The Great Mistake
The Great Mistake
The 1908 release for publication in the London Daily Telegraph of the Kaiser's so-called "interview" with an "unimpeachable" source has been deemed an "incredible mistake", one of the greatest gaffes of the twentieth century, the faux pas that nearly resulted in the Emperor's abdication and led to the retirement of Chancellor Bernhard 'the Lucky' Bulow, where he maintained a discreet silence pending the eventual release of his Memoirs.
. . . "You English," said the Kaiser during the Interview, "are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite unworthy of a great nation? What more can I do than I have done? I declared with all the emphasis at my command, in my speech at Guildhall, that my heart is set upon peace, and that it is one of my dearest wishes to live on the best of terms with England. Have I ever been false to my word ? Falsehood and prevarication are alien to my nature. My actions ought to speak for themselves, but you listen not to them but to those who misinterpret and distort them. That is a personal insult which I feel and resent. To be forever misjudged, to have my repeated offers of friendship weighed and scrutinized with jealous, mistrustful eyes, taxes my patience severely. I have said time after time that I am a friend of England, and your press --, at least, a considerable section of it -- bids the people of England refuse my proffered hand and insinuates that the other holds a dagger. How can I convince a nation against its will ?
"I repeat," continued His Majesty, "that I am a friend of England, but you make things difficult for me. My task is not of the easiest. The prevailing sentiment among large sections of the middle and lower classes of my own people is not friendly to England. I am, therefore so to speak, in a minority in my own land, but it is a minority of the best elements as it is in England with respect to Germany. That is another reason why I resent your refusal to accept my pledged word that I am the friend of England. I strive without ceasing to improve relations, and you retort that I am your archenemy. You make it hard for me. Why is it?" . . .
His Majesty then reverted to the subject uppermost in his mind -- his proved friendship for England. "I have referred," he said, "to the speeches in which I have done all that a sovereign can do to proclaim my good-will. But, as actions speak louder than words, let me also refer to my acts. It is commonly believed in England that throughout the South African War Germany was hostile to her. German opinion undoubtedly was hostile -- bitterly hostile. But what of official Germany? Let my critics ask themselves what brought to a sudden stop, and, indeed, to absolute collapse, the European tour of the Boer delegates, who were striving to obtain European intervention? They were feted in Holland, France gave them a rapturous welcome. They wished to come to Berlin, where the German people would have crowned them with flowers. But when they asked me to receive them -- I refused. The agitation immediately died away, and the delegation returned empty-handed. Was that, I ask, the action of a secret enemy ?
"Again, when the struggle was at its height, the German government was invited by the governments of France and Russia to join with them in calling upon England to put an end to the war. The moment had come, they said, not only to save the Boer Republics, but also to humiliate England to the dust. What was my reply? I said that so far from Germany joining in any concerted European action to put pressure upon England and bring about her downfall, Germany would always keep aloof from politics that could bring her into complications with a sea power like England. Posterity will one day read the exact terms of the telegram -- now in the archives of Windsor Castle\emdash in which I informed the sovereign of England of the answer I had returned to the Powers which then sought to compass her fall. Englishmen who now insult me by doubting my word should know what were my actions in the hour of their adversity.
"Nor was that all. Just at the time of your Black Week, in the December of 1899, when disasters followed one another in rapid succession, I received a letter from Queen Victoria, my revered grandmother, written in sorrow and affliction, and bearing manifest traces of the anxieties which were preying upon her mind and health. I at once returned a sympathetic reply. Nay, I did more. I bade one of my officers procure for me as exact an account as he could obtain of the number of combatants in South Africa on both sides and of the actual position of the opposing forces. With the figures before me, I worked out what I considered the best plan of campaign under the circumstances, and submitted it to my General Staff for their criticism. Then, I dispatched it to England, and that document, likewise, is among the state papers at Windsor Castle, awaiting the severely impartial verdict of history. And, as a matter of curious coincidence, let me add that the plan which I formulated ran very much on the same lines as that which was actually adopted by Lord Roberts, and carried by him into successful operation. Was that, I repeat, an act of one who wished England ill ? Let Englishmen be just and say!
"But, you will say, what of the German navy? Surely, that is a menace to England ! Against whom but England are my squadrons being prepared? If England is not in the minds of those Germans who are bent on creating a powerful fleet, why is Germany asked to consent to such new and heavy burdens of taxation? My answer is clear. Germany is a young and growing empire. She has a worldwide commerce which is rapidly expanding, and to which the legitimate ambition of patriotic Germans refuses to assign any bounds. Germany must have a powerful fleet to protect that commerce and her manifold interests in even the most distant seas. She expects those interests to go on growing, and she must be able to champion them manfully in any quarter of the globe. Her horizons stretch far away."
Today it is rather difficult to understand why people were so outraged by the Kaiser's interview. William had said everything therein before at one time or another. The Chancellor on whose watch the gaffe occured, Prince von Bulow, included his account of the affair in his Memoirs, which he said he wrote as if he had been under oath. He said he conducted an investigation, and, unknown to him, "the essential points in the English article had already become known to the public": they had already been published in Fleischer's Review - the Chancellor might have added, if only he had known, that the views the Kaiser had expressed in the Daily Telegraph in respect to the Boer War had been already published in the June 1907 and December 1907 National Review, and also the January 1908 Strand Magazine. In any event, Prince von Bulow claimed he had not read the draft of the article before it was published even though it had passed through his hands twice. Or so he swears; and he swears that when he received a summary of the article from the Wolff Telegraphic Agency right after it had been published, that his "peace of mind quickly changed to startled amazement as I read it." He read the "far too characteristic and far too naive assertion" of the Emperor, that Germans did not like Englishmen. "As I read these sad effusions which could scarcely have been surpassed in tactless stupidity," he reminisces, "I suspected in a flash that I had before me an article which, some time ago, I had received.... and which I myself had not had time to read." Prince von Bulow then recounts how he, unknown to the public, had saved the Emperor from even worse embarrassment:
"But precisely, and above all, in England did these fresh outpourings of William II produce the effect of a hailstorm in early summer. Their result would have been even more disastrous had I been unable, just in time, to prevent the publication of an interview given by the Emperor to an American journalist, Hale, in entire contradiction of the opinions formerly expressed.... In it that same William II, who before had expressed such violent, undying friendship for the English, said just the opposite to the Americans. He warned them against British trickery, against the English hostility to America, advising them to seek German protection from the wiles of perfidious Albion. The well-intentioned proprietor of the American Century Magazine, who had obtained possession of this interview, was, at last, persuaded to relinquish it and forego the joys of publication. At about the same time, reports the former Chancellor, Herr Bunz, the German Consul General in New York, reported that the 'famous interview', before it reached the Daily Telegraph, had been in the hands of the proprietor of the Daily Mail, Mr. Harmsworth, who later, as Lord Northcliffe, would achieve great distinction in the World War. The Daily Mail, 'with regret', gave up the idea of publishing the interview when Mr. Harmsworth was informed by the English Foreign Office that its publication was not desired."
