August Niemann (1904) The Coming Conquest of England (Der Weltkrieg deutsche Traume) translated by J. H. Freese, Routledge & Sons Ltd
I recall to mind a British colonel, who said to me in Calcutta: “This is the third time that I have been sent to India. Twenty-five years ago, as lieutenant, and then the Russians were some fifteen hundred miles from the Indian frontier; then, six years since, as captain, and the Russians were then only five hundred miles away. A year ago I came here as lieutenant-colonel, and the Russians are right up to the passes leading to India.”
The map of the world unfolds itself before me. All seas are ploughed by the keels of English vessels, all coasts dotted with the coaling stations and fortresses of the British world-power. In England is vested the dominion of the globe, and England will retain it; she cannot permit the Russian monster to drink life and mobility from the sea.
“Without England’s permission no shot can be fired on the ocean,” once said William Pitt, England’s greatest statesman. For many, many years England has increased her lead, owing to dissensions among the continental Powers. Almost all wars have, for centuries past, been waged in the interests of England, and almost all have been incited by England. Only when Bismarck’s genius presided over Germany did the German Michael become conscious of his own strength, and wage his own wars.
Are things to come to this pass, that Germany is to crave of England’s bounty—her air and light, and her very daily bread? or does their ancient vigour no longer animate Michael’s arms?
Shall the three Powers who, after Japan’s victory over China, joined hands in the treaty of Shimonoseki, in order to thwart England’s aims, shall they—Germany, France, and Russia—still fold their hands, or shall they not rather mutually join them in a common cause?
In my mind’s eye I see the armies and the fleets of Germany, France, and Russia moving together against the common enemy, who with his polypus arms enfolds the globe. The iron onslaught of the three allied Powers will free the whole of Europe from England’s tight embrace. The great war lies in the lap of the future.
The story that I shall portray in the following pages is not a chapter of the world’s past history; it is the picture as it clearly developed itself to my mind’s eye, on the publication of the first despatch of the Viceroy Alexieff to the Tsar of Russia. And, simultaneously like a flash of lightning, the telegram which the Emperor William sent to the Boers after Jameson’s Raid crosses my memory—that telegram which aroused in the heart of the German nation such an abiding echo. I gaze into the picture, and am mindful of the duties and aims of our German nation. My dreams, the dreams of a German, show me the war that is to be, and the victory of the three great allied nations. Germany, France, and Russia—and a new division of the possessions of the earth as the final aim and object of this gigantic universal war.
This volume is the authorised translation of Der Weltkrieg deutsche Traume (F. W. Vobach and Co., Leipsic). The translator offers no comment on the day-dream which he reproduces in the English language for English readers. The meaning and the moral should be obvious and valuable.
LONDON, September, 1904.
Full text available at: https://archive.org/details/comingconquestof00niem
THE COUNCIL OF STATE
It was a brilliant assemblage of high dignitaries and military officers that had gathered in the Imperial Winter Palace at St. Petersburg. Of the influential personages, who, by reason of their official position or their personal relations to the ruling house, were summoned to advise and determine the destiny of the Tsar’s Empire, scarcely one was absent. But it was no festal occasion that had called them here; for all faces wore an expression of deep seriousness, amounting in certain cases to one of grave anxiety. The conversation, carried on in undertones, was of matters of the gravest import.
The broad folding-doors facing the lifesize portrait of the reigning Tsar were thrown wide open, and amid the breathless silence of all assembled, the grey-headed President of the Imperial Council, Grand Duke Michael, entered the hall. Two other members of the Imperial house, the Grand Dukes Vladimir Alexandrovitch and Alexis Alexandrovitch, brothers of the late Tsar, accompanied him.
The princes graciously acknowledged the deep obeisances of all present. At a sign from the Grand Duke Michael, the whole company took their places at the long conference table, covered with green cloth, which stood in the centre of the pillared hall. Deep, respectful silence still continued, until, at a sign from the President, State Secretary Witte, the chief of the ministerial council, turned to the Grand Dukes and began thus:—
“Your Imperial Highnesses and Gentlemen! Your Imperial Highness has summoned us to an urgent meeting, and has commissioned me to lay before you the reasons for, and the purpose of, our deliberations. We are all aware that His Majesty the Emperor, our gracious Lord and Master, has declared the preservation of the peace of the world to be the highest aim of his policy. The Christian idea that mankind should be ‘ONE fold under ONE shepherd’ has, in the person of our illustrious ruler, found its first and principal representative here on earth. The league of universal peace is solely due to His Majesty, and if we are called upon to present to our gracious Lord and Master our humble proposals for combating the danger which immediately menaces our country, all our deliberations should be inspired by that spirit which animates the Christian law of brotherly love.”
