The first Emperor of the New Germany is one of those historical personages who, without possessing remarkable talents, are nevertheless called upon to act important parts, and upon whom their peoples, after the lapse of centuries, look back as political benefactors. He does not possess the gifts of his deceased brother, is not, like him, keen and witty, a scholar and a connoisseur of art, but he has other qualities, and the very ones which Germany, on account of its internal weakness, and its position between two powerful and ambitious military states, most needed, if it was to escape the fate of Poland. With his clear understanding and firm will, his determination, his spirit of self-sacrifice, his conscientiousness, his consistency in pursuing the objects set before his eyes, he is exactly the prince whom our country had to find in order to make Germany strong through unity, and to raise her to her proper place among the nations of Europe. Freedom at home was not our first need, but freedom from foreign influence and restraint; the other, so far as useful and possible to a state like Germany, was sure then to follow and gradually develop itself. It is folly to cherish any fears in this regard.
The Emperor William is, above all things, a soldier; he is the type of the Prussian officer. His spirit quickens the leaders of the army, and from them is transmitted to the lower ranks and the private soldiers. He is not a great general like his strategist Moltke; but he created the army which triumphed at Sadowa and Sedan; his correct judgment selected and supported the men who knew how to manage the powerful machine so that it would work fruitfully in all its parts, and it remains to the present day the object of his most conscientious study and attention. He has indeed conquered; but he is without greed or lust of conquest. He has only won what Germany had to win for her own security against envious and ill-disposed neighbors: good frontiers; a disposition of the ports to the best advantage of the whole in the interior; and the extension of the Prussian military system over the whole people a measure which was required as much by a sense of equity as by political prudence. When this was accomplished, the man of war with the imperial crown transformed himself into the most pacific monarch which the world has seen in this century.
The time and the circumstances in which the Emperor William received his first impressions of life and his first impulses were of great influence upon the development of his character. His youth fell in the years, beginning with the unlucky day of Jena, of Prussia's and Germany's deepest humiliation. This period, with its trials and its shame, was calculated to impress itself indelibly on the memory, and to direct the efforts of the young prince toward the one end of bringing about a rise after the fall, and making the return of such misfortunes impossible. To this view of his duty he was materially aided by his mother, Queen Louise, the royal martyr, who died at the time of a broken heart, and for whose cruel treatment by Napoleon he obtained in 1870 an ample retribution. When, in the third week of October, 1806, in the flight after the battle of Jena, the Queen overtook at Schwedt her sons, who had been sent on in advance with their tutor, she addressed to them the following exhortation:
"I see in a single day an edifice destroyed on which great men have labored for two centuries. There is no longer a Prussian state, a Prussian army; no longer any national glory. Oh, my sons, you are of an age when your minds can appreciate and feel the great events which have overtaken us. In the future, when your mother no longer lives, call this unhappy hour up in your memories. Shed tears over your mother's memory, as I now weep over the prostration of my country. But do not be satisfied with tears. Act; develop your powers. Perhaps Prussia's protecting spirit .may descend upon you; then deliver your nation from the shame, the disgrace, the debasement, under which it now suffers. Strive to re-conquer from France the glory, just now obscured; of your fathers, as your ancestor, the Great Elector, avenged upon the Swedes at FehrbeIlin the outrages committed against his father. Let yourselves not be carried away, my princes, by the degeneration of this age. Be men, and strive for the name of soldiers and heroes. If you wanted this ambition, you would be unworthy descendants of the great Frederic. But if with all your efforts you fail to raise up the fallen state, then seek death, as Louis Ferdinand sought it."
The protecting spirit of Prussia did in fact descend upon the Prince William. The Queen's words fell like good seed upon rich soil. His growth and maturity were completed by the military education which, like all Prussian princes, he enjoyed. On the 1st of January, 1807, being then not yet ten years old, he was appointed an officer by his father. On the 20th of January, 1813, a few weeks after York's convention, which began the release of Germany from the yoke of the foreigner, he replied to the bishop who at his confirmation asked him what effect at that gloomy time the belief on an all-wise and all-good Providence had upon him:
"This belief will elevate and strengthen me. I believe firmly and steadfastly on Him who says to the presumptuous, thus far and no farther; here shall thy proud waves be stayed. The dawn of a better day breaks. I hope with joyful confidence that the almighty and gracious God will be with my royal father, his house, and his faithful people."
This faith accompanied the Prince as, by his father's side, he took part in the two campaigns of the war of liberation. Near Mannheim he was present for the first time at a fight with the French; in the battle of Bar-sur-Aube he won by his gallant conduct his first military decoration, the Russian Order of St. George; and at La Fere Champenoise he carried, through the heaviest artillery fire, the order to press forward and fire with cartridge.
