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Title: German Problems and Personalities
Author: Saroléa, Charles, 1870-1953
Language: English
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German Problems and Personalities




_All rights reserved_

[Illustration: Charles Sarolea]


CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

INTRODUCTION                                                1

I. AN AMERICAN PREFACE                                      7

II. MY FORECASTS OF 1906 AND 1912                          12

III. THE CURSE OF THE HOHENZOLLERN                         53

IV. THE GERMAN WAR-TRIUMVIRATE                             85
  (i.) Nietzsche.
  (ii.) Montaigne and Nietzsche.
  (iii.) Treitschke.
  (iv.) Bernhardi.

V. FREDERICK THE GREAT                                    136

VI. THE APOTHEOSIS OF GOETHE                              142


VIII. THE NEGLECT OF GERMAN                               159


X. THE GERMAN RACE HERESY AND THE WAR                     169

XI. A SLUMP IN GERMAN THEOLOGY                            183

XII. THE GERMAN ENIGMA                                    189


XIV. RUSSIA AND GERMANY                                   203




XVIII. VIA PACIS                                          248




Three years ago there was one man in Europe who had a political sight
so clear that his words then written seem to-day uncanny in their

    [1] One of the most eminent American theologians, Bishop
    Brent, wrote in an article on “Speculation and Prophecy”: “In
    Dr. Sarolea’s volume, ‘The Anglo-German Problem,’ published
    in 1912, there is a power of precognition so startling that
    one can understand a sceptic of the twenty-first century
    raising serious doubts as to whether parts of it were not
    late interpolation.” Mr. Gilbert Keith Chesterton in his
    “Crimes of England” applied to the “Anglo-German Problem” the
    epithet “almost magical.”

This man saw the present war; he saw that Belgium would be invaded by
Germany; he saw that the Germans hated England with a profound and
bitter hate; that German diplomatic blunders had placed that nation in
almost complete isolation in the world; that the Triple Alliance was
really only a Dual Alliance, popular feeling in Italy becoming
increasingly hostile to Austria and to Prussia; that Germans felt
their culture to be superior to the civilization of the rest of the
world, and themselves to be a superior race, with the right to rule
other peoples; that Prussianism and Junkerism and militarism were in
complete control of the German soul; that Germany had ambitions for
world empire, a recurrence of “the old Napoleonic dream”; that the
danger to European peace lay with Germany and not with England; that
Germans believed war to be essentially moral and the mainspring of
national progress; that the whole German people had become
Bismarckian; that the Germans hoped to obtain by a victory over
England that shadowless place in the sun toward which they began to
leap when they beat France in 1870.

The seer who thus saw is Dr. Charles Sarolea, who recently came to the
United States in the interests of his country, one of the most
distinguished of Belgian scholars, a friend of King Albert, holder of
Belgian decorations and honours from British learned societies, for
the last fourteen years Belgian Consul in Edinburgh, and for the last
twenty-one years head of the French and Romance Department at the
University of Edinburgh. His vision was set out in “The Anglo-German
Problem,” written in 1912, now published in an authorized American
edition, perhaps the most accurate forecast which has been penned of
to-day’s conflict, and certainly one of the most exact analyses of the
German nation made before the world learned, since last August, to
know it as it is—as Sarolea, master delineator of a nation’s
character, drew it. Clear, sane, calm, logical, strong—such is Dr.
Sarolea’s book, with its “rare perspicacity” and “remarkable sense of
political realities,” in the words of King Albert’s appreciation of
the work.

Dr. Sarolea, looking at Germany from the British Isles, where he was
writing, perceived that “war is actually unavoidable” unless a
spiritual miracle was wrought; that Europe was “drifting slowly but
steadily toward an awful catastrophe.” Why? Because Germany was
strong, envious, ambitious, conceited, arrogant, unscrupulous, and
dissatisfied. It was in Germany that “the pagan gods of the Nibelungen
are forging their deadly weapons,” for Germans believe national
superiority is due to military superiority. Dr. Sarolea named as a war
year this very year[2] in which we now are when he said:

    [2] 1915.

“Believing, as they do, that to-day they are rich and prosperous
mainly because in 1870 they beat the French people, why should they
not believe and trust that in 1915 they would become even stronger and
richer if they succeeded in beating the English?”

And the conflict, when it comes, will be “a political and religious
crusade,” rather than a mere economic war, for the conflict between
England and Germany “is the old conflict between liberalism and
despotism, between industrialism and militarism, between progress and
reaction, between the masses and the classes.”

So many other important points are made in Dr. Sarolea’s closely
written book, in which practically every sentence contains a fact, an
idea, or a prophecy, that it is not possible in this review to do more
than present a few of them in the summary which follows. Though the
present tense is used by Dr. Sarolea and the reviewer, it should be
constantly remembered that Dr. Sarolea was thinking in 1912, not since
August, 1914.

Germany is in “tragic moral isolation.” The moral and intellectual
influence of German culture is steadily diminishing. Other nations
feel a universal distrust and dislike toward Germany. So great is
this antipathy that the Germans imagine there is a malignant
conspiracy against them. An upstart nation, suddenly wealthy and
powerful, Germany has developed an inordinate self-conceit and
self-assertion. The German glories in being a realist. He thinks only
of political power and colonial expansion. Might is the supreme test
of right. He constantly emphasizes the indelible character of the
German race. Germans are suffering from “acute megalomania.” They
think the English decadent, the French doomed to premature extinction,
the Russians “rotten.” Germany is the “reactionary force in
international politics.”

England believes the building of the German Navy is mainly directed
against her, though Germany says she is building to protect her
colonies and commerce. Yet it is not reasonably possible so to account
for the German fleet.

The greatest danger to England is not invasion of the British Isles,
but invasion of Belgium and France. These countries are the “Achilles
heel of the British Empire.” The German strategic railways on the
Belgian frontiers show that Germany is far more likely to invade
Belgium than England, Belgium again becoming the cockpit of Europe.

Germany feels that she has grievances against England; thus her
hatred. She thinks England has checked her commercial expansion. But
this is not true, for English Free Trade has been one of the most
important contributory causes of German prosperity.

Germany thinks England has arrested her colonial expansion; Germany
says every other great nation but herself has been permitted to build
up a colonial empire; thus she is prevented from attaining her natural
growth. But this is not true. England could not have checked her
colonial aspirations, because Germany had no colonial aspirations
until recently. When Germany did start to seek colonies, she met
everywhere conflicting claims of England, but this was because England
was already in possession, having begun her colonial policy years
before Germany entered the race. Bismarck was largely responsible for
Germany’s now having so small a colonial territory.

Germany thinks she has another grievance—that England has hemmed her
in with a ring of enemies. But Germany is friendless because of her
mistakes. Bismarck alienated the Russians for ever in 1878 at the
Treaty of Berlin, making a Franco-Russian understanding unavoidable.
The Kruger telegram of 1896, the outburst of anti-British feeling
during the Boer War, the German naval programme, opened England’s eyes
to her danger; thus was England forced to seek France and Russia.

The Kaiser is intensely religious, claiming to be “the anointed of the
Lord.” Yet he is a materialist, an opportunist, and mainly trusts to
brute force. The navy is his creation. He brandishes the sword, saying
he loves peace. Napoleon III. used to express his love for peace, yet
brought on the most disastrous war of French history; Nicholas II.
started as the peacemaker of Europe, yet brought about the bloodiest
war in Russian history. “Are the Kaiser’s pacific protests as futile,
are his sympathies as shallow, as those of a Napoleon or a Nicholas?”

Dr. Sarolea closes his book thus:

“We can only hope that England, which to-day more than any other
country—more, even, than republican France—represents the ideals of
a pacific and industrial democracy, may never be called upon to assert
her supremacy in armed conflict, and to safeguard those ideals against
a wanton attack on the part of the most formidable and most systematic
military power the world has ever seen.”



    [3] Preface written for the American Edition of the
    “Anglo-German Problem,” published by Putnam.


The book of which a new and popular edition is now presented to the
American public has very little in common with the thousand and one
war publications which are distracting the attention of a bewildered
and satiated reader. It was not compiled in feverish haste since the
war began. It was written years before the war, and represents the
outcome of two decades of study and travel in Germany.

The volume was first published in 1912 to dispel the false sense of
security which was blinding European opinion to the imminent perils
ahead, to warn Britain of the appalling catastrophe towards which all
nations were drifting, and to give an accurate estimate of the forces
which were making for war. I attempted to prove that Germany and not
Britain or France or Russia was the storm-centre of international
politics. I attempted to prove that the differences between Germany
and Britain were not due to substantial grievances, but that those
grievances were purely imaginary; that such catch-phrases as taking
Germany’s place in the sun were entirely misleading, and that both
the grievances and the catch-phrases were merely diverting the public
mind from the one real issue at stake, the clash and conflict between
two irreconcilable political creeds—the Imperialism of Great Britain,
granting equal rights to all, based on Free Trade, and aiming at a
federation of self-governing communities; and the Imperialism of
Germany, based on despotism and antagonism and aiming at the military
ascendancy of one Power over subject races.

I further attempted to show how the German people were in the grip of
the Prussian military machine, of a reactionary bureaucracy, and of a
Prussian feudal Junkerthum; how behind that military machine and that
feudal Junkerthum there were even more formidable moral and spiritual
forces at work; how the whole German nation were under the spell of a
false political creed; how the Universities, the Churches, the Press,
were all possessed with the same exclusive nationalism; and how, being
misled by its spiritual leaders, the whole nation was honestly and
intensely convinced that in the near future the German Empire must
challenge the world in order to establish its supremacy over the
Continent of Europe.


_Habent sua fata libelli!_ Motley’s “Rise of the Dutch Republic” was
refused by the illustrious house of Murray. The now historical
“Foundations” of Chamberlain were rejected for twenty years by English
publishers, until the translation brought a little fortune to Mr. John
Lane. Without in the least suggesting a comparison with those famous
works, I only want to point out that the “Anglo-German Problem” has
passed through as strange literary vicissitudes. A book written by a
sympathetic and devoted student of German literature, and who for
twenty years had been working for the diffusion of German culture, was
denounced as anti-German. A book inspired from the first page to the
last with pacific and democratic ideals was denounced as a militarist
and mischievous production. A temperate judicial analysis was dubbed
as alarmist and sensational and bracketed with the scaremongerings of
the Yellow Press. The radical _Daily News_ of London dismissed my
volume with a contemptuous notice. The Edinburgh reviewer of the
_Scotsman_ pompously declared that such a book could do no good.

To-day both the Press and the public have made ample if belated amends
for the unjust treatment meted out to the “Anglo-German Problem” on
its first appearance. His Majesty King Albert has emphasized the
prophetic character of the book, and has paid it the high compliment
of recommending it to members of his Government. University statesmen
like President Butler, eminent lawyers like Mr. James Beck,
illustrious philosophers like Professor Bergson, have testified to its
fairness, its moderation, and its political insight. Almost unnoticed
on its publication in 1912, the “Anglo-German Problem” is to-day one
of the three books on the war most widely read throughout the British
Empire, and is being translated into the French, Dutch, and Spanish


Not only have the principles and general conclusions propounded in the
“Anglo-German Problem” received signal confirmation from recent
events, but the forecasts and anticipations have been verified in
every detail. It is the common fate of war books to become very
quickly out of date. After four years, there is not one paragraph
which has been contradicted by actual fact. Even the chapter on the
Baghdad Railway, written in 1906 and published as a separate pamphlet
nine years ago, remains substantially correct. One of the leading
magnates of Wall Street wrote to me: “Events have not only unfolded
themselves in the way you anticipated, but they have happened for the
identical reasons which you indicated.” I pointed out the fatal peril
of the Austrian-Serbian differences and of the _Drang nach Osten_
policy, and it is those Serbian-Austrian differences which have
precipitated the war. I prophesied that the invasion of Belgium and
not the invasion of England was the contingency to be dreaded, and
Belgium has become the main theatre of military operations. I
emphasized that the conflict was one of fundamental moral and
political ideals rather than of economic interests, and the war has
developed into a religious crusade. I prophesied that the war would be
long and cruel, and it has proved the most ruthless war of modern

All the forces which I prophesied would make for war have made for
war: the reactionary policy of the Junkerthum, the internal troubles,
the personality of the Kaiser, the propaganda of the Press and of the
Universities. Similarly, the forces which were expected to make for
peace, and which I prophesied would _not_ make for peace, have failed
to work for peace. Few publicists anticipated that the millions of
German Social Democrats would behave as timid henchmen of the Prussian
Junker, and my friend Vandervelde, leader of the International Social
Democracy and now Belgian Minister of State, indignantly repudiated my
reflections on his German comrades. Alas! the Gospel according to St.
Marx has been as ineffectual as the Gospel according to St. Marc. The
Social Democracy which called itself the International (with a capital
I) has proved selfishly nationalist, and the masses which had not the
courage to fight for their rights under Kaiser Bebel are now
slaughtering their French and English brethren, and are meekly
enlisted in the legions of Kaiser William.

The “Anglo-German Problem,” written by a writer of Belgian origin who
foresaw the catastrophe threatening his native country, will be
followed up shortly by another book on the “Reconstruction of
Belgium.” Belgium has been not only the champion of European freedom;
she has also been the innocent victim of the old order. It is only in
the fitness of things that after the war Belgium shall become the
keystone of the new International Order. The whole of Europe is
ultimately responsible for the Belgian tragedy. The whole of Europe
must therefore be interested in and pledged to the restoration of
Belgium and to the liberation of the Belgian people, now crushed and
bleeding under the heel of the Teutonic invader.


MY FORECASTS OF 1906 AND 1912[4]

    [4] This chapter is entirely made up of extracts taken from
    my pamphlet, “The Baghdad Railway,” _published in_ 1906, and
    from my book, “The Anglo-German Problem,” published in 1912.


“Europe is drifting slowly but steadily towards an awful catastrophe,
which, if it does happen, will throw back civilization for the coming
generation, as the war of 1870 threw back civilization for the
generation which followed and which inherited its dire legacy of evil.
For the last ten years two great Western Powers and two kindred races
have become increasingly estranged, and have been engaging in military
preparations which are taxing to the utmost the resources of the
people, and are paralyzing social and political reform in both
countries. A combination of many causes, moral and political, has bred
suspicion and distrust, and the fallacious assumption of conflicting
interests has turned suspicion into hatred. Only a year ago England
and Germany stood on the brink of war. If, after the _coup_ of Agadir,
Germany had persisted in her policy, the conflagration would have
ensued, the storm would have burst out. The war-cloud has temporarily
lifted, but it has not passed away. The danger is as acute as it
was, because the causes which produced the recent outburst are still
with us, and the malignant passions are gathering strength with each
passing day.

This formidable evil is threatening England, but it does not originate
in England, and England cannot be held responsible for it. The period
of aggressive Imperialism has passed away. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and
Mr. Rudyard Kipling, in so far as they once represented the old
bellicose Imperialism, to-day are exploded forces. The English people
were never more peacefully inclined, and Liberals and Tories are
united in their desire for a pacific solution of the present

It is Germany and not England which is the storm-centre, the volcanic
zone, in international politics. From there have come, ever since
1860, the tension and friction, the suspicion and distrust. It is
there that the pagan gods of the Nibelungen are forging their deadly


“German and English publicists, whilst admitting the existence of a
feeling of hostility, point out the many unmistakable signs of
goodwill heralding a better understanding in the future. They point to
the frequent exchange of international courtesies, to the periodical
visits of Members of Parliament and of representative men of the
Churches; they point to the visit of Viscount Haldane; and last, but
not least, they point to the many pacific assurances of the German
Kaiser. With regard to the utterances of the Kaiser, I can only say
that if the Kaiser has made many pacific speeches, his aggressive
speeches have been even more numerous. I have no doubt that the Kaiser
is perfectly sincere, and I believe him to be animated with the most
cordial feelings for this country. If I am asked to explain the
contradiction, I can only see one explanation, and it is not one which
I am very willing to admit. And the explanation is this: when he is
expressing words of peace and goodwill he is speaking in his own
private capacity and as the grandson of an English queen. On the
contrary, whenever he utters words of ill-will and menace, whenever he
waves the flag, when he shows the mailed fist, he is acting as the
representative and speaking as the spokesman of a considerable
fraction amongst his subjects.

That there has existed in Germany a very widespread feeling of
hostility against the English people we have uncontrovertible proof.
And the evidence we have on no less an authority than the Kaiser
himself. In the famous interview published by the _Daily Telegraph_,
William II. emphatically testified to the existence and to the
persistence of the feeling which he had systematically attempted to
counteract. The admission raised legitimate indignation in Germany. It
was ill-advised. It was calculated to intensify the very animosity
which it deprecated. But the fact itself, the existence of the
animosity, could not be disputed. After all, the Kaiser ought to know
the feelings, if not of the majority of his subjects, at least of
those ruling classes with whom he comes in contact.”


“Contemporary German philosophy is a ‘war philosophy.’ In France we
may find isolated thinkers, like Joseph de Maistre, who are the
apostles of war, who maintain that war is a Divine and providential
institution, one of the eternal verities. In Germany the paradoxes of
de Maistre are the commonplaces of historians and moralists. To an
Englishman war is a dwindling force, an anachronism. It may still
sometimes be a necessity, a _dura lex_, an _ultima ratio_, but it is
always a monstrous calamity. In other words, to an Englishman war is
evil, war is _immoral_. On the contrary, to the German war is
essentially moral. Indeed, it is the source of the highest morality,
of the most valuable virtues, and without war the human race would
speedily degenerate. It is the mainspring of national progress. There
are three causes which have ensured the present greatness of the
German Empire: moral virtue in the individual, political unity, and
economic prosperity. If we were to believe modern theorists, Germany
owes all three to the beneficent action of war. Germany is not
indebted for its culture to the genius of its writers or artists, but
to the iron and blood of its statesmen and warriors. It is the
glorious triumvirate of Bismarck, Moltke, and von Roon who have been
the master-builders of the Vaterland.

Our main contention is, that as the pacific philosophy of Herder and
Kant, of Goethe and Lessing, provides the key to the old Germany
described in Madame de Staël’s masterpiece, even so the military
philosophy of Mommsen and Treitschke, of Bismarck and Nietzsche, gives
us the key of modern Prussianized Germany. The whole German people
have become Bismarckian, and believe that it is might which creates
right. The whole of the younger generation have become Nietzschean in
politics, and believe in the will to power—_der Wille zur Macht_.
That political philosophy is to-day the living and inspiring ideal
which informs German policy. And it is that philosophy which we have
to keep constantly in mind if we wish to understand the currents and
under-currents of contemporary politics and make a correct forecast of
the future; if we wish to distinguish between what is real and unreal
in international relations, between the professions of politicians and
the aims and aspirations of the people. German statesmen may protest
about their love of peace, but the service they render to peace is
only lip service. Peace is only a means, war is the goal. We are
reminded of Professor Delbrück’s assertion that, considering the
infinitely complex conditions of modern warfare, many years of peace
are necessary to and must be utilized for the preparation of the wars
which are to come.

How, then, can we be reassured by any German pacifist protests and
demonstrations? How can we believe that German peace is anything more
than a precarious truce as long as German statesmen, German thinkers,
German teachers and preachers, unanimously tell us that the philosophy
of war is the only gospel of salvation? How can a patriotic German, if
he is consistent, abstain eventually from waging war when he is
firmly convinced that his country owes her political unity, her moral
temper, and her Imperial prosperity, whatever she is and whatever she
has, mainly to the agency of war? When war has done so much for
Germany in the past, will it not do greater things for Germany in the

War may be a curse or it may be a blessing. If war is a curse, then
the wells of public opinion have been poisoned in Germany, perhaps for
generations to come. If war is a blessing, if the philosophy of war is
indeed the gospel of the super-man, sooner or later the German people
are bound to put that gospel into practice. They must look forward
with anxious and eager desire to the glorious day when once more they
are able to fight the heroic battles of Teutonism, when they are able
to fulfil the providential destinies of the German super-race, the
chosen champions of civilization.”


“Uninfluenced by those ominous signs of the times, English and German
optimists still refuse to surrender, still persist in their optimism.
They argue that the situation is no doubt serious, but that those
outbursts of popular feeling in Germany, violent as they are, have
largely been caused by English suspicion and distrust, and that there
has been nothing in the German policy to justify that English
suspicion and distrust. After all, deeds are more important than
words, and by her deeds Germany has proved for forty-two years that
she is persistently pacific. Since 1870 Russia has made war against
Turkey and against Japan. England has made war against the Transvaal.
Italy has waged war against Turkey. France after Fashoda would have
declared war against England, and after Tangier would have declared
war against Germany, if France had been prepared. Of all the Great
Powers, Germany alone for nearly half a century has been determined to
keep the peace of the world.

The reply to this objection is very simple. I am not examining here
whether a state of affairs which has transformed Europe into an armed
camp of six million soldiers, and which absorbs for military
expenditure two-thirds of the revenue of European States, can be
appropriately called a state of peace. It is certainly not a _pax
romana_. It is most certainly not a _pax britannica_. It may be a _pax
teutonica_ or, rather, a _pax borussica_, but such as it is, ruinous
and demoralizing, it is also lamentably precarious and perilously
unstable. And if Germany has kept this _pax borussica_ for forty-two
years, it has not been the fault of the German Government. Rather has
it been kept because she has been prevented from declaring war by
outside interference; or because she has been able to carry out her
policy and to achieve her ambitions without going the length of
declaring war; or because a war would have been not only a heinous
crime, but a political blunder.

But the real reason why Germany for forty years has kept the peace is
because a war would have been both fatal and futile, injurious and
superfluous. It would have been injurious, for it would have arrested
the growing trade and the expanding industries of the empire. And,
above all, it would have been superfluous, for in time of peace
Germany reaped all the advantages which a successful war would have
given her. For twenty-five years the German Empire wielded an
unchallenged supremacy on the Continent of Europe. For twenty years
she directed the course of international events.

But since the opening of the twentieth century Germany has ceased to
be paramount; she has ceased to control European policy at her own
sweet will, and weaker States have ceased to be given over to her
tender mercies. To the Triple Alliance has been opposed the Triple
Entente. The balance of power has been re-established. The three
‘hereditary enemies’—England, France, and Russia—have joined hands,
and have delivered Europe from the incubus of German suzerainty.
German diplomacy has strained every effort to break the Triple
Entente, in turn wooing and threatening France and Russia, keeping
open the Moroccan sore as the Neapolitan _lazzarone_ keeps open the
wound which ensures his living, and finally challenging the naval
supremacy of England, and preparing to become as powerful at sea as
she is on the Continent.”


“Precisely because the final issue will largely depend on the
personality of the soldier, the moral and civic preparation must be at
least as important as the technical, and here the Government has an
important part to play through the school and through the Press. _Both
the school and the Press must both persistently emphasize the meaning
and the necessity of war as an indispensable means of policy and of
culture_, and must inculcate the duty of personal sacrifice. To
achieve that end the Government must have its own popular papers,
whose aim it will be to stimulate patriotism, to preach loyalty to the
Kaiser, to resist the disintegrating influence of Social Democracy.

But not least important is the political preparation for the war.
Statesmanship and diplomacy confine themselves too much to
consolidating alliances and entering into new understandings. Nothing
could be more dangerous than to rely too much on treaties and
alliances. Alliances are not final. _Agreements are only conditional._
They are only binding, _rebus sic stantibus_, as long as conditions
remain the same—_as long as it is in the interest of the allies to
keep them_; for nothing can compel a State to act against its own
interest, and there is no alliance or bond in the world which can
subsist if it is not based on the mutual advantage of both parties. It
is therefore essential that the war shall be fought under such
conditions that it shall be in the interest of every ally to be loyal
to his engagements; and therefore it is essential for the State so to
direct and combine political events as to produce a conjuncture of
interests and to provoke the war at the most favourable moment.”


“England cannot honestly admit the truth and reality of German
grievances. England cannot admit that in the past she has ever adopted
an attitude of contemptuous superiority towards the German people.
Still less can England admit that she has systematically stood in the
way of German colonial ambitions. _She cannot admit it, for the simple
reason that only a few years ago those German colonial ambitions did
not exist._ Almost to the end of his long rule, Bismarck would not
have colonies, and he deliberately encouraged France in that policy of
African expansion which Germany now objects to. Germany would probably
have had a much larger colonial empire if she had chosen to have it.
History teaches us that in the development of European colonization
there are some nations, like the Spaniards and Portuguese, that have
come too early in the field. There are other nations, like England and
Russia, that have come in the nick of time. And, finally, there are
nations that have come too late. The German people have arrived too
late in the race for colonial empire. They may regret it, but surely
it would be monstrous to use the fact as a grievance against the
people of this country. I may bitterly regret that twenty years ago I
had not the money or the energy or the foresight to invest in the
development of Argentine, or that I did not buy an estate in Canada,
which in those early days I might have got for a hundred pounds, and
which to-day would be worth hundreds of thousands. But that is no
reason why I should hate the present possessors of landed property in
the Far West or in the Far South. That is no reason why I should wish
to dispossess them of land which they have legitimately acquired,
whether they owe it to their luck or to their pluck, to favourable
circumstances or to their initiative and perseverance.”


“The new grouping of Powers, which has reduced Germany from a position
of sole supremacy to a position of equality, is not the result of any
artificial combinations of diplomacy. Still less is it the result of a
conspiracy, inspired by English envy and English hatred. It was not
initiated by Edward VII. It has survived his death. To assume that
England would have been capable of isolating Germany by her own single
efforts, and in order to serve her own selfish purposes, is to
attribute to England a power which she does not wield. If there has
been a conspiracy, France, Italy, Russia, and the United States,
inhabited by twenty million citizens who are German by birth or by
descent, have all been willing accomplices. The Triple Entente has
been a spontaneous revolt of Europe against German aggressiveness and
German militarism.

England has not attempted to isolate Germany. She has only herself
emerged from her isolation. If she can be accused of having made a
grievous mistake in her foreign policy, it is that of having been
blind for so long to the perils which threatened European liberty.
Since 1870 she has submitted for twenty-five years to German
predominance, because she had to oppose the colonial ambitions of
France in Africa and the ambitions of Russia in Asia. To-day England
has returned to her ancient traditions. She has never suffered for any
length of time, and will never suffer as long as she remains a
first-class Power, from the exclusive predominance of any one
Continental nation. She has ever fought for the maintenance of the
balance of power. She defended that balance against Charles V. and
Philip II. in the sixteenth century, against Louis XIV. in the
seventeenth, against Napoleon, against Nicholas I., and Alexander II.
in the nineteenth century. She defends it to-day against William II.
But she is no more the enemy of Germany to-day than she was the enemy
of France or Russia ten years ago. _And if the equilibrium of Europe
were threatened to-morrow by Russia, as it is threatened to-day by
Germany, England would become to-morrow the ally of Germany._

It may be contended, no doubt, that in opposing the supremacy of
another empire on land, she is only defending her own supremacy on the
sea. But the history of four hundred years convincingly shows that
England in defending her own interests has always been fighting the
battles of European liberty. And to-day more than ever, when Europe is
transformed into an armed camp, when might has become the criterion of
right, when all nations are living in perpetual dread of a European
conflagration, the strict adherence of England to her old principle of
the balance of power remains the best sanction of international law
and the surest guarantee of the peace of the world.”


“Whatever may be the cause of the state of mind of the Germans, they
are certainly suffering just now from acute ‘megalomania.’ The
abnormal self-conceit, the inflated national consciousness, express
themselves in a thousand ways, some of which are naïve and harmless,
whilst others are grossly offensive. They show themselves in a craving
for titles and in gaudy and tasteless public buildings;[5] in the
thousand and one statues of Bismarck and William I.; they reveal
themselves in the articles of journalists and in the writings of
historians; but above all, the German megalomania finds expression in
the seven thousand speeches and in the three hundred uniforms of the
Kaiser. In examining the influence of William II. we shall come to the
conclusion that it is his defects far more than his virtues that have
made him the representative hero of the German people. His winged
words voice the aspirations of his subjects. Like the Kaiser, every
German believes that he is ‘the salt of the earth’—_Wir sind das Salz
der Erde_. Like Nietzsche, the modern German believes that the world
must be ruled by a super-man, and that he is the super-man. Like
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the German is convinced that he belongs
to a super-race, and that the Teuton has been the master-builder of
European civilization.”

    [5] See an amusing article, “Ornamente,” in the _Zukunft_.


“The self-assertion of the Germans and the contempt for the foreigner
reveal themselves in their political dealings with other nations.
German statesmen continue the methods of Bismarck without having his
genius. German politicians delight in shaking the mailed fist, in
waving the national banner with the Imperial black eagle, the ominous
and symbolical bird of prey. Wherever they meet with opposition they
at once resort to comminatory messages. Compare the methods of the
Emperor William with those of Edward VII. Nothing illustrates better
the differences between the characteristics of English and German
diplomacy than the dramatic contrast between the bragging, indiscreet,
impulsive, explosive manner of the Kaiser and the quiet, courteous
manner of the English monarch. Nothing explains better the striking
success which has attended English policy and the no less striking
failure which has attended German policy. For in international as well
as in private relations, intellectual superiority is often as
efficient a weapon as an appeal to brute force. And all the might of
the German Empire has not saved the German foreign policy from
persistent bankruptcy. That bankruptcy is unanimously admitted even in
Germany, and partly accounts for the present temper of the nation. The
times have changed, and even the weak cannot now be bullied into
submission. At the Algeciras Conference even those small nations whose
most obvious interest it was to side with Germany gave their moral
support to France.”


“There still remains for us to examine one deeper reason why Germany
is distrusted and disliked in Europe. _She is mainly distrusted
because she continues to be the reactionary force in international
politics._ Outside the sphere of German influence the democratic ideal
has triumphed all over the civilized world, after centuries of heroic
struggle and tragic catastrophes. But in Germany the old dogma is
still supreme. Wherever German power has made itself felt for the last
forty years—in Italy and Austria, in Russia and Turkey—it has
countenanced reaction and tyranny. In politics Germany is to-day what
Austria and Russia were in the days of the Holy Alliance, the power of
darkness. Whilst in the provinces of science and art the German people
are generally progressive, in politics the German Government is
consistently retrogressive. It cannot be sufficiently emphasized and
repeated that, more than any other State—more even than
Russia—Prussia stands in the way of political advance. It was Prussia
that helped to crush the Polish struggle for freedom in 1863; when, a
few years ago, English public opinion was protesting against the
Armenian massacres, the Kaiser stood loyally by Abdul Hamid and
propped his tottering throne; when the Russian Liberals were engaged
in a life-and-death struggle with Czardom, the Kaiser gave his moral
support to Russian despotism. It is not too much to say that it is the
evil influence of Prusso-Germany alone which keeps despotism alive in
the modern world.”


“It is difficult to exaggerate the political domination of Germany by
Prussia. The practice belies the theory: it is not as German Emperor
but as Prussian King that William II. rules the confederation. The
larger is merged in the smaller. The poor barren plains of Brandenburg
and Pomerania rule over the smiling vineyards and romantic mountains
of the south and west. The German people are governed more completely
from Berlin and Potsdam than the French were ever governed from Paris
and Versailles. And they are governed with an iron hand. In theory,
every part of the empire may have a proportional share in the
administration of the country; in reality, Prussia has the ultimate
political and financial control. Germany pays the taxes; Prussia
spends them. Germany provides the soldiers; Prussia commands them. And
the Prussian War Lord and his Junkers in the last resort decide the
issues of peace and war.

To realize how complete is the Prussian control we need only consider
the fact that in the supreme Federal Parliament—the Bundesrat—for
forty-two years the Prussian representatives have always had it their
own way. Yet Prussia, according to the Constitution, has only got
seventeen delegates out of fifty-two. When the Imperial Constitution
was framed it was thought that the Prussian representation was far too
small, and the fear was repeatedly expressed that the Prussian vote in
the Bundesrat would be overruled. But not once has it happened that
the German majority in the Bundesrat has dared to oppose any important
measure initiated by the Prussian Government. For all practical
purposes, therefore, Prussia is the suzerain power. The German
principalities and kingdoms are reduced to political tutelage and


“How shall we explain this startling paradox? How is it, and why is
it, that the artistic and exuberant, genial and sentimental German
submits to the hard rule of the commonplace, uninteresting, and dour

If you ask ninety-nine out of a hundred Germans they will not give you
a reply. They know too little of and care too little about politics to
be even aware of the fact. They are satisfied with appearances. They
do not see the King of Prussia behind the German Kaiser. They are
hypnotized by the glittering helmet of the War Lord.

