The Kaiser (in his own words)
The War Lord Of Europe, As Portrayed By Himself In His Public Utterances Of The Last Quarter Century—A Ruler "Responsible To God Alone"
[The World's Work, October 1914]
"As a result of my reading of history, I have pledged myself never to strive after an empty world-rule. For what has become of the so-called world empires? Alexander the Great, Napoleon, all the great heroes of war swam in blood, and left behind them subjugated nations which rose on the first opportunity and brought their empires to ruin. The world empire that I have dreamed of would consist in this: that, above all, the newly-created German Empire should on every side enjoy the most absolute confidence as a tranquil, honorable, peaceful neighbor, and that if history should one day tell of a German world-empire, or of a Hohenzollern world-rule, it should not have been based on conquests with the sword, but on the mutual trust of nations striving toward the same goal."
Despite the fact that he pointed out the futility of the great conquerors, the Kaiser made it plain that Germany's world-power aspirations were not to be balked by a peace-at-any-price policy. At the launching of the warship Wittelsbach, he announced: "The ocean teaches us that on its waves and on its most distant shores no great decision can any longer be taken without Germany and without the German Emperor. I do not think that it was in order to allow themselves to be excluded from big foreign affairs that, thirty years ago, our people, led by their princes, conquered and shed their blood. Were the German people to let themselves be treated thus, it would be, and forever, the end of their world-power; and I do not mean that that shall ever cease. To employ, in order to prevent it, the suitable means, if need be extreme means, is my duty and my highest privilege."
Throughout his speeches three ideas appear consistently and continuously: the ambition for world-power, for ships and a navy to defend them; the belief in the German army by its preponderance and preparedness as the guarantor of Europe's peace; and the divine right and the infallibility of the Hohenzollerns.
Soon after ascending the throne the Kaiser said: "The ancestor for whom I have the most liking, and who always shone before me as an example in my youth, was the Great Elector." He so admired this particular ancestor because the Great Elector was the first Hohenzollern who saw the importance of promoting trade and industry, acquiring colonies, shipping by which to trade with them, and a navy to defend the shipping. This policy, which languished for a long time, has been thoroughly revised and enlarged by William II. As far back as 1896 the Kaiser himself said at Berlin: "The German Empire becomes a world empire. Everywhere in the farthest parts of the earth live thousands of our fellow countrymen. German subjects, German knowledge, German industry cross the ocean. The value of German goods on the seas amounts to thousands of millions of marks. On you, gentlemen, devolves the serious duty of helping me to knit firmly this greater German Empire to the Empire at home."
At Aix, in 1902, in comparing the Holy Roman Empire with the present German Empire, he said: "Now another Empire has arisen. The German people has once more an Emperor of its own choice, with the sword on the field of battle has the crown been won, and the imperial flag flutters high in the breeze But the tasks of the new Empire are different: confined within its borders, it has to steel itself anew for the work it has to do, and which it could not achieve in the Middle Ages.
We have to live so that the Empire, still young, becomes from year to year stronger in itself, while confidence in it strengthens on all sides. The powerful German army guarantees the peace of Europe. In accord with the German character we confine ourselves externally in order to be unroofed internally. Far stretches our speech over the ocean, far the flight of our science and exploration; too work in the domain of new discovery, no scientific idea but is first tested by us and then adopted by other nations. This is the world-rule the German spirit strives for."
Despite the guarantee of peace which the power of the German army offered, William II did not neglect to warn his own people arid others that peace might be disturbed. He said to the chief burgomaster of Karlsruhe, in 1904, when Japan and Russia were at war:
"I hope our peace will not be disturbed and that the events that are now happening will open our eyes, steel our courage, and find us united, if it should be necessary for us to intervene in world-policy."
"Imperial power means sea power and sea power and imperial power are dependent on each other."… "Our future lies on the water."… "The trident should be in our hand."… "We stand under the star of commerce."… "We demand our place in the sun."
