The New York Times/The German Press on the War

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From The New York Times of July 3, 1898.


To the Editor of The New York Times:

In The Times of yesterday, June 27, I found the following editorial utterance:


“ ‘We have fresh evidence every day how unprepared the United States was for war. The Chauvinists over there are finding out what it means to fling a country head over heels into a war; and unfortunately the rest of the world must reckon with the possibility that the Spanish-American trouble will for a long time to come disturb the international situation.’ — The Berlin Nation.

Diogenes in his tub took no interest in the political aspirations of Alexander the Great, but was most particularly anxious that he should get out of his sunlight. We know that our German friends are indifferent to the great work of civilization and humanity which, at considerable inconvenience, we have undertaken to execute. We do not ask their sympathy, we cannot expect their approbation. They openly give both to Spain. Weyler, not Dewey, is their hero. In their enlightened and highly Christian opinion Spain was perfectly within her right in all that she did in Cuba. Have not the agents of the Queen Regent the same sovereign right to shoot, stab, slash, and starve Cubans that the minions of the Kaiser have to clap a German editor into a dungeon in Spandau for Majestätsbeleidigung?”

Permit me to say that this does The Berlin Nation the grossest injustice. I am a constant reader of that journal, and I have never seen anything in it that would in the slightest degree warrant the assertion that “Weyler, not Dewey, is its hero,” or that in its opinion “Spain was perfectly within her right in all she did in Cuba,” or that “the agents of the Queen Regent had a sovereign right to shoot, stab, slash, and starve Cubans,” &c. It is true that a number of German papers criticized the United States for going to war with Spain in ill-natured and irritating language. The German-born citizens of the United States strongly resented this and gave vigorous expression to their feelings. Many, if not most, of these papers have now changed their tone. The Berlin Nation deprecated a war between the United States and Spain before that war was declared, but no sooner had the war began that The Nation emphatically expressed its sympathy with the United States as the power representing civilization and progress as against Spanish mediaevalism, and ever since it has constantly given voice to its hope that the war will soon be ended by a decisive victory of the United States. In fact, The Berlin Nation is one of the ablest and most steadfast friends this Republic has in the whole European press. Why The Times should go out of its way to abuse our friend upon utterly untenable grounds it is hard to understand.

There seems to be a persistent effort made by various papers here as well as abroad to create ill-feeling between the American and the German people by all sorts of inventions, misstatements, exaggerations, and innuendoes. I cannot imagine that The New York Times should have the ambition of figuring among those that are engaged in so discreditable a business.


Bolton Landing, Lake George, N. Y., June 28, 1898.

The Times has no sympathy with the mischief-makers who are trying to stir up ill-feeling between the American and German peoples. It has more than once expressed a wish to see Germany included in a union of interests with England and the United States. Kent and Suffolk are not the easternmost homes of our kindred. They dwell beyond the German Ocean, too, and we would gladly stretch hands across two seas to clasp theirs. Moreover, The Times has constantly insisted that the ill-natured and provocative German press did not and could not reflect the views of official Germany. The behavior of the German Government has been neutral and correct thus far, and The Times has been generous and optimistic about its future course.

But we have not minced matters with The Berlin Nation. Because of its ability, its enlightenment, its friendship, and full understanding of American policy and opinion we have held it to stricter account and deemed it worthy of a sterner reprobation than the irresponsible sheets that print the gabble of Foreign Office underlings. The editor of The Berlin Nation knows the American people, and they have a right to ask that he shall not misrepresent them.

Yet at the breaking out of the war The Nation adopted as its own the views of Mr. Phelps's detestable pamphlet, presenting with unreserved approval a full editorial summary of that “opinion,” the most reprehensible attack ever made upon his own Government and his own people by a respectable and respected man. It accepted without question the theory complacently formulated here by Prof. Charles Eliot Norton, that superior persons in the United States, all our “wisest and best,” are opposed to the war. In its view Americans like Col. Roosevelt and Gen. Lee, who showed themselves capable of indignation at the horrors of the hell upon earth in Cuba, were “Chauvinists” — jingoes our un-American papers called them.

At length The Berlin Nation's mind was informed or its conscience quickened, and it published a just and sound article on the war. It exhibited a clear understanding of the facts and the principles. It showed that it knew that Spain was a wretched and moribund nation, and that the United States was liberal, progressive, humane, and unselfish. For this exhibition of intelligence and fairness The Times warmly commended its Berlin contemporary and was gratified. But in later issues of The Nation evidences of real sympathy with the United States have been disappointingly few, and too frequently its brief comments on the progress of the war have had a tone of headache and fatigue that is almost as far from friendship, sympathy, and justice as the sneers and slurs of the openly hostile press of Germany.