Returned from the war, the Prince resumed his interrupted studies under his governor, Colonel Von Brause. Characteristic of his way of thinking are the life principles and vows which the eighteen year old youth wrote down, and from which I select, as especially laudable, and worthy of imitation by other high persons, the following:
"I take pleasure in my high station, not on account of the distinction which it gives me among men, but because in it I can work the better and accomplish the more. My rank ought always to remind me of the great duties which it imposes upon me, the great exertions which it requires of me, and the great temptations against which I have to battle. I will never forget that a prince is also a man, and before God only a man, sharing with the meanest of his people the weakness and the wants of human nature; that the laws which control others are written likewise for him; and that he, like others, will one day be judged according to his conduct. I know what owe, as a man and a prince, to my honor. Never will I seek it in things where only madness can find it. My powers belong to the world, to my country. I will therefore be unweariedly active in the sphere assigned to me, employ my time in the best manner, and accomplish as much good as lies in my power. I will maintain an honest and hearty goodwill toward all men, even the humblest, for "they are all my brothers. I will use my dignity as a prince to the disadvantage of nobody, oppress nobody by my own superior facilities; and when I have demands to make of anyone I will be gracious and friendly, in order to render the execution of the demands as easy as possible. I esteem it much more highly to be loved than to be feared, or merely to enjoy the consideration of a prince. Flatterers I will firmly repel. The best, the most open, the most sincere, shall be the most. welcome to me. I will hold those to be my best friends who tell me the truth, even when it may seem likely to displease me."
These principles were not simply written down; they have been realized in life. They adorned the Prince, and became the daily guide of the King; they made him great; they won and preserved for him the love of his people. In obedience to them he has always taken his mission strictly and earnestly, first as soldier, then as ruler.
In 1817, having carefully prepared himself for the post, he received a seat and voice in the Council of State. Still for a long time the military rather than the civil service claimed his attention. Having already during the war reached the rank of major, he became successively during the following ten years of peace colonel, major-general, and (1825) commander of the Third Army Corps. In his youth somewhat delicate, he became, three years later, at which time he married a princess of Saxe-Weimar, the present Empress Augusta, a vigorous and stalwart man. "Prince William," wrote Gagern at that time to Stein, "is the noblest figure that can be seen, the most imposing of all; besides that, he is comely and chivalrous, spirited and gallant, yet always with dignity."
After the accession of his brother to the throne, the subject of our sketch, who thenceforth bore the title of "Prince of Prussia," applied himself more than formerly to civil affairs. In 1840 he was appointed Governor of Pomerania, and two years later, during the absence of his brother in England, the conduct of all military and civil affairs was entrusted to him. In 1844 the Prince himself made a journey to London. Bunsen wrote of him then: "The Prince is greatly taken with England; he admires her greatness, and perceives that it is the consequence of her political and religious institutions."
When the insurrection of March, 1848, broke out in Berlin, and the weak King yielded to the demands of the democrats, the Prince was understood to disapprove, and to lean toward reaction. The first supposition was certainly unfounded. He was at the time again in England, and Bunsen says of him, in a letter to Dahlmann: "Is the Prince an absolutist or reactionist? That he is thoroughly honest, open, and consistent even the ill-disposed have never denied, if they speak with any knowledge of the man. In the very first days, and with the quick yet firm intelligence which is peculiar to him, he revealed a perfect clearness of view in regard to his own and Prussia's situation. The exchange of ideas with Peel, Russell, Palmerston, and, above all, Prince Albert, has made past and future only clearer." Recalled by the King, he wrote to him on the return journey: "I cherish the hope that the free institutions, to the firm organization of which your Majesty has summoned the representatives of the people, will gradually develop themselves, with God's gracious aid, to the welfare of Prussia. I shall devote to the service of this development, with confidence and loyalty, all my forces." And in the Prussian National Assembly he declared, a little later: "The constitutional monarchy is the form of government which our King has introduced. To it I consecrate my powers, with the conscientiousness and the fidelity which the country has a right to expect from my well-known character. This is the duty of every patriot, especially mine, as the first subject of the King."
The National Assembly called by the King went so far in its demands that to govern with it was impossible, and its dissolution became necessary. The Prince approved this decision. He had previously declared that the rights and franchises of the people must be held sacred, but not at the cost of the rights and powers of the crown; that order and law, not anarchy, ought to rule.
