Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

naval position will be a very formidable one. Warfare will in the future be conducted chiefly by Dreadnoughts, but as the Sound and the Great and the Little Belt are too shallow to allow of their passage, Germany will hold in her improved canal the key to the Baltic. The Baltic will be as much a German lake as the Black Sea would be a Russian lake if the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus were in Russian hands. The Dreadnoughts which Russia contemplates building will be able to pass into and out of the Baltic only by way of the German canal and with Germany's permission, and, in case of a war with Great Britain, Great Britain will not be able to strike at Kiel unless she has previously seized the canal, an enterprise which would require more troops than Great Britain can possibly collect. Germany may win the mastery of Europe.

Russia may free herself from German control by transferring her fleet from the Baltic to the Arctic Ocean and by securing a port in the utmost North of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The deep fjords in the vicinity of Hammerfest and the North Cape are free from ice. They are in the possession of Norway, but the Russian frontier is only a few miles inland, and the frontier posts are said to have the curious habit of gradually advancing in a perfectly inexplicable manner towards Lyngen Fjord. Russia might construct in that bleak region a harbour, but she would hardly find it a satisfactory naval station. It would be separated from Russia by an enormous distance. Everything except fish would have to be obtained from Russia. The creation of the harbour and all that belongs to it would cost probably 50,000,0001., and the depressing climate and surroundings in that wintry desert would demoralise the officers and men stationed there.

project seems impracticable. Russia would be effectually barred from access to the sea by

were it not possible to deepen the Danish straits. Both the Great Belt and the Sound are shallow over only a short distance, and the studies which Denmark has made have proved that the deepening of the Sound and of the Great Belt is feasible. In the interest of the freedom of the Baltic, the deepening should be undertaken either by Russia alone or jointly by some of the Powers interested in the free navigation of the Baltic. Perhaps Russia, France, and Great Britain might, with the permission of Denmark and Sweden, jointly execute this work. However, before entering upon such an enterprise, the question of the integrity of Denmark will have to be considered and settled. It is of no use deepening the Sound or the Great Belt if the islands dominating it are liable to be seized at any moment by Germany.

When the enlargement of the Baltic and North Sea Canal is finished, Kiel will be a citadel to the German fleet, but it will not be an ideal harbour for an attack on England. For such an attack the harbours of Holland and Denmark would be far more suitable. The Danish

That

Germany

mainland (Jütland) is the continuation of the province of SchleswigHolstein, and it is separated from Germany, not by great natural obstacles which can easily be defended, but merely by a line of demarcation. At the utmost northern end of the Danish mainland lies the harbour town of Skagen, which is connected by a railway with Germany. Its harbour is a new one, having been constructed between 1904 and 1907. It was opened only at the end of November 1907, but already then Germany had taken a deep interest in that admirably situated port which faces the Firth of Forth. At the end of November, 1907, the whole of the German fleet was engaged in mancuvres off Skagen, and it investigated apparently its possibilities in case of war to the great alarm of Denmark. When it was announced that the British Admiralty would at last begin to convert the Firth of Forth into a war-harbour, Danish papers thought that it was the answer of the English Admiralty to Germany's study of Skagen as a naval port.

It is in the interest of the non-German naval Powers that access to the Baltic should be easy to ships of the largest size, that it should be secure and that Denmark should strengthen her defences towards Germany. It is in the interest of Germany to exclude Great Britain and other Powers from the Baltic, to convert it into a German lake, and to urge Denmark to strengthen her defences against an attack by sea. In October, 1907, the Berliner Tageblatt wrote:

In naval circles in Copenhagen the general belief is that the fortification of Copenhagen towards the sea of such an extent that the town is secure against bombardment by a hostile Heet, lies in the best interests of Denmark. The fortification of the land side of Copenhagen, which would require the whole of the Danish army for its defence goes, perhaps, beyond what a well understood policy of neutrality demands. The independence of Denmark is not threatened by Germany. And if a German attack was imaginable, the occupation of Jütland would alone be of value to Germany. However, it is noticeable that at the present moment, the opinion prevails in the naval circles of Denmark that it is not in the interests of that country and the preservation of its neutrality to fortify Copenhagen against an attack by land.

Denmark, like Holland, being the unfortunate proprietor of one of the most valuable strategical points in the world, finds herself between the upper and the nether millstone and she does not know what to do. If she fortifies the country towards Germany, Germany will take umbrage. If she fortifies the country towards Great Britain, she fears that she might experience another 1807 as some of her most influential journals, for instance Tilskueren, have recently pointed out. Count Raven, her foreign Minister, stated in October, 1907, in the Folketing that he had continued the traditional foreign policy which was to keep neutral and to reserve freedom of action to Denmark.' This means in plain English that he had continued the policy of folded hands, being unable to make up his mind what part to take in case of a struggle between Germany and Great Britain. That is neither a very deep policy nor a very safe one. Despairing to please both parties, Denmark pleases neither and is neglecting her defence. A Defence Committee has been sitting during seven years without arriving at any decision. That Commission also 'keeps neutral and reserves to itself freedom of action, and the result may be bombardment from two sides instead of from one or from none. The few Danish troops are scattered haphazard over the Danish Isles and mainland as if it was their duty rather to guard some ancient barracks than to defend the country.