These phrases contain the essence of the doctrine which the Emperor enlarged in many places as, for example, at Hamburg in 1899:
"A strong German fleet," he said, "is a thing of which we stand in bitter need." And he continued: "In Hamburg especially one can understand how necessary is a powerful protection for German interests abroad. If we look around us we see how greatly the aspect of the world is altered in recent years. Old-world empires pass away and new ones begin to arise. Nations suddenly appear before the peoples and compete with them, nations of whom a little before the ordinary man had been hardly aware. Products which bring about radical changes in the domain of international relations as well as in the political economy of the people, and which in old times took hundreds of years to ripen, come to maturity in a few months. The result is that the tasks of our German Empire and people have grown to enormous proportions and demand of me and my Government unusual and great efforts, which can then only be crowned with success when, united and decided, without respect to party, Germans stand behind us. Our people, moreover, must resolve to make some sacrifice. Above all they must put aside their endeavor to seek the excellent through the ever more sharply contrasted party factions. They must cease to put party above the welfare of the whole. They must put a curb on their ancient and inherited weakness—to subject everything to the most unlicensed criticism; and they must stop at the point where their most vital interests become concerned. For it is precisely these political sins which revenge themselves so deeply on our sea interests and our fleet. Had the strengthening of the fleet not been refused me during the past eight years of my government, notwithstanding all appeals and warnings—and not without contumely and abuse for my person—how differently could we not have promoted our growing trade and our interests beyond the sea!"
When the Kaiser ascended the throne the German fleet amounted to practically nothing. Despite the Kaiser's ever active advocacy, the Reichstag would not vote large naval appropriations. The present navy really began with the appointment of Admiral von Tirpitz as Minister of Marine in 1899. Now the German Navy is second only to that of Great Britain. Its creation has been the main bone of contention between the English and German people. These relations the Kaiser discussed in 1908, in his famous Daily Mail interview, as follows:
"You English," he said, "are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite unworthy of a great nation? What more can I do than I have done" I declared with all the emphasis at my command, in my speech at Guildhall, that my heart is set upon peace, and that it is one of my dearest wished to live on the best of terms with England. Have I ever been false to my word? Falsehood and prevarication are alien to my nature. My actions ought to speak for themselves, but you listen not to them but to those who misinterpret and distort them. That is a personal insult which I feel and resent. To be forever misjudged, to have my repeated offers of friendship weighed and scrutinized with jealous, mistrustful eyes, taxes my patience severely. I have said time after time that I am a friend of England, and your Press—or at least a considerable section of it—bids the people of England refuse my proffered hand, and insinuates that the other holds a dagger. How can I convince a nation against its will?"
"I repeat," continued His Majesty, "that I am the friend of England, but you make things difficult for me. My task is not of the easiest. The prevailing sentiment among large sections of the middle and lower classes of my own people is not friendly to England. I am, therefore, so to speak, in a minority in my own land, but it is a minority of the best elements, just as it is in England with respect to Germany. That is another reason why I resent your refusal to accept my pledged word that I am the friend of England. I strive without ceasing to improve relations, and you retort that I am your arch-enemy. You make it very hard "for me. Why is it?"
Thereupon the interviewer ventured to remind His Majesty that not England alone but the whole of Europe had viewed with disapproval the action of Germany in allowing the German consul to return from Tangier to Fez, and in anticipating the joint action of France and Spain by suggesting to the Powers that the time had come for Europe to recognize Mulai Hafid as the new Sultan of Morocco.
His Majesty made a gesture of impatience. "Yes," he said, "that is an excellent example of the way in which German action is misrepresented. First, then, as regards the journey of Dr. Vassel. The German Government, in sending Dr. Vassel back to his post at Fez, was only guided by the wish that he should look after the private interests of German subjects in that city, who cried for help and protection after the long absence of a consular representative. And why not send him? Are those who charge Germany with having stolen a march on the other Powers aware that the French consular representative had already been in Fez for several months when Dr. Vassel set out? Then, as to the recognition of Mulai Hafid. The Press of Europe has complained with much acerbity that Germany ought not to have suggested his recognition until he had notified to Europe his full acceptance of the Act of Algeciras, as being binding upon him as Sultan of Morocco and successor of his brother. My answer is that Mulai Hafid notified the Powers to that effect weeks ago, before the decisive battle was fought. He sent, as far back as the middle of last July, an identical communication to the governments of Germany, France, and Great Britain, containing an explicit acknowledgment that he was prepared to recognize all the obligations toward Europe which were incurred by Abdul Aziz during his Sultanate. The German Government interpreted that communication as a final and authoritative expression of Mulai Hafid's intentions, and therefore it considered that there was no reason to wait until he had sent a second communication before recognizing him as the de facto Sultan of Morocco, who had succeeded to his brother's throne by right of victory in the field."