Grand Duke Michael raised his hand in interruption. “Alexander Nicolaievitch,” he said, turning to the Secretary, “do not omit to write down this last sentence WORD FOR WORD.”
The Secretary of State made a short pause, only to continue with a somewhat louder voice and in a more emphatic tone—
“No especial assurance is required that, in view of this, our noble liege lord’s exalted frame of mind, a breach of the world’s peace could not possibly come from our side. But our national honour is a sacred possession, which we can never permit others to assail, and the attack which Japan has made upon us in the Far East forced us to defend it sword in hand. There is not a single right-minded man in the whole world who could level a reproach at us for this war, which has been forced upon us. But in our present danger a law of self-preservation impels us to inquire whether Japan is, after all, the only and the real enemy against whom we have to defend ourselves; and there are substantial reasons for believing that this question should be answered in the negative. His Majesty’s Government is convinced that we are indebted for this attack on the part of Japan solely to the constant enmity of England, who never ceases her secret machinations against us. It has been England’s eternal policy to damage us for her own aggrandisement. All our endeavours to promote the welfare of this Empire and make the peoples happy have ever met with resistance on the part of England. From the China Seas, throughout all Asia to the Baltic, England has ever thrown obstacles in our way, in order to deprive us of the fruits of our civilising policy. No one of us doubts for a moment that Japan is, in reality, doing England’s work. Moreover, in every part of the globe where our interests are at stake, we encounter either the open or covert hostility of England. The complications in the Balkans and in Turkey, which England has incited and fostered by the most despicable methods, have simply the one object in view—to bring us into mortal conflict with Austria and Germany. Yet nowhere are Great Britain’s real aims clearer seen than in Central Asia. With indescribable toil and with untold sacrifice of treasure and blood our rulers have entered the barren tracts of country lying between the Black Sea and the Caspian, once inhabited by semibarbarous tribes, and, further east again, the lands stretching away to the Chinese frontier and the Himalayas, and have rendered them accessible to Russian civilisation. But we have never taken a step, either east or south, without meeting with English opposition or English intrigues. To-day our frontiers march with the frontier of British East India, and impinge upon the frontier of Persia and Afghanistan. We have opened up friendly relations with both these states, entertain close commercial intercourse with their peoples, support their industrial undertakings, and shun no sacrifice to make them amenable to the blessings of civilisation. Yet, step by step, England endeavours to hamper our activity. British gold and British intrigues have succeeded in making Afghanistan adopt a hostile attitude towards us. We must at last ask ourselves this question: How long do we intend to look on quietly at these undertakings? Russia must push her way down to the sea. Millions of strong arms till the soil of our country. We have at our own command inexhaustible treasures of corn, wood, and all products of agriculture; yet we are unable to reach the markets of the world with even an insignificant fraction of these fruits of the earth that Providence has bestowed, because we are hemmed in, and hampered on every side, so long as our way to the sea is blocked. Our mid-Asiatic possessions are suffocated from want of sea air. England knows this but too well, and therefore she devotes all her energies towards cutting us off from the sea. With an insolence, for which there is no justification, she declares the Persian Gulf to be her own domain, and would like to claim the whole of the Indian Ocean, as she already claims India itself, as her own exclusive property. This aggression must at last be met with a firm ‘Hands off,’ unless our dear country is to run the risk of suffering incalculable damage. It is not we who seek war; war is being forced upon us. As to the means at our disposal for waging it, supposing England will not spontaneously agree to our just demands, His Excellency the Minister of War will be best able to give us particulars.”