But if you succeed in discovering one in a hundred who understands the
relation between Germany and Prussia, and who has thought out the
political problem, he will probably give you something like the
following reply:

‘I know that there is no love lost between the Germans and the
Prussians. I know that in culture and native ability we are as
superior to the Prussians as our vine-clad hills are superior in
beauty to the sandy wastes of Pomerania. And I know that in politics
we play a subordinate part, although we are superior. But I also
realize that it is necessary for us to submit. And it is necessary for
us to submit, precisely because of our virtues. For those virtues of
ours are unpractical. And it is necessary for the Prussians to rule,
precisely because of their shortcomings. For those shortcomings are
practical. The pure gold of the German temper could never be made
into hard coin nor used to advantage. It could be made to produce
splendid works of art, gems and diadems and ornaments, but for
practical purposes, in order to forge the weapons of the Nibelungen,
the alloy of the baser metal was indispensable. It required the
mixture of Prussian sand and Prussian iron to weld us into a nation,
to raise us to an empire. It is because we Germans are artists and
dreamers and individualists that we could never manage our own
affairs, that we have always been “non-political animals.”[6] On the
contrary, it is because the Prussian has no brilliance, no romance, no
personality, that he makes a splendid soldier and a model bureaucrat.
Two things above all were required to make Germany into a powerful
State—a strong army and a well-ordered administration. Prussia has
given us both.

    [6] This is again and again admitted even by the most
    patriotic German writers. (See General von Bernhardi’s last
    book, “The Coming War”: “Wir sind ein unpolitisches
    Volk”—“We are a non-political people.”)

‘And let us not forget that Germany more than any other Power required
such a strong army and such a strong administration, not only owing to
the shortcomings of her national character, but owing to the weakness
and danger of her geographical position. Germany is open on every
frontier. She has ever been harassed by dangerous enemies. Only a
generation ago she was threatened on every side. On the north she had
to face the rulers of the sea, who hampered her commercial expansion;
on the west she had to face the restless Gaul; on the south she was
confronted with the clerical and Jesuitical empire of the Habsburg; on
the east with the empire of the Romanovs. From all those enemies
Prussia has ultimately saved us. The Hohenzollern dynasty has proved a
match for them all.

‘The whole annals of Germany and Prussia are a striking proof of the
political weakness of the German and of the strength of the Prussian
character. Again and again Germany has witnessed magnificent outbursts
of national prosperity. She has seen the might of the Hohenstaufen;
she has seen the wealth of the Hansa towns. Again and again she has
witnessed the spontaneous generation and blossoming of civic
prosperity; she has seen the glory and pride of Nuremberg and
Heidelberg, of Cologne and Frankfurt, the art of Dürer and Holbein.
But again and again German culture has been nipped in the bud. It has
been destroyed by civil war and religious war, by internal anarchy and
foreign invasion. The Thirty Years’ War devastated every province of
the German Empire, and such was the misery and anarchy that in many
parts the people had reverted to savagery and cannibalism.[7] And
hardly had the country recovered from the horrors of the wars of
religion, when repeated French invasions laid waste the rich provinces
of the Rhine and Palatinate. So completely did German rulers of the
eighteenth century betray their duty to the people that some Princes
degraded themselves to the point of selling their soldiers to the
Hanoverian Kings in order to fight the battles of England in America.

    [7] See Arvède Barine’s “Madame: Mère du Régent.”

‘Whilst the German Princes were thus squandering the treasure and
life-blood of their subjects, there was growing up in the North a
little State which was destined from the most unpromising beginnings
for the most glorious future. It is true that the little Prussian
State was wretchedly poor; for that very reason the Prussian rulers
had to practise strict economy and unrelenting industry. It is true
the country was always insecure and constantly threatened by powerful
neighbours; for that very reason the people had to submit to a rigid
discipline and a strong military organization. It is true the country
was depopulated; for that very reason the rulers had to attract
foreign settlers by a just, wise, and tolerant government.’

A patriotic German might illustrate in the following simple parable
the complex and strange relations between Germany and Prussia:

‘The German people a century ago might be compared to the heirs and
owners of an ancient estate. The estate was rich and of romantic
beauty. The heirs were clever, adventurous, and universally popular.
But although devoted to each other, they could not get on together.
Their personality was too strong, and they were always quarrelling.
Nor could they turn to advantage their vast resources, and the natural
wealth of the estate only served to attract outside marauders. They
were so extravagant and so unpractical that they would lay out
beautiful parks and build magnificent mansions whilst neglecting to
drain the land and to repair the fences. They would spend lavishly on
luxuries, but they would grudge food to the cattle and manure to the
fields. Thus, with all their splendid possessions, the German heirs
were always on the verge of bankruptcy.

‘To extricate themselves, they decided to accept the services of a
factor and manager. The factor was the Prussian Junker. He was an
alien. For he could hardly be called a German. In blood he was more
Slav than Teutonic. He was unrefined, unsympathetic, and overbearing.
But as a manager he was splendid. He bought up outlying parts to round
off the estate. He paid more attention to the necessaries than to the
luxuries and the amenities of life. He was more careful to surround
himself with a strong police force than with poets and minstrels. But
he was able to keep out the marauders and the poachers. He was able to
protect the property against stronger neighbours and to bully the
weaker neighbours into surrendering desirable additions to the estate.
In a short time the heirs, formerly universally popular, were
cordially hated in the land. But their rents had increased by leaps
and bounds, and the German estate had been rounded off and made into
one solid and compact whole.’

Such, German writers would tell us, is the parable of Germany and
Prussia. The Germans are the gifted, generous, and spendthrift heirs
to an illustrious domain. Prussia is the alien, upstart, unpopular,
unsympathetic, bullying factor and manager. But to this bullying
factor Germany owes the consolidation and prosperity of the national


“We are apt to forget that, strictly speaking, a Parliamentary
government does not exist in Germany, although we constantly speak of
a ‘German Parliament.’ According to the Constitution, the Chancellor
is not responsible to Parliament, he is only responsible to the
Emperor. There is no Cabinet or delegation of the majority of the
Reichstag. There is no party system. There are only party squabbles. I
do not know whether Mr. Belloc would approve of the German
Constitution, but it certainly enables the Government to soar high
above all the parties in the Reichstag. German Liberals may be morally
justified in their struggle against political reaction, but
technically the Government are acting within their constitutional
right. And when, therefore, the Reichstag attempts to control the
executive, it is rather the Reichstag which is unconstitutional. On
the other hand, when the Emperor asserts his Divine right, it is he
who is true to the spirit of the Constitution; he is only giving a
religious interpretation and colour to a political prerogative which
he undoubtedly possesses. And not only is there no Parliamentary
government, but there is not even a desire, except with a small
fraction of Radicals, to possess such a government. Prussian
publicists again and again tell us that Germany does not want to copy
English institutions. The old German monarchic institutions are good
enough for Germany. Read the treatise of Treitschke, the great
historian and political philosopher of modern Prussia. He
systematically attempts to belittle every achievement of the
Parliamentary system; and every prominent writer follows in his
footsteps. Prussia has not produced a Guizot, a Tocqueville, a Stuart
Mill, or a Bryce. Her thinkers are all imbued with the traditions of
enlightened despotism. Even the great Mommsen cannot be adduced as an
exception. He makes us forget his Liberalism, and only remember his

The powers of the Reichstag are very limited. It is mainly a machine
for voting supplies, but even that financial control is more nominal
than real. For under the Constitution the Assembly must needs make
provision for the army and navy, which are outside and above party
politics. And having previously fixed the contingent of the Imperial
forces, the army and navy estimates must needs follow. In the present
tension of international politics, a reduction is out of the question.
Theoretically, the Reichstag can indeed oppose an increase, but
practically the increase is almost automatic. The Reichstag could only
postpone it, and in so doing would have to face unpopularity. Every
party vies with its rivals in sacrificing their principles on the
altar of patriotism. Whereas the Catholic party in Belgium has for
twenty-eight years refused the means of national defence, and has made
the Belgian Army into a byword on the plea that barrack life is
dangerous to the religious faith of the peasant, the German Catholics
have voted with exemplary docility every increase of the army and
navy. Only once did they dare to propose a small reduction in the
estimates for the expenditure on the war against the Herreros. But the
indignation they raised by their independent attitude, and the
doubtful elections of 1907, taught them a practical lesson in
patriotic submission which they are not likely soon to forget.

The Reichstag, therefore, is largely a debating club, and its debates
are as irresponsible as those of students in a University union,
because no speech, however eloquent, carries with it any of the
responsibilities of government. The Opposition in England is careful
of the language it uses, and more careful of the promises it makes,
because it knows that it may be called upon to fulfil its promises and
to carry out the policy it advocates. In Germany there is no such
possibility. The Opposition is only platonic. It is doomed to


“It has often happened in other countries when the expression of free
opinions has become dangerous or difficult that independent political
thought has taken refuge in the Universities. Even in Russia the
Universities have been a stronghold of Liberalism. In the Germany of
the first half of the nineteenth century many a University professor
suffered in the cause of political liberty. In the Germany of to-day
the Universities are becoming the main support of reaction.
Professors, although they are nominated by the faculties, are
appointed by the Government; and here again the Government only
appoints ‘safe’ men. A scholar who has incurred the displeasure of the
political authorities must be content to remain a _Privatdozent_ all
his life. _The much-vaunted independence of the German professors is a
thing of the past._ They may be independent scientifically; they are
not independent politically. It is not that scholars have not the
abstract right to speak out, or that they would be dismissed once they
have been appointed; rather is it that they would not be appointed or
promoted. A young scholar with Radical leanings knows that he will not
be called to Berlin.

The German Universities still lead political thought; they still wield
political influence, and their influence may be even greater to-day
than it ever was, but that influence is enlisted almost exclusively on
the side of reaction.

And what is true of the Universities is true of the Churches. Of the
Roman Catholic Church it is hardly necessary to speak. _Non ragionar
di lor, ma guarda e passa._ The history of German Catholicism proves
once more that the Church is never more admirable than when she is
persecuted. During the Kulturkampf the Catholics stood for political
liberty, whereas the so-called National Liberals stood for State
centralization and political despotism. To-day, from being persecuted,
the Catholic Church has become a persecuting Church. She has entered
into an unholy compact with the Prussian Government. She has ceased to
be religious, and has become clerical. She has ceased to be universal.
She has become narrowly Nationalist. She might have played a glorious
part in the new empire. Instead she has resisted every attempt at
financial reform. She might have resisted the oppressive policy
against the Poles. Instead she has connived at oppression. She might
have opposed the orgies of militarism. Instead she has voted every
increase in the army and navy. She has bartered her dignity and
spiritual independence to secure confessional privileges, and to get
her share in the spoils of office.

The Protestant Churches have not had the same power for evil, yet
they have fallen even lower than the Catholic Church. They have lost
even more completely every vestige of independence. German University
theologians may be advanced in higher criticism, but they are
opportunists in practical politics. They are very daring when they
examine the Divine right of Christ, but they are very timid when they
examine the Divine right of the King and Emperor. Protestantism
produced one or two prominent progressive leaders; but they have had
to leave their Churches. Dr. Naumann has become a layman; Stöcker,
when he espoused the cause of the people, was excommunicated, and the
Kaiser hurled one of his most violent speeches against his once
favourite Court chaplain.”


    [8] This was written and published in 1906.

“For forty years Germany had been seeking an outlet for her teeming
population and her expanding industries. Hitherto emigration had
seemed to be a sufficient outlet and a sufficient source of strength.
But as Germany was becoming more and more the controlling power of the
Continent, she refused to be contented with sending out millions of
her sons, who, as mere emigrants to foreign countries, were lost to
the Vaterland.[9] How different would the power of Germany have been,
German Imperialists were ever repeating, if the 20,000,000 Teutons who
have colonized the United States, or Brazil, or Argentina, and have
been absorbed and Americanized and Saxonized, had settled in
territories under the Imperial flag!

    [9] To-day the immigration into Germany exceeds the

And thus Pan-Germanists have been looking towards every part of the
horizon. They have first looked to the north and the north-west, and
they have reflected that the Rhine ought to belong to the Vaterland;
that Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp are the natural German
harbours; that Denmark, Holland, and Flemish Belgium are the outposts
of Germany for the transit commerce of Europe; and that all these
outposts ought to be included either in an economic Zollverein or in a
political confederation.[10]

    [10] In Justus Perthes’s widely scattered “Alldeutscher
    Atlas,” edited by Paul Langhans, and published by the
    Alldeutscher Verband, both Holland and Flemish Belgium are
    considered and “coloured” as an integral part of the future
    German Empire.

But Germany wisely realized that those northern ambitions would meet
with absolute resistance on the part of other Powers, that she was not
yet strong enough to defy that resistance, and that this fulfilment of
her aspirations must be postponed until she was prepared to fight for
the mastery of the sea. In the meantime, she contented herself with
_peacefully_ annexing the commerce of the Flemish and Dutch ports,
with building up a mercantile and a war navy, with advocating the
historical maritime philosophy of Captain Mahan, and with repeating on
every occasion the famous note of warning: ‘_Unsere Zukunft ist auf
dem Wasser._’ Biding her time, and following the line of least
resistance, Germany for the last twenty years therefore extended
steadily towards the south and towards the east. Towards the south
she saw two decaying empires, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, which seemed
to be a natural prey for her political and commercial ambitions: two
conglomerates of hostile races which are waiting for a master. Towards
the east she saw one of the most ancient seats of human civilization,
a huge and rich territory, which is the one great country, in close
proximity to Europe, which is still left unoccupied and undeveloped.
On those three empires Germany set her heart, and with the method and
determination which always characterize her she set to work. And with
an equally characteristic spirit this gigantic scheme of commercial
and political absorption of three empires, from the Upper Danube to
the Persian Gulf, was being explained away and justified by an all
comprehensive watchword: the _Drang nach Osten_. It was only in
response to this irresistible call and impulse, this _Drang_ and
pressure, it was only to obey an historical mission, that the Teuton
was going to regenerate the crumbling empires of Austria, of Turkey,
and of Asia Minor.

In the first place, let us consider for one moment the
Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It is now fifty years since, through the
Battle of Sadowa, Austria-Hungary was ousted from the German
Confederation. The same reasons which impelled Protestant Prussia to
drive Catholic Austria from the Germanic Confederation are still in
large measure subsisting to-day, and I do not think that the
Hohenzollern has any intention of forcing the Habsburg into the
Confederation again, merely to obey the behests of the Pan-Germanists.
Prussia has no interest whatever in reopening the ancient dualism of
North and South, in re-establishing the two poles and antipodes,
Berlin and Vienna. _As a matter of fact, ever since 1870
Austria-Hungary has been far more useful to German aims in her present
dependent condition than if she were an integral part of the
Confederation._ In Continental politics as well as in colonial
politics, a disguised protectorate may be infinitely preferable to
virtual annexation. The protectorate of Tunis has given far less
trouble to France than the colony of Algeria. And for all practical
interests and purposes, Austria-Hungary has become a German
dependency. She has been drawn into the orbit of the Triple Alliance.
She follows the political fortunes of the predominant partner. She
almost forms part of the German Zollverein, in that her tariffs are
systematically favourable to her northern neighbour. _But above all,
Austria-Hungary renders to Germany the inestimable service both of
‘civilizing’—that is, of ‘Germanizing’—the inferior races, the
Slavs, and of keeping them in check. It is a very disagreeable and
difficult task, which Germany infinitely prefers to leave to Austria
rather than to assume herself._ And it is a task for which, as
Professor Lamprecht, the national historian, is compelled to admit,
the Austrian German seems far more qualified than the Prussian German.
And Germany can thus entirely devote herself to her world ambitions,
whilst Austria is entirely absorbed by her racial conflict—for the
King of Prussia!

For the last twenty-five years the process of Germanizing has been
going on without interruption. A bitter war of races and languages is
being waged between the Austrian German and the Magyar, between the
Teuton and the Slav. Of the Slav the Austrian Teuton wants to make
his political slave. To him ‘Slav’ and ‘slave’ are synonymous words;
and when we consider that the Slavs are disunited in language and
religion, and that they hate each other almost as cordially as they
hate the _Niemets_; and when we further consider that behind the ten
millions of Austrian Germans there will be sixty-five millions of
other Germans to support them, whilst the Catholic Tcheches and Poles
can only fall back on the support of abhorred and heretical Russia,
there is every reason to fear that the Slav must eventually come under
the economic and political control of the Austrian Germans—that is to
say, ultimately under the influence of the German Empire.

But it is not only the Slavs of the Austrian Empire that are
threatened by German absorption; that absorption has rapidly extended
to the Slav States of the Balkan Peninsula. On the south as well as on
the north of the Danube, Austria has been used as the ‘cat’s-paw,’ or,
to use the more dignified expression of Emperor William, as the ‘loyal
_Sekundant_’ of the Hohenzollern. The occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
in defiance of the Treaty of Berlin, was the beginning of that
Austrian _Drang nach Osten_ policy, the next object of which is the
possession of the Gulf of Salonica, and the ultimate object of which
is the control of Constantinople.”


    [11] This was published in 1906.

“The absorption of Turkey is not a distant dream: it is very nearly an
accomplished fact. Twenty-five years ago Germany declared she had no
political stake in the affairs of Turkey. As recently as the
’seventies, Bismarck proclaimed in the Reichstag that the Eastern
Question was not worth the loss of one Pomeranian soldier.

To-day Germany is wellnigh supreme on the Bosphorus. She started by
sending military instructors, amongst whom was the famous General Von
der Goltz Pasha, and by reorganizing the Turkish Army on the German
model. She then sent her travellers, absorbing the commerce of the
country. She then sent her engineers, obtaining concessions, building
railways, and practically obtaining the control of the so-called
‘Oriental’ line. Finally, she became the self-appointed doctor of the
‘sick man.’ Whenever the illness of recent years came to a
crisis—after the Armenian and the Macedonian atrocities, after the
Cretan insurrection—Germany stepped in and paralyzed the action of
Europe. It was Germany that not only enabled Turkey to crush Greece
and to restore her military prestige: it was Germany that enabled her
to reap the fruits of victory.

For ten years Lohengrin appeared as the temporal providence, the
protector of Abdul Hamid. The Holy Roman Emperor appeared as the
saviour of the Commander of the Faithful. A Power which did not have
one Mohammedan subject claimed to protect two hundred million
Mohammedans. And when, in 1897, Emperor William went on his memorable
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, this latter-day pilgrim entered into a solemn
compact with a Sovereign still reeking from the blood of 200,000
Christians. The Cross made an unholy alliance with the Crescent.

This alliance, coinciding with the journey to Jerusalem, marked a
further step in the forward movement, in the _Drang nach Osten_
policy. It was the third and the last stage, and by far the most
important one. It was obvious that, on the European side of the
Bosphorus, Germany could not make much further progress for some years
to come. The times were not ripe. International jealousies might be
prematurely roused, all the more so because neither the German Kaiser
nor his subjects have the discretion and modesty of success. But on
the Asiatic side there extended a vast Asiatic inheritance, to which,
as yet, there was no European claimant; to which already, forty years
ago, German patriots like Moltke, German economists like Roscher and
List, had drawn the attention of the Vaterland—a country with a
healthy climate and with infinite resources as yet undeveloped. This
was to be in the immediate future the field of German colonization. On
his way to Jerusalem the German Emperor pressed once more his devoted
friend the Sultan for an extension of German enterprise in Asia Minor.
The concession of the railway to Baghdad was granted, and a new and
marvellous horizon opened before the Hohenzollern.”


“And not only is German Socialism not as strong, neither is it as
pacifist as is generally supposed. Outsiders take it for granted that
in the event of a conflict between France and Germany there would be
solidarity between the French and the German artisans. They assume
that Socialism is essentially international. And in theory such an
assumption is quite legitimate. But many things in Germany are
national which elsewhere are universal. And in Germany Socialism is
becoming national, as German political economy is national, as German
science is national, as German religion is national. Therefore the
political axiom that German Socialists would necessarily come to an
understanding with their French and English brethren has been
falsified by the event. German Socialists have, no doubt, shown their
pacific intentions; they have issued pacific manifestoes and organized
pacific processions; they have filed off in their hundreds of
thousands in the streets of Berlin to protest against the war party;
but when the question of peace or war has been brought to a point in
Socialist congresses—when their foreign brethren have moved that in
the case of an unjust aggression the German Social Democrats should
declare a military strike—German Socialists have refused to assent.
The dramatic oratorical duel which took place between the French and
the German delegates at the Congress of Stuttgart illustrates the
differences between the national temperament of the Frenchman and the
German. When called upon to proclaim the military strike, the German
Socialists gave as an excuse that such a decision would frighten away
from the Social Democrat party hundreds of thousands of middle-class
supporters. This excuse is an additional proof of the moral and
political weakness of Social Democracy. It illustrates its moral
weakness; for the Socialist leaders sacrifice a great principle for
the sake of an electoral gain. The leaders know that nationalist
feeling runs high in the middle classes; they know that any
anti-militarist policy would be unpopular. And they have not the
courage as a party to face unpopularity. And the arguments used at
Stuttgart also illustrate the political weakness of German Socialism;
for they show that the Socialist vote does not possess the cohesion
and homogeneity with which it is credited: they show that hundreds of
thousands of citizens who record a Socialist vote are not Socialists
at all. To vote for Socialism is merely an indirect way of voting
against the Government. There is no organized Opposition in Germany.
The Socialists are the only party who are “agin the Government.” And
all those German citizens who are dissatisfied with conditions as they
are choose this indirect and clumsy method of voting for the
Socialists in order to express their dissatisfaction with the present
Prussian despotism.

It is therefore not true to say that Socialism in Germany is a
decisive force working for peace. It would be more true to say that it
is a force working for war, simply because it is a force working for
reaction. Prussian reaction would not be so strong if it were not for
the bugbear of Social Democracy. If Social Democracy attracts a
considerable section of the lower middle class, it repels and
frightens the bulk of the middle classes as well as of the upper
classes. Many Liberals who would otherwise oppose the Government
support it from horror of the red flag, and they strengthen
unwillingly the power of reaction. And therefore it would scarcely be
a paradox to say that the nearer the approach of the Socialistic
reign, the greater would be the danger to international peace. German
contemporary history illustrates once more a general law of history,
that the dread of a civil war is often a direct cause of a foreign
war, and that the ruling classes are driven to seek outside a
diversion from internal difficulties. Thus political unrest ushered in
the wars of the Revolution and the Empire; thus the internal
difficulties of Napoleon III. brought about the Franco-German War;
thus the internal upheaval of Russia in our days produced the
Russo-Japanese War.

It may be true that power is slipping away from the hands of the
Prussian Junkerthum and the bureaucracy, although Prussian reaction is
far stronger than most foreign critics realize. But whether it be
strong or weak, one thing is certain: a power which has been supreme
for two centuries will not surrender without a struggle. The Prussian
Junkers may be politically stupid, but they have not lost the fighting
spirit, and they will not give way to the ‘mob.’ Before Prussian
reaction capitulates, it will play its last card and seek salvation in
a European conflagration.”


“Is the tremendous power and popularity of the Kaiser exercised in the
direction of peace or in the direction of war?

To an Englishman the Kaiser’s devotion to military pursuits, his
frequent brandishing of the sword, his aggressive policy of naval
expansion, seem to be in flagrant contradiction with his no less
persistent protests both of his sympathy for England and of his love
for peace. We are reminded that Napoleon III. also delighted to
express his love for peace—“_L’Empire c’est la paix_”—yet he brought
about the most disastrous war in French history. We are reminded that
Nicholas II. of Russia also started his reign as the peacemaker of
Europe, the initiator of the Conference of The Hague, yet he brought
about the most bloody war in Russian history. Are the Kaiser’s pacific
protests as futile, are his sympathies as hollow, as those of a
Napoleon or a Nicholas?

Unfortunately, if the Kaiser’s protests of peace are supported by many
of his utterances and sanctioned by the interests of his dynasty, they
are contradicted not only by many other utterances, but, what is more
serious, they are contradicted by his personal methods, and, above
all, by the whole trend of his general policy.

Very few observers have pointed out one special reason why the
personal methods of the Kaiser will prove in the end dangerous to
peace—namely, that they have tended to paralyze or destroy the
methods of diplomacy.

Little as we may like the personnel of legations and embassies,
strongly as we disapprove of the methods by which they are recruited,
urgent as is the reform of the Foreign Office, it remains no less true
that the function of diplomacy is more vital to-day than it ever was
in the past. For it is of the very purpose and _raison d’être_ of
diplomacy to be conciliatory and pacific. Its object is to achieve by
persuasion and negotiation what otherwise must be left to the
arbitrament of war. It is a commonplace on the part of Radicals to
protest against the practices of occult diplomacy. In so far as that
protest is directed against the spirit which animates the members of
the diplomatic service, it is fully justified. But in so far as it is
directed against the principle of secret negotiation, the protest is
absurd. For it is of the very essence of diplomacy that it shall be
secret, that it shall be left to experts, that it shall be removed
from the heated atmosphere of popular assemblies, and that it shall
substitute an appeal to intellect and reason for the appeal to popular
emotion and popular prejudice.

For that reason it is deeply to be regretted that the personal
interferences of the Kaiser have taken German diplomacy out of the
hands of negotiators professionally interested in a peaceful solution
of international difficulties, and have indirectly brought diplomacy
under the influence of the German ‘patriot’ and the jingo. An
Ambassador need not depend on outside approval; his work is done in
quiet and solitude. The Kaiser, on the contrary, conducts his foreign
policy in the glaring limelight of publicity; and whenever he has been
criticized by experts, his vanity has only too often been tempted to
appeal to popular passion and to gain popular applause. For that
reason, and entirely apart from his indiscretions, the bare fact that
the Kaiser has become his own Foreign Secretary has lessened the
chances of peace.

Nor has the whole trend of his domestic policy been less injurious to
the cause of peace. In vain does the Kaiser assure us of his pacific
intentions: a ruler cannot with impunity glorify for ever the wars of
the past, spend most of the resources of his people on the
preparations for the wars of the future, encourage the warlike spirit,
make the duel compulsory on officers and the _Mensur_ honourable to
students, place his chief trust in his Junkers, who live and move and
have their being in the game of war, foster the aggressive spirit in
the nation, and hold out ambitions which can only be fulfilled by an
appeal to arms: a ruler cannot for ever continue to saw the dragon’s
teeth and only reap harvests of yellow grain and golden grapes.”


“Personally I am inclined to think that the fear of a German invasion
has haunted far too exclusively the imagination of the English people,
and has diverted their attention from another danger far more real and
far more immediate. With characteristic _naïveté_ and insular
selfishness, some jingoes imagine that if only the naval armaments of
Germany could be stopped, all danger to England would be averted. But
surely the greatest danger to England is not the invasion of England:
it is the invasion of France and Belgium. For in the case of an
invasion of England, even the Germans admit that the probabilities of
success would all be against Germany; whilst in the case of an
invasion of France, the Germans claim that the probabilities are all
in their favour. It is therefore in France and Belgium that the
vulnerable point lies, the Achilles heel of the British Empire.”


“It is true that in theory the neutrality of Belgium is guaranteed by
international treaties; but when I observe the signs of the times, the
ambitions of the German rulers, and when I consider such indications
as the recent extension of strategic railways on the Belgian-German
frontiers, I do not look forward with any feeling of security to
future contingencies in the event of a European war. I am not at all
convinced that the scare of a German invasion of England is justified.
Indeed, I am inclined to believe the Germans when they assert that in
case of war Germany would not be likely to invade Britain. She would
be far more likely to invade Belgium, because Belgium has always been
the pawn in the great game of European politics, and has often been,
and may again become, the battlefield and cockpit of Europe.”


“If a war between the two countries did break out, it would not be
merely an economic war, like the colonial wars between France and
England in the eighteenth century; rather would it partake of the
nature of a political and religious crusade, like the French wars of
the Revolution and the Empire. _The present conflict between England
and Germany is the old conflict between Liberalism and despotism,
between industrialism and militarism, between progress and reaction,
between the masses and the classes._ The conflict between England and
Germany is a conflict, on the one hand, between a nation which
believes in political liberty and national autonomy, where the Press
is free and where the rulers are responsible to public opinion, and,
on the other hand, a nation where public opinion is still muzzled or
powerless and where the masses are still under the heel of an absolute
government, a reactionary party, a military Junkerthum, and a despotic

The root of the evil lies in the fact that in Germany the war spirit
and the war caste still prevail, and that a military Power like
Prussia is the predominant partner in the German Confederation. The
mischievous masterpiece of Carlyle on Frederick the Great, and his
more mischievous letter to _The Times_, have misled English opinion as
to the true character and traditions and aims of the Prussian
monarchy. Prussia has been pre-eminently for two hundred years the
military and reactionary State of Central Europe, much more so even
than Russia. Prussia owes whatever she is, and whatever territory she
has, to a systematic policy of cunning and deceit, of violence and
conquest. No doubt she has achieved an admirable work of organization
at home, and has fulfilled what was perhaps a necessary historic
mission, but in her international relations she has been mainly a
predatory Power. She has stolen her Eastern provinces from Poland. She
is largely responsible for the murder of a great civilized nation.
She has wrested Silesia from Austria. She has taken Hanover from its
legitimate rulers. She has taken Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark,
Alsace-Lorraine from France. And to-day the military caste in Prussia
trust and hope that a final conflict with England will consummate what
previous wars have so successfully accomplished in the past. They are
all the more anxious to enter the lists and to run the hazards of war
because it becomes more and more difficult to govern a divided
Reichstag and a dissatisfied people without uniting them against a
foreign enemy, and because they realize that unless they restore their
prestige and consolidate their power by a signal victory the days of
their predominance are numbered.”


“The war of to-morrow, therefore, will not be like the war of 1870, a
war confined to two belligerent forces: it will be a universal
European war. Nor will it be a humane war, subject to the rules of
international law and to the decrees of the Hague Tribunal: it will be
an inexorable war; or, to use the expression of von Bernhardi, it will
be ‘a war to the knife.’ Nor will it be decided in a few weeks, like
the war of 1870: it will involve a long and difficult campaign, or
rather a succession of campaigns; it will mean to either side
political annihilation or supremacy.”




It has become a trite and hackneyed claim of the Prussian
megalomaniacs that they are an Imperial people, a super-race
predestined by Nature and Providence to the domination of the world.
It certainly seems a grotesque claim to assert on the part of a people
who in their political and social life have shown themselves a
pre-eminently _servile_ people; who have ever been cringing to their
superiors; who never produced one single leader of free men, one
Cromwell, one Mirabeau, one Gambetta; who always believed in the
virtue of passive obedience; who always submitted to the policeman
rather than to a policy; who always obeyed a Prince rather than a
principle; who, as recently as the end of the eighteenth century,
allowed themselves to be sold like cattle by Hessian princelings; who
never rose to defend their sacred rights; who never fought a spirited
battle in a righteous civil war; and who have always been ready to
fight like slaves at the bidding of a sword-rattling despot.

And yet in one very important respect the Germans may rightly claim
that they are actually ruling the European world. German Princes are
actually seated on almost every throne of Europe. The French language
may still be the language of diplomacy, but the German language, which
was still a despised lingo to Frederick the Great, has become the
language of European royalties. Germany for two hundred years has done
a most thriving and most lucrative export trade in princelings. One
Hohenzollern Prince ruling in Roumania for thirty years asserted
German influence in that Latin country. Another Hohenzollern Prince
ruling in Athens, nicknamed “Tino” by his affectionate relative the
Kaiser, for three years stultified the will of his people, who were
determined to join the cause of the Allies. Still another German
Prince ruling in Sofia, who five years ago was mainly responsible for
the horrors of the second Balkan War, compelled the Bulgarian nation
to betray the cause of Russia, to whom the Bulgarian people owe their
political existence and liberation from the yoke of the Turk.

Even yet public opinion does not realize to what an extent European
Princes in the past have been made in Germany. We speak of the Royal
House of Denmark as a Danish House. The Danish House is in real fact
the German dynasty of Oldenburg. We speak of the House of Romanov as a
Russian dynasty. And it is true that the founder of the dynasty,
Michael Romanov, the son of Philarete, Archbishop of Moscow and
Patriarch of all the Russias, was a typical Muscovite, and was called
to the throne in 1611, in troubled times, by the unanimous voice of
the people. But, as all the Czars of Russia for two hundred years only
married German Princesses, _without one single exception_, the
Russian dynasty had become in fact a German dynasty. So far as mere
heredity is concerned, Nicholas II., through the German marriages of
all his ancestors, is of German stock to the extent of sixty-three
sixty-fourths, and of Russian stock only in the proportion of one


Of all the German dynasties seated on the thrones of Europe, the
Hohenzollern stand out, not merely as the most powerful, but also by
far the most striking and the most interesting. The Hohenzollern are
as unique in the history of royalty as the Rothschilds are unique in
the history of finance. The history of other dynasties has been
largely a history of Court scandal and intrigue, providing
inexhaustible material to the petty gossip of Court chroniclers. We
are all familiar with the amorous episodes of Louis XIV. and Louis
XV., with the mysteries of the Grand and Petit Trianon and of the Parc
aux Cerfs, with Madame de Maintenon and Madame de Montespan, with
Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, that beautiful courtesan who
on the scaffold so pathetically asked the executioner: “Mr. Hangman, I
beseech you, do spare me.” We are all familiar through Thackeray’s
“History of the Georges” with the _chronique scandaleuse_ of the
Hanoverian dynasty. No doubt the Hohenzollern also have had their
_chronique scandaleuse_ and have also attracted the prurient curiosity
of memoir writers. The Court of Berlin in the days of the polygamist
King, Frederick William II., the successor of Old Fritz, was the most
dissolute Court of Europe, as Berlin is to-day the most depraved city
on the Continent. But somehow the scandals of the Hohenzollern seem to
be irrelevant episodes. Somehow we do not think of the annals of the
august House as a history of scandal. We only think of the
Hohenzollern as the political necromancers of modern Europe, as the
supreme masters of statecraft. The very name of the Hohenzollern
recalls to our minds a race of State-builders. Machiavelli selected
the House of Borgia to illustrate the principles of the statecraft of
the Renaissance. A modern Machiavelli would have to go to Potsdam to
study the philosophy of high politics.