The interviewer suggested to His Majesty that an important and influential section of the German Press had placed a very different interpretation upon the action of the German Government, and, in fact, had given it their effusive approbation precisely because they saw in it a strong act instead of mere words, and a decisive indication that Germany was once more about to intervene in the shaping of events in Morocco. "There are mischiefmakers," replied the Emperor, "in both countries. I will not attempt to weigh their relative capacity for misrepresentation. But the facts are as I have stated. There has been nothing in Germany's recent action with regard to Morocco which runs contrary to the explicit declaration of my love of peace which I made both at Guildhall and in my latest speech at Strassburg."
His Majesty then reverted to the subject uppermost in his mind—his proved friendship for England. "I have referred," he said, "to the speeches in which I have done all that a sovereign can to proclaim my good will. But as actions speak louder than words, let me also refer to my acts. It is commonly believed in England that throughout the South African War Germany was hostile to her. German opinion undoubtedly was hostile—bitterly hostile. The Press was "hostile; private opinion was hostile. But what of official Germany? Let my critics ask themselves what brought to a sudden stop, and, indeed, to absolute collapse, the European tour of the Boer delegates who were striving to obtain European intervention? They were feted in Holland; France gave them a rapturous welcome. They wished to come to Berlin, where the German people would have crowned them with flowers. But when they asked me to receive them—I refused. The agitation immediately died away, and the delegation returned empty-handed. Was that, I ask, the action of a secret enemy?
"Again, when the struggle was at its height, the German Government was invited by the governments of France and Russia to join with them in calling upon England to put an end to the war. The moment had come, they said, not only to save the Boer republics, but also to humiliate England to the dust. What was my reply? I said that so far from Germany joining in any concerted European action to put pressure upon England and bring about her downfall, Germany would always keep aloof from politics that could bring her into complications with a Sea Power like England. Posterity will one day read the exact terms of the telegram—now in the archives of Windsor Castle—in which I informed the Sovereign of England of the answer I had returned to the Powers which then sought to compass her fall. Englishmen who now insult me by doubting my word should know what were my actions in the hour of their adversity.
"Nor was that all. Just at the time of your Black Week, in the December of 1899, when disasters followed one another in rapid succession, I received a letter from Queen Victoria, my revered grandmother, written in sorrow and affliction, and bearing manifest traces of the anxieties which were preying upon her mind and health. I at once returned' a sympathetic reply. Nay, I did more. I bade one of my officers procure for me as exact an account as he could obtain of the number of combatants in South Africa on both sides, and of the actual position of the opposing forces. With the figures before me, I worked out what I considered to be the best plan of campaign under the circumstances, and submitted it to my General Staff for their criticism. Then I dispatched it to England, and that document, likewise, is among the state papers at Windsor Castle, awaiting the serenely impartial verdict of history. And, as a matter of curious coincidence, let me add that the plan which I formulated ran very much on the same lines as that which was actually adopted by Lord Roberts and carried by him into successful operation. Was that, I repeat, the act of one who wished England ill? Let Englishmen be just and say!
"But, you will say, what of the German navy? Surely that is a menace to England! Against whom but England are my squadrons being prepared? If England is not in the minds of those Germans who are bent on creating a powerful fleet, why is Germany asked to consent to such new and heavy burdens of taxation? My answer is clear. Germany is a young and growing Empire. She has a world-wide commerce, which is rapidly expanding, and to which the legitimate ambition of patriotic Germans refuses to assign any bounds. Germany must have a powerful fleet to protect that commerce and her manifold interests in even the most distant seas. She expects those interests to go on growing, and she must be able to champion them manfully in any quarter of the globe. Germany looks ahead. Her horizons stretch far away. She must be prepared for any eventualities in the Far East. Who can foresee what may take place in the Pacific in the days to come—days not so distant as some believe, but days, at any rate, for which all European Powers with Far Eastern interests ought steadily to prepare? Look at the accomplished rise of Japan; think of the possible national awakening of China; and then judge of the vast problems of the Pacific. Only those Powers which have great navies will be listened to with respect when the future of the Pacific comes to be solved; and if for that reason only Germany must have a powerful fleet. It may even be that England herself will be glad that Germany has a fleet when they speak together on the same side in the great debates of the future."
