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At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Gerard assumed the care of British interests in Germany, later visiting the camps where British prisoners were confined and doing much to alleviate their condition. His responsibilities were further increased by the fact that German interests in France, Great Britain, and Russia were placed in the care of the United States embassies in those countries, the United States embassy in Berlin thus becoming a sort of clearing house. From first-hand knowledge he was able to settle the question, much disputed among the Germans themselves, as to the official attitude of the German government toward the violation of Belgian neutrality.At the request of Gottlieb von Jagow, after the fall of Liège, he served as intermediary for offering the Belgians peace and indemnity if they would grant passage of German troops through their country. On August 10, 1914, the Kaiser placed in Gerard's hands a telegram addressed personally to President Wilson declaring that Belgian neutrality “had to be violated by Germany on strategical grounds.” At the request of a high German official this telegram was not made public as the Kaiser had wished, but was sent privately to the President. After the sinking of the RMS Lusitania with many United States residents on board, on May 7, 1915, the United States ambassador's position became more difficult.The German government asked him to leave the country in January 1917. Diplomatic relations were broken off on February 3, and he left Germany. He was detained for a time because of rumours that the German ambassador in America was being mistreated and German ships had been confiscated. When these rumors were disproved, he was allowed to depart. He retired from diplomatic service entirely in July 1917. He took up the practice of law in New York City. The George H. Doran Company of New York City published a book Gerard wrote on his experiences titled My Four Years in Germany released in 1917, My Four Years in Germany was turned into a film in 1918.
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MY FIRST YEAR IN GERMANY
POLITICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL
DIPLOMATIC WORK OF FIRST WINTER IN BERLIN
MILITARISM IN GERMANY AND THE ZABERN AFFAIR
PSYCHOLOGY AND CAUSES WHICH PREPARED THE NATION FOR WAR
AT KIEL JUST BEFORE THE WAR
THE DAYS BEFORE THE WAR
THE AMERICANS AT THE OUTBREAK OF HOSTILITIES
PRISONERS OF WAR
FIRST DAYS OF THE WAR: POLITICAL AND DIPLOMATIC
WORK FOR THE GERMANS
DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS (Continued)
LIBERALS AND REASONABLE MEN
THE GERMAN PEOPLE IN WAR
I am writing what should have been the last chapter of this book as a foreword because I want to bring home to our people the gravity of the situation; because I want to tell them that the military and naval power of the German Empire is unbroken; that of the twelve million men whom the Kaiser has called to the colours but one million, five hundred thousand have been killed, five hundred thousand permanently disabled, not more than five hundred thousand are prisoners of war, and about five hundred thousand constitute the number of wounded or those on the sick list of each day, leaving at all times about nine million effectives under arms.
I state these figures because Americans do not grasp either the magnitude or the importance of this war. Perhaps the statement that over five million prisoners of war are held in the various countries will bring home to Americans the enormous mass of men engaged.
There have been no great losses in the German navy, and any losses of ships have been compensated for by the building of new ones. The nine million men, and more, for at least four hundred thousand come of military age in Germany every year, because of their experience in two and a half years of war are better and more efficient soldiers than at the time when they were called to the colours. Their officers know far more of the science of this war and the men themselves now have the skill and bearing of veterans.
Nor should anyone believe that Germany will break under starvation or make peace because of revolution.
The German nation is not one which makes revolutions. There will be scattered riots in Germany, but no simultaneous rising of the whole people. The officers of the army are all of one class, and of a class devoted to the ideals of autocracy. A revolution of the army is impossible; and at home there are only the boys and old men easily kept in subjection by the police.
There is far greater danger of the starvation of our Allies than of the starvation of the Germans. Every available inch of ground in Germany is cultivated, and cultivated by the aid of the old men, the boys and the women, and the two million prisoners of war.
The arable lands of Northern France and of Roumania are being cultivated by the German army with an efficiency never before known in these countries, and most of that food will be added to the food supplies of Germany. Certainly the people suffer; but still more certainly this war will not be ended because of the starvation of Germany.
Although thinking Germans know that if they do not win the war the financial day of reckoning will come, nevertheless, owing to the clever financial handling of the country by the government and the great banks, there is at present no financial distress in Germany; and the knowledge that, unless indemnities are obtained from other countries, the weight of the great war debt will fall upon the people, perhaps makes them readier to risk all in a final attempt to win the war and impose indemnities upon not only the nations of Europe but also upon the United States of America.
We are engaged in a war against the greatest military power the world has ever seen; against a people whose country was for so many centuries a theatre of devastating wars that fear is bred in the very marrow of their souls, making them ready to submit their lives and fortunes to an autocracy which for centuries has ground their faces, but which has promised them, as a result of the war, not only security but riches untold and the dominion of the world; a people which, as from a high mountain, has looked upon the cities of the world and the glories of them, and has been promised these cities and these glories by the devils of autocracy and of war.
We are warring against a nation whose poets and professors, whose pedagogues and whose parsons have united in stirring its people to a white pitch of hatred, first against Russia, then against England and now against America.
The U-Boat peril is a very real one for England. Russia may either break up into civil wars or become so ineffective that the millions of German troops engaged on the Russian front may be withdrawn and hurled against the Western lines. We stand in great peril, and only the exercise of ruthless realism can win this war for us. If Germany wins this war it means the triumph of the autocratic system. It means the triumph of those who believe not only in war as a national industry, not only in war for itself but also in war as a high and noble occupation. Unless Germany is beaten the whole world will be compelled to turn itself into an armed camp, until the German autocracy either brings every nation under its dominion or is forever wiped out as a form of government.