From the beginning the Hohenzollern have been identified with the
Prussian State. Louis XIV. said of himself, “_L’état c’est moi_,” but
Louis XIV. was an exception in modern French history. On the contrary,
every Hohenzollern could have applied to himself the words of the
Bourbon King.

If we take each individual Hohenzollern, we find the most obvious
differences between them. No dynasty more strikingly illustrates that
psychological and political peculiarity of royal houses, which may be
called the law of opposites, and which has almost the regularity of a
universal law according to which each ruler is the living contrast of
his predecessor. The successor of the Great Elector, Frederick I.
(1688-1713), the first King of Prussia, was an extravagant fop who
spent a year’s income on the ceremony of coronation. On the contrary,
his successor, “Fat William” (1713-1740), the Sergeant-King, was a
miser, who on his coronation only spent 2,227 thalers and ninepence,
where his father had squandered over six millions, a maniac who
collected tall grenadiers as other Kings have collected pictures, who
tortured his children, and who wanted to punish with a death sentence
a juvenile escapade of the heir to the throne. Frederick the Great
(1740-1786), again, was the antithesis of Frederick William I., and
loved literature and art as intensely as his father detested them.
Frederick William II. (1786-1797), the successor of the great realist
and woman-hater, was a polygamist and a mystic. Frederick William III.
(1797-1840) was an exemplary husband and a well-meaning, business-like
bourgeois. He was succeeded by Frederick William IV. (1840-1861), a
romanticist and a dreamer who ended in madness. William I. (1861-1888)
was an honest, straightforward, methodical, reasonable,
self-controlled soldier. Frederick III. was an idealist, and, like
Frederick the Great, a lover of literature and art. William II. has
bewildered the world as a versatile and omniscient dilettante,
war-lord and peacemaker, Mohammedan and Christian—always a comedian,
yet always in earnest. And we all know how the heir to the throne is
the reverse of the Kaiser, and how this Crown Prince, with the fancies
of a degenerate, has deserved to be called the “Clown Prince.”

It is therefore apparent that if we analyze the characteristics of
every one of the nine dynasts who have reigned in Prussia since the
Great Elector for the last two hundred and fifty years, we do not find
one single ruler who resembles his predecessor or his successor. Yet
all these Hohenzollerns, whether capable or incapable, whether mad,
half-mad, or sane, whether profligate or domesticated, whether
extravagant or miserly, have certain common traits. They have all been
inspired with the same dynastic policy. When we consider the
individual variations from the family type, there can be here no
question of physical heredity, like the lip of the Habsburg or the
tainted blood of the Spanish Bourbons. It is a question of political
environment, a question of dynastic tradition. Indeed, we must
carefully study that Hohenzollern family tradition of politics if we
want to grasp the full significance of the word, if we wish to
understand how such a dynastic tradition may become a formidable power
to European history. Maeterlinck in his “Life of the Bee” has an
eloquent and profound chapter on the “Spirit of the Hive.” In the
domestic and international policy of the Prussian State, in the
Hohenzollern dynastic tradition, we discover such a collective spirit,
the “Spirit of the Prussian Hive,” the evil spirit of war mania and
megalomania, the treachery, the brutality, the greed, and, above all,
the predatory instinct dignified into the name of _Real Politik_. And
Europe will only enjoy permanent peace and security if she succeeds in
destroying that Hohenzollern tradition, that sinister spirit which
lives in the wasps’ and hornets’ nest of Berlin, that spirit which has
“Potsdamized” Europe, and which has debased the moral currency of
European politics.


No one would call the political history of Germany an interesting
history. It is only the history of free nations or the free play of
spiritual forces that is of abiding human interest, and the history of
Germany is neither the history of a free people nor the conflict of
spiritual forces. That history is so intolerably tedious that even the
magic of Treitschke’s genius has not been able to relieve its dulness,
and that before the war no British or French publisher dared venture
on a translation of Treitschke’s masterpiece. But if the political
history of Germany has all the tedium and monotony of parochialism, on
the contrary, the personal history of the Hohenzollern is intensely
instructive. One would hesitate to call it romantic. Yet there is an
element of romance, the romance of business, the interest which
attaches to the rise of a family from the humble obscurity of a petty
princeling to the power and prestige of world rulers, the same kind of
interest which belongs to the life-story of Mr. Vanderbilt or Mr.
Carnegie. What a progress those Hohenzollerns have made from the
distant days when they left their little Swabian southern home of
Zollern between the Neckar and the Upper Danube, the cradle of their
dynasty! _Nomen, omen!_ Does not the very sound of the word
_Hohenzollern_ suggest and inspire high ambitions? And does not the
very name of that little village of Zollern, which is apparently
derived from _Zoll_, suggest that all the world was henceforth to pay
a Zoll, or toll, to the dynasts of Hohenzollern?

And what a strange succession of incidents! In themselves those
incidents may seem insignificant. They left little trace in the
chronicles of olden times. Yet those petty incidents have proved
decisive events in the annals of modern humanity. We see those events
happening from generation to generation without any apparent
connection. Yet somehow they all made for the aggrandizement of the
family. We see successive Princes acquiring through marriage and
inheritance possessions in scattered and remote outposts of the Holy
Roman Empire. Yet somehow all those outposts became eventually
milestones on the highway to greatness. One ancestor becomes Burgrave
of Nuremberg—a considerable promotion! A subsequent Burgrave of
Nuremberg lends money to a needy Austrian Emperor, and becomes in 1417
Elector of Brandenburg—a much more considerable promotion! Again,
another ancestor inherits at the other extremity of Germany the petty
dukedom of Cleves, and that dukedom became the nucleus of Prussian
power in the Far West of Germany. Still another ancestor of a
collateral branch becomes Grand Master of the religious Order of the
Teutonic Knights, and this fact induces Master Martin Luther, who was
much more of a realist and a time-server and a trimmer than
theologians give him credit for, to advise the Hohenzollern Grand
Master to secularize his knights, to confiscate the whole Church
property of the Order, and to make himself the overlord of Eastern

Thus everything has worked for the aggrandizement of the future Kings
of Prussia, everything has brought grist to the mill of Sans-Souci.


No dynasts in modern times, not even the Bourbons nor the Habsburgs,
have been more obsessed with the pride of race. A double avenue of
gaudy statues in Berlin has been erected in the Siegesallee, or Alley
of Victory, to illustrate the glories of the House. And Carlyle, in
his “History of Frederick the Great,” devotes a whole volume—and a
very tedious volume—to the medieval ancestors of the dynasty. The
present Kaiser believes himself to be the lineal successor, not only
of the Hohenstaufen, but of the Cæsars of Ancient Rome. It was in that
spirit that he was graciously pleased recently to dedicate a monument
to his predecessor, Emperor Trajan! _Trajano Romanorum Imperatori,
Wilhelmus Imperator Germanorum!_ (To Trajan, Emperor of the Romans,
William, Emperor of the Germans!)

But all that Hohenstaufen-Hohenzollern genealogy is mythical history.
The real history of the Hohenzollern is of recent date, and begins in
1640 with the advent of the Great Elector (1640-1688). Compared with
the ancient House of Habsburg or of Bourbon, the Hohenzollern may well
be called the “parvenus” of royalty. Until the seventeenth century the
Electors of Brandenburg were twice vassals—lieges of the Holy Roman
Empire and vassals of the Kings of Poland; and when in 1701 the first
Hohenzollern King promoted himself to royal rank and ascended the
throne, he made ceaseless and humiliating attempts to secure
recognition. The old Houses refused to accept his title, and would
not acknowledge the upstart royal “brother.”

But the very fact that the Hohenzollern are the “parvenus” of European
royalty has spurred them on to more strenuous endeavours and to still
higher ambitions. Their sole endeavour was to raise their position:
_sich considerable machen_, as the Great Elector said in his quaint
pidgin German. They were not born to the royal dignity. They had to
make it. They were not accepted as Kings. They had to assert
themselves and to impose their claims. The good sword of Frederick the
Great asserted his claims with such results that, except Napoleon, no
ruler ever since has disputed the right of the Hohenzollern to rank
amongst the dynasts of Europe.


Even as the Hohenzollern are an upstart dynasty, so the Prussian State
may be called an upstart State. It has not, like France, Great
Britain, or Spain, two thousand years of history behind it. Until the
end of the Middle Ages Christian civilization was bounded by the Elbe.
The Prussian populations were the last in Europe to be converted to
Christianity, and recent history has proved only too conclusively that
the conversion never struck deep roots. Until the end of the Middle
Ages the religious and military Order of the Teutonic Knights had to
wage war against the Prussian heathen, and the magnificent ruin of
Marienburg, the stately seat of the Teutonic Knights, still testifies
to the achievements of the Order. Marienburg is the only historic city
of Prussia; Berlin is but a mushroom growth of modern days. Whilst
London and Paris go back to the beginning of European history, Berlin
only three hundred years ago was a mean village inhabited by Wendish

It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that Prussia is not a nation, but
a State, and that State is an entirely artificial creation. France and
Great Britain are the slow and natural growths of many centuries. They
have definite geographical boundaries, their people have common
traditions, common ideals, common affinities. The Prussian State is
made up of a heterogeneous mosaic of provinces, the spoils of
successive invasions. What hold together the artificial fabric of the
Prussian State are only the dynasty, the bureaucracy, and the Army.
The bureaucracy and the Army are to Prussia what the Civil Service and
the British Army are to the Indian Empire. Suppress the British Army
and the Civil Service, and British rule ceases to exist. Suppress the
Hohenzollern dynasty, the Prussian bureaucracy, and the Junker Army,
and the Prussian structure crumbles to pieces.

Nature has been niggardly to Prussia. Everything has had to be made
with the hands of man. Brandenburg, Pomerania, Western and Eastern
Prussia are dreary wastes; Berlin is an oasis of brick and stone
amidst a Sahara of sand. The provinces of old Prussia have few
industrial resources. The very soil had to be made by intensive
agricultural methods. The very population had to be imported. Modern
Prussia is neither the gift of Nature nor the outcome of history. It
is the triumph of human statecraft. It is the achievement of the
“will to power.” When that “will to power” relaxes the Prussian State


The modern Holy German Empire is born of the unholy nuptials of the
German people with the Prussian State. But the paradox is that the
Prussian State, which claims the right to rule the German States, who
themselves assert their right to rule over Europe, cannot even pretend
to be German. The contrast between the German and the Prussian has
often been pointed out.

The Southern and Western German is still to-day, as he was in the days
of Madame de Staël, artistic and poetic, brilliant and imaginative—a
lover of song and music. The Prussian remains as he has always been,
inartistic, dull, and unromantic. Prussia has not produced one of the
great composers who are the pride of the German race; and Berlin, with
all its wealth and its two million inhabitants, strikes the foreigner
as one of the most commonplace capitals of the civilized world. The
Southern and Western German is gay and genial, courteous and
expansive; the Prussian is sullen, reserved, and aggressive. The
Southern and Western German is sentimental and generous; the Prussian
is sour and dour, and only believes in hard fact. The Southern and
Western German is an idealist; the Prussian is a realist and a
materialist, a stern rationalist, who always keeps his eye on the main
chance. The Southern and Western German is independent almost to the
verge of anarchism; he has a strong individuality; his patriotism is
municipal and parochial; he is attached to his little city, to its
peculiarities and local customs; the Prussian is imitative, docile,
and disciplined; his patriotism is not the sentimental love of the
native city, but the abstract loyalty to the State. The Southern and
Western German is proud of his romantic history, of his ancient
culture; the Prussian has no culture to be proud of.

That contrast of temperament between Prussians and Germans corresponds
to a difference of race. The Prussians are not really Teutons. They
are alien intruders. The Prussians, the Pruzi or Pruteni, are
Lithuanians. The population of Brandenburg is Slav. Berlin,
Brandenburg, or Brannybor, are Slav-Wendish names. The ruler of the
Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg, a State which is even more Prussian than
Prussia, and which is a strange survival of feudalism, bears until
this day the name of “Prince of the Wendes.”

Century after century the Burgraves of Brandenburg and Kings of
Prussia had to attract colonists to their dreary dominions. The
recruiting sergeant went out all over Europe to fill the ranks of the
Prussian Army. One-third of Frederick the Great’s Army was made up of
foreigners. Frederick the Great on his accession found himself at war
with the Prince-Bishop of Liége, because that worthy prelate would not
allow his subjects to be impressed by the Prussian press-gang.
Prussian colonizing agents scoured the neighbouring countries for
agricultural labourers, foresters, and artisans. Twenty thousand
Bohemians were imported by the Sergeant-King. In the eighteenth
century by far the most important element introduced into Prussia was
of French origin. The majority of the French Huguenots of the lower
classes were attracted to Prussia. The population of Berlin, which was
only 6,000, was doubled by the French exodus. The very language spoken
at Berlin was a savoury mixture of French and German. _Ein plus
machen_ meant in the language of the Grand Elector to have a surplus
revenue. To express his ideal of kingship, the _Elector_ said: _Ich
stabilire die souveraineté auf einen rocher von Bronce._ _Dem Regiment
obligat_ expressed the obligation of military service. At the
accession of Frederick the Great, out of a population of 2,400,000,
600,000 were refugees. It is one of the most impressive instances of
historical retribution that modern Prussia should thus have been built
up with the assistance of French exiles, and that modern France should
have been crushed by the descendants of the French Protestants who
were expelled by the bigotry of Louis XIV.

The colonization of Prussia has proceeded until this day. Before the
war immigration into Germany was exceeding the emigration. Polish
labour continues to migrate to the Eastern provinces. Hence the odious
expropriations of Polish land in the district of Posen. The ablest
literary and industrial and political talent from all parts of Germany
has been attracted for generations to the Prussian capital. Prussian
jingoes claim for Prussia the credit of every administrative
improvement, of every political achievement of modern Germany. As a
matter of fact, the Prussian State has achieved little by itself. Its
originality is never to initiate, but skilfully to exploit the
creations of others. It is a safe rule to assume that every statesman
or leader who has made an original contribution to Prussian history is
not of Prussian origin. The greatest philosopher of Prussia, Kant, was
a Scotsman. Her greatest statesman, Stein, was a Westphalian. Of the
two greatest Prussian Generals, one, Blücher, was a Mecklenburger; the
other, Moltke, was a Dane. The national historian of Prussia,
Treitschke, is a Saxon of Bohemian descent.


That colony of many heterogeneous populations is above all a military
State, a _Kriegstaat_. It was created through war and has been
organized for war. In the eighteenth century the whole of Prussia was
one vast camp and barracks. The King of Prussia is primarily the
_Kriegsherr_, or war-lord. The ruling caste of Junkers is a caste of
warriors. The very _schoolmasters in the eighteenth century were
nearly all recruited from the invalided non-commissioned officers_.
Historians single out Fat William, the Sergeant-King, as the supreme
type of the martinet King. But it is not only Fat William, but all the
Kings of Prussia who have been martinet Kings and recruiting
sergeants. Prussia has made war into an exact science. Prussia has
created the “nation in arms.”

Geographical conditions and the ambitions of the Hohenzollern have
combined to make war a permanent necessity. Prussia was a “mark” or
frontier land, and the margraves or mark-grafs were the earls and
protectors of the Mark. The frontiers of Prussia were open on every
side. She was surrounded by enemies. George William, the father of the
Great Elector, during the Thirty Years’ War tried to maintain
neutrality. He soon found out that neutrality did not pay, and his
territory was overrun by hostile bands. Pomerania was occupied and
retained by the Swedes. Poles, Russians, and Austrians in turn invaded
the country. After the Battle of Kunersdorff, in 1761, Prussia was at
her last gasp, and Frederick the Great found himself in so desperate a
position that he had resolved on committing suicide. Again, after
Jena, Berlin was occupied by the French, and for five years remained
under the yoke. Insecurity has been for generations the law of
Prussian existence. The Prussian State has known many ups and downs
and has passed through many tragic vicissitudes. They managed to turn
geographical and military necessities to the advantage of their
dynastic ambitions. What was at first commanded by the instinct of
self-preservation became afterwards a habit, a tradition, and a
systematic policy. They discovered that the best way to maintain an
efficient defensive was to transform it into a vigorous offensive.
They discovered that the best means of living safely was to live
dangerously. They discovered, in the words of Treitschke, that “the
one mortal sin for a State was to be weak.”


Not only is Prussia a military State, it is also a predatory State.
All the great Powers of Europe have been in a sense military States.
But to them all war has only been a means to an end, and often a means
to higher and unselfish ends. The Spaniards were a military nation,
but their wars were crusades against the Moor. The Russians have been
a military nation, but their wars were crusades against the Turk or
wars for the liberation of the Serbians, the Bulgarians, and the
Greeks. The French have been a military nation, but they fought for a
chivalrous ideal, for adventure, for humanity. Even Napoleon’s wars of
conquest were really wars for the establishment of democracy. The
Corsican was the champion and the testamentary executor of the French

The peculiarity of the Prussian State is that it has been from the
beginning a predatory State. The Hohenzollerns have ever waged war
mainly for spoliation and booty. Not once have they waged war for an
ideal or for a principle.

The German Kaiser delights to appear in the garb of the medieval
knight. He wears three hundred appropriate uniforms. A German wit has
said that he wears the uniform of an English Admiral when he visits an
aquarium, and that he dons the uniform of an English Field-Marshal
when he eats an English plum-pudding. Amongst those three hundred
disguises there is none which is more popular in Germany than that of
the Modern Lohengrin bestriding the world in glittering armour. The
Kaiser lacks the democratic gift of humour, and does not seem to be
aware of the incongruity of the Lohengrin masquerade. A Prussian King
cannot honestly play the part of a knight in quest of the Holy Grail.
Chivalry and Prussianism, the crusading spirit and the predatory
spirit, are contradictory terms.

The most exalted Order of the Prussian dynast is the Order of the
Black Eagle. The Hohenzollerns could not have chosen a more fitting
emblem than that of the sinister bird of prey. For they have been
pre-eminently the men of prey amongst modern dynasts. Every province
of their dominions has been stolen from their neighbours. They
secularized and stole the Church property of the Teutonic Order. They
stole Silesia from Austria. They acquired Posen by murdering a noble
nation. They stole Hanover from its lawful rulers. They stole
Schleswig-Holstein from the Danes. They wrested Alsace-Lorraine from
the French.

Circumstances in modern times seem to have singularly favoured their
designs of conquest. To outward appearance they were threatened by
powerful enemies, but those enemies looked far more formidable than
they appeared. On the Far Western boundary, the feeble ecclesiastical
Princes of Cologne, Treves, and Mayence ruled over the smiling fields
and vineyards of the Rhine provinces. On every side Germany was broken
up into petty principalities. The Holy Roman Empire of Germany, which
was neither Holy nor Roman nor German, and which had ceased to be an
empire, was only the shadow of a great name. Austria was perpetually
distracted by internal and external dangers. Poland was an unruly
republic. The very weakness of their neighbours was a temptation to
the Hohenzollern.

The one redoubtable enemy to the Hohenzollern dynasty was Russia. But
after the disastrous defeat of the Seven Years’ War inflicted by
Russian arms, Prussia learned to control by deceit and policy a Power
which she dared not challenge, and could not hope to overcome, on the
battlefield. From the middle of the eighteenth century Prussia
concluded a dynastic alliance with the Russian dynasty. The
Hohenzollerns liberally provided their Russian brethren with German
Princes and Princesses. The Prince of Holstein, who became Tsar Peter
III., was the first German Prince of the Romanov dynasty. The little
Cinderella Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, the future Catherine the Great,
was the first of an uninterrupted line of German Princesses. The
Teutonic barons of the Baltic provinces for one hundred and fifty
years were able to control the Russian foreign policy. Nesselrode for
forty years was the Foreign Minister of the Tsar, although he only
spoke German and did not know a word of Russian. Nicholas I. and
Alexander II., with unswerving loyalty, supported the interests of
their Prussian brother-in-law and nephew.

On two occasions the Russian Tsars actually saved the Hohenzollern
from complete destruction. In 1761, when Russian armies occupied
Berlin, an apologetic Tsar begged to be forgiven for daring to
vanquish his illustrious cousin. In 1807, at Tilsit, Prussia was only
saved from dismemberment through the quixotic intervention of Tsar
Alexander I. And the Russian Tsar proved so powerless against
Prussian intrigues that, although Alexander I. had concluded a close
alliance with Napoleon, the German-Russian Court at St. Petersburg
boycotted Napoleon’s Ambassador, Savary, and eventually succeeded in
breaking the Franco-Russian coalition.

But the Hohenzollerns did not only wage a predatory war for conquest
and spoliation. Their methods have been as predatory as their aims.
War to them was not merely a policy. It was a business, and often a
lucrative business. In the Middle Ages war had been largely a trade. A
huge commerce in prisoners was transacted, and an enterprising Italian
Condottiere would often recoup himself through the ransom of one
single rich prisoner. The Prussians have continued those medieval
methods until this day. _Treitschke lays it down in his “Politik” that
war must be made to pay, and need not exhaust a Prussian Treasury._

The poor Belgians to-day are learning to their cost the full meaning
of those Prussian predatory methods. The Prussian invaders are
extorting millions of money, as well as enormous food-supplies, from a
starving people. They are dislocating whatever remains of the internal
trade. They are breaking up thousands of miles of Belgian railways,
and they are sending them to the Polish theatre of war. But, brutally
as the poor Belgians have been treated, one shudders to think of the
cruelty and the greed of the Prussian in the new conquered Russian
territories, and of the pitiful plight of the Poles and the


Prussia in her fiscal and commercial policy may be called a typical
modern State. The Hohenzollerns have been compelled to utilize all the
resources of commerce and industry, not because they are liberal or
progressive, but merely in order to increase the national revenue, in
order to provide for an ever-swelling military expenditure. On the
contrary, in her political constitution Prussia has remained a
medieval and feudal State. She is the Paradise of the Junker. But
Prussian Junkerthum is not merely a squirearchy of independent
landowners. Mr. Bernard Shaw, in his “Common Sense about the War,” in
which one ounce of common sense is mixed with three ounces of
nonsense, would make us believe that there is little difference
between German Junkerthum and British Junkerthum, and that there is
little to choose between the English Junker, Sir Edward Grey, and a
Pomeranian squire. Mr. Shaw must have studied Prussian conditions to
very little purpose when he makes so ludicrous a comparison. To call
such a quiet, silent country gentleman, such a law-abiding
Parliamentarian as Sir Edward Grey, to call even him a typical
Prussian Junker is a travesty of the facts. A more striking contrast
to the complete Junker of Pomerania than the “Complete Angler” of the
Foreign Office could not well be imagined. The glorified Prussian
Junker is Bismarck. The typical Junker is Prince Blücher. A perfect
modern type is that fiery Freiherr von Oldenburg, who advised the
Kaiser to send a troop of Uhlans, as in the old Cromwellian days, to
clear out the politicians of a disloyal Reichstag.

The Prussian Junkers are the lieges of the war-lord. They are all the
more loyal to the throne as they are poor, and therefore dependent on
the King for their very subsistence. There are few large estates in
Prussia, and they yield but a meagre revenue. The relations of the
Junkers to the Hohenzollerns are the relations of William the
Conqueror to his companions-in-arms. The Junkers originally held their
broad acres, their _Rittergut_, by military tenure. Some of their
feudal privileges have gone, but they continue to be the leading
political power in the State under the Kaiser’s Majesty. They are the
pillars of the throne. They owe military service. To recall the words
of the Sergeant-King, they are “_dem Regiment obligat_.” And they are
rewarded for their military services by privileges innumerable. They
are the controlling influence in the Landtag, which is a
representative assembly only in name. They occupy the higher posts in
the Civil Service and in the Diplomatic Service. In each district the
Landrat is the supreme authority, the electioneering agent of the
Government and the representative of the Prussian King.

And the Junker caste have been as selfish, as rapacious, as their
Hohenzollern overlords. Nothing could be more sordid than their
attitude in the recent campaign for financial reform. They have
shifted the burden of taxation upon the weaker shoulders of the
peasant and artisan. They have compelled von Bülow to reverse the
Liberal Free Trade policy of Caprivi, and to impose heavy corn duties,
merely to increase their own rents.


In a military State like Prussia, which is mainly organized for war,
where war is the vital function, not only does the King hold his power
by the Divine right of the sword, but even in times of peace all
political power is concentrated into his hands: “_L’état c’est moi!_”

In such a State a Parliamentary Government is an absurdity, and, as a
matter of fact, there is no Parliamentary Government, neither in
Prussia nor in the Empire. There is no responsible Cabinet. The
Chancellor is accountable, not to the majority of the Reichstag, but
to the Kaiser. The Germans imagine that because they have the fiction
of universal suffrage they possess the most democratic Government in
Europe. And an enthusiastic German triumphantly reminded me of the
fact at a mass meeting which I recently held in San Francisco on
behalf of the Allies. I reminded him that Bismarck himself has given
us in his “Memoirs” the Machiavellic reasons which induced him to
invent the fiction of universal suffrage. The man of blood and iron
tells us that he only adopted universal suffrage as a temporary device
to convert the German States to the Prussian policy, and as a means of
influencing the people against the federal dynasties.

The Reichstag is essentially different from a British House of
Commons. As a political body it is the most contemptible assembly in
Europe. It is a mere debating club, a convenient machine to vote the
Government taxes. And even the power of voting has been largely taken
from it. It has become part of the German constitutional practice that
the military estimates must be passed without discussion. It is only
considerable increases of the army and navy which have to be submitted
to the Reichstag, and those increases are generally voted for a number
of years. In 1887 a characteristic episode happened. Bismarck had
decided on formidable additions to the army, and he wanted those
additions voted and guaranteed for seven years. The military
“Septennate Law” frightened even a docile Reichstag, and the Catholic
party refused to vote it. Bismarck, who for ten years had fought the
Pope, and who had thundered against the interference of a foreign
ecclesiastical potentate in temporal matters, now asked the Pope to
interfere in favour of the Army Bill. To the discredit of the Papacy,
Leo XIII. fell into the trap. Leo XIII. exerted pressure on the
Catholic party. But they still were recalcitrant. Bismarck and the
Pope proved equally persistent. Finally, at the behest of the Iron
Chancellor and with the assistance of the Vicar of Christ, the
Reichstag passed that fatal military law, which was the beginning of
the colossal European armaments, which were to increase the political
tension of Europe until breaking-point, and which was to result in the
present catastrophe. Thus is Parliamentary Government carried on in
the Empire of the Hohenzollern!

Passive obedience and discipline are the cardinal virtues inculcated
by the Hohenzollern. “_Verboten_,” “_Nicht raisonniren_,” are their
watchwords. A Hohenzollern brooks no opposition. “_Wir bleiben doch
der Herr und Koenig und thun was wir wollen_,” said the
Sergeant-King. And two hundred years after, the Kaiser expresses the
same imperial sentiments: “_Wer mir nicht gehorcht, den zerschmettere
ich_” (Whoever refuses to obey, I shall smash). Bismarck, who created
the German Empire, was dismissed like a lackey. Baron von Stein, who
reformed the Prussian State, and who stands out as the greatest
statesman of his age, was ignominiously dismissed. Ingratitude has
always formed part of the Hohenzollern code of royal ethics.

We are told by the apologists of the Hohenzollern that the same
discipline, the same obedience to duty, are practised by the rulers
themselves. “_Ich Dien_” is the Hohenzollern motto. Of all the
servants of the Prussian State, there is none who serves it more
loyally, more strenuously, than the King of Prussia. “I am the
Commander-in-Chief and the Minister of Finance of the King of
Prussia,” said the Sergeant-King of himself. How often have the
Prussian Kings been held up as shining examples of devotion to duty!
Behold how hard a Hohenzollern King has to work for the State! In the
same way the business man who rules his staff with a rod of iron might
say to his discontented workmen: “See how strenuously I labour for the
success of the business!” The workmen would probably answer that the
ceaseless toil of the business man is not wholly disinterested, that
the millionaire manufacturer is not a philanthropist; and the
apologists of the Hohenzollern might be reminded that a King of
Prussia in every generation has been wont to work mainly for himself.


Treitschke urges as one of the chief claims of the Hohenzollerns that
they have been in modern Europe the champions of the Protestant
religion and at the same time the apostles of toleration. Is not the
Kaiser the supreme head of his Church and the Anointed of the Lord?
Does not he still preach edifying sermons to his soldiers and sailors?
And does he not at the same time extend his Imperial protection over
believers of every creed?

The truth is that the Hohenzollerns have never been the champions of
Protestantism, but have astutely and consistently exploited it for
their own purposes. They did espouse the Lutheran and Calvinistic
faith, but their conversion enabled them to appropriate the vast
dominions of the Church, a spoliation which might have presented some
difficulties if they had remained Catholic. We saw that, during the
Thirty Years’ War, during the supreme crisis of Protestantism, William
George, Elector of Brandenburg, remained neutral and allowed the
Northern hero, Gustavus Adolphus, and Cardinal Richelieu to champion
the cause of the Protestant religion.

Not only did the Hohenzollerns not defend the Protestant religion;
they perverted it and debased it by subjecting it to the Prussian
State. Such subjection is the negation of Protestantism, as it is the
negation of Christianity. Christianity in a political sense has always
meant the separation of the spiritual and the temporal powers. It is
the essence of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism that it actually does
protest. It is of the essence of Nonconformity that it refuses to
conform. Prussian Protestantism has ceased to protest, and conforms to
whatever is demanded by the State. The Lutheran parson is the obedient
servant of the Hohenzollern. “_Cujus regio illius religio_”: spiritual
allegiance must follow temporal allegiance.

The ultimate outcome of the confusion of spiritual and temporal powers
in Prussia has been that Prussia has become the Atheist State, and it
is because the Prussian State is an Atheist State and absolutely
indifferent to the interests of religion that it has come to practise
in its own peculiar way the political virtue of toleration. As the
Prussian wars of conquest had brought together many heterogeneous
populations professing different religions, toleration became a vital
necessity for the State. It is not a virtue of the dynasty, and the
Hohenzollerns certainly deserve no credit for it. The Prussian
doctrine of toleration has always been of a negative and conditional
kind. Prussian Kings have adopted the religious theory of Gibbon. All
religions are equally true to the believer. They are equally true to
the unbeliever. _They are equally useful to the State._

All religions have proved equally useful and have been exploited with
equal indifference by the Prussian dynasty. The attitude of Frederick
the Great to religion is characteristic of the Hohenzollern attitude.
Frederick the Great was surrounded by a band of French, Swiss, and
Scottish Atheists. His main relaxation from the cares of State was to
bandy cynical and obscene jests on Christianity with the Table Round
at the private supper-parties of Potsdam. But his royal hatred and
contempt for all positive religion did not prevent him from cordially
inviting the Jesuits to his dominions because he found them useful
pedagogues to teach and conciliate his newly conquered Polish
subjects. It is one of the paradoxes of history that the same
religious order which had been suppressed by the Pope and expelled by
the Catholic Kings of France and Spain was protected by the Atheist
King of Prussia and the Atheist Empress of Russia. According to the
same opportunist Hohenzollern tradition, Bismarck in turn fought the
Pope, imprisoned Bishops and Cardinals, and then used the influence of
the Pope and the hierarchy to further his Machiavellian policy. Even
so in more recent times the Kaiser appeared at one and the same time
as a devout pilgrim to the Holy Land, as the special friend of Abdul
Hamid—Abdul the Damned—and as the self-appointed protector of three
hundred million Mohammedans.


We have analyzed the principles which ever directed the Prussian
State. We have described the characteristics of the Hohenzollern
dynasty who created that Prussian State. How is it that the German
nation should have surrendered their destinies to a power which is so
constitutionally selfish, so inherently evil, which has trampled down
all the principles that a modern world holds dear and sacred?