In the summer of 1849 the Prince commanded the army which was sent to put down the insurrection in Baden and the Palatinate, and in the period of six weeks this task was fully accomplished. The same year, in October, he was appointed military governor in Westphalia and on the Rhine, and changed his residence from Berlin to Coblentz. In 1854 he became governor of the federal fortress of Mayence, and was simultaneously made colonel-general, with the rank of field-marshal. The reaction which in consequence of the extravagance of the liberals had set in Prussia failed also to keep within the bounds of moderation, and was guilty of many coarse excesses against the press and the new institutions generally; and in ecclesiastical affairs its pressure was heavily felt. The Prince did not sympathize with this policy; and, as this was soon known, it produced a revolution in the public sentiment toward him. He who had hither to been counted among the friends of the past and the advocates of a return to absolutism, passed thenceforth for a moderate liberal; so that when after 1854 the rivalry between Prussia and Austria became keener, and the former began better to understand its mission in Germany, to respond to the national expectations - the impulse being given by Bismarck, at the time Prussian envoy in the federal Assembly - Prince William was recognized as the silent head of the party which was striving for the regeneration of Germany under the lead of the state of the Hohenzollerns. Accordingly, when his brother, King Frederic William IV., was taken ill, and it became necessary to appoint a regent, who, his Majesty having no children, could be only Prince William, the heir presumptive, the hopes of all German patriots were centered in him.
The justice of these hopes was vindicated; a revolution took place in the home and foreign policy of Prussia. The Regent dismissed the existing reactionary cabinet, and appointed men of moderately liberal views. At the same time, in a re-script of November 8, 1858, he made known his political principles and aims. He there declared, it is true, that there could be no discussion about a rupture with the past, but promised "to apply a reforming hand wherever the arbitrary or the inadequate still showed itself." "What has been promised," continued the re-script, "must be religiously performed; what has not been promised, firmly prevented. Above all, I warn the public against the stereotyped phrase, 'The government must continue steadily to develop liberal ideas, otherwise they will open their own road. If in all its acts truth, legality, and consistency speak, a government is strong, because it has a clear conscience, and with this it is possible to resist firmly every form of evil." Passing to the subject of the Church, the Regent observed: "In the Evangelical Church an orthodoxy has intruded which is not reconcilable with its essential spirit, and has hypocrites in its train. All phariseeism, all ecclesiasticism, if merely means to selfish ends, should be rooted out wherever possible." Then further: "The army has accomplished great things for Prussia; the neglect of it brought upon us a great catastrophe, which has been gloriously wiped out by the opportune military reforms that the victories of the war of liberation made possible. An experience of forty years and two brief war episodes (Baden and Schleswig-Holstein) have nevertheless convinced us that many things which have not justified themselves by trial need amendment. To this end are required political calm and money. It would be a fatal error to be satisfied with a cheap military establishment, which, in the hour of danger, would disappoint our expectations. Prussia's army must be strong and able to command respect, in order, when it becomes desirable, to throw a heavy weight into the balance." Finally, coming to the German question, the Regent declared: "In Germany Prussia must make moral conquests through a wise legislation at home, the recognition of all ethical forces, and the seizure of elements of union, like the Zollverein. The world must learn that Prussia is ever ready to protect the right. A firm, consistent, and energetic conduct in politics, aided by prudence and good sense, is sure to gain for Prussia the consideration and the influence which it would not be able to command through its physical means alone. "Of these passages of the re-script, that which was directed at the hypocrisy of clerical reaction, and that which explained the attitude of the Regent to the German question, found hearty applause among the people, and in the newly elected liberal House of Deputies; that which set forth the necessity of military reforms, and of money to carry them out, found, on the contrary, no appreciation, but rather distrust, among the short-sighted and narrow-minded Deputies. In this measure the Regent saw, however, his first and most important task - an opinion which the events of the year 1859 were only calculated to strengthen. Unfortunately the popular representatives were in this matter unable to shake off their prejudices and suspicions; and in 1860 they refused to authorize the expenditures for the reorganization and enlargement of the army, which had in the mean time been begun. Full of doubt and impatience, they wished first to have practical evidence of an energetic and fruitful policy before their eyes, not considering that, without a strong army, energy could not be displayed.
The discontent of the liberals increased. A fanatical young man, the student Becker, saw in King William - for he had just ascended the throne on his brother's death - an enemy of freedom, and July 14,1861, on the promenade at Baden-Baden, made an attempt to shoot him - an attempt which happily effected only a slight wound. The style and manner in which the King caused himself to be crowned, in October of the same year, at Konigsberg, strongly emphasized the principle of legitimacy, irritated the radicals, and made them the more suspicious of his purposes. In view of this feeling it caused no surprise when the next elections went in favor of the opposition; and when the King suffered the nerveless and incapable "ministry of the new era" to fan, because it failed to procure the approval of the Diet to the scheme of army reorganization, there began the momentous four years constitutional conflict, which did not reach its end until the King and Bismarck, his new Premier, had shown the skeptics on the battlefields of 1866 why the army had been reorganized, and what it could accomplish. In the interval King William, although the rapid decline of his popularity closely touched him, held steadfastly to his purpose, and supported the Bismarck cabinet, hated as it was, with all his authority. I subjoin a few of his utterances, which will show his loyalty to the constitution.
