America Fallen!/Chapter 3
AN UNDEFENDED TREASURE LAND
"Gentlemen," said the Kaiser, as the door closed upon the retiring Danish minister, "I have frequently said to you in this council chamber that the future of Germany lies upon the sea. To-day, in spite of the enforced inaction of our fleet during the war, I hold to that doctrine with unshaken conviction. Hence I did not hesitate, Von Buelow, to instruct you to offer fifteen billion dollars as the price of redeeming the fleet.
"If you ask me, as all Germany, doubtless, is asking itself at this very hour, how it will be possible for our stricken Fatherland to discharge this enormous obligation, I answer that not a single pfennig of this indemnity shall be raised by the taxation of my beloved people, or be paid out of their national treasury.
"Gentlemen, you may rest assured that when I authorized the acceptance of the indemnity, I had already determined on a plan by which this stupendous sum could be realized without adding to the heavy obligations which the war had already imposed upon us."
Springing to his feet, the Kaiser swept his outstretched arm to the westward, and his voice took on that incisive staccato which indicates in him the deepest feeling: "On yonder side of the Atlantic lies an undefended treasure land, fifty billions of whose one hundred and fifty billions of wealth are to be found on the seaboard, and within easy reach of an expeditionary force and the guns of a hostile fleet. It is my purpose that the German Navy, on whose behalf I have assumed the indemnity, shall be made the instrument for securing the means of payment. It will appeal to your sense of the fitness of things that the United States, which has contributed so largely to our defeat, should pay the costs of this war and that the navy should play the part of collector.
"If it should be said that this descent upon the coasts of the United States is a premeditated attack upon a friendly power, our reply will be, that, though the charge is technically true, ethically it is false. When that neutral country turned itself into an arsenal for the supply of guns, ammunition, and military stores and equipment to the enemies of Germany, it became in effect an active participant in our overthrow. You, Von Falkenhayn, will agree with me that the military supplies furnished to the Allies by the United States were of more value to them than several army corps. It was the preponderance of artillery, due in large measure to the purchases from America, that was the ultimate cause of our loss of the war.
"Although it was technically correct and in agreement with international law, the material assistance rendered by the United States was, I repeat, morally wrong; and in sending my fleet to exact from that country both the indemnity and the cost to Germany of the war, or twenty billion dollars in all, I feel that I am performing no more than an act of righteous retribution.
"The object of our expedition will be greatly facilitated by the fact that the dreadnought fleet of the United States, consisting of ten ships, is now assembled off Vera Cruz—the Washington Government being still engaged in toying with the Mexican situation by following out its futile policy of 'Watchful waiting.' Equally favorable to our plans is the fact that the bulk of the effective regular force of 30,000 men in the Continental United States is gathered on the Mexican border. The pre-dreadnought fleet of the United States, moreover, is being paraded, just now, in the various ports of the Pacific Coast.
"You, Von Tirpitz, will agree with me that the prolonged inactivity of our fleet in the North Sea and Baltic ports has rendered it desirable that the ships be at once sent to sea for a series of maneuvers on a grand scale, the operations to extend over a series of weeks.
"After a grand review, which I shall hold off Heligoland, the fleet will be dispatched to the Atlantic, ostensibly for these maneuvers, but actually for a descent upon the coasts of the United States.
"From a rendezvous in the western Atlantic, the various divisions of the main fleet will move to the selected points of attack in accordance with the general plans formulated several years ago as the result of our academic study of the problem of an invasion of the United States. The modifications necessary for the present enterprise will be such as are rendered necessary by the present strength of our fleet, the location and strength of the enemy's forces, and by the imperative demand for secrecy, dispatch, and strict coordination as to time and place.
That, gentlemen, is the plan and April 1, 1916, will be 'Der Tag!'"