The subjection of Germany to Prussia has been a triumph of
Hohenzollern diplomacy and deceit, and has been the outcome of a
tragic misunderstanding on the part of a politically uneducated and
inexperienced people. The German people were tired of their political
impotence, of their miserable dynastic quarrels, of their abject
subservience to their parasitic princelings. The German people, broken
up in a hundred petty States, had the legitimate and praiseworthy
ambition of becoming a united people. German unity had been for
generations a cherished dream of German patriots. History had
abundantly proved that the Austrian Empire could not assist in the
realization of that dream. Then came the opportunity of the Prussian
tempter. Prussia offered her mighty sword. Prussia alone had the
military power and a strong political organization. The German States
yielded to the temptation. They trusted that, in concluding an
alliance with Prussia, they would retain their liberties. Indeed, they
hoped that once German unity was realized, Germany would assimilate
and absorb the Prussian State. Alas! it was the Hohenzollern State
which was to annex and subject the German Empire. Little did the
Germans know Prussian tenacity. Little did they know the rapacity of
the Black Eagle. Still less did they know the black magic of the
necromancer Bismarck.

Treitschke reminds us in his “Politik” of an incident which is
characteristic of the relation of the German Empire to Prussia. On one
occasion even Bismarck, the Prussian Junker, expressed a misgiving
that a particular law would not be acceptable to the Federal States of
the Empire. Emperor William contemptibly dismissed the objection. “Why
should the Federal States object when they are only the prolongation
of Prussia?” Treitschke, the Saxon, accepts the Prussian theory of
Emperor William. He tells us proudly that the Federal States have
ceased to be independent States—indeed, that they have lost the
essential characteristics of a State, that they are only called States
by courtesy, that there is only one State in the German Empire, and
that all the other Federal communities only continue their precarious
existence by virtue and with the consent of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

It is one of the most appalling misunderstandings of history. Like
Faust, the German people have sold their soul to Mephistopheles:
Bismarck. And they have sold it for power. They are now paying the
price. As in the wonderful old ballad of Burger, the Prussian horseman
has taken the maiden “Germania” on his saddle. The death’s-head hussar
has carried her away on his wild career through space until he has
brought her to the gates of Hell.

It has thus been the fate of the German nation, as of other European
nations, to work and fight for the aggrandizement of the King of
Prussia. A section of the people, the Social Democrats and the
Liberals, have made fitful and impotent efforts to free themselves
from the tyranny of the Hohenzollern. What they have not succeeded in
doing, Europe is now doing for them. In the fulness of time, Europe
has arisen to crush the Hohenzollern, to kill the “Spirit of the
Prussian Hive.” The war will result in the enfranchisement of Germany
as it will result in the enfranchisement of Poland and Serbia. Did the
history of the world ever present so tragic a paradox? Twelve million
heroes are fighting the German Government. Millions of the manhood of
the civilized world are laying down their lives on all the
battlefields of Europe and all the high seas of the world, mainly in
order to make the German people free.


In 1807, after the crushing defeat inflicted by Napoleon on the
Prussian armies at Jena, when the Military Monarchy crumbled to pieces
in one day like a house of cards, Joseph de Maistre, the most profound
and the most prophetic political thinker of his age, wrote the
following significant lines from St. Petersburg. To realize the full
significance of the judgment, one must remember that Count de Maistre
was a fanatic supporter of the old monarchic order. He hated Napoleon
with a bitter hatred, but he hated Prussia more:

“Ever since I have started to reason, I have felt a special aversion
for Frederick II., whom a frenzied generation has been in a hurry to
proclaim a great man, but who was really no more than a _great
Prussian_. Posterity will consider this Prince as one of the greatest
enemies of the human species that has ever lived. His monarchy, which
had inherited his spirit, had become an argument against Providence.
To-day that argument has been converted into a tangible proof of
eternal justice. This famous structure built with blood and mud, with
debased coin and base libels, has crumbled in the twinkle of an

    [12] De Maistre, “Lettres et Opuscules.”

Those words were written exactly one hundred and ten years ago, and
the world is once more anxiously looking forward to another Jena which
will deal a final blow to the Hohenzollern monarchy. When that
catastrophe comes, Europe, enlightened by the awful experiences of the
last hundred years, and delivered from the black magic of the
political necromancers of Potsdam, will unanimously echo the prophetic
judgment pronounced by Joseph de Maistre. For to-day, even more than
in 1807, Prussia has become an “argument against Providence.” Even
more than in 1807 the Prussia of 1917 “is built with blood and mud.”
Even more than in 1807 the chastisement of Prussia is demanded by
“eternal justice.” The whole civilized world will breathe more freely
when the sinister and diabolical power will be broken for ever and
will oppress and degrade humanity no more.




The English reader is now in possession of a complete translation of
Nietzsche, in the admirable edition published by T. N. Foulis, and
edited by Oscar Levy, of which the eighteenth and concluding volume
has just appeared. To the uninitiated I would recommend as an
introductory study: (1) Professor Lichtenberger’s volume; (2)
Ludovici, “Nietzsche” (1s., Constable), with a suggestive preface by
Dr. Levy; (3) the very useful summary of Mr. Mügge—an excellent
number in an excellent series (Messrs. Jack’s “People’s Books”); (4)
Dr. Barry’s chapter in the “Heralds of Revolt,” giving the Catholic
point of view; (5) Mrs. Förster-Nietzsche, “The Young Nietzsche”; and
(6) an essay by the present writer, published as far back as 1897, and
which, therefore, may at least claim the distinction of having been
one of the first to draw attention in Great Britain to the great
German writer. But a searching estimate of Nietzsche in English still
remains to be written. And there is only one man that could write it,
and that man is Mr. Gilbert K. Chesterton. I confidently prophesy that
a study of Nietzsche, if he has the courage to undertake it, will be
Mr. Chesterton’s greatest book. He will find in the German heretic a
foe worthy of his steel.


Like the history of most great thinkers, like the history of Kant and
Schopenhauer, the biography of Nietzsche is totally barren of
incident, and can be disposed of in a few lines. Born in 1844,
apparently of noble Polish extraction (“Nizky” in Polish means
humble), the son of a clergyman, and the descendant on both sides of a
long line of clergymen, the future “Anti-Christ” spent an exemplary,
studious, and strenuous youth. After serving his time in the army—he
was considered one of the best riders of his regiment—and after a
brilliant University career at Bonn and Leipzig, he was appointed, at
twenty-four years of age, Professor of Greek in the University of
Bale. His academic activity extended over eleven years, and was only
interrupted in 1870 by a few months’ service in the Ambulance Corps,
during the Franco-German War.

His first book, “The Birth of Tragedy,” appeared in 1871. Like most of
his books, it was published at his own expense, and, like most of his
books, it did not find a public. The three first parts of his
masterpiece, “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” were such a desperate failure
that Nietzsche only ventured to print fifty copies of the fourth and
concluding part, and he printed them merely for private circulation
amongst his friends, but he only disposed of seven copies!

In 1879 he resigned, owing to ill-health, with a pension of £120.
After his retirement he spent a nomadic life wandering from Nice to
Venice, and from the Engadine to Sicily, ever in quest of health and
sunshine, racked by neuralgia and insomnia, still preaching in the
desert, still plunging deeper and deeper into solitude. And as the
world refused to listen to him, Nietzsche became more and more
convinced of the value of his message. His last book, “Ecce Homo,” an
autobiography, contains all the premonitory symptoms of the
threatening tragedy. It is mainly composed of such headings as the
following: “Why I am so Wise,” “Why I am so Clever,” “Why I write such
Excellent Books,” and “Why I am a Fatalist.”

Alas! fatality was soon to shatter the wise and clever man who wrote
those excellent books. In 1889 Nietzsche went mad. For eleven years he
lingered on in private institutions and in the house of his old mother
at Naumburg. He died in 1900, when his name and fame had radiated over
the civilized world, and when the young generation in Germany was
hailing him as the herald of a new age. England, as usually happens in
the case of Continental thinkers, was the last European country to
feel his influence; but in recent years that influence has been
rapidly gaining ground, even in England, a fact abundantly proved by
the great and startling success of the complete edition of his works.


Most writers on Nietzsche—and they are legion—begin with extolling
him as a prophet or abusing him as a lunatic. I submit that before we
extol or abuse, our first duty is to understand. And we can no longer
evade that duty. We cannot afford any longer to ignore or dismiss the
most powerful force in Continental literature, on the vain pretence
that the author was mad, as if the greatest French thinker of the
eighteenth century, Rousseau, and the greatest thinker of the
nineteenth century, Auguste Comte, had not fallen victims to the same

And, on the whole, Nietzsche is not difficult to understand, although
there has arisen a host of commentators to obscure his meaning,
although Nietzsche himself delights in expressing himself in the form
of cryptic and mystic aphorism, although he continuously contradicts
himself. But apart from those difficulties, his message is strikingly
simple and his personality is singularly transparent. And his message
and his personality are one. He is a convincing illustration of
Fichte’s dictum, that any great system of philosophy is the outcome,
not of the intellect, but of a man’s character. Nietzsche is not a
metaphysician like Hegel, whom he abhorred. He is not a
“logic-grinder,” like Mill, whom he despised. He is a moralist, like
the French, whom he loved. His culture and learning were French even
more than German. He was steeped in Montaigne, to whom he has paid a
glowing tribute in “Schopenhauer as Educationalist.” He was a careful
student of the great French classics of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. He read and annotated Guyau, with whom he had
many points in common. By a curious coincidence, a few years before
the advent of Nietzsche, a great French thinker had anticipated every
one of Nietzsche’s doctrines, and had expressed them in one of the
most striking books of the French language. And by an even more
curious paradox, whilst every European critic devotes himself to-day
to the interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy, they systematically
ignore—as Nietzsche himself ignored—the masterpiece of the


Let us, then, first keep in mind that Nietzsche is not a metaphysician
or a logician, but he is pre-eminently a moralist. His one aim is to
revise our moral values and to establish new values in their place.
For Nietzsche does both. There are two poles to his thought. He is an
iconoclast, but he is also a hero-worshipper. He is a herald of
revolt, but he is also a constructive thinker. Even in his earliest
work, “Thoughts out of Season,” whilst he destroys the two popular
idols of the day, the theologian and the historian, he sets up two new
heroes, Schopenhauer and Wagner.


We have said that Nietzsche’s philosophy is strikingly simple. Its
whole kernel can be expressed in two words. He is a systematic pagan,
and he is an uncompromising aristocrat. As a pagan, he is a
consistent enemy of Christianity. As an aristocrat, he is a bitter
opponent of democracy. He proclaims that Anti-Christ has appeared in
his own person. He hails the advent of the Superman.

First, he is a pagan, a pagan of Greece, or, rather, a pagan of the
Renascence, and, as a pagan, he considers Christianity the real enemy.
Christianity denies life; Nietzsche asserts it. Christianity mainly
thinks of the future world; Nietzsche has his feet firmly planted on
Mother Earth. Christianity glorifies meekness and humility; Nietzsche
glorifies pride and self-assertion. Christianity defends the poor and
the weak; Nietzsche contends that the strong alone have a right to
live. Christianity blesses the peacemakers; Nietzsche extols the
warriors. Christianity is the religion of human suffering; Nietzsche
is a worshipper of life, and proclaims the joyful science, _die
fröhliche Wissenschaft_, the _gaya scienza_.

It is impossible within the limits of a short article to discuss
Nietzsche’s view of Christianity. We are concerned here not with
discussion, but with exposition. At an early opportunity we hope to
deal at some length in the columns of _Everyman_ with Nietzsche’s
criticism of Christianity. For the present, let it be sufficient to
say that no theologian would be prepared to accept his interpretation
of the Christian religion. The everlasting conflict of spirit against
sense and brutal force, which is the essence of Christianity, is
hardly conducive to passivity. It is, on the contrary, a consistent
discipline in modern heroism. There is not much meekness about the
Jesuits or the warrior Popes. Nor is there much melancholy about St.
Francis of Assisi or St. Theresa. The only smiling countenance in a
hospital is the Sister of Mercy. The only active resisters under the
despotism of Henry VIII. were Sir Thomas More and a broken
octogenarian priest, Cardinal Fisher.


The same fundamental instinct or principle, the same defiant optimism,
the same exultation in the pride of life, which makes Nietzsche into
an opponent of Christianity, also makes him into an opponent of
democracy. The same belief in force, in the will to power, which makes
Nietzsche into a pagan, also makes him into an aristocrat. For the
political expression of Christianity must needs be democracy. We are
democrats because we are Christians, because we believe in the
essential dignity of man. On the contrary, the political outcome of
paganism must needs be despotism and aristocracy. We believe in
despotism and aristocracy because we believe in the natural inequality
of man, because we believe in force and pride and self-assertion, in
the power of the strong to oppress the weak. Nietzsche is against the
oppressed and for the oppressor; for the Superman against humanity.
For in Nietzsche’s view an aristocracy is the ultimate purpose of

But Nietzsche is not an aristocrat, like the ordinary Darwinian. He
does not believe in the survival of the fittest, like the typical
evolutionist. He does not believe that a survival of the fittest will
come about mechanically by the mere play of blind forces. Regression
is as natural as progression. No one has pointed this out more
convincingly than Huxley in his “Evolution and Ethics.” The progress
of the race is not natural, but artificial and accidental and
precarious. Therefore Nietzsche believes in artificial selection. The
Superman is not born, he must be bred. Nietzsche is the spiritual
father and forerunner of the Eugenists.

And he is also the spiritual father of the Imperialists and latter-day
Militarists. The gospel of the inequality of the individual implies
the gospel of the inequality of race. The gospel of Nietzsche has not
only been anticipated by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, but by his much more
influential German namesake, Mr. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the
author whose books the Kaiser liberally distributed amongst his
Generals and advisers. The doctrine of force, the belief in the German
people as the salt of the earth, the self-gratification of the modern
Teuton, can be traced directly to the influence of Zarathustra, and it
is significant that the latest German exponent of Imperialism, General
von Bernhardi, should have selected an aphorism of Nietzsche as the
quintessence of his political philosophy:

“War and courage have achieved more great things than the love of our
neighbour. It is not your sympathy, but your bravery, which has
hitherto saved the shipwrecked of existence.

“‘What is good?’ you ask. ‘To be braced is good.’”[13]

    [13] Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” First Part, 10th


Quite apart from any elements of truth contained in Nietzsche’s
ethics, the first reason for his popularity is, no doubt, the
perfection of his form and style. Nietzsche is one of the supreme
masters of language, in a literature which counts very few masters of
language, and the beauty of his style is transparent even in the
disguise of a foreign translation.

The second reason is that Nietzsche, who imagined that he was fighting
against the times, was in reality thinking with the times, and he has
met with a ready response, in the dominant instincts of the present
age, in the aggressive materialism, in the race for wealth and power.
The Supermen and the Super-races of to-day only too cordially accept a
philosophy which seems to justify extortion, aggression, and
oppression in the name of a supreme moral principle.

The third and most important reason, and the real secret of
Nietzsche’s influence, is the fine quality of his moral personality.
However much we may be repelled by the thinker, we are attracted by
the magnetism of the man, by his noble courage, by his splendid
integrity, by his love of truth, his hatred of cant. Even though he
has himself misunderstood Christianity, he has done a great deal to
bring us back to the fundamental ideals of the Christian religion. He
has done a great deal to undermine that superficial and “rose-water”
view of Christianity current in official and academic Protestant
circles. He has done a great deal to convince us that whatever may be
the essence of Christianity, it has nothing in common with that silly
and pedantic game which, for half a century, has made Eternal Religion
depend on the conclusions of “Higher Criticism,” and which has made
theology and philosophy the handmaidens of archæology and philology.

Nietzsche is a formidable foe of Christianity, but he is a magnanimous
foe, who certainly brings us nearer to a comprehension of the inmost
meaning of the very doctrines he attacks. And it is quite possible
that the Christian champion of the future may incorporate Nietzsche in
his apologetics, even as St. Thomas Aquinas incorporated Aristotle,
even as Pascal incorporated Montaigne. It was in the fitness of things
that Nietzsche should be the descendant of a long line of Protestant
ministers. For, indeed, he is the last of the true German Protestants,
ever ready to protest and to defy and to challenge. He is the noblest
of modern German heretics.



There is a continuity and heredity in the transmission of ideas as
there is in the transmission of life. Each great thinker has a
spiritual posterity, which for centuries perpetuates his doctrine and
his moral personality. And there is no keener intellectual enjoyment
than to trace back to their original progenitors one of those mighty
and original systems which are the milestones in the history of human

It is with such a spiritual transmission that I am concerned in the
present paper. I would like to establish the intimate connection which
exists between Montaigne and Nietzsche, between the greatest of French
moralists and the greatest of Germans. A vast literature has grown up
in recent years round the personality and works of Nietzsche, which
would already fill a moderately sized library. It is therefore strange
that no critic should have emphasized and explained the close
filiation between him and Montaigne. It is all the more strange
because Nietzsche himself has acknowledged his debt to the “Essays”
with a frankness which leaves no room to doubt.

To anyone who knows how careful Nietzsche was to safeguard his
originality, such an acknowledgment is in itself sufficient proof of
the immense power which Montaigne wielded over Nietzsche at a decisive
and critical period of his intellectual development. But only a
systematic comparison could show that we have to do here with
something more than a mental stimulus and a quickening of ideas, that
Montaigne’s “Essays” have provided the foundations of Nietzsche’s
philosophy, and that the Frenchman may rightly be called, and in a
very definite sense, the “spiritual father” of the German.


At first sight this statement must appear paradoxical, and a first
reading of the two writers reveals their differences rather than their
resemblances. The one strikes us as essentially the sane; the other,
even in his first books, reveals that lack of mental balance which
was to terminate in insanity. The one is a genial sceptic; the other
is a fanatic dogmatist. To Montaigne life is a comedy; to his disciple
life is a tragedy. The one philosophizes with a smile; the other, to
use his own expression, philosophizes with a hammer. The one is a
Conservative; the other is a herald of revolt. The one is
constitutionally moderate and temperate; the other is nearly always
extreme and violent in his judgment. The one is a practical man of the
world; the other is a poet and a dreamer and a mystic. The one is
quaintly pedantic, and his page is often a mosaic of quotations; the
other is supremely original. The one is profuse in his professions of
loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church; the other calls himself


There can be no doubt that if the characteristics which we have just
referred to belonged essentially to Montaigne, there would be little
affinity between the thought of Nietzsche and that of Montaigne. And
it would be impossible to account for the magnetic attraction which
drew Nietzsche to the study of the “Essays,” and for the enthusiasm
with which they inspired him. But I am convinced that those
characteristics are not the essential characteristics. I am convinced
that there is another Montaigne who has nothing in common with the
Montaigne of convention and tradition. I am convinced that the
scepticism, the Conservatism, the irony, the moderation, the
affectation of humility, frivolity, pedantry, and innocent candour,
are only a mask and disguise which Montaigne has put on to conceal his
identity, that they are only so many tricks and dodges to lead the
temporal and spiritual powers off the track, and to reassure them as
to his orthodoxy. I am convinced that beneath and beyond the Montaigne
of convention and tradition there is another much bigger and much
deeper Montaigne, whose identity would have staggered his
contemporaries, and would have landed him in prison. And it is this
unconventional and real Montaigne who is the spiritual father of

It is obviously impossible, within the limits of a brief paper, to
prove this far-reaching statement and to establish the existence of an
esoteric and profound meaning in the “Essays.” I shall only refer to a
passage which is ignored by most commentators, which has been added in
the posthumous edition, in which Montaigne himself admits such a
double and esoteric meaning, and which seems to me to give the key to
the interpretation of the “Essays”:

“I know very well that when I hear anyone dwell upon the language of
my essays, I had rather a great deal he would say nothing: ’tis not so
much to elevate the style as to depress the sense, and so much the
more offensively as they do it obliquely; and yet I am much deceived
if many other writers deliver more worth noting as to the matter, and,
how well or ill soever, if any other writer has sown things much more
material, or at all events more downright, upon his paper than myself.
To bring the more in, I only muster up the heads; should I annex the
sequel I should trebly multiply the volume. And how many stories have
I scattered up and down in this book, that I only touch upon, which,
should anyone more curiously search into, they would find matter
enough to produce infinite essays. Neither those stories nor my
quotations always serve simply for example, authority, or ornament; I
do not only regard them for the use I make of them; they carry
sometimes, besides what I apply them to, the seed of a more rich and a
bolder matter, and sometimes, collaterally, a more delicate sound,
both to myself, who will say no more about it in this place, and to
others who shall be of my humour.”


The real and esoteric Montaigne is, like Nietzsche, a herald of
revolt, one of the most revolutionary thinkers of all times. And the
Gascon philosopher who philosophizes with a smile is far more
dangerous than the Teuton who philosophizes with a hammer. The
corrosive acid of his irony is more destructive than the violence of
the other. Like Nietzsche, Montaigne transvalues all our moral values.
Nothing is absolute; everything is relative. There is no law in

“The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature,
proceed from custom; everyone having an inward veneration for the
opinions and manners approved and received amongst his own people,
cannot, without very great reluctance, depart from them, nor apply
himself to them without applause.”

There is no absolute law in politics. And one form of government is as
good as another.

“Such people as have been bred up to liberty, and subject to no other
dominion but the authority of their own will, look upon all other
forms of government as monstrous and contrary to nature. Those who are
inured to monarchy do the same; and what opportunity soever fortune
presents them with to change, even then, when with the greatest
difficulties they have disengaged themselves from one master, that was
troublesome and grievous to them, they presently run, with the same
difficulties, to create another; being unable to take into hatred
subjection itself.”

There is no law in religion. There is no justification in patriotism.
The choice of religion is not a matter of conscience or of reason, but
of custom and climate. We are Christians by the same title as we are
Perigordins or Germans.


If to destroy all human principles and illusions is to be a sceptic,
Montaigne is the greatest sceptic that ever existed. But Montaigne’s
scepticism is only a means to an end. On the ruin of all philosophies
and religions Montaigne, like Nietzsche, has built up a dogmatism of
his own. The foundation of that dogmatism in both is an unbounded
faith in life and in nature. Like Nietzsche, Montaigne is an optimist.
At the very outset of the “Essays” he proclaims the joy of life. He
preaches the _gaya scienza_, the _fröhliche Wissenschaft_. All our
sufferings are due to our departing from the teachings of Nature. The
chapter on cannibalism, from which Shakespeare has borrowed a famous
passage in “The Tempest,” and which has probably suggested the
character of Caliban, must be taken in literal sense. The savage who
lives in primitive simplicity comes nearer to Montaigne’s ideal of
perfection than the philosopher and the saint.


And this brings us to the fundamental analogy between Nietzsche and
Montaigne. Like the German, the Frenchman is a pure pagan. Here,
again, we must not be misled by the innumerable professions of faith,
generally added in later editions and not included in the edition of
1580. Montaigne is uncompromisingly hostile to Christianity. His
Catholicism must be understood as the Catholicism of Auguste Comte,
defined by Huxley—namely, Catholicism minus Christianity. He
glorifies suicide. He abhors the self-suppression of asceticism; he
derides chastity, humility, mortification—every virtue which we are
accustomed to associate with the Christian faith. He glorifies
self-assertion and the pride of life. Not once does he express even
the most remote sympathy for the heroes of the Christian Church, for
the saints and martyrs. On the other hand, again and again he indulges
in lyrical raptures for the achievements of the great men of Greece
and Rome. He is an intellectual aristocrat. His ideal policy is the
policy of the Spartans—“almost miraculous in its perfection.” His
ideal man is the pagan hero—the superman of antiquity—Alcibiades,
Epaminondas, Alexander, Julius Cæsar.


    [14] Treitschke, “History of Germany,” Vols. I. and II.
    (Jarrold.) Treitschke, “Politics,” with Introduction by A. J.
    Balfour: 2 vols, (Constable, London.)

There is a most baneful delusion which has misled the Allies from the
beginning of the war, and which is still being acted on after three
years of a desperate struggle—namely, that we are mainly fighting a
sinister political dynasty and a formidable political machine
constructed with all the diabolical ingenuity and armed with all the
resources of the destructive genius of man. If, indeed, we had only
been confronted by the Kaiser and his paladins, or only threatened by
his military machine, the war would long ago have been ended—if not
by the Allies, then by the German people themselves. Millions of
people, however loyal, do not allow themselves to be slaughtered for a
dynast, even though that dynast claims to be a Superman, even though he
be called Prince of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen or Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt,
even though he be called Prince Henry XXI. of Reuss of the younger
branch or Prince Henry LXXXVIII. of Reuss of the older branch. Whole
nations do not indefinitely submit to being the slaves of a machine,
however diabolical and however perfect. The truth is that behind the
German princes and princelings and Junkers there is the resolve of a
united people. Behind the Prussian machine there is the driving power
of tremendous spiritual and moral forces, of an inflexible purpose, of
a compelling idealism, of a mystical creed accepted with more than
Mohammedan fanaticism. It is that national purpose, it is those
spiritual forces, which explain the unconquerable pride of the German
people, as evil and as lofty as the pride of Satan in “Paradise Lost.”
It is these which explain their devotion and self-sacrifice, it is
these which explain the Teutonic legions marching to their doom
singing their hymns of love as well as their hymns of hatred. It is
these which explain the two million volunteers which in August, 1914,
went to swell the huge German conscript armies. It is the obsession of
that mystical German creed which explains the epic achievements of the
German offensive and the even more astounding achievements of the
German defensive. We may continue to denounce the crimes of Germany
and the atrocities of the German soldiery—and I have personally
denounced them until my readers must have got sick of my
denunciations. But there is nothing particularly mysterious in crimes
and atrocities, and crimes and atrocities alone do not help to explain
the German soul. Crimes and atrocities do not make us understand how
even to-day the German hosts are still able to challenge a whole world
in arms.

Let us, then, take in the vital fact that after three years those
German spiritual forces, those perverted German ideals, remain the
most formidable obstacle in our path. We may continue to destroy the
German armies by the slow process of attrition, and we may continue to
sacrifice the flower of our youth until the process is completed. We
may trust to our superiority in money-power and in man-power, but
unless we also break the moral power of German ideals, unless we
exorcise the spell which possesses the German mind, unless we triumph
in the spiritual contest as well as in the battle of tanks and
howitzers, unless we overthrow the idols which successive generations
of great teachers and preachers have imposed on a susceptible,
receptive, and docile people, there will be no early settlement, nor,
however long belated, can there ever be a lasting peace.

The foregoing remarks may justify the following attempt to interpret
and to make intelligible, even to the most inattentive reader, the
creed of one of the most powerful of those teachers and preachers who
have taken such mysterious and uncanny possession of the soul of the
German nation. Before 1914 none except a few initiated had ever heard
of Treitschke. Since 1914 he has become a household name and a name of
evil import. But to the immense majority of readers that name, however
familiar and ominous, remains an empty name. _Nomen flatus vocis._ And
even those to whom the name conveys something more definite do not
trouble about its meaning. With that strange disbelief in the power of
ideas which is one of our lamentable weaknesses, and which even the
war has not been able to cure, even yet we have not brought ourselves
to take seriously those terrible theories which have burnt themselves
into the Teutonic imagination. And so indifferent have we remained to
doctrines so far-reaching and so deadly that the recent publication of
an excellent English translation of Treitschke’s “German History,” one
of the masterpieces of historical literature, has had to be suspended
for the incredible reason that there was no British public to read

On approaching the study of Treitschke’s works, we are at once
impressed by the inexorable logic of his political and moral creed.
There is, perhaps, no other instance of a system so splendidly
consistent in its principles. We are told that the great French
naturalist, Cuvier, was able to reconstruct the whole anatomy of an
animal merely through examining the structure of a tooth or the
fragment of a bone. Applying to the German historian the method which
Cuvier applied to the antediluvian mastodon, we can reduce the whole
complex political philosophy of Treitschke from a few fundamental
principles which he follows with a single mind, and which the Prussian
State has applied with an equally relentless consistency both in its
internal and in its foreign policy.

It is this magnificent consistency, this confident dogmatism, which
gives us the secret of the enormous influence of Treitschke on his
countrymen, as it explains the hypnotism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on a
previous generation. I do not think it would be easy to overestimate
the extent of that influence. It is true that in one sense
Treitschke’s political philosophy only expresses the Prussian policy,
and that he did not create it. But when a political ideal is expounded
with such clarity and such force, when it is propagated with such
enthusiasm, when it takes such exclusive hold of the mind, it becomes
a hundred times more efficient and more dangerous; it acquires the
compelling force and inspires the fanaticism of religion. Those
readers who will follow Treitschke’s close reasoning to the end will
probably agree with me that the political creed of which he has been
the apostle and prophet is substantially the same creed which has
plunged Europe into the present world war, and that, more than any one
thinker, much more certainly than Nietzsche, Treitschke must be held
responsible for the catastrophe.

I have confined myself to expounding the doctrines of Treitschke. I
have not attempted to refute them. It is not my object to denounce:
there is always a sufficient number of publicists ever ready to
undertake the task of denunciation. I am only trying to understand.
Nor have I dwelt on any side-issues. I have restricted myself to those
simple and fundamental axioms which have directed the policy of
Prussia. Almost invariably in human history it is only the simple,
sweeping dogmas which obtain universal acceptance.


There exist in the realm of fiction certain literary types which are
an equal joy to the creative artist and to the student of human
nature. There are certain malignant diseases which are an inspiration
to the pathologist. And there are criminal cases which are a
revelation to the lawyer: test cases which lead up to new discoveries
and illustrate fundamental principles. What those classical types of
Balzac or Dostoievski are to the critic, what those diseases and
criminal cases are to the surgeon and the lawyer, the writings of
Treitschke are to the student of history and politics; they throw a
new and vivid light on the dark and hidden depths of the Prussian
mind. They reveal like no other German writings the meaning of German
policy, the spirit which inspires it. They explain what without them
would have remained unexplained. He is much more than the historian of
the Prussian State, he is the champion of its ideals. Much better than
Bismarck, or the Kaiser, or than the “Clown Prince,” he makes clear to
us the aims and the aspirations of the Hohenzollern monarchy and of
the German nation.

In the history of literature and thought it is given to but very few
writers thus to become the spokesmen of a whole people. To achieve
such importance a writer must possess many qualifications. He must
possess a strong and dominating character. He must be a great literary
artist. He must be a clear, a bold, and an independent thinker. The
following pages will show in how eminent a degree Treitschke possessed
all those qualities and how unreservedly they were placed at the
service of the Prussian cause.


The first quality which challenges attention is the commanding
strength of his personality. He combines the most contradictory gifts:
the temperament of the artist, the imagination of the poet, the
inspiring faith of the idealist, the practical sense of the realist,
and the enthusiasm of the apostle. He always impresses you with that
magnetic sense of power into which Carlyle impresses his readers. Like
Carlyle, he is a firm believer in the heroic, and he has himself the
temper of a hero. Three of his volumes of essays bear the significant
title, “Deutsche Kämpfe” (“German Battles”). All through his career
Treitschke has been fighting his patriotic battles. Obsessed by his
ideals, he always has the courage of his convictions, and is always
ready to suffer for them. In his early youth he had a painful quarrel
with his father, a Saxon General and a loyal servant of the Saxon
dynasty, because the son would not refrain from his attacks on Saxon
“particularism” and would not abstain from championing the Prussian
cause. Treitschke never evades a difficulty. He is never swayed by
outside influences. He never dreads contradiction. When facts do not
tally with his favourite theories, he brushes them away. And he never
accepts any compromise. He is all made of one piece. He has the
hardness of granite. He has never been afraid of unpopularity. He has
always been a loyal friend and an equally staunch hater.


“Le style est l’homme.” Never was Buffon’s dictum more strikingly
verified, and never did any literary style reveal so completely the
personality of the man. Treitschke’s style is imperious and
aggressive. It has the ring of the General who gives the word of
command. His sentences are not involved, as German sentences generally
are. They are pregnant and concise. Treitschke often reminds one of a
writer whom of all others he most cordially detests. Like Heine,
Treitschke is incisive, epigrammatic. His phrase has always muscle and
nerve: it has warmth and fervour. Treitschke has not the gift of
humour. A German seldom possesses that redeeming gift. But he wields
the weapon of trenchant irony with terrible force, and he adds the
poet’s power of vision and the true historian’s sense of reality and
sense of individuality. He has Macaulay’s gift of orderly narrative.
He is equally masterly in describing a battle scene, a meeting of
diplomatists, a revolutionary movement. His picture of the Congress of
Vienna is unsurpassed in historical literature. Like Saint-Simon, he
can sum up a character in a few lines. German historians are seldom
skilful portrait-painters. Treitschke forms an exception. His
portraits of Talleyrand, of Metternich, of Tsar Alexander I., of
Leopold I., King of the Belgians, are masterpieces of the literary


But all those artistic gifts would not have given him his commanding
influence in the world of practical politics if he had not added the
gifts of clear thinking and luminous exposition, which are so very
rare in Germany. Treitschke is essentially an honest and systematic
thinker. As Professor of History in the University of Berlin, he was
accustomed to make intricate and abstract subjects interesting and
intelligible to vast audiences of students. We are never left in any
doubt as to his inner meaning. He always goes straight to the point.
There are no equivocations or mental reservations. He has the brevity
but none of the ambiguity of the lawgiver. There are no gaps in his
reasoning. He moves from one point to another in orderly sequence. Our
intellectual and artistic joy in following the severe and simple
outline of his political system is only marred by the thought of the
appalling practical consequences of those doctrines.