Rejection by the Daily Mail is particularly interesting in light of the fact that it was the jingo rag relied on by political hawks to stir up hatred against Germany and to scare Parliament into providing more funds for military endeavors, particulary Admiral Fisher's beloved Dreadnoughts - any sailor who opposed the Admiral's views was considered a traitor by him. Lord Northcliffe was well known, to those who wanted the same funds for social pursuits, as a hate-monger: a "true prophet of war" whose mission was to "prophesy war and cultivate hate", said A.G. Gardiner to Northcliffe. Judging from the esctatic demonstrations in the streets when war with Germany was certain, the British had been dying to make war all along. In November 1914 Lord Northcliffe ordered his editorial staff to publish a booklet of clippings from its pro-war editions: Scaremongering from the Daily Mail 1896-1914: the paper that foretold the war; papers who had favored peace were referred to in the booklet as pro-German - meaning, traitors. Hence we wonder if the Daily Mail editors considered the Kaiser's interview too friendly to publish! We discover elsewhere that portions of the suppressed article were leaked to an American publication, The New York World, which duly published the Kaiser's suggestion that Germany and America should get together and dissolve the British Empire after it had been pulled apart by India and China. A.J.A. Morris did some digging into the correspondence of diplomats and others for his book, The Scaremongers, and came up with some choice gossip; such as, that the American journalist by the name of Hale had dressed himself up as a Methodist minister for his interview with the Kaiser, which prompted William to abuse the Vatican after expressing contempt for his uncle the King of England, saying England was rotten and marching to its ruin. Apparently certain British editors were dying to get ahold of this interview which contradicted the Daily Telegraph interview, and so were the New York papers, the New York Herald offering to pay $10,000 for a copy - but none was produced. So much for this portion of gossip.
The gaffe was in fact the convulsive culmination of considerable public anxiety over the Emperor's personal regime and the uncertain grand future of the barely pubescent German state which had been unified by Bismark in 1871, an Imperial state dominated by the Prussian ruling elite pursuant to the fatally flawed constitution Bismark had provided to ensure that power stayed in the noblest of Prussian hands. Germany's progress had been astonishing since then: compare, for example, the progress of the United States in the same number of years, from the American Revolution to the War of 1812. Of course nearly a century had passed since 1812, and the scientific-industrial revolution was working its wonders on the world and on William.
That English Woman
The twenty-nine-year old Kaiser inherited the joint Prussian and Imperial crowns from his liberal Prussian father, Emperor Frederick III, an admirer of the English constitution. When Frederick's ninety-day reign was cut short by cancer, William, as if staging a coup against his parent's liberalism, had the family residence surrounded by Hussars, then changed its name from Friedrichson, back to its original name, Neues Palais. He showed no grief for his deceased father, and treated his liberal English mother callously. A relative said William was not being deliberately unkind, but was simply "thoughtless"; his mother often complained about insults at his hands then and thereafter - her fall from prominence when her son took over the Empire did much to add insult to injury.
William's mother, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, Queen of Prussia, Empress Frederick of the German Empire, was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Royal Consort Albert of Saxe-Coburg. She was her father's daughter; at age nine she was already reciting German verses at length, as if German were her native tongue. A marriage was arranged with Prince Frederick of Prussia - she was Alfred and Victoria's offering to secure future peace between German and England. The marriage took place in 1858. The bride was eighteen, the groom twenty-seven.
Intelligent and liberally educated, the new Crown Princess of Prussia considered herself to be a "freeborn English woman." As far as the Prussians were concerned, she was Die Englanderin in Prussia, in a similar way that Marie Antoinette had been "the Austrian woman" in France. The English and Prussians were supposedly of similar racial stock, but they differed greatly in political temperament: 'English' meant 'liberal' and that term implied parliamentary power and figureheaded monarchy, things no Prussian worth his horse and sword would stand for.
We cannot blame the Prussian Old Guard for their prejudice turned to justified bias given Victoria Adelaide's intrigues to accomplish the mission given to her by Alfred before his death, the father who had believed in constitutional government and who had, his daughter said, "advocated every true , right and sound principle and therefore was great and wise and happy." She was a traitor to Prussian militancy, and wanted the rule of culture instead. It was Alfred's express will that the Princess Royal of England anglicize the Prussian state, a state her mother Victoria called a "police state." Albert of Saxe-Coburn had declared, "Prussia claims to stand at the head of Germany, but she does not behave like a German."
Crown Princess Frederick had her golden opportunity to liberalize Prussia after the 1862 showdown between 333 liberals and 15 conservatives in the Prussian Diet. The Diet refused to fund the military. William I was preparing to abidicate; the document was already drawn up: he showed it to his horrified son; Frederick, in turn, turned to his English wife for advice. She urged him to take the crown; she prophesied that, if he failed to do so, he would regret it, and their children would have pay for the mistake in order to make it good. She said that, if she were a man, she would do the deed herself, but....
