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WAR INFORMATION SERIES

No. 3 ,0 August, 1917



THE GOVERNMENT

OF GERMANY



By
CHARLES D. HAZEN
PROFESSOR OF EUROPEAN HISTORY
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY


Published by COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INFORMATION, Washington, D. C.












THE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INFORMATION

(Established by order of the President April 4, 1917.)

Distributed free except that in the case of No. 2 and No. 3 of
the Red, White, and Blue Series, the subscriber should for-
ward 15 cents each to cover the cost of printing.

D I. Red, White, and Blue Series:
No. 1. How the War came to America (English, German,
Polish, Bohemian, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish).
I)-', No. 2. National Service Handbook (primarily for libraries,
/-' \ schools, Y. M. C. A.'s, clubs, fraternal organiza-
tions, etc., as a guide and reference work on all
S/ 'forms of war activity-civil, charitable, and mili-
S, tary..
.0 No. 3: The Battle Line of Democracy. Prose and Poetry of
the Great War.
No. 4. The President's Flag Day Speech with Evidence of
Germany's Plans.
No. 5. Conquest and Kultur, the Germans' Aims in Their Own
Words, by Wallace Notestein and Elmer E. Stoll.
Other issues in preparation.

H. War Information Series:
No. 101. The War Message and Facts Behind It.
No. 102. The Nation in Arms, by Secretaries Lane and Baker.
No. 103. The Government of Germany, by Prof. Charles D.
Hazen.
No. 104. The Great War: from Spectator to Participant.
No. 105. A War of Self-Defense, by Secretary Lansing and
Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis F. Post.
No. 106. American Loyalty by Citizens of German Descent.
No. 107. Amerikanische Biirgertreue, a translation of No. 6.
No. 108. American Interest in Popular Government Abroad,
by Prof. E. B. Greene.
No. 109. Home Reading Course for Citizen Soldiers.
No. 110. First Session of the War Congress, by Charles Merz.
Other issues will shortly appear.

m. Official Bulletin:
Accurate daily statement of what all agencies of govern-
ment are doing in war times. Sent free to newspapers
and postmasters (to be put on bulletin boards). Sub-
scription price, $5 per year.




Address requests and orders to
COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INFORMATION,
Washington, D. C.











THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.'


By CHARLES D. IAZEN, Professor of European History,
Columbia University.
T HE President of the United States in his address
to Congress on April 2 announced that our object in
entering the war against Germany was "to vindi-
cate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the
world as against selfish and autocratic power;" declared
that the menace to the world's peace and freedom "lies in
the existence of autocratic governments, backed by organ-
ized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by
the will of their people;" announced that "a steadfast con-
cert for peace can never be maintained except by a part-
nership of democratic nations," as "no autocratic govern-
ment could be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its
covenants;" stated the grounds for his conviction that
"the Prussian autocracy was not and could never be our
friend;" said that we were now about to accept the gauge
of battle with "this natural foe to liberty," and that we
would if necessary "spend the whole force of the nation
to check and nullify its pretensions and its power." He
referred to the German Government as "an irresponsible
government which has thrown aside all considerations of
humanity and of right and is running amuck;" and declared
that the war was a war for democracy and elementary human
rights and for the liberation of the peoples, including the
German peoples.
Was the President speaking soberly and fairly when he
described the Prussian Government as an autocracy and the
German Government as irresponsible? Was this arraign-
ment as accurate and just, as it certainly was scathing?
Can one say that a people is ruled autocratically when they
are endowed with written constitutions, have parliaments

