German Propaganda in the United States


‘THE power of the Parthians was not so formidable as German liberty,’ exclaims the greatest of Roman historians in concluding his description of the Teutonic nations. A semi-nomadic people, organized by tribes and communities under leaders chosen for their birth, popularity, and military prowess; living in scattered dwellings, for they despised cities and would not allow a continuity of houses; honoring the virtue of their women; recognizing as law their inherited customs, which were binding upon kings and freemen alike; trying offenders before members of the tribe; deciding important matters and enacting laws for their princes in the public assembly where not even kings were permitted to command, but only to persuade; jealous of their personal independence to the extent of laxity in their attendance, for too great punctuality might savor of servility; carrying their weapons wherever they went, for arms were the badge of liberty and citizenship; accompanied in their wars by their women and children, the darling witnesses of their conduct and the applauders of their valor — such were the people who, even when defeated, shook the Roman power. ‘We have triumphed,’ says Tacitus, ‘and Germany is still unconquered.’

The successive bands of Jutes, Saxons, and Angles, who overwhelmed Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, brought with them this Germanic inheritance. Nowhere else was the barbarian conquest so thorough. The Roman provincials were all but exterminated, Roman civilization obliterated. Nor did Rome ever succeed, as on the continent, in casting the spell of her political, religious, or intellectual empire over these conquerors. English history — which in its broad aspects includes the history of the American people — begins with the Anglo-Saxon conquest, and throughout its course is essentially the record of the struggle, at times against foreign or reactionary kings, at other times against particular interests, for the preservation and development of the institutions and ideals which so profoundly impressed the Roman historians. The Germanic assembly became the prototype of the Witenagemot; the Witenagemot, after a long struggle with the Norman kings, emerged as the Parliament, and on this side of the Atlantic came to be known as Congress and State Legislature. The right of the people to choose the sovereign was vindicated by the Bill of Rights, and again by the Act of Settlement which brought the Hanoverian kings to England. From the conception of law as the growth of the free customs of the people developed the great body of the English Common Law, a law supreme over sovereign as well as subject, which Anglo-Saxons have carried as a treasured inheritance into every part of the world, and which they have made the basic law of most of the American commonwealths. The self-reliant warriors of Tacitus are reflected in the constitutional amendment declaring that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; Lhe intense individualism which he described finds expression in the guaranties of religious freedom, of freedom of speech and of the press, of the right to assemble and petition, of security of life, liberty and property, and of many other rights, which have been claimed, reaffirmed, and emphasized in a long line of charters and declarations extending from Magna Carta to the Fifteenth Amendment. While repudiating the divine right of kings, the Anglo-Saxon people have steadily aimed to realize the divine right of man.

To this history the kindred people who remained in the ancestral home on the banks of the Rhine, the Elbe, and in Schleswig offer no parallel. In fact, the direction of their development diverged sharply from the time when the progenitors of the modern AngloSaxons took their departure. They settled largely among the Roman provincials. The invaders brought with them their native law, the Romans remained subject, as before, to the Corpus Juris. The influence of the Church was such as gradually to efface the memory of Germanic institutions. Charlemagne, whom Germans to-day are proud to hail as the first Kaiser, well-nigh exterminated the Saxon tribes who dwelt between the Rhine and the Elbe, and overthrew the Irmensäule — said by some to commemorate the victory of Arminius over Varus. The Holy Roman Empire drew the Germanic races more and more under the spell of the ancient civilization. During the Hohenstaufen ride Roman law gained the ascendancy. In making the sovereign the source of law, and in placing him above the law, in inculcating an attitude of subjection and respect for prerogative, it offered advantages which the princes were glad to appropriate, and in 1495 it was formally adopted as the law of the Empire. Long before this the tribal organization had given way to the feudal system, and, as the power of the Emperors grew weaker in the struggle with the Papacy, the nobles seized upon every prerogative which the successors of the Cæsars lost. By the Peace of Westphalia most of them gained the formal recognition of their territorial independence and sovereignty, and to these were added a swarm of knights of the Empire who exercised a more or less capricious lordship over the peasantry, the villagers, and the despised Jews. In the twelfth century the Germans pushed across the Elbe, and farther to the East the Teutonic Order established its military supremacy over the heathen, nonGerman Prussians.

