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CHAPTER VII THE SPIKED HELMET IN AFRICA
THE other day two suave, frock-coated gentlemen, seated at a green-covered table in the Foreign Office in Berlin, by putting their names to the bottom of a piece of parchment, caused a territory almost as large as the State of Texas to become French, and another territory, larger than the State of Oregon, to become German. About as many people were affected, though not consulted, by that international dicker—which has passed into history as the Morocco-Equatoria Convention—as there are in the county of London. The lot of about four-fifths of these people will doubtless be materially improved, and in a few years, if they have any gratitude in their Moorish souls, they will be thanking Allah for having given them French instead of Sherifian justice. As for those Congolese blacks who compose the other fifth, they will soon find, unless I am very much mistaken, that the red-white-and-black flag stands for something very different from the red-white-and-blue one, and that the stiff-backed, guttural-tongued German officers in their tight-fitting uniforms will prove sterner masters than the easy-going French administrateurs in their topées and white linen.

Now the significance of that convention does not lie in its ethics—which are very questionable; nor in [Pg 166] the territory and population and resources concerned—which are very great; but in the fact that it brings within reasonable measure of fulfilment the imperial dream which William II began dreaming some seven and twenty years ago, and which he recently translated to the world in the declaration “Germany's future lies oversea.” In those four words is found the foreign policy of the Fatherland. The episode which began with the sending of a war-ship to an obscure port of Morocco and ended with Germany's acquirement of a material addition to her African domain was not, as the world supposes, an example of the haphazard land-grabbing so popular with European nations, but a single phase of a vast and carefully laid scheme whose aim is the creation of a new and greater Germany oversea—a Deutschland über Meer.

To solve the problems with which she has been confronted by her amazing increase in population and production, Germany has deliberately embarked on a systematic campaign of world expansion and exploitation. Finding that she needs a colonial empire in her business, she is setting out to build one just as she would build a fleet of dreadnoughts or a ship canal. The fact that she has nothing or next to nothing to start with, does not worry her at all. What she cannot obtain by purchase or treaty site will obtain by threats, and what she cannot obtain by threats she stands perfectly ready to obtain by going to war. Having once made up her mind that the realisation of her political, commercial, and economic ambitions requires her to have a colonial [Pg 167] dominion, she is not going to permit anything to stand in the way of her getting it. In other words, wherever an excuse can be provided for raising a flagstaff, whether on an ice-floe in the Arctic or an atoll in the South Pacific, there the German flag shall flutter; wherever trade is to be found, there Hamburg cargo boats shall drop their anchors, there Stettin engines shall thunder over Essen rails, there Solingen cutlery and Silesian cottons shall be sold by merchants speaking the language of the Fatherland. It is a scheme astounding by its very vastness, as methodically planned as a breakfast-food manufacturer's advertising campaign and as systematically conducted; and already, thanks to Teutonic audacity, aggressiveness, and perseverance, backed up by German banks, fleets, and armies, much nearer realisation than most people suppose.

In Morocco, East Africa, and the Congo; in Turkey, Persia, and Malaysia; in Hayti, Brazil, and the Argentine; on the shores of all the continents and the islands of all the seas, German merchants and German money are working twenty-four hours a day building up that oversea empire of which the Kaiser dreams. The activities of these pioneers of commerce and finance are as varied as commerce and finance themselves. Their guttural voices are heard in every market place; their footsteps resound in every avenue of human endeavour. Their holdings in Brazil are the size of European kingdoms, and so absolute has their power become in at least two states—Santa Catharina and Rio Grande do Sul—that the Brazilian Government has [Pg 168] become seriously alarmed. Their mines in Persia and China and the Rand rival the cave of Aladdin. They are completing a trunk line across western Asia which threatens to endanger England's commercial supremacy in India; in Africa they are pushing forward another railway from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the Great Lakes which will rival the Cape-to-Cairo system in tapping the trade of the Dark Continent. They own the light, power, and transportation monopolies of half the capitals of Latin America. In China the coal mines and railways of the great province of Shantung are in their hands. They work tea plantations in Ceylon, tobacco plantations in Cuba and Sumatra, coffee plantations in Guatemala, rubber plantations in the Congo, hemp plantations in East Africa, and cotton plantations in the Delta of the Nile. Their argosies, flying the house flags of the Hamburg American, the North German Lloyd, the German East Africa, the Deutsche Levante, and a score of other lines, carry German goods to German warehouses in the world's remotest corners, while German war-ships are constantly aprowl all up and down the Seven Seas, ready to protect the interests thus created by the menace of their guns.

