GERMANY AND THE GERMANS
FROM AN AMERICAN POINT OF VIEW
GERMANY AND THE GERMANS FROM AN AMERICAN POINT OF VIEW
BY PRICE COLLIER
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS NEW YORK 1913
Copyright, 1913, by Charles Scribner's Sons
Published May, 1913
To MY WIFE KATHARINE whose deserving far outstrips my giving
I. THE CRADLE OF MODERN GERMANY
II. FREDERICK THE GREAT TO BISMARCK
III. THE INDISCREET
IV. GERMAN POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE PRESS
VI. "A LAND OF DAMNED PROFESSORS"
VII. THE DISTAFF SIDE
VIII. "OHNE ARMEE KEIN DEUTSCHLAND"
IX. GERMAN PROBLEMS
X. "FROM ENVY, HATRED, AND MALICE"
The first printed suggestion that America should be called America came from a German. Martin Waldseemueller, of Freiburg, in his Cosmographiae Introductio, published in 1507, wrote: "I do not see why any one may justly forbid it to be named after Americus, its discoverer, a man of sagacious mind, Amerige, that is the land of Americus or America, since both Europe and Asia derived their names from women."
The first complete ship-load of Germans left Gravesend July the 24th, 1683, and arrived in Philadelphia October the 6th, 1683. They settled in Germantown, or, as it was then called, on account of the poverty of the settlers, Armentown.
Up to within the last few years the majority of our settlers have been Teutonic in blood and Protestant in religion. The English, Dutch, Swedes, Germans, Scotch-Irish, who settled in America, were all, less than two thousand years ago, one Germanic race from the country surrounding the North Sea.
Since 1820 more than 5,200,000 Germans have settled in America. This immigration of Germans has practically ceased, and it is a serious loss to America, for it has been replaced by a much less desirable type of settler. In 1882 western Europe sent us 563,174 settlers, or 87 per cent., while southern and eastern Europe and Asiatic Turkey sent 83,637, or 13 per cent. In 1905 western Europe sent 215,863, or 21.7 per cent., and southern and eastern Europe and Asiatic Turkey, 808,856, or 78.9 per cent. of our new population. In 1910 there were 8,282,618 white persons of German origin in the United States; 2,501,181 were born in Germany; 3,911,847 were born in the United States, both of whose parents were born in Germany; 1,869,590 were born in the United States, one parent born in the United States and one in Germany.
Not only have we been enriched by this mass of sober and industrious people in the past, but Peter Muehlenberg, Christopher Ludwig, Steuben, John Kalb, George Herkimer, and later Francis Lieber, Carl Schurz, Sigel, Osterhaus, Abraham Jacobi, Herman Ridder, Oswald Ottendorfer, Adolphus Busch, Isidor, Nathan, and Oscar Straus, Jacob Schiff, Otto Kahn, Frederick Weyerheuser, Charles P. Steinmetz, Claus Spreckels, Hugo Muensterberg, and a catalogue of others, have been leaders in finance, in industry, in war, in politics, in educational and philanthropic enterprises, and in patriotism.
The framework of our republican institutions, as I have tried to outline in this volume, came from the "Woods of Germany." Professor H. A. L. Fisher, of Oxford, writes: "European republicanism, which ever since the French Revolution has been in the main a phenomenon of the Latin races, was a creature of Teutonic civilization in the age of the sea-beggars and the Roundheads. The half-Latin city of Geneva was the source of that stream of democratic opinion in church and state, which, flowing to England under Queen Elizabeth, was repelled by persecution to Holland, and thence directed to the continent of North America."
In these later days Goethe, in a letter to Eckermann, prophesied the building of the Panama Canal by the Americans, and also the prodigious growth of the United States toward the West.
In a private collection in New York, is an autograph letter of George Washington to Frederick the Great, asking that Frederick should use his influence to protect that French friend of America, Lafayette.
In Schiller's house in Weimar there still hangs an engraving of the battle of Bunker Hill, by Mueller, a German, and a friend of the poet.
Bismarck's intimate friend as a student at Goettingen, and the man of whom he spoke with warm affection all his life, was the American historian Motley.
The German soldiers in our Civil War were numbered by the thousands. We have many ties with Germany, quite enough, indeed, to make a bare enumeration of them a sufficient introduction to this volume.
On more than one occasion of late I have been introduced in places, and to persons where a slight picture of what I was to meet when the doors were thrown open was of great help to me. I was told beforehand something of the history, traditions, the forms and ceremonies, and even something of the weaknesses and peculiarities of the society, the persons, and the personages. I am not so wise a guide as some of my sponsors have been, but it is something of the kind that I have wished and planned to do for my countrymen. I have tried to make this book, not a guidebook, certainly not a history; rather, in the words of Bacon, "grains of salt, which will rather give an appetite than offend with satiety," a sketch, in short, of what is on the other side of the great doors when the announcer speaks your name and you enter Germany.
GERMANY AND THE GERMANS
FROM AN AMERICAN POINT OF VIEW
GERMANY AND THE GERMANS FROM AN AMERICAN POINT OF VIEW
I THE CRADLE OF MODERN GERMANY
Eighty-one years before the discovery of America, seventy-two years before Luther was born, and forty-one years before the discovery of printing, in the year 1411, the Emperor Sigismund, the betrayer of Huss, transferred the Mark of Brandenburg to his faithful vassal and cousin, Frederick, sixth Burgrave of Nuremberg. Nuremberg was at one time one of the great trading towns between Germany, Venice, and the East, and the home later of Hans Sachs. Frederick was the lineal descendant of Conrad of Hohenzollern, the first Burgrave of Nuremberg, who lived in the days of Frederick Barbarossa (1152-1189); and this Conrad is the twenty-fifth lineal ancestor of Emperor William II of Germany. It is interesting to remember in this connection that when we count back our progenitors to the twenty-first generation they number something over two millions. When we trace an ancestry so far, therefore, we must know something of the multitude from which the individual is descended, if we are to gather anything of value concerning his racial characteristics. The solace of all genealogical investigation is the infallible discovery, that the greatest among us began in a small way.
If you paddle up the Elbe and the Havel from Hamburg to Potsdam, you will find yourself in the territory conquered from the heathen Wends in the days of Henry I, the Fowler (918-935), which was the cradle of what is now the German Empire.
The Emperor Sigismund, who was often embarrassed financially by reason of his wars and journeyings had borrowed some four hundred thousand gold florins from Frederick, and it was in settlement of this debt that he mortgaged the territory of Brandenburg, and on the 8th of April, 1417, the ceremony of enfeoffment was performed at Constance, by which the House of Hohenzollern became possessed of this territory, and was thereafter included among the great electorates having a vote in the election of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
It was Henricus Auceps, or Henry the Fowler, (so called because the envoys sent to offer him the crown, found him on his estates in the Hartz Mountains among his falcons), who fought off the Danes in the northwest, and the Slavonians, or Wends, in the northeast, and the Hungarians in the southeast, and established frontier posts or marks for permanent protection against their ravages. These marks, or marches, which were boundary lines, were governed by markgrafs or marquises, and finally gave the name of marks to the territory itself. The word is historically familiar from its still later use in noting the old boundaries between England and Scotland, and England and Wales, which are still called marks.
Henry the Fowler was also called Henry "the City Builder." After the death of the last of the Charlemagne line of rulers, the Franks elected Conrad, Duke of Franconia, to succeed to the throne, and he on his death-bed advised his people to choose Henry of Saxony to succeed, for the times were stormy and the country needed a strong ruler. The Hungarians in the southeast, and the Wends, the old Slavonic population of Poland, were pillaging and harrying more and more successfully, and the more successfully the more impudently. Henry began the building of strong-walled, deep-moated cities along his frontier, and made one, drawn by lot, out of every ten families of the countryside, go to live in these fortified towns. Their rulers were burgraves, or city counts. Titles now so largely ornamental were then descriptive of duties and responsibilities.
In the light of their future greatness, it is well to take note of these two frontier counties, or marches. The first, called the Northern March, or March of Brandenburg, was the religious centre of the Slays, and was situated in the midst of forests and marshes just beyond the Elbe. This March of Brandenburg was won from the Slays in the first instance by the Saxons and Franks of the Saxon plain. When the burgrave, Frederick of Hohenzollern, came to take possession of his new territory he was received with the jesting remark: "Were it to rain burgraves for a whole year, we should not allow them to grow in the march." But Frederick's soldiers and money, and his Nuremberg jewels, as his cannon were called, ended by gaining complete control, a control in more powerful hands to-day than ever before.
The second, called the Eastern or Austrian March, was situated in the basin of the Danube. These two great states were formed in lands that had ceased to be German and had become Slav or Finnish territory. The fighting appetite of the German tribes, and the spirit of chivalry later, which had drawn men in other days in France to the East, in Spain against the Moors, in Normandy against England, were offered an opportunity and an outlet in Germany, by forays and fighting against the Finns and Slays.