He bowed once more to the Grand Dukes and resumed his seat. The tall, stately figure of the War Minister, Kuropatkin, next rose, at a sign from the President, and said—
“For twenty years I served in Central Asia and I am able to judge, from my own experience, of our position on the south frontier. In case of a war with England, Afghanistan is the battle-ground of primary importance. Three strategic passes lead from Afghanistan into India: the Khyber Pass, the Bolan Pass, and the Kuram Valley. When, in 1878, the English marched into Afghanistan they proceeded in three columns from Peshawar, Kohat, and Quetta to Cabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar respectively. These three roads have also been laid down as our lines of march. Public opinion considers them the only possible routes. It would carry me too far into detail were I to propound in this place my views as to the ‘pros and cons’ of this accepted view. In short, we SHALL find our way into India. Hahibullah Khan would join us with his army, 60,000 strong, as soon as we enter his territory. Of course, he is an ally of doubtful integrity, for he would probably quite as readily join the English, were they to anticipate us and make their appearance in his country with a sufficiently imposing force. But nothing prevents our being first. Our railway goes as far as Merv, seventy-five miles from Herat, and from this central station to the Afghan frontier. With our trans-Caspian railway we can bring the Caucasian army corps and the troops of Turkestan to the Afghan frontier. I would undertake, within four weeks of the outbreak of war, to mass a sufficient field army in Afghanistan round Herat. Our first army can then be followed by a ceaseless stream of regiments and batteries. The reserves of the Russian army are inexhaustible, and we could place, if needs be, four million soldiers and more than half a million of horses in the field. However, I am more than doubtful whether England would meet us in Afghanistan. The English generals would not, in any case, be well advised to leave India. Were they defeated in Afghanistan only small fragments of their army at most would escape back to India. The Afghans would show no mercy to a fleeing English army and would destroy it, as has happened on a previous occasion. If, on the other hand, which God forbid! the fortune of war should turn against us, we should always find a line of retreat to Turkestan open and be able to renew the attack at pleasure. If the English army is defeated, then India is lost to Great Britain; for the English are, in India, in the enemy’s country; as a defeated people they will find no support in the Indian people. They would be attacked on all sides by the Indian native chieftains, whose independence they have so brutally destroyed, at the very moment that their power is broken. We, on the other hand, should be received with open arms, as rescuers of the Indian people from their intolerable yoke. The Anglo-Indian army looks on paper much more formidable than it really is; its strength is put at 200,000 men, yet only one-third of this number are English soldiers, the rest being composed of natives. This army, moreover, consists of four divisions, which are scattered over the whole great territory of India. A field army, for employment on the frontier or across it, cannot possibly consist of more than 60,000 men; for, considering the untrustworthiness of the population, the land cannot be denuded of its garrisons. As a result of what I have said, I record my conviction that the war will have to be waged in India itself, and that God will give us the victory.”
The words of the General, spoken in an energetic and confident tone, made a deep impression upon his hearers; only respect for the presence of the Grand Dukes prevented applause. The greyhaired President gave the Minister of War his hand, and invited the Minister for Foreign Affairs to address them.
“In my opinion,” said the diplomatist, “there is no doubt that the strategical opinions just delivered by His Excellency the Minister for War are based upon an expert’s sound and correct estimate of the circumstances, and I also am certain that the troops of His Majesty the Tsar, accustomed as they are to victory, will, in the event of war, soon be standing upon the plain of the Indus. It is also my firm conviction that Russia would be best advised to take the offensive as soon as ever the impossibility of our present relations to England has been demonstrated. But whoever goes to war with England must not look to one battleground alone. On the contrary, we must be prepared for attacks of the most varied kinds, for an attack upon our finances, to begin with, and upon our credit, as to which His Excellency Witte could give better information than I could. The Bank of England, and the great banking firms allied with it, would at once open this financial campaign. Moreover, a ship sailing under the Russian flag would hardly dare show itself on the open seas, and our international trade would, until our enemy had been crushed, be absolutely at a standstill. Moreover, more vital for us than considerations of this sort would be the question: What of the attitude of the other great Powers? England’s political art has, since the days of Oliver Cromwell, displayed itself chiefly in adroitly making use of the continental Powers. It is no exaggeration to say that England’s wars have been chiefly waged with continental armies. This is not said in depreciation of England’s military powers. Wherever the English fleet and English armies have been seen on the field of battle, the energy, endurance, and intrepidity of their officers, sailors, and soldiers have ever been brilliantly noticeable. The traditions of the English troops who, under the Black Prince and Henry V., marched in days of yore victorious through France, were again green in the wars in the eighteenth century against France and against Napoleon. Yet infinitely greater than her own military record has been England’s success in persuading foreign countries to fight for her, and in leading the troops of Austria, France, Germany, and Russia against each other on the Continent. For the last two hundred years very few wars have ever been waged without England’s co-operation, and without her reaping the advantage. These few exceptions were the wars of Bismarck, waged for the advantage and for the glory of his own country, by which he earned the hatred of every good Englishman. While the continent of Europe was racked by internal wars, which English diplomacy had incited, Great Britain acquired her vast colonial possessions. England has implicated us too in wars which redounded to her sole advantage. I need only refer to the bloody, exhausting war of 1877-8, and to the disastrous peace of San Stefano, where England’s intrigues deprived us of the price of our victory over the Crescent. I refer, further, to the Crimean War, in which a small English and a large French army defeated us to the profit and advantage of England. That England, and England alone, is again behind this attack upon us by Japan has been dwelt