In all this territory, comprising two fifths of modern Germany, there was a mingling of Germanic and Slavic blood which may account, partly, for the special apathy of Prussians toward Germanic ideals of freedom. By the end of the eighteenth century the habit of subjection had become fixed. The lords of Hesse-Cassel, Brunswick, and HesseHanau complacently drove a bargain in human chattels with George III — himself by descent, inheritance, and every instinct a German princeling — and sent twenty-nine thousand of their subjects to subjugate the American colonies. The work of the Peoples’ Parliament in Prussia was frustrated by the refusal of the King to recognize his subjects in the preamble of the proposed constitution, and the members were forcibly dispersed. The Frankfurt Parliament drafted an imperial constitution, including in it a Bill of Rights, offered the German crown to the Prussian King, and as a reward was hounded into obloquy. In ignominy ended these feeble efforts of the German people to accomplish something politically for themselves. The future developments were the work of the princes, and resulted in giving to Prussia a sham constitution, and in bestowing upon the Empire an organic law which, while it carefully prescribed the model for military uniforms, overlooked rights of person and of property, and provided an appointive federal council which, under the scheme arranged, can nullify every act of the lower house.

Under this régime the Germanic birth-right of independence and individual initiative has been contentedly bartered away for workmen’s pensions and insurance, and for petty employment in a widely ramified bureaucracy, until the ancient spirit of the race finds only a hollow mockery in the action of the Social Democrats, who leave the Reichstag in a body when the cheers for the Emperor are announced. The rights of man have vanished before the divine right of the State, and the divine right of the State is personified in the King and Emperor.

Let this not be understood as a glorification of Anglo-Saxon democracy, for that is still in the making. Though we have liberty, we have not yet learned to curb the abuse of liberty by the cunning, nor the misuse of it by the incompetent. Nor is it the intention of this article to disparage the great work of German philosophers, poets, artists, scientists, and musicians, or even the products of present-day German materialism. The outstanding fact is that, having from a common origin reached these opposite extremes of political development, no nations had more to learn from each other than had the Anglo-Saxon nations — England and the United States — and Germany.

The dying Faust sees his highest ideals realized on a free soil and among a free people: —

Freedom alone he earns as well as life
Who day by day must conquer them anew.

The political apostasy of the German people and the eclectic attitude of the American mind made sympathetic intercourse mutually desirable, and in no way could American citizens of German birth have better served both their native and their adoptive lands than by mediating between the distinctive habits of thought which they presented. To do this required complete sympathy with our institutions, an understanding of American history, and an appreciation of the political inheritance which came to us through England. As natural heirs to the best that the Fatherland has produced in culture and in human character, and as the legatees of Anglo-Saxon freedom, it was their high privilege to reunite through mutual understanding the long-separated branches of the Germanic family. This was the mission of the German element in the United States.


The incentive which brought the Pilgrims to New England also inspired the German immigrations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1677 William Penn visited the Pietists of Frankfurt-on-the-Main. The desire to escape the persecutions of the state church led to the settlement by members of this sect of Germantowm, Pennsylvania, in 1683. Other sects — the Moravians, Mennonites, Lutherans, Dunkers — followed. The same ideal was the impelling motive for all — freedom to worship after the dictates of their own consciences. They were quickly converted to the political thinking of their Anglo-Saxon neighbors and bore an honorable part in the Revolutionary War. They and their descendants became Americans in every sense of the word.

