig-Holstein Princess, to whom the Countess Waldersee, by her
first marriage, stood in the relation of great-aunt. Young William and
Waldersee were already friends. This connection between their wives
led to a closer intimacy, the results of which have been tremendous in

I have said that the home of the Waldersees now became the centre of the
rising opposition to the Bismarcks. Count Waldersee himself represented
the ancient Prussian nobles’ traditions of an absolute monarchy and a
Hohenzollern’s unlimited kingly power--traditions which were all at war
with this Bismarckian usurpation of authority. The Countess Waldersee,
with the privilege of an American, was able to gather into association
with this aristocratic conservatism many elements in German
political life which, under any other roof than hers, would have been
antagonistic. Here it was that the women’s conclave was formed--the
young Empress Victoria and her widowed mother-in-law, the Empress
Frederic, joining hands with the Countess Waldersee--with the blessing
of the aged Empress Augusta, who all her life long had hated Bismarck,
resting upon their work.

Bismarck had been supreme for so many years, and had put so many of
these feminine cabals under his feet in bygone days, that he failed to
recognize the deadly peril which confronted him in this newly-unmasked
battery. He proceeded to charge upon it with all his old recklessness
of confidence, and with his accustomed weapons of newspaper insults,
personal browbeatings and threats to resign. To his great bewilderment
nothing gave way. He had come at last upon a force greater than himself.
He maintained the struggle for over a year--scornfully at first, and
later with a despairing tenacity as pitiful as it was undignified, until
at last he was fairly cudgeled off the field.

This was the trick of it: Bismarck, in all his extended series of
conquests over previous attacks by the women of the Court, had had the
King at his back. He was supported by old William in his long campaign
against the old Empress and the English Crown Princess. He had had the
sanction of young William in his warfare upon the Empress Frederic. It
had been with royal consent that he bore himself like the foremost man
in Prussia, and he had allowed himself to forget the importance of
this fact. The tables were completely turned upon him the instant these
adroit and sagacious women whispered in young William’s ear, “Why not be
foremost man in Prussia yourself?”

The young Kaiser’s thirtieth birthday came on January 27, 1889. We can
put down to about that date his advance to an independent position in
front of everybody else in his kingdom--including the Bismarcks. No
single striking event marked the change; but the feeling that the change
had come spread with strange swiftness throughout the length and breadth
of Germany. The half-intuitive sense that Bismarck was done for ran like
wildfire over the country. The Iron Chancellor for thirty years had
done his best to reduce German manhood to the serf-like condition of the
courtier, and it is proverbial that there is no other keenness of scent
like that of courtiers for the fall of a favourite.

The open reconciliation between William and his mother belongs to a
somewhat later period, but the spirit of it was already in the air. The
terrible news of the death of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, which
came on January 30th, is also to be taken into account as bearing upon
this change at Berlin. The Austrian heir-apparent was only six months
older than William, and of late years they had not been friends. Rudolph
had been peculiarly intimate with the Prince of Wales and with the late
Emperor Frederic, and had not concealed his sympathy with the English
view of William’s behaviour. His tragic ending now produced the most
painful and softening effect upon the emotional young Kaiser. He could
only be restrained from going _incognito_ to the funeral at Vienna by
the urgent pleas of the stricken Austrian Emperor, and he made obviously
sincere expressions of grief to the friends of the Prince of Wales,
which went far toward removing the ill-feelings between them.

As it became apparent that the young Kaiser had thrown off his
Bismarckian leading-strings, and, after a miserable interlude of small
personal persecutions and revenges, was at last coming to comprehend the
vastness of his duties and responsibilities, the world began watching
him with an interest of another sort.

It was not easy for outsiders to follow with much clearness the details
of the fight which Bismarck was now making to retain his position and
prestige. No one but a German politician could understand the excitement
about the appointment of the National Liberal, von Bennigsen, to the
Governorship of Hanover--an act, by the way, which definitely ranged
the ultra-Tories against Bismarck--or apprehend the significance of
Bismarck’s fruitless attempts to secure the dismissal of Court Chaplain
Stocker, who was too much a partisan of Waldersee’s. The general
public preferred rather to study the personality of the young Kaiser as
revealed by his individual acts and utterances.

William’s fondness for travelling had from the first attracted
attention. It is not generally known that in order to gratify this taste
he at the beginning of his reign decided to devote to it the money
which would be saved by foregoing a coronation ceremony. This decision
accorded with historic Prussian precedents. From the year 1701, when
Prussia was raised to royal estate, and the first King was crowned with
such memorable and costly pomp at Königsberg, no Hohenzollern had a
coronation ceremony until William I put the crown upon his own head in
October of 1861. Each of the intervening monarchs held instead what
is called a _Hudligung_, or solemn homage from the assembled
representatives of the estates of the realm--a curious ceremonial relic
from feudal times which survived into the present century in its antique
form as a public function in the Schloss Platz. William I’s avowed
reason for breaking over the rule was that during his predecessor’s
reign a Constitution had been promulgated in Prussia, and that this
new-fangled innovation rendered it necessary to remind people anew of
the powers and prerogatives of the monarch by visible signs of crown and

Young William was so enthusiastic a follower of his grandfather that
people assumed he would imitate him in this, all the more because his
own tastes are toward display. Upon this theory there has been a great
deal printed about a forthcoming coronation which never comes. Only
last year an unusually impressive statement appeared to the effect that
William, moved by meditating upon the historic splendours of the old
Holy Roman Empire, intended to have himself crowned German Emperor
in the famous mediaeval church of the ancient imperial city of
Frankfort-on-the-Main. The idea is a beautiful one, but there is no fact
at the back of it. According to William’s present intention, he will not
be crowned at all.

In the restless course of his travels during these first six months
William had made numerous speeches, almost every one of which contained
a sentence or two of enough significance to be reprinted everywhere.
As a rule his utterances at foreign Courts were polite and amiable to
a fault, while his speeches at home, made among cheering after-dinner
audiences in various parts of Germany, were characterized by much
violent extravagance of language. The most intemperate of these
harangues were reserved for his State visits to the provincial divisions
of Prussia. At the beginning of last year, on the occasion of a visit
of this nature to Königsberg, capital of East Prussia, he was led by
his enthusiasm into so fervid a strain of eloquence, and flourished
the metaphorical sword so recklessly, that one of the Russian papers
ironically congratulated the world upon the fact that Prussia only had
thirteen provinces, and that the Kaiser had now exhausted the rhetorical
possibilities of eleven of them.

The earliest and most interesting of these speeches was delivered at
Frankfurt-am-Oder just two months after his accession. He referred of
his own volition to the undoubtedly foolish talk that had been heard
during his father’s brief reign, of Frederic’s alleged idea of giving
back Alsace-Lorraine, an imputation which William characterized as
shameful to his father’s memory.

“There is upon this point but one mind,” he went on amid loud hurrahs,
“namely, that our eighteen army corps, and our 42,000,000 people should
be left upon the field rather than that we should permit a solitary
stone of what we have gained to be taken from us.”

Equally characteristic, and perhaps even more important as a clue to the
manner in which the young Kaiser’s conceptions of his position shaped
themselves, was his celebrated rebuke to the Burgomaster and municipal
authorities of Berlin, which has for its date, October 28 1888. That we
may the better comprehend this, it will be well to glance for a moment
at the remarkable development of the new Berlin.

Twenty years ago--that is to say, when the Empire was founded--Berlin
was of course much the largest city within the new German boundaries,
but it was scarcely a capital in the sense that Paris, Vienna, or London
is. Frankfurt-am-Main was the great banking centre of Germany; Hamburg
was its commercial metropolis; Dresden, Hanover, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden,
and even smaller towns were more esteemed as places of fashionable
residence and resort. Berlin was big and powerful, and rich in
manufactures, no doubt, but nobody thought of it as beautiful or
attractive, and nobody wanted to live there who could maintain himself
in pleasanter surroundings.

The change which has been wrought in all this since 1870 is only to be
matched by the phenomenal growth of great cities in the American West.
Europe has seen nothing like it before. Within these twenty years Berlin
has grown like a veritable Chicago. And not only has it attracted to
itself hundreds of thousands of new citizens, and spread itself out on
the Brandenburg plain over new square miles of stately brick and mortar
and asphalt, but it has sapped the pre-eminence of its more ancient
rivals, each in its speciality. Berlin has so absorbed the monetary
power of the Empire that Frankfort is now scarcely thought of as
a banking centre at all, and even Amsterdam and Paris are dwarfed
financially. In similar fashion, the German nobility and wealthy
classes, instead of scattering their town homes among a dozen local
centres of social life, swarm now all to Berlin, and bid so strenuously
for available building sites that prices for land and houses and floor
rents are higher there than anywhere else in Europe.

Obviously, it is the establishment of the imperial Court in Berlin which
has done this, and both the strength and weakness of the imperial system
are reflected in greatest perfection of form and colour in the social
conditions of this mighty new metropolis.

The enormous concentration here of rich or pretentious young nobles
in the various regiments of the Guard Corps; of the ablest and most
influential soldiers of Germany in the General Staff and the central
military offices; of the cleverest politicians and administrators in
the various civic departments, and of the great aristocratic and monied
classes who must live where the Court is settled and the Reichstag
meets and the finance of Europe is controlled--all this makes Berlin
a peculiarly responsive mirror of the ideas and methods of German

In turn Berlin has imposed its character with increasing force upon
the whole German people. The dear old indolent, amiable, incapable,
happy-go-lucky, waltz-loving Vienna used to be the type of what people
had in mind when they spoke of the sentimental German. Berlin has made
Vienna seem now as remote and non-German almost as Pesth itself, and
instead has impressed its own strongly-marked individuality upon the new
Empire--energetic, exact, harsh under slight provocation, methodical
as the multiplication table, coldly just to law-abiding people, and a
fire-and-steel terror to everybody else.

As might be naturally expected in this bustle of busy officials, of
bankers and merchants burdened with a novel wealth, of the ceaseless
rattle of bayonets and clatter of swords and spurs, art and literature
are pretty well pushed to the wall. The vast new growth of Berlin and
the rush toward it of German wealth, rank, and fashion, have drawn in
their train a certain current of painters and writers, but nothing
at all in proportion with the expansion in other lines of activity.
Berlin’s new supremacy has not affected Leipsic as the book centre of
German-speaking people, or Munich and Düsseldorf as homes of art study.

These changes may come, too, in time, particularly if the young Emperor
exerts himself to achieve such an end. Up to the present, he has been
too busy even to think of such a thing. The exactions of his daily
routine of labour are so great that he simply has no time for the softer
and more intellectual side of life, even if the taste were there. He has
found leisure to sit for several portraits since his accession, but that
seems to have been the sum of his attention to art. As for literature,
an observant official in Berlin assured me of his conviction that
William had not had the time to read a single book since his accession.

Whatever may come in the future, it is undeniable that the author
now cuts a poor figure in Berlin. The city’s drift is toward material
things--toward business, official rank, and martial perfection. Even the
most prosperous and popular writers of books in Berlin strive to
obtain some small post in the civil service in order to command social
position. Among many instances of this brought to my notice one will
serve as an illustration. Ernst von Wilderbruch is the most successful
of contemporary Berlin playwrights, but on his card you will read that
he is a Counsellor of Legation at the Foreign Office. This office yields
him a salary equal to a twentieth part of his income from his plays,
but it is of the greatest importance to him because it insures his rank.
Here in England Edmund Gosse has an official place--just as in Boston
Robert Grant holds a post in the municipal service. But can you fancy
either of these gentlemen putting the fact on his card, or preferring to
be known as an official rather than as a writer?

Even the splendid University of Berlin exerts a liberalizing influence
rather through the public political attitude of its professors than
by the diffusion of literary tastes among the community. This fact,
together with the recollections which associate the late Emperor
Frederic with bookish people, and the irritated consciousness that
a very large proportion of Germany’s present authors are Jews and
Radicals, gives the contemptuous attitude of Berlin’s aristocratic and
military classes toward literature a decided political twist.

This is rendered the more marked by the overwhelming Radicalism of the
city’s electorate. The immense balloon-like rise of the value of land,
and the tremendous race to erect buildings everywhere, brought to the
city a great concourse of artizans and labourers from all parts of
Germany. Competition gave them big wages, but it also incited the
formation of powerful trades’ unions, the best of which were in effect
Radical clubs, and the worst of which became centres of Socialist
agitation. Berlin has six members in the Reichstag, of which four are
Radicals, or _Freisinnige_, and two are Social Democrats. One of the
Radicals is Prof. Rudolph Virchow, and one of the Socialists is Paul
Singer, a Jew. The municipal institutions of Berlin, so far as they
depend upon the popular vote, are also in the hands of the Radicals.

So much for the new Berlin. On Oct. 28, 1888, William, who had just
returned from his Italian visit, the last of his series of journeys
for that year, received the Burgomaster and a delegation from the Town
Council, who came to the Schloss to congratulate him upon his return.
They presented an effusively loyal address, clearly intended as a
peace-offering from the Radical city to the new sovereign, and announced
the intention of erecting a great fountain in the Schloss-Platz to
commemorate the event.

William received this polite expression with studied insolence. After
ironically commenting upon the unexpectedness of such a demonstration,
he brusquely told them to build more churches in Berlin and to choke
off their Radical editors, who, during his absence, had shamelessly
discussed the most private affairs of his family. He had been
particularly angered by their insistence upon drawing comparisons
between himself and his late father, an affront which he would not
longer tolerate. He was about to take up his residence in Berlin,
and “considering the relations which existed between the municipal
authorities of Berlin and this Radical section of the press,” he
concluded that his hearers could stop this editorial impudence if they
liked. Their address was full of loyal professions; very well, let them
put these into practice.

Having said this in his roughest manner, William turned on his heel and
left the room without shaking hands with the Burgomaster or so much as
nodding to his colleagues.

This happened four months or so before the change in the young Kaiser’s
views and attitude which has been dealt with above. It is not out of
place here, however, because, although William was now swiftly and with
steady progress to alter his opinions on most other public subjects, he
has not even yet altogether outgrown the notion that editors ought to
wear muzzles.


