Page images
PDF
EPUB

were

concedes that much honour is due to him for the work which he achieved ; but, lest he should have admitted too much, adds, that all this was but pastime and amusement. The work which the Crown Prince did in these directions was in fact founded on personal knowledge of the wants of the people. His frequent visits to workshops and factories, and his presence at the examinations in the Fortbildung Schulen instituted by the town of Berlin, bore fruit in a series of institutions which Germany owes to him and his wife.

By their energy, influence, and patronage, were founded Art-schools, Children's Refuges, Homes for the Homeless, Loan Societies, Sanitary Dwellings, Industrial Schools, Kindergarten for the poor, Girls' Training Schools, Convalescent Homes, Training Schools for Nurses. In these, and similar, institutions the Crown Prince never lost his interest. They were his support even in the last days of his fatal illness. Freytag blames him for not becoming a territorial magnate. He forgets that the Crown Prince's means extremely small. A large estate was incompatible with his slender income. But his farm at Bornstedt was a favourite amusement with him, and in his village school, or at his village treats, his kindly simple nature was seen at its best. Besides these outlets for his energy, and besides his travels in Italy and Spain, the Crown Prince made himself an admirable historian, especially in genealogical and dynastic history. He formed collections of papers, pamphlets, and press notices, upon the most remarkable events of his time; he himself arranged the papers of the late Queen Elizabeth (wife of Frederick William IV.), and intended to publish a selection from these documents in her vindication. Nor were these artistic, charitable, or literary pursuits his only occupations. He devoted himself assiduously to the study of domestic and foreign politics, and especially to the investigation of the various solutions which theory or experience suggests for the determination of labour problems. In every direction, he prepared himself with conscientious care for the responsibilities of his great position.

These manifold interests do not argue that mental lassitude which Freytag professes to discover. Still less is Freytag's theory confirmed by public events. In 1878 the Emperor William was wounded by Nobiling. For a brief period the Crown Prince filled his father's place. Freytag admits the ability and energy with which he discharged his duties. The responsibilities of office, according to Freytag, revived his mental and physical energies, “to the surprise and delight of the people around him.' There is no need for the interposition of the miraculous. The energy was there ; it displayed itself con

tinuously tinuously in other directions; the political opportunity alone was wanting. That the Crown Prince supported his illness with remarkable fortitude is undeniable. Here, again, the facts are against the theory of Freytag. Nor were there any signs of lassitude or weakness in the few weeks of the Crown Prince's reign. He conquered his bodily infirmity, and accomplished a long fatiguing journey under trying conditions. In spite of mental as well as physical suffering, he conducted business as if he were in perfect health. Not only did he initiate important military and political changes, but he issued a rescript to the Imperial Chancellor, which contained a comprehensive programme of constitutional and social reform. To sum up what has been said. Against Freytag's theory stand the Crown Prince's political self-repression of twenty years, the manifold interests of his life, his energy in 1878, the patient endurance of a trying illness, the vigour which, when the opportunity came, triumphed over bodily and mental suffering.

In the military career of the Crown Prince no lack of energy appears, unless indeed humanity is to be construed as a proof of weakness. Bloodshed was hateful to him. After the battle of Wörth, he said to Freytag with deep feeling

'I abhor this butchery; I have never striven for a soldier's honours; I could have left military glory to another without any feeling of envy. Yet it has been my fate to pass from one war to another, and from one battlefield to another, and to wade through human blood before I mount the throne of

my

ancestors.'

In these words speak the natural humanity and kindliness of the Crown Prince. But there were crises in his life when he showed the sterner side of his character. As commander of an army he was inflexible in the execution of the plans with which he was entrusted. Freytag says

The Emperor Frederick is popularly regarded as a mighty winner of battles. Yet military affairs were uncongenial to his tastes. He was by no means a smart officer on parade; in war he discharged the duties of a general excellently, for the simple reason that he implicitly relied upon the chief of his staff, while he himself willingly accepted the responsibility and display which necessarily pertain to the royal dignity. In fact, if any one said that the Emperor Frederick became a famous general without being a capable soldier, he would do no injustice to the beloved memory of the deceased.'

Those who had greater opportunities than Freytag of judging of the Crown Prince's smartness as an officer hold a contrary opinion. His own aides-de-camp tell a different story. But Vol. 171.–No. 341.

the

E

the whole criticism strikingly illustrates the pettiness of Freytag's estimate of the man, for whom he professes unbounded affection. To be a good drill-sergeant is no proof of military capacity. Freytag's eye for detail might qualify him to be the first ; it would not argue his possession of the second. The deference which a man of thirty-five shows to the ripe experience of a Blumenthal is no symptom of military incapacity. On the contrary, it proves that the Crown Prince possessed that wellbalanced judgment, without which no soldier can be really great. Nor is Freytag's sneer at the Prince's cheerful acceptance of the exigencies of his position justified by circumstances. A Prince is necessarily surrounded by a certain degree of ceremony. Because he does not bewail the inevitable, it does not logically follow that he enjoys a display with which he cannot dispense. Moreover, the suggestion is untrue. In the Danish War of 1864 the Crown Prince, enduring the winter hardships of the campaign, mixing freely among the men with his short pipe in his mouth, indulged in no royal pomp. In this, as in other statements, Freytag palpably contradicts himself. In his account of the war of 1870, he notices that the Prince separated himself from the train of princes, plenipotentiaries, and other followers of the camp, and rode quietly off with his immediate military suite.' Again he professes to be 'struck by the smallness of the escort with which the Crown Prince rode into the country.' Or again, he finds the Crown Prince lying, not under a canopy of State, but on the narrow pallet which he always had put up in his tent.' How does Freytag reconcile these personal experiences of 1870 with his theory of 1889?