Out of the conquest and settlement of these territories grew, what we know to-day, as the German Empire and the Austrian Empire. Out of their margraves, who were at first sentinel officers guarding the outer boundaries of the empire, and mere nominees of the Emperor, have developed the Emperor of Germany and the Emperor of Austria, the one ruling over the most powerful nation, the other the head of the most exclusive court, in Europe.
When a man becomes a power in the world, these days, our first impulse is to ask about his ancestry. Who were his father and his mother; what and who were his grandfathers and grandmothers, and who were their forebears. Where did they come from, what was the climate; did they live by the sea, or in the mountains, or in the plains. We are at once hot on the trail of his success. Be he an American, we wish to know whether his people came from Holland, from France, from England, or from Belgium; where did they settle, in New England, in New York, or in the South. We no longer accept ability as a miracle, but investigate it as an evolution. If the man be great enough, cities vie with each other to claim him as their child; he acquires an Homeric versatility in cradles.
Whatever one may think of William II of Germany, he is just now the predominating figure in Europe, if not in the world. This must be our excuse for a word or two concerning the race from which came his twenty-fifth lineal ancestor.
It is exactly five hundred years since his present empire was founded in the sandy plains about the Elbe, and a thousand years before that brings us to the dim dawn of any historical knowledge whatever about the Germans. When the Cimbrians and Teutonians came into contact with the Romans, in 113 B. C., is the beginning of all things for these people. In that year the inhabitants of the north of Italy awoke one morning to find a swarm of blue-eyed, light-haired, long-limbed strangers coming down from the Alps upon them. The younger and more light-hearted warriors came tobogganing down the snow-covered mountain-sides on their shields. They had been crowded out of what is now Switzerland, and called themselves, though they were much alike in appearance, the Cimbri and the Teutones. They defeated the Roman armies sent against them, and, turning to the south and west, went on their way along the north shores of the Mediterranean into what is now France. They had no history of their own. Tacitus writes that they could neither read nor write: "Literarum secreta viri pariter ac feminae ignorant." Very little is to be found concerning them in the Roman writers. The books of Pliny which treated of this time are lost. It was toward the middle of the century before Christ that Caesar advanced to the frontier of what may be called Germany. He met and conquered there these men of the blood who were to conquer Rome, and to carry on the name under the title of the Holy Roman Empire. Caesar met the ancestors of those who were to be Caesars, and with an eye on Roman politics, wrote the "Commentaries," which were really autobiographical messages, with the Germans as a text and an excuse.
Tacitus, born just about one hundred years after the death of Caesar, and who had access to the lost works of Pliny, was a moralist historian and a warm friend of the Germans. Over their shoulders he rapped the manners and morals of his own countrymen. "Vice is not treated by the Germans" (German, the etymologists say, is composed of Ger, meaning spear or lance, and Man, meaning chief or lord; Deutsch, or Teutsch, comes from the Gothic word Thiudu, meaning nation, and a Deutscher, or Teutscher, meant one belonging to the nation), he tells his countrymen, "as a subject of raillery, nor is the profligacy of corrupting and being corrupted called the fashion of the age." With Rooseveltian enthusiasm he writes that the Germans consider it a crime "to set limits to population, by rearing up only a certain number of children and destroying the rest."
The republicanism of Europe and America had its roots in this Teutonic civilization. "No man dictates to the assembly; he may persuade but cannot command. When anything is advanced not agreeable to the people, they reject it with a general murmur. If the proposition pleases, they brandish their javelins. This is their highest and most honorable mark of applause; they assent in a military manner, and praise by the sound of their arms," continues our author.
The great historian of the Roman historians, and of Rome, Gibbon, lends his authority to this praise of Tacitus in the sentence: "The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany; and in the rude institutions of those barbarians we may still distinguish the original principles of our present laws and manners."
Rome, which was not only a city, a nation, an empire, but a religion; Rome, which replied to a suggestion that the people of Latium should be admitted to citizenship, "Thou hast heard, O Jupiter, the impious words that have come from this man's mouth. Canst thou tolerate, O Jupiter, that a foreigner should come to sit in the sacred temple as a senator, as a consul?" Rome welcomed later the barbarians from the woods of Germany not only as citizens and consuls, but as emperors; and their descendants rule the world.
It was no Capuan training that finally distilled itself in a Charlemagne, an Otho, a Luther, a Frederick the Great, and a Bismarck; in an Alfred, a William the Conqueror, a Cromwell, a Clive, a Rhodes, or a Gordon; in a Washington, a Lincoln, a Grant, a Jackson, and a Lee.
Beyond the certified beyond, we see dimly through the mists of history, hosts of men marching, ever marching from the east, spreading some toward Norway and Sweden, some skirting the Baltic Sea to the south; driving their cattle before them, and learning the arts of peace and war, and self-government, from the harsh school-masters of pressing needs and tyrannical circumstances, the only teachers that confer degrees of permanent value. They become fishermen and small landholders in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. "Jeudi," or Jupiter's day, becomes their god Thor's day, or Thursday; "Mardi," or Mars's day, is their Tiu's day, or Tuesday; "Mercredi," or Mercury's day, is Odin's or Woden's day, or Wednesday.
These men trained to solitude in small bands, owing to the geographical exigencies of their northern country, become the founders of the particularist or individualistic nations, Great Britain and the United States among others. Those who had gone south, driven by pressure from behind, follow the Danube to the north and west, find the Rhine, and push on into what is now southwestern Europe.
It is worth noting that the Rhine and the Danube have their sources near together, and form a line of water from the North Sea to the Black Sea, a significant line in Europe from the beginning down to this day. This line of water divides not only lands but nations, manners, customs, and even speech, and what we call the North, and what we call the South, may be said to be, with negligible exceptions, what is north and what is south of those two rivers. It is and always has been the Mason and Dixon's line of Europe.
All of these peoples mould their institutions, from the habits and customs forced upon them by their surroundings. The members of the tribe of the Suevi, now Swabians, were not allowed to hold fixed landed possessions, but were forced to exchange with each other from time to time, so that no one should become wedded to the soil and grow rich thereby. Readers of history will remember, that Lycurgus attempted similar legislation among the Spartans, hoping thus to keep them simple and hardy, and fit for war.
How many hundreds of years, these various tribes were working out their rude political and domestic laws, no man knows. The imaginative historian pushes his way through the mists, and sees that the tribes who lived in the Scandinavian peninsula were forced by their cramped territory to become fishermen and sailors, and cultivators of small areas of land, accustomed therefore to rule themselves in small groups, and hence independent and markedly individualist. Such historians divide even these rude tribes sharply between the patriarchal and the particularist. The particularist commune developed from the estate which was self-sufficient, isolated, and independent. When they were associated together it was for special and limited purposes, so that independence might be infringed upon to the least possible extent. The patriarchal commune, on the other hand, proceeded from the communal family which provided everything for everybody. It was a general and compulsory partnership, monopolizing every kind of business that might arise. The particularist group then, and their moral and political descendants now, strive to organize public authority, and public life in such a way, that they are distinctly subordinate to private and individual independence. In the one the Emperor is the father of the family — the Russian Emperor is still called "Little Father" — the independence of each member of the family is swallowed up in the complete authority of the head of the national family; in the other the president, or constitutional king, is the executive servant of independent citizens, to whom he owes as much allegiance as they owe to him.
In Saxony, to-day, more than ninety per cent. of the agricultural population are independent peasant proprietors, and the most admirable and successful agriculturists in the world. It is said indeed that the Curia Regis, which is the Latinized form of the Witenagemote, or assembly of wise men, of the Norman and Angevin kings, is the foundation of the common law of England, and the common law of England is the law of more than half of the civilized world.
Whatever the varieties and distinctions of government anywhere in the world, these two differences are the fundamental and basic differences, upon which all forms of government have been built up and developed.
In the one, everything so far as possible is begun and carried on by individual initiative; in the other the state gradually takes control of all enterprise. The philosophy of the one is based upon the saying: love one another; the political philosophy of the other is based upon the assumption that men are not brethren, but beasts and mechanical toys, who can only be governed by legislation and the police. The ideal of the one is the good Samaritan, the ideal of the other is the tax-collector. The one depends upon the wine and oil of sympathy and human brotherhood; the other claims that the right to an iron bed in a hospital, and the services of a state-paid and indifferent physician, are "refreshing fruit," as though sympathy and consideration, which are what our weaker brethren most need, could be distilled from taxes!