The young Emperor’s dislike for the press was indeed a fruitful source
of sensational incidents during the first year or two of his reign,
and still is uneasily felt to contain the elements of possibly further
disturbance. The fault of this attitude is by no means entirely on one
side. Both the character of the Kaiser and the character of the German
press are in large part what Bismarck has made them, and if their less
admirable sides clash and grind into each other with painful friction
from time to time, it is only what might be expected. During Bismarck’s
twenty-eight years of power in Prussia he so by turns debauched and
coerced the press that the adjective “reptile” had to be invented by
outsiders properly to describe its venomous cowardice. He openly and
contemptuously prostituted it to serve his poorest and pettiest uses,
so that it was not possible for any one to think of it with respect;
yet, oddly enough, he always showed the keenest and most thin-skinned
sensitiveness when its attacks or inuendoes were aimed at himself.

This whimsical susceptibility to affront in the printed word, no matter
how mean or trivial the force back of it, is a trait which has often
come near making Bismarck ridiculous, and it is not pleasant to note
how largely William seems also to be possessed with it. He is as nervous
about what the papers will say as a young _débutante_ on the stage. Not
only does he keep an anxious watch upon the talk of the German editors,
but he ordains a vigilant scrutiny of the articles printed in foreign
countries from the pens of correspondents stationed at Berlin. In this
he is very German. Nobody in England, for example, ever dreams of caring
about, or for the most part of even taking the trouble to learn, what
is printed abroad about English personages or politics. The foreign
correspondents in London are as free as the wind that blows. But matters
were ordered very differently at the beginning of the present reign in
Berlin, and to this day journalists pursue their calling there under
a sense of espionage hardly to be imagined in Fleet Street. It is true
that a change for the better is distinctly visible of late, but it
will be the work of many years to eradicate the low views of German
journalism which Bismarck instilled, alike, unfortunately, in the royal
palaces and the editorial offices of Prussia.

One of the very first acts of William’s reign was the expulsion from
Berlin of two French journalists whose sympathetic accounts of his
father’s dismissal of Puttkamer had been distasteful to the royal
eye. In the following January the correspondents of the _Figaro_
and _National_ of Paris were similarly driven out. In March, 1889,
simultaneously with the seizure of the Berlin _Volks-Zeitung_ and the
prosecution of the _Freisinnige Zeitung_, a new Penal Code was presented
to the Reichstag which contained such arbitrary provisions for stamping
out the remaining liberties of the press that even the Cologne _Gazette_
denounced it as “putting a frightful weapon into the hands of the
Government for suppressing freedom of speech and silencing opposition.”
 This measure did not pass, but the odium of having introduced it

Although in other respects William was already observed to be separating
himself from his Chancellor, it is clear that he has a large share in
this odium. All his utterances, both at this time and up to the present
date, show how thoroughly he believes in editing the editors. This
tendency was during the year 1889 to exhibit its comical side.

The special organ of the Waldersee party was the high-and-dry old Tory
journal, the _Kreuz-Zeitung_. Early in the year this mouthpiece of
the anti-Bismarck coalition was raided by the Chancellor, and both its
offices and the house of its editor, Baron Hammerstein, ransacked for
incriminating documents. The Kaiser is believed to have intervened
to prevent more serious steps being taken. Later in the year, as the
success of the Waldersee combination in weaning the Kaiser away from
Bismarck grew more and more marked, the _Kreuz-Zeitung_ foolishly gave
voice to its elation, and attacked the “Cartel” coalition of parties
which controlled the Reichstag. The Kaiser thereupon printed a personal
_communique_ in the official paper saying that he approved of
the “Cartel” and was “unable to reconcile the means by which the
_Kreuz-Zeitung_ assailed it with respect for his own person.” This
warning proved insufficient, for in the following January Baron
Hammerstein put up as a candidate for a vacancy at Bielefeld, and talked
so openly about being the real nominee of the Kaiser that William
caused to be inserted in all the papers a notice of his order that
the _Kreuz-Zeitung_ should not henceforth be taken at any of the royal
palaces, or allowed in public reading-rooms. It may be imagined how the
Liberal editors chuckled over this.

So recently as in May of last year, two months after the retirement of
Bismarck, when the regular official deputation from the new Reichstag
waited upon William, he pointed out to the Radical members that the
_Freisinnige_ press was criticizing the army estimates, which he and
his generals had made as low as possible, and sharply warned them to see
that a stop was put to such conduct on the part of their friends, the
Radical editors. And only last December, in his remarkable speech to the
Educational Conference, he lightly grouped journalists with the “hunger
candidates” and others who formed an over-educated class “dangerous to

This inability to tolerate the expression of opinions different from his
own is very Bismarckian.

The ex-Chancellor, in fact, has for years past acted and talked upon
the theory that anybody who did not agree with him must of necessity
be unpatriotic, and came at last to hurl the epithet of
_Reichsfeind_--enemy of the Empire--every time any one disputed him on
any point whatsoever.

William has roughly shorn away Bismarck’s pretence to infallibility, but
about the divine nature of his own claims he has no doubt. Some of his
deliverances on questions of morals and ethics, in his capacity as a
sort of helmeted Northern Pope, are calculated to bring a smile to the
face of the Muse of History. His celebrated harangue to the Rector of
the Berlin University, Professor Gebhardt, wherein he complained that,
under the lead of democratic professors, the students were filled with
destructive political doctrines, and concluded by gruffly saying, “Let
your students go more to churches and less to beer cellars and fencing
saloons”--was put down to his youth, for it dates from the close of
1888. It is interesting to note, from William’s recent speech at Bonn,
that he has decidedly altered his views on both beer-drinking
and duelling among students. He began his reign, however, with
ultra-puritanical notions on these as well as other subjects.

Long after this early deliverance his confidence in himself, so far
from suffering abatement, had so magnified itself that he called the
professors of another University together and lectured them upon the bad
way in which they taught history. He had discovered, he said, that there
was now much fondness for treating the French Revolution as a great
political movement, not without its helpful and beneficent results. This
pernicious notion must no longer be encouraged in German universities,
but students should be taught to regard the whole thing as one vast and
unmitigated crime against God and man.

In this dogmatic phase of his character William is much more like
Frederic William I than like any of his nearer ancestors in the
Hohenzollern line. These later monarchs, beginning with Frederic the
Great and following his luminous example, were habitually chary about
bothering themselves with their subjects’ opinions. William at one time
thought a good deal upon the fact that he was a successor of Frederic
the Great, and by fits and starts set himself to imitate the earlier
acts of that sovereign. His restless flying about from place to place,
and, even more clearly, his edicts rebuking the army officers for
gambling and for harshness to their men, were copied from that
illustrious original. But in his attitude toward the mental and
moral liberty of his subjects he goes back a generation to Frederic’s
father--and suggests to us also the reflection that he is a grandson of
that highly self-confident gentleman whom English-speaking people knew
as the Prince Consort.

Frederic the Great had so little of this spirit in him that he made
himself memorably unique among eighteenth-century sovereigns by allowing
such freedom to the press that liberty sank into license, and the most
scandalous and mendacious attacks upon his personal life were printed
in and hawked about Berlin to the end of his days. As for his refusal to
interfere in the alleged perversion of Protestant children by Catholic
teachers, his comment on the margin of the ministerial complaint, “In
this country every man must get to heaven in his own way,” is justly
cherished to this day as worth all his other writings put together.

William’s spasms, so to speak, of imitative loyalty to the memories
of his ancestors have been productive of many curious, not to say
diverting, results. Their progressive consecutiveness is not always easy
to make out, but they afford, as a whole, very interesting insights into
the young man’s temperament.

When tragic chance thrust him forward and upon the throne, his youthful
imagination happened to be in some mysterious way under the spell of
that most astounding of all his forefathers, Frederic William I. He
spoke frequently with enthusiasm of the character of this rude, choleric
barbarian, and even brought himself to believe that there was something
fine in that strange creature’s inability to speak any language but
German. It was under the sway of this admiration for the second Prussian
King that William, in January of 1889, had all the French cooks in his
palaces discharged, and ordered that hereafter the royal bill of fare
should be a _Speisekarte_, with the names of dishes in German, instead
of the accustomed _menu_ in French. It will not, however, have escaped
notice that William is a changeable young man, and this ultra-Teutonic
mood did not last very long. In the following autumn he had so far
recovered from it that his visit to Constantinople was reported to have
been marred by the Sultan’s mistaken hospitality in giving him nothing
but German champagnes to drink. It must be admitted, however, that
scarcely the most robust prejudice could stand out long under such a

In the spring of 1890 there came the 150th anniversary of the accession
of Frederic the Great, and with it a sudden shift in the young Kaiser’s
admiration. For a long time thereafter he made no speech without
alluding to this most splendid figure in Prussian history, and quoting
him as an example to be followed with reverential loyalty.

Then in December came the turn of still a third bygone Hohenzollern. It
was on December 1, 1640, that the youth of twenty, who was later to be
known as the Great Elector, entered upon the herculean task of saving
hapless, bankrupt little Brandenburg from literal annihilation. William
has told us that as a boy he scarcely learned anything at all about this
illustrious ancestor of his. Apparently little had been done to make
good this lack of information up to the time when, toward the close of
1890, he found that the Great Elector’s 250th anniversary was near at
hand, and felt that it ought to be celebrated. He began reading the
history of that memorable reign, and was at once excitedly interested
and impressed. There has always been a charming, if childish, _naivete_
about the manner in which William frankly exposes his mental processes,
and, having just heard of something for the first time which everybody
else knows, brings it forward to public notice as if it were a fresh and
most remarkable discovery. The effect produced upon him by his belated
introduction to the life and works of the last Elector affords an apt
illustration of this tendency. At the celebration William made a long
speech in eulogy of his ancestor, which in every sentence seemed to take
it for granted that heretofore no one had written or thought or known
about the Great Elector. Since that time the young Emperor has rarely
spoken in public, at least to a Prussian audience, without some
reference to this distinguished predecessor--whereas we never hear now
of either Frederic the Great or his savage father.

Doubtless the fervour with which William has adopted the Great Elector
as his model ancestor is in large part due to the fact that the latter’s
first important act was the summary dismissal of his father’s Prime
Minister, Schwarzenberg. The parallel to be drawn between the disgrace
of this powerful favourite and the fall of Bismarck is often faulty and
nowhere exact, but it is evident that it impressed William’s imagination
greatly when he came upon it, and that he could not resist the
temptation to suggest it to the world at large. In this same anniversary
speech he said: “My stout ancestor had no one to lean upon.”

The eminent statesman who had served his predecessor was revealed to
have worked for his own personal ends, and the young sovereign was
forced to mark out his own path unaided. The comparison was a cruel
one, because the manner in which Schwarzenberg “worked for his own
personal ends” was that of taking bribes to betray his royal master
and his country. Yet the loose phrase could also describe Bismarck’s
hot-headed use of his vast governmental powers to crush his individual
enemies, and in this sense every one felt that William was instituting a

But this embittered remark belongs to a much later period than has as
yet come under our view, and marks an acute stage of the dramatic and
momentous quarrel between Kaiser and Chancellor, of the dawning of which
there were only vague anticipatory rumours in 1889.


The first few months of 1889 present nothing of special note to the
observer. There was perhaps a trifle more nervousness on the bourses
during that early spring-time which, for some occult reason, is the
chosen season of alarmist war rumours, than had been usual in the
lifetime of the old Kaiser, but this signified no more than a vague
uneasiness born of the sword-clanking reputation which had preceded
William’s accession to the throne. The surface of events at Berlin
seemed smooth enough, although dissensions and jealousies were warring
fiercely underneath. Everybody was talking about the tremendous battle
going on between the Bismarcks and the Waldersees, but of public
evidence of this conflict there was none, This very reticence shows that
the Chancellor must thus early have become impressed with the menacing
power of the combinations confronting him, for it was never his habit to
be silent about quarrels in which he was confident of victory. He
must have become truly alarmed when, on February 25th, he gave a great
dinner, at which the Kaiser and Waldersee were the principal guests. So
far from creating a false impression of cordiality, this banquet, with
its incongruous people and its hollow gaiety, only strengthened the
notion that Bismarck was toppling.

In May, however, two things happened which at the time much occupied the
world’s attention--the abortive Strasburg visit incident and the great
miners’ strike in Westphalia. These two episodes are particularly
noteworthy in that they for the first time show us William confronted
by something bigger than questions of personal politics and individual
piques and prejudices. A dangerous international quarrel and a
threatening domestic convulsion loomed up suddenly side by side before
him--and the experience left him a wiser and more serious man.

To glance first at the incident which, creating the greater furor at the
time, has left the slighter mark upon history--the King of Italy, with
his son and his Premier, came, on May 21st, to visit William in Berlin,
There were many reasons why the reception extended to him should have
been, as indeed it was, of the most affectionate and enthusiastic
character. The old Emperor William had grown to be considered at the
Quirinal as Victor Emmanuel’s best friend, and Prussia was proudly
pleased to be thought of as the chief protector and sponsor of young
United Italy. The more romantic Frederic had cultivated a highly
sentimental intimacy, later on, with King Humbert and Queen Marguerite,
and had made all Rome a party to it by that celebrated spectacular
appearance on the balcony of the Quirinal with the little Italian Crown
Prince in his arms. Thus peculiarly emotional ties bound Humbert now to
Frederic’s son, and his coming to Berlin was hailed as the arrival of a
warm personal friend even more than as the advent of a powerful ally.

It may have been from mere lightness of heart--conceivably there was a
deeper motive--but at all events William proposed to this good friend
that on his way home they should together visit Strasburg, and the
amiable Humbert, a slow, patient, honest fellow, consented. The
assertion has since been authoritatively made by Italian statesmen that
the idea really originated with the adventurous Italian Premier, Crispi,
and that Bismarck and William merely fell in with it. However that
may it is fact that the visit was agreed upon, and that orders were
despatched to Strasburg to make things ready for the royal party.