The high tides of German immigration during the first seventy years of the nineteenth century are marked by the political troubles in the old country — the suppression of the student societies and turnvereins in 1820, the revolution of 1832, and the more important revolution of 1848. Each of these disturbances sent its quota of political refugees to America. Driven from their native land, these enthusiasts cherished for many years the idea of founding in the new world a German state in which their aspirations for German nationalism, unity, and freedom could be realized. They severely upbraided their countrymen who had preceded them for having allowed themselves to become Americanized. As Germans they felt that they had a mission to fulfill, and that mission was nothing less than the complete Germanizing of the United States. This was to be accomplished through their intellectual superiority, and also by founding German communities and from these as centres making their influence felt throughout the country. A German university was to be established. It was at one time proposed to concentrate German immigration in Wisconsin, until through a preponderance of the population they had succeeded in replacing English with German as the language of the courts, of the legislature and of the schools. Many schemes were suggested for planting German states in the western territories. Niles’s Register remarks in a contemporary paragraph that ‘a plan is in progress in the southwest of Germany to make up a state and ship it over to America to become the twenty-fifth member of the confederacy.’

Fantastic though these schemes appear, they were seriously undertaken, and fully justified the nativistic ideas of the Know-Nothing Party of the fifties. One society alone sent twenty-five hundred immigrants into Texas for the purpose of founding another Germany.

The secession agitation and the Civil War put an end to these dreams. The German element saw their adopted country threatened with the sectionalism which had been the tragedy of the German people, and with commendable spirit they threw themselves on the side of the Union cause.

The succeeding immigration differed markedly from those that have been described. Neither religious liberty nor political freedom was the goal of the swarms which landed on our shores during the eighties and nineties. They had no spiritual interest in America, for they came hither primarily to improve their material condition. There was also this striking difference — the earlier immigrants brought with them bitter memories of German disunion and of the tyrannies of their petty princes. Pride of nationality they had, but little of state or country. Their political allegiance, and all that it implied, they were glad to cast off as a loathed garment. The later arrivals, on the other hand, came, not as refugees, but as the subjects of a united empire whose power and achievements inspired them with a conscious pride. They were prone to criticize the institutions and customs of the new country and to make invidious comparisons with what they had left behind. The better educated revived the separatist ideals of the former revolutionaries, but with the Empire, rather than the German people, as the background. To journalists, clergymen, and teachers, who depended upon a Germanspeaking public for their livelihood, this movement was, of course, a matter of practical interest. But there were many others who, before leaving the old country, had become obsessed with the rapidly developing ideas of Germany’s imperial destiny in politics, commerce, and culture.

These ideas, too, had stimulated in the Fatherland a greater interest in those who had migrated to other countries. In 1881 there was organized the ‘Educational Alliance for the Preservation of German Culture in Foreign Lands.’1 It sought to retain at least the spiritual and intellectual allegiance of German emigrants. ‘Not a man can we spare, ’ — so read its declaration of principles — ‘ if we expect to hold our own against the one hundred and twenty-five million who already speak the English language and who have preempted the most desirable fields for expansion.’

A similar thought inspired the PanGerman Alliance.2 ‘The Germans are a race of rulers,’ it declared; ‘as such they must be respected everywhere in the world. We do not believe that German national development ended with the results of 1871, great and glorious though they were.’ A number of branches of this society, as well as of the Navy League,3 were established in the United States.

Many of the educated class kept in touch with these movements in Germany. They began to agitate among their countrymen for the solidarity of the German element, the preservation of the German language, and the spread of German culture. Their appeals found a ready response among the recent arrivals, and even engaged the attention of the older element, who, though having no interest in Germany as a state, still cherished the memory of the Fatherland as the home of Goethe, of Schiller, of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, of the philosophers and musicians. The agitators, permeated with the teachings of modern German historians, pointed to what they regarded as signs of the impending dissolution of the British Empire; Germany was destined to overthrow the colossus with the feet of clay, and succeed it as a world-empire; German culture would be supreme, the German language the universal tongue. Anglo-Saxon civilization they both disparaged as decadent and cordially hated; Puritanism represented its most odious phase. They proclaimed that only in a political and geographical sense were they Americans — in all other respects they remained Germans; they condemned any approach to assimilation, and decried the moral of Zangwill’s Melting Pot. Some sought to give the propaganda a patriotic guise by declaring that it was the sacred mission of the German element to guard themselves, their language, and their culture from native influences in order that as a chosen people they might save America from the decay which was destroying the vitals of everything Anglo-Saxon. A monthly magazine, Der deutsche Vorkämpfer, began publication as the special exponent of these ideas.

