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The Daily Telegraph Affair (October 28, 1908)

An interview that Kaiser Wilhelm II gave in 1908 to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph created a fiasco. His uncensored and off-the-cuff remarks on British foreign policy angered the British public. They also discredited him in the eyes of many Germans, who increasingly saw his erratic behavior as a liability for the German Empire. The affair ultimately weakened the Kaiser’s position.

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We have received the following communication from a source of such unimpeachable authority that we can without hesitation comment on the obvious message which it conveys to the attention of the public.

[ . . . ]

As I have said, his Majesty honoured me with a long conversation, and spoke with impulsive and unusual frankness. "You English," he said, "are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite unworthy of a great nation? What more can I do than I have done? I declared with all the emphasis at my command, in my speech at Guildhall, that my heart is set upon peace, and that it is one of my dearest wishes to live on the best of terms with England. Have I ever been false to my word? Falsehood and prevarication are alien to my nature. My actions ought to speak for themselves, but you listen not to them but to those who misinterpret and distort them. That is a personal insult which I feel and resent. To be forever misjudged, to have my repeated offers of friendship weighed and scrutinized with jealous, mistrustful eyes, taxes my patience severely. I have said time after time that I am a friend of England, and your press – or, at least, a considerable section of it – bids the people of England refuse my proffered hand and insinuates that the other holds a dagger. How can I convince a nation against its will?

"I repeat," continued His Majesty, "that I am a friend of England, but you make things difficult for me. My task is not of the easiest. The prevailing sentiment among large sections of the middle and lower classes of my own people is not friendly to England. I am, therefore so to speak, in a minority in my own land, but it is a minority of the best elements as it is in England with respect to Germany. That is another reason why I resent your refusal to accept my pledged word that I am the friend of England. I strive without ceasing to improve relations, and you retort that I am your arch-enemy. You make it hard for me. Why is it?" [ . . . ]

I suggested to his Majesty that an important and influential section of the German Press had placed a very different interpretation upon the action of the German Government, and, in fact, had given it their effusive approbation precisely because they saw in it a strong act instead of mere words, and a decisive indication that Germany was once more about to intervene in the shaping of events in Morocco. “There are mischief-makers,” replied the Emperor, “in both countries. I will not attempt to weight their relative capacity for misinterpretation. But the facts are as I have stated. There has been nothing in Germany’s recent action with regard to Morocco which runs contrary to the explicit declaration of my love of peace, which I made both at Guildhall and in my latest speech at Strasbourg.”

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