We are in this war because we were forced into it: because Germany not only murdered our citizens on the high seas, but also filled our country with spies and sought to incite our people to civil war. We were given no opportunity to discuss or negotiate. The forty-eight hour ultimatum given by Austria to Serbia was not, as Bernard Shaw said, “A decent time in which to ask a man to pay his hotel bill.” What of the six-hour ultimatum given to me in Berlin on the evening of January thirty-first, 1917, when I was notified at six that ruthless warfare would commence at twelve? Why the German government, which up to that moment had professed amity and a desire to stand by the Sussex pledges, knew that it took almost two days to send a cable to America! I believe that we are not only justly in this war, but prudently in this war. If we had stayed out and the war had been drawn or won by Germany we should have been attacked, and that while Europe stood grinning by: not directly at first, but through an attack on some Central or South American State to which it would be at least as difficult for us to send troops as for Germany. And what if this powerful nation, vowed to war, were once firmly established in South or Central America? What of our boasted isolation then?
It is only because I believe that our people should be informed that I have consented to write this book. There are too many thinkers, writers and speakers in the United States; from now on we need the doers, the organisers, and the realists who alone can win this contest for us, for democracy and for permanent peace!
Writing of events so new, I am, of course, compelled to exercise a great discretion, to keep silent on many things of which I would speak, to suspend many judgments and to hold for future disclosure many things, the relation of which now would perhaps only serve to increase bitterness or to cause internal dissension in our own land.
The American who travels through Germany in summer time or who spends a month having his liver tickled at Homburg or Carlsbad, who has his digestion restored by Dr. Dapper at Kissingen or who relearns the lost art of eating meat at Dr. Dengler’s in Baden, learns little of the real Germany and its rulers; and in this book I tell something of the real Germany, not only that my readers may understand the events of the last three years but also that they may judge of what is likely to happen in our future relations with that country.
The second day out on the Imperator, headed for a summer’s vacation, a loud knocking woke me at seven A. M. The radio, handed in from a friend in New York, told me of my appointment as Ambassador to Germany.
Many friends were on the ship. Henry Morgenthau, later Ambassador to Turkey, Colonel George Harvey, Adolph Ochs and Louis Wiley of the NewYork_Times_, Clarence Mackay, and others.
The Imperator is a marvellous ship of fifty-four thousand tons or more, and at times it is hard to believe that one is on the sea. In addition to the regular dining saloon, there is a grill room and Ritz restaurant with its palm garden, and, of course, an Hungarian Band. There are also a gymnasium and swimming pool, and, nightly, in the enormous ballroom dances are given, the women dressing in their best just as they do on shore.
Colonel Harvey and Clarence Mackay gave me a dinner of twenty-four covers, something of a record at sea. For long afterwards in Germany, I saw everywhere pictures of the Imperator including one of the tables set for this dinner. These were sent out over Germany as a sort of propaganda to induce the Germans to patronise their own ships and indulge in ocean travel. I wish that the propaganda had been earlier and more successful, because it is by travel that peoples learn to know each other, and consequently to abstain from war.
On the night of the usual ship concert, Henry Morgenthau translated a little speech for me into German, which I managed to get through after painfully learning it by heart. Now that I have a better knowledge of German, a cold sweat breaks out when I think of the awful German accent with which I delivered that address.
A flying trip to Berlin early in August to look into the house question followed, and then I returned to the United States.
In September I went to Washington to be “instructed,” talked with the President and Secretary, and sat at the feet of the Assistant Secretary of State, Alvey A. Adee, the revered Sage of the Department of State.
On September ninth, 1913, having resigned as Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, I sailed for Germany, stopping on the way in London in order to make the acquaintance of Ambassador Page, certain wise people in Washington having expressed the belief that a personal acquaintance of our Ambassadors made it easier for them to work together.
Two cares assail a newly appointed Ambassador. He must first take thought of what he shall wear and where he shall live. All other nations have beautiful Embassies or Legations in Berlin, but I found that my two immediate predecessors had occupied a villa originally built as a two-family house, pleasantly enough situated, but two miles from the centre of Berlin and entirely unsuitable for an Embassy.
There are few private houses in Berlin, most of the people living in apartments. After some trouble I found a handsome house on the Wilhelm Platz immediately opposite the Chancellor’s palace and the Foreign Office, in the very centre of Berlin. This house had been built as a palace for the Princes Hatzfeld and had later passed into the possession of a banking family named von Schwabach.
The United States Government, unlike other nations, does not own or pay the rent of a suitable Embassy, but gives allowance for offices, if the house is large enough to afford office room for the office force of the Embassy. The von Schwabach palace was nothing but a shell. Even the gas and electric light fixtures had been removed; and when the hot water and heating system, bath-rooms, electric lights and fixtures, etc., had been put in, and the house furnished from top to bottom, my first year’s salary had far passed the minus point.
The palace was not ready for occupancy until the end of January, 1914, and, in the meantime, we lived at the Hotel Esplanade, and I transacted business at the old, two-family villa.