And not only is he a clear thinker. He is also an original and
independent thinker. He has not the professional taint of the German
pedant. He has the German professor’s minute knowledge of concrete
facts, and his doctrinaire love of abstract principles, but he is not
a mere scholar and teacher. He always remains the man of the world,
and he brings to the consideration of historical problems the
practical experience which he gained as a journalist and as a member
of the Reichstag. He does not apply any conventional standards to his
judgments of men and events. He looks at everything from his own
angle. There is a delightful freshness about everything he writes. He
believes that the first duty of an historian is to be partial. He
always follows a bias, but it is his own bias. In his German history
he has not been content with digging up thousands of new facts from
the recesses of German records; he gives his own interpretation to the
facts. He has no respect for established fame, for existing theories.
He delights in shocking his readers. In his “Götzendämmerung,” or
“Twilight of the Gods,” Nietzsche has shown us how to “philosophize
with a hammer.” Treitschke has written history with a hammer, and all
his writings are strewn with the fragments of broken idols and
shattered reputations.


All Treitschke’s activities have centred round one subject: the
history and policy of the Prussian State. All his loyalties are given
to one cause, the supremacy of the German Empire led by the Prussian
State. He has been a voluminous writer, and he has written on the most
varied subjects. But all those subjects have only been taken up with
the one object of elucidating Prussian problems and directing Prussian
policy. His studies on Federalism, on the United Netherlands—by far
the most suggestive survey of Dutch history which has so far been
attempted—are intended to solve the problem of the relation of
Prussia to the Federal States of the German Empire. His study on
Cavour and Italian unity was undertaken as an introduction to the
study of German unity. His admirable monograph on that strange and
unique military theocracy of the Teutonic order was an essay on the
early history of Prussia. His volume on Bonapartism was a study of the
chief political opponent of Prussian supremacy. Briefly, all his
volumes of essays have been preparatory to his life-work, the history
of Germany, and the history of Germany itself is always kept
subordinate to the history of the Prussian State.


It is much to be regretted that the British public should have been
first introduced to Treitschke’s “History of Germany.” The “History of
Germany” is, no doubt, the most important and the most monumental,
but it is by no means the most interesting nor the most significant of
Treitschke’s writings. German history could never be as arresting to a
Continental student as British or French history. It is not mixed up
with universal events. It is too parochial. It does not evoke human
sympathy. With all the magic of Treitschke’s art, we feel that we are
following, not the great highway, but one of the by-ways of history.
We cannot get absorbed in the petty quarrels of the princelings of the
German Federation. Of the five volumes of Treitschke’s “German
History,” the only part which is of general interest is the first
volume, dealing with the rise of Prussia, the reign of Frederick the
Great and his successors, the Napoleonic wars, and the Congress of

As often happens, it is mainly through his minor writings that
Treitschke will live—through his “Cavour,” his “United Netherlands,”
his “Bonapartism,” and his Biographical Essays. But to the
philosophical student by far the most important of Treitschke’s
writings are his two volumes on the Science of Politics, which are,
without exception, the most fascinating and the most suggestive
political treatise published in this generation. Political treatises
are proverbially dull and out of touch with reality. Treitschke’s
treatise is a solitary exception. To him politics are not, like
mathematics, an abstract or a deductive science. We cannot build an
ideal political structure in the air. The political thinker must be
more modest in his ambitions. He cannot adduce first principles. All
politics must be _Realpolitik_. All politics must be based on
concrete historical facts—_i.e._, circumscribed in time and space.
Indeed, strictly considered, political philosophy is only applied
history. That is why political treatises are so disappointing. The
philosopher is content to generalize, and does not know the facts. On
the other hand, the historian who knows the facts has not the capacity
of generalization. Politics must be mainly empirical. The political
thinker does not reason forward from the past to the present, but
backwards from the present to the past. He studies the present results
of the mature experience of many ages, and then explains the distant
past in the light of the present.


Not only has Prussian history been the centre of all Treitschke’s
activities; it also supplies him with the sole standard of all
political values, the sole test of the truth of all political
theories. With superb logic he deduces all his political system from
the vicissitudes of the Brandenburg State. His sympathies and
antipathies, his affinities and repulsions, are Prussian. Prussia and
the German Empire have monopolized all human virtues. His only enemies
are the enemies of the Prussian State (see paragraphs VIII. and IX. of
this Essay).

Prussia is a national State, exclusive, self-sufficient,
self-contained. Therefore, the national State is the supreme and final
political reality (see paragraph XI.).

All the theories which challenge or threaten this conception of the
national State are dismissed by Treitschke as damnable heresies: the
heresy of individualism (see paragraph XII.), the heresy of
internationalism (see paragraph XIII.), and the heresy of imperialism
(paragraph XIV.).

The one aim of the Prussian State has been the extension of Prussian
power. Therefore the will to power must be the fundamental dogma of
the State (paragraph XV.).

Prussia has always subordinated political ethics to national
aggrandizement; therefore Treitschke holds with Machiavelli that in
politics the end justifies the means (paragraph XVI.).

Prussia has only expanded through war. War has been the national
industry of the Prussian people. Therefore war is considered by
Treitschke as the vital principle of national life (paragraph XVII.).

Prussia has been the family estate of the Hohenzollern dynasty;
therefore the monarchy must be considered as the ideal form of
government (paragraph XVIII.).

The Prussian military aristocracy of Junkers have been the mainstay of
the Prussian State; therefore an aristocratic government is a
corollary of the monarchic form of government, and the French
democratic theory of government is the arch-heresy (paragraphs XIX.
and XX.).

Prussia has been the leading Protestant State; therefore Roman
Catholicism must be held to be inconsistent with the prosperity of any
modern polity (paragraph XXI.).

Prussia, from a small straggling territory, has grown to be one of the
leading Powers of Europe by the gradual absorption of all the
surrounding small States; therefore only great Powers have a right to
exist (paragraph XXII.); therefore small States are a monstrosity
(paragraph XXIII.).


There is no counterpart in modern history to the development of the
Prussian State, no political structure so entirely self-contained and
self-sufficient, which has so continuously pursued its own selfish
ends. For an exact analogy it is necessary to revert to ancient
history; therefore Treitschke’s sympathies go to the ancient State
much more than to the modern State. In his religion he is a devout
Lutheran. But in his political conceptions he is entirely pagan. To
him the politics of Aristotle remain the fountain of all political
wisdom. The modern man in order to understand the majesty of the State
must free himself of a whole mass of acquired notions. In quiet and
peaceful times the average man may pursue his private avocations and
hardly give a thought to the State. It was different in antiquity. The
ancient city State was everything, and was felt to be everything, so
that the citizen could not conceive himself as apart from the State.
That is why they had a much stronger and healthier political sense, an
instinctive comprehension for, and a passionate devotion to, the
State. The moderns have ceased to live and move in the State. They are
divided and distracted by their social and economic interests. Only
the modern Prussian feels for Prussia as the Roman and the Spartan
felt for their native countries. To the Prussian alone, as to the
Roman and the Spartan, the devotion to the State is glorified into a
religion, the religion of patriotism.


Even as his sympathies, so are Treitschke’s antipathies determined by
his Prussian preconceptions. Whatever is alien to Prussian ideals is
odious to Treitschke. Whoever has opposed the growth of the Prussian
State or threatened its future becomes a personal enemy. And, as every
State has had to oppose the predatory policy of Prussia, and is
threatened by its ambitions, as, to use Treitschke’s own words,
“Prussia was the best hated of all the German States from the first
days of her independent history,” the antipathies of the Prussian
historian are almost universal. And what a fierce hater he is; what
unlimited power of vituperation; what intensity of bitter feeling! He
hates Talleyrand, Lord Palmerston, King Leopold of Belgium, with a
personal animosity. He hates Britain and France. He hates Austria and
the small German Principalities. He hates Belgium and Holland; and,
above all, he loathes and despises the Jews.


No nation inspires Treitschke with a more instinctive repulsion than
the Jews. He may be called the father of scientific and pedantic
anti-Semitism. In other nations anti-Semitism was only an instinctive
and irrational popular feeling. In Treitschke anti-Semitism becomes a
systematic doctrine. It becomes part of a political creed. Treitschke
hates the Jews because they are unwarlike, because they are absorbed
in material interests, because they are Atheists. He abhors the Gospel
according to Saint Marx. He denounces the cynicism of Heine. He dreads
the influence of the Jewish Press. But, above all, he hates the Jews
because they are denationalized, because they have no stake in the
prosperity and greatness of the national State. The Jews are wanderers
without a settled existence, without allegiance and loyalty except to
their own race. The dual political life which the Jews are leading as
members of the Jewish nation and as parasites of other national States
to which they have temporarily migrated is a permanent menace to a
healthy national German life. Everywhere the Jews are revolutionists,
anarchists, Atheists. All the leaders of the German Social
Democracy—Lassalle, Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Bernstein—are Hebrews. It
is the imperative duty of all Prussian patriots to guard the people
against the Jewish danger, against Jewish journalism, Jewish finance,
Jewish materialism, Jewish socialism, and Jewish internationalism.


Let us revert to the starting-point of Treitschke’s politics, which is
the theory of the national State. Only in the national State can the
individual realize the higher moral and political life. The State is
not part of a larger whole. It is in itself a self-contained whole. It
is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself. It is not a
relative conception; it is an absolute. The French people may fight
for humanity. A St. Louis may be inspired with the crusading spirit.
Treitschke has no sympathy for such quixotism. The national State must
be selfish. To be unselfish is the mortal sin of politics. Humanity,
sentimentalism, have no place in politics. Frederick William IV., the
one sentimental King in the whole history of the Hohenzollern Dynasty,
once rendered an unselfish service to his neighbours. A Prussian army
saved the Saxon monarchy from revolution and then withdrew. Treitschke
has no words strong enough to condemn this solitary instance of a
disinterested Prussian policy.

The national State is alone invested with the attributes of
sovereignty. There is nothing above it. National rights must be final.
The national State may for the time being limit its absolute
sovereignty by international agreements, but any such agreements are
only conditional and temporary—_rebus sic stantibus_. No national
State can make international agreements which are binding for the
future. The time must always come when the scrap of paper has to be
torn asunder. It is true that the national State is indirectly playing
its part in the moral education of humanity, but it will best serve
humanity by only thinking of itself.


There are many heresies which threaten the orthodox religion of the
national State. The first and the most dangerous is the heresy of
individualism. A school of modern theorists, William von Humboldt and
John Stuart Mill, have asserted the rights of the individual apart
from and above the rights of the State. They reserve for the
individual a sphere where the State may not encroach. According to
Mill, the political life is only a part and the minor part of his
social activities. His higher activities are spent in the service of
the Church, in the service of Art and Science.

Treitschke has fought this heresy of individualism in all his
writings. The interest of the individual cannot be opposed to the
interest of the State. The individual can only realize himself, he can
only realize the higher life, in and through the State. It is the
State which sets free the spiritual forces of the individual by
securing for him security, prosperity, and economic independence.


The second deadly heresy which threatens the dogma of the national
State is the heresy of internationalism. It takes the form either of
the black internationalism of the Catholic Church or the red
internationalism of Social Democracy. Treitschke has fought Roman
Catholicism and its champions, the Jesuits, with relentless hate.
Through all his writings there sounds the watchword of Voltaire, the
spiritual adviser of Frederick the Great, “Écrasez l’infâme,” and the
battle-cry of Gambetta, “Le clericalisme, voilà l’ennemi.” Nor is he
less bitter against the Socialists. Bismarck and the Kaiser opposed
the encroachments of the Social Democracy in a succession of
anti-Socialist repressive measures. Treitschke may have disapproved of
some of the _Sozialisten Gesetze_ because they defeated their purpose.
But he shares the Kaiser’s hatred against those irreconcilable enemies
of Prussian greatness. The Social Democratic theories of the
Jews—Lassalle, Marx, and Bernstein—are one of the most deadly
poisons that imperil the constitution of the German body politic.

Events have shown how little even Treitschke realized the strength of
the Prussian State and the fanaticism of German nationalism. We know
how little his dread of the black International of Catholicism and the
red International of Socialism has been justified by the servile
attitude of all the Opposition parties, and how, when the crisis came,
both Catholics and Socialists proved as Prussian as the Junkers of


If it be true that the citizen can only realize himself through the
national State, if the whole course of human history is essentially a
conflict of national States, and if the rich variety of civilization
is made up of the rivalry of those national States, it logically
follows that the expansion of any national State into a world empire
must necessarily be baneful. The State must, no doubt, expand, but
there is a limit to that expansion. The State must not incorporate any
alien races which it cannot assimilate. When the State is unable to
absorb heterogeneous elements and grows into a world empire, it
becomes a danger both to itself and to humanity.

Civilization has been threatened in the past by such monstrous
conglomerates of heterogeneous nations. It has been threatened by the
Spanish tyranny of Charles V. and the French tyranny of Louis XIV. and
Napoleon. It is still threatened to-day by a similar danger. Two
national States, Great Britain and Russia, have again grown into world
empires. If their ambitions were to succeed, if the greater part of
the civilized world were to become either Anglo-Saxon or Russian,
there would be an end to the diversity and the liberty of modern
civilization. Only the good sword of Prussia and Germany can save
humanity from that Anglo-Saxon and Slav peril.


But the fact that there is danger in the unlimited expansion of the
national State ought not to prevent us from recognizing that
irresistible tendency to expansion. The “will to power” is the essence
of the State. “The State is power” (_Der Staat ist Macht_) must ever
be the first axiom of political science. Muddled political thinkers,
who confuse the spiritual with the temporal activities of man, may
hold that the end of the State is social justice, or the diffusion of
light, or the propagation of religion, or the advancement of humanity.
But the cause of justice, the spread of education, will best be
furthered if the State is strong. Only the strong can be just,
partial, and enlightened. The sole criterion of political values is
strength. It is the supreme merit of Machiavelli that he has been the
first to emphasize this cardinal truth. The mortal sin of a State is
to be weak. Only the strong man, only a Bismarck, a Richelieu, a
Cavour, is a true statesman.

And that strength of the State which is its chief attribute must not
be dispersed; that political power must neither be divided nor
alienated. Many writers on politics still echo the absurd theory of
Montesquieu on the division of the executive, legislative, and the
judiciary. Treitschke, following Rousseau, lays down the axiom that
the power of the State is indivisible and inalienable.


If the one virtue of the State is to be strong and to assert its
strength, it follows that the ethics of the State cannot be the ethics
of the individual. The ruler of the State is not the head of a
monastery or the president of an academy of fine arts. The end must
justify the means, and any means may be employed which will add to the
strength of the State. It is the glory of Frederick the Great that he
has always had the moral courage of brushing away conventions and
scruples to achieve his object, and that he has always had the
political insight and wisdom of adjusting the means to the end.


Prussia is not, like France, the result of a thousand years of natural
growth. It has no definite natural boundaries. The Prussian State is
an artificial creation. It has grown and expanded through conquest.
It is the Order of the Teutonic Knights, it is the warrior dynasty of
the Hohenzollern, who have built up Prussian power. That purely
military growth of the Prussian State is made by Treitschke into a
universal rule of all political growth. According to him war always
was and will remain the master-builder of national life. Other
thinkers, like Joseph de Maistre, have glorified war in the name of
theology. Treitschke extols it in the name of politics. War not only
makes a State: it makes the citizen. The heroic virtues are warlike
virtues; they are the outcome of military institutions. It is not war
but peace which is the evil. Woe to the nation which allows itself to
be deceived by the sentiment and cowardice of pacifists.


War is the essential activity of the State. But in order to be strong
in war, unity and concentration are essential; they are the conditions
of victory. That unity may, no doubt, be achieved under any form of
government. It may be achieved under a republic, as it was during the
wars of the French Revolution. It may be achieved under an
aristocracy, as in the case of Great Britain, which is a monarchy only
in name, which, in reality, is a Parliamentary oligarchy, and which is
always waging some guerilla in some outlying post of empire. But the
fact remains that unity can be best achieved under a monarchic form of
government, which concentrates all powers into the hands of the
responsible monarch. That is why monarchy is the best form of


A loyal military aristocracy like the Junkers is the mainstay of a
national monarchy. An aristocratic constitution of the State is in
conformity with the nature of things. Not only all military activities
but all social and economic life depends on the distinction of
classes, on the existence of different grades corresponding to a
difference in natural endowment, in social service. The equality of
man not only is an unattainable ideal, it is also an undesirable and a
mischievous ideal. Suppress inequality and distinctions and honours
and you suppress the main stimulus of human endeavour; you suppress
that rich differentiation of social life, that generous rivalry, that
noble ambition, which are the conditions of all intensive human


The greatest danger, therefore, to the monarchic and aristocratic
constitution of the State arises from the insidious advance of the
French revolutionary dogma of equality. The spirit of envy is
undermining the social hierarchy in every country. That mean spirit of
democratic envy is as old as the democratic institution itself.
Ostracism in the nobler elements of the community is as characteristic
of the Greek democracy as of the French. All democracies have resented
that Aristides should be called the “Just.” So far it is only the
Prussian State which has escaped from the poisonous doctrine of
Rousseau. But even in Prussia the progress of the Gospel according to
Saint Marx is a disquieting symptom. To defend the prerogatives of the
Junkers against the assaults of the Social Democracy must therefore be
one of the main political concerns of a patriotic Prussian.


It may be said that Protestantism is so closely identified with modern
German history that it may almost be considered as the Germanic form
of Christianity. Certainly Prussia is an essentially Protestant State.
From the beginning it has grown from the secularization of Church
property, when a Hohenzollern Grand Master, following the advice of
Luther, took the bold step of confiscating the demesnes of the
Teutonic Order. But it is not only Prussia that has grown and
prospered through Protestantism. The Protestant form of Christianity
in whatever form is essential to the very existence of the modern
State. For no State can exist unless the spiritual power be
subordinated to the temporal power. The Protestant Church must needs
accept that subordination because Protestantism must necessarily
result in a diversity of rival and powerless sects, and therefore, if
it be true that Protestantism is necessary for the State, the State is
even more necessary to Protestantism. The old dictum, _Cujus regio,
illius religio_, holds good of Prussia. The spiritual allegiance
follows the temporal allegiance. The State alone can secure for those
different Churches that peace and toleration without which religious
war becomes a chronic evil. Toleration and the peaceful coexistence
of many Churches under the protection of the State have been for
centuries the boast and glory of the Prussian State.

Catholicism does not accept that necessary subordination. The German
State of the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire of the Hohenstaufen,
perished because of the conflict with the Papacy. The modern Teutonic
State, the Holy German Empire of the Habsburg, has equally perished
through clericalism. Catholicism is an international power, and the
State must be national. Catholicism is encroaching and threatening the
national State, and the State must remain independent and supreme;
therefore Catholicism, ultramontanism, clericalism, are absolutely
incompatible with the modern State.


Inasmuch as power is the main attribute of the State, it follows that
only those States which are sufficiently strong in population, in
territory, and in financial resources, have a right to exist. There is
a definite limit below which a State cannot fulfil its mission nor
defend its existence. We must not be deceived by the example of such
States as Athens, Venice, Holland, and Florence, which, although
apparently small in territory, yet played an important part in
political history. Those States were only small in outward appearance;
in reality they were either the centres of a vast political system,
like Athens and Florence, or the centres of a vast colonial empire,
like Venice and Holland. Moreover, in modern times, the whole
relations and proportions of States have undergone a fundamental
change. Everything is on a larger scale, and there is an almost
general tendency in modern times for all national States to expand and
to absorb into themselves the smaller neighbouring States. It may
almost be said that modern history is made up mainly of the conflicts
between five or six leading States. Contemporary Europe had resulted
in the unstable equilibrium of the five dominant Powers of Britain,
Russia, Austria, France, and Germany. Europe has almost consolidated
into a pentarchy.


If it be true that the national State almost inevitably must develop
into a great Power, conversely it is no less true that small States
are an anomaly. Treitschke never ceased to rail at the monstrosity of
petty States, at what he calls, with supreme contempt, the
“_Kleinstaaterei_.” Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, are not really
States. They are only artificial and temporary structures. Holland
will one day be merged into the German Empire and recover its pristine

The smallness of the State produces a corresponding meanness of
spirit, a narrowness of outlook. Small States are entirely absorbed by
their petty economic interests and party dissensions. They only exist
as the parasites of the larger States, who ensure their prosperity and
security and bear all the brunt of maintaining law and order in

But worse even than the small States is the neutral State. A neutral
State in political life is as much a monstrosity as a neutral sexless
animal in the natural world. A State like Belgium is only the parasite
of the larger neighbouring States. Treitschke never mentions Belgium
without an outburst of contempt. The country of Memlinck and van Eyck,
of Rubens and van Dyck, the country whose people in the present war
have borne the first onslaught of all the Teutonic hosts, are never
mentioned by Treitschke except with a sneer.

In no other part of his political system does Treitschke show more
sublime disregard of all those political facts which do not fit in
with his theories. No other part more conclusively proves how the
tyrannical dogma of Prussian nationalism can blind even a profound and
clear-sighted thinker to the most vital historical realities. It must
be apparent _a priori_ to any student of politics that the life of
small communities must gain in concentration and intensity what it
loses in scope and extent. And it must be obvious that small States
have played a much more conspicuous part than the most powerful
empires. The city of Dante, Machiavelli, Michael Angelo, has done more
for culture than all the might and majesty of the Hohenzollern.
Humanity is indebted to one small State—Palestine—for its religion.
To another small State—Greece—humanity owes the beginning of all art
and the foundations of politics. To other small States—Holland and
Scotland—modern Europe is indebted for its political freedom. And are
not the German people themselves indebted for the glories of their
literature to the contemptible cities of Jena and Weimar?


We have explained the main tenets of the Treitschkean creed. Even
after this exhaustive analysis it will be difficult for an English
reader to understand how such a system, if we divest it of its
rhetoric, of its fervid and impassioned style, and of a wealth of
historical illustration, which has been able to ransack every country
and every age, could ever have inspired a policy and could have
hypnotized so completely a highly intelligent and gifted race.

Our incomprehension is partly due to that strange disbelief in the
power of ideas to which we already referred, which remains such a
marked trait of the British people, even as it was a marked trait of
the Roman people, and which is perhaps characteristic of all nations
who are pre-eminent in action, in colonization and empire-building.
This disbelief partly explains why we have revealed such strange
impotence in fighting our spiritual battles. Our Churches have
remained silent and inarticulate. Our statesmen have seldom risen
above sentimental platitudes. No trumpet voice has vindicated our
ideas to the world. Our writers, with a few notable exceptions, such
as Mr. Gilbert Chesterton and Mr. Wells, have seldom risen above trite
truisms. This war has not even produced a masterpiece such as Burke’s
“Thoughts on the French Revolution.”

But our incomprehension is due even more to our ignorance of the
strange and devious workings of the German mind. Even to-day few
authors understand the reasons which render the German people so
responsive and so docile to the most extravagant doctrines and
systems. The British are a political people; and a political people
only accepts theories in so far as they can be verified, interpreted,
and corrected by experience, only in so far as they can be tested by
the fire of discussion. The German people, as even Prince von Bülow is
compelled to admit, have remained an essentially unpolitical people. They
still are under the yoke of countless princelings. There still exist
sovereign potentates of Lippe and Waldeck, of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
and Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. The Germans have acquired none of the
habits and traditions of free government. But, most important of all,
their religion has acted in the same direction as their politics. They
are described by Treitschke as the typical Protestant nation; but the
misfortune of German Protestantism has been that it has never
“protested.” Through the fusion and confusion of Church and State the
Germans have sold their spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage.
Their spiritual life has been almost entirely divorced from action. It
has been centred in the intellect and in the emotions. It has moved in
a world of abstraction and dreams.

And thus both their politics and their religion have made them a prey
to visionaries and sentimentalists, to unscrupulous journalists like
Harden and Reventlow, to unbalanced poets like Nietzsche, to political
professors, and to fanatic doctrinaires. Of those academic politicians
and fanatic doctrinaires, Treitschke has probably been the most
dangerous and the most illustrious representative. He will ever
remain a memorable example of the power for evil which may be wielded
by a noble and passionate temperament untrained in and unrestrained by
the realities of political life, who sees the State from the altitude
of the professional tripod. The war will have helped to break the
spell of the political professor, but the spell will continue to act
until all the spiritual forces of Germany, until the Press and the
Universities and the Churches, are emancipated from the intrusion of
the State, until the German democracy reveals both the spirit and
conquers the power to achieve its own salvation.


    [15] These pages were published in 1912.

As a rule the deliberate military policy of a nation remains the
secret of diplomacy and the afterthought of statecraft. As for the
military feeling and the military spirit, so far as they exist amongst
the people, they generally remain subconscious, unreasoned, and
instinctive. It is therefore a piece of rare good fortune to the
student of contemporary history when the designs of statesmen are
carefully thought out and revealed by one who has authority to speak,
and when the instinct of the masses is explained and made explicit by
one who has the gift of lucid statement, of philosophical
interpretation, and psychological insight. It is precisely those
qualities and characteristics that give importance and significance to
the recent book of General von Bernhardi on “Germany and the Coming
War.” The author is a distinguished representative of that Prussian
Junkerthum which forms the mainstay of the military party and which
rules the German Empire. He therefore speaks from the inside. And his
previous works have earned him a high reputation as an exponent of the
science of war, and have worthily maintained the traditions of
Clausewitz and von der Goltz. Nor are these the only qualifications of
the author. General von Bernhardi’s new book possesses other qualities
which entitle him to a respectful hearing. He writes with absolute
candour and sincerity; his tone is unexceptionable; he is earnest and
dignified; he is moderate and temperate; he is judicial rather than
controversial. Although the author believes, of course, that Germany
stands in the forefront of civilization and has a monopoly of the
highest culture, yet his book is singularly free from the one great
blemish which defaces most German books on international
politics—namely, systematic depreciation of the foreigner. Von
Bernhardi does not assume that France is played out or that England is
effete. He is too well read in military history not to realize that to
belittle the strength or malign the character of an enemy is one of
the most fruitful causes of disaster.

Altogether we could not have a better guide to the study of the
present international situation from the purely German point of view,
nor could we find another book which gives us more undisguisedly the
“mentality,” the prejudices and prejudgments and opinions of the
ruling classes. And it is a characteristically German trait that no
less than one-third of the work should be given to the philosophy and
ethics of the subject. General von Bernhardi surveys the field from
the vantage-ground of first principles, and his book is a convincing
proof of a truth which we have expressed elsewhere that in Prussia war
is not looked upon as an accident, but as a law of nature; and not
only as a law of nature, but as the law of man, or if not as the law
of man, certainly as the law of the “German superman.” It is not
enough to say that war has been the national industry of Prussia. It
forms an essential part of the philosophy of life, the _Weltanschauung_
of every patriotic Prussian. Bernhardi believes in the morality, one
might almost say in the sanctity, of war. To him war is not a
necessary evil, but, on the contrary, the source of every moral good.
To him it is pacificism which is an immoral doctrine, because it is
the doctrine of the materialist, who believes that enjoyment is the
chief end of life. It is the militarist who is the true idealist
because he assumes that humanity can only achieve its mission through
struggle and strife, through sacrifice and heroism. It is true that
Bernhardi ignores the greatest of Prussian philosophers, whose
immortal plea in favour of perpetual peace is dismissed as the work of
his dotage. But if he dismisses Kant, he adduces instead a formidable
array of thinkers and poets in support of his militarist thesis;
Schiller and Goethe, Hegel and Heraclitus, in turn are summoned as
authorities. Even the Gospels are distorted to convey a militarist
meaning, for the author quotes them to remind us that it is the
warlike and not the meek that shall inherit the earth. But Bernhardi’s
chief authorities are the historian of the super-race, the Anglophobe
Treitschke, and the philosopher of the superman, Nietzsche. Nine out
of ten quotations are taken from the political treatises of the
famous Berlin professor, and the whole spirit of Bernhardi’s book is
summed up in the motto borrowed from Zarathustra and inscribed on the
front page of the volume:

“War and courage have achieved more great things than the love of our
neighbour. It is not your sympathy, but your bravery, which has
hitherto saved the shipwrecked of existence.

“‘What is good?’ you ask. To be brave is good.”[16]

    [16] Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” First Part, 10th

It is no less characteristic of contemporary German political
philosophy that from beginning to end Bernhardi maintains consciously,
deliberately, a purely national attitude, and that he does not even
attempt to rise to a higher and wider point of view. Indeed, the main
issue and cardinal problem, the relation of nationality to humanity,
the conflict between the duties we owe to the one and the duties we
owe to the other, is contemptuously relegated to a footnote (p. 19).
To Bernhardi a nation is not a means to an end, a necessary organ of
universal humanity, and therefore subordinate to humanity. A nation is
an end in itself. It is the ultimate reality. And the preservation and
the increase of the power of the State is the ultimate criterion of
all right. “My country, right or wrong,” is the General’s whole system
of moral philosophy. Yet, curiously enough, Bernhardi speaks of
Germany as the apostle, not only of a national culture, but of
universal culture, as the champion of civilization, and he indulges in
the usual platitudes on this fertile subject. And he does not even
realize that in so doing he is guilty of a glaring contradiction; he
does not realize that once he adopts this standpoint of universal
culture, he introduces an argument and assumes a position which are
above and outside nationalism. For either the German nation is
self-sufficient, and all culture is centred in and absorbed in
Germany, in which case Prussian nationalism would be historically and
philosophically justified; or culture is something higher and more
comprehensive and less exclusive, in which case national aims must be
estimated and appraised with reference to a higher aim, and a national
policy must be judged according as it furthers or runs counter to the
universal ideals of humanity.

General von Bernhardi starts his survey of the international situation
with the axiom that Germany imperatively wants new markets for her
industry and new territory for her sixty-five millions of people. In
so doing, he only reiterates the usual assumption of German political
writers. And he also resembles the majority of his fellow-publicists
in this respect, that he does not tell us what exactly are the
territories that Germany covets, or how they are to be obtained, or
how the possession of tropical or subtropical colonies can solve the
problem of her population. But he differs from his predecessors in
that he clearly realizes and expresses, without ambiguity or
equivocation, that the assertion of her claims must involve the
establishment of German supremacy, and he admits that those claims are
incompatible with the antiquated doctrine of the balance of power.
And von Bernhardi also clearly realizes that, as other nations will
refuse to accept German supremacy and to surrender those fertile
territories which Germany needs, German expansion can only be achieved
as the result of a conflict—briefly, that war is unavoidable and




Amongst the many discoveries brought about by the war of the nations,
an educated British public has suddenly discovered the unsuspected
existence of Heinrich von Treitschke. And not only have we discovered
the national Prussian historian—we have also unwittingly discovered
Prussian history. We have certainly had revealed to us for the first
time its secret and hidden meaning. We are only just beginning to
realize that for nearly two hundred years it is Prussia, and not
Russia, which has been the evil influence in European politics.
Prussia has not been a natural political growth. She has been an
artificial creation of statesmen. She has been pre-eminently the
predatory State. She has never taken the sword to defend a
disinterested idea. The ravisher of Silesia, of Schleswig-Holstein, of
Alsace-Lorraine, the murderer of Poland, she has never expanded except
at the expense of her neighbours. She has corrupted the German soul;
she has been the mainstay of reaction and militarism in Central
Europe. She has been the bond of that freemasonry of despotism, of
that Triple Alliance of the three empires which subsisted until the
fall of Bismarck, which has been for generations the nightmare of
European Liberals.


In attempting to reread modern history in the light of that new
interpretation of Prussian history, we are naturally driven to ask
ourselves who is primarily responsible for that sinister influence
which Prussia has exercised for the last two centuries. To the
unprejudiced student there can be no doubt that the one man primarily
responsible is Frederick the Great, the master-builder of Prussian
militarism and Prussian statecraft. He it is who has been poisoning
the wells; he it is who first conceived of the State as a barracks; he
it is who has “Potsdamized” the Continent and transformed Europe into
a military camp. Strangely enough, all civilized nations to-day have
proclaimed Prussia accursed. Yet we continue to hero-worship the man
who made Prussia what she is. A halo still surrounds the
Mephistophelian figure which incarnates the Hohenzollern spirit. A
legend has gathered round the philosopher of Sans Souci. A combination
of circumstances has caused writers almost unanimously to extol his
merits and to ignore his crimes. British historians naturally favour
the ally of the Seven Years’ War. Russian and Austrian writers are
indulgent to the accomplice of the partition of Poland. Anti-clerical
writers glorify the Atheist. Military writers extol the soldier.
Political writers extol the statesman. But the most adequate
explanation of the Frederician legend is the circumstance that public
opinion has been systematically mobilized in favour of Frederick the
Great by the great French leaders of the eighteenth century, the
dispensers of European fame.