The Chancellor von Billow admitted in the Reichstag that the Kaiser's version of the war plan was not quite accurate, but there is no doubt that the German people were bitterly hostile to England, a hostility which was not at all lessened when English warships seized German ships along the African coast. England apologized for the act, but that did not satisfy German feeling, and when Admiral von Tirpitz presented a bigger naval programme in 1900 than had ever been presented before, the hitherto parsimonious Reichstag suddenly became generous toward the navy. The new law provided for the first time a high-seas battle fleet, and the accompanying memorandum stated:
"To protect Germany's sea trade and colonies, in the existing circumstances, there is only one means: Germany must have a battle fleet so strong that, even for the adversary with the greatest sea-power, a war against it would involve such dangers as to imperil its position in the world."
As much as the Kaiser loves his navy, the army is still more dear to him. "The soldier and the army," he said, in 1891, paraphrasing Bismarck's famous "blood and iron" epigram, "not parliamentary majorities and decisions, have welded together the German Empire. My confidence is in the army—as my grandfather said at Coblenz: 'These are the gentlemen on whom I can rely.'"
At the completion of the first ten years of his reign he addressed his bodyguards:
"The most important legacy left me by my grandfather and father is the army, and with joy and pride have I accepted it. To the army my first decree was issued on ascending the throne. To the army I now again address myself on entering upon the second decennium of my reign.
"Rarely, I believe, has so trying a time passed over the head of a ruler as over mine during these last ten years—I, who saw my grandfather and father die, to my deep sorrow, within so short a space of time. With grave anxiety I placed the crown upon my head. Everywhere I met doubt, and the whole world misjudged me. But one had confidence in me; but one believed in me—that was the army. And relying upon the army, and trusting in God, I began my reign, knowing well that the army is the main tower of strength for my country, the main pillar supporting the Prussian throne, to which God in His wisdom had called me."
On January 1, 1900, the Kaiser addressed the assembled corps of officers:
"The first day of the new century sees our army—that is, our nation in arms—grouped around their banners, bending the knee to the Lord of hosts. And truly, if anybody have special cause to bend down before God, it is our army.
"A glance at our flags here suffices for explanation, for they embody our history. How did the dawn of the past century find our army?
"The glorious soldiers of Frederick the Great had fallen asleep on their laurels, ossified in the trivial details of a senseless, antiquated drill, led by superannuated, unready, and unwarlike generals; their officers no longer used to serious work, and degenerated by luxury, sloth, and blind self-glorification. In a word, the army no longer sufficed for, its task. It had forgotten it. Severe was the punishment meted out to it by Heaven, a punishment which likewise chastised our people. Thrown into the dust were we. Frederick's fame paled, and his glorious banners were broken. In the seven long years of our hard servitude God taught our people to gather new strength. Under the iron pressure of the insolent conqueror's heel, our people in bitter travail of spirit conceived the high thought that it is the greatest honor to devote life and property in military service to the fatherland.
"My great-grandfather gave form and substance to this conception. New laurels crowned the new-born army and its banners. But it was through my grandfather, our great, our dead Emperor, that general military service became a full, a living reality. In quiet, persistent labor he drafted his system of reorganization, out of which, despite all opposition which misapprehension caused, grew our army of to-day. Victorious campaigns, however, crowned his labors in unexpected fullness.
"His spirit pervaded the rank and file of his armies, and his trust in God led them on to matchless victories. With this, his own creation, he at length drew together again the tribes of Germany, and he gave us back longed-for German unity. To him we owe it that through this army the German Empire, honored by all, once more occupies its destined and appropriate position in the council of nations. It is your part, gentlemen, to manifest during the new century the old qualities by which our sires have made the army great and invincible—simplicity and plainness in your style of living, absolute devotion to the service of the King, fullest utilization of all your strength and gifts, both of body and soul, in ceaseless toil for the development and drilling of our troops.