When the news of this intended trip became public, its effect was that
of a shock of earthquake. During the twenty-four hours which elapsed
before the frightened Crispi could issue a statement that the report of
such a visit was a pure Bourse canard, Europe was sensibly nearer a war
than at any time in the last fifteen years. The French press raised
a clamorous and vibrant call to arms, and the politicians of Rome and
Vienna kept the wires to Berlin hot with panic-stricken protests. What
it all meant was, of course, that Europe has tacitly consented to regard
the possession of Alsace-Lorraine as an open question, to be
finally settled when France and Germany fight next time. Upon this
understanding, no outside sovereign has formally sanctioned the
annexation of 1871 by appearing in person within the disputed territory.
King Humbert’s violation of this point of international etiquette would
have been a deliberate blow in the face of the French Republic. Luckily
he had the courage to draw back when the lightnings began playing upon
his path, and with diminishing storm mutterings the cloud passed away.
Its net result had been to show the world William’s foolhardiness in
favouring such a wanton insult to France, and his humiliation in having
publicly to abandon an advertised intention--and the spectacle was not

The episode is chiefly interesting now because it seems to have been of
great educational value to the young Emperor. It really marked out for
him, in a striking object lesson, the grave international limitations
by which his position is hemmed in. He has never since made another such
false step. Indeed the solitary other cause of friction between France
and Germany which has arisen during his reign proceeded from an action
of a diametrically opposite nature--to wit, an attempt to conciliate
instead of offend.

Of much more permanent importance in the history of William and of his
Empire was the great miners’ strike in Westphalia, which may be said to
have begun on the 1st of May. This tremendous upheaval of labour at one
time involved the idleness of over 100,000 men--by no means all miners
or all Westphalians. The shortened coal supply affected industries
everywhere, and other trades struck because the spirit of mutiny was
in the air. In many districts the military were called out to guard the
pits’ mouths, and sanguinary conflicts with the strikers ensued.

Evidently this big convulsion took William completely by surprise. Up
to this time he had been deeply engrossed in the spectacular side of his
position--the showy and laborious routine of an Emperor who is also a
practical working soldier. Such thought as he had given to the great
economic problems pressing for solution all about him, seems to have
been of the most casual sort and cast wholly in the Bismarckian mould.
What Bismarck’s views on this subject were and are, is well known. He
believes that over-education has filled the labouring classes of Germany
with unnatural and unreasonable discontent, which is sedulously played
upon by depraved Socialist agitators, and that the only way to deal
with the trouble is to imprison or banish as many of these latter as
possible, and crush out the disaffection by physical force wherever it
manifests itself. He decorates this position with varying sophistical
frills and furbelows from time to time, but in its essence that is
what he thinks. And up to May of 1889 that is apparently what William
thought, too.

The huge proportions of this sudden revolt of labour made William
nervous, however, and in this excited state he was open to new
impressions. The anti-Bismarck coalition saw their chance and swiftly
utilized it. With all haste they summoned Dr. Hinzpeter from his home at
Bielefeld, and persuaded William to confer with his old tutor upon this
alarming industrial complication, with which it was clearly enough to be
seen his other advisers did not know how to deal. No exact date is given
for the interview which William had with Dr. Hinzpeter, but the day upon
which it was held should be a memorable one in German history. For
then dawned upon the mind of the young Kaiser that dream of Christian
Socialism with the influence of which we must always thereafter count.

It is true that the angered and dispossessed ex-Chancellor declares now
that William never was morally affected by the painful aspects of the
labour question, and that he took the side of the workmen solely because
he thought it would pay politically. But men who know the Kaiser equally
well, and who have the added advantage of speaking dispassionately, say
that the new humanitarian views which Dr. Hinzpeter now unfolded to him
took deep hold upon his imagination, and made a lasting mark upon his
character. Even if the weight of evidence were not on its side, one
would like to believe this rather than the cynical theory propounded
from Friedrichsruh.

William did not become a full-fledged economic philosopher all at once
under this new influence.

There was a great deal of the rough absolutist in the little harangue
he delivered to the three working-men delegates who, on May 14th, were
admitted to his presence to lay the case of the strikers before him.
He listened gravely to their recital of grievances, asked numerous
questions, and seemed considerably impressed. When their spokesman
had finished he said that he was anxiously watching the situation,
had ordered a careful inquiry into all the facts, and would see that
evenhanded justice was done. Then, in a sharper voice, he warned them
to avoid like poison all Socialist agitators, and specially to see to
it that there were no riots or attempts to prevent the non-strikers
from working. If this warning was not heeded, he concluded, in high
peremptory tones, he would send his troops “to batter and shoot them
down in heaps.”

It must be admitted that this sentiment does not touch the high-water
mark of Christian Socialism, but the drift of the Kaiser’s mind was
obviously forward. Two days later he received a delegation of mine
masters, and to them spoke rather bitterly of the perversity and
greed of capitalists, and their selfish unwillingness to “make certain
sacrifices in order to terminate this perilous and troublous state
of things.” On May 17th it was announced that Dr. Hinzpeter had been
commissioned to travel through the disturbed districts and report to
the Kaiser upon the origin and merits of the strike. This practically
settled the matter. The masters as a whole made concessions, under which
work was resumed. Those owners who displayed stubbornness were in one
way or another made to feel the imperial displeasure, and soon the
trouble was at an end. It is worthy of note that Germany has since that
time been far less agitated by labour troubles than any of the states
by which she is surrounded, and that upon the occasion of the recent
May-day demonstrations German workmen were practically the only ones on
the Continent who did not come into collision with the police.

But, after all, the vitally important thing was the reappearance of Dr.
Hinzpeter, involving, as it did, the revival in the young Kaiser’s daily
thoughts and moods of the gentle and softening influences of those old
school days at Cassel, before Bonn and the Bismarcks came to harden and


Upon the heels of the Strasburg incident followed another flurry in
international politics, which for the moment seemed almost as menacing,
and which hurried forward a highly significant step on the part of

The precipitate haste with which the young Kaiser had rushed off to
visit St. Petersburg, almost before the public signs of mourning for his
father had been removed in Berlin and Potsdam, had impressed everybody
as curious. Nearly a year had now elapsed, and the failure of the Czar
to say anything about returning the visit was growing to seem odder
still. It was, of course no secret that the Czar did not like William.
No two men could present greater points of difference, physically and
mentally. The autocrat of all the Russias is a huge, lumbering, slow,
and tenacious man, growing somewhat fat with increasing years, hating
all forms of regular exercise, and cherishing a veritable horror of
noisy, overzealous, and bustling people. Every smart public servant
in Russia is governed by the knowledge that his imperial master has
a peculiar aversion to all forms of bother, and values his officials
precisely in proportion as they make short and infrequent reports, free
from all accounts of unpleasant things, and, still more important, from
all meddlesome suggestions of reform. When a Russian diplomat was asked,
a year ago, what the Czar’s personal attitude toward William was, he
answered expressively by shrugging his shoulders and putting his fingers
in his ears.

But now the Czar, from passively affronting William by not returning his
visit, summoned the energy for a direct provocation. A palace luncheon
was given in St. Petersburg, celebrating the betrothal of a Montenegrin
Princess to a Russian Grand Duke, and the Czar, standing and in a loud,
clear voice, drank to Prince Nikolo of Montenegro as “the only sincere
and faithful friend Russia had” among European sovereigns. That there
might be no doubt about this, the Czar had the words printed next day in
the _Official Messenger_.

Germany was not slow to comprehend the meaning of this remarkable
speech. But to make it still clearer the Czarowitch, three weeks later,
paid a formal visit to Stuttgart to attend some Court festivities, and
passed through Berlin both going and coming--though the Breslau-Dresden
route would have been more direct--apparently for no other purpose
than to insult the Kaiser by stopping for an hour each time inside the
railway station, as if there were no such people as the Hohenzollerns
to so much as leave a card upon. As a capstone to this insolence, the
Russian officers of his suite refused to drink the toast to the German
Empire at the Stuttgart banquet, and, when a dispute arose, left the
room in a body.

The immediate effect of this was to remove the last vestige of reserve
existing between William and his English relatives. He at once sent word
that, if convenient, he would visit his grandmother, the Queen, at the
beginning of August. An assurance of hearty welcome was as promptly

This decision marked another stage in the decline of Bismarck’s power.
We have seen how he had been gradually pushed aside in the management of
German internal affairs. Now the Kaiser was to break through the dearest
traditions of Bismarck’s foreign policy--the cultivation of Russian
amiability at whatever cost of dignity, and the contemptuous snubbing of
England. With a fatal inability to distinguish between the promptings
of passion and the dictates of true policy, the Chancellor had been led
into a position where he could maintain himself only if every one of the
elements and chances combined to play his game for him, and keep William
at daggers-drawn with all things English. The miracle did not happen.
As we have seen, even the Czar took it into his head to interfere to the
damage of Bismarck’s plans.

So the perplexed and baffled old Chancellor, noting with new rage and
mortification how power was slipping from his hands, yet helpless to do
other than fight doggedly to hold what yet remained, stopped behind in
Berlin, the while Kaiser William steamed at the head of his splendid
new squadron into Portsmouth Harbour, and the very sea shook with the
thunderous cannon roar of his welcome. The world had never before seen
such a show of fighting ships as was gathered before Cowes to greet him.
There was one other thing which may be assumed to have been unique
in human chronicles. William, in the exuberance of his delight at his
really splendid reception, and at being created a British Admiral,
issued a solemn imperial order making his grandmother a Colonel of

The English did well to surround the young Kaiser’s visit with all
imaginable pomp and display of overwhelming naval force, for it meant
very much more both to them and to him than any one is likely to have
imagined at the time. The splendour of the material spectacle, and the
sentimental interest attaching to the fact that this young man coming
to greet his grandmother was the first German Emperor to set foot on
English soil since the days of the Crusaders, were much-dwelt upon in
the press. To us who have been striving to trace the inner workings of
the influences shaping the young man’s character, the event has a nearer
significance. It meant that William--having for years been estranged
from the liberalizing English impulses and feelings of his boyish
education; having since his majority exulted in the false notion that to
be truly German involved hatred of all things English--had come to see
his mistake.

It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of this visit, and of
the causes leading up to it, upon William’s mind. The Hohenzollerns,
until within our own times the comparatively needy Princes of a poor
country, have always been greatly impressed by the superior wealth
and luxurious civilization of the English. The famous Double-Marriage
project of Frederic William I’s days was clung to in Berlin through
years of British snubs and rebuffs because thrifty Prussian eyes saw
these islands through a golden mist. To the imagination of German
royalty, English Princesses appear in the guise of fairies, not
invariably beautiful, perhaps, but each bearing the purse of Fortunatus.
This view of the English colours the thoughts of more lowly-born
Germans. When Freytag * seeks to explain the late Kaiser Frederic’s
complete and almost worshipping subjection to his wife, he says: “She
had come to him from superior surroundings.”

     * “The Crown Prince and the German Imperial Crown,” p. 49.

William had tried hard, in his ultra-German days, to despise English
wealth along with English political ideas. The theory of a Spartan
severity, governing expenditure and all other conditions of daily life,
was the keynote of his Teutonic period. But when he became Kaiser he had
yielded to the temptation of getting the Reichstag to augment his annual
civil list by 3,500,000 marks. That in itself considerably modified his
austere hatred of luxury. Now, as the guest of the richest nation in
the-world, he was able to feel himself a relative, and wholly at home.
The English conquest of William was complete.

No hint of unfilial conduct had been heard, now, for a long time, nor
was henceforth to be heard. William had by this time become fully
reconciled to his mother, and in the following month, September of 1889,
he purchased for and presented to her the Villa Reiss, a delightful
summer _chateau_ in the Taunus Mountains.

Thereafter a strong sympathy with England has manifested itself in all
his actions. The Czar did at last, in the most frosty, formal manner,
pay a brief visit to Berlin, and William the following year returned the
courtesy by attending the Russian manoeuvres, but this has not at all
affected his open preference for English friendship. He always spoke
German with an English accent--which now is more marked than ever.

He has a bewildering variety of uniforms, but the one which affords
him the greatest pride is the dress of the British Admiral. He wears it
whenever the least excuse offers. Upon his journey to Athens in October
of 1889, to attend the wedding of his sister and the Greek Crown Prince,
he was so much affected by his new English naval title that when he
steamed into the classic Ægean Sea on his imperial yacht he flew the
British Admiral’s flag from her top. A British fleet was also there
to participate in the ceremonies, and William took his new position so
seriously, and had such delight in descending suddenly upon the squadron
at unexpected and unreasonable hours, and routing everybody out for
parade and inspection, that the British officers themselves revolted and
preferred an informal complaint to the British Minister. “This thing is
played out,” they said. “If he would merely wear the uniform and let
it end with that, we shouldn’t mind. But we didn’t make him Admiral to
worry the lives out of us in this fashion.”


We have come now to a time when the effects of this reasserted English
influence began to be apparent throughout Germany. Since his successful
tour through the Westphalian strike district, Dr. Hinzpeter had been
visibly growing in men’s eyes as the new power behind the throne.
Another friend of William’s, Count William Douglas, began also to
attract attention. This nobleman, ten years older than the Kaiser, and a
capable writer and speaker as well as soldier is a descendant of one of
the numerous Scotch cadets of aristocratic families who carried their
swords into Continental service when the Stuarts were driven from the
British throne. Both in appearance and temperament no one could be more
wholly German than Count Douglas is, but his intimacy with William only
became marked after the English visit.

Immediately upon his return from England, William delivered a speech at
Münster in which he eulogized Hinzpeter as a representative Westphalian,
whose splendid principles he had imbibed in his boyhood. During the
ensuing autumn and winter the presence of Dr. Hinzpeter at the palace
became so much a matter of comment that some of Bismarck’s “reptile”
 papers began to complain that if the Westphalian was to exert such power
he ought to take office so that he could be openly discussed.

Similar attacks were made by the Chancellor’s organs upon Count Douglas,
who had written a very complimentary pamphlet about the young
Kaiser shortly after his accession, and who now, as an Independent
Conservative, was thought to reflect the Kaiser’s own political
preferences. Public opinion bracketed Hinzpeter and Douglas together as
the active forces at the head of the Waldersee coalition, and we shall
see that William himself treated them as such when the time for action

New men had gradually supplanted old ones in many important official
posts. The gentlest of soft hints had long since (in August of 1888)
been borne in by a little bird to the aged Count von Moltke, and he, on
the instant, with the perfect dignity and pure gentility of his nature,
had responded with a request to be permitted to retire from active
labour. His letter, with its quaintly pathetic explanation that “I am
no longer able to mount a horse.” was answered with effusion by William,
who visited him personally at his residence, and made him President of
the National Defence Commission, _vice_ the Emperor Frederic, deceased.
Later events rendered it natural to contrast the loyal behaviour of the
great soldier with the mutinous and perverse conduct of the statesman
whose name is popularly linked with his, and during the last year of his
life Moltke existed in a veritable apotheosis of demonstrative imperial
affection, which indeed followed his coffin to the grave with such
symbols of royal favour as no commoner’s bier had ever before borne in

Somewhat later the Minister of Marine, General von Caprivi, received a
delicate intimation that the Kaiser thought a soldier was out of place
in charge of the navy, and he also promptly but gracefully resigned, and
accepted the command of an army corps instead with cheerful obedience.
It is a great gift to know when and how to get out, and Caprivi did it
so amiably and intelligently that the Kaiser made a mental note of him
as a good man to rely upon when the time should come.