'Revised and reprinted from the New York Times, July 1, 1917.
38$7-17 3








4 THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.

for their individual states and for their nation as a whole,
have frequent elections, in which political parties wrangle
with each other, and enjoy, or at least possess, the right to
vote ?
The German Empire is a confederation, founded in 1871,
and founded by the princes, not by the people, and consists
of 25 States and one Imperial Territory, Alsace-Lorraine.
The King of Prussia is ipso facto German Emperor. The
legislative power rests with two bodies, the Bundesrat, or
Federal Council, and the Reichstag. The Emperor declares
war with the consent of the Bundesrat, the assent of the
Reichstag not being required. Not even the Bundesrat
need be consulted if the war is defensive, and as the Hohen-
zollerns have always claimed to make defensive warfare it is
not surprising that even the unrepresentative Bundesrat
was officially informed about the present war three days
after the Emperor declared it. He is commander in chief
of the army and navy, he has charge of foreign affairs, and
makes treaties, subject to the limitation that certain kinds of
treaties must be ratified by Parliament. He is assisted by
a chancellor, whom he appoints and whom he removes, and
who is responsible to him and to him alone. Under the
chancellor are various secretaries of state, who simply ad-
minister departments, but who do not form a cabinet, either
in the English or French or American sense. They are
responsible to the chancellor.
The laws that govern the German Empire are made by two
bodies-the Bundesrat and the Reichstag. The Bundesrat,
of which we in America hear very little, is the most powerful
body in the Empire, far more powerful than the Reichstag,
of which we hear a great deal. It possesses legislative,
executive, and judicial functions, and is a kind of diplomatic
assembly. It represents the States; that is, the rulers of
the 25 States of which the Empire consists. It is composed
of delegates appointed by the rulers. Unlike the Senate
of the United States, the States of Germany are not repre-
sented equally in the Bundesrat, but most unequally.
There are 61 members. Of these Prussia has 17, and the
3 votes allotted to Alsace-Lorraine since 1911 are "in-
structed" by the Emperor. Thus Prussia has 20. Bavaria







THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY. 0

has 6, Saxony and Wiirtemberg 4 each, others 3 or 2, and
17 of the States have only 1 apiece. The members are
really diplomats, representing the numerous monarchs of
Germany.
They do not vote individually, but each State delegation
votes as a unit and as the ruler orders it to. Thus the votes
that Prussia controls are cast always as a unit and as the
King of Prussia directs. The Bundesrat is in reality an
assembly of the sovereigns of Germany. It is responsible
to nothing on earth, and its powers are very extensive. It
is the most important element of the legislature as most
legislation begins in it, its consent is necessary to all legisla-
tion, and every law passed by the Reichstag is, after that,
submitted to it for ratification or rejection. It is, therefore,
the chief source of legislation. The Princes of Germany have
an absolute veto upon the only popular element in the gov-
ernment, the Reichstag. Representing the Princes of Ger-
many, the Bundesrat is a thoroughly monarchical institu-
tion, a bulwark of the monarchical order. The proceedings of
this princely assembly are secret which is one reason why we
know and hear less about it than we do about the Reichstag.
Much less important than the Bundesrat is the Reichstag,
the only popular element in the government of the Empire.
It consists of 397 members, elected for a term of five years
by the voters; that is, by men 25 years of age or older. The
powers of the Reichstag are vastly inferior to the powers of
the House of Commons or the Chamber of Deputies or the
House of Representatives. While it, in conjunction with
the Bundesrat, votes the appropriations, certain ones,
notably those for the army, are voted for a period of years.
Its consent is required for new taxes, whereas taxes previously
levied continue to be collected without the consent of Parlia-
ment being again secured.
The RJichstag has no power to make or unmake ministries,
in other words, to control the executive, the Emperor. It
may reject the measures demanded by the Government, it
may vote what amounts to a lack of confidence in the
Chancellor, but to the Chancellor it makes notoriously little
difference. As long as he enjoys the confidence of the
Emperor he continues on his way. Bismarck was fond of