"And as my grandfather did for the army, so, too, I mean to continue for my navy, in spite of all discouragement and misconceptions, the work of development, in order that the navy shall be, side by side with my army, of equal power and strength, and thus achieve for the German Empire at home and abroad that position which we as yet have not attained.
"Jointly with both I hope to be one day in condition, trusting fully in the aid of God; to realize the saying of Frederick William I: 'If one wishes to decide something in this world, it is not the pen alone that will do it if unsupported by the power of the sword."
Even on his many peace trips from capital to capital, the Kaiser almost always gives as an example of the friendliness between Germany and the country in which he is visiting, some joint action, of their armies. In England, for example, he reminds his hearers:
"At Malplaquet and Waterloo, Prussian and British blood has been spilled in a common cause."
"We are carried back to the days when my grandfather, now resting in God, but then a young officer, received before the enemy, on the battlefield, the Order of St. George, and won in the rain of bullets the chieftaincy of the Kalnga Regiment (conferred by Czar Alexander I on William I of Prussia). I remind you of these facts in order to drink to the glorious and joint reminiscences and traditions of the Russian and the Prussian armies. I drink to those who, in patriotic and heroic defence of their country, fought at Borodino, who with us bled at the victorious battles of Areis-sur-Aube and Brienne. I drink to the brave defenders of Sebastopol and the dauntless fighters of Plevna."
On the Kaiser's famous visit to Palestine in 1898 he made a speech at the tomb of the Sultan Saladin in which appeared some sentences which caused much comment then, and may be well remembered now.
"Deeply moved by this imposing spectacle, and likewise by the consciousness, of standing on the spot where held sway one of the most chivalrous rulers of all times, the great Sultan Saladin, a knight sans peur et sans reproche, who often taught his adversaries the right conception of knighthood, I seize with joy the opportunity to render thanks, above all, to the Sultan Abdul Hamid for his hospitality. May the Sultan rest assured, and also the three hundred million Mohammedans scattered over the globe and revering him, their caliph, that the German Emperor will be and remain at all times their friend."
At another time in Austria he said:
"My people and my army keep steadfast and true to the federated compact concluded between us, and the army is fully conscious of the fact that to preserve the peace and its blessings for our countries it must maintain it and would fight, shoulder to shoulder, with the brave Austro-Hungarian army, if that should be the will of Providence."
And again, in 1910 the Kaiser referred to his action two years previous in sustaining Austria-Hungary in its annexation of Bosnia-and Herzegovina against Russia's protest, as "the action of an ally in taking his stand in shining armor at a grave moment by the side of your most gracious sovereign."
At his silver wedding anniversary, in 1906, he said again: "My first and last care is for my fighting forces on land and sea."
In March, 1890, in a speech of the Kaiser's to the men at Brandenburg, occurred this passage:
"I look upon the people and nation handed on to me as a responsibility conferred upon me by God, and that it is, as is written in the Bible, my duty to increase this heritage, for which one day I shall be called upon to give an account; those who try to interfere with my task I shall crush."
A few months later he voiced the same sentiments in these words:
"It is a tradition of our House that we, the Hohenzollerns, regard ourselves as appointed by God to govern and to lead the people, whom it is given us to rule, for their well-being and the advancement of their material and intellectual interests."
Four years later, at Konigsberg, the ancient crowning place of the Prussian kings, William II said:
"The successor (referring to himself) of him who of his own right was sovereign prince in Prussia will follow the same path as his great ancestor; as formerly the first King (of Prussia) said, 'My crown is born with me,' and as his greater son (the Great Elector) gave his authority the stability of a rock of bronze, so I, too, like my imperial grandfather, represent the kingship by God's grace."