In the speech from the throne of January 14, 1862, he said: "The development of our institutions must be made to serve the strength and greatness of the country. I can never consent to see the progressive unfolding of our state life endanger the rights of the crown, the strength and security of Prussia." In a re-script dated March 19, and addressed to the ministry, it is said: "It is my duty and my firm intention to maintain the constitution and the rights of the representatives of the people, according to my oath, in all their integrity; but, at the same time, to vindicate and preserve unimpaired the rights of the crown, which Prussia needs for the execution of its mission, and the weakening of which would involve the ruin of the country."
On the 13th of October Bismarck declared, on closing the session of the Diet: "The government would be guilty of a grave neglect of duty if the reconstruction of the military establishment, begun on the strength of former grants of the Legislature, should now be abandoned, with the sacrifice of previous outlays, and at the cost of Prussia's interests, because of a vote of the House of Deputies. We find ourselves obliged to provide for the expenses of the government without that legislative authorization for which the constitution provides. We are fully conscious of the responsibility which this unfortunate state of things imposes "upon us; but we also remember the duty which we have toward the land, and in that we find our authority for making, without the sanction of the Diet, the outlays which are necessary to the maintenance of the existing institutions of state, and to the furthering of the public welfare, feeling sure that eventually they will receive the constitutional ratification."
The King's theory in regard to the justification for a budgetless regime was set forth in the re-script of February 3, 1863, in reply to an address of the House of Deputies: "The address characterizes the control of supplies as the supreme right of the representatives of the people. I recognize this right, and shall ever insist that it be observed, so far as it is contained in the constitution; but I must call the attention of the House to the circumstance that, according to the constitution, the members of both Houses of the Diet represent the people, and that the annual budget can be authorized only in the form of a law that is a concurrent resolution of both Houses duly approved by me. Is such a concurrence unobtainable, then it becomes the duty of the government to see that in the mean time the administration goes on without disturbance. It would have failed in its responsibilities if it had not done this." At the close of this re-script the King, while emphasizing his own efforts and sacrifices for the sake of harmony, calls upon the Deputies to meet the government half-way, "since a reconciliation is for him a heartfelt want."
All in vain. The majority of the Deputies held stubbornly to their pretended rights, and the conflict became from session to session more bitter and more violent. In such circumstances the internal reforms came to a full stop; but in the German question the King followed, under Bismarck's bold and sagacious guidance, a very decided policy. He declined an invitation to take part in a congress of German princes at Frankfort, since it evidently contemplated a reform of the confederation under Austrian auspices, and promised no adequate representation of the people. In alliance with Austria he began a war for the release of Schleswig-Holstein from the tyranny of the Danish democracy, and conquered the duchies for Germany. Finally, setting aside his legitimist theories, he entered upon the war against Austria and her allies, in order to bring about a reconstruction of German affairs, which was absolutely necessary, but could not be effected by pacific measures. Like Charles Albert of Sardinia, he risked much, but he was more fortunate than he, because better prepared. The Prussian army, remodeled by him in spite of the opposition of the Diet, was everywhere victorious, and in seven days the greatest revolution which Germany has ever seen was entirely accomplished. But the victory was used with moderation. From the conquests only the absolutely necessary was retained. The King wished to annex Austrian Silesia, North Bohemia from Reichenberg to Eger, to take from Saxony the Lausitz, and from Bavaria the northern part, which had once been in possession of his house. Bismarck advised that only so much be taken as was necessary: he had in view an early understanding with Austria and Bavaria, and did not wish to make them irreconcilably hostile through loss of territory. The King suffered himself to be convinced, and gave up the fulfillment of his wishes. Returned home, he showed himself in internal politics equally ready to follow the advice of his minister, and to offer the hand of reconciliation to the House of Deputies, by authorizing him to ask indemnity for the past. Surrounded by the halo of a great victory, borne aloft on the enthusiasm of an immense majority of the people, brilliantly vindicated in respect to his new military creation, he needed no indemnity, and could perhaps have overthrown the whole constitutional system in Prussia without running any serious risk. He preferred the other way, and proved thereby that his views were moderately, indeed, yet honestly, liberal. The larger number of the Deputies respected this line of conduct, and harmony was restored between monarch and people. The fruit of his moderation toward the South German states was a secret alliance, offensive and defensive, between the newly founded North German Confederation and those states-a treaty which proved later to be of service.