It is claimed for these Teutonic tribes, that those of them which drifted down from the Scandinavian peninsula, are the blood and moral ancestors of the particularist nations now in the ascendant in the world. The love of independent self-government, born of the geographical necessities of the situation, stamped itself upon these people so indelibly, that Englishmen and Americans bear the seal to this day. This change from the patriarchal to the particularist family took place in this German race, and took place not in those who came from the Baltic plain, but in those who came from the Saxon plain.
The tribes from the Baltic plain, the Goths, for example, merely overran the Roman civilization, spread over it; drowned it in superior numbers, and with superior valor; but it was the Germans from the Scandinavian peninsula who conquered Rome, and conquered her not by force alone, but by offering to the world a superior social and political organization. It was to this branch of the German race that Varus lost his legions, at the place where the Ems has its source, at the foot of the Teutoburger Wald. Charlemagne was of these, and his name Karl, or Kerl, or peasant, and the fact that his title is the only one in the world compounded of greatness and the people in equal measure, is the pith of what the Germans brought to leaven the whole political world. He made the common man so great, that the world has consented to his unique and superlative baptismal title of Karl the Great, or Carolus Magnus, or Charlemagne.
The pivotal fact to be remembered is that these German tribes saved Europe by their love of liberty, and by their virility, from the decadence of an orientalized Rome. Rome, and all Rome meant, was not destroyed by these ancestors of ours; on the contrary, they saved what was best worth saving from the decline and fall of Rome, and made out of it with their own vigorous laws a new world, the modern western world. Great Britain, Germany, and the United States are not descended from Egypt, Greece, or Rome, but from "those barbarians who issued from the woods of Germany."
Every school-boy should be taught that Rome died of a disease contracted from contact with the Oriental, the Syrian, the Jew, the Greek, the riffraff of the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean; who, by the way, make up the bulk of the immigration into America at this time. Rome was an incurable invalid long before the Germans took control of the western world and saved it.
When the Roman Emperor Augustus died, in 14 A. D., to be succeeded by Tiberius, the Roman Empire was bounded on the north and east by the Rhine, the Danube, the Black Sea and its southern territory, and Syria; by all the known country from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean in northern Africa on the south; and by the Atlantic Ocean as far north as the river Elbe on the west. Five hundred years later, about 500 A. D., the Barbarians, as they were called, had thrust aside the Roman Empire. The Saxons controlled the southern and eastern coasts of England; the Franks were rulers in the whole country from the Loire to the Elbe; south of them the Visigoths ruled Spain; Italy and all the country to the north and east of the Adriatic, as far as the Danube, were in the hands of the Ostrogoths. The Roman Empire had been pushed to the eastern end of the Mediterranean, with its capital at Constantinople.
In another three hundred years, or in 800 A. D., the king of one of these German tribes revived the title of Roman Emperor, was crowned by the Pope, Leo III, and governed Europe as Charlemagne. His banner with the double-headed eagle, representing the two empires of Germany and Rome, is the standard of Germany to-day. Charles Martel, who led the West against the East, defeating the Arabs in the country between what is now Tours and Poitiers, was Charlemagne's grandfather. What is now western Europe, became the home and the consolidated kingdom of the German tribes who had drifted down from the west of the Baltic, and into the Saxon plain. They had become masters in this territory: after victories over the Mongolian tribes, and the Huns under Attila, who had conquered and plundered as far as Strasburg, Worms, and Treves, and were finally defeated near what is now Chalons; after driving off the Arabs under Charles the Hammer (732); after imposing their rule upon the Roman Empire, the remains of which cowered in Constantinople, where the Ottoman Turk took even that from it in 1453, which date may well be taken as marking the beginning of modern history, and became themselves thereafter one of the first powers in Christian Europe; a power which is now, in 1912, the quarrel ground of the Western powers.
These are Brobdingnagian strides through history, to reach the days of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Froissart, and the first translation of the Bible into a vulgar tongue by Wickliffe, to the days when Lorenzo de Medici breathed Greece into Europe, and the feeling for beauty changed from invalidism to convalescence; to the days when cannon were first used, printing invented, America discovered, and the man Luther, who gave the Germans their present language by his translation of the Bible, and who delivered us from papal tyranny, born; and Agincourt, and Joan of Arc, are picturesque and poignant features of the historical landscape.
These rude German tribes had been welded by hardship and warfare, into compact and self-governing bodies. These loosely bound masses of men, women, and children, straggling down to find room and food, are now, in 1400 A. D., France, England, Austria, Germany, Scotland, and Spain. The same spirit and vigor that roamed the coasts all the way from Sweden and Norway to the mouth of the Thames, and to the Rhine, the Seine, and to the Straits of Gibraltar, are abroad again, landing on the shores of America, circumnavigating Africa, and bringing home tales of Indians in the west, and Indians in the east. This virile stock that had been hammered and hewn was now to be polished; and in Italy, France, England, and Germany grew up a passion for translating the rough mythology, and the fierce fancy of the north, into painting, building, poetry, and music.
France, Germany, England, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Italy, too, grew out of these German tribes, who poured down from the territory roughly included between the Rhine, the North Sea, the Oder, and the Danube.
As we know these countries to-day, the definite thing about them is their difference. You cross the channel in fifty minutes from Dover to Calais, you cross the Rhine in five minutes, and the peoples seem thousands of miles apart. "How did it happen," asks Voltaire, "that, setting out from the same point of departure, the governments of England and of France arrived at nearly the same time, at results as dissimilar as the constitution of Venice is unlike that of Morocco?"
One might ask as well how it happened, that the speech of one German invasion mixing itself with Latin became French, of another Spanish, of another Portuguese, of another Italian, of another English. These are interesting inquiries, and in regard to the former it is not difficult to see, that men grew to be governed differently, according as the geographical exigencies of their homes were different, and as they occupied themselves differently.
The observant traveller in the United States, may see for himself what differences even a few years of differing climate, and circumstances, and custom will produce. The inhabitants of Charleston, South Carolina, are evidently and visibly different from those in Davenport, Iowa. Two towns of similar size and wealth, Salisbury, Maryland, and Hingham, Massachusetts, are almost as different, except in speech, and even in speech the accent is perceptibly different even to the careless listener, as though Salisbury were in the south of France, and Hingham in the north of Germany. These changes and differences are only inexplicable, to those who will not see the ethnographical miracles taking place under their noses. Look at the mongrel crowd on Fifth Avenue at midday, and remember what was there only fifty years ago, and the differentiation which has taken place in Europe due to climate, intermarriage, laws, and customs seems easy to trace and to explain.
The fishermen and tillers of the soil in the Scandinavian peninsula, afterward the settlers in the Saxon plain and in England, recognized him who ruled over their settled place of abode as king; while roaming bands of fighting men would naturally attach themselves to the head of the tribe, as the leader in war, and recognize him as king. As late as the death of Charlemagne, when his powerful grip relaxed, the tribes of Germans, for they were little more even then, fell apart again. Another family like that of Pepin arose under Robert the Strong, and under Hugue Capet (987) acquired the title of Kings of France. The monarchy grew out of the weakening of feudalism, and feudalism had been the gradual setting, in law and custom, of a way of living together, of these detached tribes and clans, and their chiefs.
A powerful warrior was rewarded with a horse, a spear; later, when territory was conquered and the tribe settled down, land was given as a reward. Land, however, does not die like a horse, or wear out and get broken like a spear, and the problem arises after the death of the owner, as to who is his rightful heir. Does it revert to the giver, the chief of the tribe, or does it go to the children of the owner? Some men are strong enough to keep their land, to add to it, to control those living upon it, and such a one becomes a feudal ruler in a small way himself. He becomes a duke, a dux or leader, a count, a margrave, a baron, and a few such powerful men stand by one another against the king. A Charlemagne, a William the Conqueror, a Louis XIV is strong enough to rule them and keep them in order for a time. Out of these conditions grow limited monarchies or absolute monarchies and national nobilities.
More than any other one factor, the Crusades broke up feudalism. The great noble, impelled by a sense of religious duty, or by a love of adventure, arms himself and his followers, and starts on years of journeyings to the Holy Land. Ready money is needed above all else. Lands are mortgaged, and the money-lender and the merchant buy lands, houses, and eventually power, and buy them cheap. The returning nobles find their affairs in disarray, their fields cultivated by new owners, towns and cities grow up that are as strong or stronger than the castle. Before the Crusades no roturier, or mere tiller of the soil, could hold a fief, but the demand for money was so great that fiefs were bought and sold, and Philippe Auguste (1180) solved the problem by a law, declaring that when the king invested a man with a sufficient holding of land or fief, he became ipso facto a noble. This is the same common-sense policy which led Sir Robert Peel to declare, that any man with an income of $50,000 a year had a right to a peerage. There can be no aristocracy except of the powerful, which lasts. The difference to-day is seen in the puppet nobility of Austria, Italy, Spain, and Germany as compared with the nobility of England, which is not a nobility of birth or of tradition, but of the powerful: brewers and bankers, and statesmen and lawyers, and leaders of public opinion, covering their humble past with ermine, and crowning their achievements with coronets.
