- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Mar 1915, p. 105-115
- McCrimmon, Chancellor A.L., Speaker
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- The war, revealing certain great principles of action and certain great trends of history. Some of our preconceptions being verified; others not. The trend of German ambition. A review of the history and traditions of Prussia and Germany, with three people coming to mind: Frederick of Prussia, Bismarck, and the present Kaiser. Nearly all of the great nationalistic movements of Germany having their origin in, or flowing from, these three men. The trouble with Germany that she came late into the world of nations, with little or no elbow-room left. Her need and methods of taking possession of sundry portions of the earth. The revelations, with a discussion of each. The tortuous and immoral policy of diplomacy of Prussian statesmanship that is also revealed, and that is also traditional. The war also bringing us disclosure that the German autocracy is incapable of interpreting the British genius and understanding the true spirit of democracy. Also showing that the spiritual bond which binds the Empire is a very real one. In the last place there is revealed to us the fundamental distinction between the British and the German genius when the people are under severe compulsion and pressure. The difference in the genius also as represented by the literary productions of the two countries. The speaker concludes with the national Hymn of Hate which has been produced by the Germans, with responses from Lewis and R.E. Vernede, as an illustrative example.
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- 18 Mar 1915
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- Full Text
- SOME WAR REVELATIONS
AN ADDRESS BY CHANCELLOR A. L. McCRIMMON M.A., LL.D.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, March 18, 1915,
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--The war reveals certain great principles of action and certain great trends of history. Some of our preconceptions have been verified; others have not been verified; our minds have been disabused of them. The New York Times in an editorial said, " We did not know Germany a few months ago, but we know her right well now." We may not know her to the full, but at least there are a few revelations of which we are fairly certain. The war reveals to us the trend of German ambition. When I think of the history and traditions of Prussia and Germany, three persons come to my mindFrederick of Prussia, Bismarck, and the present Kaiser. Nearly all of the great nationalistic movements of Germany have their origin in, or flow through, these three men. Frederick had an economic policy; he was a mercantilist, and he looked across the water and saw that Great Britain had become great, which he attributed largely to her woolindustry; so, from a national view-point, he began to build up a silk-industry. A national policy of industry is a good thing for a country as long as it is not allowed to minister to an ultra-egoistic and selfish policy which is antagonistic to the best interests of mankind. Bismarck also had a national policy, and identifying himself, rightly or wrongly, with the system of protection, he developed the industries. Thereresulted anurbanisation of the population of Germany, and an overproduction in certain lines of manufacturing industry relative to the home market. That caused the eyes of Germany to turn to foreign markets, to a foreign trade, to a merchant marine, and to the protection of that marine. The present Kaiser's policy respecting industry and commerce is well known.
There was a populational problem for Frederick the Great; he had to bind together the people of Prussia with a common ideal and certain common objects. The same problem faced Bismarck in larger proportions, to have a confederation of the German states, and building on the foundations of Napoleon, he turned the attention of Germany to certain common objects. You remember he went north to Denmark and seized Schleswig-Holstein. He rapped in 1866 at the doors of Vienna; he brought in the southern German principalities in 1870, having made France appear as the, aggressor in the Franco-Prussian War. Now we find the Kaiser with his populational problem of what to do with his sixty-five or seventy million people on an area no larger than that occupied by France's forty million, and the population increasing a million every year. He does not want to lose them by emigration, so colonisation and foreign policies appeal to him.
The military policy of Frederick was to command a large and efficient army, and he was successful in that. You remember the line runs true again with Bismarck and Moltke; they wanted and were successful in getting together a military machine probably as perfect mechanically as the world has ever seen. The present Kaiser goes Bismarck one better; he says, "Not only on land but on the sea, not only a policy respecting the army, but a policy respecting the navy;" and looking out upon the water he says, "Our future is there, the trident must be in our hands; we must send the power of German autocracy wherever the German flag flies."