Again, in 1897, the same idea crops up in his speech about his grandfather at Coblenz:
"He left Coblenz to ascend the throne as the selected instrument of the Lord he always regarded himself to be. For us all, and above all for us princes, he raised once more aloft and lent lustrous beams to a jewel which we should hold high and holy—that is the kingship by God's grace, the kingship with its onerous duties, its never-ending, ever-continuing trouble and labor, with its fearful responsibility to the Creator alone, from which no human being, no minister, no parliament, no people can release the prince."
Again within the last few years at Konigsberg he reiterated his belief:
"Here my grandfather," he said, "placed, by his own right, the crown of the Kings of Prussia on his head, once again laying stress upon the fact that it was conferred upon him by the grace of God alone, not by Parliament, by meetings of the people, or by popular decisions; and that he considered himself the chosen instrument of Heaven and as such performed his duties as regent and as ruler. Considering myself as an instrument of the Lord, without being misled by the views arid opinions of the day, I go my way, which is devoted solely and alone to the prosperity and peaceful development of our Fatherland."
The Kaiser is a very devout Christian. He often impresses it on his army that without Christianity no man can be a good soldier. Whenever he is on board his yacht, the Hohenzollern, on Sunday he conducts services himself. In 1900, when his troops were in China at the time of the Boxer uprising, he preached the following sermon:
"Text: 2 Mos. 17th chapt. 11th verse: 'But as long as Moses held up his hands, praying, Israel prevailed; but when he lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed. Amen."
"An imposing picture it is which to-day's text presents to our souls. There is Israel, making its way through the desert, coming from the Red Sea and on toward Mount Sinai. But of a sudden the heathen Amalekite people stop their progress, and a battle ensues. Joshua leads the young men of Israel into the fray; swords rattle and meet, and a hotly contested, bloody struggle sets in, down in the vale of Rephidim. But see, while the battle moves hither and thither, those devout men of God, Moses, Aaron, and Hur, climb up the mountain-side and stretch out their hands toward Heaven; they pray. Below in the valley the warring throng; up on the mountain the praying three. That is the warlike picture of our text.
"And who to-day does not understand what lesson it conveys? For again the pagan spirit of Amalek has stirred in far Asia, and with great cunning and power, with fire and murder, they seek to hinder the triumphal march of Christian morals, of Christian faith, of European commerce and education. And again God has ordered: 'Choose men; go forth and fight against Amalek!' A grim, a terrible struggle has begun. 'Already many of our brothers there are in the combat; many more are now on their way to the hostile coasts. You have seen them, those thousands who, answering the call, 'Volunteers to the front! Who will protect the Empire?' are now gathering, and who will soon join in the fight with flying banners.
"But we, remaining behind here at home, restricted by other and sacred duties—do we not hear the words of God, spoken to us, saying: 'Go up on the mountain-side! Lift up thine hands to the Most High!' The prayer of the just accomplishes much if it be but said with all our strength and faith!
"Well, then. Far away the ranks of warriors, and here at home the ranks of the praying—let that also be the holy battle picture for to-day! Let this peaceful morning hour remind us of the sacred duty of prayer, of the sacred power of prayer.
"The sacred duty of prayer.
"Certainly it is an inspiriting moment when a ship heaves anchor with a youthful crew on board! Have you not seen the eyes of the young warriors shining? Have you not heard their thousand-voiced hurrah?
"But when the coasts of our native land dwindle and vanish, when the ship enters the torrid heat of the Red Sea, or when she plunges into the mighty waves of the ocean, how often does enthusiasm vanish, too, and how often does strength depart!
"Certainly an inspiriting moment when, after a long journey, are seen, far in the distance, the straight lines of the German forts, and the black-white-red flag of the German colony becomes visible, and when brothers-in-arms are awaiting your arrival ashore, shouting welcome in the mother-tongue! But later on, when begin endless marches under a fiery sun, and interminable nights, camping out in the rain, how easily then joy and courage ooze away!
"Certainly a longed-for moment, that in which the drum beats to storm and the trumpets shriek to attack, when the order is shouted, 'On upon the enemy!'
"But when, in the midst of thundering cannon and in the midst of sputtering, screaming shells your comrades are mowed down to right and left, and when the enemy's batteries will not be silenced, how often even a brave heart begins to tremble!