The Crusades brought about as great a shifting of the balance of power, as did later the rise of the rich merchants, industrials, and nabobs in England. As the power of the nobles decreased, the central power or the power of the kings increased; increased indeed, and lasted, down to the greatest crusade of all, when democracy organized itself, and marched to the redemption of the rights of man as man, without regard to his previous condition of servitude.
During the thousand years between the time when we first hear of the German tribes, in 113 B. C., and the year 1411, which marks the beginnings of what is now the Prussian monarchy, customs were becoming habits, and habits were becoming laws, and the political and social origins of the life of our day were being beaten into shape, by the exigencies of living together of these tribes in the woods of Germany.
There it was that the essence of democracy was distilled. Democracy, Demos, the crowd, the people, the nation, were already, in the woods of Germany, the court of last resort. They growled dissent, and they gave assent with the brandishing of their weapons, javelins, or ballots. They were called together but seldom, and between the meetings of the assembly, the executive work, the judicial work, the punishing of offenders, was left to a chosen few; left to those who by their control over themselves, their control over their families, their control over their neighbors, seemed best qualified to exercise the delegated control of all.
The chief aim of their organized government, such as it was, seems to have been to leave themselves free to go about their private business, with as little interference from the demands of public business as possible. The chief concern of each one was to secure his right to mind his own business, under certain safeguards provided by all. If those delegated to govern became autocratic, or evil-doers, or used their power for self-advancement or self-enrichment, they were speedily brought to book. The philosophy of government, then, was to make men free to go about their private business. That the time might come when politics would be the absorbing business of all, dictating the hours and wages of men under the earth, and reaching up to the institution of a recall for the angel Gabriel, and a referendum for the Day of Judgment, was undreamed of. The chiefs of the clans, the chiefs of the tribes, the kings of the Germans, and finally the emperors were all elective. The divine right of kings is a purely modern development. The descendants of these German tribes in England, elected their king in the days of William the Conqueror even, and as late as 1689 the Commons of England voted that King James had abdicated, and that the throne was vacant!
The so-called mayors of the palace, who became kings, were in their day representatives of the landholders, delegates of the people, who advised the king and aided in commanding the armies. These hereditary mayors of the palace drifted into ever greater and greater control, until they became hereditary kings. The title was only hereditary, however, because it was convenient that one man of experience in an office should be succeeded by another educated to, and familiar with, the same experiences and duties, and this system of heredity continues down to this day in business, and in many professions and so long as there is freedom to oust the incompetent, it is a good system. There can never be any real progress until the sons take over the accumulated wisdom and experience of the fathers; if this is not done, then each one must begin for himself all over again. The hereditary principle is sound enough, so long as there is freedom of decapitation in cases of tyranny or folly.
There has continued all through the history of those of the blood of the German tribes, whether in Germany, England, America, Norway, Sweden, or Denmark, the sound doctrine that ability may at any time take the place of the rights of birth. Power, or command, or leadership by heredity is looked upon as a convenience, not as an unimpeachable right.
Charlemagne (742-814), a descendant of a mayor of the palace who had become king by virtue of ability, swept all Europe under his sway by reason of his transcendent powers as a warrior and administrator. He did for the first time for Europe what Akbar did in his day for India. In forty-five years he headed fifty-three campaigns against all sorts of enemies. He fought the Saxons, the Danes, the Slays, the Arabs, the Greeks, and the Bretons. What is now France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, and most of Italy were under his kingship. He was a student, an architect, a bridge-builder, though he could neither read nor write, and even began a canal which was to connect the Danube and the Rhine, and thus the German Ocean, with the Black Sea. He is one of many monuments to the futility of technical education and mere book-learning.
The Pope, roughly handled, because negligently protected, by the Roman emperors, turns to Charlemagne, and on Christmas Day (800) places a crown upon his head, and proclaims him "Caesar Augustus" and "Christianissimus Rex." The empire of Rome is to be born again with this virile German warrior at its head. Just a thousand years later, another insists that he has succeeded to the title by right of conquest, and gives his baby son the title of "King of Rome," and just a thousand years after the death of Charlemagne, in 814, Napoleon retires to Elba. There is a witchery about Rome even to-day, and an emperor still sits imprisoned there, claiming for himself the right to rule the spiritual and intellectual world: "sedet, eternumque sedebit Infelix Theseus."
Louis, called "the Pious," because the latter part of his life was spent in mourning his outrageous betrayal, mutilation, and murder of his own nephew, whose rivalry he feared, succeeded his father, Charlemagne. He was succeeded again by his three sons, Lothair, Pepin, and Louis by his first wife, and Charles, who was his favorite son, by his second wife. He had already divided the great heritage left him by Charlemagne between his three sons Lothair, Pepin, and Louis; but now he wished to make another division into four parts, to make room for, and to give a kingdom to, his son Charles by his second wife. The three elder sons revolt against their father, and his last years are spent in vain attempts to reconcile his quarrelsome children. At his death war breaks out. Pepin dies, leaving, however, a son Pepin to inherit his kingdom of Aquitaine. Louis and Charles attempt to take his kingdom from him, his uncle Lothair defends him, and at the great battle of Fontenay (841) Louis and Charles defeat Lothair. Lothair gains the adherence of the Saxons, and Charles and Louis at the head of their armies confirm their alliance, and at Strasburg the two armies take the oath of allegiance: the followers of Louis took the oath in German, the followers of Charles in French, and this oath, the words of which are still preserved, is the earliest specimen of the French language in existence.
In 843 another treaty signed at Verdun, between the two brothers Lothair and Louis and their half-brother Charles, separated for the first time the Netherlands, the Rhine country, Burgundy, and Italy, which became the portion of Lothair; all Germany east of this territory, which went to Louis; and all the territory to the west of it, which went to Charles. Germany and France, therefore, by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, became distinct kingdoms, and modern geography in Europe is born.
From the death of Henry the Fowler, in 936, down to the nomination of Frederick I of Bavaria, sixth Burgrave of Nuremberg, to be Margrave of Brandenburg, in 1411, the history of the particular Germany we are studying is swallowed up in the history of these German tribes of central Europe and of the Holy Roman Empire. It is in these years of the seven Crusades, from 1095 to the last in 1248; of Frederick Barbarossa; of the centuries-long quarrel between the Welfs, or Guelphs, and the Waiblingers, or Ghibellines, which were for years in Italy, and are still in Germany, political parties; of the Hanseatic League of the cities to protect commerce from the piracies of a disordered and unruled country; of the Dane and the Norman descents upon the coasts of France, Germany, and England, and of their burning, killing, and carrying into captivity; of the Saracens scouring the Mediterranean coasts and sacking Rome itself; of the Wends and Czechs, Hungarian bands who dashed in upon the eastern frontiers of the now helpless and amorphous empire of Charlemagne, all the way from the Baltic to the Danube; of the quarrel between Henry IV and that Jupiter Ecclesiasticus, Hildebrand, or Gregory VII, who has left us his biography in the single phrase, "To go to Canossa"; of Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes; of the long fight between popes and emperors over the right of investiture; of Rudolph of Hapsburg; of the throwing off of their allegiance to the Empire of the Kings of Burgundy, Poland, Hungary, and Denmark; of the settlement of the question of the legal right to elect the emperor by Charles IV, who fixed the power in the persons of seven rulers: the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, the Margraf of Brandenburg, and the three Archbishops of Mayence, Treves, and Cologne; of the independence of the great cities of northern Italy; of Otto the Great, whose first wife was a granddaughter of Alfred the Great, and who was the real founder of the Holy Roman Empire, in the sense that a German prince rules over both Germany and Italy with the approval of the Pope, and in the sense that he, a duke of Saxony, appropriates the western empire (962), goes to Rome, delivers the Pope, subdues Italy, and fixes the imperial crown in the name and nation of Germany; of the beginning of that hope of a world-church and a world-state, of a universal church and a universal kingdom, which took form in what is known as the Holy Roman Empire; of that greatest of all forgeries, the Donation of Constantine by the monk Isidor, discovered and revealed by Cardinal Nicolaus, of Cura, in which it is pretended that Constantine handed over Rome to the Pope and his successors forever, with all the power and privileges of the Caesars, and of the effects of this, the most successful lie ever told in the world, during the seven hundred years it was believed: it is in these years of turbulence and change that one must trace the threads of history, from the first appearance of the Germans, down to the time when what is now Prussia became a frontier post of the empire under the rule of a Hohenzollern.