General Bronsart von Schellendorf similarly resigned the War Ministry.
He was a descendant of one of the large colony of Huguenot families
which took refuge in Berlin after the revocation of the Edict of
Nantes--and it was a strange freak of Fate’s irony which, in 1871, sent
him as Colonel out from the German headquarters before Sedan to convey
a demand for surrender to the French Emperor. Curiously enough he was
succeeded now as Minister of War by another descendant of these exiled
French Protestants, General von Verdy du Vernois, the ablest military
writer of his generation, a notably clever organizer and a deservedly
popular man.

Neither von Verdy nor Waldersee, who succeeded to Moltke’s proud position
as Chief of the General Staff, remained long in their new posts.
The world had nothing but vague surmises as to the causes of their
retirement, and, noting that they still retain the friendly regard of
their sovereign, did not dally long with these. Here again the contrast
forces itself upon public attention, for these two good soldiers
and able administrators neither sought interviews with travelling
correspondents in which to vent their grievances, nor inspired spiteful
attacks in provincial newspapers against their young chief. They went
loyally out of office, as they had entered it, and kept their silence.

Thus throughout the public service, civil and military alike, these
changes went forward--the greybeards who had helped to create the Empire
on the field or in the council-room, one by one stepping down and out to
make room for the new generation--but Bismarck, though becoming more and
more isolated, clung resolutely to his place. It was no secret to him
that the Kaiser’s principal advisers and friends were keen to throw him
out of the Chancellorship; it must have long been apparent to him that
the Kaiser was accustoming his mind to thoughts of a Berlin without
Bismarck. But the Iron Chancellor had neither the simple dignity of
Moltke nor the shrewd suavity of Caprivi. He would not leave until he
had been violently thrust forth, and even then he would stand on the
doorstep and shout.

The opponents of Bismarck had long been gathering their forces for a
grand attack. Their difficulty had been the unwillingness of the Kaiser
definitely to give his assent to the overthrow of the great man. Often,
in moments of impatience at the autocratic airs assumed by Bismarck and
his son, William had seemed on the point of turning down his thumb as a
signal for slaughter. But there always would come a realization of how
mighty a figure in German history Bismarck truly was--and perhaps, too,
some modified reassertion of the tremendous personal influence with
which for years the Chancellor had magnetized him. Almost to the end the
young man had recurring spasms of subjection to this old ideal of his
youth. Even while he was sporting his British ensign in Greek waters,
and showing to the whole world how completely the breach between him and
English royalty had been healed, he salved his conscience, as it were,
by addressing enthusiastic and affectionate despatches to Bismarck from
every new stopping-place on those classic shores.

But now, in January of 1890, the long-looked-for opportunity came. The
natural term of the Reichstag elected in 1887--the last one chosen
for only three years’ service--was on the point of expiration. The
anti-Socialist penal laws would lapse in September of 1890 unless
renewed either by this dying Reichstag or, without delay, by its
successor. Prince Bismarck was, of course, committed to their prompt
and emphatic renewal. His enemies--another term for William’s new
friends--had secretly been preparing for the defeat of these laws in
the Reichstag, and now, in the middle of the month, found that they had
secured an absolute majority. They conveyed this fact to the Kaiser,
with the obvious corollary that the time had arrived for him to take the
popular lead in his Empire, and make an issue on this question with his
Chancellor. William saw the point, and reluctantly took the decisive

Space permits only the most cursory glance at this parliamentary
battlefield, whereon Bismarck had waged so many rough Berserker fights,
and which now was to see his complete annihilation.

The Reichstag at Berlin is by no means powerful in the sense that
Parliament is in London or Congress in Washington. It is a convention of
spectacled professors, country nobles, and professional men desirous of
advertisement or the pretence of employment, with a sprinkling of smart
financiers and professional politicians who have personal ends to serve.
They play at legislation--some seriously, others not--but as a rule what
they do and say makes next to no difference whatever. They have not
even the power of initiating legislation. That function belongs to the
Bundes-rath or Federal Council, which means the Prussian Ministry, which
in turn meant Bismarck. His historic conception of law-making was to
combine by bribes and threats a sufficient number of the fragmentary
parties to constitute a majority, and to use this to pass his measures
as far as it would go. Then he would swing around, create a different
majority out of other groups, and carry forward another line of
legislation. In turn he had been at the head of every important
political faction and the enemy of each, and if he was unable to get his
way through one combination always managed sooner or later to obtain it
by a new shaking-up of the dice.

Parliamentary institutions were not always at this low estate in
Prussia. Three hundred years ago the Brandenburg Diet was a strong and
influential body, which stoutly held the purse-strings and gave the law
to sovereigns. The Hohenzollerns broke it down, first by establishing
and fostering _Stände_, or small local diets, to dispute its power and
jurisdiction, and then, in 1652, by the Great Elector boldly putting
his mailed heel on it as a nuisance. It still lingered on in a formal,
colourless, ineffective fashion until in the time of Frederic William
I, when it was contemptuously kicked out of sight. That stalwart despot
explained this parting kick by saying: “I am establishing the King’s
sovereignty like a rock of bronze;” and, whatever its composition,
there the rock stood indubitably in all men’s sight for much more than a
century, with neither parliaments to shake its foundations nor powerful
ministers to crumble away its sides.

Bismarck had made it a condition of his acceptance of office in 1862
that he would govern Prussia without a Parliament. When the fortune
of war and the federation of the states enlarged the scope of his
responsibilities to the limits of the new Empire, he proceeded upon the
same autocratic lines. There was a greater necessity, it is true, of
pretending to defer to the parliamentary idea, but he never dissembled
his disgust at this necessity. He bullied the leaders of the opposition
factions with such open coarseness, imputing evil and dishonest motives,
introducing details of personal life which his spies had gathered, and
using all the great powers at his command to insult and injure, that a
large proportion of the educated and refined gentlemen of Germany, who
should have been its natural political leaders, either declined to enter
the Reichstag at all, or withdrew, disheartened and humiliated, after a
brief term of service. All this reflected, and brought down in embodied
form into our own times, the traditional attitude of the Hohenzollerns
toward the poor thing called a Parliament.

It was therefore very much of an anachronism to find, in the year of
grace 1890, a Prussian King invoking the aid of a Parliament to help him
encompass the overthrow of his Prime Minister.

The situation on January 20th, briefly stated, was this: The Reichstag,
consisting of 397 members, had been governed by Bismarck’s “Cartel”
 combination of 94 National Liberals, 78 Conservatives, and 37
Imperialists, a clear majority of 21. The efforts of the Waldersee
party, however, had honeycombed this majority with disaffection, and the
National Liberals had been induced to agree that they would not vote for
a renewal of the clause giving the Government power to expel obnoxious
citizens. On the other hand, the Conservatives promised not to vote for
the renewal of the anti-Socialist law at all unless it contained the
expulsion clause. Thus, of course, the measure was bound to fall between
two stools. This apparent clashing of cross purposes might have been
stopped in ten minutes if it had proceeded spontaneously from the two
factions themselves. But everybody knew that it had been carefully
arranged from above, and that the leader of each party had had an
interview with the Kaiser. This affectation of irreconcilable views on
the expulsion clause, therefore, deceived no one--least of all Prince
Bismarck. He ostentatiously remained at Friedrichsruh until the very
last day of the Reichstag; then, indeed, he arrived in Berlin, but did
not deign to show himself at either the Chamber or the Schloss.

The National Liberals voted down the expulsion clause on January
23rd. Then the Conservatives, two days later, joined the Clerical,
_Freisinnige_, and Socialist Parties in throwing out the whole measure.
Thereupon the dissolution of the Reichstag was immediately announced,
and the members proceeded to the Schloss to receive their formal
dismissal from the Kaiser. William spoke somewhat more nervously than
usual, but was extremely cordial in his manner. He praised the labours
of the Reichstag, dwelt upon his desires to improve the condition of
the working classes, and said never a word about the defeated Socialist
laws. Everybody felt that the imperial reticence and the absence of
Bismarck portended big events.

Next week came the first overt movement in the struggle which all
Germany now realized that Bismarck was waging for political life itself.
He resigned his minor post as Prussian Minister of Commerce, and the
place was promptly filled by the appointment of Baron Berlepsch. This
selection was felt to be symbolical--because Berlepsch had been Governor
of the Rhineland during the strikes, and had managed to preserve order
without recourse to violence, and to gain the liking of the working
men. To make the meaning of this promotion more clear, the Governor of
Westphalia, who had rushed to declare his province in a state of siege
when the strike broke out, and had called in soldiers to overawe the
miners, was now curtly dismissed from office.

All this signified that the Hinzpeter propaganda of Christian Socialism
had at last definitely captured the young Kaiser. Once enlisted, he
threw himself with characteristic vehemence of energy into the movement.
Events now crowded on each other’s heels.

On February 4th William issued his famous brace of rescripts to Bismarck
and to the Minister of Commerce, reciting the woes and perils of German
industrial classes, and ordaining negotiations with certain European
States for a Labour Conference, “with a view to coming to an
understanding about the possibility of complying with the needs and
desires of labourers, as manifested by them during the strikes of the
last few years and otherwise.”

“I am resolved,” wrote the Emperor, “to lend my hand toward bettering
the condition of German working men as far as my solicitude for their
welfare is reconcilable with the necessity of enabling German industry
to retain its power of competing in the world’s market, and thus
securing its own existence and that of its labourers. The dwindling of
our native industries through any such loss of their foreign-markets
would deprive not only the masters, but the men, of their bread.... The
difficulties in the way of improving our working men’s condition have
their origin in the stress of international competition, and are only
to be surmounted, or lessened, by international agreement between those
countries which dominate the world’s market.” Hence, he had decided upon
summoning an International Labour Conference.

On the evening of the day on which William thus astonished Germany and
Europe, he was the principal guest at a dinner given by Bismarck in his
palatial residence in the Wilhelmstrasse, and it was noted that he
took special pleasure in talking with Dr. Miquel, Chief Burgomaster of
Frankfort, to whom he spoke with zeal and at length upon his desire
to promote the welfare and protect the natural rights of the labouring
classes. Court gossip was swift to mark Miquel as a coming man, and to
draw deductions of its own from the story that Bismarck had, even as the
host of an emperor, seemed preoccupied and depressed.

A fortnight of unexampled uncertainty, of contradictory guesses and
paradoxical rumours, now kept Berlin, and all Germany for that matter,
in anxious suspense. That Bismarck had been confronted with a crisis
was evident enough. Day after day he was seen to be holding prolonged
conferences with the young Emperor, and the wildest surmises as to the
character of these interviews obtained currency. There were stories
of stormy scenes, of excited imperial dictation and angry ministerial
resistance, which had no value whatever as contributions to the sum of
popular information, but which were everywhere eagerly discussed. The
weight of Berlin opinion inclined toward the theory that Bismarck would
in the end submit. He had never in his life shown any disposition to
make sacrifices for political consistency, and it was assumed that, once
his personal objections were overcome, he would not at all mind adapting
his political position to the new order of things. This view was, of
course, based upon the idea that the Kaiser really desired to retain
Bismarck in office; the loosest German imagination did not conceive the
actual truth: to wit, that the Chancellor’s retirement had been decided
upon, and was the one end at which all these mystifying moves and
counter-moves aimed.

The preparations for the Conference went on, meanwhile. A new Council of
State for Prussia was founded, to have charge of the general social and
fiscal reforms contemplated. The public noted that chief among the names
gazetted were those of Dr. Hinzpeter and Count Douglas, and these were
given such associates as Herr Krupp, of Essen; Prince Pless, a great
Silesian mine-owner; Baron von Stumm, another large employer; and Baron
von Hune, a leading Catholic and important landed proprietor. These
were new strong names, altogether out of the old Bismarckian official
rut, and their significance was emphasized by the Emperor’s selection
of Dr. Miquel as reporter of the Council. People recognized that
events were being shaped at last from the royal palace instead of the

In the very middle of this period of political suspense came the
elections for the new Reichstag. Never before had Germany seen such
a lamb-like and sweet-tempered electoral campaign. Three years before
Bismarck had literally moved heaven and earth to wrest a majority from
the ballot-boxes, for he had induced the Vatican to formally recommend
his nominees to Catholic voters, and had gone far beyond the bounds of
diplomatic safety in his famous “_sturm und drang_” speech, threatening
nothing less than war if a hostile Reichstag should be elected. But this
time he preserved an obstinate and ominous silence. Nothing could tempt
him to say a word in favour of any candidate.

Under the double influence of the Kaiser’s enthusiastic new Socialism
and the Chancellor’s grim seclusion, the German electorate knocked
the old “Cartel” parties into splinters. The polling results amazed
everybody. Of the “Cartel” factions, the National Liberals fell from 94
to 39, the Conservatives from 78 to 66, and the Imperialists from 37 to
20. On the other hand, the _Freisinnigen_ rose from 35 to 80, and the
Socialists from 11 to 37. Equally interesting was the fact that for
the first time the German imperial idea had made an impression on the
Alsacian mind, and from sending a solid delegation of 15 dissentients,
the two conquered provinces now elected 5 who accepted the situation.

Allusion has heretofore been made to Bismarck’s recent declaration that
the Kaiser took up the whole Social-reform policy solely as a political
dodge. If we could accept this theory, it would be of distinct interest
to know what William thought of his bargain, after the returns were
all in. The stupendous triumph of the dreaded Socialists and hated
_Freisinnigen_ must have indeed been a bitter mouthful to the proud
young Hohenzollern. But he swallowed it manfully, and the results have
been the reverse of harmful. No parliamentary session of the year,
anywhere in the world, was more businesslike, dignified, and patriotic
than that of the new Reichstag at Berlin.