As a matter of fact both Denmark and Holland cannot defend themselves

. Both must be defended by those European Powers which wish to maintain their status quo, and the earlier they arrive at an understanding how to defend the integrity of these two countries the better will it be for all parties. The certain knowledge that Holland and Denmark would be defended at all costs against German encroachments might save Europe from a conflagration similar in extent to that which set Europe ablaze a hundred years ago.

J. ELLIS BARKER.

THE EMPEROR WILLIAM II.

AND SOCIAL REFORM

The historian in the future will have a decidedly difficult task in properly estimating the character and the abilities of the present ruler of the Fatherland. And this difficulty will prove all the greater because a man like the Emperor William the Second benefits so much and to such an extent from both personal experience and general observation that what is, after all, not more and not less than a natural consequence—the views which he entertains at one time in regard to some important international questions, and the opinions he holds under certain circumstances concerning some vital points in reference to home affairs, are not unlikely to undergo considerable change as the years go by. Indeed, the gradual change which has taken place in the Kaiser's views relating to some well-known political questions became very clear to me at the time when I was engaged in the work which had been entrusted to me of translating and editing the English edition of his Speeches.

Again, a further difficulty which will meet the historian will be the fact-unfortunately, so often lost sight of—that the Emperor is at once very much under-rated and over-rated, some of the opinions regarding both his aims and personality being as wide asunder as the poles. As a matter of fact, although the literature concerning the present ruler of the German Empire has gone on growing more and more rapidly, and the time has come when it can be said of the Emperor William the Second—and this without any fear of being contradicted in this respect—that more books, pamphlets, and articles have been written around him than is the case respecting any other living personage, yet hardly any two books, selected at random, as it were, are even nearly alike in general tone. It must, however, be borne in mind that this is not the case because the different writers have not pretty nearly the same facts before them, but because the personality of the Kaiser seems to make very different impressions; and, moreover, there is a pronounced tendency amongst native and other writers and politicians to ascribe to him actions, intentions, and ambitions which are either foreign to him or with which he has nothing to do.

For the purpose of illustrating what has just been said the following interesting instance, occurring as it did within quite recent times, may be related in this connexion. When it first became known that there was a strong probability of an exchange, as it were, of certain University Professors between the United States and Germany with a view to fostering, as it was claimed, of good relations between the two countries, the Kaiser was at once credited with the initiative of the scheme, which, however, was, in reality, the outcome of a discussion between a number of German and American sacants who attended the Scientists' Congress held in conjunction with the recent International Exhibition at St. Louis. To cut a long story short, as soon as certain obstacles—which indeed at one time seemed to render the realisation of the scheme in question impossible—had successfully been overcome by its originators, a full description of the whole plan (containing, too, all the necessary references and details as to the great and numerous advantages which will accrue to both peoples therefrom) was submitted, through the ordinary channels, to the President of the United States and to the German Emperor, with the view of informing them, in the usual loyal manner, of the decision the learned gentlemen with whom the whole matter originated had arrived at, and of obtaining their final approval of this somewhat new method of promoting international amity. It will, therefore, become thus obvious—owing to exigencies of space it is impossible to mention here other instances of a similar character-how difficult it is to approach this subject with a mind free from prejudice one way or the other. Accordingly it will be the business of the historian to clear away at the outset an immense amount of more or less widespread prejudice, actual or apparent misconception, untruth, and above all of extravagant laudation, before he is able to come to the real man. But on the other hand, so far as we of to-day are able to understand the Emperor William and to interpret the guiding principles of his main policy, it seems clear that he is not only one of the most prominent figures of his generation—that is, if considered from a quite general point of view, but that he is also one of the two or three great statesmen who are to be found amongst the ruling monarchs of the present time. It is true that men of conspicuously great abilities are somewhat rare in the age we are living in; this fact, however, does not in any way lessen the high intellectual qualities or detract from the great mental gifts and striking sagacity of the head of the German nation.

Historians, taking them as a whole, do not, unfortunately, tell us as to the undercurrents which definitely mould, as it were, from a national and popular point of view, the destinies of a ruling house or even of the ruler himself. One point, however, stands out prominently in the pages of history-in fact, from the time of the Roman Emperors down to the present day—and this is, that one of the best

« AnteriorContinua »