Diplomatic Work Of First Winter In Berlin
( Originally Published 1917 )
DURING this first winter in Berlin, I spent each morning in the Embassy office, and, if I had any business at the Foreign Office, called there about five o'clock in the afternoon. It was the custom that all Ambassadors should call on Tuesday afternoons at the Foreign Office, going in to see the Foreign Minister in the order of their arrival in the waiting-room, and to have a short talk with him about current diplomatic affairs.
In the previous chapter I have given a detailed account of the ceremonies of court life, because a knowledge of this life is essential to a grasp of the spirit which animates those ruling the destinies of the German Empire.
My first winter, however, was not all cakes and ale. There were several interesting bits of diplomatic work. First, we were then engaged in our conflict with Huerta, the Dictator of Mexico, and it was part of my work to secure from Germany promises that she would not recognise this Mexican President.
I also spent a great deal of time in endeavouring to get the German Government to take part officially in the San Francisco Fair, but, so far as I could make out, Great Britain, probably at the instance of Germany, seemed to have entered into some sort of agreement, or at any rate a tacit understanding, that neither country would participate officially in this Exposition.
After the lamentable failure of the Jamestown Exposition, the countries of Europe were certainly not to be blamed for not spending their money in aid of a similar enterprise. But I believe that the attitude of Germany had a deeper significance, and that certain, at least, of the German statesmen had contemplated a rapprochement with Great Britain and a mutual spanking of America and its Monroe Doctrine by these two great powers. Later I was informed, by a man high in the German Foreign Office, that Germany had proposed to Great Britain a joint intervention in Mexico, an invasion which would have put an end forever to the Monroe Doctrine, of course to be followed by the forceful colonisation of Central and South America by European Powers. I was told that Great Britain refused. But whether this proposition and refusal in fact were made, can be learned from the archives of the British Foreign Office.
During this period of trouble with Mexico, the German Press, almost without exception, and especially that part of it controlled by the Government and by the Conservatives or Junkers, was most bitter in its attitude towards America.
The reason for this was the underlying hatred of an autocracy for a successful democracy, envy of the wealth, liberty and commercial success of America, and a deep and strong resentment against the Monroe Doctrine which prevented Germany from using her powerful fleet and great military force to seize a foothold in the West-ern hemisphere.
Germany came late into the field of colonisation in her endeavour to find "a place in the sun." The colonies secured were not habitable by white men. Togo, Kameroons, German East Africa, are too tropical in climate, too subject to tropical diseases, ever to become successful German colonies. German Southwest Africa has a more healthy climate but is a barren land. About the only successful industry there has been that of gathering the small diamonds that were discovered in the sands of the beaches and of the deserts running back from the sea.
On the earnest request of Secretary Bryan, I endeavoured to persuade the German authorities to have Germany become a signatory to the socalled Bryan Peace Treaties. After many efforts and long interviews, von Jagow, the Foreign Minister, finally told me that Germany would not sign these treaties because the greatest asset of Germany in war was her readiness for a sudden assault, that they had no objection to signing the treaty with America, but that they feared they would then be immediately asked to sign similar treaties with Great Britain, France and Russia, that if they refused to sign with these countries the refusal would almost be equivalent to a declaration of war, and, if they did sign, intending in good faith to stand by the treaty, that Germany would be deprived of her greatest asset in war, namely, her readiness for a sudden and overpowering attack.
I also, during this first winter, studied and made reports on the commercial situation of Germany and especially the German discriminations against American goods. To these matters I shall refer in more detail in another chapter.
Opposition and attention to the oil monopoly project also occupied a great part of my working hours. Petroleum is used very extensively in Germany for illuminating purposes by the poorer part of the population, especially in the farming villages and industrial towns. This oil used in Germany comes from two sources of supply, from America and from the oil wells of Galicia and Roumania. The German American Oil Company there, through which the American oil was distributed, although a German company, was controlled by American capital, and German capital was largely interested in the Galician and Roumanian oil fields. The oil from Galacia and Roumania is not so good a quality as that imported from America.