Back of the German miners and traders and railway builders are the great German banks, which, when all is said and done, are the real exploiters of Germany's interests oversea. So completely are the foreign interests of the nation in their hands that there is no reason to doubt the story that the Emperor, when warned by the great bankers whom he had summoned to a [Pg 169] conference over the ominous Moroccan situation that war with France would endanger, if not destroy, Germany's oversea ambitions, turned to his ministers with the remark, “Then, gentlemen, we must find a peaceable solution.” We of the West have not yet awakened to a realisation of the magnitude of Germany's foreign interests or to the almost sovereign powers which the banks behind them exercise in certain quarters of the world—particularly in that Latin America which we have complacently regarded as securely within our own commercial sphere. In Asia Minor the Deutsche Bank not only controls the great Anatolian Railway system but it is building the Bagdad Railway—probably the most important of Germany's foreign undertakings—these two German-owned systems providing a route by which German goods can be carried over German rails to India more cheaply than England can transport her own goods to her possessions in her own bottoms. In one hand the Disconto Bank Gesellschaft holds the railway and mining concessions of the Chinese province of Shantung, while with the other it reaches out across the world to grasp the railway system of Venezuela, it being to enforce certain claims of this bank that the German gun-boat Panther—the same that occupied Agadir—bombarded La Guayra in 1902 and as a consequence brought the relations of the United States and Germany uncomfortably close to the breaking-point. Seven German banks—the German-Asiatic Bank, the German-Brazilian Bank, the German-Orient Bank, the German-Palestine Bank, the Bank of [Pg 170] Chile and Germany, the Bank of Central America, and the German Overseas Bank—devote themselves exclusively to the exploitation of foreign concessions, either owning or dominating enterprises of every conceivable character in the regions denoted by their titles or lending financial assistance to German subjects engaged in such undertakings.

A few years ago, when Germany was starting in the race for naval supremacy, the Imperial Admiralty issued a review of Germany's oversea interests for the purpose of impressing the Reichstag with the necessity for dreadnoughts and then more dreadnoughts. Here are some of the figures, taken from the list at random, and the more impressive because they are from official sources and because, since they were published, they have materially increased:
North Africa     $25,000,000
Egypt     22,500,000
Liberia     1,250,000
Zanzibar     1,500,000
Mozambique     2,750,000
Madagascar     1,500,000
British South Africa     337,500,000
Turkey and the Balkans     112,500,000
British India and Ceylon     27,500,000
Straits Settlements     8,750,000
China     87,500,000
Mexico     87,500,000
Venezuela and Colombia     312,500,000
Peru and Chile     127,500,000
Argentine     187,500,000
Brazil     400,000,000

And this endless caravan of figures represents but a fraction of Germany's transmarine interests, remember, for [Pg 171] it does not include her colonies on both coasts of Africa, in North China, and in the South Seas. Now, if you will again glance over the above list of Germany's foreign interests, you can hardly fail to be struck by the fact that by far the greater part of them are in countries notorious for the weakness and instability of their governments, as, for example, China, Morocco, Turkey, Liberia, Mexico, and Venezuela; or in countries which, though possessing stable governments, would not be strong enough successfully to resist German aggression or German demands. In regions where German settlers abound and where German banks are in financial control it is seldom difficult for Germany to find an excuse for meddling. It may be that a German settler is attacked, or a German consul insulted, or a German bank has difficulty in collecting its debts. So the slim cables carry a dash-dotted message to the Foreign Office in Berlin; instantly the cry goes up that in Morocco or China or Venezuela or Hayti German “interests” are imperilled; and before the government of the country in question realises that anything out of the ordinary has happened a cruiser with a German flag drooping from her taffrail is lying off one of its coast towns. Before the silent menace of that war-ship is removed, Germany generally manages to obtain a concession to build a railway, or a ninety-nine-year lease of a coaling-station, or the cession of a strip of more or less valuable territory, and so goes merrily and steadily on the work of building up a German empire oversea.

But these interests, world-wide though they are, [Pg 172] fail to satisfy the German expansionist party whose prophet is the Kaiser. They demand something more material than figures; they would see the German flag floating over government houses instead of warehouses, over fortifications instead of plantations. They would see more of the map of the world painted in German colours. But Germany was late in getting into the colonising game, so that wherever she has gone she has found other nations already in possession. In North Africa her prospectors and concession-hunters found the French too firmly established to be ousted; the only territory left in South Africa over which she could raise her flag was so arid and worthless that neither England nor Portugal had troubled to include it in their dominions; though she bullied China into leasing her the port of Kiauchau, the further territorial expansion in the Celestial Empire of which she had dreamed was halted by Russian jealousy and Japanese ambition; around Latin America—the most enticing field of all—stretched the protecting arm of the Monroe Doctrine.

Now, these “Keep Off the Grass” signs with which she was everywhere confronted did not improve Germany's disposition. They made her feel abused and peevish, and whenever she saw a foreign flag flying over some God-forsaken islet in the Pacific or a stretch of snake-infested African jungle, she resented it deeply and said that she was being denied “a place in the sun.” So when France despatched an expedition to Fez in the summer of 1911 to teach the Moorish tribesmen proper respect for French property and French lives, Germany [Pg 173] seized on that action as an excuse for occupying a Moroccan harbour and a strip of the adjacent coast, on the pretext that her interests there were being jeopardised, and flatly refused to evacuate it unless France gave her something in return. I might mention, in passing, that Germany's interests in Morocco are considerably more important than is generally supposed, the powerful Westphalian firm of Mannesmann Brothers having obtained from Sultan Abdul Aziz extensive mining, ranching, and plantation concessions in that portion of his empire which the German newspapers proceeded to prematurely dub “West Marokko Deutsch.” The rich iron deposits in this region, when taken in conjunction with the alarming decrease of the ore supply in the German mines and the consequent shortage which threatens the German iron and steel industry, undoubtedly provided one of the reasons underlying the Kaiser's interference with the French programme in Morocco.