There are more diplomats in Berlin than in any other capital in the world, because each of the twenty-five States constituting the German Empire sends a legation to Berlin; even the free cities of Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen have a resident minister at the Empire’s capital.
Invariable custom requires a new Ambassador in Berlin to give two receptions, one to the Diplomatic Corps and the other to all those people who have the right to go to court. These are the officials, nobles and officers of the army and navy, and such other persons as have been presented at court. Such people are called hoffähig, meaning that they are fit for court.
It is interesting here to note that Jews are not admitted to court. Such Jews as have been ennobled and allowed to put the coveted “von” before their names have first of all been required to submit to baptism in some Christian church. Examples are the von Schwabach family, whose ancestral house I occupied in Berlin, and Friedlaender-Fuld, officially rated as the richest man in Berlin, who made a large fortune in coke and its by-products.
These two receptions are really introductions of an Ambassador to official and court society.
Before these receptions, however, and in the month of November, I presented my letters of credence as Ambassador to the Emperor. This presentation is quite a ceremony. Three coaches were sent for me and my staff, coaches like that in which Cinderella goes to her ball, mostly glass, with white wigged coachmen, outriders in white wigs and standing footmen holding on to the back part of the coach. Baron von Roeder, introducer of Ambassadors, came for me and accompanied me in the first coach; the men of the Embassy staff sat in the other two coaches. Our little procession progressed solemnly through the streets of Berlin, passing on the way through the centre division of the arch known as the Brandenburger Thor, the gateway that stands at the head of the Unter den Linden, a privilege given only on this occasion.
We mounted long stairs in the palace, and in a large room were received by the aides and the officers of the Emperor’s household, of course all in uniform. Then I was ushered alone into the adjoining room where the Emperor, very erect and dressed in the black uniform of the Death’s Head Hussars, stood by a table. I made him a little speech, and presented my letters of credence and the letters of recall of my predecessor. The Emperor then unbent from his very erect and impressive attitude and talked with me in a very friendly manner, especially impressing me with his interest in business and commercial affairs. I then, in accordance with custom, asked leave to present my staff. The doors were opened. The staff came in and were presented to the Emperor, who talked in a very jolly and agreeable way to all of us, saying that he hoped above all to see the whole of the Embassy staff riding in the Tier Garten in the mornings.
The Emperor is a most impressive figure, and, in his black uniform surrounded by his officers, certainly looked every inch a king. Although my predecessors, on occasions of this kind, had worn a sort of fancy diplomatic uniform designed by themselves, I decided to abandon this and return to the democratic, if unattractive and uncomfortable, dress-suit, simply because the newspapers of America and certain congressmen, while they have had no objection to the wearing of uniforms by the army and navy, police and postmen, and do not expect officers to lead their troops into battle in dress-suits, have, nevertheless, had a most extraordinary prejudice against American diplomats following the usual custom of adopting a diplomatic uniform.
Some days after my presentation to the Emperor, I was taken to Potsdam, which is situated about half an hour’s train journey from Berlin, and, from the station there, driven to the new palace and presented to the Empress. The Empress was most charming and affable, and presented a very distinguished appearance. Accompanied by Mrs. Gerard, and always, either by night or by day, in the infernal dress-suit, I was received by the Crown Prince and Princess, and others of the royal princes and their wives. On these occasions we sat down and did not stand, as when received by the Emperor and Empress, and simply made “polite conversation” for about twenty minutes, being received first by the ladies-in-waiting and aides. These princes were always in uniform of some kind.
At the reception for the hoffähig people Mrs. Gerard stood in one room and I in another, and with each of us was a representative of the Emperor’s household to introduce the people of the court, and an army officer to introduce the people of the army. The officer assigned to me had the extraordinary name of der Pfortner von der Hoelle, which means the “porter of Hell.” I have often wondered since by what prophetic instinct he was sent to introduce me to the two years and a half of world war which I experienced in Berlin. This unfortunate officer, a most charming gentleman, was killed early in the war.
The Berlin season lasts from about the twentieth of January for about six weeks. It is short in duration because, if the hoffähig people stay longer than six weeks in Berlin, they become liable to pay their local income tax in Berlin, where the rate is higher than in those parts of Germany where they have their country estates.
The first great court ceremonial is the Schleppencour, so-called from the long trains or Schleppen worn by the women. On this night we “presented” Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Cassatt of Philadelphia, Mrs. Ernest Wiltsee, Mrs. and Miss Luce and Mrs. Norman Whitehouse. On the arrival at the palace with these and all the members of the Embassy Staff and their wives, we were shown up a long stair-case, at the top of which a guard of honour, dressed in costume of the time of Frederick the Great, presented arms to all Ambassadors, and ruffled kettle-drums. Through long lines of cadets from the military schools, dressed as pages, in white, with short breeches and powdered wigs, we passed through several rooms where all the people to pass in review were gathered. Behind these, in a room about sixty feet by fifty, on a throne facing the door were the Emperor and Empress, and on the broad steps of this throne were the princes and their wives, the court ladies-in-waiting and all the other members of the court. The wives of the Ambassadors entered the room first, followed at intervals of about twenty feet by the ladies of the Embassy and the ladies to be presented. As they entered the room and made a change of direction toward the throne, pages in white straightened out the ladies’ trains with long sticks. Arrived opposite the throne and about twenty feet from it, each Ambassador’s wife made a low curtsey and then stood on the foot of the throne, to the left of the Emperor and Empress, and as each lady of the Embassy, not before presented, and each lady to be presented stopped beside the throne and made a low curtsey, the Ambassadress had to call out the name of each one in a loud voice; and when the last one had passed she followed her out of the room, walking sideways so as not to turn her back on the royalties,—something of a feat when towing a train about fifteen feet long. When all the Ambassadresses had so passed, it was the turn of the Ambassadors, who carried out substantially the same programme, substituting low bows for curtsies. The Ambassadors were followed by the Ministers’ wives, these by the Ministers and these by the dignitaries of the German Court. All passed into the adjoining hall, and there a buffet supper was served. The whole affair began at about eight o’clock and was over in an hour.
