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WILHELM II.’S LETTER TO LORD TWEEDMOUTH.
Published by The Morning Post of London, Oct. 30, 1914.
The subjoined letter written to the late Lord Tweedmouth by the German Emperor is made public for the first time. It is a literal transcript of the original document in which occur a few slight errors in spelling. The existence of the document was first made known to the public by the military correspondent of The Times, who published a letter on the subject on March 6, 1908, but its contents were not divulged.
The significance of the letter can be understood only in the light of the naval and political situation six years ago. During the preceding year, 1907, The Hague Conference, ostensibly convened in the interests of international peace, had resolved itself into a committee to determine how to diminish the severities of war. There was a section of opinion in this country which was persuaded that the only method of seeking peace was to reduce the navy and army. At the same time the Imperial German Navy was making swift and steady progress, and its menace to British supremacy aroused considerable alarm in this country. Although the British Navy held superiority over the German Navy in ships not of the dreadnought type, the balance in dreadnoughts was virtually even.
It was stated in Parliament that in the year 1916 Germany, according to her naval law, would have thirty-six dreadnoughts, a number which would involve the building by this country of forty-four such vessels in the same period, toward which the Government was only providing two in the current year. It was also stated that in the year 1911 Germany would possess thirteen dreadnoughts and Great Britain only twelve, which statement was founded upon reasonable assumptions. Could Germany reckon upon the continuance of such a relative position, the advantage to her would be very great.
It was at this critical moment that the German Emperor indited his letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty, which is printed below. When the fact became known there was a good deal of public feeling aroused both in this country and abroad. Lord Tweedmouth stated that the letter was a private letter and purely personal. Prince von Buelow informed the Reichstag that the letter was of both a private and political character, adding some remarks concerning the “purely defensive character of our naval programme which,” said the Chancellor, “cannot be emphasized too frequently.”