Frederick's effort to secure the throne and liberalize the government, which would have placed the Prussian army under civilian control, was too weak to succeed. Bismark was called in from Paris by William I, and Bismark, as we know from his famous speech, relied on blood and iron and not on majorities for the resolution of political conflicts. It would take him an incredible ten years to transform the tiny Prussian state into the most powerful force on the Continent. Frederick, to stay out of prison, was made to promise that he would never attack his father's government again. After Bismark launched the wars of the 1860s, Frederick became a heroic commander-in-chief of armies. After winning an important battle, he asked himself, "Where will victories under Bismark lead us? That is the crushing question." And he noted some time later, "War is a frightful thing." After receiving the Order of Pour le Merite, he secretly wrote, "We can only mourn." Frederick was altruistic and humane, but he also had romantic ideas about his family dynasty. He may have been the prime mover in the restoration of the Imperial order along the majestic lines of Rome; indeed, we may suppose that the Second Reich was really his idea. Bismarck the realist liked romantic Frederick's suggestions: the title, 'Kaiser', and the unifying concept of imperial succession. However that may be, Frederick's wife had prophesied truly: he regretted his early failure to secure the crown for himself and his moderately liberal ideas to his dying day - he was already dying when he got a hold of it, and even then his liberalism had chilling effect on the conservatives. His son William did pay for his father's weakness: he moved forcefully to the militant right, and by the time he got wise millions of lives had been lost as well as the Prussian monarchy.
Now Victoria Adelaide loved her new country for awhile. During the Prussian-Austrian war, when her husband's battlefield successes were transforming him into a national hero, she wrote home to Queen Victoria: "I feel that I am NOW every bit as proud of being Prussian as I am of being an Englishwoman, and that is saying a very great deal, as you know what a John Bull I am and how enthusiastic about my home. I must say the Prussians are a superior race, as regards intelligence and humanity, education and kindheartedness...." She obviously loved her Prussian husband, and she loved the arts and sciences as well: "Amongst the liberals," she wrote. on August 13, 1888, to Queen Victoria in "I have many good and true friends. Also among men of science, letters and art. But these people are not noisy or powerful." In the same letter, she spoke of her dearly departed Fritz: "All that is foreign, especially all that is English, is hated, because it is thought to have a Liberal tendency! They did not understand Fritz, he was too good, too noble, too enlightened."
However she did not love her congenitally damaged son well enough, or at least, if we are to believe in liberal psychoanalysis, not in the right way. Instead of smothering him with liberal love to overcompensate for his birth trauma, she subjected him to a tortuous regime to willfully overcome it. You see, poor Willy was mauled during birth, leaving his left arm paralyzed and shriveled. He was partially deaf in the left ear and experienced problems later in life because of damage to the balancing mechanism of his inner ear. He had lain for two hours unattended after his birth and had nearly suffocated while doctors struggled to save his mothers life. Of course some critics blamed the damage on England; that is, on his English mother and her English doctor. Willy was made to wear an atrocious bracing contraption, and he had to study and train for twelve hours a day, six days a week; he studied Latin, Greek, World History, Mathematics - he did not like math; he excelled at horseback riding, swimming, shooting, tennis - he eventually took a liking to the military arts, losing his affection for the Army when he discovered it did not like the Navy. His useless arm throughout was the family's enemy. Sad to say, he mother once called him a "cripple" in front of company - but let us not paint her too black, as many others have done. According to Freud's analysis of much of this and more besides, Willy was bound to take revenge on his strong-arm mother, rejecting her and his 'weak' liberal father in favor of William I, his tough Prussian grandfather. That is to say, he "skipped a generation." His mother complained early on that the conservative ruling party had stolen her Willy to make him his grandfather's boy, yet she hoped the liberals and progressives would eventually win him over. No doubt he was glad to get out from under the liberal thumb at home.
As Die Englanderin, a "freeborn English woman", lay dying of cancer herself some time after her husband's death by the same cause, she asked her son, William II, King of Prussia and German Emperor, to wrap her naked body in an English flag and send it to England for burial. Emperor William consulted with tough old Chancellor Bismarck, whom she called her bete noir - when he was first appointed First Minister, she declared, "It is a totally erroneous idea that a man like Bismarck can be of use to our country - he has no principles." For reasons of state, Victoria's dying wish was dishonored.
Let the Ballet Begin
When young William took the throne when powerful new technology was being developed, and he was not about to give it up during his right-handed move to personal sovereignty. That move was engineered behind the throne by his best friend, Phillip Eulenberg. Eulenberg was responsible for Prince von Bulow's rapid rise to the chancellorship in 1900. He was also a cause celebre of the homosexual scandal that was shocking the Fatherland and embarrassing the Emperor in 1907 at the time he was giving his so-called interview in England. In 1906, a homophobic muckraker and militant nationalist by the name of Maximilian Harden, convinced that a "weak" homosexual ring, even more internationalist in character than the Socialist International, was conspiring to seize control of the Empire. Harden used his rag, The Future, to charge Eulenberg and others near the Emperor with homosexuality - gay officers in the military. He claimed to have liberal ideas about homosexuality, yet he felt it had no place in manly politics, which should more concerned with the art of war than that of friendship. He went on to advocate unrestrained submarine warfare during the Great War, after which he converted to socialism.
Phillip Eulenberg was a relative moderate gentleman, a diplomat with an interest in the arts as well as politics who rapidly rose to become the power behind the throne. He preferred diplomacy to war, believing war was too risky of a course for Germany to follow. His personal affection for William led him to oppose the 'New Course' of liberalism and to support the personal regime of the sovereign who would run his government in the Prussian way, from the top down through his ministers. Eulenberg sponsored Prince von Bulow for the chancellorship because he believed the Prince would augment the Imperial cult of personality and wholeheartedly do the Emperor's bidding, but Prince von Bulow turned out to be a slippery eel. and one who added to the Emperor's extreme discomfort in 1907 by delivering a speech to the Reichstag, assuring Germany that he was disgusted by the suggestion that Germany and its Army had been corrupted by a homosexual ring reminiscent of decadent Imperial Rome. The moral rectitude of the Imperial couple was beyond question, he said. The Imperial family was a perfect model for Germany. It was outrageous to suggest that Germany was some sort of Sodom - it was time to put an end to the gossip.