Necessarily there followed the same evolution in political theory and political practice. Frederick of Prussia had in mind the making of Prussia the dominant power among the Germanic states. Bismarck widened that out and he said, " We must give to this German Confederation, this German Empire, the hegemony of Europe; it must sit astride Europe dictating the policies to the states; " and to a certain extent success has crowned the efforts of the German Empire. The Kaiser, enthused with that policy, and with the problems I have mentioned, began to think about world-empire and to talk in world terms; and so we have the widening horizon and we have the ambition and the trend of German life.
The trouble with Germany was she came late into the world of nations. She found that there was no elbow-room there, and so, if she was going to have a colonisation policy, if she was going to develop that kind of foreign policy to which I have referred, she would have, by main force or by political expedient or illegitimate means, to take possession of sundry portions of the earth. Well, she got a foothold, you recall, in China, in the Pacific Islands and in Samoa in 1900. Before this certain men of commerce had urged Bismarck to have a colonising policy in southern Africa, but Bismarck turned a cold shoulder to that until the middle of the eighties, and afterward was only half-hearted in any colonising policy. The usual programme, of course, was to have some financiers- buy up a portion of territory from a native chieftain and then an appeal was made to the German Empire for protection and political power. As late as 1905 and 1911 you remember the present Kaiser endeavoured to get a naval base and a coaling seaport on the west coast of Morocco. He was opposed by every European power except Austria; he was opposed by the United States, who began to understand something of the reason for placing a coaling station there when there were 8,000,000 Germans in southern Brazil. So he found his policy limited in South America and the Far East, and the attention of Germany came closer home. I have no time to speak of Alsace, but there is a festering sore on the boundary line between Germany and France, lust because Germany wanted to get more than the dictates of common decency would really allow. But the Balkan peninsula and the Asia Minor peninsula were before the German Empire and the German diplomats. Here is a kingdom falling to pieces, and the boast was made that it would not be very long until the British mails were going down through Vienna and Constantinople and Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. The Kaiser went down and made a personal visit to Constantinople; he obtained options on the Bagdad Railway; he got certain branch lines, and his Germanic bowels of compassion overflowing at the thought of the poor Moslem pilgrims having to trudge to Mecca on foot, he said, " I will build you a railroad." So we find the policy was to Germanise that tract, and using Austria as a cat's-paw he began to shove the Germanic wedge down through the Balkan peninsula. That is the reason he stood by " in shining, armour," as he said, in 1908 and allowed Austria to get Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is the reason he stands by today, so that Austria may shove the wedge down towards Salonica. So the trend of German ambition is clearly defined.
Along with that is revealed the tortuous and immoral policy of diplomacy of Prussian statesmanship. That is traditional also; it comes from Frederick the Great. Frederick the Great had no conscience about international affairs; he said there was no ethical foundation to be considered when we are looking at international disputes, that it was not a question of right at all, it was always a question of might. That Frederickian tradition has been handed down through the German Chancellery, and again and again you find expressions like this: " In international affairs we never ask whether a thing is right or wrong, all we ask is whether it is expedient or not." The policy of other nations, the policy of the British Empire, may have been immoral at times, but at least there was a conscience back of it that recognised the immorality sooner or later. You may say there was no hypocrisy about Frederick the Great's policy, but there was a great deal of barbarism, and we find the policy which is today pursued is not only unmoral but barbaric. The same policy governed Bismarck in Schleswig-Holstein, and when he forged the Ems despatch, one of the most despicable pieces of business in diplomacy anywhere. The same barbarism is displayed in Belgium today. Our friend Rauschenbusch said it would have been different if it had been the neutrality of Switzerland that had been violated. Of course it would. Any one who has read history knows the neutrality of Belgium and Holland presents a certain screen between the Germanic forces and Britain, and it is not only a question of honour and right and integrity, but also a question of self-preservation. When Belgium's appeal came, it was recognised, as having double force. You remember the question was placed before Bismarck, and he said, -Of course we have got to observe Belgium's neutrality; that is in accordance with the Treaty of 1839." But Belgium knew at that time what Britain had done, and she said, "Next to our unquenchable desire for freedom is our imperishable gratitude to the British Empire." Mr. Gladstone, who is not