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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

The progress of the Russo Japanese War


Foreign policy.

The Konigsberg trial.

The same determined spirit which characterized German naval policy was evident also in her relations with the other powers. The suspicions as to the stability of the Triple Alliance produced, indeed, for some years a kind of nervousness in the attitude of the government, whose determination to assert for Germany a leading international role tended to isolate her in Europe. This nervousness was, in 1903 and 1904, especially evident in the efforts to weaken the Franco-Russian alliance by the policy of what Bebel denounced as Germany "crawling on her stomach before Russia." Germany not only backed up Russian policy in the East, and at the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War took up towards her an attitude of more than benevolent neutrality, but the cabinets of Berlin and St Petersburg entered into an agreement under which political offenders against either government were to be treated as traitors to both. This arrangement, which made the Prussian police the active allies of the Third Section in the persecution of political suspects, created vast indignation among all shades of Liberal opinion in Germany, an indignation which culminated with the famous Konigsberg trial. This was a prosecution of nine German subjects for sedition, conspiracy and _lese-majeste_ against the Russian emperor, and for the circulation of books and pamphlets attacking him and his government. The

defendants were poor smugglers from the Esthonian border marshes, who in the course of their ordinary avocations had carried bales of revolutionary tracts into Russia without troubling as to their contents. The trial, which took place in July 1904, excited widespread attention. The prosecution was conducted with all the force of the government; the defence was undertaken by some of the most brilliant Liberal advocates of Germany and developed in effect into an elaborate indictment, supported by a great weight of first-hand evidence, of the iniquities of the Russian regime. The verdict of the court was a serious rebuff for the government; after a preliminary investigation of nine months, and a public trial of a fortnight, the major charges against the prisoners were dismissed, and six of them were condemned only to short terms of imprisonment for conspiracy.

The progress of the Russo-Japanese War, however, soon relieved Germany of all anxiety as to the safety of her eastern frontiers, and produced a corresponding change in her attitude. The Russian disasters in Manchuria at the beginning of 1905 were followed by an extraordinary demonstration of the emperor William's ideas as to "the world-wide dominion of the Hohenzollerns," in a sort of imperial progress in the East, made for the purpose of impressing the Mahommedan world with the power of Germany. In 1904 the German attitude towards Great Britain had been in the highest degree conciliatory; the Anglo-French agreement as to Egypt was agreed to at Berlin; a visit of King Edward VII. to Kiel was reciprocated by that of the German squadron to Plymouth; in July a treaty of arbitration was signed between the two countries, while in the Reichstag the chancellor declared that, Germany's interests in Morocco being purely commercial, the understanding between France and England as to that country, embodied in the convention of the 8th of April 1904, did not immediately concern her. This attitude was now changed. On the 31st of March 1905 the emperor William landed at Tangier, and is reported on this occasion to have used language which in effect amounted to a promise to support the sultan of Morocco in resisting French control. His visit to the Holy Land and the solemn pilgrimage to Jerusalem were, in the same way, a striking _coup de theatre_ designed to strengthen the influence won by Germany in the councils of the Ottoman empire, an influence which she had been careful not to weaken by taking too active a part in the concert of the powers engaged in pressing on the question of Macedonian reform.


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