When the gaffe over the Daily Telegraph interview erupted thereafter, a sort of People's Court of Justice convened in the Reichstag. The Chancellor's defense of His Majesty was tepid. Yes, the Kaiser had observed the constitution - he had the Chancellor sign off on the interview before it was released. Yes, the Chancellor and the Foreign Office had been inattentive and had unwittingly allowed the indiscreet interview to be released - for that the Chancellor took full responsibility and offered his resignation, which the Emperor had refused. Yes, there were plans to reform the Foreign Office bureaucracy - the legislators laughed at that statement. However, or so the Chancellor implied, the buck stops with the Emperor for making his characteristic statements in the first place. To wit: the Kaiser is personally responsible, and His Majesty must refrain from such incredible mistakes during the future course of his public and private life:
"Gentlemen," said the Chancellor addressed the Reichstag, "it is certain that the appearance of this interview in England has not produced the effect His Majesty desired; that here in Germany it has caused the profoundest emotion, the gravest heart-searchings and regrets. His knowledge of this - these last few days have convinced me of fit - will cause His Majesty, even in future private conversations, to maintain that reserve indispensable to the interests of any consistent Foreign Policy, and to those of the authority of the Crown (Bulow notes a burst of applause, particularly from the benches on the Right.) "But if this were not so," (Bulow says he added, to the "prolonged acclamation of both National Liberals and Conservatives"), "neither I myself, nor any successor of mine could accept the responsibility of office." And that was not all.
Now William had always deeply resented criticism even in private, so we should know without asking how he initially felt when he heard that Chancellor von Bulow's defense amounted to a confession of the His Highness's ineptitude before the entire German nation and his willingness to be a good boy now! He was livid, to say the least. He allegedly burst into tears and accused the Chancellor of judicial murder for the defense presented to the Reichstag by the Chancellor in whom, as the Chancellor later said with some amazement, William had placed his "child-like trust" in to handle the fiasco. Up to that extremely embarrassing point, the Kaiser had not totally collapsed. According to Prince von Bulow Memoirs, Willian did suffer a bit of a shock short after the interview was published: "A dark foreboding ran through many Germans that such clumsy, incautious, over-hasty - such stupid, even puerile speech and action on the part of the supreme Head of the State, could lead to only one thing - catastrophe. The Emperor himself, if only for a passing instant, felt the earth tremble beneath his feet."
Before the Reichstag interpolated the Daily Telegraph hearings into its proceedings, Prince von Bulow recounts that William had planned on visiting Kiel and Hamburg, but he was advised not to do so because hostile demonstrations were expected. On 31 October 1908, three days after the interview was published, he visited the Chancellor: "He was," wrote Bulow, "as he always was at moments of crisis, very pale, very pitiable." Bulow insists in his Memoirs that he told the Emperor what he would say before the Reichstag, a declamation against the sovereign's personal intervention in foreign policy. He claims William then grew calm, placed his child-like trust in him, and said, "However you do it, get us out of this, bring us through."
Despite the "unpleasant shock" Bulow said His Highness initially experienced, we hear from other sources that, on 4 November, William did not seem to have a clue about the grave damage to his image the interview had caused. On 6 November, he sent the Chancellor a cheery note. He slapped another concerned official on the back, saying he ought not worry, the gaffe would blow over, there was a silver lining in every cloud. He went off stag hunting in Austria, then visited his best friend Prince Furstenberg at Castle Furstenberg for a week. On 10 November, while the Reichstag was listening to Chancellor von Bulow's speech, the Kaiser was enjoying a Zeppelin launching at Castle Furstenberg; he loved the sea most of all, but he foresaw the virtue of air power and said that the air show had been "one of the greatest moments in the development of human culture." So it was not until the next day, on 11 November, when he received the news of the Chancellor's so-called "defense" of His Highness, that he was outraged. However, he was not mortified until several days later, on 14 November, during a tragic episode at the Castle.
"During this whole affair I underwent great mental anguish," wrote the Kaiser in his Memoirs, "which was heightened by the sudden death before my eyes of the intimate friend of my youth, Count Hulsen-Haesler, chief of the military cabinet." While the storm over the Daily Telegraph was raging in Berlin, the Kaiser was being entertained by his best friend and personal advisor, His Serene Highness Prince Maxmilian Egon zu Furstenberg, German-Austrian grand seigneur, multi-millionaire, the power behind the Imperial throne replacing scandalized Phillip Eulenberg. Prince Furstenberg was a very handsome man; his wife apparently kept an eye on him, so there is little suspicion that he was up to hanky panky within the inner Imperial circle. He was in fact the perfect friend to have around during bad times. Not only was he brutally honest with the Kaiser, he loved to tell vulgar jokes and stories and to stage entertainments to distract William from his royal troubles. In this case the entertainment included General Hulsen-Haseler dressed up in a tutu. He was an excellent dancer and had on other occasions performed as a ballerina. This time he had a heart attack immediately after his exertion and dropped dead. The guests hastily redressed the body and laid it on an improvised bier. This whole affair at Prince Furstenberg's castle only served to add to the 'November Storm" raging in Berlin. Emil Ludwig represents the scandalous version well in Wilhelm Hohenzollern, The Last of the Kaisers (1927):
"It was Durer's Dance of Death come true . But the Emperor did not read the writing on the wall. He did not see that once again a mightier hand than his had pointed threateningly to follies and frivolities. Encircled by anger and resentment of sixty millions of active fellow-creatures, one man sat, inactive and provocative, drowning his mortifications in music-hall songs and jokes, in shooting parties and ballets, and allowing exasperating tales of Court-life to circulate among the people. Now, when finally one of his most prominent Generals had appeared as a ballerina before the highest society, disgracing the most illustrious class in the land, behold! the hand of Heaven was put forth; it struck the abject courtier to the earth- upon the wall of the castle at Donaueschingen flamed the great Mene Tekel, that now at last the roistering King might look into his heart. But the King was looking into quite other places."