But at the outset this political earthquake threw William into a
great state of excitement. One might almost say that the electrical
disturbances which ushered in the convulsion affected the young man’s
mind, for he did perhaps his most eccentric action on election day.
While the voters of Berlin were going to the polls at noon, on this 20th
of February, the Kaiser suddenly “alarmed” the entire garrison of the
capital, and sent the whole surprised force, cavalry, artillery, baggage
trains and foot, rattling and scurrying through the streets of the
capital at their utmost speed. It turned out to be nothing more serious
than an abrupt freak of the Kaiser to utilize the fine weather for a
drill on the Tempelhof. At least that was the explanation given: but
the spectacle produced a sinister impression at the time, and there
are still those who believe it to have been intended to influence and
overawe the voters.

No doubt consciousness of the gravity of the quarrel with Bismarck,
which the Kaiser and his new friends saw now must come swiftly to a
point, contributed with the unexpected election results to temporarily
unsettle William’s nerves. For a week or so, during this momentous
period, there were actual fears lest his mental balance should break
down under the strain. Fortunately the excited tension relaxed itself in
good time, and there has since been no recurrence of the symptoms which
then caused genuine alarm.

It was at the culmination of this unsettled period that William made his
celebrated speech to the Brandenburg Diet. The occasion was the session
dinner, March 5th, and those present noted that the Kaiser’s manner was
unwontedly _distrait_ and abstracted. His words curiously reflected his
mood--half poetic, half pugilistic. He began by a tender reference to
the way in which the Brandenburgers had through evil and joyous days
alike stood at the back of the Hohenzollerns. With a gloomy sigh he
added: “It is in the hour of need that one comes to know his true
friends.” After an abrupt reference to a joke which had recently been
made about him as the _reisende_, or Travelling, Kaiser, and a pedagogic
injunction to his hearers to by all means travel as much in foreign
lands as they could, he drifted into a lofty and beautiful description
of the spiritualizing effects his recent sea voyages had had upon him.
Standing alone on the great deck at night, he said, communing with the
vast starry firmament, he had been able to look beyond politics and to
realize the magnitude and tremendous responsibilities of the position
he held. He had returned with a new and more exalted resolve to rule
mercifully and well under God’s providence, and to benefit all his
people. Then there came a sudden anti-climax to this graceful and
captivating rhetoric. “All who will assist me in my great task,” he
called out, throwing a lion’s glance over the tables, “I shall heartily
welcome; but those who attempt to oppose me I will dash to pieces!”

The reporters were so frightened at these menacing words that they toned
them down in their accounts of the speech; but the Kaiser with his own
hand restored the original expression in the report of the official
_Reichsanzeiger_. Naturally the phrase created a painful sensation
throughout Germany. Everybody leaped to the conclusion that the threat
was levelled at the Socialist and Radical leaders in particular, and the
new Reichstag in general. But within a fortnight the astonished world
learned that it was Bismarck who was to be dashed to pieces.


The time has not yet arrived for a detailed account of the circumstances
surrounding Bismarck’s actual fall. We have been able to trace clearly
enough the progression of causes and changes which led up to that fall.
Of the event itself a great deal has been printed, but extremely little
is known. The reason for this is simple. The Kaiser and his present
friends are possessed with the rigid Prussian military sense of the duty
of absolute silence about official secrets. Prince Bismarck has insisted
vehemently upon the necessity of this quality in other people, yet
has not always distinguished himself by respecting its demands. In his
surprising latter-day garrulity, it is easy to believe that he would
tell the story about which the others preserve so strict a reticence, if
it were not that the story involves his own cruel personal humiliation.

Throughout the trying crisis William never lost sight of the proud and
historic reputation of the man with whom he had to deal, or of the great
personal reverence and affection which he, as a young King, owed to this
giant among European statesmen, this most illustrious of the servants of
his dynasty, this true creator of the new German Empire. Every step of
the Emperor during the whole affair is marked with delicate courtesy
and the most painstaking anxiety to avoid giving the doomed Chancellor
unnecessary pain. Although it was entirely settled in the more intimate
palace counsels at the end of 1889 that the Prince was to be retired
from office, William sent him the following New Year’s greeting, than
which nothing could be more cordial or kindly:

_“In view of the impending change from one year to another, I send you,
dear Prince, my heartiest and warmest congratulations. I look back on
the expiring year, in which it was vouchsafed to us not only to preserve
to our dear Fatherland external peace, but also to strengthen the
pledges of its maintenance, with sincere gratitude to God. It is to me
also a matter for deep satisfaction that, with the trusty aid of the
Reichstag, we have secured the law establishing old age and indigence
assurance, and thus taken a considerable forward step toward the
realization of that solicitude for the welfare of the working classes
which I have so wholly at heart. I know well how large a share of this
success is due to your self-sacrificing and creative energy, and I
pray God that He may for many more years grant me the benefit of your
approved and trusted counsel in my difficult and responsible post as


“_Berlin, Dec. 31,1889.”_

A few days later came the death of the venerable Empress Augusta,
and William wrote again to Bismarck at Friedrichsruh, affectionately
enjoining him not to endanger his health by trying to make the winter
journey to Berlin for the funeral.

This friendly attitude was, to the Kaiser’s mind, entirely compatible
with the decision that a new Chancellor was needed to carry on the
enlightened programme of the new reign. But Bismarck stubbornly
refused to recognize this. When his obstinacy made peremptory measures
necessary, he had even the bad taste to instance these recent amiable
messages as proofs of the duplicity with which he had been treated.

The best authenticated story in Berlin, of all the legion grown up
about this historic episode, is to the effect that one afternoon, in the
course of an interview between Kaiser and Chancellor on the approaching
Labour Conference, Bismarck was incautious enough to use the old
familiar threat of resignation with which he had been wont to terrify
and subdue the first Kaiser. Young William said nothing, but two or
three hours later an imperial _aide-de-camp_ appeared at the Foreign
Office in Wilhelmstrasse with the statement that he had come for that
resignation. Bismarck, flushed and shaken, sent an evasive reply. The
_aide-de-camp_ came again, with a reiterated demand. Bismarck stammered
out that he had not had the time to write it as yet, but that he would
himself wait upon the Emperor with it the next day. He made this visit
to the Schloss, prepared to urge with all the powers at his command, in
the stress of a personal appeal, that the demand be reconsidered. But
at the palace he was met with that equivalent for the housemaid’s
transparent “Not at home” which is used in the halls of kings; and on
his return to Wilhelmstrasse he found the inexorable _aide-de-camp_ once
more waiting for the resignation. Then only, in bitter mortification and
wrath, did Bismarck write out his own official death-warrant, which a
few days later was to be followed by his son Herbert’s resignation.

The widely circulated report that, in his extremity, the Chancellor
appealed for aid to the Empress Frederic, seems to be apocryphal. It
is certain, however, that he did, during the twenty-four hours in which
that stolidly-waiting _aide-de-camp_ darkened his life, make strenuous
efforts in other almost equally unlikely and hostile quarters to save
himself. They availed nothing save to reveal in some dim fashion to his
racked and despairing mind how deeply and implacably he was hated by
the officials and magnates all about him. But to the general public,
astonished and bewildered at this sudden necessity to imagine a Germany
without Bismarck, the glamour about his name was still dazzling. When it
came their turn to act, they made the fallen Chancellor’s departure from
Berlin a great popular demonstration. It is well that they did so. With
all his faults, Bismarck was _the_ chief German of his generation,
and the spectacle of cold-blooded desertion which the official and
journalistic classes of Berlin presented in their attitude toward him
upon the instant of his tumble, offended human nature. Nothing could be
more true than that he himself was responsible for this attitude. It was
the only possible harvest to be expected from his sowing. He had done
his best to make all preferment and power in Germany depend upon callous
treachery and the calculation of self-interest. He had contemptuously
thrust ideals and generous aspirations out of the domain of practical
politics. He had systematically accustomed the German mind to the rule
of force and cunning, to the savage crushing of political opponents, and
the shameless use of slander and scandal as political weapons. That
this official mind of his own moulding, inured to sacrificial horrors,
familiar with the spectacle of statesmen destroyed and eminent
politicians flung headlong from the “rock of bronze,” should have
viewed his own prodigious downward crash without pity, was not at all
unnatural. But for the credit of Germany with the outside world it is
fortunate that the Berliners, as a whole, responded to the pathetic side
of the episode.

William’s emotional nature was peculiarly stirred by the separation,
when it finally came. The _Reichsanzeiger_ of March 20th--two days after
the final act in the comedy of the unresigned resignation--contained
the imperial message granting Prince Bismarck permission to retire. The
phraseology of the document was excessively eulogistic of the passing
statesman, and no hint of differing opinions was allowed to appear.
Bismarck was created Duke of Lauenburg, and given the rank of a Field

More eloquent by far, however, than any rhetorical professions of grief
in his public proclamations, were the Emperor’s statements to personal
friends of the distress he suffered at seeing Bismarck depart. The
ordeal was rendered none the less painful by the fact that it had
been foreseen for months, or by the consideration that it was really
unavoidable. On the 22nd William wrote to an intimate, in response to a
message of sympathy:

_“Many thanks for your kindly letter. I have, indeed, gone through
bitter experiences, and have passed many painful hours. My heart is as
sorrowful as if I had again lost my grandfather. But it is so ordered
for me by God, and it must be borne, even if I should sink under the
burden. The post of officer of the watch on the Ship of State has
devolved upon me. Her course remains the same. So now full steam


The first and most obvious thing to be said of the twelvemonth during
which the Ship of State has sailed with no Bismarck at the helm, is that
the course has been one of novel smoothness. Since the foundation of
the Empire Germany has not known such another tranquil and comfortable
period. Nothing has arisen calculated to make men regret the
ex-Chancellor’s retirement. Almost every month has contributed some new
warrant for the now practically unanimous sense of satisfaction in his
being out of office. When astounded Germany first grasped the fact of
his downfall, even those whose hatred of him was most implacable could
not dissemble their nervousness lest Germany should be the sufferer
in some way by it. He had so persistently kept before the mind of the
nation that they were surrounded by vindictive armed enemies; he had
year after year so industriously beaten the war drum and predicted the
speedy breaking of the storm-clouds if his own way were denied him;
he had so accustomed everybody to the idea that he was personally
responsible for the continued existence from day to day of the German
Empire, the peace of Europe, and almost every other desirable thing,
that the mere thought of what would happen now he was actually gone
dazed and terrified the public mind.

But lo! nothing whatever happened. The world continued its placid sweep
through space without the sign of an interruption. The spring sun rose
in the marshes of the Vistula and set behind the fir-clad ridges of the
Vosges, just the same as ever. When Germany recovered her breath after
the shock, it was to discover that respiration was an easier matter than
it had formerly been. It was really a weight which had been lifted from
the national breast. The sensation gradually took form as one of great
relief, akin to that of filling the lungs to their utmost with the
cool morning air after a night of confinement, unrest, and a tainted
atmosphere. It is too much to say that apprehension fled at once;
the anxious habit of mind still exists in Germany, and, indeed, must
continue to exist so long as France and Russia stand on the map where
they do. But a very short space of time served to make clear that
Germany was in adroit and capable hands, and that the old-time notion of
the impossibility of supporting national life without Bismarck had been
the most childish of chimeras. Then little by little the new civility,
freedom, and absence of friction which began to mark Parliamentary
debates and official administration, attracted notice. The spectacle of
a Chancellor who actually assumed the patriotism and personal honour
of his political opponents in the Reichstag, who spoke to them like
reasonable beings, and who said their views and criticisms would always
receive his-respectful consideration, was not lost upon the German
brain. People found themselves, before long, actively liking the new

In reaching this attitude they were greatly helped by Bismarck’s own
behaviour, after he retired to Friedrichsruh. It does not fall within
the purpose of this work to dwell upon the unhappy way in which, during
the year, this statesman who was so great has laboured to belittle
himself in the eyes of the world. Allusion to it is made here only
to append the note that the Kaiser, under extreme provocation,
has steadfastly declined to sanction the slightest movement toward
reprisals. Although Bismarck has permitted himself to affront authority
much more openly and seriously than Count Harry von Arnim ever did, his
threats, his revelations, and his incitements to schism have all been
treated with serene indifference. And so, too, we may pass them by, and
push on to greater matters.

On May 6th the new Reichstag was opened by a speech from the throne,
almost exclusively reflecting the Emperor’s absorption in schemes of
social reform and progress, and the new Chancellor, Caprivi, laid before
Parliament a Trades Law Amendment Act, as a first attempt at embodying
these schemes. After a year of deliberation this measure has just
been passed, and, unless the Federal Council interposes some wholly
unlooked-for obstacles, will come into effect on April 1, 1892. By this
law Sunday labour is absolutely forbidden in all industries, save
a selected few connected with entertainment and travelling, and the
integrity of the great Church festival holidays is also secured. The
Federal Council is given the power to supervise and control the maximum
hours of labour in such trades as endanger the health of workmen by
overwork. Both journeymen and apprentices are to be able to bring
suit against their employers for wrongful dismissal. Female labour is
forbidden at night, and is given at all times a maximum of eleven hours.
Careful restrictions are also placed upon juvenile labour, and after
April of 1894 children under the age of thirteen are not to be employed
at all in factories. These reforms, which practically embody the
recommendations of the Labour Conference, do little more than bring
Germany abreast of England and America. A more extended programme of
social reform is promised when the Reichstag meets again next November.

But it is not on specific achievements that the tremendous popularity
which William has won for himself during the past year is founded. We
are by no means within view of the end of the game, but it is already
apparent that his greatest strength lies in the certainty and sureness
of touch with which he appeals to the inborn German liking for lofty and
noble visions of actions. The possibility--probability if you like--that
these visions will never get themselves materialized, is not so
important as it seems. Socialism in Germany is far more a matter of
imagination than of fact. Mr. Baring-Gould quotes an observer of the
election phenomena of 1878, to show that “decorous people, dressed in
an unexceptionable manner, and even to some extent wearing kid-gloves,”
 went to the polls as Socialists then. This has been still more true
of later elections. The element of imaginative men who had themselves
little or nothing to complain of, but who dreamed of a vague Social
Democracy as an idealized refuge from the harsh, dry bureaucracy and
brutal militarism of Bismarck’s government, played a large and larger
part in each successive augmentation of the Socialists’ voting strength.
For want of a better word we may say that William is a dreamer too. In
place of their amorphous Utopia, he throws upon the canvas before the
Socialists the splendid fantasy of a beneficent absolutism which shall
be also a democracy, in which everybody shall be good to everybody else,
and all shall sleep soundly every night, rocked in the consciousness
that their Kaiser is looking out for them, to see justice done in every
corner, and happiness the law of the land.