0 THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.

repeating from the tribune that he was not the servant of the
Reichstag, but exclusively of the Crown. The imperial will
determines the fate, the rise and fall of the Chancellor.
i!-i,,,1 ,ri H1i! .l .: was the Emperor's man in body and
soul. No velleity of independence ever surged up in that sub-
missive bosom. A bureaucrat of 40 years' standing, advancing
by regular gradation from the lowest rungs of the adminis-
trative ladder to the highest, his view remained the same,
has gaze was at every stage riveted solely upon his superior,
and his superior never was the Reichstag. His source of in-
spiration was in the Schloss, not in the benches of the pop-
ularly elected legislature. Bethmann-Hollweg was sometimes
frank, frank to the point of rudeness. "Gentlemen," he said
at the beginning of his chancellorship, "I do not serve Parlia-
ment," and was loudly applauded for his insolence by the
members of the conservative parties of the Parliament, thus a
victim of the proud man's contumely. And he ended this
scornful speech with the statement that there was one role
which he absolutely refused to play, that of the servant of the
people's representatives. Bethmann-HIollweg, who has curi-
ously been considered a Liberal by some ill-informed and puta-
tive American Liberals, had the merit of great clarity in his
consistent, undeviating hostility and contempt for parliamen-
tarism and for democracy. When reproached by the Social-
ists for not resigning after a vote of censure, as they do in
France, he retorted that even children knew the difference be-
tween France and Germany.
"I know full well that there are those who are striving to
establish similar institutions here," he said. "1 shall oppose
them with all my force."
Only the other day this "Liberal" told the Right and the
Left, contemptuously, that he was serving neither of them.
He had a more august master. ( Not only does the Reichstag
have no control over the Government, not only is it blocked
and immensely outweighed by the Emperor, by the Bundes-
rat, and by the army, but it is itself, even within the sacred
circle of its impotence, a very inaccurate representation of
the people. The electoral districts as laid out in 1871 were
equal, each representing approximately 100,000 inhabitants.
But since that day there' has been practically no change,







THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY. 7

although population has increased in some, decreased in
others, so that there now exists a glaring inequality between
the districts. j The result is very much as though the present
American Congress had been elected upon the basis of the
district lines and population of 46 years ago. There are
some members of the Reichstag elected by a few thousand
voters, others by the hundreds of thousands. The voter in
some districts counts for only a thirtieth of the voter in cer-
tain other districts. The large inadequately represented
districts are naturally progressive cities, the small ones the
conservative country regions. A Berlin deputy represents
on the average 125,000 voters; a deputy of east Prussia, home
of the far-famed Junkers, an average of 24,000.
/ But the fundamental evil is that the elections to the Reich-
ag result in the creation of an assembly politically impo-
tent, which does not control the executive and whose powers
of legislation are subject to an absolute veto by the Bundes-
rat, that is, by the reigning princes, big and little. Ger-
man Government is government by the Emperor and the
dynasties, with the consent of the Reichstag, a consent which
in practice can be forced, if not given voluntarily, for the
Bundesrat has the power of dissolving the Reichstag when-
ever it wishes to, a power always efficacious thus far. The
German governing classes, the princes, the bureaucracy,
agree with Mloltke, who said that the real ballot was the car-
tridge which the German soldier carried in his cartridge box,
that the real representative of the nation was the army.
For all practical purposes the Reichstag is merely a de-
bating club, and a debating club that has no power of seeing
that its will is carried out. 'As late as January, 1914, Dr.
Friedrich Naumann, of "Mliddle Europe" fame, described the
,;i II;--' i... .I.!, of the body of which he was a member
in the following words:
"We on the Left are altogether in favor of the parlia-
mentary regime, by which we mean that the Reichstag can
not forever remain in a position of subordination. Why
does the Reichstag sit at all, why does it pass resolutions, if
behind it is a waste-paper basket into which these resolu-
tions are thrown? The problem is to change the impotence
S of the Reichstag into some sort of power." HIe added: "The