upon by those who have already addressed you. Our enemies do not see themselves called upon to depart in the slightest degree from a policy that has so long stood them in such good stead, and it must, therefore, be our policy to assure ourselves of the alliance, or at least, where an alliance is unattainable, of the benevolent neutrality of the other continental Powers in view of a war with England. To begin with, as regards our ally, the French Republic, a satisfactory solution of our task in this direction is already assured by the existing treaties. Yet these treaties do not bind the French Government to afford us military support in the case of a war which, in the eyes of shortsighted observers, might perhaps be regarded as one which we had ourselves provoked. We have accordingly opened negotiations through our Ambassador with M. Delcasse, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, and with the President of the Republic himself. I have the supreme satisfaction of being in a position to lay before you the result of these negotiations in the form of a despatch just received from our Ambassador in Paris. It runs, in the main, as follows: ‘I hasten to inform Your Excellency that, in the name of the French Republic, M. Delcasse has given me the solemn assurance that France will declare war upon England at the moment His Majesty the Tsar has directed his armies to march upon India. The considerations which have prompted the French Government to take this step have been further explained to me by M. Delcasse in our conference of this day, when he expressed himself somewhat as follows: ‘Napoleon, a hundred years ago, perceived with rare discernment that England was the real enemy of all continental nations, and that the European continent could not pursue any other policy but to combine in resisting that great pirate. The magnificent plan of Napoleon was the alliance of France with Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Russia, in order to combat the rapacity of England. And he would, in all probability, have carried his scheme through had it not been that considerations of domestic policy determined the Tsar Alexander I., in spite of his admiration for Napoleon’s ability, to run counter to the latter’s intentions. The consequences of Napoleon’s defeat have shown themselves sufficiently clearly during the past hundred years in the enormous growth of the English power. The present political constellation, which in many respects is very similar to that of the year 1804, should be utilised to revive Napoleon’s plan once more. Russia has, of course, the first and most vital interest in the downfall of England, for, so long as Great Britain controls all the seas and all the important coastlines, it is like a giant whose hands and feet are fettered. Yet France is also checked in her natural development. Her flourishing colonies in America and the Atlantic Ocean were wrested from her in the eighteenth century. She was ousted by this overpowering adversary from her settlements in the East Indies and—what the French nation feels perhaps most acutely—Egypt, purchased for France by the great Napoleon with the blood of his soldiers, was weaned away by English gold and English intrigues. The Suez Canal, built by a Frenchman, Lesseps, is in the possession of the English, facilitating their communications with India, and securing them the sovereignty of the world. France will accordingly make certain stipulations as the price of its alliance—stipulations which are so loyal and equitable that there is no question whatever of their not being agreed to on the part of her ally, Russia. France demands that her possessions in Tonking, Cochin China, Cambodia, Annam, and Laos shall be guaranteed; that Russia be instrumental in assisting her to acquire Egypt, and that it pledge itself to support the French policy in Tunis and the rest of Africa.” In accordance with my instructions, I felt myself empowered to assure M. Delcasse that his conditions were accepted on our side. In answer to my question, whether a war with England would be popular in France, the Minister said: “The French people will be ready for any sacrifice if we make Fashoda our war-cry. British insolence never showed itself more brutal and insulting than over this affair. Our brave Marchand was on the spot with a superior force, and France was within her rights. The simple demand of an English officer, who possessed no other force but the moral one of the English flag, compelled us, however, under the political circumstances which then obtained, to abandon our righteous claims, and to recall our brave leader. How the French people viewed this defeat has been plainly seen. The Parisians gave Marchand a splendid ovation as a national hero, and the French Government seriously contemplated the possibility of a revolution. We are now in a position to take revenge for the humiliation which we then endured, probably out of excessive prudence. If we inscribe the word FASHODA on the tricolour there will not be in the whole of France a man capable of bearing arms who will not follow our lead with enthusiasm.” It appeared to me to be politic to assure myself whether the Government or the inspired press would not perhaps promise the people the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine as the price of a victorious issue of the war. But the Minister replied decidedly, “No. The question of Alsace-Lorraine,” he declared, “must remain outside our view as soon as we make up our minds to go in for practical politics. Nothing could possibly be more fatal than to rouse bad blood in Germany. For the German Emperor is the tongue of the balance in which the destinies of the world are weighed. England in her own esteem has nothing to fear from him. She regards him more as an Englishman than a German. Her confidence in this respect must not be disturbed; it forms one of the props on which British arrogance supports itself. The everlasting assurances of the German Emperor, that he intends peace and nothing but peace, appear, of course, to confirm the correctness of this view. But I am certain that the Emperor William’s love of peace has its limits where the welfare and the security of Germany are seriously jeopardised. In spite of his impulsive temperament, he is not the ruler to allow himself to be influenced by every expression of popular clamour, and to be driven by every ebullition of public feeling, to embark on a decisive course of action. But he is far-seeing enough to discern at the right moment a real danger, and to meet it with the whole force of his personality. I do not, therefore, look upon the hope of gaining him for an ally as a Utopian dream, and I trust that Russian diplomacy will join with ours in bringing this alliance about. A war with England without Germany’s support would always be a hazardous enterprise. Of course we are prepared to embark upon such a war, alike for our friendship with Russia and for the sake of our national honour, but we could only promise ourselves a successful issue if all the continental great Powers join hands in this momentous undertaking.”