It was not for nothing that Frederick the Great for forty years
courted the good graces of Voltaire d’Alembert. He knew full well that
Voltaire would prove to him a most admirable publicity agent. And
never was publicity agent secured at a lower cost. Those literary
influences have continued to our own day to perpetuate the legend of
Frederick. Nearly a hundred years after Rossbach Frederick had the
strange good fortune to captivate the wayward genius of Carlyle. It is
difficult to understand how Carlyle, who all through life hesitated
between the Christian Puritanism of John Knox and the Olympian
paganism of Goethe, could have been fascinated by the Potsdam cynic.
We can only seek for an explanation in the deeply rooted anti-French
and pro-German prejudices of Carlyle. Frederick was the arch-enemy of
France, and that fact was sufficient to attract the sympathies of
Teufelsdröckh. It is Carlyle’s Gallophobia which has inspired one of
the most mischievous masterpieces of English literature.


The conspiracy of European historians has thus attached greatness to
the very name of the third Hohenzollern King. Great the Hohenzollern
King certainly was, but his greatness is that of a Condottiere of the
Italian Renascence, of a Catharine de’ Medici. It is the greatness of
a personality who is endowed, no doubt, with magnificent gifts, but
who has prostituted all those gifts to the baser usages.

It is passing strange how every writer remains silent about the ugly
and repellent side of Frederick. The son of a mad father, he was
subjected to a terrorism which would have predestined a less strong
nature to the lunatic asylum. The terrorism only hardened Frederick
into an incurable cynic. It only killed in him every finer feeling.
His upbringing must almost inevitably have brought out all the darker
sides of human nature.

The first twenty years of his life were one uninterrupted schooling in
hypocrisy, brutality, and depravity. A debauchee in his youth, a
sodomite in later life, a hater of women and a despiser of men, a
bully to his subordinates, a monster of ingratitude, revelling in
filth so continuously in his written and spoken words that even a
loyal Academy of Berlin has found it impossible to publish his
unexpurgated correspondence, he appears an anachronism in a modern
Europe leavened by two thousand years of Christianity. Ever scheming,
ever plotting, ever seeking whom he might devour, deceiving even his
intimate advisers, he has debased the currency of international
morality. As a man Frederick has been compared with Napoleon. The
comparison is an insult to the Corsican. Napoleon was human, he was
capable of strong affections, of profound attachment and gratitude.
But neither friendship nor love had any place in Frederick’s scheme of
the universe.


To-day we are holding the poor Prussian professor mainly accountable
for the greatest and latest crime of Prussian militarism. But those
dogmatic professors are only the abject disciples of the Hohenzollern
King. There is not one aphorism which is not to be found in the thirty
volumes of Frederick’s writings. He has perfected the theory of the
military State, and he has acted consistently on the theory. It is
highly significant that his very first public act, almost never
mentioned by his biographers, was his spoliation of the Prince-Bishop
of Liége (an historical precedent tragically suggestive at the present
day). The Prince-Bishop of Liége had committed the heinous crime of
resisting the impressment of his subjects kidnapped by the recruiting
sergeants of the Prussian King. On the strength of that theory,
Frederick attacked the defenceless daughter of the Austrian Emperor
who had saved his life at Custrin. On the strength of that theory he
betrayed every one of his allies. On the strength of that theory he
committed his most odious crime—he murdered the Polish nation.


We are told that Frederick the Great was an incomparable political
virtuoso. We are told that he showed heroic fortitude in disaster,
after Kollin and Kunersdorff. But so did Cæsar Borgia after the sudden
death of Alexander VI. We are told that he was tolerant of all creeds.
But that was only because he disbelieved all creeds, and he believed,
with Gibbon, that “all creeds are equally useful to the statesman.” We
are reminded that he was an amazing economist, husbanding and
developing the national finances. But his finances were only the
sinews of war. We are told that he protected literature and art, but,
like religion, he found literature an instrument useful for his
political designs. We are reminded that he was himself the servant of
the State. But in serving the State he only served his own interests,
because the State was incarnated in himself, and in husbanding his
resources he was only acting like a miser who is adding to his hoard.
We are finally told that as the result of his life-work Frederick
succeeded in creating the most marvellous military machine of modern
times. We forget that, as is the way with most military machines, the
Prussian machine ten years after Frederick’s death had become a
pitiful wreck in the hands of his immediate successor, and that it
required the genius of Bismarck to manufacture another Prussian
military machine to be used once more for the enslavement of Europe.



No less than three books on Goethe have been issued in the course of
the last few months, and the fact is sufficient evidence that the cult
of the Olympian Jupiter of Weimar, which was first inaugurated eighty
years ago by Carlyle, is in no danger of dying out in England.
Professor Hume Brown has given us a penetrating and judicious study of
Goethe’s youth, such as one had a right to expect from the eminent
Scottish historian.[17] Mr. Joseph McCabe has given us a comprehensive
survey of Goethe’s life, and an objective and critical appreciation of
his personality.[18] Both are in profound sympathy with their subject,
but neither is a blind hero-worshipper. In Mr. McCabe’s life we are
not only introduced to the scientist who is ever in quest of new
worlds to conquer, we are also made acquainted with the pagan epicure
ever engaged in amorous experiments! We are not only introduced to the
sublime poet and prophet, we are also introduced to the incurable
egotist, who could only find time to visit his old mother once every
ten years, whilst, as boon companion of a petty German Prince, he
always found time for his pleasures. We are not only admitted to
contemplate the pomp and majesty of his world-wide fame, we are also
admitted to the sordid circumstances of Goethe’s “home.” And our awe
and reverence are turned into pity. We pity the miserable husband of a
drunken and epileptic wife rescued from the gutter; we pity even more
the unhappy father of a degraded son, who inherited all the vices of
one parent without inheriting the genius of the other.

    [17] “The Youth of Goethe.” By P. Hume Brown. 8s. net

    [18] “Goethe, the Man and his Character.” By Joseph McCabe.
    15s. net. (Eveleigh Nash.)


The first quality which strikes us in Goethe, and which dazzled his
contemporaries, and continues to dazzle posterity, is his
universality. He appears to us as one of the most receptive, one of
the most encyclopædic intellects of modern times. A scientist and a
biologist, a pioneer of the theory of evolution, a physicist and
originator of a new theory of colour, a man of affairs, a man of the
world and a courtier, a philosopher, a lyrical poet, a tragic, comic,
satiric, epic, and didactic poet, a novelist and an historian, he has
attempted every form of literature, he has touched upon every chord of
the human soul.

It is true that, in considering this universality of Goethe, it
behoves us to make some qualifications. His human sympathies are by no
means as universal as his intellectual sympathies. He has no love for
the common people. He has the aloofness of the aristocrat. He has a
Nietzschean contempt for the herd. He takes little interest in the
religious aspirations of mankind or in the struggles of human
freedom. The French Revolution remains to him a sealed book, and his
history of the campaign in France is almost ludicrously disappointing.

With regard to what has been called his “intellectual universality,”
the elements which compose it cannot be reduced to unity and harmony.
It would be difficult to co-ordinate them into a higher synthesis, for
that _uni_versality is at the same time _di_versity and mutability.
Goethe is essentially changeable and elusive. In his works we find
combined the antipodes of human thought. There is little in common
between the poet of Goetz von Berlichingen and Werther on the one hand
and the poet of Tasso and Iphigenia on the other hand. The intellect
of Goethe is like a crystal with a thousand facets reflecting all the
colours of the rainbow.

And it may well be asked, therefore, whether this encyclopædic
diversity can aptly be called universality. Universality must
ultimately result in unity and harmony, and it is impossible to assert
that Goethe’s mind ever achieved unity and harmony, that it was ever
controlled by one dominant thought.

At any rate, whether a defect or a quality, there can be no doubt that
this encyclopædic diversity has turned to the great advantage of his
glory. It is precisely because Goethe is an elusive Proteus that all
doctrines may equally claim him. Romanticists turn with predilection
to the creator of Werther or the first “Faust.” Classicists admire the
plastic beauty of Tasso and Iphigenia. The cosmopolitan sees in Goethe
the _Weltbürger_, the citizen of the world, the incarnation of _die
Weltweisheit_. The patriot acclaims in him the poet who has sung the
myths and legends dear to the German race. The sensuous and voluptuous
libertine is enchanted by the eroticism of the “Roman Elegies.” The
domesticated reader is drawn by that chaste idyll, Herman and
Dorothea. The Spinozist and Pantheist are attracted by the general
tendencies of his philosophy. The Christian is at liberty to interpret
“Faust” in a sense which is favourable to his religion. The Liberal
politician can point to the author of Goetz and Egmont. The
Conservative and Reactionary can claim all the works of Goethe’s
maturity, when the poet had become the perfect courtier.


There is a second quality which Goethe possesses in a supreme degree,
and by which he is distinguished from his contemporaries—namely,
mental sanity and serenity. Most of his fellow-poets reveal some
morbid characteristics, are afflicted with some _Weltschmerz_, with
some internal spiritual malady. They live in an atmosphere of strife
and discord. The marvellous vitality of Goethe has escaped from the
contagion. Like his fellow-poets, he passed through the crisis of the
_Sturm und Drang_. But it seems as if he had only known it in order to
give to his experiences a final artistic expression. He communicated
the “Wertherian malady” to a whole generation, but he himself emerged
triumphant and unscathed. The hurricane which wrecked so many powerful
intellects spared his own. After the Italian journey he never ceased
by example and precept to recommend harmony and balance, and he became
so completely the perfect type of intellectual and artistic sanity
that the world has forgotten the Bohemian days of Frankfurt and
Leipzig, the merry days of Weimar, the repulsive vulgarity of his
drunken mistress and wife, the degradation of his son, and has agreed
only to contemplate the Olympian majesty of Weimar. Whether the repose
and sanity of Goethe were unmixed virtues, or whether they were partly
the result of indifference, of impassivity or selfishness, is another
question. Certain it is that there is no other trait in Goethe’s
personality which has done more to raise him in the esteem of
posterity. He has proved to the world that internal discord and
distraction and morbid exaltation are not the necessary appanage of
genius, and that, on the contrary, the most powerful genius is also
the most sane, the most balanced, the most self-possessed, the most


Without going here into the purely formal and artistic qualities of
Goethe’s works, there is one fact which, perhaps more than any other,
impressed itself on the imagination of the world, and that is the
realization of his own personality, the achievement of his own
destiny. Of all his poems, the rarest and most perfect is the poem of
his life. Hitherto no such life had ever been allotted to a favourite
of the Muses. He seemed to have received a bountiful abundance of all
the gifts of the fairies—superb health, comfort, and wealth, the love
of an adoring mother and sister, the loyalty of illustrious friends,
the favour of Princes, the homage of women, and the admiration of
men. To him was opened every province of human activity. He exhausted
every form of enjoyment. His life until the end was like the unfolding
of a glorious version of a happy dream. At eighty years of age he
remained the one surviving giant of the golden age of German
literature. In his lifetime he was considered by Europe, as well as by
Germany, as the most glorious exemplar of his race, and the city of
his adoption had become a pilgrimage attracting worshippers from all
parts of Europe. Death was merciful to him. The last act of his life
was as beautiful as the others. It was not preceded by the gradual
dissolution of his physical and intellectual strength; rather was it
like the burning out of a flame. He passed away in an apotheosis, and
the last words uttered by the dying poet, “_Mehr Licht, mehr Licht_”
(More light, more light), have become for all future generations the
final expression of his philosophy and the symbol of his personality.



    [19] Written in 1913.


All English students interested in Germany owe a deep debt of
gratitude to the unremitting labours of Mr. William Harbutt Dawson in
the fields of Teutonic scholarship. He is one of a gallant band of
some half-dozen publicists who, amidst universal neglect, have done
their utmost to popularize amongst us a knowledge of German life and
German people. Mr. Dawson’s last book is certain to take rank as a
political classic. It is a lucid exposition of “Municipal Life and
Government in Germany” (Longmans and Co., 12s. 6d. net). City
administration and city regulations are a subject which no literary
art can make very exciting, but, difficult and forbidding though it
be, it is a subject which yields in importance and interest to no
other. There is certainly no other subject which will reveal to us
more of the secrets of German greatness.


For the greatness of Germany is not to be explained by her unwieldy
army, her red-tape bureaucracy, her impotent Reichstag, her effete
Churches. Her army, Parliament, and Churches are symptoms of weakness
and not of strength. The true greatness of Germany is largely due to a
factor ignored by most writers, ignored even by Mr. Dawson in all his
previous works—namely, the excellence of German municipal
institutions, the intensity of her civic life. We have been too much
accustomed to think of Germany only as a despotic empire. She might be
far more fittingly described as a country of free institutions, a
federation of autonomous cities. We fondly imagine that ours is the
only country where self-government prevails. Readers who might still
entertain this prejudice will carry away from Mr. Dawson’s book the
novel political lesson that Germany, much more than Great Britain,
deserves to be called a self-governing nation, and that, at least in
her civic government, which, after all, affects 70 per cent. of her
population, Germany enjoys a measure of political liberty which is
absolutely unknown in our own country.


The tradition of municipal freedom in Germany is as old as German
culture. It still lingers in the haunting charm of the German cities
to-day. The Holy Roman Empire possessed only the trappings and the
shadow of power; the reality belonged to the burghers of the towns.
The _Städtewesen_ gives its original character to the German Middle
Ages. The Hansa towns and the Hanseatic League recall some of the most
stirring memories of German history. The League still survives in the
three independent republics of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. The
dominant fact that German medieval civilization was a civilization of
free cities is driven home to the most superficial tourist. In every
corner of the German Empire, in north and south, on the banks of the
Rhine and the Elbe, in Rothenburg and Marienburg, in Frankfurt and
Freiburg, the thousand monuments of the past prove to us the
all-important truth that in Germany, as in Italy and in Flanders, it
is the service of the city which has made for national greatness.


War and anarchy put an end to municipal prosperity. Protestantism
brought with it the confusion of spiritual and temporal power, which
brought with it the despotism of the Princes, which meant the
suppression of civic liberty. The Thirty Years’ War completed the ruin
of the cities. The end of the seventeenth century put in the place of
city governance the tyranny of a hundred petty Princes. Everywhere we
see the ancient town halls crumbling into ruin, and we see arising
pretentious palaces built on the model of the Palace of Versailles.
Germany had to go through the bitter humiliation of Jena before she
realized the necessity of reverting to her glorious civic traditions.
The statesmanship of Stein (see Seeley’s “Life and Times of Stein”)
understood that such return was the prime condition of a German
political renaissance. By his memorable Municipal Law of 1808 Stein
restored civic liberty. He made local self-government the corner-stone
of German internal policy. The ordinance of Stein remains to this day
the organic law and Great Charter of the German city. It has stood the
test of one hundred years of change, and even the iron despotism of
the Hohenzollern has not been able to challenge it. In every other
political institution Germany is lamentably behind. Only in her
municipal life is she in advance of most European countries.


As we hinted at the outset, the municipality has far greater powers in
Germany than in Great Britain. It is true that the police authority is
under the control of the central power, that education inspection is
under the control of the Church, which is another kind of spiritual
police. It is true that the City Fathers are debarred from mixing with
party politics. But within those limitations, and in the province of
economics and social welfare, municipal powers are almost
unrestricted. It is thus that German towns have been the pioneers in
school hygiene. Every German child is under the supervision of the
school dentist and the school oculist. It is thus that German cities
have established their public pawnshops, and have saved the poor man
from the clutches of the moneylender. It is thus that they have
initiated gratuitous legal advice for the indigent. They have even
established municipal beerhouses and _Rathhauskeller_. In one word,
they have launched out in a hundred forms of civic enterprise.


One of the most striking fields of municipal enterprise is the policy
of Land Purchase. The people were encouraged to enter on this policy
by the evils of private land speculation, and by the shocking housing
conditions in some of the big cities, and especially in Berlin, where
the curse of the barrack system still prevails.

Nearly every German city is an important landowner, owning on an
average 50 per cent. of the municipal area.

“While the powers of English urban districts in relation to land
ownership are severely restricted by law, German towns are free to buy
real estate on any scale whatever, without permission of any kind,
unless, indeed, the contracting of a special loan should be necessary,
in which event the assent of the City Commissary is necessary. This
assent, however, entails no local inquiry corresponding to the
inquiries of the Local Government Board, simply because the German
States have no Local Government Board, and no use for them; the
proceeding is almost a formality, intended to remind the communes that
the State, though devolved upon them their wide powers of
self-government, likes still to be consulted now and then, and it is
arranged expeditiously through the post. For, strange as it may sound
to English ears, the Governments of Germany, without exception, far
from wishing to hamper the towns in their land investments, have often
urged the towns to buy as much land as possible and not to sell”
(Dawson, p. 123).

“Within the present year the little town of Kalbe, on the Saale,
expended just £14 a head on its 12,000 inhabitants in buying for
£468,000 a large estate for the purpose of creating a number of
smallholdings and labourers’ allotments. During the period 1880 to
1908 Breslau expended over one million and a half pounds in the
purchase of land within the communal area. Berlin has an estate more
than three times greater than its administrative area. In 1910 alone
seventy-three of the large towns of Germany bought land to the
aggregate extent of 9,584 acres and to the aggregate value of over
four million pounds sterling. Charlottenburg now owns 2,500 acres of
land as yet not built upon, with a value of over a million and a
quarter pounds, and the value of all its real estate is about four and
a half million pounds sterling. In 1886 Freiburg, in Baden, owned
nearly 11,000 acres of land with a value of £925,000. In 1909 its
estate was only 2,000 acres larger, but its value was then

“Since 1891 Ulm, under the rule of a mayor convinced of the wisdom of
a progressive land policy and strong enough to carry it out, has
bought some 1,280 acres of land at different times for £316,000, while
it has sold 420 acres for £406,000, showing a cash profit of £900,000,
apart from the addition of 860 acres to the town estate. As a result
of Ulm’s land policy, its assets increased between 1891 and 1909 from
£583,500 to £1,990,000, an increase of £1,407,000, equal to £25 a head
of the population. Another result is that of the larger towns of
Würtemberg only one has a lower taxation than Ulm. It is solely owing
to its successful land policy that this enterprising town, without
imposing heavy burdens on the general body of ratepayers, has been
able to undertake a programme of social reforms which has created for
it an honourable reputation throughout Germany.”


In quite a different direction, in the encouragement of Art and
Literature, the German municipality plays a leading part.

“The budgets of most large and many small German towns contain an
item, greater or less according to local circumstances, which is
intended to cover ‘provision for the intellectual life of the town.’
This item is independent of expenditure on schools, and, if analyzed,
will be found often to include the maintenance of or subsidies to
municipal theatres, bands, and orchestras, as well as grants to
dramatic and musical societies of a miscellaneous order. In this
provision the theatre takes an altogether dominant position, and the
fact is significant as reflecting the great importance which in
Germany is attributed to the drama as an educational and elevating
influence in the life of the community. It may be that the practice of
subsidizing the theatre is not altogether independent of the fact that
the repertory theatre is universal in Germany, except in the smallest
of provincial towns, with the result that a far more intimate tie
exists between the drama and the community than is possible in the
case of travelling companies.”

“If the question be asked, Is the higher drama encouraged by the
municipal theatre? the answer must be an emphatic affirmative of the
high standard of education in Germany. Speaking generally, no theatres
in Germany maintain the drama at a higher level than the municipal
theatres in the large towns. The lower forms of the drama will find no
home here, for public taste looks for the best that the stage can
offer, and as the demand is, so is the supply. Many a provincial
theatre of this kind presents more Shakespearean plays in a week than
the average English theatre outside London presents in a couple of
years. A glance at the repertory of any of the municipal theatres
which have been named is enough to convince one that an elevated aim
is steadily kept in view. For example, in a recent year the two
Mannheim municipal theatres presented 161 separate works, including 93
dramas, 62 operas and operettas, and 6 ballets, and of these works 442
repetitions were given in the aggregate, making for the year 604
performances, a number of which were at popular prices. The dramas
given included fifteen by Schiller, ten by Shakespeare, three by
Goethe, three by Lessing, five by Molière, four by Hans Sachs, four by
Sheridan, eleven by Grillparzer, two each by Kleist and Hebbel, and
several by Ibsen, while the operas included three by Beethoven, three
by Cherubini, six by Mozart, three by Weber, and several by Wagner.
Could an English provincial theatre—could all English provincial
theatres together—show a record equal to this? That plays of this
kind are given is proof that the German public looks to the municipal
theatre for the cultivation of the highest possible standard of
dramatic taste and achievement.”


The German city has managed to combine efficiency with freedom. She
has managed to establish a strong executive and yet to safeguard the
will of the people. In France the Mayor is appointed by the State, and
he is the tool of the Ministry. In Great Britain the City Fathers are
honorary and unpaid. In Germany they are salaried servants, and yet
elected by the people. In Great Britain magistrates are temporary,
ephemeral figure-heads. They are not even allowed time to serve their
apprenticeship. They remain in office one, two, or at most three
years, receive a knighthood in the larger provincial towns, and retire
into private life. In Germany the Burgomaster and Aldermen are
permanent servants, at first elected for twelve years, and on
re-election appointed for life. Their whole life is identified with
the interests of the city.

There lies the originality of German civic government, and there lies
the secret of municipal efficiency. The German Mayor and council are
experts. City government is becoming so technical a science that there
are now schools of civic administration established in several parts
of the German Empire. The city administrator is not a grocer or a
draper temporarily raised to office, nor are they only town clerks and
officials. They have both the confidence of the people and the
responsibility of power, and they are given time to achieve results,
to follow up a systematic policy.


The whole secret of German municipal government is told by Mr. Dawson
in a footnote of his book:

“The chief Mayor of Duisburg is about to seek well-earned rest after
thirty-four years of work. When in 1880 he took over the direction of
the town’s affairs, Duisburg had 34,000 inhabitants. To-day Duisburg,
with the amalgamated Ruhrort and Meiderich, has a population of
244,000. This remarkable development is specially due to the
far-sighted municipal policy pursued by the chief Mayor, who made it
his endeavour to attract new industries to the State for the creation
of the docks—as the result of which Duisburg is the largest inland
port in the world—and the incorporation of Ruhrort and Meiderich in

This footnote illustrating the history of Duisburg might serve equally
well as an illustration for the history of other German towns. On
reading that footnote I could not help thinking of a famous English
statesman whose recent death has closed a stirring chapter of British
history. German and Austrian municipalities give the widest scope for
political genius and attract the ablest men. If the same conditions
had prevailed in this country, Mr. Chamberlain would have been content
to identify himself with the prosperity of his adopted city, as the
Mayor of Duisburg identified himself with the greatness of Duisburg;
as Lueger identified himself with the greatness of Vienna. And if
Birmingham had given full scope to the genius of Mr. Chamberlain, how
different would have been the life-story of the late statesman, and
how different would be the England in which we are living to-day!



There are many urgent reforms needed in our national education; those
who are best qualified to speak could make many a startling revelation
if they only dared to speak out. And there is ample evidence that
almost every part of our educational machinery requires the most
thorough overhauling. In the words of Bacon, “Instauratio facienda ab
imis fundamentis.” But I doubt whether there does exist any more
glaring proof of the present inefficiency of our Secondary Schools and
Universities than their scandalous attitude towards the study of the
German language and literature.

The plain and unvarnished truth is that at the beginning of this, the
twentieth century, when Germany is the supreme political and
commercial Power on the Continent of Europe, the study of German is
steadily going back in the United Kingdom. In some parts it is
actually dying out. In many important Secondary Schools it is being
discontinued. Even in the Scottish Universities, which pride
themselves on being more modern and more progressive than the English
Universities, there does not exist one single Chair of German. In
Oxford a Chair of German was only established through the munificence
of a patriotic German merchant.

And even when there are teachers there are very few students. In one
of the greatest British Universities, with a constituency of 3,500
students, there has been, for the last ten years, an average of five
to six men students. And the reluctance of young men to study German
is perfectly intelligible. The study of German does not pay. It brings
neither material rewards nor official recognition. All the prizes, all
the scholarships and fellowships, go to other subjects, and mainly to
the classics. Let any reader of _Everyman_ stand up and say that I am
exaggerating; I would only be too delighted to discover that I am

Such being the attitude of those who are primarily responsible for our
national education, can we wonder at the attitude of the general
public? Can we expect it to take any more interest in German culture
than the educational authorities? Let those who have any doubt or
illusion on the subject make inquiries at booksellers’, at circulating
libraries and public libraries, at London clubs. I have tried to make
such an investigation, and all those institutions have the same sorry
tale to tell. It is impossible to get an outstanding book which
appears in Germany, for it does not pay the publisher to stock such a
book. At Mudie’s, for every hundred French books there may be two
German books. At the Royal Societies Club, with a membership of
several thousands, every one of whom belongs to some learned society,
you may get the _Revue de Deux Mondes_, or the _Temps_, or the
_Figaro_, but you cannot get a German paper. For the last twenty years
I have not once seen a copy of the _Zukunft_, or the _Frankfurter
Zeitung_, or the _Kölnische Zeitung_, at an English private house, at
an English club, at an English bookseller’s, at an English library.

A few months ago the most popular and most enterprising daily paper of
the kingdom published some articles on the German elections, which
were justly rousing a great deal of attention in this country. I was
very much impressed by the cleverness of those articles, but my
admiration knew no bounds when the author confessed that he was
writing without knowing a word of German, and that when attending
political meetings he had to make out the meaning of the language by
the gestures and facial expression of the orators. Have we not here,
my classical friends, an exhilarating instance of the results of your
monopoly? _Ab uno disce omnes._

We are constantly being told that “knowledge is power,” and that the
knowledge of a foreign language means not only intellectual power, but
commercial and political power. Yet those in authority do not budge an
inch to get possession of such power. We are constantly warned by
political pessimists that Germany is making gigantic strides, and that
we ought to keep a vigilant outlook. Yet we do nothing to obtain
first-hand information of the resources of a nation of sixty-five
millions, who is certainly a formidable commercial rival, and who
to-morrow may meet us in deadly encounter.[20] On the other hand, we
are told with equal persistence by political optimists that we ought
to be on the most friendly terms with a great kindred people from whom
nothing separates us except regrettable ignorance and superficial
misunderstandings. Yet, in order to dispel that ignorance and to
remove those misunderstandings, we do not make the first necessary
step—namely, to learn the language of the people whom we are said to

    [20] Written in 1912.

It is true that Members of Parliament and journalists are ready enough
to proceed to Germany on a mission of goodwill, and to be entertained
at banquets and international festivities. But how futile must be
those friendly demonstrations when we consider that the enormous
majority of those Parliamentarians and journalists are unable to read
a German newspaper! And how must it strike a citizen of Hamburg or
Frankfurt when their English guests have to reply in English to the
toasts of their German hosts! And how must a patriotic German feel
when he discovers that not five out of a hundred have taken the
trouble to master the noble language of the country whose friendship
they are seeking!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending, at the house of a
prominent political leader, a representative gathering of politicians,
diplomats, and journalists, who were met to consider the best means of
promoting Anglo-German friendship. In answer to a speech of mine, an
eminent German publicist and editor of an influential monthly review
delivered an eloquent address in broken French. To hear a German
address in French an audience of Germanophile Englishmen was certainly
a ludicrous situation! But the speaker realized that it would be
hopeless to use the German language, even to an assembly specially
interested in supporting Anglo-German friendship.

How long, my classical friends, are we going to submit to these
disastrous results of your monopoly? _Quousque tandem!_ How long are
we going to stand this scandal of international illiteracy and
ignorance, fraught with such ominous peril for the future? How long is
this nation going to be hoodwinked by an infinitesimal minority of
reactionary dons and obscurantist parsons, determined to force a
smattering of Greek down the throats of a reluctant youth? How long is
modern culture to be kept back under the vain pretence of maintaining
the culture of antiquity, but in reality in response to an ignoble
dread of enlightenment and progress, and in order to protect vested
interests and to maintain political, intellectual, and religious




The tourist who takes the express train between Berlin and Copenhagen,
one hour after he has left the Prussian capital reaches a vast plain
more than half the size of Belgium, where barren moorlands alternate
with smiling fields, where dormant lakes are succeeded by dark
pine-forests. Few travellers ever think of breaking their journey on
this melancholy plain, the territory of the Grand Dukes of
Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They have not the
remotest suspicion that these Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg, which they
cross in such listless haste, are, from a political point of view, one
of the most fascinating countries of Europe. Mecklenburg has for the
students of comparative politics the same sort of interest which an
Indian reserve territory, or the Mormon State of Utah, has for the
traveller in the United States, or which a cannibal tract in the
equatorial Congo forest has for the explorer of Central Africa. For
this pleasant land of Mecklenburg-Schwerin is the last survival of a
patriarchal and feudal civilization. It is the most perfect type of
the paternal Prussian type of government, entirely unspoiled by the
Parliamentary institutions of a feeble democratic age.


Here alone of all the North German States the conditions of a past
generation continue in their pristine vigour. Although the Grand Duke
is the only descendant of Slavonic Princes in the German Empire, and
still calls himself “Prince of the Wendes,” he is the most Teutonic of
dynasts. Although Mecklenburg-Schwerin is independent of Prussia, it
is the most Prussian and the most Junkerized of all Federal States.

In degenerate Prussia the Kaiser has actually to submit to the
financial control of an unruly Reichstag, and is not even allowed to
spend the Imperial revenues as any Emperor by right Divine ought to be
logically allowed to do. The Duke of Mecklenburg is far more fortunate
than William II. He has no accounts to settle, _he has not even a
budget to publish_. He collects in paternal fashion the revenues of
his Grand Ducal demesnes, and no power has any right to ask any
questions. Even the “Almanack of Gotha,” which is generally omniscient
in these matters, is silent on the revenues of His Highness. There is
a public debt of about one hundred and fifty million marks! The public
revenues are the private income of the Grand Duke. The public debt is
a private charge on the people.

In degenerate Prussia even the Imperator-Rex has to divide some of his
authority with a meddlesome assembly, and has to delegate it to an
obedient but ridiculous bureaucracy. In the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg
the ruler governs his subjects in the good old patriarchal way. It is
true, in the troubled days of 1848 an unwise predecessor granted
something like a paper constitution, but that scrap of parchment
happily became a dead-letter twelve months after it had been granted.
It is also true that there still subsists some faint image of
representative government in the two estates of the Grand Duchy,
dating as far back as 1755, but those venerable estates of the Grand
Duchy are only composed of and only represent the _Ritterschaft_—_i.e._,
six hundred and ninety noblemen; and the _Landschaft_—_i.e._, fifty
municipalities. Neither the peasants in the country nor the artisans
in the towns are ever troubled to give their advice on matters
concerning the common weal. And as, in order that a Bill may become
the law of the Grand Duchy, the consent of the two estates is
required, nothing unpleasant is ever likely to happen, and the old
order, represented by the six hundred and ninety overlords, continues

In degenerate Prussia even the Junkers have to submit to the presence
of petty landowners of lowly birth, or even to peasants of servile
origin. Do not historians remind us that even Frederick the Great had
to surrender to the claims of the Miller of Sans Souci. In
Mecklenburg-Schwerin there is no Miller of Sans Souci to worry the
Grand Duke. _For no peasant owns one single acre of land._ One-half of
the territory of the Grand Duchy is owned by a few hundred lords of
the manor, and the other half realizes the Socialist ideal of the
suppression of private property and of the transfer of all private
ownership to the State. Six thousand square miles are the absolute
property of the State—that is to say, of the Grand Duke. For never
was absolute ruler more truly entitled than the Grand Duke to
appropriate the words of Louis XIV.: “L’état c’est moi.”

In this paradise of Prussian Junkerthum one might reasonably have
expected the monarch and the lords of the manor to enjoy as complete
happiness as is ever allotted to mortal man. And the peasants and
artisans could equally be expected to share in the universal
contentment. Are not the Grand Duke and his knights as closely
interested in the welfare of their tenants as a shepherd in the
welfare of his flock? But even in a patriarchal Grand Dukedom the
spirit of modern unrest seems to have penetrated. If German
statisticians may be trusted, the inhabitants of the Grand Duchy do
even seem to have preferred the risks and uncertainties of living in a
distant and unpaternal American Government to the peace and quiet and
security of the Mecklenburg plains. The ungrateful subjects of the
Grand Duke have done what the Kaiser once advised his own disloyal
subjects to do; they have shaken the dust of the Fatherland off their
feet; they have emigrated in such large numbers to the United States
of America that this paradise of Prussian Junkerthum, with its 700,000
inhabitants, is to-day the most thinly populated part of the German
Empire, and contains fewer industries than any other part.

After all, to a military empire soldiers are more necessary than
peasants and artisans. Already in 1815 Mecklenburg could claim the
glory of having produced the greatest Junker soldier of the age, bluff
and rough Prince Blücher, the victor of Waterloo. The achievements of
the Grand Ducal regiments have fully proved that Mecklenburg-Schwerin
and Mecklenburg-Strelitz have in the present war remained true to the
glories of their military past and have remained worthy of their
feudal present, and the august head of the Grand Ducal dynasty is just
now doing most efficient work in the Balkan States as the
super-Ambassador of his Imperial cousin.