The media for the propaganda were the German newspapers, German societies, churches, and schools. There are probably six hundred periodicals in the United States printed in the German language. From 1890 on, the number has been diminishing, and the circulation has been practically stationary. It was, of course, highly important for them to maintain the interest of their subscribers in things German, especially in view of the fact that the immigration, which reached its high tide in 1882, dwindled during the nineties, and after 1900 practically ceased.

Organizations of every kind have always been a feature of German life in America. The national ‘Sängerbund’ was organized in 1849. The turnvereins organized as far back as 1848 and have had a national alliance since 1850. To-day they boast forty thousand members, and have a normal school in Indianapolis. In 1870 the association of German teachers 4 was formed, and soon after that a training school was established in Milwaukee. In 1885 a national organization of German schools 5 was started, but met with the opposition of certain elements which, while they favored the propaganda for the German language in parts of Austria and Hungary, could see no reason for such a movement in the United States.

There are associations of German veterans and reservists, many mutual aid and benefit societies, the wellknown singing societies, and innumerable other organizations.

Under the influence of the new propaganda, all these societies were brought into closer touch with one another. In 1897 the German societies of Pennsylvania were organized into a state federation. Other states followed, and in 1901 the state federations were united in the National German-American Alliance.6 This achievement the Germans regard as of the greatest importance for their future. The Alliance claims to be the head and front of everything German in the United States.

The Alliance now claims to reach through its subordinate state and local federations and individual societies no less than two million German citizens. Its principal objects, as officially announced, are to increase the feeling of solidarity and unity among the German element; to oppose nativistic efforts; to remove purely educational tests as a requirement for citizenship; to combat Puritan influences, particularly prohibition and the restriction of the liquor traffic; to bring about legislation making compulsory the teaching of German in certain grades of the public schools, and to revise school histories in the direction of emphasizing German influences in the national and institutional development of the United States.

Ever since its organization the Alliance has been energetically pursuing these objects. It is active in supporting the training school at Milwaukee. Prizes and medals are offered to encourage scholarship in German. Its standing committee on historical study examines textbooks to assure itself that the German cause is given proper consideration. At the recent national convention it recommended the introduction of the study of German history in the public schools ‘for the reason that only with a knowledge of the history of German politics and culture could an understanding of American history be acquired.’ It is made the duty of every subordinate society to see to it that its members become voters as soon as possible. ‘Become citizens and exercise your right of suffrage. Accept public office and support German candidates,’ was the admonition of the president of the Alliance in a recent address.

Though disclaiming partisan politics, the organization has always urged its members to vote for candidates favoring legislation on behalf of the German language and the ‘liberal’ view as opposed to prohibition. Several states have made the teaching of German in the grade schools obligatory upon petition of a certain number of voters.

Prohibition appears to have been the favorite bugbear of the Alliance from the beginning. It would be hard to equal the bitterness of the opposition to this movement. A ‘shameful and despicable propaganda,’ a ‘criminal activity,’ the ‘work of a dark brood,’are some of the epithets which the official Bulletin reports its members as using. In some way it has come to be regarded as directed especially against the German element. ‘The question involves the existence of the German people in the United States, just as the existence of Germany and Austria are at stake on the battlefields of Europe,’declared the president of the Alliance recently. This hatred is due to the belief that prohibition is peculiarly representative of Puritanism; and Puritanism, to their minds, is the typical product of the Anglo-Saxon spirit.

