From the 1907 Eyre Crowe memorandum ("Perceptions of German Foreign Policy in England"):

No one who has a knowledge of German political thought, and who enjoys the confidence of German friends speaking their minds openly and freely, can deny that these are the ideas which are proclaimed on the housetops, and that inability to sympathise with them is regarded in Germany as the mark of the prejudiced foreigner who cannot enter into the real feelings of Germans. Nor is it amiss to refer in this connection to the series of Imperial apothegms, which have from time to time served to crystallize the prevailing German sentiments, and some of which deserve quotation: "Our future lies on the water." "The trident must be in our hand." "Germany must re-enter into her heritage of maritime dominion once unchallenged in the hands of the old Hansa." "No question of world politics must be settled without the consent of the German Emperor." "The Emperor of the Atlantic greets the Emperor of the Pacific," &c.

What did the last "Imperial apothegm" in bold mean?

Did it mean Germany should aspire to be both Emperor of the Atlantic and Emperor of the Pacific (and so rule all of the seas of the world)?

Or maybe "Emperor of the Atlantic" and "Emperor of the Pacific" referred to some existing powers (e.g. the UK and the US)?

  • 2
    This reads entirely like a work (or at least a reporting on the work) of Wilhelmite propaganda. Of course given that Wilhelm II had effectively taken over the nation's foriegn policy in 1890 (upon dismissing the rather more sensible and accomplished Bismark), those sentiments were well worth reporting on. Still, don't take the impression that this was the general German public opinion; just the one being espoused by the foriegn policy-makers(/fools).
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 19 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


I think this refers to a message exchanged between Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II. According to V. I. Gurko, in his 1939 work Features and Figures from the Past: Government and Opinion in the Reign of Nicholas II:

Outside Russia, William II of Germany was eager to direct the attention of Nicholas II to the Pacific. In this way, he hoped Russia would be prevented from taking any active part in European international problems while Germany busied herself in that field. Everybody remembers the greeting which William II signaled to the Tsar in June 1897 as he was sailing away over the Baltic: "The Admiral of the Atlantic greets the Admiral of the Pacific".

These words must have been impreinted in the Tsar's memory. Probably he had them in mind when, directly after the outbreak of the war with Japan, he sent to Admiral Alekseev, Viceroy of the Far East, a telegram expressing the hope that he, as newly appointed Commander in Chief of all our naval and land forces acting against Japan, would fulfill the historic mission of establishing Russian supremacy on the shores of the Pacific.

The phrase alluded to the respective ambitions of the two Emperors of exerting imperial influence in their respective environments - Wilhelm in the Atlantic and Nicholas in the Pacific.

Rather amusingly, The Times from September 13, 1902, reports that Nicholas gave "the somewhat less exuberant reply, 'Bon Voyage.'"

  • 1
    +1 Richard Pipes makes the same point in Russian Revolution, perhaps based on the same source.
    – Roger V.
    Apr 19 at 8:40
  • 3
    Probably correct, but this had ceased to be anything like a reasonable way to view Russia since the end of the Russo-Japanese war (1905, after the quote in this answer, but before the one in the question). Still, Wilhelmite foriegn policy wasn't exactly designed to be or known for being reasonable.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 19 at 13:13

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