It is the purpose of the following article to single out one aspect of
the war which has been strangely neglected. It is our purpose to
emphasize the influence which the obsession of one particular idea,
the German race theory, has exercised over the German mind and the
part which it has played in bringing about the war of the nations.
False ideas have been the dragon’s teeth from which have risen the
legions of five continents. Amongst those false ideas the most deadly,
the most fatal, has been the German heresy of race, the theory of race
inequality and race antagonism. It is in the name of that race heresy,
in the name of Germanism and Pan-Germanism, of Slavism and
Pan-Slavism, of Saxonism and Pan-Saxonism, the war is being waged.

We read the following passage in a recent book by Sven Hedin, the
official chronicler of the German armies:

“Here is a (German) reservist. What a tremendous figure! What can
Latins, Slavs, Celts, Japs, Negroes, Hindus, Ghurkas, Turcos, and
whatever they are called, do against such strapping giants of the
true Germanic type? His features are superbly noble, and he seems
pleased with his day’s work. He does not regret that he has offered
his life for Germany’s just cause.”

In this odious passage we have in a few lines the whole history and
the whole philosophy of the tragedy. We have the spirit with which the
Germans have waged the war, we have the motive for which they have
waged it, and we have the ultimate purpose which they hope to
achieve—namely, to force upon a subjected Europe the rule of the
super-race of Treitschke and the _bionda bestia_ of Nietzsche.

In former times, in the so-called “Dark Age,” nations would fight for
the human, rational, but impracticable principle of orthodoxy. To-day
we are fighting for the inhuman, for the equally impracticable and
immoral principle of race antagonism. Germans fight because through
their veins courses the red blood of the Teutons of Tacitus. They are
fighting because they are convinced that they have the Might and the
Right and the Duty of crushing the French and the Russians, because
through French veins courses the tainted blood of the Gauls of Cæsar,
and because through the veins of the Slavs courses the white fluid of
the slave and the yellow fluid of the Tatar.


It is one of the commonplaces of the economic school that the economic
motive is the main factor which makes for peace or war, that material
interests only count, and that ideas do not matter. It is one of the
shallow illusions of the pseudo-rationalist school that the age of
religious wars is passed for ever. As a matter of fact, this war is as
much a religious war as any crusade that was ever waged. The only
difference between the religious war of to-day and the religious wars
of yesterday is that in the past dogmas were promulgated by priests
and saints in the name of Theology. The dogmas of to-day are
promulgated in the name of Science by the high-priests of Universities
and Academies. A few mystical Greek words, such as _homousios_ and
_homoiousios_, were the watchwords of the crusades of old. A few
equally mystical Greek words, _brachycephalic_ and _dolichocephalic_,
are the watchwords of the crusades of to-day.


It may seem the idle conceit of a dreamer out of touch with reality to
assert that it is principles which mainly matter and that it is the
ideal which is the ultimate reality. It may seem a ludicrous
exaggeration to assert that a mere abstract scientific theory,
apparently so innocuous as is the German race theory, could be held
responsible for so titanic a catastrophe. Surely there seems to be
here no relation and no proportion between cause and effect. Yet it
does not take a prolonged effort of profound thinking to understand
the portentous political significance of the German race heresy. It is
not difficult to understand that according as we believe that history
is mainly a conflict of ideals or according as we believe that history
is mainly a conflict of material interests, or a conflict of races, we
shall consistently either believe in peace or in war as the normal
condition of humanity. Conflicts of ideas ought rationally to make for
peace. Conflicts of material interests will frequently, although not
necessarily, make for war. Conflicts of races must inevitably and
always make for war.

If you believe in the materialistic theory that human history is
mainly made up of the inevitable antagonism between Aryan and Semite,
between Slav and Teuton, between Celt and Anglo-Saxon, then you must
also believe that war is the permanent and beneficial factor in human
history. For the conflicts of races for supremacy can only be solved
through war.

On the other hand, if you believe in the idealistic theory that human
history is mainly a conflict of spiritual and moral and political
ideals, then peace is the ultimate factor. For human experience and
human reason equally teach us that a conflict of spiritual ideals
cannot be solved by violence. They can only be solved by discussion
and argument, by persuasion and conversion, by the spread of
education, by clear thinking and strenuous working, by the diffusion
of sweetness and light. Both reason and wisdom teach us that truth and
faith are like love—they cannot be imposed by force.


Underlying the theory of race there is a first assumption that there
is such a thing as a distinct racial type; that there are definite
breeds of men, Aryans and Semites, Celts and Teutons, just as there
are definite breeds of dogs and pigeons; that human breeds are
evolved by similar selective processes; that those distinct racial
types are the main factor in the history of nations; that those types
are endowed with specific anatomical and physiological characteristics,
and that those physiological characteristics carry with them equally
definite moral, intellectual, and political qualities.

And there is a second assumption which is the corollary of the first.
Not only is there a separation of races, there is also an inequality
of races. “L’Inégalité des Races humaines” is the title of the
epoch-making book of Count de Gobineau. The “Separation of Race” is a
biological and objective fact. But to that biological fact we must add
a moral and subjective distinction. Some races are noble, others are
ignoble. Some races are born to rule, other races are born to obey, to
be “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” The Slav is born a slave to
be controlled by the Germans. The Serbian is born a serf to be
controlled by the Austrians. The Bohemian is an outcast. The Pole is a
drunkard. The Celt is a weakling. The Anglo-Saxon is a mercenary. The
Russian is a Tatar and a brute.


The German race theory is propped up by a formidable array of
so-called scientific proofs. All the auxiliary disciplines of biology,
botany and zoology, physiology and anatomy, are enlisted in the
service of anthropology and ethnology. The question as to whether a
particular nation is a _Kultur Volk_ or whether it is only a rabble of
slaves depends entirely on whether the facies is square or oval,
brachycephalic or oligocephalic. It depends entirely—to use the
pedantic jargon of the anthropologist—on the “cephalic index” of the

The historical sciences are called in to support the conclusions of
ethnology. It is especially philology which is the most efficient
instrument demonstrating the existence and the superiority of a
distinct race. Just as anatomy reveals to us the structure of the
cranium, so philology reveals to us the structure of the mind. The
philologist reveals the genealogies of words even as the
anthropologist studies the genealogies of races.

In the burning controversies which for the last generation have
divided the Tchech and Magyar and Croatian and Roumanian races of the
Austrian Empire, it is the philologists who have acted as umpires. In
Vienna philologists like von Jagic have all the authority and prestige
of statesmen. Similarly, in the Balkan States, Serbians and
Bulgarians, Roumanians and Greeks, find conclusive evidence of their
respective rights in the dialects of the Macedonian populations. Such
and such a province must be allotted to the Serbians, and not to the
Bulgarians, because such and such a dialect has more affinity to the
Serbian than to the Bulgarian language. Similarly, in the Latin
elements of their dictionary, Roumanian patriots find convincing
evidence of their Latin ancestry, and finally prove that they are the
lineal descendants of the Dacian legions of Emperor Trajan.[21]

    [21] The Roumanian language is a composite language like
    English. Even as the English vocabulary is mainly a blend of
    Anglo-Saxon and Franco-Norman, so the Roumanian language is a
    blend of Latin and Slavonic words. Many years ago the British
    and Foreign Bible Society published a Roumanian Bible from
    which the majority of the Slavonic words had been eliminated.
    I pointed out in _Everyman_ that this Roumanian translation
    was not Roumanian at all. The authorities of the Bible
    Society indignantly protested and asked me to withdraw. I
    refused to withdraw. The British and Foreign Bible Society
    investigated the question, deferring to my criticisms, and
    prepared and published a new revised version of their
    Roumanian Bible in which the Slavonic words largely composing
    the religious vocabulary of Roumania have been restored.


Those scientific arguments, biological and philological, may satisfy
the biologists and the philologists; they certainly satisfy nobody
else. All those pseudo-scientific facts belong to the realm of
fiction. Serious thinkers have ceased to prattle about the application
of biology to ethics since Huxley delivered his Romanes lecture on
“Evolution and Ethics.” The encroachments of scientific materialism
have failed as signally in the political sciences as they have failed
in ethics.

It is futile to compare the processes which evolve races of man with
the processes which evolve breeds of animals. It is true that in the
lower stages of humanity the word “race” has a definite meaning. It
may be contended that there is a wide gulf between the races at the
extreme end of the human scale, a gulf which even the enthusiastic
devotion of missionary effort does not seem able to bridge. There is
such a thing as the “blackness” of the nigger and the “yellowness” of
the Chinese and the Japanese, although the Japanese have proved
themselves capable of assimilating Western civilization, and although
the black race has produced the greatest poet of Russia, Pouchkine,
and one of the greatest novelists of France, Alexandre Dumas. But it
is an all-important fact that as civilization advances the word “race”
entirely changes its meaning. Evolution entirely modifies its
processes. Biological factors steadily decrease in importance. Moral
and political and intellectual factors as steadily increase in

Isolation and selection are the main conditions required to produce a
definite breed of cattle. On the other hand, if we want to produce a
highly civilized type, it is not isolation which is the main
condition, but crossing and blending, mixture and intercourse. As we
rise in the scale of humanity there are no fixed types. All types are
equally plastic. There are no pure types. All types are equally mixed.

Even if we take the Jewish race, which seems to show extraordinary
fixity and stability of type, there is not one dominant Jewish type;
there are fully fifty different Jewish types. There is hardly any
resemblance between the Jew of Tiflis and the Jew of Tangier, between
democratic Ashkenazim and the aristocratic Sephardim. Race is not a
cause, but an effect. It is not biology which explains politics, it is
politics which dominate biology. It is not the physical which explains
the moral, it is the moral which produces the physical. It is not the
racial type which produces a racial belief and a racial community, it
is the religion which produces the race. It is not the Hindu caste
which produces the religion, it is religion which produces the caste.
Similarly, it is the religious and political conditions which have
kept the Jew apart, and which have preserved the characteristics of
the race. Even so, religion and persecution have kept the
characteristics of the Armenians or the Parsees and the Greek colonies
in the Levant.


A highly gifted race is invariably the outcome of complex elements, of
many cross-currents. Invariably it is the outcome of moral, spiritual,
and political factors. It is the outcome of unity of language, of
unity of religion, of community of traditions and institutions. It is
mainly religion which keeps apart the French and the Anglo-Saxon races
in Canada, and which divides the Celt from the Ulsterman in Ireland.
Let the religious boundary break down, and the Irish Celt will blend
with the Ulster Scot, the French Canadian will mix with the
Anglo-Saxon. The race heresy in its modern form is the sinister shadow
projected by the biological materialism of the early Darwinians. It is
the same materialistic conception which has triumphed in German
Marxism and in the economic interpretation of history. It is the same
conception which has triumphed in the _Realpolitik_ and _Weltpolitik_,
and the elimination of the moral factor from the activities of high
policy. The tyranny of the race dogma permeates the majority of the
German historians and publicists from the early nineteenth century. We
find it in Mommsen’s “History of Rome.” It has found a striking
expression in his famous chapter on the Celts, which is only a veiled
attack against the French, who are assumed to be the lineal
descendants of the Gauls. The same dogma is the dominant idea of
Treitschke’s “History.” We find it in the _bionda bestia_ of
Nietzsche. We find it in the “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”
of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. We find it in the works of Count de
Gobineau, who, after working unnoticed in his own country, has been
heralded as the apostle of Pan-Germanism in the Vaterland. The race
heresy has been the _leitmotiv_ of all political controversies in the
Empire. We find it equally in the anti-Semitic, in the anti-Russian,
in the anti-French propaganda. It has culminated in the triple dogma
of the superman, of the super-race, and of the super-State, and this
triple dogma of the German _Realpolitik_ has worked for the
enslavement of Europe as inevitably as the triple dogma of the French
Revolution—_Liberté_, _Egalité_, _Fraternité_—was bound to lead to
the liberation of Europe.


For the philosophy of race, with all the liberal demonstrations of its
votaries, is essentially and inevitably the philosophy of reaction and
the philosophy of militarism, if it is carried to its logical
conclusion. And, unfortunately, in Germany it has been carried to its
logical conclusion. In Britain and France thinkers have advocated the
same deadly theories. The same deadly poison of pseudo-science has
infected the body politic. But Darwin and Huxley always saved
themselves by inconsistency from the ruthless application of their
doctrines. The common sense of the community has shrunk from extreme
logic. In a country of free discussion and of free institutions
doctrines are counteracted by other influences. Theories are tested by
life. In an autocratic country theories are supreme. The undiluted
theories of Rousseau and Robespierre were supreme under the Reign of
Terror; the theories of Katkov and the extreme Pan-Slavists were
supreme in Russia under the reign of Alexander III. Under a government
like Prussia, where all the spiritual forces are mobilized, where
Universities, Churches, and newspapers are subject to the State, there
is nothing to counteract the doctrinaire spirit. It is, therefore, not
to be wondered at that the heresy of race should have become a fixed
idea, a monomania, in the German Empire. In Great Britain the theories
of the apostate Englishman Chamberlain could not have struck deep
root, notwithstanding all the enthusiastic praise which Mr. Bernard
Shaw has given to the “Foundations.” In France the theories of Count
de Gobineau passed unnoticed. In Germany “Gobineau Societies” have
been established in order to propagate the gospel of the French
diplomat. In Germany one hundred thousand copies of the “Foundations”
of Chamberlain, with their ponderous twelve hundred pages compact with
facts and arguments, have been sold, have poisoned countless brains,
and have wielded enormous political influence.


The first inevitable outcome of the German race heresy has been to
stimulate the belief in the supremacy of the Teuton and to transform
the natural conceit of patriotism into an odious megalomania. Once the
Germans assumed in accordance with the race dogma that some European
races are born to rule and others to obey, it was inevitable that they
should draw the further inference that they of all races were the
dominant race. It is true that the belief of the Calvinist in
religious predestination may lead to a pessimistic as well as to an
optimistic conclusion. The believer in predestination may assume that
he is predestined to eternal damnation as easily as he assumes that he
is predestined to eternal salvation. But the pseudo-scientific mind
and the materialistic mind is not so easily addicted to humility and
pessimism. The slave morality of the Christian may lead to meekness
and charity and to all the negative virtues of a degenerate
Christianity. The master morality of the Anti-Christ Nietzsche must
lead to the ruthless assertion of power. The belief in race
predestination can therefore only result in megalomania, and in
Germany it has certainly resulted in the most acute, the most insane,
inflation of nationalism and imperialism recorded in modern history.
Of that megalomania the Kaiser has been, in innumerable speeches, the
eloquent and insolent spokesman.


Even as race heresy must result in racial megalomania, it must result
in political reaction and in the government of caste. The principle
which is true of the nation as a whole is as true of every section of
that nation. And the pride of race in a nation is substantially the
same thing as the pride of birth in a class. If amongst the races of
man there is one particular breed, the Teuton, which constitutes the
born aristocracy of humanity, so amongst those Teutons there is one
special caste which is the born aristocracy of Teutonism. It is the
rooted belief in the race theory which has maintained the rule of
Junkerthum. On the race theory an exclusive aristocratic government
recruited and maintained by artificial selection is the only logical
and sensible government, and democracy is bound to be considered as a
principle of decay. The Kings of Prussia select their rulers on the
same principle on which King Frederick William selected his regiment
of six-foot grenadiers from the military caste.

That is why we find in Prussia the most exclusive aristocratic
government in the world. As a sop to Southern German opinion, Bismarck
was compelled to grant universal suffrage for the Reichstag, but in
the Prussian Parliament, or “Landtag,” Bismarck, the Junker of blood
and iron, retained the good old principle of aristocratic government.
Under the three-class voting system of the Landtag, one voter
constituting by himself the first class may have as much political
power as the twenty thousand electors constituting the third class.
That is also why the Prussian Junker retains by right of birth a
monopoly in the higher ranks of the Army, of the Diplomatic and Civil
Service. The Junker is born to greatness even as the princely families
of Germany have been born to a monopoly of all the thrones of Europe.


As the race theory must inevitably lead to megalomania and reaction,
so it must inevitably lead to militarism. As it is incompatible with
democracy, so it is incompatible with peace. As we pointed out at the
beginning of this analysis, if it be indeed true that there are some
races which are born to rule, it is their duty to assert their will to
power over inferior races. If “the true Teutonic type”—to use the
words of Sven Hedin—be indeed superior to the Celt, to the
Anglo-Saxon, to the Slav, and to the Latin, he is morally bound to
assert that superiority. The Teuton will not only achieve the victory,
he will deserve it. _Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht_ (World
history is world judgment). History is not a conflict between
abstractions, between truth and error, between higher and lower
principles, between conflicting ideals; it is, above all, the tragic
conflict between higher and lower races. War is necessary and war is
beneficial. War is not only the instrument, it is also the criterion,
of progress. “Might is Right” ceases to be an immoral principle.
“Might is Right” is the ultimate formula of the most sublime morality,
for Might is but the Right of the strong to establish the rule of the
noble over the ignoble elements of humanity.




In the universal readjustment—or, to use the favourite expression of
Nietzsche, in the “transvaluation”—of political and spiritual values
which must follow the war, we may confidently expect a general slump
in all German values. There will be a slump in German education and in
German erudition, in German music and in German watering-places. There
will be a slump in that “exclusive morality” for which Lord Haldane
could not find an equivalent in the English language, and for which,
in his famous Montreal address, he could only find an equivalent in
the German word _Sittlichkeit_. But, most important of all, there will
be a lamentable slump in the most highly prized of all German
values—German theology.

Germany may still retain a monopoly of toys; Germany may still
continue to supply Princes to the vacant thrones of Europe; but it is
eminently probable that God Almighty will cease to be made in the


No one who has not been brought up in a Scottish Presbyterian
University atmosphere realizes the mystical prestige hitherto enjoyed
by German theology. The education of a Scottish divine was thought
incomplete, a graduate in divinity, however brilliant and devout,
could not get an important charge, if he had not received the hallmark
and consecration of a German theological faculty. And what was true of
German Universities was equally true of German theological books.
Publishers like Messrs. Clark, of Edinburgh, and Messrs. Williams and
Norgate, of London, made considerable fortunes merely from their
translations of German works of divinity.

The prejudice in favour of German Universities and against French
Universities goes back to the early days of the Reformation. Already
in “Hamlet” we find the serious young man going to Wittenberg and the
frivolous young man going to Paris in quest of worldly amusement. That
pro-German and anti-French prejudice has continued until our own day.
In vain have I for twenty years attempted in the Universities of
Scotland to send our graduates to French Universities. In vain did I
contend that one single year spent in the Sorbonne provided greater
intellectual stimulus than a whole decade spent in a German
University. The old Puritan feeling against France proved too strong.
Until the year 1914 the stream of our students continued to be
directed to Göttingen and Heidelberg, to Bonn and Berlin. Even in our
distant colonies, even in Toronto, I found that the majority of
teachers were “made in Germany,” whilst of American Universities it is
hardly too much to say that many of them had actually become German


The prejudice which sent Scottish and English ministers of the Gospel
to complete their preparation in Germany was all the more
extraordinary because Positive Christianity had almost vanished from
the theological faculties of Protestant Germany. Even as Holy Russia
has remained on the whole the most Christian nation in Europe,
Protestant Prussia was certainly the least Christian. It was aptly
said by Huxley of the philosophy of Comte, that Comtism was
Catholicism minus Christianity. We might say in the same way of German
theology, that it was philosophy and metaphysics and philology minus
Christianity. Seventy-five years ago David Frederick Strauss, who
would be forgotten but for the pamphlet of Nietzsche, wrote a
ponderous treatise of a thousand pages, translated by George Eliot, to
prove that Christ was a myth. At the end of his life he strenuously
attempted in his “Old and New Faith” to find a substitute for
Christian theology. German Protestantism travelled the road he
indicated. The German people have ceased to believe in Christianity;
but they have come to believe in the self-styled Anti-Christ
Nietzsche. They have ceased to believe in God; but they still believe
in His self-appointed vicegerent, the Kaiser. They have ceased to
believe in Providence; but they still believe in a Providential German
nation. They have ceased to believe in the Holy Trinity; but they
believe all the more fanatically in the New Trinity of the Superman,
the Super-race and the Super-State. And it is this new fanatical
belief which has brought about the war of the nations.


The prejudice of our Protestant Churches in favour of German
Theological Faculties proceeded on the assumption that German
Protestantism was identical with Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. Surely
that strange assumption does little credit to the spiritual insight of
our divines. German Protestantism has absolutely nothing in common
with Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. For whatever may have been adduced
against British and American Nonconformity, it must be admitted that
at least Anglo-Saxon Nonconformity was generally what it professed to
be. Anglo-Saxon Nonconformity actually did refuse to conform,
Anglo-Saxon Protestantism did actually protest. The separation between
Church and State was a fundamental principle of Anglo-Saxon policy,
and that separation was no ideal platonic theory. Nonconformists gave
up their emoluments, they again and again risked their lives in
defence of their principles. In defence of their principles tens of
thousands migrated to distant climes.

For that very reason Anglo-Saxon Nonconformity has rendered
inestimable service to political liberty. German Protestantism has
never rendered a single service to political liberty, for the simple
reason that its political practice has been consistently the reverse.
So far from Lutheran Protestantism being based on the separation of
Church and State, it was based on the confusion of spiritual and
temporal power. That confusion began with the very earliest days of
Lutheranism. Lutherans are inclined to depreciate the personality and
activity of John Huss, the great Slav reformer, because, judged from
worldly standards, John Huss seems to have been a failure. As a matter
of fact, the Slav reformer was the ideal spiritual hero. The Teutonic
reformer was in many ways a time-server. To Luther must be traced the
principle that spiritual allegiance must follow temporal allegiance,
that the subjects must follow the creed of their Prince. That belief
was expressed in the Protestant motto, _Cujus regio illius religio_,
and that motto even to this day accounts for the bewildering religious
geography of the German Empire.

That servile attitude of the Protestant Church to the German State has
survived to this generation; whereas the Roman Catholic Church made a
brave stand against Bismarck in the _Kulturkampf_, the Lutheran Church
has remained a docile State Church. This Erastianism is illustrated by
no one more signally than by the Pontifex Maximus of Prussian
Protestantism, His Excellency Wirklicher Geheimrath Adolf von Harnack.
Harnack has earned world-wide fame as a bold interpreter of the
Scriptures, but he has refused to countenance those ministers who were
discharged merely because they acted on his teachings. In his
exegesis, Harnack has been the most uncompromising of critics. In his
religious politics, he has been the most tame of courtiers, the most
pliable of diplomats. He has taken infinite liberties with the Sacred
Texts. He has never taken any liberties with the sacred majesty of the


The confusion of temporal and spiritual power in German Protestantism
brought about two great evils—servility in politics and indifference
in religion. But it also seemed to bring one great compensating
advantage—namely, complete toleration of other creeds. People do not
fight for a creed to which they have become indifferent. Frederick the
Great gave equal hospitality to the free-thinking Voltaire and to the
Jesuits who had been expelled from most Catholic countries.

That compensating advantage of religious toleration seemed to further
the higher intellectual life of the Universities, and in one sense it
did. But it must not be forgotten that neither religious toleration
nor the higher intellectual life ever extended to the province of
politics. The freedom of the Prussian Universities was always limited
by the necessities of the State and the accidents of politics. With
regard to religion and political thought, the Prussian State always
acted on the principle implied in the cynical epigram of Gibbon: “All
religions are equally true to the believer. They are equally false to
the unbeliever, and _they are equally useful to the statesman_.” For
three hundred years the Prussian statesmen have attempted to utilize
the Christian religion, and Prussian Christian divines have in fact
proved the most serviceable of tools. Unfortunately, in the process
religion has disappeared from Prussian soil, and with the liberating
influence of the Christian religion has vanished political liberty.



    [22] Georges Bourdon, “L’Enigme Allemande,” Librairie Plon,


The present investigation into Franco-German relations conducted on
behalf of the _Figaro_ is the work of one of the ablest publicists of
modern France. It is the work of a good European who wishes to put an
end to the senseless competition in armaments, and to the
international distrust and nervousness which are the main causes of
such armaments. The book is also the work of a good Frenchman who
realizes that no settlement can be durable which does not safeguard
the sacred rights of the conquered peoples of Alsace-Lorraine, who are
the first victims of outraged justice. There lies the originality of
the book. It reveals the new direction which public opinion and
political thought are taking in contemporary France. The whole
question of the relations between France and Germany is lifted to a
higher plane. We hear no more of the humiliation of France, of her
pride and dignity, of rancour and revenge. We hear less of the balance
of military force. The main question which is raised is a question of
moral principle and of international right.


The work of Monsieur Bourdon is not only a good book; it is also a
brave deed. Too long has it been the fashion for French publicists to
entrench themselves behind Gambetta’s phrase: “N’en parler jamais, y
penser toujours!” Silence may have been the best policy on the morrow
of the catastrophe of 1870, when one single indiscretion might have
set Europe aflame. But after forty-four years, and under entirely
altered conditions, an ostrich policy of reticence, a cowardly policy
of mental reservation, cannot be the best means of bringing about a

Monsieur Bourdon has therefore chosen the bolder course, which happens
also to be the wiser course. He has broken down the barrier of fear
and distrust. He has taken the first step. He has gone to Germany in a
spirit of frankness and conciliation. He has tried to get at her
thoughts and afterthoughts. He has cross-examined the German people,
and he has cross-examined them with consummate tact and skill. An
unofficial ambassador of peace, he has revealed all the qualities of a
diplomat, and he has added qualities which the diplomat does not often
possess—outspokenness and uprightness, a loyal regard for truth, and
that moral preoccupation and that delicate sense of international
honour which are generally alien to the official diplomatic mind.


And the result of this searching inquiry is most satisfactory. Quite
apart from the value of the opinions expressed, and of the author’s
own opinion, the inquiry in itself is an historical document of prime
importance. Here we have before us at first hand the public opinion of
Germany. Nor is it the irresponsible opinion of anonymous scribblers,
or the opinion of party politicians; it is the deliberate, reasoned
opinion of some of the most distinguished German readers in thought
and action. Statesmen and diplomats, captains of industry and army
captains, editors and financiers, all the professions except the
Church (a significant omission!), are represented in this survey of
German opinion. After reading M. Bourdon’s book, no politician will
henceforth be allowed to plead as an excuse that he does not know what
official and unofficial Germany thinks, and what she feels on the
vital questions of foreign policy.


And perhaps the readers may carry away the impression that Germany
feels more than she thinks; that she is carried away by prejudice, by
currents and cross-currents of emotion, rather than led by general
principles and clear and sober thinking. I had asked one of the most
eminent British publicists living to write an introduction to the
English translation of M. Bourdon’s book which is to be published next
month by Messrs. Dent. But my friend answered that he would willingly
have written such an introduction if he could have agreed with the
ideas of the French writer. Unfortunately, he did not see his way to
agree with Monsieur Bourdon. No purpose, he argued, could be served by
cross-examining German opinion, for there was no German opinion. In
vain did Monsieur Bourdon claim to tell us what Germany thinks; the
Germans were not educated to think politically. And there was the rub.
There was no organized public opinion, and even if there were, it
could only express itself, it could not press its demands upon a
despotic Government.


I do not here examine how much truth there may be in my friend’s
contention. But one fact must certainly strike the readers of M.
Bourdon’s book. The present position is as ominous as it is
bewildering and unintelligible.

Monsieur Bourdon has proved once more the tremendous power of German
militarism. German militarism seems to be bred in the bone of the
Prussians, and has been inoculated into the German people. The army is
the most popular service in the country. It provides an honourable
career to tens of thousands of young men of the middle classes and of
the aristocracy. At the same time, Monsieur Bourdon points out that
from the German point of view it is one thing to be militarist, and
another to be warlike and bellicose. The Germans hold that the most
confirmed militarist may be a convinced pacifist. The father of
Frederick the Great, the greatest militarist of the Hohenzollern
Dynasty, the Sergeant-King, was so attached to his army that he never
employed it in active warfare, he never allowed it to fight a single
battle, for fear of losing or spoiling so perfect an instrument.

But even granting this paradoxical thesis of the pacifism of German
militarists, the situation remains sufficiently contradictory and
distracting to the ordinary mind. Every representative German
consulted by Monsieur Bourdon proclaims that Germany is pacific, that
she wishes for peace, and that she needs peace for her industrial and
commercial expansion. Yet we see her making gigantic preparations for
a possible war. With a restless endeavour, and at tremendous cost, we
see her developing her warlike resources. Every representative German
insists on making platonic professions. Yet we do not hear of a single
statesman daring to take the necessary step or to make the necessary
sacrifices. No one seems to understand that peace demands sacrifices
quite as heroic as war. No Bismarck of peace seems to be strong enough
to-day to put an end to the senseless waste of national resources and
misdirected energies.


The “German Enigma” of Monsieur Bourdon is mainly an objective,
impartial, and impersonal study, and the author has been careful not
to obtrude his own private views. It is only in the last chapter that
he attempts to draw the lesson and point out the conclusion of his own
inquiry. And his conclusion is an eloquent though restrained plea for
a Franco-German _rapprochement_, and in favour of the only policy
which will bring about that reconciliation. France, he argues, does
not want a revision of the Treaty of Frankfurt. She does not want
compensation or revenge. French history contains a sufficiently
brilliant roll of glorious military achievements that the French
people may afford to forget the reverses and humiliations of 1870. A
French statesman, on the eve of the Treaty of Frankfurt, made the
rhetorical statement that France would never surrender one stone of
her fortresses nor one inch of her territory. Animated by a very
different spirit, modern French statesmen do not claim back to-day one
inch of lost territory. All that the French people demand is that the
claims of justice shall be heard, that Alsace-Lorraine shall cease to
groan under the heel of an arbitrary despot, that Alsace-Lorraine
shall be governed according to her own laws, that the Alsatians shall
be treated as a free people, and not as conquered subjects.


And that one sole possibly solution is also the only simple solution.
That solution would involve no sacrifice of pride or dignity to either
nation. France would not make any surrender to Germany, and Germany
would not make any concession to France. Both would surrender to the
demands of international justice.

And the solution of the autonomy of Alsace-Lorraine would be in the
interests of all parties concerned, as well as of European
civilization. France and Germany would be delivered from a nightmare
which for forty-four years has paralyzed their activities. One hundred
and ten millions of the two most progressive nations of the Continent
would cease to oppose each other in every quarter of the globe.

Alsace-Lorraine would cease to be the festering wound on the open
frontier of the two countries, but would once more discharge her
historical function of being the connecting link between Latin and
Teutonic peoples.

And the whole of Europe would be delivered from the crushing burden of
military expenditure. Hundreds of millions at present wasted on
armaments would be devoted to productive purposes. Commerce and
industry would receive an impetus which in one generation would renew
the face of Europe. Reaction would collapse with the disappearance of
military predominance, and European Governments could devote
themselves whole-heartedly to the anxious problems clamouring for a
solution, and to the momentous tasks of popular education and social
reform which are waiting to be accomplished.



A few months ago[23] it was my good fortune to discuss the
international situation with Monsieur Emile Ollivier, the veteran
statesman, the Napoleonic Prime Minister with the light heart whose
name will ever be identified, and identified unjustly, with a
disastrous war. A few days ago it was again my privilege to discuss
the European situation with another Continental statesman whose name
will for ever be identified with the cause of peace. I am not at
liberty to disclose the identity of the illustrious speaker. Suffice
it to say that he is a statesman whose every word compels attention
all over the world and imposes respect, a man of infinite wit, of
penetrating intellect, and whose commanding personality has on more
than one occasion directed the course of world politics, and has
helped to save Europe from an impending catastrophe. For more than an
hour the speaker discussed with me, if an almost uninterrupted
monologue may be called a discussion, the anxious problems of modern
Germany. Without reticence or afterthought, he gave me the benefit of
his mature wisdom and of a lifelong experience.

    [23] Written in the spring of 1914.


You ask me to give you the key of the international situation. That
key is in Germany, or rather in Berlin. For Prussia controls Germany,
and will more and more control it in the future.

The Germans are nervous and uneasy, and that is why they ceaselessly
increase their armaments. They are nervous because the whole European
situation has been radically changed, to their detriment. The whole
balance of power has been upset by the results of the Balkan War. They
are nervous because they are tragically isolated. Germany has no
friends, no allies, and has therefore to defend herself on two, or
rather on three, fronts. She has to defend herself at once against
France, against Russia, and against England.