By the constitution of the North German Confederation King William became President of this union of the larger part of the German states. In Prussia as in German affairs he and his minister went as far as possible hand in hand with the moderate liberals; and the completion of the new institutions, in which the life of the nation was thenceforth to develop itself, united and powerful, was greatly accelerated by the harmony which followed from the happy compromise. The cabinet of the King also received a more liberal character, and at the same time a larger element from the bourgeoisie, as one after another the ministers who had made themselves hated during the "conflict" were replaced by statesmen of more reasonable views. Bismarck remained at the lead of the affairs of Prussia and of the Confederation. Not only gratitude moved the King to continue to govern with his aid, but also the conviction that his genius was absolutely indispensable. He above all others had planned and carried out the work of union; he alone possessed the sagacity to preserve it diplomatically against foreign dangers, and in the interior to keep it firm and fruitful of blessings. That the King recognized this, and supported, though sometimes hesitatingly, the reforming schemes of his Chancellor, is one of his most noteworthy virtues. It must often have been far from easy for him to yield.
The Emperor Napoleon had not seen with pleasure the issue of the war of 1866. He had expected from it some advantage for France, and it had not come; He regarded with uneasiness and jealousy the growing power of Germany, which was not withdrawn from the old influence of the West, and as early as 1869 he began to prepare for war. The election of a Hohenzollern as King of Spain furnished him with a pretext. Although King William showed himself conciliatory in the affair, and responded to the wishes of France as far as was consistent with his honor, the latter grew more and more exacting, and at length presented grossly humiliating and impossible demands. By Bismarck's advice they were refused, and the Emperor of the French declared war on the King. He saw all Germany in arms against him; from the Baltic Sea to the Bavarian Alps, the suddenly reunited nation roused itself; its armies hastened to the frontier; the King followed to take the chief command against the hereditary foe; battle after battle, ever greater and bloodier, was fought and won by the Germans, and at Sedan the Emperor Napoleon, hitherto the all-powerful dictator of Europe, laid his sword, as a prisoner, at the feet of the King. Paris also fell finally, after a long and brave defense, and at Versailles the new German Empire was founded. The peace restored to the Germans all the lands of which in the time of their discord they had been robbed by the ambition of France, and with them a good frontier, a strong wall against this ambition. It was the greatest and grandest time that Germany had seen for centuries; the joy over their victory in a most righteous war resounded through the whole broad land, and found an echo in the most remote backwoods of America, where German hearts beat and the German tongue was spoken. The Germans in America lived far from the bosom of the mother; they were republicans; but they were sensible that our blood ran in their veins; they were "our kin across the big water," and they reveled in the glory with which God had surrounded their brothers in the old country. The ravens flew no more about the Kiffhiiuser. The old Kaiser in the mountain was released; but the new Kaiser might have said to himself, on the occasion of his triumphal entry into Berlin, June 16, 1871, that the foresight and the persistence with which he had labored to arm first Prussia and then the entire father-land had been not the least of the causes of the successful issue of the terrible struggle.
The Emperor William had begun his career as an enlarger of the empire; he declared that he would continue it as guardian of the peace, and kept his word, to the advantage not only of his own people, but also of Europe, by using his best efforts and those of his Chancellor to reconcile differences, allay animosities, and prevent collisions between neighboring states. With this object in view he brought about, in September, 1872, the triple alliance, which was to unite Germany, Austria, and Russia in the bonds of friendship, and especially to effect a rapprochement between the last two powers. The same purpose was served by the visits which he made in 1873 to St. Petersburg and Vienna, and in 1875 to Milan, and by the policy of Germany in the Berlin Congress, which aimed to modify the demands of Russia, after her victory over the Turks, in such a way as to make them reasonable without threatening the interests of England and Austria. The vanity of Gortschakoff and the fantastic aspirations of the Muscovite panslavists were not satisfied with this policy. A keen irritation against Germany took possession of that class; war preparations were heard of in Western Russia; there were rumors of attempts on the part of the Russians to gain France for an alliance against the two middle European states. This was the moment for Bismarck to carry into execution a long cherished and well prepared plan, namely, to restore the connection with Austria, so far as it was desirable, and to establish a firm alliance between the two states for the defense and maintenance of the peace of the world. The Emperor William was at first averse to this policy. He was influenced by the most amiable considerations; he was held to the Czar by the bonds of personal friendship, and long hesitated to affix his signature to the compact for which the Emperor Francis Joseph was eager. In the end, however, sentiment gave way before a calm study of the situation, the influence of the somewhat doubtful Russian assurances of friendship before considerations for the welfare of Germany. He yielded to the representations of the Chancellor, who in this matter saw further and thought clearer than he, and an alliance was closed - an alliance which not English voices alone greeted with the words, "A great blessing has befallen the world" - words which received more weight in 1883 by the adhesion of Italy to the powerful league of middle Europe.