In its issue of June 11, however, The Nation is at pains to renew its expressions of sympathy and friendship for us. It quotes from a letter written by its editor, Dr. Barth, to Cosmopolis, in which he frankly declares that Spain has forfeited her rights in Cuba by cruelty, and that the United States is performing a work of historical necessity. It is gratifying to be assured by Dr. Barth that, now that the war has begun, his sympathies are entirely with us, and the “Spain has found no sympathy at all in German.” We hazard the conjecture that the conversion of this distinguished and liberal-minded German editor is largely due to the efforts of Mr. Schurz himself, whose loyal, just, and thoroughly American letter to The Nation must have presented the facts and the principles of our position in a new and much needed light to all Germany. Mr. Schurz will pardon us, however, for observing that we did not say that Weyler was the hero of The Berlin Nation in particular. We bunched our German critics and said he was “their hero,” not “its hero,” and the imputation is fairly justified by the way they gnash their teeth at us for putting forward Dewey to abolish Weyler.

We wish Mr. Schurz would write a letter to The Cologne Gazette, not to compel its sympathy, but to castigate its morals. We append an extract from the columns of that semi-official organ appearing as a Berlin dispatch under date of June 14, and purporting to give the views of the Marin-Politische Correspondenz on the sending of Admiral von Diedrich's fleet to Manilla:

“The assembling of so considerable a German fleet at the point that is just now the centre of political interest in East Asia can inspire us with only feelings of great satisfaction. It means that the guiding principle of the present foreign policy of the empire is a readiness in the broadest sense to protect the interests of Germany in that island domain. The fact that this duty is intrusted to the Admiral to whom we owe the skillful execution of the plan for the German acquisition of Kiao-Chau is an assurance that our active interference in affairs at Manila will not miscarry for want of foresight and experience. We cherish, however, the hope, or at least the wish, that the concentration of German forces in the Philippines will not be without permanent results. With better right than foreign nations that are striving to obtain a firm foothold in the Philippine territory that is passing from Spanish control can Germany demand a base for the protection of her interests without in any way becoming too closely involved in Philippine politics; and from all appearances the chance will be taken to win a strong position through the incapacity of the natives. Such a position, in our judgment, is a necessity in a part of the worlds where Germany has important interests, and all the more because our warships and merchant vessels in that commercially important and broad East Asian region have no harbor of their own except Kiao-Chau. On the same grounds upon which the cession of a harbor was demanded from China, a like cession is to be demanded from the “Republic of the Philippines,” which, according to all appearances, is about to be established; for in the future “government” and in the actual conditions of this republic we can feel no greater confidence than in the Chinese Empire. We cherish the wish that substantial results of the nature we have indicated will follow from the presence there of a German squadron capable of compelling respect for the interests of Germany as compared with those of other nations.”

This is veritable highwayman's insolence. If anybody has paramount rights in the Philippines at the present moment it is the United States of America. Yet leading German newspapers coolly discuss the acquisition of a German base there as purely a matter between Germany and the inchoate Republic of the Philippines. It is none of our business, and the joyful emphasis put upon the fact that the German fleet is powerful enough to compel respect indicates this German editor's opinion and wish as to what would happen to us if we attempted to make it our business. We have not even the right to protest against all this impudence, it seems, for The Cologne Gazette has just administered a fresh rebuke to the American press for forgetting “that the idea that Germany intended to interfere at Manila was fostered by the official press and universally welcomed in Germany.”

There is no trace here of any spirit except the spirit of brutal and lawless selfishness. The historical necessity and humane nature of the work we have undertaken passes without a word of approving recognition. The American press is not thus stolidly indifferent to the moral aspects of European wars. Russia had no such legal and humane justification for declaring war on Turkey twenty-one years ago as we have for making war on Spain, but the American press without exception welcomed the prospect that an end would be put to centuries of Ottoman misrule in Europe; and when self-interest and the balance-of-power idea interfered to cheat Russia of the full fruits of her victory and civilization of its triumph, the wretched patchwork of compromises known as the Treaty of Berlin was as universally denounced. There is little of that broad, whole-world, liberal spirit in the German press.

Notwithstanding the reiterations of the Cologne organ, we utterly discredit the assertion that these outlaw doctrines are held in any high Government circles at Berlin. The Cologne Gazette would have us believe that the Emperor is a sort of Dick Turpin, under the moral guidance of Sixteen-String Jack as his Minister of Foreign Affairs. We have not the Kaiser's reputation in our keeping, but we repudiate and disdain this unworthy view of his international morality, preferring to give full faith and credit to the official declaration in The North German Gazette of Germany's “strict, complete, and loyal neutrality,” and to the assurance therein given that the imperial policy will not, save for compelling reasons, permit any disturbance of “that century old friendship for a nation in which millions of Germany's people have found a second home.”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).