At the court balls, which also began early in the evening, a different procedure was followed. There the guests were required to assemble before eight-twenty in the ballroom. As in the Schleppencour, on one side of the room was the throne with seats for the Emperor and Empress, and to the right of this throne were the chairs for the Ambassadors’ wives who were seated in the order of their husbands’ rank, with the ladies of their Embassy, and any ladies they had brought to the ball standing behind them. After them came the Ministers’ wives, sitting in similar fashion; then the Ambassadors, standing with their staffs behind them on raised steps, with any men that they had asked invitations for, and the Ministers in similar order. To the left of the throne stood the wives of the Dukes and dignitaries of Germany and then their husbands. When all were assembled, promptly at the time announced, the orchestra, which was dressed in mediæval costume and sat in a gallery, sounded trumpets and then the Emperor and Empress entered the room, the Emperor, of course, in uniform, followed by the ladies and gentlemen of the household all in brilliant uniforms, and one or two officers of the court regiment, picked out for their great height and dressed in the kind of uniform Rupert of Hentzau wears on the stage,—a silver helmet surmounted by an eagle, a steel breast-plate, white breeches and coat, and enormous high boots coming half way up the thigh. The Grand Huntsman wore a white wig, three-cornered hat and a long green coat.
On entering the room, the Empress usually commenced on one side and the Emperor on the other, going around the room and speaking to the Ambassadors’ wives and Ambassadors, etc., in turn, and the Empress in similar fashion, chatting for a moment with the German dignitaries and their wives lined up on the opposite side of the room. After going perhaps half way around each side, the Emperor and Empress would then change sides. This going around the room and chatting with people in turn is called “making the circle”, and young royalties are practised in “making the circle” by being made to go up to the trees in a garden and address a few pleasant words to each tree, in this manner learning one of the principal duties of royalty.
The dancing is only by young women and young officers of noble families who have practised the dances before. They are under the superintendence of several young officers who are known as Vortänzerand when anyone in Berlin in court society gives a ball these Vortänzer are the ones who see that all dancing is conducted strictly according to rule and manage the affairs of the ballroom with true Prussian efficiency. Supper is about ten-thirty at a court ball and is at small tables. Each royalty has a table holding about eight people and to these people are invited without particular rule as to precedence. The younger guests and lower dignitaries are not placed at supper but find places at tables to suit themselves. After supper all go back to the ballroom and there the young ladies and officers, led by the Vortänzerexecute a sort of lancers, in the final figure of which long lines are formed of dancers radiating from the throne; and all the dancers make bows and curtsies to the Emperor and Empress who are either standing or sitting at this time on the throne. At about eleven-thirty the ball is over, and as the guests pass out through the long hall, they are given glasses of hot punch and a peculiar sort of local Berlin bun, in order to ward off the lurking dangers of the villainous winter climate.
At the court balls the diplomats are, of course, in their best diplomatic uniform. All Germans are in uniform of some kind, but the women do not wear the long trains worn at the Schleppencour. They wear ordinary ball dresses. In connection with court dancing it is rather interesting to note that when the tango and turkey trot made their way over the frontiers of Germany in the autumn of 1913, the Emperor issued a special order that no officers of the army or navy should dance any of these dances or should go to the house of any person who, at any time, whether officers were present or not, had allowed any of these new dances to be danced. This effectually extinguished the turkey trot, the bunny hug and the tango, and maintained the waltz and the polka in their old estate. It may seem ridiculous that such a decree should be so solemnly issued, but I believe that the higher authorities in Germany earnestly desired that the people, and, especially, the officers of the army and navy, should learn not to enjoy themselves too much. A great endeavour was always made to keep them in a life, so far as possible, of Spartan simplicity. For instance, the army officers were forbidden to play polo, not because of anything against the game, which, of course, is splendid practice for riding, but because it would make a distinction in the army between rich and poor.
The Emperor’s birthday, January twenty-seventh, is a day of great celebration. At nine-thirty in the morning the Ambassadors, Ministers and all the dignitaries of the court attend Divine Service in the chapel of the palace. On this day in 1914, the Queen of Greece and many of the reigning princes of the German States were present. In the evening there was a gala performance in the opera house, the entire house being occupied by members of the court. Between the acts in the large foyer, royalties “made the circle,” and I had quite a long conversation with both the Emperor and Empress and was “caught” by the King of Saxony. Many of the Ambassadors have letters of credence not only to the court at Berlin but also to the rulers of the minor German States. For instance, the Belgian Minister was accredited to thirteen countries in Germany and the Spanish Ambassador to eleven. For some reason or other, the American and Turkish Ambassadors are accredited only to the court at Berlin. Some of the German rulers feel this quite keenly, and the King of Saxony, especially. I had been warned that he was very anxious to show his resentment of this distinction by refusing to shake hands with the American Ambassador. He was in the foyer on the occasion of this gala performance and said that he would like to have me presented to him. I, of course, could not refuse, but forgot the warning of my predecessors and put out my hand, which the King ostentatiously neglected to take. A few moments later the wife of the Turkish Ambassador was presented to the King of Saxony and received a similar rebuff; but, as she was a daughter of the Khedive of Egypt, and therefore a Royal Highness in her own right, she went around the King of Saxony, seized his hand, which he had put behind him, brought it around to the front and shook it warmly, a fine example of great presence of mind.