And right here the Alliance has drawn the racial line. It was indicated by the opposition to the treaty of arbitration with England proposed by President Taft, and in the attempts to frustrate every movement looking to a better understanding with Englishspeaking nations — what the leaders of the Alliance have denominated ‘Anglo-Saxon imperialism.' As announced in the official Bulletin, ‘ The National Alliance is waging war against Anglo-Saxonism, against the fanatical enemies of personal liberty, and political freedom; it is combating narrowminded, benighted knownothingism, the influence of the British, and the enslaving Puritanism which had its birth in England.' ‘German, German to the core,’is the watchword proclaimed by the New York Staatszeitung, the most influential German daily in the United States. This newspaper denounced the Young amendment to the New York constitution, which proposed to make the ability to read and write the English language a requirement for the suffrage. ‘ It is a pro-British propaganda,’the Staatszeitung declared, ‘and it will not cease with the end of the war, but will only begin at that time. It affects primarily us Americans of German blood, who, in this war also, will be put upon our own resources. The race war which we shall be compelled to go through on American soil will be our world-war.'


With the outbreak of the war in Europe the separatist ideal was intensified and the activities of the Alliance multiplied. Word was sent to every locality to organize a press bureau; to be ready to send communications to the local newspapers in answer to any unfriendly criticism of Germany, and, if no retraction followed, to cancel subscriptions. A special call for this work was issued to schoolteachers and to all those who had studied in Germany. From the headquarters of the Alliance resolutions were sent to nearly every newspaper in the United States demanding that it follow a policy of impartiality in its news service and editorial columns. Finally, as these measures did not bring about a revulsion of sentiment in favor of the Fatherland, all publications friendly to the Allies were denounced as controlled by British capital or suborned by the ‘reptile fund’ of Downing Street. ‘Read German papers only,’became the watchword. As a result, it was claimed that the circulation of many papers printed in English experienced a serious decline, while the German press prospered correspondingly.

The Anglo-Saxon rights to assemble and petition the government were availed of with frequency and ostentation. ‘ We have long since given up the attempt to convert the Anglo-Americans — we must now impress them with our power,’advised the Westliche Post. Accordingly, mass meetings were held which every loyal German was urged to attend. Forms of petitions favoring the Vollmer Resolution, which forbade the export of arms, were sent to every society with the request that they be filled out and forwarded to members of Congress. The ‘American Truth Society,’ an organization inspired by the Alliance, sent questionnaires to every representative and senator for the purpose of learning his attitude on this and other questions. Those sending in unsatisfactory answers were threatened with the united opposition of the German element. ‘Not as Republicans, not as Democrats, not as Progressives should we vote,’ declared one of the leaders, ‘but as GermanAmericans, as hyphenated citizens.’

To this, of course, no objection could be raised. But it was not long before partisanship developed into an abuse of these constitutional privileges. In the dark days following the Lusitania tragedy, when it was a matter of honor with every American to forget personal prejudices in unswerving loyalty to the country, the summons was sent from the headquarters of the Alliance to every state organization requesting it to wire the President that their members and an overwhelming majority of the citizens of their respective states were opposed to drastic measures against Germany as unjustified. In response to this mandate telegrams poured in upon a sorely harassed executive, denouncing the victims of the tragedy for having traveled on a British ship; asserting that the tragedy would not have occurred had this government put an embargo on munitions and insisted upon the right to ship provisions to the central allies; that England had purposely failed in her duty to convoy the Lusitania in order to invite her destruction and bring on a war with Germany; and urging that reparation be demanded of the British government.

At a mass meeting of German citizens in St. Louis resolutions were adopted, excusing the sinking on the ground of our unneutral attitude in failing to lay an embargo on munitions. ‘The American passengers were warned by the German Ambassador in the English newspapers. That warning saved the lives of hundreds of Americans, and for this Count von Bernstorff should receive the thanks of the American people.’ At a mass meeting in New York, which Captains von Papen and Boy-Ed and the Turkish Consul-General attended as guests, one speaker declared that ‘so long as our government permits the export of arms, so long will German-Americans refuse to ask that ships like the Lusitania be spared.’ The degree of patriotism that inspired some of the promoters of this demonstration may be judged from the fact that one of the prominent speakers was subsequently indicted with the notorious Franz von Rintelen, for conspiracy in restraint of the foreign commerce of the United States.