Before my arrival in Germany the government had proposed a law creating the oil monopoly; that is to say, a company was to be created, controlled by the government for the purpose of carrying on the entire oil business of Germany, and no other person or company, by its provisions, was to be allowed to sell any illuminating oil or similar products in the Empire. The bill provided that the business of those engaged in the wholesale selling of oil, and their plants, etc, should be taken over by this government company, condemned and paid for. The German American Company, however, had also a retail business and plant throughout Germany for which it was proposed that no compensation should be given. The government bill also contained certain curious "jokers"; for instance, it provided for the taking over of all plants "within the customs limit of the German Empire," thus leaving out of the compensation a refinery which was situated in the free port of Hamburg, although, of course, by operation of this monopoly bill the refinery was rendered useless to the American controlled company which owned it.
In the course of this investigation it came to light that the Prussian state railways were used as a means of discriminating against the American oil. American oil came to Germany through the port of Hamburg, and the Galician and Roumanian oil through the frontier town of Oderberg. Taking a delivery point equally distant between Oderberg and Hamburg, the rate charged on oil from Hamburg to this point was twice as great as that charged for a similar quantity of oil from Oderberg.
I took up this fight on the line that the company must be compensated for all of its property, that used in retail as well as in wholesale business, and, second, that it must be compensated for the good-will of its business, which it had built up through a number of years by the expenditure of very large sums of money. Of course where a company has been in operation for years and is continually advertising its business, its good-will often is its greatest asset and has often been built up by the greatest expenditure of money. For instance, in buying a successful newspaper, the value does not lie in the real-estate, presses, etc., but in the good-will of the newspaper, the result of years of work and expensive advertising.
I made no objection that the German government did not have a perfect right to create this monopoly and to put the American controlled company entirely out of the field, but insisted upon a fair compensation for all their property and good-will. Even a fair compensation for the property and good-will would have started the government monopoly company with a large debt upon which it would have been required to pay interest, and this interest, of course, would have been added to the cost of oil to the German consumers. In my final conversation on the subject with von Bethmann-Hollweg, he said, "You don't mean to say that President Wilson and Secretary Bryan will do anything for the Standard Oil Company?" I answered that every one in America knew that the Standard Oil Company had neither influence with nor control over President Wilson and Secretary Bryan, but that they both could and would give the Standard Oil Company the same measure of protection which any American citizen doing business abroad had a right to expect from his government. I also said that I thought they had done enough for the Germans interested in the Galician and Roumanian oil fields when they had used the Prussian state railways to give these oil producers an unfair advantage over those importing American oil.
Shortly after this the question of the creation of this oil monopoly was dropped and naturally has not been revived during the war, and I very much doubt whether, after the war, the people of liberalised Germany will consent to pay more for inferior oil in order to make good the investments of certain German banks and financiers in Galicia and Roumania. I doubt whether a more liberal Germany will wish to put the control of a great business in the hands of the government, thereby greatly increasing the number of government officials and the weight of government influence in the country. Heaven knows there are officials enough today in Germany, with-out turning over a great department of private industry to the government for the sole purpose of making good bad investments of certain financiers and adding to the political influence of the central government.
In May, 1914, Colonel House and his beautiful wife arrived to pay us a visit in Berlin. He was, of course, anxious to have a talk with the Emperor, and this was arranged by the Emperor inviting the Colonel and me to what is called the Schrippenfest, at the new palace at Potsdam.
For many years, in fact since the days of Frederick the Great, the learning (Lehr) battalion, composed of picked soldiers from all the regiments of Prussia, has been quartered at Potsdam, and on a certain day in April this battalion has been given a dinner at which they eat white rolls (Schrippen) instead of the usual black bread. This feast has been carried on from these older days and has become quite a ceremony.
The Colonel and I motored to Potsdam, arrayed in dress suits, and waited in one of the salons of the ground floor of the new palace. Finally the Emperor and the Empress and several of the princes and their wives and the usual dignitaries of the Emperor's household arrived. The Colonel was presented to the royalties and then a Divine Service was held in the open air at one end of the place. The Empress and Princesses occupied large chairs and the Emperor stood with his sons behind him and then the various dignitaries of the court. The Lehr Battalion was drawn up behind. There were a large band and the choir boys from the Berlin cathedral. The service was very impressive and not less so because of a great Zeppelin which hovered over our heads during the whole of the service.
