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The scope of this inquiry is on Germans emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II's aggressive and charismatic stance toward foreign and domestic affairs. This investigation is mainly based on the primary document "Wilhelm II: The Swearing-In of Recruits in Potsdam" by Johann Ernst. This source was chosen because it best depicts Kaiser Wilhelm II's personality or voice and conveys the tense atmosphere of Wilhelmine Germany after the abdication of Bismarck. Thus, the research question regarding German Emperor is along the lines of "To what extent did Kaiser Wilhelm II have control over Wilhelmine Germany following the abdication of Bismarck?"
The foremost approach to this research question is by understanding the transition from the Bismarckian era to the Wilhelmine era, which was marked by the change in mood of politics and economics that led to the departure of Kaiser Wilhelm and his different ideology to bring unity in German. While Bismarck's ideology was tilted toward conservative characteristic, the Kaiser pursued a militaristic, forceful expansionistic policy. Both the speech and the textbook chapter deal with Kaiser Wilhelm II's 'personal rule' in the autocratic regime. A good example of his personal rule was the Daily Telegraph affair. In 1908, the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, published an interview in which Kaiser Wilhelm divulged his personal ideas about German militarism to other nations.
To examine his control over the Empire, his background and ideology takes an important role. Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), Germany's last Emperor and King of Prussia, quickly came in to power due to his father Frederick III's death, following Wilhelm I's death in 1888. He prevented the formation of collective government and generated a divine right to rule personally. In order to produce this style of autocratic monarchy, he dismissed Otto Von Bismarck and pursued both German militarism and German imperialism. He was also a commander in chief who was free in action and had the right to appoint the chancellor or other important figures. According to secondary source Kaiser Wilhelm II New Interpretations: The Corfu Papers, his goal was to have 'a place in Sun' and this personal rule and form of monarchical system later influenced Hitler's rule.
Kaiser Wilhelm II's speech in 1891, given at the induction ceremony of new military recruits in Potsdam, shows his characteristic as an aggressive and charismatic leader who controlled and had power over both domestic and foreign policy. His stance toward the army depicts his individual motivation or desire to reign over Wilhelmine Germany. The Kaiser is forcing the young men in the army to obey his orders, even killing their own family if needed. The part where Wilhelm II claims "trust in god," suggests that he was a Christian figure who wanted to make his land a Christian state influenced by a conservative Prussian vision. The speech illustrates how Kaiser Wilhelm II used the army as part of his monarchical system that sought for personal political supremacy. This represents Kaiser had control over the army to a great extent not with logical reasons but with charismatic force.
To measure his extent of control of the empire, it is essential to see the different characteristic between Kaiser Wilhelm II and Otto Von Bismarck. In comparison to Bismarck, Wilhelm could have gained more control over the regime because of his background and use of condition during that time. Wilhelm utilized military hierarchy effectively and emphasized his divine right to rule. Also the conflict and tensions were rising when Kaiser came into power. This allowed him to criticize Bismarck and pursue his personal rule in the empire. For instance, one of Kaiser's ideologies was to have rapid expansion of the territory, which Bismarck failed to achieve during his rule. Another important difference was that Kaiser exercised unjustified and unsupported control with aggression in his words. Kaiser did one way communication which was to directly speak out to the people but not listening to them. His egoism is demonstrated in his speech where he asserts "my arms, my country, and my power." It is all about him and his forcing the loyalty by suppressing others.
Moreover, the degree of Kaiser's control can also be in connection of his successfulness or unsuccessfulness. Because Kaiser did not give any logical reasons and acted radically for his goal, citizens became mad and antagonistic. Yet, the biggest factor that most historian claim him to be unsuccessful of is the defeat in First World War. If he had won the First World War, the view of looking at Kaiser will change. Majority will agree that he had full control over Wilhelmine Germany if he had won the war. However, from these drastic actions, there are some successes he achieved. For example, he brought rapid industrialization with his foreign policy and also restricting the growth of Social Democratic Party. Thus, it is unjustifiable to claim that he gained control over the nation reasonably but it is also undeniable that Kaiser took a big role in forming Germany.
Although Kaiser had massive control over the regime, his high desire for personal rule eventually brought about his lowered profile and abdication in the near future. Too much self-confidence and an overly bombastic nature brought an end to his personal rule. Accordingly, some historians debate whether the Kaiser was more confident or immature in his individual rule.