It is all fantastic, no doubt, but it _is_ generous and elevated and
inspiring. Granted the premises of government by dreams, it is a much
better dream than any which flames in the weak brains of the miners at
Fourmies or in the dwarfed skulls of the Berlin slums. And the Germany
which, under the impulse of a chivalrous and ardent young leader, finds
itself thrilled now by this apocalyptic picture of ideals realized,
and of government by the best that is in men instead of the worst, is
certainly a much pleasanter subject for contemplation than that recent
Germany which, under Bismarck, sneered at every spiritualizing ambition
or thought, and roughly thrust its visionaries into prison or exile.

The chronological record of what remained of 1890 is meagre enough.
Caprivi’s first quarter in office was rendered brilliant by the bargain
which gave Heligoland to Germany, and discussion over this notable
piece of fortune was prolonged until the idleness of the summer solstice
withdrew men’s minds from politics. William made visits to Scandinavia,
first of all, and then to the south shore of England, to Russia, and to
Austria. In November the excitement over Dr. Koch’s alleged specific for
tuberculosis was promptly reflected by the Emperor’s interest. He gave
personal audience to the eminent microscopist, saying that he felt it
his duty to buy the wonderful invention and confer the benefit of it
freely upon not only his own people but the world at large. A fortnight
later he bestowed upon Dr. Koch the order of the Red Eagle of the first
class--a novel innovation upon the rule that there must be regular
progression in the inferior degrees of the order.

In the same month William accepted the resignation of Court Chaplain
Stoecker, and met Dr. Windhorst in conversation for the first time. The
two events are bracketed thus because they have an interesting bearing
upon the altered state of the religious question in Germany.

The _Kulturkampf_ had already, as we have seen, dwindled greatly under
the parliamentary necessities of Bismarck’s last years in power. But
there had been no reconciliation, and the unjust old quarrel still drew
a malignant gash of division through the political and social relations
of the German people. Anti-Semitism in the same way lingered on,
powerless for much overt mischief, but serving to keep alive the
miserable race dissensions which have wrought such harm in Germany, and
lending the apparent sanction of the Court to Berlin’s, social ostracism
of the Jews. William’s broadening perceptions grasped now the necessity
of putting an end to both these survivals of intolerance. The blatant
Stoecker was given the hint to resign and an enlightened clergyman was
installed in his place. At a Parliamentary dinner, given by Caprivi
on November 25th, to which, according to the new order of things, the
leaders in opposition were invited quite as freely as supporters of
the Ministry, the Emperor met Dr. Windhorst, the venerable chief of
the Ultramontane party. All present noted the exceptional courtesy and
attention which William paid to “the Pearl of Meppen,” and construed it
to signify that the days of anti-Catholic bias were dead and gone. This
judgment has been so far justified by events that, when Dr. Windhorst
died in the succeeding March, it was said of him that of all his aims he
left only the readmission of the Jesuits unaccomplished.

William’s speeches during the year marked a distinct advance in the art
of oratory, and gave fewer evidences of loose and random thinking after
he rose to his feet than were offered by his earlier harangues. At the
swearing-in of the recruits for the Berlin garrison, on November 20th,
he delivered a curiously theological address, saying that though the
situation abroad was peaceful enough, the soldiers must bear their share
with other honest Germans in combating an internal foe, who was only to
be overcome by the aid of Christianity. No one could be a good soldier
without being a good Christian, and therefore the recruits who took an
oath of allegiance to their earthly master, should even more resolve to
be true to their heavenly Lord and Saviour.

Ten days later William made a speech of a notably different sort in
front of the statue of the Great Elector, the 250th anniversary of whose
accession to the throne of Brandenburg fell upon the 1st of December.
Reference has heretofore been made to the powerful effect produced
upon the young man’s mind by reading the story of this ancestor, in
preparation for this speech. There was nothing at all in it about
loyalty to celestial sovereignties, but it bristled with fervent
eulogies of the fighting Hohenzollerns, and was filled with military
similes and phraseology. It contained as well the veiled comparison
between Schwarzenberg and Bismarck which has been spoken of elsewhere.

Within the week the Kaiser delivered another speech, much longer than
the other, and of vastly closer human interest. It had evidently been
thought out with great care, and may unquestionably be described as the
most important public deliverance of his reign. When he ascended the
throne no one on earth would have hazarded the guess that, at the
expiration of three years, William’s principal speech would remain one
upon the subject of middle education!

The occasion was a special conference convened by him to discuss
educational reform in Prussia, and the gathering included not only the
most distinguished professors and specialists within the kingdom, but
representative men from various other German states. A list of the
members would present to the reader the names of half the living Germans
who are illustrious in literature and the sciences. The session was
opened by the Emperor as presiding officer at Berlin, on December 4th.

It was wholly characteristic of the young man that, having tabled
a series of inquiries upon the subject, he should start off with a
comprehensive and sustained attack upon the whole _gymnasium_, or
higher public school, system of the country. The Conference, having been
summoned to examine the possibility of any further improvement upon
this system, heard with astonishment its imperial chairman open the
proceedings by roundly assailing everything connected with, and typical
of, the entire institution.

The importance of the speech can best be grasped by keeping in mind the
unique reputation which the Prussian school system has for years enjoyed
in the eyes of the world. Its praises have been the burden of whole
libraries of books. The amazing succession of victories on the fields of
1870-71 which rendered the Franco-Prussian War so pitifully one-sided
a conflict, have been over and over again ascribed to the superior
education of the German _gymnasia_ even more than to the needle-gun--and
this too by French writers among the rest. The Germans are justifiably
proud of their wonderful army, but it is probable that a year ago
they had an even loftier pride in their schools. The teachers are in
themselves an army, and have traditionally exerted an influence, and
commanded a measure of public deference, which the pedagogues of other
lands know nothing about. It required, therefore, an abnormal degree of
moral courage for even an Emperor to stand up in cold blood and make an
attack upon the sacred institution of the _gymnasium_. It is even more
remarkable that what the young man had to say was so fresh and strong
and nervously to the point, that it carried conviction to the minds of a
great majority of the scholastic greybeards who heard it.

He began by saying that the _gymnasia_ (answering roughly to the Latin
schools of England and the grammar-schools or academies of America) had
in their time done good service, but no longer answered the requirements
of the nation or the necessities of the time. They produced crammed
minds, not virile men; wasting on musty Latin and general classical lore
the time which should be devoted to inculcating a knowledge of German
language and history--knowledge which was of infinitely more value to a
German than all the chronicles of an alien antiquity combined. Had
these schools done anything to combat the follies and chimeras of Social
Democracy? Alas! the answer must be something worse than a negative--and
tell not alone of an urgent duty left undone, but of evil wrought on the
other side. He himself had sat on the various forms of a _gymnasium_
at Cassel--a very fair sample of that whole class of schools--and he
therefore knew all about their ways and methods, and the sooner these
were mended the better it would be for every one.

It was undoubtedly true, William went on to admit, that in 1864, 1866,
and 1870 the Prussian teachers’ work showed to advantage. They had
in those past years done a good deal to inculcate, and thus help to
fruition, the idea of national unity--and it was safe to say that during
that period every one who completed his _gymnasium_ course went away
after the final examination convinced that the German Empire should be
reestablished, and crowned by the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine. But
with 1871 this practical process of education came abruptly to an end,
although as a matter of fact there was more than ever a need of teaching
young Germans the importance of preserving their Empire and its
political system intact. The consequence was that certain malignant
forces had grown up and developed to a threatening degree, and for this
the schools were clearly to blame.

Since 1870, he proceeded, there had been in German education a veritable
reign of the philologists. They had been sitting there enthroned in
the _gymnasia_, devoting all their attention to stuffing their pupils’
skulls with mere book-learning, without even a thought of striving to
form their characters aright, or training them for the real needs and
trials of practical life. This evil had gone so far that it could go no
farther. He knew that it was the custom to describe him as a fanatical
foe to the _gymnasium_ system. This was not true; only he had an open
eye for its defects as well as its merits--of which, unfortunately,
there seemed a heavy preponderance of the former.

Chief among these defects, to his mind, was a preposterous partiality
for the classics. He submitted to his hearers, as patriots no less than
professors, that the basis of this public school education should be
German, and the aim kept always in view should be to turn out young
Germans, not young Greeks and Romans. There must be an end to this
folly. They must courageously break away from the mediaeval and monkish
habit of mumbling over much Latin and some Greek, and take to the German
language as the basis of their teaching. This remark applied also
to history. Thoroughness in German history, both authenticated and
legendary, and in its geographical and ethnological connections, should
be first of all insisted upon. It was only when, they were wholly
familiar with the ins and outs of their own house that they could afford
the time to moon about in a museum.

“When I was at school at Cassel,” said William, “the Great Elector, for
instance, was to me only a nebulous personage. As for the Seven Years’
War, it lay outside my region of study altogether, and for me history
ended with the French Revolution at the close of the last century. The
Liberation Wars, all-important as they are for the young German,
were not even mentioned, and it was only, thank God! by means of
supplementary and most valuable lectures from my private tutor, Dr.
Hinzpeter, whom I rejoice now to see before me, that I got to know
anything at all about modern history. How is it that so many of our
young Germans are seduced from the path of political virtue? How is it
that we have so many muddleheaded would-be world-improvers amongst us?

“How is it that we all the time hear so much nagging at our own
government and so much praise of every other government under the sun?
The answer is very easy. It is due to the simple ignorance of all
these professional reformers and renovators as to the genesis of modern
Germany. They were not taught, the boys of to-day are not taught, to
comprehend at all the transition period between the French Revolution
and our own time, by the light of which alone can our present questions
be understood!”

“Not only would the _gymnasia_ have to mend their methods,” he continued,
both as to matter taught and the method of teaching it, but they must
also reduce the time burden under which they now crush their pupils. It
was cruel and inhuman to compel boys to work so hard at their books that
they had no leisure for healthful recreation, and the necessary physical
training and development of the body. If he himself, while at Cassel,
had not had special opportunities for riding to and fro, and looking
about him a little, he would never have got to know at all what the
outside world was like. It was this barbarous one-sided and eternal
cramming which had already made the nation suffer from a plethora of
learned and so-called educated people, the number of whom was now more
than the people themselves could bear, or the Empire either. So true
it was what Bismarck had once said about all this “proletariat of
pass-men”--this army of what were called hunger candidates, and of
journalists who were also for the most part unsuccessful graduates of
the _gymnasia_, was here on their hands, forming a class truly dangerous
to society!

The speech contained a great many practical and even technical
references to bad ventilation, the curse of near-sightedness, and other
details which need no mention here, but which indicated deep interest
in, and a very comprehensive grasp of, the entire subject. At the close
of the Conference, on December 17th, he made another address, from which
we may cull a paragraph as a peroration to this whole curious imperial
deliverance upon education. After an apology for having in his previous
remarks neglected any reference to religion--upon which his profound
belief that his duty as King was to foster religious sentiments and
a Christian spirit was as clearly visible to the German people as the
noonday light itself--he struck this true _fin de siécle_ note as the
key to his attitude on the entire subject:

“We find ourselves now, after marking step so long, upon the order of a
general forward movement into the new century. My ancestors, with their
fingers upon the pulse of time, have ever kept an alert and intelligent
lookout upon the promises and threats of the future, and thus have
throughout been able to maintain themselves at the head of whatever
movement they resolved to embrace and direct. I believe that I have
mastered the aims and impulses of this new spirit which thrills the
expiring century. As on the question of social reform, so in this grave
matter of the teaching of our young, I have decided to lead, rather than
oppose, the working out of these new and progressive tendencies. The
maxim of my family, ‘To every one his due,’ has for its true meaning ‘To
each what is properly his,’ which is a very different thing from ‘_The
same to all._’ Thus interpreted the motto governs our position here, and
the decisions we have arrived at. Hitherto our course in education has
been from Thermopylae, by Cannæ, up to Rossbach and Vionville. It is my
desire to lead the youth of Germany from the starting-point of Sedan and
Gravelotte, by Leuthen and Rossbach, back to Mantinea and Thermopylae,
which I hold to be the more excellent way.”

The effect of this pronouncement upon the German public was electrical.
For years there had been growing up in the popular mind a notion that
something was wrong with the _gymnasium_, but no one had had the courage
to define, much less proclaim, what the real trouble was. Parents had
seen their sons condemned to thirty hours per week in the _gymnasium_
(involving an even greater study time outside), and vaguely marvelled
that of these thirty hours ten should be given to Latin and six to
Greek, whereas mathematics claimed only four, geography and history
combined got only three, German and French had but two each, natural
science fluctuated between two and one, and English did not appear at
all. * But though there was everywhere a nebulous suspicion and dislike
of the system, it enjoyed the sacred immunity from attack of a fetich.
So wonderful a thing was it held to be, in all printed and spoken
speech, that people hardly dared harbour their own skeptical thoughts
about it. But when the young Kaiser bluntly announced his conviction
that it was all stupid and vicious and harmful, and pledged himself with
boldness to sweep away the classical rubbish and put practical modern
education in its place, the parents of Germany, to use Herr von Bunsen’s
phrase, were simply enchanted.

     *See the interesting tabular statement in S. Baring-Gould’s
     “Germany Past and Present,” p. 181. London, 1881.

During the five months which have elapsed no miracle has been wrought;
the character of the _gymnasia_ has not been changed by magic. But it is
perfectly understood by everybody that the Kaiser intends having his own
way, and being as good as his word. Important steps have already been
taken to enforce his views upon the system--notably by a change in the
Ministry of Instruction.

Dr. Gustav von Gossler had held the portfolio for ten years, and was so
entrenched in the liking of the great body of professors and teachers
that he assumed his position to be perfectly secure. When, in the summer
of 1889, the young Emperor despatched to him a long memorandum on the
reforms necessary in the higher schools of Prussia, he received it
submissively, even sympathetically, put it in a pigeon-hole, and went
on in the same old dry-as-dust classical rut. William said nothing more,
but eighteen months later, when he summoned the Educational Conference,
he simultaneously published the text of the memorandum of the previous
year. Even then Gossler seems to have suspected no danger, and made
an official speech at the opening of the session full of amiable
and confident commonplaces. On the following New Year’s Day,
however--January 1st, of the present year--a peremptory warning came to
him in the form of a gift from the palace. It was a handsomely framed
photograph of William II, and above the dashing signature were written
the significant words, “_Sic volo, sic jubeo_.” It is not strange that
shortly thereafter the retirement of von Gossler was announced.