Writing of all these things and looking out from a sky-scraper in New York, these details of court life seem very frivolous and far away. But an Ambassador is compelled to become part of this system. The most important conversations with the Emperor sometimes take place at court functions, and the Ambassador and his secretaries often gather their most useful bits of information over tea cups or with the cigars after dinner.
Aside from the short season, Berlin is rather dull; Bismarck characterised it as a “desert of bricks and newspapers.”
In addition to making visits to the royalties, custom required me to call first upon the Imperial Chancellor and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The other ministers are supposed to call first, although I believe the redoubtable von Tirpitz claimed a different rule. So, during the first winter I gradually made the acquaintance of those people who sway the destinies of the German Empire and its seventy millions.
I dined with the Emperor and had long conversations with him onNew Year’s Day and at the two court balls.
All during this winter Germans from the highest down tried to impress me with the great danger which they said threatened America from Japan. The military and naval attachés and I were told that the German information system sent news that Mexico was full of Japanese colonels and America of Japanese spies. Possibly much of the prejudice in America against the Japanese was cooked up by the German propagandists whom we later learned to know so well.
It is noteworthy that during the whole of my first winter in Berlin I was not officially or semi-officially afforded an opportunity to meet any of the members of the Reichstag or any of the leaders in the business world. The great merchants, whose acquaintance I made, as well as the literary and artistic people, I had to seek out; because most of them were not hoffähig and I did not come in contact with them at any court functions, official dinners or even in the houses of the court nobles or those connected with the government.
A very interesting character whom I met during the first winter and often conversed with, was Prince Henkel-Donnersmarck. Prince Donnersmarck, who died December, 1916, at the age of eighty-six years, was the richest male subject in Germany, the richest subject being Frau von Krupp-Böhlen, the heiress of the Krupp cannon foundry. He was the first governor of Lorraine during the war of 1870 and had had a finger in all of the political and commercial activities of Germany for more than half a century. He told me, on one occasion, that he had advocated exacting a war indemnity of thirty milliards from France after the war of 1870, and said that France could easily pay it—and that that sum or much more should be exacted as an indemnity at the conclusion of the World War of 1914. He said that he had always advocated a protective tariff for agricultural products in Germany as well as encouragement of the German manufacturing interests: that agriculture was necessary to the country in order to provide strong soldiers for war, and manufacturing industries to provide money to pay for the army and navy and their equipment. He made me promise to take his second son to America in order that he might see American life, and the great iron and coal districts of Pennsylvania. Of course, most of these conversations took place before the World War. After two years of that war and, as prospects of paying the expenses of the war from the indemnities to be exacted from the enemies of Germany gradually melted away, the Prince quite naturally developed a great anxiety as to how the expenses of the war should be paid by Germany; and I am sure that this anxiety had much to do with his death at the end of the year, 1916.
Custom demanded that I should ask for an appointment and call on each of the Ambassadors on arrival. The British Ambassador was Sir Edward Goschen, a man of perhaps sixty-eight years, a widower. He spoke French, of course, and German; and, accompanied by his dog, was a frequent visitor at our house. I am very grateful for the help and advice he so generously gave me—doubly valuable as coming from a man of his fame and experience. Jules Cambon was the Ambassador of France. His brother, Paul, is Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Jules Cambon is well-known to Americans, having passed five years in this country. He was Ambassador to Spain for five years, and, at the time of my arrival, had been about the same period at Berlin. In spite of his long residence in each of these countries, he spoke only French; but he possessed a really marvellous insight into the political life of each of these nations. Bollati, the Italian Ambassador, was a great admirer of Germany; he spoke German well and did everything possible to keep Italy out of war with her former Allies in the Triple Alliance.
Spain was represented by Polo de Bernabe, who now represents the interests of the United States in Germany, as well as those of France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia and Roumania. It is a curious commentary on the absurdity of war that, on leaving Berlin, I handed over the interests of the United States to this Ambassador, who, as Spanish minister to the United States, was handed his passports at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war! I am sure that not only he, but all his Embassy, will devotedly represent our interests in Germany. Sverbeeu represented the interests of Russia; Soughimoura, Japan; and Mouktar Pascha, Turkey. The wife of the latter was a daughter of the Khedive of Egypt, and Mouktar Pascha himself a general of distinction in the Turkish army.
An Ambassador must keep on intimate terms with his colleagues. It is often through them that he learns of important matters affecting his own country or others. All of these Ambassadors and most of the Ministers occupied handsome houses furnished by their government. They had large salaries and a fund for entertaining.
During this first winter before the war, I saw a great deal of the German Crown Prince as well as of several of his brothers.