A Slap in the Cheek
Instead of a slap to the Kaiser's cheek - it would be merely a wrist-slap in a democracy - the Reichstag might have used the Daily Telegraph gaffe to diminish the Imperial power by rendering the parliament truly parliamentary, but it passed up the golden opportunity. After all, under Bismark's constitution, the Reichstag, the lower house of the parliament, although it was gaining in power, was little more than a debating society when it came to crucial matters. The upper house, or Bundesrat, the federation of states, had the real power, and it was dominated by Prussia - the latter could always raise enough votes to block any power plays by other states although kid gloves must be used to deal with them lest they pull out of the Empire. The only way to make the Kaiser and his Chancellor legally responsible to the Reichstag would be to amend the constitution. There was no chance of that at the time, and those who were fond of and beholden to Imperial power believed the Chancellor was a traitor to his Emperor. The Chancellor was allowed to stay on for a few months because he was handling the Bosnian crisis - Austria's annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But in 1909, when he sponsored an inheritance tax bill to fund the armament build up, which was running the government into a huge deficit, the conservatives, who did not want to be directly taxed for the Navy, and others with opposing interests, took their revenge and defeated the bill, albeit narrowly. The Chancellor got the point and submitted his resignation - he did not have to submit it, as there was no constitutional provision for no confidence. The Kaiser gladly accepted the resignation on the spot, the spot he pointed out later to a visitor, declaring it to be the very spot where he got rid of that "scoundrel." Prince von Bulow thought he would be recalled someday - fat chance. In his Memoirs he relates how he parted on good terms with he Kaiser.
As for the chance for the Emperor's abdication, it was rather slim. William had threatened to quit on previous occasions when he felt let down by the Germany he identified with as if he were the state reflected and vice versa. He loved the new media as much as his new fleet and the new dirigible technology, hence he cultivated his personality for the masses - he was a publicity hound. Having identified with public opinion instead of rational reasons of state, his bipolar moods often swung with the irrational public mood; when the German press came down on him after the interview was published, his Zeppelin was punctured, he sunk to the pits of depression after brief periods of denial and enragement - he experienced one of his "nervous collapses", and was given to fits of "convulsive weeping." During his rehabilitation, he was at first only able to take walks and to care for his dogs. His son the Crown Prince recounted in his Memoirs that he was shocked at his father's appearance when he visited his sick-bed; "He seemed aged by years; he had lost hope, and felt himself to be deserted by everybody; he was broken down by the catastrophe which had snatched the ground from beneath his fee; his self-confidence and his trust were shattered. A deep pity was in me. Scarcely ever have I felt myself so near him as in that hour."
The Kaiser's incomplete recovery from the Daily Telegraph gaffe took nearly a year - he never made a full public comeback. "He has never recovered from the blow," wrote the Crown Prince. "Under the cloak of his old self-confidence, he assumed an ever-increasing reserve, which, though hidden from the outside world, was often more restricting than the limits of his constitutional position." But, no, the Emperor was not about to abdicate. When push came to shove, he held on, at least until he left the country after the Great War in order to save his own skin, retiring to the life of a country gentleman in The Netherlands, where he cut down 40,000 trees to stay in shape.
The Well Written Interview
The Emperor had declared his 1908 interview with the Daily Telegraph to be "well written" prior to its release. He was apparently astonished by the angry worldwide response to his effort to win over the hearts and minds of the English by expressing his friendship for them because relations between Germany and Britain had been strained since the First Morocco Crisis. In 1905, at Chancellor Bulow's urging and against the Emperor's better judgment, or so he said, the Emperor, assisted by nature, created a provocative scene at Tangier. His Majesty got soaked during a rough disembarkation from the ship Hamburg. He then mounted a frisky steed for the ride into Tangiers.
Now William took pride in his horsemanship and loved riding horseback - he used a saddle for his desk-chair in his office. He preferred a well-trained horse with a soft mouth, one he could guide with slight movements of his weakened left arm. Yet this horse gave even his strong right arm quite a challenge, hence he arrived at his destination in an excited state of body and mind. There, in the name of free trade, he stepped on France's toes, demanding equal economic privileges in Morocco for all nations. Furthermore, he said would deal directly with the Sultan as a free and equal ruler of an independent country. He said that he expected France to respect his rightful claim, and that he knew how to validate it by "bringing influences to bear." Before the French Charge d' affaires, Count Cherisey, could respond, William curtly dismissed him; paled by the experience, the Count withdrew with head lowered. To his German colony in Morocco he declared, "I am happy to salute the devoted pioneers of German industry and commerce who aid me in my task of maintaining the interests of the Fatherland in a free country. The Empire has great and growing interests in Morocco. Commerce can only progress if all the Powers are considered to have equal rights under the sovereignty of the Sultan and compatible with the independence of the country. My visit is the recognition of this independence." To the Sultan's uncle he said, among other things, "My visit is to show my resolve to do all in my power to safeguard German interests in Morocco. Considering the Sultan as absolutely free, I wish to discuss with him the means to secure these interests."
Since the visit to Tangiers is considered to be one of the greatest diplomatic blunders of the years leading to the Great War, since it made a mountain out of a molehill, thus causing the limited entente between France and Great Britain to be extended worldwide, we must provide some background information. France and Great Britain had entered into the Entente Cordiale in April 1904: France exchanged her claims to Egypt for a protectorate over the chaotic, disintegrating kingdom of Morocco, with a view to establishing in Morocco trade monopolies. But certain Secret Treaties would also be signed, one in the same month, another in September, pursuant to a diplomatic negotiation between France, Britain and Spain, to partition Morocco when the Sultan lost control over a substantial portion - that portion to go to Spain for her administration providing she keep it open for trade. Hence at the same time Spain was declaring her adherence to the Entente Cordiale between France and Great Britain, she was smacking her lips behind the scenes over the prospect of the choice portion she was to have along the Mediterranean coast from Melila to the Sebu River. As for the Kaiser, he did not give much of a hoot about Morocco until the Secret Treaties were leaked to Berlin, and Chancellor von Bulow then urged him to make waves. If the British or French diplomats had bothered to let Germany, France's dangerous neighbor, in on the deal, Germany might have demurred; but she was the last to know since she was not considered to be a Mediterranean power. Therefore the Fatherland's Foreign Office took umbrage and pressure was brought to bear on the Kaiser. He contacted President Teddy Roosevelt, who was out hunting bears. Teddy believed France had the high moral ground in the crisis, but he was duly concerned about the probable consequences and wanted to ameliorate the anxiety because, he said, "Each nation is working itself up to a condition of desperate hatred of the other - each from fear the other is going to attack." A conference was proposed. At first France was against it and Great Britain took her side. M. Theophile Delcasse, French Minister for Foreign Affairs, did his best to rouse France to war. William know a demonstration at Tangiers would be a flirtation with disaster; he had expected as much as war and did not want it; that is why he said he had initially demurred when his Chancellor approached him; but then he caved in and proceeded to do what he felt was constitutional - go along with his ministry.