After Divine Service, the Lehr Battalion marched in review and then was given food and beer in long arbours constructed in front of the palace. While the men were eating, the Emperor and Empress and Princes passed among the tables, speaking to the soldiers. We then went to the new palace where in the extraordinary hall studded with curious specimens of minerals from all countries, a long table forming three sides of a square was set for about sixty people. Colonel House and I sat directly across the table from the Emperor, with General Falkenhayn between us. The Emperor was in a very good mood and at one time, talking across the table, said to me that the Colonel and I, in our black dress-suits, looked like a couple of crows, that we were like two undertakers at a feast and spoiled the picture. After luncheon the Emperor had a long talk with Colonel House, and then called me into the conversation.
On May twenty-sixth, I arranged that the Colonel should meet von Tirpitz at dinner in our house. We did not guess then what a central figure in this war the great admiral was going to be. At that time and until his fall, he was Minister of Marine, which corresponds to our Secretary of the Navy Department, and what is called in German Reichsmarineamt. The Colonel also met von Bethmann-Hollweg, von jagow, Zimmermann and many others.
There are two other heads of departments, connected with the navy, of equal rank with the Secretary of the Naval Department and not reporting to him. These are the heads of the naval staff and the head of what is known as the Marine Cabinet. The head of the naval staff is supposed to direct the actual operations of war-fare in the navy, and the head of the Marine Cabinet is charged with the personnel of the navy, with determining what officers are to be promoted and what officers are to take over ships or commands.
While von Tirpitz was Secretary of the Navy, by the force of his personality, he dominated the two other departments, but since his fall the heads of these two other departments have held positions as important, if not more important, than that of Secretary of the Navy.
On May thirty-first, we took Colonel and Mrs. House to the aviation field of Joachimsthal. Here the Dutch aviator Fokker was flying and after being introduced to us he did some stunts for our benefit. Fokker was employed by the German army and later became a naturalised German. The machines designed by him, and named after him, for a long time held the mastery of the air on the West front.
The advice of Colonel House, a most wise and prudent counsellor, was at all times of the greatest value to me during my stay in Berlin. We exchanged letters weekly, 1 sending him a weekly bulletin of the situation in Berlin and much news and gossip too personal or too indefinite to be placed in official reports.
War with Germany seemed a thing not even to be considered when in this month of May, 1914, I called on the Foreign Office, by direction, to thank the Imperial Government for the aid given the Americans at Tampico by German ships of war.
Early in February, Mr. S. Bergmann, a German who had made a fortune in America and who had returned to Germany to take up again his German citizenship, invited me to go over the great electrical works which he had established. Prince Henry of Prussia, the brother of the Emperor, was the only other guest and together we inspected the vast works, afterwards having lunch in Mr. Bergmann's office. Prince Henry has always been interested in America since his visit here. On that visit he spent most of his time with German societies, etc. Of course, now we know he came as a propagandist with the object of welding together the Germans in America and keeping up their interest in the Fatherland. He made a similar trip to the Argentine just before the Great War, with a similar purpose, but I understand his excursion was not considered a great success, from any standpoint. A man of affable manners, no one is better qualified to go abroad as a German propagandist than he. If all Germans had been like him there would have been no World War in 1914.
On March eighteenth, we were invited to a fancy-dress ball at the palace of the Crown Prince. The guests were mostly young people and officers. The Crown Princess wore a beautiful Russian dress with its characteristic high front piece on the head. The Crown Prince and all the officers present were in the picturesque uniforms of their respective regiments of a period of one hundred years ago. Prince Oscar, the fifth son of the Kaiser, looked particularly well.
The hours for balls in Berlin, where officers attended, were a good example for hostesses in this country. The invitations read for eight o'clock and that meant eight 8 o'clock. A cold dinner of perhaps four courses is immediately served on the arrival of the guests, who, with the exception of a very few distinguished ones, are not given any particular places. At a quarter to nine the dancing begins, supper is at about eleven and the guests go home at twelve, at an hour which enables the officers to get to bed early.