It is, perhaps, of all periods in history, the most interesting to Americans, for then and there our civilization was born. Writing of the conquest of the British Isles by the Germans, J. R. Green says: "What strikes us at once in the new England is this, that it was the one purely German nation that rose upon the wreck of Rome. In other lands, in Spain or Gaul or Italy, though they were equally conquered by German peoples, religion, social life, administrative order, still remained Roman." The roots of our civilization, are to be dug for in those days when the German peoples met the imperialism and the Christianity of Rome, and absorbed and renewed them. The Roman Empire, tottering on a foundation of, it is said, as many as fifty million slaves — even a poor man would have ten slaves, a rich man ten or twenty thousand — and overrun with the mongrel races from Syria, Greece, and Africa, and hiding away the remnants of its power in the Orient, became in a few centuries an easy prey to our ancestors "of the stern blue eyes, the ruddy hair, the large and robust bodies."
"Caerula quis stupuit lumina? flavam Caesariem, et madido torquentem cornua cirro? Nempe quod haec illis natura est omnibus una,"
writes Juvenal of their resemblance to one another.
By the year 1411 long strides had been made toward other forms of social, political, religious, and commercial life, due to the German grip upon Europe. Dante, whose grandmother was a Goth, was not only a poet but a fighter for freedom, taking a leading part in the struggle of the Bianchi against the Neri and Pope Boniface, was born in 1265 and died in 1321; Francis of Assisi, born in 1182, not only represented a democratic influence in the church, but led the earliest revolt against the despotism of money; the movement to found cities and to league cities together for the furtherance of trade and industry, and thus to give rights to whole classes of people hitherto browbeaten by church or state or both, began in Italy; and the alliance of the cities of the Rhine, and the Hansa League, date from the beginning of the thirteenth century; the discovery of how to make paper dates from this time, and printing followed; the revolt of the Albigenses against priestly dominance which drenched the south of France in blood began in the twelfth century; slavery disappeared except in Spain; Wycliffe, born in 1324, translated the Gospels, threw off his allegiance to the papacy, and suffered the cheap vengeance of having his body exhumed and its ashes scattered in the river Swift; Aquinas and Duns Scotus delivered philosophy from the tyranny of theology; Roger Bacon (1214) practically introduced the study of natural science; Magna Charta was signed in 1215; Marco Polo, whose statue I have seen among those of the gods, in a certain Chinese temple, began his travels in the thirteenth century; the university of Bologna was founded before 1200 for the untrammelled study of medicine and philosophy; Abelard, who died in 1142, represented, to put it pithily, the spirit of free inquiry in matters theological, and lectured to thousands in Paris. What do these men and movements mean? I am wofully wrong in my ethnographical calculations if these things do not mean, that the people of whom Tacitus wrote, "No man dictates to the assembly; he may persuade but cannot command," were shaping and moulding the life of Europe, with their passionate love of individual liberty, with their sturdy insistence upon the right of men to think and work without arbitrary interference. Out of this furnace came constitutional government in England, and republican government in America. We owe the origins of our political life to the influence of these German tribes, with their love of individual freedom and their stern hatred of meddlesome rulers, or a meddlesome state or legislature.
Germany had no literature at this time. When Froissart was writing French history, and Joinville his delightful chronicles; when Chaucer and Wycliffe were gayly and gravely making play with the monks and priests, the only names known in Germany were those of the mystics, Eckhart and Tauler. When the time came, however, Germany was defiantly individualist in Luther, and Protestantism was thoroughly German. It was not from tales of the great, not from knighthood, chivalry, or their roving singer champions, that German literature came; but from the fables and satires of the people, from Hans Sachs and from the Luther translation of the Bible. This is roughly the setting of civilization, in which the first Hohenzollerns found themselves when they took over the Mark of Brandenburg, in the early years of the fifteenth century.
Here is a list of them, of no great interest in themselves, but showing the direct descent down to the present time; for from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) to the French Revolution the German states were without either men or measures, except Frederick the Great, that call for other than dreary comment:
Frederick I of Nuremberg, 1417 Frederick II, 1440 Albert III, 1470 Johann III, 1476 Joachim I, 1499 Joachim II, 1535 Johann George, 1571 Joachim Frederick, 1598 Johann Sigismund of Poland (first Duke of Prussia), 1608 George William, 1619 Frederick William (the Great Elector), 1640 Frederick III, Frederick I of Prussia (crowned first King of Prussia in 1701), 1657-1713 Frederick William I (son of Frederick I of Prussia), 1688-1740 Frederick II (the Great) (son of Frederick William I), 1712-1786 Frederick William II (son of Augustus William, brother of Frederick the Great), 1744-1787 Frederick William III (son of Frederick William II), 1770-1840 Frederick William IV (son of Frederick William III, 1795-1861), reigned, 1840-1861 William I (son of Frederick William III, brother of Frederick William IV, 1797-1888), reigned, 1861-1888 Frederick III (son of William I, 1831-1888), reigned from March 9 to June 15, 1888. William II (son of Frederick III and Princess Victoria of England), born Jan. 27, 1859, succeeded Frederick III in 1888.
These incidents, names, and dates are mere whisps of history. It is only necessary to indicate that to articulate this skeleton of history, clothe it with flesh, and give it its appropriate arms and costumes would entail the putting of all mediaeval European history upon a screen, to deliver oneself without apology from any such task. It may be for this reason that there is no history of Germany in the English tongue, that ranks above the elementary and the mediocre. There is a masterly and scholarly history of the Holy Roman Empire by an Englishman, which no student of Germany may neglect, but he who would trace the beginnings of Germany from 113 B. C. down to the time of the Great Elector, 1640, must be his own guide through the trackless deserts, of the formation into separate nations, of modern Europe. It is even with misgivings that the student picks his way from the time of the Great Elector to Bismarck, and to modern Germany.
The Peace of Westphalia, 1648, marks the end of the Thirty Years' War, and finds Germany with a population reduced from sixteen millions to four millions. Famine which drove men and women to cannibalism, bands of them being caught cooking human bodies in a caldron for food; slaughter that drove men to make laws authorizing every man to have two wives, and punishing men and women who became monks and nuns; lawlessness that bred roving bands of murderers, who killed, robbed, and even ate their victims, demanded a ruler of no little vigor to lead his people back to civic, moral, and material health. The Great Elector wrested east Prussia from Poland, he defeated and drove off the Swedes, whom Louis XIV had drawn into an alliance against him, he travelled from end to end of his country, seeking out the problems of distress and remedying them by inducing immigration from Holland, Switzerland, and the north, by building roads, bridges, schools, and churches, and by encouraging planting, trade, and commerce. He built the Frederick William Canal connecting the Oder and the Spree, and introduced the potato to his countrymen. Germany now produces in normal years fifteen hundred million bushels of potatoes. The splendid equestrian statue of the Great Elector on the long bridge at Berlin, is a worthy monument to the first great Hohenzollern.
When Charles II of Spain died, Louis XIV, the Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Elector of Bavaria, all three claimed the right to name his successor. In the war that followed and which lasted a dozen years, the Emperor, Holland, England, Portugal, the Elector of Hanover, and the Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg, the son of the Great Elector, were allied against France. Frederick, the Elector of Brandenburg, was permitted by the Emperor, in return for his services at this time, to assume the title of King, and he crowned himself and his wife Sophia Elizabeth, at Koenigsberg, King and Queen of Prussia, taking the title of Frederick I of Prussia, January 18th, 1701.
This novus homo among sovereigns was now a fellow king with the rulers of England, France, Denmark, and Sweden, and the only crowned head in the empire, except the Emperor himself, and the Elector of Saxony, who had been chosen King of Poland in 1697. By persistent sycophancy he had pushed his way into the inner circle of the crowned. Those who have picked social locks these latter days by similar sycophancies, by losses at bridge in the proper quarter, by suffering sly familiarities to their women folk, and by wearing their personal and family dignity in sole leather, may know something of the humiliating experiences of this new monarch. He was a feeble fellow, but his son and successor, Frederick William I, "a shrewd but brutal boor," so Lord Rosebery calls him, and there could not be a better judge, amazed Europe by his taste for collecting tall soldiers, by his parsimony, his kennel manners in the treatment of his family and his subjects, and leaves a name in history as the first, greatest, and the unique collector of human beings on a Barnumesque scale. All known collectors of birds, beetles, butterflies, and beasts accord him an easy supremacy, for his aggregation of colossal grenadiers.
It is temptingly easy to be epigrammatic, perhaps witty, at the expense of Frederick William I of Prussia. The man, however, who freed the serfs; who readjusted the taxes; who insisted upon industry and honesty among his officials; who proclaimed liberty of conscience and of thought; who first put on, to wear for the rest of his life, the uniform of his army, and thus made every officer proud to wear the uniform himself; and who left his son an army of eighty thousand men, thoroughly equipped and trained, and an overflowing treasury, may not be dismissed merely with anecdotes of his eccentric brutality.