France, knowing full well the enormous political and commercial value of Morocco, and determined to complete her African empire by its acquirement, after months of haggling, during which battle-ships and army corps were moved about like chessmen, consented to compensate Germany by ceding her a slice of the colony of French Equatorial Africa, better known, perhaps, as the French Congo. [4] It was a good bargain that France made, too, for she took an empire and gave a jungle in [Pg 174] exchange. But Germany made the better bargain, it seems to me, for by agreeing to a French protectorate over Morocco she obtained one hundred thousand square miles of African soil without its costing her a foot of land or a dollar in exchange. From the view-point of the world at large, Germany emerged from the Moroccan imbroglio with a good-sized strip of equatorial territory, presumably rich in undeveloped resources, certainly rich in savages, snakes, and fevers, and, everything considered, of very doubtful value. But to Germany this stretch of jungle land meant far more than that. It was a territory which she had wanted, watched, and waited for ever since she entered the game of colonial expansion. It is one of the links—in many respects the most essential one—which she requires to connect her scattered possessions in the Dark Continent and to bar the advance of her great rival, England, to the northward by stretching an unbroken chain of German colonies across Africa from coast to coast. The acquisition of that piece of west-coast jungle marked the greatest stride which Germany has yet taken in her march toward an empire oversea.

[4] Germany has given her new colony the official designation “New Kamerun.”

Heretofore Germany has been in much the same predicament as a boy who tries to put a picture puzzle together when some of the pieces are missing. In Germany's case the missing pieces were held by England, France, Belgium, and Portugal, and they refused to give them up. If you will open the family atlas to the map of Africa, you will see that Germany's four colonies on that continent are so widely separated that their consolidation [Pg 175] is apparently out of the question. Northernmost of all, and set squarely in the middle of that pestilential coast-line variously named and noted for its slaves, its ivory, and its gold, and aptly called “the rottenest coast in the world,” is the colony of Togo. Approximately the size of Cuba and rich in native products, it is so remote from the other German possessions that its only value is in providing Germany with a quid pro quo which she can use in negotiating for some territory more desirable. In the right angle formed by the Gulf of Guinea is the colony of Kamerun, a rich, fertile, and exceedingly unhealthful possession about the size of Spain. Though its hinterland reaches inland to Lake Tchad, it has hitherto been destitute of good harbours or navigable rivers, being barred from the Niger by British Nigeria and from the Congo, until the recent territorial readjustment, by French Equatorial Africa. Follow the same coast-line twelve hundred miles to the southward and you will come to German Southwest Africa, a barren, inhospitable, sparsely populated land, stretching from a harbourless coast as far inland as the Desert of Kalahari. On the other side of the continent, just south of the Equator, lies German East Africa, almost twice the size of the mother country and the largest and richest of the Kaiser's transmarine possessions. The combined area of these four colonies is equal to that of all the States east of the Mississippi put together; certainly a substantial foundation on which to begin the erection of an empire, especially when it is remembered that French Africa, which now [Pg 176] comprises forty-five per cent of the continent, is for the most part the work of but a single generation.

When Monsieur Cambon and Herr von Kiderlein-Waechter put their pens to the piece of parchment of which I have already spoken, the boundary of the Kamerun was automatically extended southward almost to the Equator and eastward some hundreds of miles to the Logone River, the apex of the angle formed by the meeting of these new frontiers touching the Congo River and thereby bringing the Kamerun into contact with the Belgian Congo. In other words, Germany's great colonies on either coast are no longer separated by French and Belgian territory, but by Belgian alone—and Belgium, remember, is both weak and neutral. Now, it is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that Belgium might consent to sell Germany either the whole or a portion of the Congo, for the financial difficulties of that colony have been very great, and it has never been able to pay its way, its wants having been supplied at first by large gifts of money from King Leopold, and more recently by loans raised and guaranteed by Belgium. This unsatisfactory financial condition not having helped to popularise the Congo with the thrifty Belgians, there is considerable reason to believe that the Brussels Government would lend an attentive ear to any proposals which Germany might make toward its purchase. England might be expected, of course, to oppose the sale of the Congo to Germany tooth and nail, it being the fear of just such an eventuality which caused her to seize on the rubber atrocities as an excuse for her [Pg 177] vigorous and persistent advocacy of the internationalisation of the Congo. Though France holds the reversionary rights to the Congo, there are no grounds for believing that she would place any serious obstacles in the way of its acquisition by Germany, for she has given it to be understood that she intends devoting her energies henceforward to the exploitation of her enormous possessions in North Africa. Assuming, then—and these assumptions, believe me, are not nearly so chimerical as they may sound—that the Belgian Government should sell Germany all or a part of the Congo, Germany's possessions would then stretch across the continent from coast to coast, comprising all that is most worth having in Equatorial Africa.<............
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