represented by some as an efficient War Minister, said, "If we should ever turn our backs on Belgium, and become parties to the violation of her neutrality, we would be participators in the direst crime which the history of mankind has ever seen." So when Belgium appealed there was that two-fold power behind the appeal, and it came to the British heart. All you have got to do is to think for a moment-and I dare not enter into an analysis of the diplomatic correspondence-all you have to do is to ran through that correspondence to recognise the hand of Frederick the Great as it comes down to us with the hand of Bismarck in the present Prussian policy as represented in the conflagration which we find on European soil. You remember that Austrian note: "One of the most formidable notes," says Sir Edward Grey, " ever presented to an independent state" "Formulated," Russia says, " so no independent state could receive it, and maintain integrity and independence "; and the German Secretary of State said, " There are things there that no state could swallow." It was formulated directly with that in view. Russia said, " I will demobilise if you will let this come to a conference." Italy said, " I do not want war "; and when she found that war must come, she said, " It is not a war of defence, it is a war of aggression, and I will have nothing to do with it." With France not wanting war, and with Sir Edward Grey assiduously, day after day and night after night, endeavouring to keep the peace of Europe, the attitude of Germany was this: " Why, let them fight it out, it is no concern of ours." Fifty million Austro-Hungarians against three and a half million Servians! " Let them fight it out; let that wedge go down towards Salonica! " We can see it now. The German Chancellor went on to say that this was perfectly equitable and just. Sir Edward Grey said, " Can we not get out of it somehow? " He replied, " Do your best with Russia and we will do our best with Austria." He refused to send a note that would call Austria's attention to the danger; he refused a conference of the Powers; he refused to take the initiative; he said, " We are pushing the button industriously at Vienna"; and that very day was the day the ultimatum was launched at Russia, saying, " Demobilise in twelve hours or we will have war." That shows something of the tortuous and immoral policy of Germany.
The war also brings to us this disclosure, that the German autocracy is incapable of interpreting the British genius and understanding the true spirit of democracy. It also shows that the spiritual bond which binds the Empire is a very real one. That is pointed out to us again and again. Rear-Admiral Mahan, who died a few weeks ago, said Germany thought the day had arrived, but with all her system of espionage she missed the mark. She thought Russia had not recovered from the Japanese War. She thought France was weak in supplies. In the legislature, you remember, it was reported that some of the soldiers had not proper boots, and we find there were other deficiencies that had to be made up. " And look at the British Empire," the Germans said, " they do not know how to colonise; if we were colonising we would shove the mailed fist into the faces of those native people and they would understand who is who." That is what the Kaiser said to his soldiers going to Pekin in 1900: "Act so that no one will look askance at a German in the future." They said, "India will not stand it, and the British were foolish enough to give self-government to South Africa. There are Australia and New Zealand, they are actually building up fleets that may be used against Britain's foes; and there is Canada fiddling away with a naval policy." And coming closer home the Kaiser thought, " They cannot handle their domestic affairs. Look at Ireland; they have applied to me for ten thousand arms, and I said, ' Bless you, my children, not ten thousand but fifty thousand.' In their House of Commons they are wrangling, and they cannot even control their women." So the Germans struck, and there is where we get the revelation of the binding force of the spiritual bond of the Empire. They found they had totally misinterpreted the spirit of the Empire. The fellaheen of Egypt, for instance, remembered what Kitchener had done for him; the Hindu said, " We remember that all that is taken from us in taxation is turned back to us in India itself, and we will stand behind you." One of the great papers, the Bengali, said, " If it is a matter of dispute between us we do have differences of opinion, but if there is danger to the Empire we stand as a man behind the British Empire." General Botha said, " There will be trouble down here, but I will take care of that," and he is taking care of it mighty well to the present time. Australia and New Zealand said, " Here are the fleets we have, as far as they are perfected; they are at your command." The British Empire took them, and the Emden lies a wreck and the coaling station of Samoa is in the hands of the British through that fleet. Canada said, " We may have been a little lax in the matter of a fleet, but here is a contingent, and another and another and another if you like and the last man will fight for you." In Ireland the men said, " We will use those fifty thousand arms against the Germans," and John Redmond said to the Cabinet Ministers, "You need not have any anxiety about Ireland; Ireland will look after the integrity of the British