When the mass of petitions failed to move the administration, it was denounced as merely the Washington branch of the English government; the Secretary of State was dubbed the messenger boy of Sir Edward Grey, and the heads of the government were contemptuously referred to as the ‘ammunition brokerage firm of Wilson and Bryan.’ Apparently our German friends had entirely forgotten the provisions of sections ninety-four to ninetyseven of the Reichsstraf gesetzbuch, which would have been promptly applied to similar conduct in the beloved Fatherland.

The denunciations which GermanAmericans have heaped upon the unfortunates of the Lusitania for their foolhardiness in risking their lives and jeopardizing the friendly relations of the United States and Germany can be aptly turned against the National Alliance itself. The April issue of the official Bulletin called upon all Germans to defeat the ‘starvation blockade’ of England by forwarding provisions to their relatives and friends in Germany by parcel post, and gave detailed directions for such shipment. Any interference with such packages, it was advised, would constitute a casus belli. To excite feeling against England old disputes were revived and the longforgotten tirades which they occasioned were reprinted and circulated. The officers of the Alliance were officious in presenting before the State Department the claims of citizens whose property had been held up by the British blockade. The German societies in the South urged the cottongrowers to insist upon their right to ship their product to Germany unless an embargo should be placed on munitions. England, they repeated again and again, had always been the tyrant of the seas, the sworn enemy of America.

A feature of the agitation has been the large number of organizations which have, apparently, sprung spontaneously into existence. Among these are the ‘American Neutrality League,’ which professes to favor simon-pure neutrality by opposing the export of arms; the ‘American Independence Union,’ which advocates a real independence of England by the observance of true neutrality; the ‘American Truth Society,’ which professes to have that jewel, so far as it relates to the war, in its exclusive possession; the ‘Friends of Peace,’ who abhor the munitions traffic on humanitarian grounds and whose convention in Chicago was promoted by the president of the New York federation of German societies; and many others. All are mere aliases for the same agencies—the same names appear in the directorates and memberships. So apparent was this fact that the president of the National Alliance suggested the advisability of the officers of the ‘American Independence Union ’ resigning in favor of gentlemen whose names would not so clearly betray their German origin and partisanship. He also urged the members to form branch societies of the ‘American Neutrality League,’ cautioning them, however, to avail themselves, so far as possible, of Anglo-Americans for the official positions.

The American Truth Society has been the principal literary agency of the propaganda. In view of the reiterated protestations of undivided loyalty which head all petitions circulated by the German sympathizers, the pamphlet, A German-American War, published immediately after the Lusitania tragedy, is interesting. The author, who is the president of the society, seriously questions the loyalty of the German element in the event of a war with Germany, and goes so far as to predict a revolution which would drench the country in blood. If this is the brand of truth the society espouses, its work need not be taken seriously.

Besides these organizations there are those which are frankly German in name as well as in sympathy, such as the ‘German Defense Committee,’ and the ‘German Information Bureau.’

Just as the German government counted upon an insurrection in Ireland, so the Alliance and the partisans of Germany in this country turned to Irish organizations for support. As far back as 1907 a working agreement was made with the Ancient Order of Hibernians; in 1910 the scope of the agreement was enlarged. Since the war the branch societies have been urged to get into touch with similar Irish organizations. Accordingly, Germans have assisted ostentatiously in the celebration of Irish holidays. In some places the enthusiasts further ‘ hyphenated’ their citizenship by the formation of ‘ German-Irish-American ’ organizations.

There is no question that these activities, like the discontent in Ireland, were carefully noted by agents of the German government and set down as an asset in the event of war. Several years ago the Kaiser conferred upon the president of the National GermanAmerican Alliance the Order of the Red Eagle of the fourth class — not a high honor, to be sure, but a trinket which would naturally be appreciated by any German who felt that he was only geographically and politically an American.