If Kaiser William bore after 1871 the olive-branch in the laurel wreath, it was above all the case in respect to his foreign policy. In home affairs the restless energy with which he applied himself to affairs had indeed rich results to show; the military organization of the German Empire on the Prussian model was carried through, and the reform of the Prussian administrative system also made progress. But soon after the war with France, began the war with Ultramontanism, the so-called "Culturkampf," which was not directed, as alleged, against the freedom, much less the existence, of the Catholic Church in Prussia, but against the efforts of a party dominant in that Church, and aided by an infallible Pope, to abridge the freedom of the state, and according to the principles of the Syllabus to banish free thought, with its consequences, from society and the schools. As in everything else, the Emperor supported his ministers also in this conflict loyally and with strict legality, and neither the threats nor the flattery of the clericals, neither the intrigues of a party of court" bonbonniere" favorable to them nor the pressure of a very exalted lady seeking in the guise of an angel of peace a voice in the government, were able to seduce him from this path. Yet he showed himself ready to give his sanction to Bismarck's change of front, when the Chancellor saw that the new Pope was of a conciliatory disposition, and that the measures which had been taken against the aggressions of the Ultramontanes could be modified without injury to the state; for his chief desire was the welfare of all his subjects, and the Church and the worship of the Prussian Catholics had in truth suffered under the Falk laws.
Another contest arose in 1877. Up to that time occupied above all things with questions of foreign policy, Bismarck found time then to study two great domestic problems, and to undertake their solution. Germany's industry had suffered greatly under a system of legislation inspired by extreme free-trade principles, and demanded protection against the powerful competition of foreign countries. At the same time it was desirable to place the empire on an independent footing as regards finance by means of rich revenues to be derived from the tariff and the tobacco monopoly. On the other hand, the Socialist movement, which had been started by the laboring classes in Germany, and in spite of restrictive laws was daily gaining ground, demanded measures which should serve to improve the condition of and to pacify the workingmen. Their lot was to be made easier, their future made secure, through a system of insurance against accidents and decrepitude, as well as through invalid funds; they were to learn that the state had a heart for them, and instead of simply exacting tributes in money and blood, would also give them aid and sympathy in the struggle for existence. The invalids of the manufactories were no more to be suffered to go to ruin than the invalids of the army or the civil service. That was Christian and also politic, for it was hoped that by such laws the empire would win millions of hearts which were bitterly hostile to it, and expected relief only from a cosmopolitan revolution. The Imperial Diet showed little friendliness toward these projects of the Chancellor. It contained many fanatical free-traders, and many who feared that the tax and tariff reform would abridge in some way the parliamentary control over the budget. The state should not become strong by coming forward as a benefactor of the poor, should not interfere at all in economical questions. Strong opposition from the liberals followed, therefore, when the government refused to grant the desired constitutional guarantees, and to make certain of their leaders ministers. A large part of the liberals which hitherto had generally supported the government went over into the camp of the opposition; and the struggle over the above described question took on more and more the character of a contest about the line of division between the power of parliament and that of the crown. The reform of the tariff was carried through with the aid of the clericals; but the others were checked, and the new elections resulted on the whole unfavorably for the government.
In this struggle the Emperor-King stood throughout on the side of his Chancellor and minister. This he often proclaimed in the most solemn manner before the nation, especially in regard to the social political views of Bismarck.
The Emperor William is a man of large stature, imposing figure, and regular and friendly features. A strictly regulated activity, and simple, temperate habits have preserved in him in his advanced age a rare physical vigor and an uncommon intellectual freshness. He is little bent as he walks, and at parades or manoeuvres can even today be seen sitting erect many hours in the saddle. If he has shown great moral courage in various situations, he has likewise proved - and as an old man - that he possesses the physical courage of the soldier. At Sadowa as at Gravelotte he rode dauntlessly up to positions upon which the hostile shells rained, and was only persuaded by his. suite with great difficulty to retire. " Simple, honest, and sensible, "thus his mother characterized him in the year 1807, and thus he grew harmoniously to manhood. He is not animated by a strong interest for the efforts and creations of art or science, and shows a penetrating knowledge and an independent judgment only in military and political matters. To the characteristics already mentioned should be added his moderation in prosperity, his modest estimate of his own services as compared with those of his subordinates especially Bismarck and Moltke, and his high conception of his public duty, which teaches him to regard the welfare of the state and people entrusted to him as the chief object of his thoughts and actions, and not only to bow in special cases before the law, but even to sacrifice long cherished views and projects to the obligations which his high office imposes upon him.