Only the ignorant and the envious, nibble at the successes of other men, with vermin teeth and venomous tongue. Those people who can never praise anything whole-heartedly come by their cautious censure from an uneasy doubt of their own deserving. The contempt of Frederick William I for learning and learned men, left him leisure for matters of far more importance to his kingdom at the time. His habitual roughness to his son was due, perhaps, to the fact that there was a curious strain of effeminate culture in the man who deified Voltaire. Poor Voltaire, who called Shakespeare "le sauvage ivre," or to quote him exactly: "On croirait que cet ouvrage (Hamlet) est le fruit de l'imagination d'un sauvage ivre," who said that Dante would never be read, and that the comedies of Aristophanes were unworthy of presentation in a country tavern! One is tempted to believe that the father was a man of robuster judgment in such matters than the son, whose own rather mediocre literary equipment, made him the easy prey of that acidulous vestal of literature, Voltaire. However that may be, he left a useful and unexpected legacy to his son, provided, indeed, the sinews for the making of a powerful Prussian kingdom.
March the 31st, 1740, this eccentric miser died, to be succeeded by his son, Frederick II, "the Great," then twenty-eight years old. Here was a surprise indeed. Of these German kings and princes in their small dominions it has been written: "And these magnates all aped Louis XIV as their model. They built huge palaces, as like Versailles as their means would permit, and generally beyond those limits, with fountains and avenues and dismally wide paths. Even in our own day a German monarch has left, fortunately unfinished, an accurate Versailles on a damp island in a Bavarian lake. In those grandiose structures they cherished a blighting etiquette, and led lives as dull as those of the aged and torpid carp in their own stew-ponds. Then, at the proper season, they would break away into the forest and kill game. Moreover, still in imitation of their model, they held, as a necessary feature in the dreary drama of their existence, ponderous dalliances with unattractive mistresses, in whom they fondly tried to discern the charms of a Montespan or a La Valliere. This monotonous programme, sometimes varied by a violent contest whether they should occupy a seat with or without a back, or with or without arms, represented the even tenor of their lives."
This good stock was evidently lying fallow, and humanity is neither dignified nor pleasant in the part of fertilizer. Frederick the Great, it should be remembered, was a Prussian and for Prussia only. He cared no more about a united Germany than we care for a united America to include Canada, Mexico, and the Argentine. He cared no more for Bavarians and Saxons than for Swedes and Frenchmen, and, as we know, he was utterly contemptuous of German literature or the German language. He redeemed the shallowness and the torpidity of those other mediocre rulers by resisting, and resisting successfully, for what must have been to him seven very long years, the whole force of Austria and some of the lesser German powers, with the armies of Russia and France back of them.
He had a turbulent home life; his father on one occasion even attempted to hang him with his own hands with the cords of the window curtains, and when he fled from home he captured him and proposed to put him to death as a deserter, and only the intervention of the Kings of Poland and Sweden and the Emperor of Germany prevented it. His accomplice, however, was summarily and mercilessly put to death before his eyes. There is no illustration in all history, of such a successful outcome of the rod theory in education, as this of Frederick the Great. The father put into practice what Wesley preached: "Break their wills betimes, whatever it costs; break the will if you would not damn the child. Let a child from a year old be taught to fear the rod and to cry softly."
The meanness and cruelty, the parsimony and the eccentricities, of the father left the son an army of eighty thousand troops, troops as superior to other troops in Europe as are the Japanese infantry to-day, to the Manchu guards that pick the weeds in the court-yards of the palace at Mukden; and he left him, too, a kingdom with no debts and an overflowing treasury. It is seldom that such insane vanities leave such a fair estate and an heir with such unique abilities for its skilful exploitation. Of Frederick's wars against Austria, against France, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Poland; of his victories at Prague, Leuthen, Rossbach, and Zorndorf; of his addition of Siberia and Polish Prussia to his kingdom; of his comical literary love affair with Voltaire; of his brutal comments upon the reigning ladies of Russia and France, which brought upon him their bitter hatred; of his restoration and improvement of his country; of his strict personal economy and loyalty to his own people, scores of volumes have been written. The hero-worshipper, Carlyle, and the Jove of reviewers, Macaulay, have described him, and many minor scribes besides.
It is said of his victory of Rossbach, in 1757, that then and there began the recreation of Germany, the revival of her political and intellectual life, and union under Prussia and Prussian kings. Frederick the Great deserves this particular encomium; for as Luther freed Germany, and all Christendom indeed, from the tyranny of tradition, as Lessing freed us from the tyranny of the letter, from the second-hand and half-baked Hellenism of a Racine and a Corneille, so Frederick the Great freed his countrymen at last from the puerile slavery to French fashions and traditions, which had made them self- conscious at home and ridiculous abroad. He first made a Prussian proud to be a Prussian.
This last quarter of the eighteenth century in Germany saw the death of Lessing in 1781, the publication of Kant's "Kritik der Reinen Vernunft" in the same year, and the death of the great Frederick in 1786. These names mark the physical and intellectual coming of age of Germany. Lessing died misunderstood and feared by the card-board literary leaders of his day, men who still wrote and thought with the geometrical instruments handed them from France; Kant attempted to push philosophical inquiry beyond the bounds of human experience, and Frederick left Prussia at last not ashamed to be Prussia. Napoleon was eighteen years old when Frederick died, and he, next to Bismarck, did more to bring about German unity than any other single force. Unsuccessful Charlemagne though he was, he without knowing it blazed the political path which led to the crowning of a German emperor in the palace at Versailles, less than a hundred years after the death of Frederick the Great. In 1797 at Montebello, Napoleon said: "If the Germanic System did not exist, it would be necessary to create it expressly for the convenience of France."
II FREDERICK THE GREAT TO BISMARCK
Frederick the Great died in 1786, leaving Prussia the most formidable military power on the Continent. In financial, law, and educational matters he had made his influence felt for good. He distributed work-horses and seed to his impoverished nobles; he encouraged silk, cotton, and porcelain industries; he built the Finow, the Planesche, and Bromberger Canals; he placed a tariff on meat, except pork, the habitual food of the poor, and spirits and tobacco and coffee were added to the salt monopoly; he codified the laws, which we shall mention later; he aided the common schools, and in his day were built the opera-house, library, and university in Berlin, and the new palace of Sans Souci at Potsdam.
Almost exactly one hundred years after the death of Frederick the Great, there ended practically, at the death of the Emperor William I, in 1888, the political career of the man, who with his personally manufactured cement of blood and iron, bound Germany together into a nation. The middle of the seventeenth, the middle of the eighteenth, and the middle of the nineteenth centuries, with the Great Elector, Frederick the Great, and Bismarck as the central figures, mark the features of the historical landscape of Germany as with mile-stones.
How difficult was the task to bring at last an emperor of all Germany to his crowning at Versailles, January 18, 1871, and how mighty the artificer who accomplished the work, may be learned from a glance at the political, geographical, and patriotic incoherence of the land that is now the German Empire.
Germany had no definite national policy from the death of Frederick the Great till the reign of Bismarck began in 1862. Hazy discussions of a confederation of princes, of a Prussian empire, of lines of demarcation, of acquisitions of German territory, were the phantoms of a policy, and even these were due to the pressure of Prussia.
The general political torpidity is surprisingly displayed, when one remembers that Goethe (1749-1832), who lived through the French Revolution, who was thirty-seven years old when Frederick the Great died, and who lived through the whole flaming life of Napoleon, was scarcely more stirred by the political features of the time than though he had lived in Seringapatam. He was a superlatively great man, but he was as parochial in his politics as he was amateurish in his science, as he was a mixture of the coxcomb and the boor, in his love affairs. Lessing, who died in 1781, Klopstock, who died in 1803, Schiller, who died in 1805, Kant, who died in 1804, Hegel, who died in 1831, Fichte, who died in 1814, Wolf, who died in 1824, "Jean Paul" Friedrich Richter, who died in 1825, Voss, who died in 1826, Schelling, who died in 1854, the two Schlegels, August Wilhelm and Frederick, who died in 1845 and in 1829, Jacob Grimm, who died in 1863, Herder, Wieland, Kotzebue, what a list of names! What a blossoming of literary activity! But no one of them, these the leaders of thought in Germany, at the time when the world was approaching the birthday of democracy through pain and blood, no one of these was especially interested in politics.