Bernhardi predicted that in the event of war between England and Germany the United States would gladly seize upon the opportunity to effect the conquest of Canada. A pamphlet addressed to the German element has recently made its appearance in the United States. The author proposes the following plan: —

‘ Many Americans are hoping for an expedition against Canada during this war; some, of course, are dubious about such a proceeding in view of the weakness of the American Army. For that reason the idea is freely advanced in the American press that recourse should be had to the five hundred thousand German reservists in the United States, who would form the backbone of an army that could immediately be pushed against the Canadian frontier. In this long frontier England has always presented the most vulnerable part of her entire colonial empire; Canada, too, presents a far greater area for frict ion with the United States than the West Indian Archipelago.

‘But even if the German-Americans cannot persuade their countrymen of the advantages of such a proceeding against Canada, they nevertheless have the opportunity of inciting and equipping the German reservists in America for an independent campaign against Canada, even though the official circles of the German element would, to appearances, have to keep aloof. Before the battle of the Falkland Islands the plan had received consideration of sending the five cruisers of Admiral Spee to Vancouver and of providing a rendezvous on this rich island for the army which was to be improvised in this manner. The Times gave the alarm and the British Ambassador in Washington protested to the American government against the massing of armed Germans on the Canadian border which the press described.

‘Some other rendezvous than Vancouver could be selected, and, if it were not betrayed, such an expedition against Canada promises satisfactory results. Troops there are in plenty, since, according to official statistics, five hundred and fifty thousand German reservists are being detained in the United States, of whom thirty-five thousand are in New York City and fifty-three thousand in Chicago. These men are lacking neither in enthusiasm nor warlike spirit. Furthermore, the German troops would undoubtedly be received with open arms by the Germans of Canada, who, according to the census of 1911, number five hundred twenty-one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven.’

These statements might be regarded as merely the vaporings of an irresponsible pamphleteer but for the fact that the volume contains an introduction bearing the name of Admiral von Knorr, of the German Navy. Then, too, the indictments recently returned against the German Consul-General at San Francisco, together with several members of his staff, for conspiracy to organize a military expedition, give the statements some degree of official endorsement.


It is quite improbable that all this persistent, and ofttimes intemperate, propaganda, has gained converts for the German cause. It has, however, had one important effect — it has encouraged the amazing effrontery with which agents of the German government and German subjects in private life have prosecuted their designs in the United States. While these demonstrations were not taken seriously by native Americans, they served, nevertheless, to give to these foreigners an exaggerated idea of the strength of the pro-German sentiment. Backed by this sentiment they could defy the law and transgress diplomatic privilege. This was the natural inference which the attachés of the German embassy and the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador drew from the expressions at the ‘peace’ meetings which followed the Lusitania tragedy. The convicted officials of the Hamburg-America line, the perpetrators of passport frauds and bomb outrages, and the paid instigators of strikes felt that their crimes were condoned by a large and influential portion of the public, and that the rest were at most indifferent.

The field seemed prepared for an active propaganda from official sources. In April, 1915, Franz von Rintelen, an agent of the German secret service, was sent to New York with a large fund for the purpose of convincing labor of the inhumanity of the munitions industry. The notorious ‘Labor’s National Peace Council’ was promoted. To the everlasting credit of the representatives of labor be it said that they were never deceived as to the true purposes of the organization, or tempted by its campaign fund. The character of the ‘labor’ interested in the movement can be gauged by the personalities of those subsequently indicted in connection with its work. A few individuals were attracted to Washington by the promises of a junket with all expenses paid, and the group was dubbed a ‘convention.’ ‘Part of the activities of this organization,’ says District Attorney H. Snowden Marshall, ‘ consisted in stirring up strikes in various plants which were engaged in munition manufacture. In each case where a strike was purchased there was labor opposition to the strike.’ With Von Rintelen’s departure, which occurred just in time to enable him to escape the clutches of the law, and with the indictment of the other promoters, the labors of the council came to an end.

German agents next turned their attention to the organization of the ‘American Embargo Conference.’ With this work the German embassy was kept closely in touch. Germans were cautioned to keep in the background, in order that the movement might have, to all outward appearances, a purely American character. Nevertheless, the National Alliance is actively supporting the work, which consists chiefly in flooding members of Congress with petitions, letters, and post-cards calling for the interdiction of the traffic in munitions. The Alliance also makes frequent appeals to its members to support the Fatherland, a magazine whose editor, as published correspondence shows, has received payments from German agents. Many efforts have been made by them to acquire control of a newspaper or press agency for promulgating the German view in the United States.