During the season there were balls at the British and French Embassy and performances by the Russian Ballet, then in Berlin, at the Russian Embassy.
The wonderful new Royal Library, designed by Ihne, was opened on March twenty-second. The Emperor at-tended, coming in with the beautiful Queen of Roumania walking by his side. She is an exceedingly handsome woman, half English and half Russian. Some days later I was presented to her at a reception held at the Roumanian Minister's and found her as pleasant to talk to as' good to look upon.
At the end of March there was a Horse Show. The horses did not get prizes for mere looks and manners in trotting and cantering, as here, They must all do some-thing, for the horse is considered primarily as a war horse; such, for instance, as stopping suddenly and turning at a word of command, The jumping was excellent, officers riding in all the events. It was not a function of "society," but all "society" was there and most keenly interested; for in a warlike country, just as in the Middle Ages, the master's life may depend upon the qualities of his horse.
I have always been fond of horses and horse-racing, and the race-tracks about Berlin were always an attraction for me.
Many of the drivers and jockeys were Americans. Taral was a successful jockey for my father-in-law, Marcus Daly. He is now the trainer of one of the best racing stables in Germany, that of the brothers Weinberg, who made a fortune in dye-stuffs. "Pop" Campbell, who trained Mr, Daly's Ogden, a Futurity winner, is also a Berlin trainer. The top notch jockey was Archibald of California. McCreery, who once trained for one of my brothers, had the stable which rivalled the Weinbergs, that of Baron Oppenheim, a rich banker of Cologne.
The German officers are splendid riders and take part in many races. The Crown Prince himself is a successful jockey and racing stable owner.
On June fifth, at the annual hunt race, the big steeple-chase of the year, the Emperor himself appeared at the Grünewald track, occupying his private box, a sort of little house beyond the finish.
Bookmakers are not allowed in Germany. The betting is in mutual pools. About seventeen per cent of the money paid is taken by the Jockey Club, the State and charities, so that the bettor, with this percentage running always against him, has little chance of ultimate success.
Many of the races are confined to horses bred in Den-mark and the Central Empires.
All of us in the Embassy joined the Red White Tennis Club situated in the Grünewald about five miles from the centre of Berlin. The Crown Prince was a member and often played there. He is an excellent player, not quite up to championship form, but he can give a good account of himself in any company short of the top class. He has the advantage of always finding that the best players are only too glad to have an opportunity to play with him. At this Tennis Club during all the period of the feeling of hatred against America we were treated with extreme courtesy by all our German fellow members.
We saw a great deal of the two exchange professors in the winter of 1913-14, Professor Paul Shorey of the University of Chicago and Professor Archibald Coolidge of Harvard. These exchange professors give courses and lectures in the universities and their first appearance is quite an event. On this first day in 1913, they each delivered a lecture in the University of Berlin, and on this lecture day Prince August Wilhelm, representing the Kaiser, attended. The Kaiser used invariably to attend, but of late years I am afraid has rather lost interest in this enterprise at first so much favoured by him.
The Cologne Gazette at one time after the commencement of the war, in an article, expressed great surprise that America should permit the export of munitions of war to the Allies and said, quite seriously, that Germany had done everything possible to win the favour of America, that Roosevelt had been offered a review of German troops, that the Emperor had invited Americans who came to Kiel on their yachts to dine with him, and that he had even sat through the lectures given by American exchange professors.
Before the war there was but one cable direct from Germany to America. This cable was owned by a German company and reached America via the Azore Islands. I endeavoured to obtain permission for the Western Union Company to land a cable in Germany, but the opposition of the German company, which did not desire to have its monopoly interfered with, caused the applications of the Western Union to be definitely pigeonholed. In August, 1914, after the outbreak of the war, when I told this to Ballin of the Hamburg American Line and von Gwinner, head of the Deutsche Bank, and when they thought of how much they could have saved for themselves and Germany' and their companies if there had been an American owned cable landing in Germany, their anger at the delay on the part of official Germany knew no bounds. Within a very short time I received an answer from the Foreign Office granting the application on of the Western Union Company, providing the cable went direct to America. This concession, however, came too late and, naturally, the Western Union did not take up the matter during the war.