"Christians! To enable your brothers out there to remain of joyful heart, to persist in their duty even when it is hardest, not to lose courage even in the greatest danger, it needs more than ammunition and good weapons, more than bravery and enthusiasm—it needs approval and encouragement from on high, else they cannot achieve victory. And this heavenly world can be unlocked solely by prayer. Prayer is the golden key to the treasure-chamber of our God. But whoever has it has also the promise that he who prays will also receive.
"Or, indeed, are we to let our hands lie idly in our laps? Woe to us if we are to remain idle and impassive while they are doing their hard, their bloody tasks! Woe to us if we are to be but curious spectators behind the bars of the great arena while they struggle tensely in the grip of death! That were the spirit of Cain, saying cruelly, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That were treachery toward our brave brothers who are risking their lives!
"No—thrice no! We will not only send out battalions of warriors. No! We will also aid them by a holy band of praying allies.
"And how much, how many things, we have to ask God for our brothers going into the field of battle! They are to be the strong arm with which to punish the assassins. They are to be the mailed fist with which to set aright the murderous disorder. Their sword is to fight for our holiest treasures.
"Let us, therefore, accompany them with our prayers upon the deep sea, upon their weary marches, into the thunder of battle, and into the quiet of the hospital. And we will ask God, our Lord, to let them remain strong and manful in their duty, so that they will fight the foe heroically and undauntedly, that they will bear their wounds bravely and without complaint, and God will give a blessed end to those who fall under fire, and will reward them—in short, He will make heroes of our warriors, and conquerors of these heroes, and will lead them home again into the land of their fathers, the laurel wreath around their helmets, and the medal of honor on their breasts.
"The sacred power of prayer.
"Or do we not believe in the sacred power of prayer? Well, then, what says our text? 'As long as Moses held up his hands, praying, Israel prevailed!' The fervent prayers of Moses made the swords of the enemy dull, enabled his men to penetrate the hostile ranks like a phalanx, thus causing them to break and run, and pinned victory to the flying banners of Israel. And if the prayers of Moses accomplished this, is it to be thought that our prayers will prove of no avail? God has not taken back a single syllable from His promises. Faithful prayer can throw even to-day the dragon banner into the dust and plant the cross upon the walls.
"And Moses was not the only one whose prayer was heeded. Look, up on the heights of Sodom is Abraham, interceding with his God, and with his prayer he saves Lot from the burning city. Should it, then, be impossible for our prayers to rescue our fighting comrades from the dangers of battle?
"Look again, and in Jerusalem ye will see the young Christian community on their knees. Their leader, their father, lies a prisoner in jail. Yet with their prayers they summon the angel of God into jail, and he leads forth Peter, unscathed.
"Are we, then, to suppose that our prayer will not be potent enough to open again the doors for those in need, for the prisoners, for those pursued, and to place at their side a guardian angel?
'Oh, the power, unseen unheard,
Of a saintly pray'r!
By the strength of faith and word
Deeds are wrought fore'er.'
"Yes, the Lord liveth! Our great Ally still reigneth, Our God liveth, the God who will not allow sin and crime to triumph, but who will conduct His holy cause against a wicked people. God Almighty, who can seize upon, the strongest walls as if they were cobwebs, and who can scatter the mightiest armies like heaps of sand; the compassionate, the faithful God, who bears upon His heart the weal or woe of every one of His children, and who hears every sigh and feels with us every sorrow. Pious prayer opens His fatherly hands, and they are filled with blessings. Fervent prayer unlocks His fatherly heart, and it is filled with love. Yes, faithful, incessant prayer brings down God Himself from Heaven, and places Him in our very midst. And if God is for us, who can be against us?
"Well, then, up in the Tauern Mountains, high above all, marvelous bells are hanging! They are not rung by human hands. Still and silent they hang in sunshine. But when storms arise they begin to swing, they begin to ring, and their ringing is heard far adown the valley.