8 TITE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.

man who compared this House to a hall of echoes was not
far wrong. To those who are accustomed to do practical
work in life it appears a mere waste of time to devote them-
selves to this difficult and monotonous mechanism. *
When one asks the question, What part has the Beichstag in
German history as a whole? it will be seen that the part is a
very limited one."
"Many millions among us," said Dr. Frank in the Reich-
stag on January 23, 1914, "feel it a burning shame that while
Germans achieve great things in trade and industry, in politics
they are deprived of rights."
In the determination of national policy the German Nation
has, therefore, no way of enforcing its wishes through the
only agency it possesses. In other words, the nation does
not govern itself. 1The mainspring of power lies not in the
Reichstag, but in the Bundesrat, the organ of the princes,
every one of whom claims to rule by Divine right, not one
of whom has his policy dictated to him by his people's repre-
sentatives-and in the Kingdom of Prussia.
This, then, is the Government which German propagand-
ists tell us is "the most democratic in the world" under a
constitution which "requires no amendment, because it
represents by far the highest of those forms of political
organization which are actually existent in the world."
Under it, adds another of the intellectual bodyguards of the
Hohenzollerns, "we i. ,,.. i..1 are the freest people of the
earth." How simple and true, if you only start from the prin-
ciple laid down by one of the chief sycophants that "Liberty
which is not German is not liberty."
The Kingdom of Prussia is larger than all the other Ger-
man States combined, comprising two-thirds of the territory
and about two-thirds of the population of Germany. The
Empire differs from other confederations in that the States
composing it are of unequal voting power in both the Bun-
desrat and the Reichstag. It was Prussia that made the
German Empire, and made it by blood and iron, and in
the Empire she has installed herself at every point of vantage
and guards jealously not only the primacy but also the actual
power.







THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY. 9

Prussia has, since 1850, had a constitution and a parlia-
ment. What are they like? The constitution was granted
by the King, and nowhere does it recognize the sovereignty
of the people. What the monarch has granted he can alter
or withdraw. All the restriction the constitution imposes
upon the monarchical principle is that henceforth it shall be
exercised and expressed in certain forms, with a certain pro-
cedure. Prussian statesmen and Prussian jurists maintain
with practical unanimity that this does not mean any dimi-
nution of the power of the monarch, that the fact that he
creates a legislature does not for an instant mean that he be-
stows upon it a part of the sovereignty.
The legislature of Prussia is the Landtag, which consists
of two chambers, the House of Lords and the House of Rep-
resentatives. The legislature does not initiate much legis-
lation. Most of the bills passed by it have been proposed by
the Government; that is, by the King. The legislature has
practically no control over the administration; that is, over
the powerful and permanent bureaucracy. It can in this
sphere express opinions and practically nothing more. The
constitution does not determine the composition of the
House of Lords, but leaves that to the King to determine by
royal ordinance. As a matter of fact this house is really
overwhelmingly dominated by the land-owning nobility, the
famous Junkers, men frequently more royalist than the King,
conservative and militaristic to the marrow of their bones.
The House is subject to the absolute control of the monarch
through his unrestricted power to create peers. It is really
a sort of royal council, an extension or variation of the royal
power. It is a body that in no sense represents the people
of Prussia. It has a veto upon all legislation, and the King
also has an absolute veto.
Yet there exists another House in this legislature which
enacts the laws that govern 40,000,000 Prussians-the so-
called House of Representatives; and marvelous indeed is
the construction and composition of that body. Every
Prussian man who has attained his twenty-fifth year has the
vote. Is.Prussia, therefore, a democracy? Not exactly, for
the exercise of this right is so arranged that the ballot of the
poor man.is practically annihilated. Universal suffrage has








10 THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.

been rendered illusory. And this is the way it has been
done: The voters are divided in each electoral district into
three classes according to wealth. The amount of taxes
paid by the district is divided into three equal parts. Those
taxpayers who pay the first third are grouped into one
class; those, more numerous, who pay the second third, into
another class; those who pay the remainder, into still an-
other class. The result is that a very few rich men are set
apart by themselves, the less rich by themselves, and the
poor by themselves. Each of these groups, voting sepa-
rately, elects an equal number of delegates to a convention,
which convention chooses the delegates of that constituency
to the lower house of the Prussian Parliament.
Thus in every electoral convention two-thirds of the
members belong to the wealthy or well-to-do class. There
is no chance in such a system for the poor, for the masses.
This system gives an enormous preponderance of political
power to the rich. The first class consists of very few men,
in some districts of only one; the second is sometimes 20
times as numerous, the third sometimes a hundred, or even a
thousand times. Thus, though every man has the suffrage
the vote of a single rich man may have as great weight as
the votes of a thousand workingmen. Universal suffrage is
thus manipulated in such a way as to defeat democracy
decisively and to consolidate a privileged class in power in
the only branch of the government that has even the ap-
pearance of being of popular origin. Bismarck, no friend of
liberalism, once characterized this electoral system as the
worst ever created. Its shrieking injustice is shown by the
fact that in 1900 the Social Democrats, who actually cast a
majority of the votes, got only 7 seats out of nearly 400. It
is one of the most undemocratic systems in existence.
The voters do not choose their representatives directly.
The suffrage is indirect, and is, moreover, as we have seen,
grossly unequal. As this system is in vogue for Prussian
city elections as well as for state elections, it throws power,
whether in the municipality or in the nation, into the hands
of men of wealth.
In 1908 there were 293,000 voters in the first class, 1,065,-
240 in the second, 6,324,079 in the third. The first class







THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY. 11

represented 4 per cent, the second 14 per cent, the third 82
per cent of the population. In Cologne the first class com-
prised 370 electors, the second 2,584, while the third had
22,324. The first class chose the same number of electors
as the third. Thus, 370 rich men had the same voting
capacity as 22,324 proletarians. In Saarhriicken the Baron
von Sturm formed the first class all by himself and announced
..... ... ,I' .1, he did not suffer from his isolation. In one
of the Berlin districts HIerr Heffte, a manufacturer of sausages,
formed the first class.
This system would seem to be outrageous enough by reason
of its monstrous plutocratic caste. But this is not all. This
reactionary edifice is appropriately crowned by another
device--oral voting. Neither in the primary nor the second-
ary voting is a secret ballot used. Voting is not even by a
written or printed ballot but by the spoken word. Thus
everyone exercises his right publicly in lhe presence of his
superior or his patron or employer or his equals or the official
representative of the King. In such a country as Prussia,
where the police are notoriously ubiquitous, what a weapon
for abs:outism! The great landowners, the great manufac-
turers, the State, can easily bring all the pressure they desire
to bear upon the voter, exercising his wretched rudiment of
political power.
On February 10, 1910, Herr von Betb iann-Hollweg de-
fended this system in the Landtag with great frankness: "We
are opposed to secret voting because, instead of developing
the sense of responsibility in the voter, it, on the other hand,
favors the terrorism which Socialists exercise over the bour-
geois voters."
As a matter of fact, a large number of voters prefer to
forego their miserable privilege entirely and stay at home.
In 1903, 23.6 per cent only of them voted for the Prussian
House of 1:. ,. i. 1. ., while the same year 75 per cent
voted in the elections for the Reichstag, where the secret
ballot is used. Of those who failed to vote, much the
larger percentage is from the third class, whose members evi-
dently feel the emptiness of the privileges they enjoy in this
"people's kingdom of the Hohenzollern," as the Kaiser allur-
ingly describes it.







12 THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.

An additional evidence as to the perfection of the "peo-
pie's kingdom" is this: With the exception of a thoroughly
insignificant measure passed in June, 1906, there has been
no change in the electoral districts since 1858. No account
has been taken of the changes in the population, and there
are the same or worse disparities than there are in the case
of the Recichstag, as previously stated. It thus happens
that 3,000,000 inhabitants of four large Prussian districts
return 9 representatives, while three other million, divided
among forty smaller districts, return 66. Here again the
natural result of the change of the population owing to the
economic evolution has inordinately increased the influence
of the rural districts, prevailingly Conservative.
In 1903 under this system 324,157 conservative votes
elected 143 :-. I.i ..- ii,; but 314,149 Social Democratic
votes did not secure the election of a single member.
Neither in the Empire, nor in Prussia nor any of the other
States that compose the Empire, does the elected chamber
control the Government. In every case the Prince has the
absolute veto. Where there are second chambers, as in
many of the States, they are not elected, but arc nominated,
and are a bulwark of a privileged class. And in Prussia
even the so-called popular House is merely another name
for a privileged class. Neither in the Nation nor in the
States are the ministers controlled by the popular assemblies.
These may vote a lack of confidence as often as they feel like
it. The ministers will go right on as long as the Emperor,
King, Grand Duke, or Prince desires. You can not amend
the constitution in any German State without the consent
of the Prince. You can not amend the constitution of the
Empire without the consent of one man, William II. Reich-
stag committees may discuss and propose amendments to
their hearts' content. After they have obtained the con-
sent of the Reichstag a rocky road opens out broadly ahead
of them. For they must have the approval of the Bundes-
rat, which is appointed by the reigning Princes of Germany,
and is obliged to vote as they direct. No amendment can
pass the Bundesrat if 14 votes out of the 61 are cast against
it. Of these 61, Prussia has 20. The Prussian votes are
cast as the King of Prussia directs. If every individual in t








THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY. 13

Germany except this one, and including the other Kings
and Dukes, wanted a change in the constitution, they
couldn't get it if William II said No! This is the people's
kingdom with a vengeance.
The power of the Prussian Crown is virtually absolute-
"absolutism under constitutional forms," said Rudolph
Gneist, once considered in Germany a great authority on pub-
lic law, before the modern school of publicists-Laband,
George Meyer, Bornhak, Jellinek, Treitschke-became the
teachers of Germany, and taught the most reactionary political
philosophy that Europe has heard in a century. They have
taught that the complete, uncontrolled power of the "Gov-
ernment" (Regierung) is in the power of the prince; that the
granting of constitutions did not mean the recognition of
popular sovereignty in the slightest degree; that legislatures
are not representations of the people but are mere organs
of the State; that legislatures have no right to bring the
State to a standstill; that is, have no right to refuse a budget
until their wishes are respected; that, if they do, they are
acting not in a constitutional but in a revolutionary sense;
that if such a step is taken, then it is the right of the sover-
eign to recur to the principle that existed before the granting
of the constitution, namely absolute monarchy, and to do
what he regards as wise.
German legislatures are impotent and ineffective. The
effective seat of political power in Germany is, as it has
always been, in the monarchs. Germans may have the
right to vote, but Napoleon I and Napoleon III showed
men (and Bismarck among others) that that made no dif-
ference, if the vote led nowhere, if the body elected by the
voters was carefully and completely nullified by other bodies
over which the voters had no control whatever.
The legislatures of Germany are really only royal councils,
consultative assemblies. Bismarck's defiance of the Prus-
sian Chamber and the voters who elected it, in the conflict
period, from 1862 to 1866, has been decisive for the fate of
popular government in Germany.
Prince von Biilow, the ablest chancellor of the Empire
since Bismarck, said in 1914: "Prussia attained her great-
ness as a country of soldiers and officials, and as such she







14 THE GOVERNMENT OF GERMANY.

was able to accomplish the work of German union; to this
day she is still, in all essentials, a State of soldiers and offi-
cials." The governing classes are, in Prussia, which in turn
governs Germany, the monarch, the aristocracy, and a bu-
reaucracy of military and civil officials, responsible to the King
alone. The determining factor in the State is the personality
of the King.
Prussia has been the strongest obstacle the democratic
movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has
encountered. Germany in 1914 was less liberal than in
1848. The most serious blow that the principle of repre-
sentative government received during that century was the
one she received at the hands of Bismarck. We have expert
testimony of the highest and most official sort that the effects
of that blow are not outlived. Prince von Billow, writing
in 1914, said:

Liberalism, in spite of its change of attitude in national questions, has
to this day not recovered from the catastrophic defeat which Prince Bis-
marek infected nearly half a century ago on the party of progress which
still clings to the ideals and principles of 1848.

Parliaments will not control in Germany, the civil power
will not dominate the military, until the present regime,
exalted and strengthened by the victories of 1864-1870, is
debased and disgraced by resounding and disastrous defeats.
It is doubtful if there will be any change even then, for the
German people are the most docile in Europe, with no taste
for revolutions, with no revolutions to their credit, as have
England, France, America, Russia, even China. Personal
government has brought the present calamity upon the
world, and the possessors of that power will fight to retain
it and will, if necessary, treat the German people with the
same ruthlessness as they have treated the other peoples of
Europe.
Let us not be hoodwinked by Easter messages from Will-
iam II, or by cloudy and ambiguous utterances of his spokes-
man, as presaging forthcoming liberalization of Germany.
Prussian kings have shown that not only are treaties scraps
of paper, but that constitutions are also scraps of paper
when their provisions annoy the monarch. And Prussian




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