On the question of military capacity, Freytag's judgment is not confirmed by facts,—still less by the evidence of those whose opinions upon the point are of real value. Both Moltke and Blumenthal have expressed their admiration of the ability with which the Crown Prince conducted the difficult operations entrusted to his command. In the Austrian war of 1866, for instance, the Prince commanded the Second Army. His orders were to enter Bohemia through the Giant Mountains, and effect a junction with the First Army and the Army of the Elbe, in the direction of Gitschin. The way into Bohemia was successfully forced after hard fighting ; 8000 prisoners and many thousands of killed and wounded showed how severe had been the losses of the enemy; the passages of the Elbe were secured ; and on the 2nd of July the Crown Prince arrived within fourteen miles of Gitschin. At four the next morning orders arrived for his immediate advance. The whole issue of the battle of Sadowa hung upon his arrival in time. By one o'clock that day the

Crown

Crown Prince's army was engaged, and Moltke had told King William that now no power on earth could wrest victory from his grasp. It is ancient history that the timely arrival of the Second Army won the battle of Sadowa. But some details of the early part of the campaign, and of the advance through the Giant Mountains, may be of fresher interest. Prince Hohenlohe has left on record his own reminiscences of the Crown Prince's aptitude for command. He speaks with admiration of his imperturbable coolness. Space does not permit us to quote the whole of his description of their meeting on the heights of Kosteletz. We can only give extracts. The Crown Prince was waiting for news of General von Steinmetz, who was engaged with the enemy near Skalitz, when Prince Hohenlohe reported his arrival with reserves. He received from his General Commander-in-Chief a rapid sketch of the situation, 'given in the tone of a man who was ordering his dinner.' The Crown Prince had with him only a single company. The reinforcements consisted of one battalion of infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and five batteries of artillery. They were wearied with a march, and orders were given them to fall out, and cook and eat their food. Not a breath of wind was stirring on the hill.

• The match I took to light my cigar burned with as steady a flame as if it were in a room. Suddenly the Crown Prince saw a cloud of dust sweeping along the road from Stralitz, where General von Steinmetz was engaged with the enemy. It approached with such rapidity that it seemed to rise from troops in retreat. “ It is Prince Albert," said the Crown Prince, “with the heavy Cavalry Brigade whom I sent to help Steinmitz. They must be in full flight.” Prince Hohenlohe immediately asked if he might not march up his men to defend the pass. “No," said the Prince, “ let the men eat their food quietly. The dust is still a mile and a half off. The enemy cannot be here before two hours.” Meanwhile, on came the dust like the wind. At last we could see the road through the clouds; and not a man or horse was visible. We were soon enveloped in a hurricane that made it hard to keep a footing on the mountain. Then it thundered, but no rain fell. It was a dry storm. As it passed, a despatch arrived from Steinmetz that he had taken Stralitz, and that the enemy were in full retreat. “ Now I can look up the wounded at Kosteletz," said the Crown Prince, and he gave me leave to march after the Guards to Eifel with my reserves. During our long halt upon the heights of Kosteletz, Í spoke to General von Blumenthal with admiration of the coolness of the Crown Prince. “Yes,” said Blumenthal, “and I can give you further proof of that. When I laid before him for approval the plans of crossing the frontier, I pointed out the risk we ran if Benedek fell upon the separate bodies and destroyed them in detail. Do yon,' he asked, 'take me for a child that you warn me of that? I E 2

have

have long foreseen the risk. But what matters one army? In this war the fate of all Prussia is at stake. If my army is beaten, I will never return to Silesia alive. Let me add one detail of the Crown Prince at Königgratz. I rode in front of my battery on the hills near Chotieborek in order to get the points of the compass. The Staffs of the Crown Prince and the Prince of Würtemburg were there. The Crown Prince said to me: 'Fritz Carl is getting on badly. He wants help. I can give it in two ways. I can march to him and support him. But for that I am too late. I prefer the other course, and attack straight off. Do you see the clump of trees over Horenowes? There's the enemy's right wing. I'll lay hold of the dog's tail.''

The same coolness and energy which the Crown Prince displayed in the Austrian war were equally conspicuous in the campaign of 1870–71. One of the greatest gifts that a commander-in-chief can possess is the power of exciting the enthusiasm of his followers. In that part of Freytag's book, which is mainly based on the freshly-recorded impressions of his own Diary, he acknowledges that the Crown Prince possessed this gift in a pre-eminent degree. He also recognizes the exceptional difficulties with which in this respect he was confronted by the composite character of his army, and the triumphant success which he achieved. In the earlier pages Freytag enlarges upon the confidence the Prince inspired. He remarks that he produced the effect of a conqueror. He describes how, when he rode up to the Fifth Army Corps, the enthusiasm of the troops was contagious; the battalions fell out of line, every one rushing forward

eager to greet him with a 'Hoch.' He notices that, after the capture of the Gaisberg, the ranks of the riddled battalions dissolved again' at the appearance of the Prince, all rushing up to him, shouting and crying · Hoch!' and even the wounded raised themselves and waved their arms to him, as much as to

say, See! we haven't done badly. He records that when the Crown Prince spoke the same evening of the reception he had received, the emotion which his face revealed was overpowering; his countenance seemed transfigured, and all the people round him were profoundly affected. Yet Freytag, who in 1870 had himself witnessed, and experienced, the contagious influence of the Crown Prince among his followers, in 1889 ignores this characteristic altogether. He sets in the one scale judgment, coolness, and the power of exciting the confidence of his followers; in the other, he puts the drill sergeant's eye for detail. In his opinion, the latter is the most important: tried in the balance against it, the other qualities kick the beam. One fact from the battle of Wörth outweighs the whole value of

Freytag's

« PreviousContinue »