The private life of the Emperor flows. along very simply. When in Berlin he occupies a comparatively small palace on the corner of Unter den Linden and the Opera Place, his presence being made known to the Berliners by the red flag with the Landwehr cross, which is then hoisted over the roof. The window of his study on the ground-floor looks out upon that point in Unter den Linden, where Rauch's statue of Frederic the Great stands. Ordinarily the Emperor rises between six and seven o'clock in the morning. He dresses at once completely for the day; the convenience of dressing gown and slippers is unknown to him. The room to which, after a slight breakfast, he goes for work is rather plainly furnished. There is a mahogany writing table, covered with writing materials of every kind, packages of letters, small presents from members of his family, and mementos of battles in the form of paperweights. Smoking implements fail, for the Emperor is no friend of tobacco. On a long and broad table nearby lie books, maps, bundles of documents, and papers of various kinds. The Emperor sits at his work on an ordinary chair covered with leather, and receives personally all communications, opens them himself, writes his decision on the margin, and hands them to his secretary to be disposed of. One of his peculiarities is his economy in the use of paper and envelopes. In Versailles one evening he announced a new victory of the Germans to the Chancellor on a piece of paper which had been torn from a letter. In Berlin the envelopes which reach him with reports from the Foreign Office addressed, "To his Majesty the Emperor," go back with the "to" erased and "from" substituted so that the envelope reads, "From his Majesty the Emperor," with "To the Chancellor" written beneath. The Emperor's extraordinary capacity for work makes it possible for him to dispose, as a rule, personally of the affairs connected with his office, or at least to direct their disposition in his own way.
Upon his rustic castle at Potsdam the Emperor has expended more than upon his city residence in Berlin. Potsdam, with its groves and parks, its contrasts of wood, meadows, gardens, and especially the Havel inlets, which look like great mirrors in settings of hills, is one of the most beautiful points in Brandenburg-nay, in northern Germany; and Babelsberg, the Tusculum of the German Emperor, is perhaps the most charming corner in this paradise, so gracefully favored alike by nature and art. Its owner spends, however, only a few weeks each winter here, although the castle can be reached in less than half an hour from the railway. The greater part of his time is passed in Berlin, which is the seat of the central government and the Diet. Wiesbaden, Ems, and Gastein are his favorite health resorts. Grand hunting parties sometimes take him away, for he is a friend of the chase, arid even yet is a skillful and lucky sportsman. But the days which he passes at Babelsberg, resting from the fatigues of his position, are especially helpful to him. The Emperor William is a great friend of the corn-flower (the bachelor's-button). In regard to the cause of this preference the following old and pretty story is told: "One day - it was at Konigsberg, and in the gloomiest period of Prussia's history - the Queen Louise sat in the garden of the house on the Hafen, which the royal family then occupied, when a young girl approached, and, without knowing whom she had before her, offered a bouquet of fresh corn-flowers for sale. The Queen, full of sympathy, spoke kindly to the thinly clad child, and learned that she had a sick mother at home who could earn nothing. She thereupon, with tears in her eyes, took the flowers from her, rewarded her generously, and then called her children, who were playing nearby. She showed the Princess Charlotte, afterward consort of the Czar Nicholas of Russia, and the Prince William, how a wreath could be made of the flowers without shears, called the attention of the children to their simple beauty, and then drew the moral that in nature, as in human character, plainness and simplicity coexisted with beauty. This lesson, taught by the royal mother in such a graceful form, together with the pretty wreath, which she finally placed on the head of the Princess Charlotte, made the blue cyan the favorite flower of the future Empress of Russia and her brother, the present German Emperor; and when, a few years later, the Queen died, the cornflower became for both a memento of their sanctified mother. When, in the year 1817, the Princess, in company of her brother William, journeyed by way of Konigsberg to St. Petersburg as the bride of the Emperor Nicholas, she found her room in the castle of the first - named city richly decorated with corn-flowers; and as they both crossed the Russian frontier the Princess wore on her head a wreath of such flowers, which had been handed to her at the last Prussian station.
If we now look back over our recital, and consider once more particularly the political character of the Emperor William, we see in him a prince who, never forgetting the obligations imposed upon him by the Prussian and German constitutions, has kept strictly within the bounds of legality, but is quite as little as Prince Bismarck a friend of parliamentary absolutism, which, for the rest, is not to be found in those constitutions. The parliamentary regime, the successive rule of two great parties, has arisen in England naturally, is equitable and useful. But it is not therefore a panacea for all nations. The relations and circumstances on the continent of Europe are, at least as yet, essentially different from those upon the group of islands which compose the British Empire. Germany's situation permits perhaps less than that of any other great state of the Continent a serious curtailment of the monarchical power; and that the Prussian constitution contains no such curtailment is, as Bismarck declared to the opposition in the Imperial Diet two years ago, a great good fortune for Germany. Reflect, said the Chancellor, in substance, on this occasion, that if the case were otherwise there would now be no German Diet. If King William had interpreted the constitution from 1860 onward as the liberal majority understood it; if, accordingly, he had continued to follow the foreign policy of the two predecessors of Bismarck, and to choose ministers who would represent and carry out the views of each successive parliamentary majority, then the reorganization of the Prussian army would never have been carried through. For the then liberals had no conception of what was alone possible and politically right in the German question; that is to say, they had not convinced themselves that in order to be able to restore German unity a strong Prussian army was indispensable. Instead of willingly granting the King the necessary support, a majority of the Diet opposed most desperately his efforts to create a military force, with which German unity could not only be restored, but also defended in battle against foreign foes; and if the King had not then remained firm and carried out his plan, Germany would today be as bad as it was before 1866 - nay, in all probability even worse.
