Stead’s book, The Americanization of the World, offers some interesting insights into the British – German conflicts in the last few decades of the nineteenth century. My interest is due to the obvious implications: in less than fifteen years after the writing of this book, Britain and Germany will be two of the major antagonists of the Great War – a war for which the beginnings defy reasonable explanation.
For context, I offer a subset (and expansion) of my working hypothesis regarding elite control:
1) There is a group of elite, interested in control – even more than wealth.
2) Control by this group is exercised through the co-opting of government institutions.
3) In the nineteenth century, this control was exercised primarily through Great Britain; by the end of the nineteenth century, it was obvious that Britain would no longer be able to sustain its paramount position.
4) Both the United States and Germany represented threats to the British position, and therefore as threats to the elite.
5) The state most like Britain, and therefore most likely to succumb to similar mechanisms, was the United States. Additionally, the United States offered the most untapped economic potential to be placed in service of the elite. For these reasons, the elite took actions conducive to bringing the United State government under control.
6) Germany was not as capable a vassal for elite purposes as was the United States, and perhaps not as easy to bring under control in a non-violent manner.
Germany was seen as a threat to elite control because Germany was seen as a commercial threat to Britain. Stead’s comments all revolve around commercial and colonial issues. He describes these in the language of national interests, but can be better understood in the context of elite efforts at control.
Stead examines the conflicts between Britain and Germany, region by region. Don’t worry: this will not be nearly as long as my prior post on this general subject.
Britain, as previously described, was concerned about its interests in South Africa – with the risk to these interests either directly or indirectly to America and Americanization. Germany was also considered a threat, due to German colonial presence neighboring British interests – with the added consequence that the South Africans would look to the US Navy as a natural ally:
Great Britain would not be the only Power against which the Afrikander Commonwealth might find that it needed friendly protection of a first-class fleet. German territory marches with that which is now British South Africa, both on the east and west, and German ambition has often marked Dutch South Africa as her natural inheritance. (Page 65)
Regarding the unsuccessful outcome of the Jameson Raid:
A few days after the raid, the German Kaiser sent a telegram ("Kruger telegram") congratulating President Kruger and the government of the South African Republic on their success, and when the text of this telegram was disclosed in the British press, it generated a storm of anti-German feeling.
From the point of view of British interests, it would seem the Dutch might be more sympathetic to German, as opposed to British, advances.
The West Indies and Sugar
According to Stead, Germany took direct aim at the sugar exports of Jamaica, a colony, as Stead describes, of “exceptional interest, for it was the only colony founded by Oliver Cromwell.” (Page 71)
But it received a deadly wound when the imposition of the sugar bounties in the interest of beet sugar ruined the cane sugar plantations of the West Indies. (Page 71)
Some background regarding the German sugar beet industry and “bounties” (meaning mercantilist government subsidies) is provided in a paper by George S. Vascik:
On January 11, 1799, the agricultural chemist Franz Carl Achard presented the king of Prussia with a pound of white sugar, wrapped in a silken handkerchief. This sugar had been extracted from beets grown on a farm in Silesia that the king had given to Achard as a research station. The amount of sugar Achard had managed to extract from his rudimentary beet experiments was small and the process was expensive, but the importance of his act was clear to all present. If a way could be found to grow a source of sugar in the temperate climes of central Europe, it would be possible to end Prussia's reliance on English, Dutch and French sugar imports. This, in classic mercantilist theory, would diminish the outflow of the country's scarce capital.
In short order, beet growers and processers formed a powerful constituency:
…a group of 141 sugar mills banded together to form an interest group (the German Sugar Association) committed to winning from the government a more sympathetic hearing.
By the 1860s, the beet growers and mill owners (who were polemically labeled "sugar barons" by opponents of sugar subventions) were powerful enough to force upon the government a new era in sugar policy.
This group successfully lobbied for export subsidies, with the expected results:
Buoyed by this export subsidy, Germany quickly became the world's leading sugar producer, a position it retained until 1913. Over half of this enormous production was exported. In 1900, it was estimated that one-third of Germany's nearly 400 sugar mills lived entirely from the export trade, with a further third heavily involved in the international market.
Sugar consumers in the United States were a major beneficiary of the subsidy, with the US government closing the door to the subsidized German sugar in the 1890s.
Back to Stead, citing a paper by Mr. Brooks Adams:
Taken in all its ramifications this destruction of the sugar interest may probably be reckoned the heaviest financial blow that a competitor has ever dealt Great Britain. (Page 72)
Them’s fightin’ words….
Stead expands on the impacts to British sugar producers:
Toward 1880 the British West Indies made a profit calculated at about £6,500,000 per annum. Germany ruined the West Indies by adherence to Napoleon’s policy of attack. For nearly three generations the chief Continental nations, with hostile intent, paid bounties on the exports of sugar.