His successor, Count Zedlitz-Trutschler, although beginning his career
in the army, long ago revealed abilities which suggested his being
drafted off into civil work. He has sat in the Reichstag as a Free
Conservative, has been Governor of Silesia, and is both an excellent
speaker and a man of great tact and resource. Among the reforms which he
has already seen his way to enforce is one by which the students of the
_gymnasia_ report the number of hours out of school in which they are
compelled to study to keep up with their lessons--these reports serving
as a basis for the monthly rearrangement of tasks in such a way as to
leave enough time for recreation. The study of German and other modern
tongues has also largely displaced the classical curriculum in the
three lower classes of the _gymnasia_. Count Zedlitz is the Minister,
moreover, having to deal with ecclesiastical affairs, and his sympathies
are all upon the side of toleration and of a good understanding with the

On this same New Year’s Day William sent a photograph also to the
venerable Postmaster-General, Herr von Stephan, bearing a written legend
not less characteristic than the other. It ran thus: “Intercommunication
is the sign under which the world stands at the close of the present
century. The barriers separating nations are thereby overthrown, and new
relations established between them.” Upon the sentiment thus expressed
much of great importance to Germany and to Europe depends.

Brief as has been the career of the present German Empire among nations,
its history already covers one very remarkable and complete _volte face_
on economic subjects, and the beginnings of what promises to be a second
and almost as sweeping change. Up to 1876, with Delbrück as President of
the Chancellery and Camphausen as Minister of Finance, Germany stood
for as liberal a spirit of international trade relations as at least
any other nation on the Continent. But in that year Bismarck, by a
combination of the various Conservative factions which leaned toward
high tariffs, inaugurated a Protectionist policy which forced these
Ministers out and ranged the German Empire definitely on the other side
of the economic wall. To the end of Bismarck’s rule, Germany steadily
drifted away from Free Trade and toward the ideals of Russia, Thibet,
and the Republican party in the United States. But even before
Bismarck’s fall it became apparent that the young Emperor took broader
views on this subject than his Chancellor, and during the past year
several important steps have been taken toward bringing Germany forward
once more into line with modern conceptions of emancipated trade. A
liberal Treaty of Commerce has been signed with Austro-Hungary--the
precursor, it is believed, of others with countries now committed to
stupid and injurious tariff wars, while at home no secret is made of the
ministerial intention to in time reduce duties on cereals, lumber, and
other necessaries, and generally pursue a tariff reform policy. The
Reichstag has during the year passed a bill which, beginning in August
of 1892, spreads over five years the extinction of the sugar bounties,
another great bulwark of the rich protectionist ring. An attack upon the
spirit bounties is expected next, while the Upper House of the Prussian
Diet has just passed the new Graded Income Tax Bill which is to pave the
way to a return from tariff to direct taxation.

The inspiring source of these reforms is Dr. Miquel, whose rise to
imperial favour during the labour crisis has been noted, and who
succeeded von Scholz as Minister of Finance in June of 1890. He
furnishes still another illustration of the debt which German public
life owes to the absorption, two centuries ago, of that leaven of
Huguenot blood to which reference has heretofore been made--and which
has long played in Prussia as disproportionately important a part as the
remaining Protestant strain has in the politics of France. Herr Miquel
looks like a Frenchman, and his manner, at once polished, genial, and
grave, is that of a statesman reared on the Seine rather than the Vecht.

In one sense he is scarcely a new man, since he sat in the Prussian
Parliament before the days of the Empire, and was years ago regarded as
dividing with Bennigsen the leadership of the National Liberal party.
He is in his sixty-third year, and might long since have been a Minister
had he not felt it incompatible with his self-respect to take a portfolio
under Bismarck’s whimsical and arrogant mastership. In this present
period of uncertainty in German politics, filled as it is with warring
rumours of impending reconciliations and hints of even more deeply
embittered quarrels, prophecy is forbidden, but no one on either side
attempts a forecast of the future which does not assign to Miquel a
predominant part.

His administrative abilities are of a very high order, and he combines
with them much breadth of vision and great personal authority. The
reliance placed upon him by the Emperor has been a subject of comment,
almost from the first meeting of the two men, and German public opinion
gives him no rival in influence over the imperial mind. It was at the
dinner-table of this Minister last February that William is said to have
replied to a long argument by Baron Kardorff in favour of bimetallism:
“Personally I am a gold man, and for the rest I leave everything to

With the impending retirement of von Maybach, Minister of Public Works
and Railways, von Boetticher will be the only remaining Minister of
eleven who held portfolios when William I died in March, 1888. It seems
probable that the present year will outlive even this exception. The
change in governmental spirit and methods of which Berlin is more
and more conscious, is not wholly a matter of new men. The weight of
militarism is being lifted. Generals no longer play the part they did in
purely civil affairs. Count Waldersee’s retirement from his great
post as Chief of the General Staff is popularly ascribed to his having
attempted to interfere with the amount and distribution of the military
budget. Five years ago such an interference would have seemed to
everybody the most natural thing in the world. The Emperor, too, grows
less fond of obtruding the martial side of his training and temperament.
From a beginning in which he seemed to think that Germany existed
principally for the purpose of supporting an army, he has grown to see
the true proportion of things and to give military matters hardly more
than their legitimate share of his attention. The death of Moltke has
removed the last great soldier who could speak authoritatively for the
army in the Reichstag. In that sense at least he has left no heir.

In the more troubled domain of foreign affairs, the year without
Bismarck has been marked by fewer visible changes. We are well along
into “a year without Crispi,” also, but the Triple Alliance, if less
demonstrative in its professions of mutual affection and pride than
formerly, seems no whit diminished in substantial unity. At the moment,
peace appears to be as secure as it has been during any year since
1880--which is another way of saying that the weight of force and
determination is still on the side of the Triple Alliance.

There has been during the twelvemonth only one sensational incident to
mar the polite, business-like relations which Caprivi maintains with the
nations of the earth. The unfortunate incidents attending the visit in
February of the Empress Frederic to Paris, are too fresh in the public
memory to call for recapitulation here. It seems fair to say that it is
not easy to imagine so pacific and sensible an ending to such a stormy
episode having been arrived at in the days of Bismarck. The young
Kaiser, whom Europe thought of as a firebrand when he ascended the
throne, kept his temper, or at least prevented its making a mark upon
the policy of his government, in a striking manner. He had just gone out
of his way to conciliate French feeling by writing a graceful message
of condolence upon the death of Meissonier. The foolish insults to his
mother, with which this act of courtesy was answered by the Parisian
rabble, failed to provoke any retort in kind. Indeed, when it was
represented to him that the increased rigour of passport regulations in
Alsace-Lorraine was being construed as a reprisal, he issued orders to
modify this rigour.

With this exhibition of judicious restraint, which rises to the full
measure of the vast responsibilities and anxious necessities of his
position, our chronological record of William’s three-years’ reign may
be fittingly brought to a close. The added narrative which is held in
store for us by the future may be tempestuous and discoloured by fire
and blood; far better, it may be a gentle story of increasing wisdom, of
good deeds done and peace made a natural state instead of an emergency
in the minds of men. But whichever betides, we have seen enough to feel
that it will be the chronicle of a real man, active, self-centred, eager
to achieve and resolute to act, of high temper and great ambitions,
and who has been given such a chance by the fates to help or hurt his
fellow-mortals as perhaps no other young man ever had.

In a concluding chapter some notice may properly be taken of the
personal attributes of William, and of his daily walk and talk as a
human being as well as a Kaiser.


In the matter of personal appearance there are two quite distinct and
different Williams. Those who see the young German Emperor on a State
occasion think of him as almost a tall man, with a stern, thoughtful
face and the most distinguished bearing of any sovereign in Europe. He
holds himself with arrow-like straightness, bears his uniform or robes
with proud grace, and draws his features into a kind of mask of
imperial dignity and reserved wisdom and strength very impressive to
the beholder. It is with what may be called this official countenance of
William’s that the general public is chiefly familiar, for he assumes
it in front of the photographer’s camera, just as he does on parade, at
formal gatherings, and even in his carriage when he drives through the

There is nothing to cavil at in this. One of the most important
functions of an Emperor must surely be to look like an Emperor.

But in private life, when the absence of ceremonial and the presence of
none but friends permit him to unbend, we see quite another William.
He does not now give, the impression of being a tall man, and his face
wears a softened and kindly expression prone to break into an extremely
sweet and winning smile. When this smiling mood is upon him he looks
curiously like his uncle, the Duke of Connaught, although at other times
the resemblance is not apparent. As a boy he was very white-skinned,
with pale flaxen hair. Years of military outdoor life burned his face to
a tawny brown, through which of late an unhealthy pallor, the product
of overwork and sleeplessness, at times shows itself. His hair is of
average darkness, but his small and habitually curled moustache is of a
light yellowish colour.

An observer who studied him closely during a whole day when he visited
Russia three years ago describes him at the first morning review
of troops as carrying himself almost pompously erect, and wearing
a countenance of such gloomy severity that everybody was afraid to
approach him, so that the officers who saw him for the first time
jokingly whispered to one another that a new William the Taciturn had
come into being. But in the afternoon, when the Czarina presided over
a little garden party, limited almost to the circle of royalty, William
appeared in a straw hat and jaunty holiday costume, smoked cigarettes
continuously, and laughed and chatted with everybody as gaily and
affably as any little bank bookkeeper snatching an unaccustomed day in
the country.

The dominant feature of his make-up is a restless and tireless physical
energy. In this he is perhaps more English than German. The insular
tendency of his out-of-door tastes is very marked. Probably there is no
gentleman on the Continent who keeps a keener or more interested watch
upon the details of English sport, year by year, than William does.
Oxford will not soon forget his characteristic telegram to Max Müller,
recently, congratulating the University crew upon their victory in the
annual race, and every British yachtsman looks forward to this season’s
regatta at Cowes with added interest, from the fact that the Emperor
intends personally competing with his newly-purchased yacht.

William rides like an Englishman--which is another way of saying that
he cuts a better figure in the saddle than most of the other Hohenzollerns, notoriously bad horsemen as a rule, have done. He has all the
British passion for the sea and matters maritime. In his speech to the
officers of the English fleet at Athens he said that his interest in
their navy dated from the earliest days of his boyhood, when he played
about Portsmouth dockyard and gained impressions of the vastness and
splendour of British shipping which had vividly coloured his imagination
for all time. No other German ruler has ever given so much thought
to naval matters, and it is his openly-expressed ambition to give the
Empire during his reign a fighting fleet which shall rank among the
great navies of the world. During the debates in the Reichstag last
March on the excessive naval estimates, he sent to the chairman of that
special budget committee a copy of an old painting representing the
fleet of the Great Elector, with footnotes in his own imperial hand
giving the names and armaments of the various vessels, and bearing
the inscription: “To Herr von Koscielski, in remembrance of his manly
advocacy of my navy, from his grateful Emperor and King.”

[Illustration: 0230]

William’s love of exercise for its own sake is truly English. He fences
admirably, is a skilful boatman, swims and bowls well and with zest, and
delights in mountain climbing. No other Prussian Prince has ever been so
fond of shooting. Hohenzollern notions of this particular sport have for
generations been a matter for derision among Englishmen. Even Carlyle,
who will hardly be described as a sportsman, was alive to the grotesque
features of the _Parforce Fagd_, that curious institution in the Potsdam
Green Forest which owes its origin to Frederic William I. The _Saugarten_
is still there, and young boars, bred in captivity and bereft of their
tusks at a tender age, are still released from their pens when the first
frosts of autumn fall, and after a start of a few minutes are chased
by mounted and gaily caparisoned parties of huntsmen--for all the world
like the tame lion hunts of the Sardanapalian decadence pictured for
us by the Assyrian palace friezes. But William has never shown much
admiration for this pet diversion of the Potsdam officers. His own
tastes are for the most laborious and difficult forms of woodland sport,
and he is an exceptionally good shot.

What renders all this the more remarkable is the fact that his left arm
is practically paralyzed. He has trained himself to hold the rein with
it when he rides, but that is the sum of its usefulness. This defect
dates from the occasion of his birth, and is ascribed to the ignorance
or ineptitude of a physician. The arm is four inches shorter than its
fellow, and has a malformed hand with only rudimentary fingers. The arm
is so wholly limp that William has to lift its hand to even place it
on the hilt of his sword with his right hand. It is in this posture, or
else in the breast of his coat, that he customarily carries it when
out of the saddle. All his photographs show it thus disposed of. At the
table he has a combined knife and fork, which slide into each other. He
uses this with much dexterity, first to cut up his meat and then to eat
it, all of course with one hand.

To have become a skilled marksman under such a weighty disadvantage
indicates great patience and determination. William uses a very light
English gun, having abandoned in despair the attempt to get any made
to his liking in Germany, and carries it on his shoulder with the stock
behind him. At the proper moment he brings the weapon forward by a
movement of his right arm, with incredible swiftness and deadly accuracy
of aim.

Of much graver importance, of course, is the internal inflammation of
the ear, formerly complicated at times with an acute earache, with which
he has now been afflicted for a number of years. Just what the affection
is no one has yet been able to determine. It grows worse in cold and
wet weather, and that is about all that is known of it. The physicians
disagree as to its character. William himself, though occasionally
suffering grievously from it, has never been alarmed about it, and
really believes it to be a local ailment. Its existence naturally enough
suffices to create a certain uneasiness in the minds of his friends,
and of Germans generally, and serves as the fruitful source of alarming
rumours by which, from time to time, the virtue of Continental bourses
is systematically assailed. But no responsible professional man seems
to regard it as necessarily dangerous. This year, although the Emperor’s
appearance shows evident signs of the wear and strain of his great
burdens upon his strength and spirits, this particular affection is said
to be less troublesome than usual.