I cannot subscribe to the general opinion of the Crown Prince. I found him a most agreeable man, a sharp observer and the possessor of intellectual attainments of no mean order. He is undoubtedly popular in Germany, excelling in all sports, a fearless rider and a good shot. He is ably seconded by the Crown Princess. The mother of the Crown Princess is a Russian Grand Duchess, and her father was a Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She is a very beautiful woman made popular by her affable manners. The one defect of the Crown Prince has been his eagerness for war; but, as he has characterised this war as the most stupid ever waged in history, perhaps he will be satisfied, if he comes to the throne, with what all Germany has suffered in this conflict.
The Crown Prince was very anxious, before the war, to visit the United States; and we had practically arranged to make a trip to Alaska in search of some of the big game there, with stops at the principal cities of America.
The second son of the Kaiser, Prince Eitel Fritz, is considered by the Germans to have distinguished himself most in this war. He is given credit for great personal bravery.
Prince Adalbert, the sailor prince, is quite American in his manners. In February, 1914, the Crown Prince and Princes Eitel Fritz and Adalbert came to our Embassy for a very small dance to which were asked all the pretty American girls then in Berlin.
It is never the custom to invite royalties to an entertainment. They invite themselves to a dance or a dinner, and the list of proposed guests is always submitted to them. When a royalty arrives at the house, the host (and the hostess, if the royalty be a woman) always waits at the front door and escorts the royalties up-stairs. Allison Armour also gave a dance at which the Crown Prince was present, following a dinner at the Automobile Club. Armour has been a constant visitor to Germany for many years, usually going in his yacht to Kiel in summer and to Corfu, where the Emperor goes, in winter. As he has never tried to obtain anything from the Emperor, he has become quite intimate with him and with all the members of the royal family.
The Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg, is an enormous man of perhaps six feet five or six. He comes of a banking family in Frankfort. It is too soon to give a just estimate of his acts in this war. When I arrived in Berlin and until November, 1916, von Jagow was Minister of Foreign Affairs. In past years he had occupied the post of Ambassador to Italy, and with great reluctance took his place at the head of the Foreign Office. Zimmermann was an Under Secretary, succeeding von Jagow when the latter was practically forced out of office. Zimmermann, on account of his plain and hearty manners and democratic air, was more of a favourite with the Ambassadors and members of the Reichstag than von Jagow, who, in appearance and manner, was the ideal old-style diplomat of the stage.
Von Jagow was not a good speaker and the agitation against him was started by those who claimed that, in answering questions in the Reichstag, he did not make a forceful enough appearance on behalf of the government. Von Jagow did not cultivate the members of the Reichstag and his delicate health prevented him from undertaking more than the duties of his office.
As a matter of fact, I believe that von Jagow had a juster estimate of foreign nations than Zimmermann, and more correctly divined the thoughts of the American people in this war than did his successor. I thought that I enjoyed the personal friendship of both von Jagow and Zimmermann and, therefore, was rather unpleasantly surprised when I saw in the papers that Zimmermann had stated in the Reichstag that he had been compelled, from motives of policy, to keep on friendly terms with me. I sincerely hope that what he said on this occasion was incorrectly reported. Von Jagow, after his fall, took charge of a hospital at Libau in the occupied portion of Russia. This shows the devotion to duty of the Prussian noble class, and their readiness to take up any task, however humble, that may help their country.
My commission read, “Ambassador to Germany.”
It is characteristic of our deep ignorance of all foreign affairs that I was appointed Ambassador to a place which does not exist. Politically, there is no such place as “Germany.” There are the twenty-five States, Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, etc., which make up the “German Empire,” but there is no such political entity as “Germany.”
These twenty-five States have votes in the Bundesrat, a body which may be said to correspond remotely to our United States Senate. But each State has a different number of votes. Prussia has seventeen, Bavaria six, Württemberg and Saxony four each, Baden and Hesse three each, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Brunswick two each, and the rest one each. Prussia controls Brunswick.
The Reichstag, or Imperial Parliament, corresponds to our House of Representatives. The members are elected by manhood suffrage of those over twenty-five. But in practice the Reichstag is nothing but a debating society because of the preponderating power of the Bundesrat, or upper chamber. At the head of the ministry is the Chancellor, appointed by the Emperor; and the other Ministers, such as Colonies, Interior, Education, Justice and Foreign Affairs, are but underlings of the Chancellor and appointed by him. The Chancellor is not responsible to the Reichstag, as Bethmann-Hollweg clearly stated at the time of the Zabern affair, but only to the Emperor.
It is true that an innovation properly belonging only to a parliamentary government was introduced some seven years ago, viz., that the ministers must answer questions (as in Great Britain) put them by the members of the Reichstag. But there the likeness to a parliamentary government begins and ends.
The members of the Bundesrat are named by the Princes of the twenty-five States making up the German Empire. Prussia, which has seventeen votes, may name seventeen members of the Bundesrat or one member, who, however, when he votes casts seventeen votes. The votes of a State must always be cast as a unit. In the usual procedure bills are prepared and adopted in the Bundesrat and then sent to the Reichstag whence, if passed, they return to the Bundesrat where the final approval must take place. Therefore, in practice, the Bundesrat makes the laws with the assent of the Reichstag. The members of the Bundesrat have the right to appear and make speeches in the Reichstag. The fundamental constitution of the German Empire is not changed, as with us, by a separate body but is changed in the same way that an ordinary law is passed; except that if there are fourteen votes against the proposed change in the Bundesrat the proposition is defeated, and, further, the constitution cannot be changed with respect to rights expressly granted by it to anyone of the twenty-five States without the assent of that State.