Although the fact of an offensive and defensive alliance with France in view of a war with England could not have been unknown to the majority of the assembled company, yet the reading of this despatch, which was followed with breathless attention, evidently produced a deep impression. Its publication left no room for doubt that this war had been resolved on in the highest quarters, and although no loud manifestation of applause followed its reading, the illustrious assemblage now breathed freely, and almost all faces wore an expression of joyous satisfaction.
Only one man, with knitted brows, regarded the scene with serious disapproval. For decades past he had been regarded as the most influential man in Russia—as a power, in fact, who had constantly thwarted the plans of the leading statesmen and had carried his opinions through with unswerving energy.
This solitary malcontent was Pobiedonostsev, the Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, who, despite his grey hairs, was detested only less than he was feared.
His gloomy mien and his shake of the head had not escaped the presiding Grand Duke, and the latter evidently considered it to be his duty to give this man who had enjoyed the confidence of three successive Tsars an opportunity of recording his divergent opinion.
At his summons the Chief Procurator arose, and, amid complete silence, said—
“It cannot be my duty to deliver an opinion as to the possibility or on the prospects of an alliance with Germany, for I am as little acquainted as any here present with the intentions and plans of the German Emperor. William II. is the greatest sphinx of our age. He talks much, and his speeches give the impression of complete sincerity; but who can guess what is really behind them? That he has formulated a fixed programme as his life’s work, and that he is the man to carry it out, regardless whether public opinion is on his side or not, thus much appears to me to be certain. If the subjection of England is a part of his programme, then the hopes of the French Minister would, in fact, be no Utopia, only supposing that the Emperor William considers the present the most suitable time for disclosing to the world his ultimate aims. It would be the task of our diplomatic representative at the Court of Berlin to assure himself on this point. But it is quite another question whether Russia really needs an alliance either with Germany or with the Western Power just referred to, and my view of the case leads me to answer this question in the negative. Russia is, at the present time, the last and sole bulwark of absolutism in Europe, and if a ruler called by God’s grace to the highest and most responsible of all earthly offices is to remain strong enough to crush the spirit of rebellion and immorality which here and there, under the influence of foreign elements, has shown itself in our beloved country, we must, before all things, take heed to keep far away from our people the poison of the so-called liberal ideas, infidelity, and atheism with which it seems likely to be contaminated from the West. In like manner, as we, a century ago, crushed the powerful leader of the revolution, so also shall we to-day triumph over our foe—we single-handed! Let our armies march into Persia, Afghanistan, and India, and lead throughout all Asia the dominion of the true faith to victory. But keep our holy Russia uncontaminated by the poison of that heretical spirit, which would be a worse foe than any foreign power can be.”
He sat down, and for a moment absolute silence reigned. The Grand Duke made a serious face, and exchanged a few whispered words with both his nephews.
Then he said: “All the gentlemen who have here given us their views on the situation are agreed that a declaration of war upon England is an exceedingly lamentable but, under the circumstances, unavoidable necessity; yet before I communicate to His Majesty, our gracious Lord, this view, which is that of us all, I put to you, gentlemen, the question whether there is anyone here who is of a contrary opinion. In this case, I would beg of him to address us.”
He waited a short while, but as no one wished to be allowed to speak, he rose from his chair, and with a few words of thanks and a gentle bow to the dignitaries, who had also risen in their places, notified that he regarded the sitting, fraught with momentous consequences for the destiny of the world, as closed.