There was theoretical writing about freedom. Heine mocked at his countrymen and at the world in general, and deified Napoleon, from his French mattress, on which he died, in 1856, only fifty-seven years old. Fichte ended a course of lectures on Duty, with the words: "This course of lectures is suspended till the end of the campaign. We shall resume if our country become free, or we shall have died to regain our liberty." But Fichte neither resumed nor died! Herder criticised his countrymen for their slavish following of French forms and models in their literature, as in their art and social life. And well he might thus criticise, when one remembers how cramped was the literary vision even of such men as Voltaire and Heine. We have already mentioned some of Voltaire's literary judgments in the preceding chapter, and Heine ventured to compare Racine to Euripides! No wonder that Germany needed schooling in taste, if such were the opinions of her advisers. Such literary canons as these could only be accepted by minds long inured to provincial, literary, and social slavery.
Just as every little princeling of those days in Germany took Louis XIV for his model, so every literary fledgling looked upon Voltaire as a god, and modelled his style upon the stiff and pompous verses of the French literary men of that time.
Not even to-day has Germany escaped from this bondage. In Baden three words out of ten that you hear are French, and the German wherever he lives in Germany still invites you to Mittagessen at eight P. M. because he has no word in his own language for diner, and must still say anstaendiger or gebildeter Mensch for gentleman. To make the German even a German in speech and ideals and in independence has been a colossal task. One wonders, as one pokes about in odd corners of Germany even now, whether Herder's caustic contempt, and Bismarck's cavalry boots, have made every German proud to be a German, as now he surely ought to be. The tribal feeling still exists there.
Fichte's lectures on Nationality were suppressed and Fichte himself looked upon askance. The Schlegels spent a lifetime in giving Germany a translation of Shakespeare. Hegel wrote the last words of his philosophy to the sound of the guns at the battle of Jena. Goethe writes a paragraph about his meeting with Napoleon. Metternich, born three years before the American Revolution, and who died a year before the battle of Bull Run, declared: "The cause of all the trouble is the attempt of a small faction to introduce the sovereignty of the people under the guise of a representative system."
If this was the attitude of the intellectual nobility of the time, what are we to suppose that Messrs. Muller and Schultze and Fischer and Kruger, the small shop-keepers and others of their ilk, and their friends thought? Even forty years later Friedrich Hebbel, in 1844, paid a visit to the Industrial Exposition in Paris. He writes in his diary: "Alle diese Dinge sind mir nicht allein gleichgueltig; sic sind mir widerwaertig." Germany had not awakened even then to any wide popular interest in the world that was doing things. As Voltaire phrased it, France ruled the land, England the sea, and Germany the clouds, even as late as the middle of the nineteenth century. This is the more worth noting, as giving a peg upon which to hang Germany's astounding progress since that time. Even as late as Bismarck's day he complained of the German: "It is as a Prussian, a Hanoverian, a Wuertemberger, a Bavarian, or a Hessian, rather than as a German, that he is disposed to give unequivocal proof of patriotism." The present ambitious German Emperor said, in 1899, at Hamburg: "The sluggishness shown by the German people in interesting themselves in the great questions moving the world, and in arriving at a political understanding of those questions, has caused me deep anxiety." What kind of material had the nation-makers to work with! What a long, disappointing task it must have been to light these people into a blaze of patriotism! In those days America, though the population of the American colonies was only eleven hundred and sixty thousand in 1750, talked, wrote, and fought politics. The outstanding personalities of the time were patriots, soldiers, politicians, not a dreamer among them.
England was so nonchalantly free already, that the betting-book at White's Club records that, "Lord Glengall bets Lord Yarmouth one hundred guineas to five that Buonaparte returns to Paris before Beau Brummel returns to London!" Burke and Pitt, and Fox and North, and Canning might look after politics; Hargreaves and Crompton would take care to keep English industries to the fore, and Watt, and the great canal-builder Brindley, would solve the problem of distributing coal; their lordships cracked their plovers' eggs, unable to pronounce even the name of a single German town or philosopher, and showed their impartial interest, much as now they do, in contemporary history, by backing their opinions with guineas, with the odds on Caesar against the "Beau."
Weimar was a sunny little corner where poetry and philosophy and literature were hatched, well out of reach of the political storms of the time. The Grand Duke of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach with his tiny court, his Falstaffian army, his mint and his customs-houses, with his well-conducted theatre and his suite of litterateurs, was one of three hundred rulers in the Germany of that time.
The Holy Roman Empire, consisting, in Napoleon's time, of Austria, Prussia, and a mass of minor states, these last grouped together under the name of the Confederation of the Rhine, and wholly under French influence, lasted one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight years, or from Caesar's victory of Pharsalia down to August the 1st, 1806, when Napoleon announced to the Diet that he no longer recognized it.
This institution had no political power, was merely a theoretical political ring for the theoretical political conflicts of German agitators and dreamers, and was composed of the representatives of this tangle of powerless, but vain and self-conscious little states. This Holy Roman Empire, with an Austrian at its head, and aided by France, strove to prevent the development of a strong German state under the leadership of Prussia. After Napoleon's day it became a struggle between Prussia and Austria. Austria had only eight out of thirty-six million German population, while Prussia was practically entirely German, and Prussia used her army, politics, and commerce to gain control in Germany. Even to-day Austria-Hungary contains the most varied conglomeration of races of any nation in the world. Austria has 26,000,000 inhabitants, of whom 9,000,000 are Germans, 1,000,000 Italians and Rumanians, 6,000,000 Bohemians and Slovacs, 8,000,000 Poles and Ruthenians, 2,000,000 Slovenes and Croatians. Of the 19,000,000 of Hungary there are 9,000,000 Magyars, 2,000,000 Germans, 2,500,000 Slovacs and Ruthenians, 3,000,000 Rumanians, and nearly 3,000,000 Southern Slays.
Weimar was one of the three hundred capitals of this limp empire, with tariffs, stamps, coins, uniforms, customs, gossip, interests, and a sovereign of its own. When Bismarck undertook the unifying of the customs tariffs of Germany, there were even then fifteen hundred different tariffs in existence!
Weimar had its salon, its notables: Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, Frau von Stein, Dr. Zimmermann as a valued correspondent; its Grand Duke Karl August and his consort; Herder, who jealous of the renown of Goethe, and piqued at the insufficient consideration he received, soon departed, to return only when the Grand Duchess took him under her wing and thus satisfied his morbid pride; its love affair, for did not the beautiful Frau von Werthern leave her husband, carry out a mock funeral, and, heralded as dead, elope to Africa with Herr von Einsiedel? But Weimar was as far away from what we now agree to look upon as the great events of the day, as were Lords Glengall and Yarmouth at White's, in Saint James's.
It requires imagination to put Goethe and Schiller and Wieland in the bow window at White's, and to place Lords Glengall and Yarmouth in Frau von Stein's drawing-room in Weimar; but the discerning eye which can see this picture, knows at a glance why England misunderstands Germany and Germany misunderstands England. For White's is White's and Weimar is Weimar, and one is British and one is German as much now as then! In the one the winner of the Derby is of more importance than any philosopher; in the other, philosophers, poets, professors, and playwrights are almost as well known, as the pedigrees of the yearlings to be sold at Newmarket, are known at White's. They still have plover's eggs early in the season at White's, and they still recognize the subtle distinction there between "port wine" and "port"; while in Weimar nobody, unless it be the duke, even boils his sauerkraut in white wine!
One could easily write a chapter on Weimar and its self-satisfied social and literary activities. There were three hundred or more capitals of like complexion and isolation: some larger, some smaller, none perhaps with such a splendid literary setting, but all indifferent with the indifference of distant relatives who seldom see one another, when the French Revolution exploded its bomb at the gates of the world's habits of thought.
No intelligent man ever objected to the French Revolution because it stood for human rights, but because it led straight to human wrongs. The dream was angelic, but the nightmare in which it ended was devilish. The French Revolution was the most colossal disappointment that humanity has ever had to bear.
More than the demagogue gives us credit for, are the great majority of us eager to help our neighbors. The trouble is that the demagogue thinks this, the most difficult of all things, an easy task. God and Nature are harsh when they are training men, and we, alas, are soft, hence most of our failures. Correction must be given with a rod, not with a sop. There lies all the trouble.
The political and philanthropic wise men were setting out for the manger and the babe, their eyes on the star, laden with gifts, when they were met by a whiff of grape-shot from the guns commanded by a young Corsican genius. The French Revolution found us all sympathetic, but making men of equal height by lopping off their heads; making them free by giving no one a chance to be free; making them fraternal by insisting that all should be addressed by the same title of, "citizen," was soon seen to be the method of a political nursery.