The Opposition in France was suitably alarmed by the prospect of war, especially in view of France's unpreparedness for such an event. Foreign Minister Delcasse was soon dismissed from his post, whereupon William was so overjoyed by the dismissal that, according to Chancellor Bulow, he magnanimously blurted out that he would like to "give" Morocco to France, an expression which of course diminished Germany's influence at the conference that was in fact eventually held at Algeciras to resolve the First Moroccan Crisis. Both the Kaiser and his Chancellor were embittered by the conduct of Great Britain throughout the crisis. British hawks who had taken their official perches around the time of a previous incident, that of the Kruger Telegram, were already leery of the German "menace" - Admiral Fisher wrote to Landsdowne: "All I hope is that you will send a telegram to Paris that the English and French fleets are one. We should have the German fleet, the Kiel Canal, and Schleswig-Holstein in a fortnight."
Britain, whose previous conduct had been duplicitous to say the least, supported France at the Algeciras Conference, ignoring Germany's friendly approaches, and was working for an agreement with Russia. Nonetheless, the resulting Treaty should have been considered a minor triumph for Germany albeit one that should have not been desired since it reinforced the 'encirclement' of Germany. However that may be, an American diplomat, surprised by the negative reaction in Germany to the agreement, said the Treaty of Algeciras was actually a victory for Germany because Germany had obtained everything the German diplomats had wanted. Prince von Bulow in his Memoirs, reports, "Although it may not have given us all we wished, it did represent the essentials of what we had striven to maintain.... France did not obtain the Protectorate at which she had aimed.... We had made a victorious stand for commercial freedom in Morocco. We had secured a definite right to cooperate in the future development of Moroccan affairs.... We had stood unshakably by the great principle of the Open Door which had never ceased to guide us since the beginning of the Moroccan Affair." Nevertheless, militant German nationalists considered the 1906 Treaty of Algeciras a national disgrace. The Emperor's influential friend Phillip Eulenberg, who would suffer an ignominious fall from power in 1907 due to the homosexual scandal, was eventually smeared for taking part in the Algeciras disgrace, purportedly for being unmanly or weak. As for the Kaiser, he was convinced by England's behavior that he had good cause to be paranoid; therefore, so did Germany: the Fatherland was being encircled and would soon be suffocated in his crib unless he struck pre-emptively, in self-defense.
"At the Algeciras Conference," wrote William in his Memoirs, "the shadow of the Great War was already visible. It is assuredly not pleasant to be forced to retreat politically as we did in the Morocco matter, but Germany's policy subordinated everything to the great cause of preserving peace." There would be more trouble in Morocco, and a Second Moroccan Crisis. Germany's interest would evnetually be traded off for a piece of the Congo. In retrospect the Kaiser's intuition was correct: Germany would have been better off if Morocco had been "given" to France. Prince von Bulow gets the blame for stirring up a hornet's nest for future references; nonetheless, that the anti-German entente was enlarged and strengthened demonstrates a certain predisposition to fight, a prejudice looking forward to one provocation or another.
It was with the alarming shadows of war in mind; the headaches of the armaments race; the homosexual scandals casting doubt on Prussian and therefore on his Imperial virility; and other pressing matters of state; - that William ventured to England in late autumn 1907. After visiting his uncle King Edward at Windsor, he had been invited over to rest at General Stuart Wortley's Highcliffe Castle. William had not wanted to travel to England at first, feigning faintness - his detractors insist it was a homosexual panic due to fear of exposure; he said it was due to a cold - but he, feeling better, had been persuaded to travel. Chancellor Bulow asked him to seize the opportunity to get on a good footing with the English. He did just that.
General Wortley was duly impressed by William's friendly effusions in England, so he wrote them down. In November 1908, when the General visited William at the Alsaac Maneuvers, he suggested that William's anglophilic remarks be published as an interview. As the public clamored over the interview, William asked the Chancellor to add the following explanation to the planned press release vindicating him, "The manuscript is a resume of a number of conversations I had last autumn with various people in England, and that it was by their wish - since they seemed to confident of the English public - that the substance of what I said has been made available to as wide a section of their fellow countrymen as possible. I consented to their entreaties in the fashion described above." Curiously, in view of the Chancellor's denial that he had read the interview before its release, and his insistence that if he had done so, he would not have allowed its release, the Emperor wrote in his Memoirs that during his stay in England he had repeatedly telegraphed the conversations in question to the Chancellor; that the Chancellor then repeatedly approved of same by return telegram; and that his companions in England had read the exchanges and "rejoiced with me at the harmonious understanding between me and the chancellor." If we dig deeper in the Memoir wars, we are told that the Kaiser ordered a search of the files for the series of telegrams, but none could be found; so he figured the Chancellor had burned them, but on second thought he thought the exchange might have been by letter instead of telegram; the Chancellor did not remember and such letters, and neither did his wife who kept his correspondence in order; well, the Kaiser recalled that he told his Chancellor all about the conversations while they stood by a tree in the Chancellor's garden; the Chancellor remembered no such conversation - in any case, the Kaiser insisted he remembered very well how he had fully informed the Chancellor the conversations, and the latter thanked him very much for further the ministry's policy.
