Kaiser Wilhelm II (center) with his son (left) Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, as they toured the con- quered Serbia in 1916.Berliner Verlag/Archiv/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

Whoever or whatever may have been immediately responsible for the terrible cataclysm, which in the midst of harvest time, like a Doomsday of nations, has befallen Europe and all mankind, there can be no question that German ascendancy of the last half century has been its ultimate cause …

Seldom has an individual been so perfect an embodiment of a national movement as Kaiser Wilhelm II is of this new Germany. All his acts and utterances have been inspired by the one desire of developing German character to its utmost …

He admonishes schoolboys to think of what their country will need of them when they are men, to abstain from alcohol, to strengthen their bodies and minds by hard work and hard sport, to strive after that harmony of life which the Greeks possessed and which “is sadly lacking today.” He appeals to schoolteachers to make their pupils above all at home in the things nearest at hand, to make achievement rather than knowledge the goal of instruction. He holds up to university students the spiritual heroes of the German past, from Walther von der Vogelweide to Schiller and Goethe, and warns them “not to waste their strength in cosmopolitan dreams, or in one-sided party service, but to exert it to make stable the national idea and to foster the noblest German thoughts.” His own sons he urges to labor incessantly to make themselves true personalities, taking as their guide Jesus, “the most personal of all personalities,” to make their work a source of joy to their fellow men—“for there is nothing more beautiful than to take pleasure jointly with others”—and where this is impossible, to make their work at least contribute something useful. Upon his officers he impresses the extreme necessity of firmness of character; for “victories are won by spiritual strength” …

These are utterances of an individual. But they are typical of what millions of Germans feel, what Germany as a nation feels. Nothing could be more erroneous than to think that German ascendancy of the last generation has been merely industrial or commercial. A new idealism, a substantial enthusiasm for good government, for social justice, for beauty and joy, for fullness and richness of individual character, have accompanied it.

Can there be any doubt that Germany today is the best-governed country of the world? How utterly absurd is it to speak of the present conflict—as many American newspapers do—as a conflict between military despotism, represented by Germany, and peaceful democracy, represented by the strange partnership of Russia, Japan, England, and France …

Is it a presumption to say that there is more honest striving for fullness of individual character in Germany than in other countries? I believe that there is; and I believe that this also is a part of that eager contest for ascendancy in which Germany has gradually outdistanced her neighbors—outdistanced, but not threatened. Is she now to be made to pay for all her efforts at self-improvement? Have these efforts not been more than merely national achievements? Have they not been a gain to humanity at large? Must she defend these achievements against a world in arms? If this desperate situation has been brought about by the very best there is in German character, then it must be accepted as part of the tragedy of human greatness.

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