It was no fault of the French Revolution that it was no revolution at all, in any political sense. Men maddened by oppression hit, kick, bite, and burn. They are satisfied to shake the burden of the moment off their backs, even though the burden they take on be of much the same character. "It is perfectly possible, to revive even in our own day the fiscal tyranny which once left even European populations in doubt whether it was worth while preserving life by thrift and toil. You have only to tempt a portion of the population into temporary idleness, by promising them a share in a fictitious hoard lying in an imaginary strong-box which is supposed to contain all human wealth. You have only to take the heart out of those who would willingly labor and save, by taxing them ad misericordiam for the most laudable philanthropic objects. For it makes not the smallest difference to the motives of the thrifty and industrious part of mankind whether their fiscal oppressor be an Eastern despot, or a feudal baron, or a democratic legislature, and whether they are taxed for the benefit of a corporation called Society or for the advantage of an individual styled King or Lord," writes Sir Henry Maine. In short it matters not in the least what you baptize oppression, so long as it is oppression, or whether you call your tyrant "Jim" or "My Lord," so long as he is a tyrant. Many people are slowly awakening to the fact in England and in America, that plain citizen "Jim" can be a most merciless tyrant in spite of his unpretentious name and title. No royal tyrant ever dared to attempt to gain his ends by dynamiting innocent people, as did the trades-unionists at Los Angeles, or to starve a whole population as did the trades-unionists in London. We have not escaped tyranny by changing its name. The idea of the Contrat Social and of all its dilutions since, has been that individuals go to make up society, and that society under the name of the state must take charge of those individuals. The French Revolution was a failure because it fell back upon that tiresome and futile philosophy of government which had been that of Louis XIV. Louis XIV took care of the individual units of the state by exploiting them. He was a sound enough Socialist in theory. France gained nothing of much value along the lines of political philosophy.
Whether it is Louis XIV who says "l'etat c'est moi" or the citizens banded together in a state, who claim that the functions of the state are to meddle with the business of every man, matters little. It is the same socialistic philosophy at bottom, and it has produced to-day a France of thirty-eight millions of people pledged to sterility, one million of whom are state officials superintending the affairs of the others at a cost, in salaries alone, of upward of five hundred million dollars a year.
In no political or philosophical sense was the French Revolution a revolution at all. It was a change of administration and leaders, but not a change of political theory. The French Revolution put the state in impartial supremacy over all classes by destroying exemptions claimed by the nobility and the clergy, and thus extended the power of the state. The English Revolution without bloodshed reduced the power of the state, not for the advantage of any class, but for individual liberty and local self-government. We Americans are the political heirs of the latter, not of the former, revolution.
Germany was stirred slightly to hope for freedom, but stirred mightily to protest against anarchy later. These were the two influences from the French Revolution that affected Germany, and they were so contradictory that Germany herself was for nearly a hundred years in a mixed mood. One influence enlivened the theoretical democrat, and the other sent the armies of all Europe post-haste to save what was left of orderly government in France.
But Prussia was not what she had been under Frederick the Great. Frederick was more Louis XIV than Louis XIV himself. The economic and political errors of the French Revolution found their best practical exponent in Frederick the Great. In the introduction to his code of laws we have already mentioned are the words: "The head of the state, to whom is intrusted the duty of securing public welfare, which is the whole aim of society, is authorized to direct and control all the actions of individuals toward this end." Further on the same code reads: "It is incumbent upon the state to see to the feeding, employment, and payment of all those who cannot support themselves, and who have no claim to the help of the lord of the manor, or to the help of the commune: it is necessary to provide such persons with work which is suitable to their strength and their capacity."
When Frederick died he left Prussia in the grip of this enervating pontifical socialism, which always everywhere ends by palsying the individual, and through the individual the state, with the blight of demagogical and theoretical legislation. The fine army grew pallid and without spirit, the citizens lost their individual pride, the nation as a whole lost its vigor, and when Napoleon marched into Berlin, he remarked that the country hardly seemed worth conquering.
The century from the death of Frederick the Great, in 1786, to the death of William the First, in 1888, includes, in a convenient period to remember: the downfall of Frederick's patriotic edifice; the apathy and impotency that followed upon the breaking up of the bureaucracy he had welded into efficiency; the shuffling of the German states by Napoleon as though they were the pack of cards in a great political game; a revival of patriotism in Prussia after floggings and insults that were past bearing; the jealousies and enmities of the various states, the betrayal of one by the other, and finally the struggle between Austria and Prussia to decide upon a leader for all Germany; and at last the war against France, 1870-71, which was to make it clear to the world that Germany had been Prussianized into an empire.
Frederick William II, the nephew of Frederick the Great, who succeeded him, was King of Prussia from 1786 to 1797. Frederick William III, his son, and the husband of the beautiful and patriotic Queen Louisa, was King of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. Frederick William IV, a loquacious, indiscreet, loose-lipped sovereign, of moist intellect and mythical delusions, was King of Prussia from 1840 to 1857, when his mental condition made his retirement necessary, and he was succeeded by his brother, Frederick William Ludwig, first as regent, then as king in 1861, known to us as that admirable King and Emperor, William I, who died in 1888.
Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of these sovereigns, to those of us who look upon Germany to-day as autocratically governed in fact and by tradition, is their willing surrender to the people, on every occasion when the demand has been, even as little insistent as the German demand has been. In the case of Frederick William IV, his claim, at least in words, upon his divine rights as a sovereign was the mark of a wavering confidence in himself. He was not satisfied with a rational sanction for his authority, but was forever assuring his subjects that God had pronounced for him; much as men of low intelligence attempt to add vigor to their statements by an oath. "I hold my crown," he said, "by the favor of God, and I am responsible to Him for every hour of my government." Much under the influence of the two scholars Niebuhr and Ranke, he hated the ideas of the French Revolution, and dreamed of an ideal Christian state like that of the Middle Ages. He was caricatured by the journals of the day, and laughed at by the wits, including Heine, and pictured as a king with "Order" on one hand, "Counter-order" on the other, and "Disorder" on his forehead.
Though Frederick William II marched into France in 1792, to support the French monarchy, neither his army nor his people were prepared or fit for this enterprise, and he soon retired. In 1793, Prussia joined Russia in a second partition of Poland, but in 1795, angry with what was considered the double dealing of Austria and Russia, Prussia concluded a peace with France, the treaty of Basle was signed in 1795, and for ten years Prussia practically took no part in the Napoleonic wars.
Napoleon took over the lands on the left bank of the Rhine, took away the freedom of forty-eight towns, leaving only Hamburg, Bremen, Frankfort, Augsburg, and Nuremberg, and in 1803 he took Hanover. Later, in 1805, Bavaria, Wuertemberg, and Baden aided Napoleon to fight the alliance against him of Austria, England, Russia, and Sweden. In that same year the Electors of Wuertemberg and Bavaria were made kings by Napoleon. In 1806 Bavaria, Baden, Wuertemberg, and Hessen seceded from the German Empire, formed themselves into the Confederation of the Rhine, and acknowledged Napoleon as their protector. In 1806 Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, resigned, and there was neither an empire nor an emperor of Germany, nor was there a Germany of united interests.
In 1806 Frederick William III, driven by the grossest insults to his country and to his wife, finally declared war against France; there followed the battle of Jena, in which the Germans were routed, and in that same year Napoleon marched into Berlin unopposed. In 1807 the Russian Emperor was persuaded to make peace, and Prussia without her ally was helpless. The Peace of Tilsit, in July, 1807, deprived Prussia of the whole of the territory between the Elbe and the Rhine, and this with Brunswick, Hessen-Cassel, and part of Hanover was dubbed the Kingdom of Westphalia, and Napoleon's youngest brother Jerome was made king. The Polish territory of Prussia was given to the Elector of Saxony, who was also rewarded for having deserted Prussia after the battle of Jena by being made a king. Prussia was further required to reduce her army to forty-two thousand men.
It is neither a pretty nor an inspiriting story, this of the mangling of Germany by Napoleon; of the German princes bribed by kingly crowns from the hands of an ancestorless Corsican; but it all goes to show how far from any sense of common aims and duties, how far from the united Vaterland of to-day, was the Germany of a hundred years ago. It adds, too, immeasurably to the laurels of the man who produced the present German Empire out of his own pocket, and stood as chief sponsor at its christening at Versailles in 1871.
This Prussia that sent twenty thousand troops to aid Napoleon against Russia, and which during the retreat from Moscow went over bodily to the enemy; this Prussia whose vacillating king simpered with delight at a kind word from Napoleon, and shivered with dismay at a harsh one; this army with its officers as haughty as they were incapable, and its men only prevented from wholesale desertion by severe punishment, an army rotten at the core, with a coat of varnish over its worm-eaten fabric; this Prussia humiliated and disgraced after the battle of Jena, in 1806, in seven years' time came into its own again. Vom Stein, Scharnhorst, the son of a Hanoverian peasant, and Hardenberg put new life into the state. At Waterloo the pummelled squares of red-coats were relieved by these Prussians, and Bluecher, or "Old Marschall Vorwaerts" as he was called, redeemed his countrymen's years of effeminate lassitude and vacillation.