German diplomacy failed, according to Maximilian Harden, because it proceeded on the theory that the other man was a stupid fellow. The efforts of the German agents in the United States have failed because they underestimated the intelligence of the American people. ‘Nowhere,’ says Dr. Eduard Meyer, professor of history in the University of Berlin, ‘ has the general hostility to Germany manifested itself more surprisingly or with greater intensity than in the United States. Here at least we had flattered ourselves that we had gained a firm foothold.’ The appeals to the civilized world, issued broadcast by German professors and theologians at the beginning of the war, have given place to pamphlets with such inquiring titles as ‘ Why do the Nations Hate us? ' ‘Why are we Disliked Abroad?’ ‘The Unfriendliness of America,’ and so on. The solutions presented are in the main the same. It is the answer which the parvenu in wealth and power always flings at his critics: ‘They are jealous of my success.’

Viewed in the light of history, the propaganda of those Germans who are only geographically and politically Americans is as unnatural as it is pernicious. It stands condemned by the results which would follow its adoption by other nationalities in this country. The United States would become a polyglot jumble of compact organizations in which French, Italians, Slovaks, Poles, Jews, Greeks, and every other people would strive to preserve their peculiar customs, institutions, and languages; the more virile would naturally attempt to impose their distinctive ideas of culture on all the others; racial feuds would disrupt the country and make of it a heterogeneous mass of warring factions. Under these influences an American nation would be impossible, and without an American nation the American state would succumb to disintegration.

Nor can the activity of these propagandists be defended under the ægis of a superior German culture. True culture demands neither a press agent nor a conscious propaganda. Twenty-two hundred years after Chæronea Greek thought still dominates the modern world. Germans are proud to assert that Lessing discovered Shakespeare before he was duly appreciated even by his own countrymen, and that to-day his dramas enjoy a greater vogue in Germany than among English-speaking peoples. This was not the result of any imperial policy, of any ‘will to power,’ nor was any propaganda necessary to attract Longfellow, Bancroft, and the thousands of other Americans who have studied in German universities. The influence of true German culture lies in the power of no man and of no government either to limit or to destroy. It is prized as highly by native Americans as by native Germans. But every people — and in time this will include the Germans themselves — resents the muezzin-call of the zealots of modern ‘Kultur.’ It makes neither for comity nor for good will. Japan has acquired more ‘Kultur’ than any other country, and yet no peoples entertain for each other the same degree of dislike as the Germans and the Japanese.

The separatist ideal pursued with increasing zeal during the last twenty years made the fulfillment of the mission of the German element impossible. A people that insisted upon the superiority of their own culture, disparaged the Anglo-Saxon race as decadent, put themselves in ostentatious opposition to everything which might savor of English influence, had simply fallen from their high calling. Under the influence of false leaders they became nothing more or less than the dupes of Prussian Junkerdom.

In estimating the activities of the Germans during the last eighteen months, allowance must be made for the high tension of feeling produced by the war. Nor must it be imagined that the majority of Germans in this country subscribe to the opinions put forth by the noisy propagandists. This group, though compact and well organized, forms but a small fraction of the thirty millions of citizens of German birth or descent in this country. But it is for this majority, for the descendants of those who fought at Oriskany; of those who over the trenches of Yorktown heard the opposing commands given in their native tongue, and finally saw the garrison march out to the music of German airs; of those who fought under Schurz and Sigel in the Civil War, to rebuke these false prophets, and to turn the aspirations of their countrymen in the direction of true American nationalism.

  1. Allgemeiner deutscher Schulverein zur Erkaltung des Deutschthums im Auslande.
  2. Alldeutscher Verband.
  3. Flottenverein.
  4. Deutschamerikanischer Lehrerbund.
  5. National deutschamerikanischer Schulverein.
  6. Deutschamerikanischer Nationalbund.