"God our Lord has hung prayer-bells in every human heart. But, alas! in the sunshine and happiness of life they are mute and motionless. But when the storms of misery and disaster overtake us, how they do begin to ring! And many a comrade who had forgotten how to pray learns out there how to fold his hands once again. Misery teaches us how to pray. And thus, too, it shall be at home. Let the dark days now upon us, let the war clouds that have overwhelmed us, set the prayer-bells in rhythmic swing. Let us pray for our struggling brothers. And not only on festive occasions. No! No! let us pray at all times. Just as our fathers during war times caused the bells to ring every evening, baring their heads when the sound struck their ears, and praying, 'Remain with us, O Jesus Christ, since night is coming on!' so in like manner let never a day pass without interceding for your brothers at the throne of the Most High. Moses held up his hands on high until the sun went down and Joshua had smitten Amalek with the sharp edge of the sword. Our own battle is not fought within a single day. But do not weary. Do not let your hands sink until victory is won. Let our prayers be a wall of fire around the camp of our brothers.
"And how it will strengthen, inspire, encourage them, the thought: Thousands—nay, millions—at home bear us in their praying hearts. The King of all kings calls 'Volunteers to the front! Who will pray for the Fatherland?' Oh! if we could say: 'The King called, and all, all came. Let not a single one of us miss the summons. He is a man who knows how to pray.'
"History some day will describe the battles of these present days. However, man sees but what is before his eyes, and he can but tell what the wisdom of the leaders, the courage of his men, the sharpness of the weapons have done. Eternity, however, will disclose to our gaze more than that, will show how the hidden, unseen prayer of the faithful and believing has been a great power in these battles, and how once more the promise of old has been fulfilled: 'Call upon Me in thine distress, and I will save thee.'
"And therefore: Cease not in your prayers."
On the first of August, 1914, the Kaiser appeared on his balcony and commended the German people to a militant God in the approaching war:
"A fateful hour has fallen for Germany. Envious peoples everywhere are compelling us to our just defence. The sword has been forced into our hands. I hope that if my efforts at the last hour do not succeed in bringing our opponents to see eye to eye with us and in maintaining the peace, we shall, with God's help, so wield the sword that we shall restore it to its sheath again with honor.
"War would demand of us an enormous sacrifice in property and life, but we should show our enemies what it means to provoke Germany. And now I command you to God. Go to church and kneel before God, and pray for His help for our gallant army."
A few days later he opened the Reichstag with these words:
"The world has been a witness of the indefatigable manner in which we stood in the front rank during the worries and troubles of recent years in the endeavor to spare the nations of Europe from a war between the great Powers. "The greatest perils which had arisen owing to the events in the Balkans appeared to have been overcome, but then the assassination of my friend, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, opened up a great abyss.
"My ally, the Emperor Francis Joseph, was compelled to take up arms for the protection of his empire against the dangerous agitation existing in a neighboring state. In pursuing its interest the Russian Empire stepped in the way of Austria-Hungary.
"Not only our duty as an ally called us to the side of Austria-Hungary, but the great task was cast upon us at the same time, with the ancient community of culture of the two empires, to protect our own position against the attack of unfriendly forces.
"It was with a heavy heart that I was compelled to mobilize my army against a neighbor with whose troops mine had fought side-by side on so many fields of battle, and with sincere regret I saw the breaking of a friendship to which Germany had been so faithful.
"The Imperial Russian Government, giving way to an insatiable nationalism, has stepped to the side of a state which, through a criminal act, had brought about the calamity of this war.
"That France also placed herself on the side of our opponent was not surprising to us. Only too often had our efforts to bring about more friendly relations with, the French Republic come into contact with the expression of old hopes and with long-standing malice.
"The present situation arose not from temporary conflicts of interest or diplomatic combinations, but is the result of ill-will existing for years against the strength and prosperity of the German Empire. We are not pushed on by the desire of conquest. We are moved by the unbending desire to secure for ourselves and those coming after us the place on which God has put us.
"My Government and, above all, my Chancellor, tried until the last moment to prevent the worst happening. In enforced self-defense, with clear conscience, and clean hands we grasp the sword.
"To the peoples and races of the German Empire my appeal goes forth to stand together fraternally with our allies in defense of that which we have created in peaceful work.
"Following the example of our forefathers, firm and faithful, earnest and chivalrous, humble before our God and ready to fight when in face of the enemy, let us confide ourselves to the everlasting Almighty, who will strengthen our defense and conduct it to a good end."
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —
THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald