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A STRAIGHT DEAL (chapter4)

2006-08-28 14:07

    CHAPTER IV: "My Army ofSpies"

    "You will desire to know," said the Kaiser to his council at Potsdam in June, , after the successful testing of the first Zeppelin, "how the hostilities will be brought about. My army of spies scattered over Great Britain and France, as it is over North and South America, will take good care of that. Even now I rule supreme in the United States, where three million voters do my bidding at the Presidential elections."

    Yes, they did his bidding; there, and elsewhere too. They did it at other elections as well. Do you remember the mayor they tried to elect in Chicago? and certain members of Congress? and certain manufacturers and bankers? They did his bidding in our newspapers, our public schools, and from the pulpit. Certain localities in one of the river counties of Iowa (for instance) were spots of German treason to the United States. The "exchange professors" that came from Berlin to Harvard and other universities were so many camouflaged spies. Certain prominent American citizens, dined and wined and flattered by the Kaiser for his purpose, women as well as men, came back here mere Kaiser-puppets, hypnotized by royalty. His bidding was done in as many ways as would fill a book. Shopkeepers did it, servants did it, Americans among us were decorated by him for doing it. Even after the Armistice, a school textbook "got by" the Board of Education in a western state, wherein our boys and girls were to be taught a German version——a Kaiser version——of Germany. Somebody protested, and the board explained that it "hadn't noticed," and the book was held up.

    We cannot, I fear, order the school histories in Germany to be edited by the Allies. German school children will grow up believing, in all probability, that bombs were dropped near Nurnberg in July, , that German soil was invaded, that the Fatherland fought a war of defense; they will certainly be nourished by lies in the future as they were nourished by lies in the past. But we can prevent Germans or pro-Germans writing our own school histories; we can prevent that "army of spies" of which the Kaiser boasted to his council at Potsdam in June, , from continuing its activities among us now and henceforth; and we can prevent our school textbooks from playing into Germany's hand by teaching hate of England to our boys and girls. Beside the sickening silliness which still asks, "What has England done in the war?" is a silliness still more sickening which says, "Germany is beaten. Let us forgive and forget." That is not Christianity. There is nothing Christian about it. It is merely sentimental slush, sloppy shirking of anything that compels national alertness, or effort, or self-discipline, or self-denial; a moral cowardice that pushes away any fact which disturbs a shallow, torpid, irresponsible, self-indulgent optimism.

    Our golden age of isolation is over. To attempt to return to it would be a mere pernicious day-dream. To hark back to Washington's warning against entangling alliances is as sensible as to go by a map of the world made in . We are coupled to the company of nations like a car in the middle of a train, only more inevitably and permanently, for we cannot uncouple; and if we tried to do so, we might not wreck the train, but we should assuredly wreck ourselves. I think the war has brought us one benefit certainly: that many young men return from Europe knowing this, who had no idea of it before they went, and who know also that Germany is at heart an untamed, unchanged wild beast, never to be trusted again. We must not, and shall not, boycott her in trade; but let us not go to sleep at the switch! Just as busily as she is baking pottery opposite Coblenz, labelled "made in St. Louis," "made in Kansas City," her "army of spies" is at work here and everywhere to undermine those nations who have for the moment delayed her plans for world dominion. I think the number of Americans who know this has increased; but no American, wherever he lives, need travel far from home to meet fellow Americans who sing the song of slush about forgiving and forgetting.

    Perhaps the man I heard talking in front of the bulletin board was one of the "army of spies," as I like to infer from his absence of "come-back." But perhaps he was merely an innocent American who at school had studied, for instance, Eggleston's history; thoughtless——but by no means harmless; for his school-taught "slant" against England, in the days we were living through then, amounted to a "slant" for Germany. He would be sorry if Germany beat France, but not if she beat England——when France and England were joined in keeping the wolf not only from their door but from ours! It matters not in the least that they were fighting our battle, not because they wanted to, but because they couldn't help it: they were fighting it just the same. That they were compelled doesn't matter, any more than it matters that in going to war when Belgium was invaded, England's duty and England's self-interest happened to coincide. Our duty and our interest also coincided when we entered the war and joined England and France. Have we seemed to think that this diminished our glory? Have they seemed to think that it absolved them from gratitude?

    Such talk as that man's in front of the bulletin board helped Germany then, whether he meant to or not, just as much as if a spy had said it—— just as much as similar talk against England to-day, whether by spies or unheeding Americans, helps the Germany of to-morrow. The Germany of yesterday had her spies all over France and Italy, busily suggesting to rustic uninformed peasants that we had gone to France for conquest of France, and intended to keep some of her land. What is she telling them now? I don't know. Something to her advantage and their disadvantage, you may be sure, just as she is busy suggesting to us things to her advantage and our disadvantage——jealousy and fear of the British navy, or pro-German school histories for our children, or that we can't make dyes, or whatever you please: the only sure thing is, that the Germany of yesterday is the Germany of to-morrow. She is not changed. She will not change. The steady stream of her propaganda all over the world proves it. No matter how often her masquerading government changes costumes, that costume is merely her device to conceal the same cunning, treacherous wild beast that in , after forty years of preparation, sprang at the throat of the world. Of all the nations in the late war, she alone is pulling herself together. She is hard at work. She means to spring again just as soon as she can.

    Did you read the letter written in April of  by her Vice-Chancellor, Mathias Erzberger, also her minister of finance? A very able, compact masterpiece of malignant voracity, good enough to do credit to Satan. Through that lucky flaw of stupidity which runs through apparently every German brain, and to which we chiefly owe our victory and temporary respite from the fangs of the wolf, Mathias Erzberger posted his letter. It went wrong in the mails. If you desire to read the whole of it, the International News Bureau can either furnish it or put you on the track of it. One sentence from it shall be quoted here:

    "We will undertake the restoration of Russia, and in possession of such support will be ready, within ten or fifteen years, to bring France, without any difficulty, into our power. The march towards Paris will be easier than in . The last step but one towards the world dominion will then be reached. The continent is ours. Afterwards will follow the last stage, the closing struggle, between the continent and the over- seas."

    Who is meant by "overseas"? Is there left any honest American brain so fond and so feeble as to suppose that we are not included in that highly suggestive and significant term? I fear that some such brains are left.

    Germans remain German. I was talking with an American officer just returned from Coblenz. He described the surprise of the Germans when they saw our troops march in to occupy that region of their country. They said to him: "But this is extraordinary. Where do these soldiers of yours come from? You have only , troops in Europe. All the other transports were sunk by our submarines." "We have two million troops in Europe," replied the officer, "and lost by explosion a very few hundred. No transport was sunk." "But that is impossible," returned the burgher, "we know from our Government at Berlin that you have only , troops in Europe."

    Germans remain German. At Coblenz they were servile, cringing, fawning, ready to lick the boots of the Americans, loading them with offers of every food and drink and joy they had. Thus they began. Soon, finding that the Americans did not cut their throats, burn their houses, rape their daughters, or bayonet their babies, but were quiet, civil, disciplined, and apparently harmless, they changed. Their fawning faded away, they scowled and muttered. One day the Burgomaster at a certain place replied to some ordinary requisitions with an arrogant refusal. It was quite out of the question, he said, to comply with any such ridiculous demands. Then the Americans ceased to seem harmless. Certain steps were taken by the commanding officer, some leading citizens were collected and enlightened through the only channel whereby light penetrates a German skull. Thus, by a very slight taste of the methods by which they thought they would cow the rest of the world, these burghers were cowed instantly. They had thought the Americans afraid of them. They had taken civility for fear. Suddenly they encountered what we call the swift kick. It educated them. It always will. Nothing else will.

    Mathias Erzberger will, of course, disclaim his letter. He will say it is a forgery. He will point to the protestations of German repentance and reform with which he sweated during April, , and throughout the weeks preceding the delivery of the Treaty at Versailles. Perhaps he has done this already. All Germans will believe him——and some Americans.

    The German method, the German madness——what a mixture! The method just grazed making Germany owner of the earth, the madness saved the earth. With perfect recognition of Belgium's share, of Russia's share, of France's, Italy's, England's, our own, in winning the war, I believe that the greatest and mast efficient Ally of all who contributed to Germany's defeat was her own constant blundering madness. Americans must never forget either the one or the other, and too many are trying to forget both.

    Germans remain German. An American lady of my acquaintance was about to climb from Amalfi to Ravello in company with a German lady of her acquaintance. The German lady had a German Baedeker, the American a Baedeker in English, published several years apart. The Baedeker in German recommended a path that went straight up the ascent, the Baedeker in English a path that went up more gradually around it. "Mine says this is the best way," said the American. "Mine says straight up is the best," said the German. "But mine is a later edition," said the American. "That is not it," explained the German. "It is that we Germans are so much more clever and agile, that to us is recommended the more dangerous way while Americans are shown the safe path."

    That happened in . That is Kultur. This too is Kultur:

    "If Silesia become Polish Then, oh God, may children perish, like beasts, in their mothers' womb. Then lame their Polish feet and their hands, oh God! Let them be crippled and blind their eyes. Smite them with dumbness and madness, both men and women." From a Hymn of German hate for the Poles.

    Germany remains German; but when next she springs, she will make no blunders.

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