Islands." As far as the British House of Commons and the suffragettes are concerned, it is related that Sir Charles Beresford crossed the floor and slapped Winston Churchill on the back; and even the " wild " women proclaimed a truce. Such is the revelation. It is revealed in their manifestoes that the Germans cannot put themselves in the place of democratic people and come to a wise and sane judgment. Take the manifestoes of the theologians and of the professors and of the scientists, such men as Eucken and Harnack and Haeckel; they talk about treason to culture and alliances with barbaric Asiatics and what is happening today. It is a notorious thing that the German cannot get the viewpoint of others. Althoff, one of the German directors, said jokingly, in reply to the question why the Germans were backward in political genius, "We have the greatest civilisation ever produced; we are first in art, first in music, first in literature, first in science, first in industry; no wonder we are political asses; there must be a weak spot somewhere." As I was telling the soldiers not long ago, it is about time the asses jumped into the saddle, it is about time that democracy had a chance with such a glorious people as the Germans might become; it is about time that the Kaiser should jump out of the saddle. You remember the story of the man going along on the jackass, with his legs dangling on the side, and the stirrups free. The ass lifted his foot to brush off a fly, and got his foot in the stirrup. The man said, "Well, if you are going to get on, I will get off." It is about time the German people got on. A colonel stood before his mounted troops and said, " Let me give you this order; when you get on those horses, do not get off till I give the order to do so." They saluted and mounted. Murphy was pitched headlong to the ground. He picked himself up as the colonel turned around and said, " Didn't I tell you to stay on? " " Yes, sor." " And you dismounted? " " Yes, sor." " Orders from headquarters, I suppose? " " No," he says, " from hindquarters." Sometimes autocracy needs orders from hindquarters.
In the last place there is revealed to us the fundamental distinction between the British and the German genius when the people are under severe compulsion and pressure. That is represented in the difference between the speeches delivered by the representative statesmen in Britain and the representative statesmen in Germany. Take for instance Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Asquith, Mr. Bonar Law, and Mr. Balfour. They approach their parliament with calmness, and with sorrow in their hearts, with the integrity and the honour and the conscience of the people at stake; they said, We have done our best to prevent this European conflagration, and we could not, in justice to the British reputation, in justice to our treaty obligations, we could not do anything else; we are sorry, but we have to appeal to the fundamental rights represented by civilisation. Why is it that the civilised world outside of the combatants applauded that stand? It is because they understand exactly that the principles of civilisation are at stake. It is freedom or autocracy; it is liberty or oppression. As I told the Americans in Philadelphia the other day, if we do not win, their day is coming when they will have to reckon with autocratic militarism. That was the attitude of the British statesmen. How about Bethmann-Hollweg when he stands before his parliament, I was going to saybefore his debating club? What appeal did he make as the great representative of the best civilisation the world has ever seen? What appeal did he make to the honour and the integrity and the conscience and the righteousness of the people? He said this: " Gentlemen, we are in a state of necessity "-I wonder how they got there?-" and necessity knows no law." Well, the Prussian diplomacy has never known any law from the time of Frederick down to the present day whenever there was an aggrandisement of territory in the balance. " France could give a guarantee respecting Belgium; we could not give any such guarantee. France could wait; we could not wait." When did ever honour and integrity wait on opportunism, we wonder? He went on to say, " The wrong, which is contrary to the dictates of international law, the wrong we do we will try to atone for when we have achieved our object." If that is not Machiavelli again, I do not know where you will find it. A Faust trying to explain the sale of his soul. That is the difference in the attitude; it is shown also in the last interview which Bethmann-Hollweg had with Goschen, the British Ambassador. You remember how the German Chancellor fumed up and down for twenty minutes, and at last Goschen got in one word, and that was the word " Neutrality." " Only a word." " But," said Goschen, " it was a treaty." " A scrap of paper." I admire that man immensely because he could keep his head; he said, " You must remember, though it may make no difference to you, that the German Empire's name is at the foot of that treaty; it makes a great difference to us because Great Britain's name is there." And then that German Chancellor shoved his Prussian proboscis up into the face of Goschen and he said, " Well, have you considered the cost of keeping your faith? " And Goschen still kept his composure and said, " It has never been characteristic of the British Empire to break its faith through fear, and it will not begin now."