In August 1896, Germany and Austria doubled their bounties and the following spring France advanced hers. The English got their sugar cheaper at the cost of the taxpayers of the Continent. (Page 72)
It is certain that British consumers didn’t complain about this good fortune: the price of sugar was reduced by half, and the consumption doubled! (Page 73) But consumers of sugar, who vastly outnumber the producers of sugar, are not the constituency of the mercantilist state – as demonstrated by the complaints of Mr. Brooks Adams:
Mr. Brooks Adams thinks that we acted unwisely in accepting the bribe offered us in the shape of cheap sugar. In his opinion we should have fought the bounties by countervailing duties, and so have warded off the blow that was leveled against the prosperity of our own colonies. (Page 73)
Stead sees the possibility as greater than most realize that the Australians, by the end of the century, will be speaking German and not English:
One of the most interesting questions of the future is whether the Australians of the future will speak English or German. (Page 138)
He sees the possibilities of German emigration shifting from the United States as destination to Australia. In the course of ten years, such a sustained effort by the Germans would result in an Australia that was half German. (Page 141)
In Europe, Stead sees the greatest possibility of conflict with the “Courts of Berlin and Vienna.”
It is otherwise with the sovereigns and nobles, who represent feudalism and the Old World monarchical and aristocratic ideas which have as their European centre the courts of Berlin and Vienna. (Page 162)
The centre of resistance to American principles in Europe lies at Berlin, and the leader against and great protagonist of Americanization is the Kaiser of Germany. (Page 163)
Stead sees, at the same time, the Kaiser resisting Americanization and the successful Americanization of many German cities.
There are no more Americanized cities in Europe than Hamburg and Berlin. They are American in the rapidity of their growth, American in their nervous energy, American in their quick appropriation of the facilities for rapid transport…. The German manufacturer, the German shipbuilder, the German engineer are quick to seize and use the latest American machines. (Page 164)
The constant flow of German emigration to the United States of America has created a German-American…. (Page 165)
Against all these influences the Kaiser wages desperate but unavailing war. (Page 166)
Perhaps this is one reason why desperate and availing war was ultimately waged against the Kaiser….
The Kaiser proposed to the Tsar, Nicholas II, an alliance regarding anti-Americanism. Further efforts were taken when addressing the Parliamentary Delegations in November 1897, calling for a pacific policy within Europe in order to withstand the Trans-oceanic competition. (Page 168)
The Kaiser saw the American threat as a threat to Great Britain as well as to Germany. He looked for cooperation with the British – even suggesting that the German naval build-up would be of benefit to Britain in protecting its interests against the United States:
…far from being a menace to Great Britain…he regarded every new ship added to the German navy as an addition to the fighting force of the British fleet. For, he argued, it was inevitable that the United States, sooner or later would endeavor to grasp the supreme position on the sea at present held by Great Britain.
When that day came Great Britain would find in the German fleet her most potent ally. (Page 170)
The Kaiser saw the possibility of a Morgan Trust as the potential enemy:
“Suppose that a Morgan succeeds in combining under his flag several of the Oceanic lines.”… To obviate this danger the Kaiser foresees the necessity of forming a European Customs Union against the United States on similar lines to the Continental blockade devised by Napoleon against England….England would be forced to choose the alternative of two absolutely opposite policies: either to adhere to the blockade and place herself on the side of Europe against the United States, or else to join the latter against the Powers of the Continent. (Page 172)
Again, a reminder that Morgan interests lined up with British interests consistently.
On 23 October 1901, a meeting was held in Austria amongst representatives of industry and agriculture…
…for the purpose of considering the most effective means of averting the danger of American competition in all branches of production. Dr. Peetz declared that the United States were aiming at universal economic supremacy…. (Page 174)
In Berlin the German Industrial Union have expressed through their Secretary, Dr. Wilhelm Vendlandt, their views upon the subject. He declared that the time had come for some Bismarck to rise up and assemble the nations of Europe and throttle the American peril. (Page 176)
Germany is seen as having eyes on South America. Until recently, according to Stead, the British hold on Argentina, Chile, and Peru has been unchallenged.
Of late we have been losing ground. The Germans are pressing us hard…unless Englishmen are prepared to work more and play less, they will see themselves supplanted by their more industrious competitors. (Page 222)
As a reminder of the familial ties between Britain and Germany, the King’s brother-in-law, the Duke of Argyle, published in German in 1891 – while he was the Marquis of Lorne – a fervent appeal to the German Empire to seize, occupy, and administer the Argentine Republic. Referring to it as a country with nothing but men to despise, whose welfare depends on a foreign power:
This country, which only requires a European protectorate to bring into it the long-desired order and to make it an El Dorado, is Argentina. Here German rule established in the form of a protectorate or in any other form, would be welcome, because it would be capable of helping the country out of its distress. (Page 223)
The Germans never responded in any meaningful way to this calling. However, they have deflected immigration, instead of to the United States and Australia, to Brazil. Even here, they become more Brazilian than they remain German. (Page 224)
Through these comments, Stead offers his thinking – and therefore the thinking of those in position of power and with knowledge – regarding the risks that Germany poses to the Empire. Following my line of thinking, it seems that co-opting the Germans in a peaceful manner was not considered a possibility; therefore Germany had to be painted as an enemy in order to prepare the population for the future conquering of Germany in a militaristic manner.
And in order to ensure victory as well as continuity of control, the Americans – the most valuable prize for those who think in such terms – had to be brought into the fold.