In order to pass a law a majority vote in the Bundesrat and Reichstag is sufficient if there is a quorum present, and a quorum is a majority of the members elected in the Reichstag: in the Bundesrat the quorum consists of such members as are present at a regularly called meeting, providing the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor attends.
The boundaries of the districts sending members to the Reichstag have not been changed since 1872, while, in the meantime, a great shifting of population, as well as great increase of population has taken place. And because of this, the Reichstag to-day does not represent the people of Germany in the sense intended by the framers of the Imperial Constitution.
Much of the legislation that affects the everyday life of a German emanates from the parliaments of Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony, etc., as with us in our State Legislatures. The purely legislative power of the ministers and Bundesrat is, however, large. These German States have constitutions of some sort. The Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg have no constitution whatever. It is understood that the people themselves do not want one, on financial grounds, fearing that many expenses now borne by the Grand Duke out of his large private income, would be saddled on the people. The other States have Constitutions varying in form. In Prussia there are a House of Lords and a House of Deputies. The members of the latter are elected by a system of circle votes, by which the vote of one rich man voting in circle number one counts as much as thousands voting in circle number three. It is the recognition by Bethmann-Hollweg that this vicious system must be changed that brought down on him the wrath of the Prussian country squires, who for so long have ruled the German Empire, filling places, civil and military, with their children and relatives.
In considering Germany, the immense influence of the military party must not be left out of account; and, with the developments of the navy, that branch of the service also claimed a share in guiding the policy of the Government.
The administrative, executive and judicial officers of Prussia are not elected. The country is governed and judged by men who enter this branch of the government service exactly as others enter the army or navy. These are gradually promoted through the various grades. This applies to judges, clerks of courts, district attorneys and the officials who govern the political divisions of Prussia, for Prussia is divided into circles, presidencies and provinces. For instance, a young man may enter the government service as assistant to the clerk of some court. He may then become district attorney in a small town, then clerk of a larger court, possibly attached to the police presidency of a large city; he may then become a minor judge, etc., until finally he becomes a judge of one of the higher courts or an over-president of a province. Practically the only elective officers who have any power are members of the Reichstag and the Prussian Legislature, and there, as I have shown, the power is very small. Mayors and City Councillors are elected in Prussia, but have little power; and are elected by the vicious system of circle voting.
Time and again during the course of the Great War when I made some complaint or request affecting the interests of one of the various nations I represented, I was met in the Foreign Office by the statement, “We can do nothing with the military. Please read Bismarck’s memoirs and you will see what difficulty he had with the military.” Undoubtedly, owing to the fact that the Chancellor seldom took strong ground, the influence which both the army and navy claimed in dictating the policy of the Empire was greatly increased.
Roughly speaking there are three great political divisions or parties in the German Reichstag. To the right of the presiding officer sit the Conservatives. Most of these are members from the Prussian Junker or squire class. They are strong for the rights of the crown and against any extension of the suffrage in Prussia or anywhere else. They form probably the most important body of conservatives now existing in any country in the world. Their leader, Heydebrand, is known as the uncrowned king of Prussia. On the left side the Social Democrats sit. As they evidently oppose the kingship and favour a republic, no Social Democratic member has ever been called into the government. They represent the great industrial populations of Germany. Roughly, they constitute about one-third of the Reichstag, and would sit there in greater numbers if Germany were again redistricted so that proper representation were given to the cities, to which there has been a great rush of population since the time when the Reichstag districts were originally constituted.
In the centre, and holding the balance of power, sit the members of the Centrum or Catholic body. Among them are many priests. It is noteworthy that in this war Roman Catholic opinion in neutral countries, like Spain, inclines to the side of Germany; while in Germany, to protect their religious liberties, the Catholic population vote as Catholics to send Catholic members to the Reichstag, and these sit and vote as Catholics alone.
Germans high in rank in the government often told me that no part of conquered Poland would ever be incorporated in Prussia or the Empire, because it was not desirable to add to the Roman Catholic population; that they had troubles enough with the Catholics now in Germany and had no desire to add to their numbers. This, and the desire to lure the Poles into the creation of a national army which could be utilised by the German machine, were the reasons for the creation by Germany (with the assent of Austria) of the new country of Poland.
This Catholic party is the result in Germany of the Kulturkampf or War for Civilisation, as it was called by Bismarck, a contest dating from 1870 between the State in Germany and the Roman Catholic Church.
Prussia has always been the centre of Protestantism in Germany, although there are many Roman Catholics in the Rhine Provinces of Prussia, and in that part of Prussia inhabited principally by Poles, originally part of the Kingdom of Poland.
Baden and Bavaria, the two principal South German States, and others are Catholic. In 1870, on the withdrawal of the French garrison from Rome, the Temporal Power of the Pope ended, and Bismarck, though appealed to by Catholics, took no interest in the defence of the Papacy. The conflict between the Roman Catholics and the Government in Germany was precipitated by the promulgation by the Vatican Council, in 1870, of the Dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope.