There is a difference in the genius also as represented by the literary productions of the two countries. Just think of the national Hymn of Hate which has been produced by the Germans. Just think of how it runs:
" French or Russian, it matters not, A blow for a blow and a shot for a shoe, We fight the battle with bronze and steel, And the time that is coming peace will seal. You we hate with a lasting hate, And we will never forego our hate; Hate by water and hate by land, Hate of the head and hate of the hand, Hate of the hammer and hate of the crown, Hate of seventy millions choking down. We love as one, we hate as one. We have one foe and only one- ENGLAND."
To which Lewis replies
" Now that the paean of hate has sounded, And the hymn of wrath has sung, What sounds from the British legions, From the battle lines far flung, From the watchers in the trenches, And the watchers on the seas, And the multitude of British forces In other lands than these; From dark unknown Australia, And New Zealand, what of her? From India's faithful millions, And Canada, what answer? We are coming, Mother England, We are bound to keep you free; Not for the hate of German brothers, But for the love we bear to thee; And we will never forego our love, We love as one, we hate no one, We have one love and only one- ENGLAND."
R. E. Vernede represents England apostrophising the sea:
" Hearken, O Mother, hearken to thy daughter! Fain would I tell thee what men tell me, Saying that henceforth no more on any water Shall I be first or great or loved or free. But that these others-so the tale is spoken- Who have not known thee all these centuries" By fire and sword shall yet turn England broken Back from thy breast and beaten from thy seas. Me-whom thou barest where thy waves should guard me, Me-whom thou suckledst on thy milk of foam, Me-whom thy kisses shaped what while they marred me, To whom thy storms are sweet and ring of home. ' Behold,' they cry, 'she is grown soft and strengthless, All her proud memories turned to fear and fret,' Say, thou who hast watched through ages that are lengthless, Whom have I feared, and when did I forget? What sons of mine have shunned thy whorls and races? Have I not reared for thee time and again And bid go forth to share thy fierce embraces Sea-ducks, sea-wolves, sea-rovers, and sea-men? Names that thou knowest--great hearts that thou holdest, Rocking them, rocking them in an endless wake Captains the world can match not with its boldest, Hawke, Howard, Grenville, Frobisher, Drake? Nelson-bravest of them all-the master Who swept across thee like a shooting star, And, while the Earth stood veiled before disaster, Caught Death and slew him-there at Trafalgar. Mother, they knew me then as thou didst know me; Then I cried Peace, and every flag was furled; But I axe old, it seems, and they would show me That nevermore my peace shall bind the world. Wherefore, O Sea, I, standing thus before thee, Stretch forth my hands unto thy surge and say: 'When they come forth who seek this empire o'er thee, And I go forth to meet them-on that day God grant to us the old Armada weather, The winds that rip the heavens that stoop and lour Not till the Sea and England sink together Shall they be master! Let them boast that hour! "'
The thanks of the meeting were tendered to the speaker by the President.