Furthermore, if King William had not been in a position to enforce his own policy in 1863, but had been compelled to follow that of the Diet, Prussia would have necessarily taken sides with the Polish insurrection, and against Russia, which would thenceforward have been our enemy, have hindered and disturbed our German plans by every means in her power, and probably have joined France in an attack upon us. It was in no sense merely from family affection for the Czar, or from admiration of the Russian governmental system, that the King acted contrary to the wishes of the liberals, who felt sympathy for the Poles simply because they were resisting a government. Russia ought rather to be conciliated, put under obligations of gratitude, and made a good neighbor in future wars; and this policy approved itself in 1866 and 1870 as perfectly sound. It would have been our ruin if the Diet had then had the right and the power to compel the adoption of the opposite policy.
Finally, to mention one more example, if things had gone according to the will of the majority in parliament in the Schleswig-Holstein question of 1864, the King would have been forced to put himself at the service of the small German governments which represented the Confederation - that is, state rights - and sought to elevate Duke Frederic of Augustenburg, a supporter of their aims and pretensions, to the throne of the duchies. For that, and nothing else, was then the leading opinion in the Prussian House of Deputies. If that opinion had prevailed, Prussia would have executed in the service of the Frankfort majority a decree of the Confederation, and with its own means have created a new enemy on its flank. The proceedings of the Prussian House of Deputies at that time seem now almost incredible, so great was the blindness of the liberals toward what the interest of the land clearly and plainly demanded. Had the King yielded, and the Diet carried its point, the shrewd plan of Bismarck to win Austria for common action with Prussia in the matter of the federal project would have been defeated of its results. It would have been necessary to give up the transaction with the Vienna cabinet, to abandon the idea of a joint campaign of the two great powers, and to carry out the federal decree without any other reward than a certificate of merit from the President of the Confederation. The Confederation would have been strengthened, would have existed even today, to the great injury of Germany, and would probably have a better prospect of continued life than at any time since its foundation. Still greater was, however, the probability that Prussia, adopting this course without Austria, would have been restrained by the other European powers, and have been reduced by the Federal Diet to the inevitable fate of experiencing a second Olmutz. The absurd scene on the Eschenheimer Gasse in Frankfort would have continued, amid the laughter of Europe, and to the shame of the nation, and of a German Diet there would be even today no question except in dreams. It was therefore no disadvantage, but a blessing, that King William held firmly to his own policy, although it was supported by only eleven voices in the House of Deputies, and that he resolutely followed the traditions of the Hohenzollerns, and the line of conduct which his German instincts and his patriotic heart set before him as the true ideal. He said at the time to Bismarck, who seemed at first not to view the Holstein question with German, with national, eyes, "Are you, then, not also a German?" and in truth, though appearances might be otherwise, the views of the King were directed in this, as in other affairs; toward the greatness and welfare of Germany, toward strengthening it through union. He changed his advisers until he found a ministry which understood him, and was ready to carry his purpose into execution, to cut loose from the scruples of former governments, and to support a national policy that was about to draw the sword and cut the Gordian knot.
King William, the German Emperor, created and recognized our constitutions by giving them his approval. He has faithfully observed them, has always ruled constitutionally; but he has never consented to be a mere royal figurehead, without any will of his own, and in whose name ministers govern who are mere creatures and servants of the majority in parliament. He will not let himself be metamorphosed into a mere principle, but is determined to be a living prince, standing in direct relations to the people and its representatives. The great majority of Prussians are accustomed to this, and demand nothing else.
"What we have" - thus Bismarck closed one of his great parliamentary speeches "we owe not to parliamentary but to royal measures. For that reason we should be the last to assail that vital correlation between King and people as it has always, and never to the injury of the land, existed in Prussia. On this basis the kingdom has become so great and strong that you, gentlemen" (he turned at these words toward the Left), "are unwilling to come into immediate contact with it, but desire to have royalty concealed behind a curtain. But when we see what monarchy has done for us, we should strive to further, to cherish, to animate it, not to suffer it, as it were, to become obsolete through disuse. Everything which is put away in a closet and not used loses the quality of usefulness, and so it is with the, for Prussia, indispensable monarchical principle. If that be taken from us, what can the gentlemen put in its place? If this strong King, so deeply rooted in the glorious history of centuries, is to be hewn in pieces, ruined, dissipated into clouds so high that we can no longer see him, then chaos will be the result."
This speech contains the last article of the Emperor's political creed; its principle illustrates his leading trait as a ruler.
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. May 1884.