Undoubtedly, however, this annoying and wearying burden of the flesh
has a great deal to do with William’s disposition towards nervous
excitability and restlessness. A man with the earache cannot be expected
to hold calm mastery over all his moods. It is a reasonable assumption,
too, that to this affliction is in some measure due his phenomenal and
unseasonable physical activity. Sometimes it happens that he is unable
to sleep at all, and he habitually keeps notebooks and pencils within
reach of his bedside, upon which to work until the demon of insomnia is
exorcised. Upon occasion, for distraction, he routs out the garrison of
Berlin, or some regiment of it, before daybreak. In any case he rises at

Both at home and when abroad the amount of labour he gets through in a
day is almost without parallel. It is a commonplace experience for him
to do four hours’ work in his Berlin study in the early morning; then
take a train to Potsdam and spend the remainder of the forenoon in
reviewing troops; then trot back in the saddle with his staff over the
distance of eighteen miles; devote the afternoon to the transaction of
business with his Ministers and officials; receive and return the calls
of two or three visiting royal personages; then dine somewhere where
a speech must be made, and get back to the palace for more work before

In Constantinople and the scarcely less Oriental Athens they still
recall his energetic daily routine with bewildered astonishment. He was
up long before the drowsy muezzins from the minarets summon the faithful
at the hour of prayer--rattling indefatigably about to see all the
sights, reviewing the Sultan’s troops, inspecting all the chief military
establishments, War Ministry, military school, artillery barracks, and
what not besides, asking questions of everybody who had anything to
tell, peering into every nook and cranny with an insatiable curiosity,
working through it all upon notes of instruction and reference to be
forwarded to Berlin every evening, and then sitting up until all the
others were yawning with sleep.

Of course he could not bear the strain of this constant activity if he
were not endowed with two great gifts--prodigious physical vitality and
imagination. Mere strength alone, mated with dulness of mind, would be
broken down and destroyed by the wear and tear of such a life. William
is, physically and mentally, the heir of the best things which European
royalty has to offer. He inherits the bodily force and resolution of
the Hohenzollerns, the _savoir faire_ and comeliness of the Guelphs, the
intellectual acuteness and philosophical tastes of the Coburgs, and the
romantic mediaeval Ascanien strain which Catherine II took to Russia
and her granddaughter brought back again to Weimar--a leaven half divine
half daemonic, which swings between genius and madness. The product
of these marriages might be expected to be what he is--by far the most
striking personality in the whole gallery of contemporary kings.

What other dynasty in Western Europe does not envy William his six
handsome, sturdy, and superbly healthy little sons? Seeing them with
their shining, bright-eyed faces and ordinary well-worn clothes, one
cannot but reflect upon the contrast afforded at Vienna, where the great
rival house of Hapsburg is dying miserably out in pallid epileptics and
vicious dullards.

These six fine boys, the oldest of whom is now in his tenth year, are
reared in the Spartan traditions of the Hohenzollerns. Winter and summer
they are up at six o’clock and into their cold tubs with merciless
punctuality. As a rule they breakfast with their father half an hour
later, and throughout the meal he talks with them alone. They salute
him on entering, and again on leaving, in military fashion; even at this
tender age a considerable portion of their education is upon martial
subjects. The Emperor, in his recent speech at Bonn, indicated an
intention of having the Crown Prince eventually matriculate there, but
for the present, as soon as the lads outgrow their private tutors it
is understood that they are to go to the great cadet school at
Lichterfelde, just outside Berlin. Evidently the _gymnasium_ has no part
in the plans for their education.

The predominance of the military idea, which envelops even these little
baby princes, is indeed the keynote to every phase of their father’s
character. He is first of all a soldier. He lives a plain and simple
life; the service and routine of his palaces are those of an officer’s
mess. He is a heavy eater, with a preference for homely dishes; he
smokes great numbers of light Dutch cigars which cost about three
halfpence each. He addresses all persons whom he meets in an official
capacity in the terse form and curt, sharp tone of a drill sergeant.
Although in private conversation with friends his voice is soft and
pleasant, all his public speeches are declaimed in a harsh and rattling
voice, with abruptly ended sentences. His relations with other
Germans, from the kings down to the peasants, are, in short, those of a
commanding officer on the parade ground. This attitude does not suggest
tact, or lend itself to roundabout’ methods. The bluntly-expressed
rescripts to the officers of the army which William from time to time
has issued, complaining about the harsh personal treatment of the men,
denouncing gambling and extravagant living, and so on, might easily have
provoked a spirit of discontent in a country less wholly ruled by the
idea of military discipline.

Naturally enough, his innate liking for display and scenic effects is
strongly coloured by militarism. He cannot see too many uniforms about
him, and he literally inundates Berlin with martial pageants. One might
suppose that the effect of this would be to satiate the Berliners, but
they maintain a most vigorous and unabated interest in seeing the troops
march by, and throng the sidewalks every time as if the spectacle had
all the excitement of novelty.

In almost every other country the personal tastes or whims of the
sovereign, if he be at all a man of the world, leave a certain mark upon
the every-day dress of the people about him. The Prince of Wales, for
example, during the quarter century in which he has assumed the social
work of his mother’s reign, has made a good many changes in the fashions
of men’s clothes--changes which have been respected in Melbourne and
Washington and Toronto as well as in London. But hardly anybody in
Germany has ever seen the adult William in citizen’s clothes--and
positively no one ever thinks of him save as in uniform.

As William is a soldier in manners and habits, so his conceptions of
government and of domestic statecraft are largely those which might be
expected in a chief of staff. He addresses his people always as their
commander-in-chief. The starting-point of his resolve to get rid of
Bismarck and bring in new men like Miquel and Caprivi, was his discovery
that the Chancellor and the various political parties and factions
which he alternately bullied and cajoled were really so many impediments
standing between him and his subjects. The Hohenzollern desired to speak
directly to the people, as a general to his army, and he has swept aside
whatever stood in the way. Such a posture does not, at first sight, seem
to promise much for progress and enlightened development, but it must
be remembered that universal service in the army has had the effect of
familiarizing all other Germans with this same point of view, so that
really sovereign and subjects get on much better together than in many
countries nominally more free.

The difficulties of government in Germany are almost wholly social and
economic. The Prussian artizan, perforce, spends seven years at school
and three years in the army before he seriously takes up his trade
and sets to working for himself. He marries early and has a swarm
of children, and the necessity of toiling to support all these in an
overcrowded and underpaid labour market grinds upon his temper. He
has, to begin with, a racial tendency to think highly of himself and to
criticize other people; he is afforded only too much justification for
his rooted dislike of aristocrats, employers, and rich people generally,
who in Germany are much less generous and considerate than in some other
countries. Thus he is peculiarly open to the arguments and allurements
of the social democratic propaganda.

The Kaiser’s idea is to meet and counteract this by appealing to
the workman’s military recollections and pride. It is difficult
for outsiders to realize the potency of this appeal. Americans and
Englishmen see the scores of thousands of young Germans who expatriate
themselves to escape military service, and assume, therefore, that it
must be a hateful thing. To those who look forward to it this may be
true. But to the poor German artizan who looks backward upon it this
term of service in the army is apt to seem the pleasantest period of his
life. By comparison with the hardships of his later independent struggle
for existence, he comes to regard this time when he was fed and clothed
and instructed and lodged, and wore a uniform, with affectionate regret.

William, with what seems a sound instinct, lays great stress upon
keeping alive and strengthening this army spirit. His wish is so to
extend a semi-military organization throughout the social structure that
every German may continue to feel that he belongs to the army. To
this end he encourages the founding in each village of a
_Landwehrbezirksverein_, or military club, where veterans and reservists
are invited to come and read the papers over their beer and pipes, take
charge of anniversary celebrations, promote local shooting festivals,
and keep Social Democrats at a healthful distance. This plan is reported
to be working well in small places, but it has not been thus far of much
service in cities and factory centres, and in Mainz the attempt has just
been abandoned owing to the discovery that all the members had become
Social Democrats. But it is important to notice that since William
has actively interested himself in the condition of these lower
social strata, and sharply rated employers and army officers for harsh
treatment of their men, the tone of the Socialists in the Reichstag
toward him has been quite as civil as that of the other members.

For a young man descended from such phenomenally thrifty people as
the Hohenzollerns and Wettins have always been, William has remarkably
lavish, not to say prodigal, notions about money. He was left a very
rich man by his father’s death, and a complaisant Reichstag shortly
thereafter largely increased the amount of his civil list, but for
all that prudent Germans shake their heads over the immense schemes
of expenditure to which he is already committed. The outlay upon the
renovation of the Old Schloss in Berlin, entered upon in the first
months of his reign, startled these good souls, but that turned out to
be a mere drop in the bucket. The whole park arrangements at Potsdam
are to be altered, and the unsightly old Dom--or cathedral--facing the
Lustgarten in Berlin, has been torn down to make room for a magnificent
ecclesiastical edifice worthy of the German capital. This means a heavy
bill of expense, and Berliners hear with mingled emotions that their
Royal Opera House is also to come down, to be supplanted by a wonderful
new structure rivalling in dimensions and cost the Grand Opera House in

This last plan reflects the most marked artistic sense discoverable in
William. He is passionately fond of the theatre, and has enlightened
views about its popular usefulness. In decorating the tragedian, Ludwig
Barnay, he has put on record an act by a Prussian King which not even
his grandfather, the old Kaiser, enamoured of all things connected with
the stage as he was, could be brought to contemplate. He delighted in
the company of players to the end of his days, but he always frowned
when the possibility of stars and ribbons was hinted at. William’s
action, therefore, deserves special notice. It must be admitted that his
attitude toward the drama is dictatorial to a degree--very like that
which a general might be assumed to occupy toward a band of mummers
allowed inside the camp to amuse the soldiers; but the German drama is
framed to resist a great deal of pressure to the square inch, and is
indeed rather the better for it. Very comical are the stories told
in Berlin of the way in which William personally superintended the
rehearsals of Wildenbruch’s “The New Lord” last winter, criticizing and
instructing the actors, and rearranging the distribution of the cast to
suit his notions of their several capabilities. The fact that the drama
had for its principal incident the Great Elector’s dismissal of his
father’s Minister, Schwarzenberg, doubtless accounted for much of the
Emperor’s personal solicitude as to its proper presentation. But it is
not in William’s nature to refrain from meddling and dictating about
anything, no matter how trivial, in which his interest is aroused.

The young Kaiser was never what is called a bookish man, and, as has
been said before, the tremendous pressure of his daily work now leaves
him no time whatever for reading. But he still manages to secure a
certain amount of leisure for association with intimate friends, and
among these are a number of highly-cultured men. He gets from them what
others are obliged to seek in books. His inclinations seem to develop
steadily in the direction of respect for intellectual people and
products. It is a part of the phenomenon of belated growth which we have
traced from his thirtieth birthday; mentally and spiritually cramped up
to that time by the despotic influence of the small Bismarckian clique,
he had still the strength and ability to expand his mind and character
with splendid swiftness when finally the bonds were thrown off. One of
the pleasantest features of the Labour Conference gathering in Berlin
was the kindly and appreciative way in which William gave his chief
attention to the venerable Jules Simon, talked with him intelligently
about his works, and presented him with what of all possible gifts he
would most prize--some of the manuscript French writings of Frederic the
Great. It is more than likely that a twelvemonth before William did not
know anything at all about either Jules Simon or his books.

His special liking for the scholarly King of Sweden, and his annual
choice of the sombre solitudes of the Norwegian coast for his
summer season of entire rest, are very interesting evidences of
this progressive mental elevation. William has a natural tendency to
deference and a display of youthful humility toward able men much
older than himself, as all who have seen him in the company of his
grandfather, Moltke, Windhorst, or Bismarck must have noted, but his
attraction toward the learned and gentle Scandinavian monarch is hardly
to be put down to that score. Most other princes of William’s age, or
even much older, devote as little time to King Oscar as politeness will
permit, and for choice prefer to spend their holidays at Homburg or
Monte Carlo.

No gambling Casino or mere frivolous watering-place so much as knows
William by sight. He detests the whole spirit of these princely resorts.
He drinks with tolerable freedom at dinner, and is neither a prig nor
a prude. But he is distinctly a moral man. People who are close to
him aver that he is sincerely religious, and that by no means in a
latitudinarian sense. So far as his actions have thrown light on this
subject they have indicated a spirit of theological tolerance. In the
fourth month of his reign, when the Senior Council of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church sought to overturn the election of the heterodox
Professor Harnack to the chair of Church History and Dogma at Berlin,
William emphatically tossed aside their protest and confirmed the
selection of the University. At about the same time he delivered a
public rebuke to certain enthusiasts who sought to commit him to an
approval of Jew-baiting, and since then, as we have seen, Dr. Stocker
has gone for good. Last winter the Emperor gave a most interesting
and characteristic proof of this broad-minded spirit. Two earnestly
religious young Germans named Haase and May, belonging to a sect called
the New Church, the basis of which is non-resistance, refused on moral
grounds to do military service. Their persistence naturally brought them
into collision with the courts, and they were sentenced to six weeks’
imprisonment. William heard of the case, and, while it would not do to
remit the punishment, he issued directions that their stay in prison
should be made as comfortable as possible. Upon their release he
personally gave the money to pay their passage to America, whither they
sailed with the intention of becoming missionaries.


When William ascended the German throne, under such unpleasant and
prejudicial conditions, the world thought of him as an ill-conditioned
and wildly-reckless young swashbuckler, whose head would speedily be
turned by the intoxicating sense of power, and who would make haste to
plunge Europe into war.

Three years of authority have worked such a change in him--or, perhaps
better, have brought to the top so many strong and admirable
qualities in him which had been dwarfed and obscured by adverse
circumstances--that the world has insensibly come to alter its opinion
of his character. We think of him no longer as a firebrand. He preserves
enough of the eccentricities of a nervous and impetuous individuality,
it is true, to still impart to public scrutiny of his words and deeds
an element of apprehension. One still instinctively reads the reports
of his speeches with an eye cast ahead for wild or thoughtless
utterances--and only too often, as in the case of the “salamander”
 remarks to the Borussian Students’ Corps at Bonn the other day, finds
what was anticipated. But even in this matter of an over-hasty and
unrestrained tongue three years have wrought an important improvement,
and in almost all other respects he is unquestionably a better man and
a better ruler than the world took it for granted he would be. Doubtless
as time goes on we shall come to regard him in a still more altered

At present what can be fairly said is that he stands out with clearness
from among European sovereigns as a living and genuine personality--a
young man of imagination, of great activity and executive ability,
taking gravely serious views of his duties and responsibilities, keenly
anxious to do what he believes to be right, and increasingly disposed to
look to wise and elevated sources of judgment for suggestions as to what
is right.


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