A certain number of German pastors and bishops refused to subscribe to the new dogma. In the conflict that ensued these pastors and bishops were backed by the government. The religious orders were suppressed, civil marriage made compulsory and the State assumed new powers not only in the appointment but even in the education of the Catholic priests. The Jesuits were expelled from Germany in 1872. These measures, generally known as the May Laws, because passed in May, 1873, 1874 and 1875, led to the creation and strengthening of the Centrum or Catholic party. For a long period many churches were vacant in Prussia. Finally, owing to the growth of the Centrum, Bismarck gave in. The May Laws were rescinded in 1886 and the religious orders, the Jesuits excepted, were permitted to return in 1887. Civil marriage, however, remained obligatory in Prussia.
Ever since the Kulturkampf the Centrum has held the balance of power in Germany, acting sometimes with the Conservatives and sometimes with the Social Democrats.
In addition to these three great parties, there are minor parties and groups which sometimes act with one party and sometimes with another, the National Liberals, for example, and the Progressives. Since the war certain members of the National Liberal party were most bitter in assailing President Wilson and the United States. In the demand for ruthless submarine war they acted with the Conservatives. There are also Polish, Hanoverian, Danish and Alsatian members of the Reichstag.
There are three great race questions in Germany. First of all, that of Alsace-Lorraine. It is unnecessary to go at length into this well-known question. In the chapter on the affair at Zabern, something will be seen of the attitude of the troops toward the civil population. At the outbreak of the war several of the deputies, sitting in the Reichstag as members from Alsace-Lorraine, crossed the frontier and joined the French army.
If there is one talent which the Germans superlatively lack, it is that of ruling over other peoples and inducing other people to become part of their nation.
It is now a long time since portions of the Kingdom of Poland, by various partitions of that kingdom, were incorporated with Prussia, but the Polish question is more alive to-day than at the time of the last partition.
The Poles are of a livelier race than the Germans, are Roman Catholics and always retain their dream of a reconstituted and independent Kingdom of Poland.
It is hard to conceive that Poland was at one time perhaps the most powerful kingdom of Europe, with a population numbering twenty millions and extending from the Baltic to the Carpathians and the Black Sea, including in its territory the basins of the Warta, Vistula, Dwina, Dnieper and Upper Dniester, and that it had under its dominion besides Poles proper and the Baltic Slavs, the Lithuanians, the White Russians and the Little Russians or Ruthenians.
The Polish aristocracy was absolutely incapable of governing its own country, which fell an easy prey to the intrigues of Frederick the Great and the two Empresses, Maria Theresa of Austria and Catherine of Russia. The last partition of Poland was in the year 1795.
Posen, at one time one of the capitals of the old kingdom of Poland, is the intellectual centre of that part of Poland which has been incorporated into Prussia. For years Prussia has alternately cajoled and oppressed the Poles, and has made every endeavour to replace the Polish inhabitants with German colonists. A commission has been established which buys estates from Poles and sells them to Germans. This commission has the power of condemning the lands of Poles, taking these lands from them by force, compensating them at a rate determined by the commission and settling Germans on the lands so seized. This commission has its headquarters in Posen. The result has not been successful. All the country side surrounding Posen and the city itself are divided into two factions. By going to one hotel or the other you announce that you are pro-German or pro-Polish. Poles will not deal in shops kept by Germans or in shops unless the signs are in Polish.
The sons of Germans who have settled in Poland under the protection of the commission often marry Polish women. The invariable result of these mixed marriages is that the children are Catholics and Poles. Polish deputies voting as Poles sit in the Prussian legislature and in the Reichstag, and if a portion of the old Kingdom of Poland is made a separate country at the end of this war, it will have the effect of making the Poles in Prussia more restless and more aggressive than ever.
In order to win the sympathies of the Poles, the Emperor caused a royal castle to be built within recent years in the city of Posen, and appointed a popular Polish gentleman who had served in the Prussian army and was attached to the Emperor, the Count Hutten-Czapski, as its lord-warden. In this castle was a very beautiful Byzantine chapel built from designs especially selected by the Emperor. In January, 1914, we went with Allison Armour and the Cassatts, Mrs. Wiltsee and Mrs. Whitehouse on a trip to Posen to see this chapel.
Some of our German friends tried to play a joke on us by telling us that the best hotel was the hotel patronised by the Poles. To have gone there would have been to declare ourselves anti-German and pro-Polish, but we were warned in time. The castle has a large throne room and ball-room; in the hall is a stuffed aurochs killed by the Emperor. The aurochs is a species of buffalo greatly resembling those which used to roam our western prairies. The breed has been preserved on certain great estates in eastern Germany and in the hunting forests of the Czar in the neighbourhood of Warsaw.
Some of the Poles told me that at the first attempt to give a court ball in this new castle the Polish population in the streets threw ink through the carriage windows on the dresses of the ladies going to the ball and thus made it a failure. The chapel of the castle is very beautiful and is a great credit to the Emperor’s taste as an architect.
While being shown through the Emperor’s private apartments in this castle, I noticed a saddle on a sort of elevated stool in front of a desk. I asked the guide what this was for: he told me that the Emperor, when working, always sits in a saddle.
In Posen, in a book-store, the proprietor brought out for me a number of books caricaturing the German rule of Alsace-Lorraine. It is curious that a community of interests should make a market for these books in Polish Posen.
Although not so well advertised, the Polish question is as acute as that of Alsace-Lorraine.
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