I have delayed posting my own thoughts, so I’m substituting those of Kaiser Wilhelm II. for now.
The first item is an interview published in the Daily Telegraph in October 1908. You wouldn’t realize it from reading it, but it actually was supposed to be some kind of olive branch towards the British.
The second item are the “Willy-Nicky” letters the Kaiser and the Russian Czar Nicholas II. exchanged over the decades. Being cousins they indeed addressed each as “Willy” and “Nicky”, respectively. The link only leads to Wilhelm’s side of the correspondence. The letters were found after the Czar’s execution by the Soviets.
Interesting to note is that “Willy” and “Nicky” kept corresponding until March 1914. Wilhelm had tried to maintain cordial relations with his cousin to the last, in the hope of keeping Russia from going to war with Germany after all.
As noted at the site, interpretations of the letters are very different – some claimed that the Kaiser had lured the Czar into the disastrous war with Japan in 1905, others that he had planned an European conflagration decades, while yet others saw him as a unsuccessful peacemaker.
3 thoughts on “The Kaiser in his own words (“You English, are mad, mad, mad as March hares.”)”
To put a bit of context around the claims of support for the British in the Boer War:
Among the more famous incidents was his dispatch of a telegram of encouragement to President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal after the Boers had repulsed a British raid on the Transvaal (Dec., 1895; see Jameson, Sir Leander Starr). The message aroused British public opinion against Germany and the emperor.
As to America, there was a dinner conversation sometime around 1905 aboard the Kaiser’s yacht where he said that the rise of America as an industrial power was the major problem of the new century. I can’t find the link anymore. The Kaiser seems to have been obsessed with empire and international power and complemented his obsession with a good deal of indiscretion.
On the side, Wilhelm had an illegitimate daughter, Anna, who seems to have emigrated to America. Reminds me that one of Gauss’ sons died in Denver around 1870, that Carl Schurz of Civil War fame fled Germany after the 1848 revolution and immigrated to the US in 1852, and that Marx was most prosperous during the period he was the London correspondent of the New York Daily Tribune, where he an Engels published some 300-400 articles and editorials. There was a time when the US was more closely tied to the philosophical and political tides in Europe, but that connection seems to have dried up in the early part of the last century. Europe is no longer the finishing school for the elites.
Without more context it’s difficult for me to say exactly what the Kaiser was doing in that interview. It’s possible he was pleading that some sort of enormous misunderstanding was afoot and he was trying to head it off. It’s also possible he had other motives. I don’t know enough to say. Interesting reading though.
BTW, I read somewhere that Kaiser meant Caesar, and that Caesar, in Latin, is actually pronounced like Kaiser.
Also worth noting, at that time the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft) was one of the premier technical schools (actually, a group of schools) in the world; sort of the MIT of it’s day. When the Chemistry Building was added in 1911 the architect included a turret, complete with a helmet and spike shaped roof. The schools continue today under the name Max Plank Institutes.
The Kaiser’s thoughts, words and deeds were inconsistent and incoherent. He seems to have had a complicated psychological fixation with England. He admired and respected and wanted to emulate England. Yet he hated and feared England as the obstacle to Germany’s greatness. He would say vicious things, then say conciliatory things. The Kaiser is exhibit A in the case against selecting the actual holder of political power by hereditary succession.
He was presiding over a country where the political and naval leadership iwas openly saying that Germany must strip command of the seas from England, destroy England’s Empire and replace England as the world power. Then, he’d say things like this — trust me, I mean no harm.
A fundamental notion in political science is the security dilemma. The dilemma is that efforts to enhance your security by adding military capacity necessarily threaten the security of others, and they respond to your capabilities, which are objective, without regard to your professed intentions which are subjective and changeable.
The Kaiser’s protestations were, in light of all that, worthless.
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