The Kruger Telegram
The Daily Telegraph interview was a deliberate attempt to use the English press as a tool to manipulate public opinion in order to befriend or mollify the English people - incidentally, the interview had apparently been rejected by the Daily Mail upon request of the English Foreign Office, but was accepted by the Daily Telegraph because pro-German General Wortley brought his influence to bear on the publisher, a close friend of his. After all, a friendship might help alleviate the suffocating encirclement Germany was experiencing on the Continent, and surely that was a crucial consideration, even more important than the opinion of Germans who hated England. The controversy over who was responsible for releasing the draft interview to the press is rather silly, and diverts attention from the fact that the key players involved knew what was going it - there had been no incredible mistake. Heads did not go on the chopping block at once because, after all, as far as His Highness was concerned, it was a damned good interview.
Now the Kaiser was a modern monarch: he was aware that a monarch, theoretically, only answers to God. Nonetheless, in modern practice, one must listen to the voice of the people and make sure that it echoes the divine will. Again, as for the blaming game, the political heels and slippery eels, your author believes nearly everyone involved were well aware of the contents of the interview before it was published and had few qualms about doing so. The gaffe resulted from an miscalculation of the probable reaction of the German public. Such a gaffe would be avoidable today by means of polling techniques - but once the Imperial egg was laid on the international stage, the actors had to take turns sitting on it. In addition, and unfortunately for the Kaiser, he discouraged negative feedback from the people around him, therefore denying to himself what little information he might get about the fluctuating attitude of his subjects. And, lest we forget, there are always those who secretly relish the idea that the boss will get what he deserves - at the outset of his reign, more than one minister thought the inexperienced young master needed a dousing in cold water to teach him a good lesson.
Be that as it may, the interview with the Kaiser included his profession of friendship for the English people; a sentiment which he said was not shared by "large sections of the middle and lower classes" of his own people. The original draft of the interview reportedly stated a "universal" German antipathy for the English; but it had been edited; according to later commentators, this was one of the few "minor" or "major" changes to the original draft. The published version represented the Kaiser as a presumably friendly member of the minority of the "best elements" in the Fatherland. The liberals and socialists felt insulted by the elementary school remark; however, there did in fact exist upper-class elements who expressed fondness for the English, and profusely so when they were not prepared to make war on their formidable friend.
Der Kaiser informed the English people that they were "mad, mad, mad as March hares" for doubting his friendship; that he, Queen Victoria's loving grandson, had in effect won the Boer War for the British because he had sent along plans to England for the successful military campaign executed by Lord Roberts. Furthermore, he said that when he was approached by Russian and France for his assistance in an effort to save the Boer Republics and humiliate England in the process, he had refused their advances on the grounds that he would not compromise Germany by going against a great sea power like England. Posterity, he said, will find the evidence in Windsor archives, in the form of a telegram informing England's Sovereign of his refusal. No such telegram could be located later; France denied it had made any such approach; evidence existed that Russian Minister Muraviev had suggested a coalition against England, but in the first weeks of the Boer War, not at its height.
"Let my critics ask themselves what brought a sudden stop, and indeed, to absolute collapse, the European tour of the Boer delegates, who were striving to obtain European intervention? They were feted in Holland, France gave them a rapturous welcome. They wished to come to Berlin, where the German people would have crowned them with flowers. But when they asked me to receive them - I refused. The agitation immediately died away, and the delegation returned empty-handed. Was that, I ask, the action of a secret enemy?"
The Kaiser's reference to the Boer War plans drew guffaws from the House of Commons in London when a member joked that the Kaiser's plans could not be located in the files. Actually, the German Foreign Office had been in possession all along of a copy of a document he had sent to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, on February 4, 1900, containing 'Twenty-two Aphorisms on the Conduct of War.' During a speech to the Reichstag, Chancellor von Bulow informed the members that said aphorisms were relatively harmless observations including an inappropriate analogy to a football match with Australia. Yet we note that the German Foreign Office had given the go-ahead to publication of the interview, and had not corrected the Kaiser's claim in light of what it had in its files. However that may be, Chancellor von Bulow informed the Reichstag that the claim was "mere bragging humbug from end to end." The Chancellor also told the lower house that he recalled that a memorandum on the South African War had been drawn up by the General Staff, as is usual for all wars, but nothing had been transmitted to England. He noted in his Memoirs that his remarks to the Reichstag on the "unhappily chosen expressions of opinion" by the Emperor drew applause. And this all before he moved on to the "direct defense" of His Majesty! Quite naturally William had a few things to say in his own defense elsewhere. No doubt he was fuming most mightily in his inherent Teutonic furor, and we would not want to print his private remarks to Prince Furstenberg even if we were privy to them.
The Kruger Telegram expressed just the opposite sentiment toward England than the warm feelings the Kaiser conveyed in the Daily Telegraph interview. On January 3, 1896, he sent a telegram to Paul Kruger, leader of the Boers, congratulating him for thwarting Dr. Leander Starr Jameson's incursion into the Boer Republics at the head of a band of British irregulars - the Boers arrested and imprisoned the outlaws: "I express to you my sincere congratulations that, supported by your people and without calling for help from friendly powers, you have succeeded by your energetic action against armed bands that invaded your country as disturbers of the peace, and have therefore been able to restore peace and safeguard the independence of the country from outside attack."
The Kaiser had followed the constitution before sounding off on the issue: before the Kruger Telegram was transmitted, German Secretary of State Baron von Marschal examined it and omitted the Kaiser's reference to providing the Boers with "the support of the Reich." Nonetheless, the Boers considered the telegram as a sign that they could count on the Kaiser as their ally in war, and they proceeded to arm themselves under German auspices - the military successes of the Boers soon astonished the world.
Most of the world and especially the Germans sympathized with the Boers ("farmers"). The Boers, staunch Calvinists who considered themselves divinely elected in Africa to follow in the patriarchic paces of Moses, were descended from a 1707 Cape Colony population of 1,779 that included French Huguenot bloodlines but was largely Dutch and German. They had gone forth out of glutted Cape Town and had multiplied. Germans loved the romantic nomadic quest of the Boers and had made substantial investments in the two Boer Republics. Of course England coveted the diamonds and gold: the world's monetary system was practically based on gold, and control of the largest gold-mining complex in the world, which so happened to be in the Transvaal, would certainly bolster the British neo-mercantilist freedom of trade about the globe. In any event, the attitude of many Germans during the Boer War was anti-British enough at the time one might say that they hated the English with a passion. As for the Kaiser, he found himself somewhere between loving and hating the English depending on his mood. He was given to spouting off one way or the other, but his seemingly retroactive Daily Telegraph expression of affection for the English and his claim therein to having won the war against the Boers for England did not sit well in the beer- and sausage-laden stomachs of Pan-German nationalists who were touting the advance of the superior Germanic culture everywhere, including Africa, let alone the staunchest of Prussians, who were traditionally antipathetic to the English and considered William the progeny of traitorous wedlock.
Although the English reaction to the Daily Telegraph interview was not nearly as severe as the German reaction, the English had been in fact been outraged by the Kruger Telegram. Of course Britain had not officially authorized Dr. Jameson's invasion of Boer territory, but it had the tacit approval of the British capitalist-superpatriot Cecil Rhodes - he did not appreciate anyone obstructing Britain's path in South Africa, especially when that path led to the biggest gold mines on Earth. As for William, his English side felt "hurt" by the English reaction to the Kruger Telegram while his Prussian side had cause to fear an attack from Britain and the seizure of Germany's colonies, presumably with the help of France and Russia. And what else was he to expect from his self-fulfilling flirtations with disaster? No doubt he was somewhat paranoid: a month after the Kruger Telegram gaffe, William had an irrelevant criticism of the British suppression of the Ashanti tribe - published by the English paper The Speaker - translated into German and published: Britain was characterized as a powerful bully beating up naked savages, treating their families and envoys like pickpockets.
In any case, the English reaction to the Kruger Telegram if not to the Daily Telegraph Interview was scarcely surprising. After all, amongst his other flaws, the half-English Kaiser was a virtual traitor to England. In 1894, Queen Victoria had made her grandson an honorary colonel in the Royal Dragoons; and, shortly thereafter, she made him an honorary Admiral of the British Navy! The Kaiser donned his new uniform and proposed a toast to the peaceful alliance of the British Navy and German Army; the Germans did not have much of an navy to speak of at the time - the Kaiser remarked in Germany that once he had his own fleet built, he would be able to express himself sincerely....
Joachim von Kurenbergin, in The Kaiser, a Life of Wilhelm II, Last Emperor of Germany reports the English outrage over the Kruger Telegram: "The press spoke of 'a gross lack of tact,' and an 'unheard of interference in British affairs that were no concern of the Kaisers.' The bitter feeling was such that German seamen in Dover and German businessmen in London were assaulted. Some German business premises in Liverpool were demolished and German workman were beat up on the docks. German associations all over England were compelled to close their doors and barricade their windows."
In 1884, two years prior to the Kruger Telegram, when rioting broke out against the English in Sudan, had not the Kaiser had declared, "Let us hope the Mahdi will drown all the Englishman in the Nile!"
On the other hand, true to his vacillating nature, on October 23, 1899, the Kaiser expressed his delight to Walderson with English military successes in South Africa. And William informs us in his Memoirs that he traveled to England with his wife and sons in 1899 to visit his ailing royal grandmother. She had the English Press informed that it would please her very much if the attacks on the Kaiser over the Kruger Telegram affair would cease during his visit, and that a friendly reception be presented to the public instead: "Not once in the entire visit was the Kruger dispatch mentioned," relates the Kaiser. "On the other hand, my royal grandmother did not conceal from her grandson how unwelcome the whole Boer War was to her; she made no secret of her disapproval of, and aversion for, Mr. Chamberlain and all that he represented, and thanked me again for my prompt and sharp refusal of the Russo-French proposal to interfere and for my immediate announcement of this proposal. One could easily see how much the Queen loved her splendid army and how deeply she had been grieved by the heavy reverse suffered by it at the outset of the war, which had caused by no means negligible losses. Referring to these, the aged field marshal, the Duke of Cambridge, coined the fine phrase: 'The British nobleman and officer have shown that they can die bravely as gentlemen." Thus is the Boer War, for which some Africans today want a formal apology from the Queen of England for Britain's brutal conduct, is called the last gentlemanly war.
In the Daily Telegraph interview, the Kaiser said that he received a sorrowful letter from Queen Victoria in December 1899, wherein she grieved the losses of Britain's "Black Week" between whites in South Africa - a rapid succession of British defeats on December 10, 11, and 15, at, respectively, the battles of Stormberg, Magersfontein, and Colenso. It was then that William sent over his war plan to save England: "Was that," he asked in the interview, "an act of one who wished England ill? Let Englishmen be just and say!" Perhaps the plans were "harmless" aphorisms, yet it appears that William linked them in his own mind to the eventual British victory - a ruthless victory at that, involving scorched earth, human shields and massive death in concentration camps. He probably sincerely believed he deserved credit for the so-called 'victory.' Mind you, he said the similarity between the line Lord Roberts had followed and his own suggestions was a "curious coincidence." In the final analysis, no one won the Boer War: it was a costly, futile exercise, a senseless war between whites that also cost thousands of black lives.
Furthermore, the records show that William sent encouraging telegrams to British royalty, one to the Prince of Wales praising him for the defense of Ladysmith against Boer attacks. And Uncle Edward gratefully thanked William for his support. However, at about the same time, it is believed that William sent a diplomatic message to the Tsar, promising Russia that Germany would protect his Western frontier if Russia took advantage of the English preoccupation with the war to attack England's Asian interests. Perhaps his 'cousin' the Tsar got to William: on October 21, 1899, the Tsar wrote to Grand Duchess Xenia that "Not even the mightiest fleet in the world can prevent us from hitting England where she is the weakest... I intend to arouse the emperor's ire in every way against the English, by recalling to his mind the well-known Kruger Telegram." Moreover, when the British offered a friendly hand to Germany via Chamberlain, the latter received a cold shoulder from Chancellor Bulow.