It is true that the Triple Alliance still subsists. But it subsists
only in name. For Germany can count neither on Italy nor on Austria.
She cannot count on Italy. For Italy is a hopeless coquette, and she
transfers her erratic affections wherever her interest leads her. Nor
can Germany count on Austria. No longer can Austria be called the
“loyal secundant.” For Austria has ceased to be controlled by her
Teutonic population. She is at the mercy of the Slavs, both inside and
outside of her empire. She is abandoned by Roumania, who is seeking
the support of Russia. She is detested by the Serbians, who have the
best organized army in the Balkans. It would have been the vital
interest of Austria to win over Serbia, and it would have been so easy
to win her over. An equitable treaty of commerce, the concession of a
port on the Adriatic, and Serbia would have become the ally of
Austria. Serbia was prepared to forget the shameful policy hitherto
pursued by Austria. All that was required was some give-and-take, some


But that sense of fairness, of international equity, is exactly what
both Prussia and Austria are so lamentably deficient in. The
Austrians, like the Prussians, may be individually most pleasant.
Politically and collectively they are consistently disagreeable. They
never seem to understand the first principle of diplomacy—namely,
that no treaty can be of any permanent value which is only
advantageous to one side.

And then there is the utter tactlessness of the Germans. It is partly
explainable by their belief in force. When you believe in force you do
not trouble to persuade or conciliate. It is also partly explainable
by the absence in Prussia of an old tradition of refinement and
culture. As Bismarck once said cynically and frankly to Thiers: “Mon
cher ami! Nous autres Prussiens, nous sommes encore des barbares” (We
Prussians, we are still barbarians).

The Prussian, therefore, in diplomacy is a blunderer and a bully. He
has the art of making himself unpleasant. And he seems to enjoy doing
so. It is significant that the Germans are the only people who have
coined a special word to express the pleasure felt by inflicting
pain. The curious and expressive German word _Schadenfreude_ cannot be
translated into any other language.


And that is why in politics the Germans fail to make friends. They are
feared by all nations. They are respected by some. They are loved by

And they fail to make friends at home quite as lamentably as abroad.
They fail to win over the nations living under their own German laws.
They are making such inconceivable blunders as the expropriation of
the Poles and the colonization scheme of Posen. It is a striking fact
that with the single possible exception of the Galicians—who fear
Russia even more than they detest Austria—there is not a single
non-German-speaking people either in the German Empire or in the
Austrian Empire who has accepted the rule of the Teuton. Alsatian and
Dane, Pole and Tchech, Croatian and Roumanian—all the subject races
are equally disaffected. They may disagree in everything, but they
agree in their opposition to Teutonic rule.

What a tragedy this German world empire of the twentieth century! Once
Germany was made up of little cities and great Universities. To-day
she is made up of big cities and impotent Universities. Where are the
spiritual and artistic glories of the past? The moral and intellectual
influence of Germany has reached its lowest ebb.


It is this striking isolation of Germany which compels her to arm. On
the other hand, there can be no doubt that this very isolation is
making for peace. Nobody either in Europe or Germany wants war.
Neither the Emperor nor his Ministers want war. War is too great a
risk. It is too much of a gamble. In warfare it is always the
unexpected that happens. War may be the national industry of Prussia.
But it is the most _speculative_ of all industries.

At the same time, whilst we are all wishing for peace, we must ever be
on our guard. With the militarist tendencies of a bureaucratic and
despotic State, with the economic pressure of an increasing
population, one is always at the mercy of an incident. Twenty-five
years ago the Schnaebele incident brought Europe to the verge of war.
Similar frontier incidents in this age of aeroplanes can happen any
day. They did happen yesterday. They did not lead to serious
consequences. They might lead to fatal consequences to-morrow. They
might be magnified by a sensational Press and by bellicose partisans
such as the Pan-Germanists. The Pan-Germanists may be only a small
minority to-day, but they are noisy, and they are just the kind of
people ever looking out for just such “unpleasant incidents.”

Yes, let us be on our guard! Let us not trust to a false sense of
security, and let us not put our trust in politics and politicians.
Politics are so petty, and politicians so impotent. How many so-called
statesmen are there to-day who have the courage of their convictions,
and who would not be carried away by the impulses and emotions of the


Such were the weighty words of the European statesman. They were
uttered without animus and without passion. They were uttered with the
serene detachment of the philosopher and of the experienced man of the
world. And they express the deliberate opinions of a confirmed
pacifist. And they express the substantial truth.

It would be well if our German friends would ponder and meditate those
sober and sobering utterances. It would be well if they would try and
give their own explanation of their tragic isolation and of their
universal political unpopularity. It would be well if they in turn
would ask themselves why political Germany is left without a friend in
the wide world? As Maximilian Harden once said: “Uns lebt kein Freund
auf der weiten Welt.” Might not the result of such sobering
reflections be to induce the Germans to turn over a new leaf? Might it
not help to precipitate the downfall of a medieval military
bureaucracy? And might it not help to falsify the ominous prophecy of
our European statesman that Prussia will more and more control the
politics of the German Empire?

We loved the glorious Germany of the past. Let the Germany of
to-morrow make herself again as cordially liked as she is feared
to-day. But let her understand that no nation will allow herself to
be bullied into sympathy. Sympathy must be spontaneous. In the words
of one of her greatest thinkers: “Die Liebe ist wie der Glaube, man
kann sie nicht erzwingen” (Love is like Faith. You cannot secure it by




The complicated and contradictory relations between Russia and Germany
can be summed up very briefly. On the one hand, there existed before
the war the closest intercourse between the Russian and the German
Courts, and that close intercourse extended to the army, to the
bureaucracy, to the Universities, to the industrial and commercial
classes. On the other hand, the Russian and the German people are
mutually repelled. There is a temperamental antagonism between the two
nations, between the dour disciplined Prussian and the easygoing
disciplined Russian. In the province of ideas, of art and literature,
French influence is dominant amongst the intellectual and in the upper
classes, but as literature counts for very little, and as trade and
industry, as the bureaucracy and the Court, count for a very great
deal, and as all these social and political forces hitherto were
almost entirely controlled by the Germans, it may be said that before
the war German influence was supreme in the Russian Empire.


Until Peter the Great, the Romanov Family was a national dynasty. It
had remained national from sheer necessity, as no European Court would
have cared to intermarry with Tatar and Barbarian Princes. Even at the
end of Peter the Great’s reign the prestige of Russia had scarcely
asserted itself in the politics of the West. Peter the Great expressed
a keen desire to pay a visit to the Court of Louis XIV. He was
politely given to understand that his visit would not be acceptable,
even as a poor relation will be told that his visit is not welcome to
a kinsman in exalted position. After the death of Louis, the Tsar
again asked to be received at Versailles. This time his overtures were
accepted, but even at the Court of the Regent his visit caused the
greatest embarrassment to the masters of ceremonies. The situation was
a tragi-comic one. French etiquette could not decide whether the Tatar
Prince was to receive the honours which belong of right only to the
ruler of a civilized people.

For the first time in modern Russian history, Peter the Great’s
daughter, Anne, married a German Prince in 1725. With that year begins
that close dynastic alliance with the German Courts which has lasted
until our own day. Germany has been carrying on a most thriving export
trade of Princes and Princesses with almost every European
monarchy—an export trade of which she is reaping the enormous
political advantages in the present crisis. But in Russia alone she
has obtained a monopoly of this royal export trade. _All the Russian
Tsars have married German Princesses._ For one hundred and fifty years
the rule suffered no exception until Alexander II. married a daughter
of the Danish Dynasty, which itself is in reality the German Dynasty
of Oldenburg.

I need not emphasize the supreme importance of those close family
relations between the Courts of Russia and Germany, _and especially
between the Courts of Russia and Prussia_. It is the peculiarity of an
autocratic government that the smallest causes are productive of the
greatest consequences, and amongst those smaller causes none are
likely to produce more far-reaching results than the personal likes
and dislikes of the ruler and his family. In the Empire of the Tsars
the sympathies of the ruler and of the Imperial family for a hundred
and fifty years have generally been German. Women have no less
influence in Russia than in other countries, and as every Russian
Princess has, for a hundred and fifty years, been German in origin,
German by training, German by pride of birth, German by prejudice, the
Teutonic influences have necessarily been supreme in the Russian
Court. Nor must we forget that every German Princess coming to
Petrograd would bring with her a numerous suite of ladies-in-waiting
and Court officials, so that the German Court colony was automatically
increasing. Indeed, it is no mere chance that the capital, the
military harbour, and the chief Imperial residences should all have
German names—Kronstadt, Oranienbaum, Schluessenburg, Petersburg, and
Peterhof. Peterhof has been the Russian Potsdam. Petersburg has been
the outpost of Germany in the Russian Empire, the _feste Burg_ of
Prussia until the eve of the war.


From what has been said, it is obvious that the national Romanov
Dynasty, founded in 1613 by Michael Romanov, Patriarch of all the
Russias, ceased to be a Romanov Dynasty at the death of Empress
Elizabeth in 1761. With Peter III. it is a German Dynasty which
ascends the throne. Peter III., son of a Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, is
a Romanov in the proportion of one-half; Paul, son of a Princess of
Anhalt-Zerbst, in the proportion of one-fourth; Alexander I. and
Nicholas I., sons of a Princess of Würtemberg, in the proportion of
one-eighth; Alexander II., son of a Princess of Hohenzollern, to the
extent of one-sixteenth; Alexander III., son of a Grand Duchess of
Hesse-Darmstadt, to the extent of one thirty-second; and the late
ruler, Nicholas II., who married a Princess of the House of Oldenburg,
to the extent of one sixty-fourth. One sixty-fourth of the blood of
the late Tsar is Russian Romanov blood. In the proportion of
sixty-three sixty-fourths it is the blood of Holstein, of Anhalt, of
Oldenburg, of Hesse, of Würtemberg, of Hohenzollern, which flows
through the veins of the late Emperor of all the Russias.


The history of Russia proves only too conclusively that again and
again the national interests of Russia have been sacrificed to the
German dynastic influences. At the end of the Seven Years’ War,
Frederick the Great was at his last gasp. Prussia was on the verge of
ruin. _The Russian Army had entered Berlin_; the power of the new
military monarchy had been totally broken at Kunersdorf. The death of
Elizabeth and the accession of her mad nephew, Peter III., retrieved a
desperate situation. For the mad nephew was a German Prince, a Duke of
Holstein, and a passionate admirer of Frederick the Great. Peter III.
was murdered in 1762. He only reigned a few months, but he reigned
sufficiently long to save Prussia from destruction and to surrender
all the advantages secured by Russian triumphs and dearly paid for by
Russian blood.


There is no more fantastic fairy-tale and there is no more fascinating
drama than the life-story of Catherine the Great, which recently has
been so brilliantly told by Mr. Francis Gribble. A Cinderella amongst
German royalties, a pauper Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, Catherine became
the mightiest potentate of her age. Although the nominee of Frederick
the Great, she pursued consistently a national Russian policy. And she
had good reasons for doing so. For no throne was less secure than the
throne of the Romanovs. She had had to remove her husband by murder
for fear of being removed herself. She continued to be surrounded by a
rabble of unscrupulous adventurers and intriguers. Her only safety lay
in becoming a patriotic Russian, and in seeking the support of Russian
sentiment and Russian opinion. Whilst Frederick the Great surrounded
himself with French advisers, and contemptuously refused even to speak
the German language; whilst he declared to the German scholar who
presented him with a copy of the “Nibelungen Lied” that this national
German epic was not worth a pipe of tobacco, Catherine the Great
systematically encouraged Russian literature. Whilst Frederick the
Great remained the consistent Atheist on the throne, Catherine the
Great professed the utmost zeal for Russian Orthodoxy. All through her
reign she avoided as far as possible a conflict with Frederick and his
successor. She divided with them the spoils of Poland, or, as
Frederick the Great put it in his edifying theological language, she
partook of the Eucharistic body of the Polish kingdom in unholy
communion with Prussia and Austria. But Catherine saw to it that
Russia secured the greater part of the spoils.


There is a curious and uncanny similarity between the character and
the reign of Peter III. and the character and reign of his son, Paul
I. Both reigns were brief, yet both reigns had an incalculable
influence on European affairs. Both rulers sacrificed national
interests to dynastic interests. Both rulers were insane, and both
rulers engaged in insane enterprises. Both father and son were
murdered with the complicity or connivance of their own family. The
Russian armies, on the advent of Peter III., had secured and achieved
a dramatic victory over Prussia, but the admiration of Peter III. for
Frederick the Great prevented the Russians from reaping the fruits of
victory. Suvoroff crossed the Alps and achieved an equally sensational
victory over France, but Paul I. was prevented from taking advantage
of his victories by his admiration for Napoleon.


The reign of Alexander I. once more strikingly illustrates the
enormous part which subterranean German influences have played in the
foreign policy of Russia. After the costly victories of Eylau and
Friedland, Napoleon I. had concluded with Alexander I. the Peace of
Tilsit. The treaty was fatal to Europe, for it divided the Continent
practically between the Russian and French Empires. But it was highly
advantageous to Russia, and enormously added to Russian power and
Russian prestige.

It was certainly in Russia’s interest to maintain the Alliance. It was
broken largely through one of those small dynastic incidents which are
of such vast importance under an absolute despotism. One of Napoleon’s
main objects was to establish a Napoleonic Dynasty and to be adopted
by marriage into one of the ruling families of Europe. The Corsican
parvenu passionately desired a matrimonial alliance with the House of
Romanov, and repeatedly applied for the hand of one of Alexander’s
sisters; the dowager Tsarina, Alexander’s mother, a daughter of the
King of Würtemberg, as persistently refused. She had all the pride of
birth of a German Princess, and all the hatred of a reactionary
against the armed soldier of the Revolution. Foiled at the Court of
Petersburg, Napoleon was more successful at the Court of Vienna. A few
months after Napoleon’s last overtures had been rejected by Russia,
the Habsburgs, who, after the Bourbons, were the most august, the most
ancient dynasty of Europe, eagerly accepted what the Romanovs had
refused. The war of 1812 with Russia was the result of that pro-German
policy of the Russian Court.


During the reigns of Nicholas I. and Alexander II. the German-Austrian
influence reached its zenith at the Court of Petersburg. Nicholas I.
was the brother-in-law of the Prussian Hohenzollern. An able and an
honest man in his private relations, he was in his political capacity
a Prussian martinet, as even Treitschke is compelled to admit, and he
organized his Empire on the strictest Frederician principles. The
Court, the Army, and the bureaucracy were Prussianized as they had
never been before. A German bureaucrat, Nesselrode, who could not even
speak the Russian language, for forty years controlled as Foreign
Minister the policy of the Russian Empire. Even as his grandfather,
Peter III., even as his brother, Alexander I., had saved Prussia from
destruction, so Nicholas I. saved Austria from a similar fate. Francis
Joseph had ascended a throne shaken to its foundations. Hungary was in
open rebellion. The young Austrian Emperor appealed to Russia for
help. Nicholas I. sent an army to quell the revolution, and
established his cousin on the Hungarian throne. It is unnecessary to
add that Francis Joseph was as loyal and as grateful to Russia as
Frederick the Great had been!

Alexander I. had refused to accept Napoleon I. as a brother-in-law.
Even so did Nicholas I. refuse to recognize Napoleon III. as Emperor
of the French. It was a gratuitous insult inspired by Prussia; it was
opposed to Russian interests, and it was one of the main causes of the
Crimean War.


Under Alexander II. the alliance of the three reactionary empires of
Central Europe was welded even more firmly than under his predecessor.
Bismarck, during his tenure of the Prussian Embassy at Petersburg, was
the chosen favourite of the Russian Court, and if he had chosen could
have become a Minister of the Tsar. An understanding with Russia
became the chief dogma of his political creed, and it remained so
until the end. It was Bismarck’s adherence to the Russian-Prussian
Alliance which was one of the causes of his dismissal.

Alexander II. did nothing to guard against the German peril. He might
have been the umpire of Central Europe, as Alexander I. had been fifty
years before. He demanded no compensation for the enormous accession
of power and territory which Germany had received through the
victorious wars of 1863, 1866, and 1870. He insisted on no guarantees.
When, after Sedan, Thiers came to St. Petersburg to obtain the
intervention of the Russian Empire, he was dismissed with empty words.
One year after Thiers’s fruitless journey, Emperor William paid an
official visit to his nephew Alexander II., and the Tsar once more
proclaimed the indissoluble solidarity of Russia with Germany. Until
the end of his reign the German-Austrian-Russian Alliance, the famous
dynastic Alliance of the Three Emperors, remained the keystone of
European policy and the mainstay of Russian reaction.


The influence of Germany at the Russian Court was strengthened by the
influence of Germany on the Russian bureaucracy. An agricultural
community without a middle class, Russia has had to recruit her Civil
Services almost entirely from the outside and mainly from Germany, and
more especially from the German Baltic provinces of Esthonia, Livonia,
and Courland. Teutonic barons from those Baltic provinces have filled
the higher ranks of the Diplomatic Service and of the Civil Service
for a hundred and fifty years. The Russian Tsars found the German
barons far more serviceable tools than the Russian boiars. In a
previous age one Emperor after another had been removed by a
rebellious aristocracy. The highest nobles in the land had been
implicated in the Decabrist conspiracy at the end of Alexander I.’s
reign. Even under Alexander II. there were always a few members of the
nobility to be found as accomplices in the revolutionary plots. But
there never was one single German from the Baltic provinces implicated
in a conspiracy against reaction. It is easy to understand, therefore,
why a Russian autocrat should have preferred the services of the
German Baltic barons. The Russian nobleman is casual, lavish, a bad
economist, easygoing, generous, and he is corrupt because easygoing
and generous. He is also much more independent. The Junker is
punctual, precise, disciplined, generally poor, always ambitious. He
is also tolerably honest. He is the ideal bureaucrat.


German influence has been no less dominant in the Russian academies
and in scientific institutions. The Academy of Sciences of St.
Petersburg was organized on the pattern of the Academy of Berlin. It
was an official institution with high privileges, and it remained
consistently German. Until recently its proceedings were published in
the German language, and German scientists were invariably preferred
rather than Russian scientists. Mendelieff, one of the most creative
scientific minds of his generation, was a member of every European
academy except the Academy of Petersburg.

The Germans have been an even greater power in the Russian
Universities. They took full advantage of the prestige which German
science had acquired in Europe, and they largely filled the ranks of
the liberal professions. German doctors, German veterinary surgeons,
German _Feldschers_, German foresters, German engineers, were to be
found in every part of the Empire. A casual reading of the Post Office
directories of Moscow, or Petersburg, or Kiev, provides a most
instructive commentary on the extent of the German domination.


Securely entrenched in the Russian Court, in the Army, in the
bureaucracy, in the Universities, in the Diplomatic Service, the
Germans secured a no less commanding influence in trade and industry.
As we have already pointed out, Russia, until recent years, had
remained an agricultural country without a middle class. The trade
remained almost entirely in foreign hands. Already in the Middle Ages
Russian cities, like Novgorod, were affiliated to the German Hanseatic
League. In the sixteenth century adventurous English explorers and
traders, whose exploits are amongst the most thrilling of Hakluyt’s
voyages, tried to oust their German competitors, but they utterly
failed. The Russians themselves are excellent traders, and the
merchant guilds of Moscow have been for centuries a powerful
commercial organization. Even to-day you will meet in Moscow
unassuming Russian merchants leading the simplest of lives and
possessed of enormous wealth. But the Russian merchant is generally
conservative, un-enterprising, a bad linguist, and servilely attached
to ancient usages. He is scarcely a match for the foreigner. In recent
years British and Belgian traders as well as Jews and Armenians have
shared in the enormous trade of the Russian Empire, _but the Germans
have secured the lion’s share_.

And what is true of Russian trade is equally true of Russian industry.
The liberal economic policy of Witte has created in one generation
powerful industrial centres in Central Russia, and especially in
Poland. Here, again, the Germans have benefited more than all their
competitors together. Lodz, the “Manchester of Russian Poland,” has
ceased to be either Polish or Russian, and has become a German
manufacturing town. Caprivi, Bismarck’s successor, negotiated with the
Russian Government a treaty of commerce which gave enormous advantages
to German industry, and if the German Government had continued to show
the wisdom of Bismarck and Caprivi, Germany would certainly have
profited more than any other country by the commercial expansion of
the Russian Empire.


It might have been expected that a German influence so absolutely
supreme in every sphere of society, in every walk of life, should have
extended to the lower classes. But the common people were never
affected by German methods and remained untainted by the German
spirit. To the Russian moujik, the German remained the _Niemets_, the
mute, the alien enemy. The Russian peasant, with his simple ways and
his child-like faith, a mystic and an idealist, has an instinctive
antipathy to the modern Prussian, who is an implacable realist,
selfish, calculating, and aggressive. The persistence with which the
Russian people have resisted and escaped Prussian influence is not the
least convincing proof of the soundness of the Slav character.


We have seen German influence supreme in the province of the
practical, the tangible, the useful. It is all the more remarkable
that it should be insignificant in the sphere of the ideal and of the
beautiful. In Art and Literature the influence of Germany has been
purely superficial, although the beautiful Russian language has often
been spoiled by the influence of a cumbrous German syntax. With the
exception of Nietzsche, no German writer has left his mark on Russian
literature. The literary influence of Great Britain has been much more
extensive, and has grown enormously during the last generation. But it
is the literature of France which has been the dominant factor in the
literary life of modern Russia. The fascination of French culture has
been as old as Russian culture. Catherine II. was the friend of
Diderot and Voltaire, and herself translated French masterpieces into
Russian. The French language has been the language of diplomacy and
society. Readers of “War and Peace” will remember how the noblemen of
the Petersburg salons denounced the French usurper in the language of


We have sufficiently proved that Germany has been a formidable factor
in the whole past history of the Russian Empire. We may hope that
after the war German influence will be a thing of the past. After the
war it is not German political ideas and German institutions, but
French and British ideas and institutions which will mould the
destinies of the Russian Empire. The elective affinities between the
Russian democracy and the French and British democracies will assert
themselves and will eliminate the mischievous and reactionary
influence of Germany.

We have seen how entirely German power has been artificial and imposed
from above, how it has been the outcome of the dynastic connection.
_But in the meantime the German influence supreme before the war still
subsists and still constitutes a danger which it would be extremely
unwise and unstatesmanlike to ignore or to under-rate._ We must
therefore guard ourselves, so that when the day of settlement comes
the subtle and subterranean German forces shall not make themselves
felt, and that the Teutonic Monarchies shall be frustrated in their
supreme effort to retain a power which has been so fatal to the
liberties of Europe and to the free development of the Russian




In the year of grace 1878, after the great Turkish-Russian war, a
young and unknown Prussian diplomat of twenty-nine years of age called
Bernhard von Bülow found himself, as assistant to his father, the
Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, suddenly summoned to
co-operate in the making of a new Europe. In the same year, on the
same arena, an equally unknown young Scotch politician called Arthur
James Balfour, born in the same year, 1849, also found himself, as
assistant to his uncle, Lord Salisbury, Foreign Secretary of the
United Kingdom, unexpectedly chosen to play the identical part of an
international peacemaker. And now, after a lapse of thirty-eight
years, the two erstwhile Secretaries of the Congress of Berlin, to-day
the only surviving statesmen of that momentous crisis, Prince von
Bülow and Mr. Arthur James Balfour, are about to meet in another
European Congress, and be called upon once more to recast the map of
the world. But this time the Scotsman and the German will meet no more
as Allies working out a common policy. They will meet as the leading
champions of hostile and irreconcilable world policies, united only in
a joint endeavour to undo the evil work of Bismarck and Beaconsfield
which claimed to bring to Europe “peace with honour,” and which
ultimately brought Europe nothing but war with dishonour.


Prince von Bülow’s whole career has been one steady and rapid ascent
to high office and exalted honour. Before his fall he had earned the
well-deserved nickname of “Bernhard the Lucky.” He seemed to have
found in his cradle all the gifts of the fairies. His most striking
characteristic is an amazing and totally un-German versatility and
resourcefulness. As a soldier he volunteered in the Franco-German War,
and retired from service as a Prussian Lieutenant. As a diplomat he
has occupied responsible positions in every capital of Europe except
London, and the exception, by the way, is probably the reason why he
has always been less familiar with the English mind than with the
Continental mind. An unrivalled Parliamentary tactician as well as a
persuasive Parliamentary orator, he managed with even more than the
skill of Mr. Asquith or Mr. Balfour the most unmanageable
representative assembly of the Continent, and for twelve years he
played off one against the other the ten or more parties of the
Reichstag. As Fourth Chancellor of the New German Empire he has been
associated with all the leading measures of the “new course,” and he
succeeded for ten years in retaining the confidence and affectionate
regard of the most fickle and most despotic of masters. A man of the
world and a patron of learning and art, he has enlisted all the graces
and amenities of social life in the service of his ambition.


Like most of the men who have built up the Prussian power; like Stein,
who came from Nassau; like Moltke, who came from Denmark; like
Treitschke, who came from Saxony, Prince von Bülow is not a Prussian.
Like Blücher, his family originates from the Grand Duchy of
Mecklenburg, that strange paradise of a medieval and feudal
Junkerthum. But, like most of the naturalized servants of the
Hohenzollern, von Bülow proved even more Prussian than any native of
Pomerania or Brandenburg. The son of one of Bismarck’s trusted
lieutenants, he always remained a loyal pupil of the Iron Chancellor.
It is significant that the first visit which Bülow paid on his
accession to power was a visit to the fallen statesman. He was brought
up on Bismarckian traditions and ideals. He is not a creative genius
like the hermit of Friedrichsruhe. He has been accused of being a
trimmer, but he was a trimmer like the great Lord Burleigh, always
keeping in mind the final goal to be reached. He had to work with
different materials and under conditions entirely different from those
which prevailed under Bismarck. He had to embark on a _Weltpolitik_,
whereas Bismarck was content with a Continental policy. He had to
initiate the colonial and naval policy of William, while Bismarck
systematically kept clear of colonial ventures. But as far as
circumstances permitted, the “new course” of Bülow was but the
continuation of the old course of Bismarck. Like Bismarck, he fought
the Socialists. Like Bismarck, he in turn fought and conciliated the
Clericals. Like Bismarck, he enforced in Poland the inexorable policy
of expropriation and appropriation. Like Bismarck, he remained true to
the Austrian alliance. Like Bismarck, he tried to work in close
co-operation with Russia, and tried to build up again the reactionary
alliance of the three Central Empires. And in these many difficult
tasks, which had become much more difficult even than in the
’seventies or ’eighties, Bülow was as little hampered as his
predecessor by any moral principles or scruples. He proved even more
Machiavellian than his predecessor, adhering as steadfastly to the
same implacable realism.


But, if Prince von Bülow has revealed the same aims and is imbued with
the same political philosophy as Bismarck, he has tried to attain his
end by very different means. He has none of the cynical sincerity of
his master. Bismarck carried into diplomacy the directness and
brutality of the soldier. Bülow introduced into politics the tortuous
practices of Italy. He reminds one of Cavour much more than of the
master-builder of German unity. Whilst Bismarck won his spurs in the
embassies of Germany and Russia, Bülow received his main training as
Ambassador in Latin countries. He served for five years in Paris. In
Bucharest he imbibed the Byzantine influences of the East. He spent
six years in the Eternal City, which for three thousand years has been
the centre of statecraft, and which even to-day remains the best
training-school of diplomacy. His marriage with an Italian Princess is
another indication of the natural affinities of his temperament, and
an additional proof that he constitutionally preferred the subtle
methods of Rome to the more brutal methods of Brandenburg. Bismarck
was always using threats which he had no intention of carrying out.
Bülow is equally fond of using promises which he is as little disposed
to fulfil. Bismarck was always showing the mailed fist. Bülow prefers
to show the velvet glove. Bismarck wielded the sword of the berserker.
Bülow prefers the rapier of the fencer. Bismarck was stern, irascible,
uncontrolled, titanic, and his whole career was one long and hard
struggle against bitter enemies. Bülow was ever amiable, courteous,
smiling, suave, patient, elusive. He managed equally to conciliate the
Kaiser and Bismarck, Herr Harden and the _Kölnische Volkszeitung_, the
Catholics and the Jews, the industrials and the agrarians. When the
hour of disfavour came, Bismarck retired with his mastiffs among the
pine-woods of Lauenburg, nursing his rancour and revenge. Bülow
retired with quiet and graceful dignity among the statues and the
flowers of the Villa Malta.


In no other aspect of his versatile career did Prince von Bülow show
more resourcefulness than in his skilful handling of the Press. He was
the first German statesman who knew how to discipline and to exploit
public opinion in the interests of Imperial policy. It is true that
already Bismarck had made frequent use of the Press as an instrument
of government, as is abundantly shown by his close association with
Lothar Bucher, with his famulus Moritz Busch, and with Maximilian
Harden. But Bismarck, whilst using the journalists, profoundly
despised them, with the result that “Bismarck’s Reptile Press” became
a byword in Europe. Under Bülow’s régime the humble pressman rose to
influence and affluence and basked in Ministerial favour. With the
assistance of Mr. Hammann, Prince von Bülow made the Berlin Press
Bureau a sinister power in Europe as well as in Germany; for the
Chancellor was as anxious to conciliate the foreign journalist as the
German. M. Huret sang his praises in the _Figaro_. Even the
arch-Germanophobe Monsieur André Tardieu was coaxed into writing a
whole volume of panegyric on the irresistible Chancellor. Before the
caprice of his Imperial master sent him into premature retirement,
Bülow had succeeded in marshalling all the intellectual forces of the
German Empire. Whilst Bismarck had frittered away his energies
quarrelling with von Virchow, with Windhorst, and with the professors
of the National Liberal party, Bülow had managed to make the shining
luminaries of the Universities, the Harnacks, the Schmollers, and the
Dernburgs, into the most enthusiastic advocates of his policy.


There are few more bewildering subjects to the student of politics
than the many concatenations of events which brought about the present
world catastrophe. If that fateful interview had not been published in
the _Daily Telegraph_, there would have been no political hurricane in
Germany. If there had been no hurricane, Prince von Bülow would not
have fallen from power. If Prince von Bülow had not fallen from power,
there would probably have been no world war. It is certain that
Bülow’s retirement from office in 1909 was a disaster to the German
Empire. It is equally certain that his return to office in 1914 and
his peace mission to Italy was an ominous danger to Europe. And it is
also certain that he will be even more dangerous to Europe in the
eventful days to come when he will be called back to office, and be
once more the leader and spokesman of German policy. In the future
Congress which will liquidate the world war Bülow will be the greatest
asset of the enemy. In the Congress of Berlin Bismarck, towering like
a giant, dictated his policy to subservient Europe. The day of German
hegemony is past, and no German plenipotentiary will be able again to
impose his will by the same methods. But the resources of diplomacy
will be all the more necessary to the German Empire in the future
settlement, and of the art of diplomacy Bülow is perhaps the greatest
master that the world has seen since the days of Talleyrand. It is
highly doubtful whether there is any statesman amongst the Allies who
possesses to the same extent those special characteristics which will
win victory in the international arena. If high moral ideals and
perfect political integrity were the qualities most valuable to the
diplomatist, Viscount Grey and Mr. Balfour would be more than a match
for Prince von Bülow; but if an intimate knowledge of the European
chess-board and of the psychology of European politics, if infinite
wit, if nimbleness and ingenuity, are the qualities which are likely
to decide the issue, Prince von Bülow will prove indeed a formidable
opponent. It is almost inevitable that the European Powers shall enter
the future Congress with different aims and with divergent policies.
And one needs be no prophet to predict that it will be Bülow’s object
to play off one Power against another; even as for twenty years he
played off one party against another in the Reichstag, so he will play
off Serbia against Italy, and Italy against France, and Russia against
England. In those unavoidable conflicting interests of the belligerent
Powers Bülow will seek his opportunity. It will be for the Allies to
foresee and to forestall the danger. Let the Allies enter the Congress
with a clearly defined and settled policy. Let them compose their
differences before they meet their opponents. Then, but only then,
will there be no scope for the uncanny virtuosity of Prince von Bülow.
Only on those terms will Viscount Grey and Jules Cambon and Sasonov
defeat the manœuvres of the Italianized Prussian Machiavelli and
frustrate the hopes of “Bernhard the Lucky.”




Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg is to-day the most tragic figure amongst the
statesmen of Europe. For three years he has borne a crushing burden, a
burden which even Bismarck, the man of blood, was unable to bear in
the piping days of peace; a burden from which the Iron Chancellor had
to seek periodical liberation amidst the heather and the pine-forests
of his native Brandenburg. As Prime Minister of Prussia, as Chancellor
of the German Empire, as Foreign Secretary of the Teutonic Alliance,
he has to keep a firm grip of all the threads, both of internal and of
external policy. Distracted between Catholics and Protestants, between
agrarians and industrials, between Germany and Austria, he has been
made responsible for all the blunders of his subordinates. A rich man,
and the scion of an historic house, he has led the life of a
galley-slave; an honest man, he has been doomed to perpetual
prevarication; a humane man, he has had to condone every atrocity; an
independent man, he must cringe before his master; a peaceful man, he
must submit to the continuation of insensate slaughter; a highly
gifted intellectual, he has had to pursue a policy of insane
stupidity. Twenty-five years ago a professor of the University of
Munich, Dr. Quidde, compared the Kaiser to Caligula. The analogy
between William and Caligula or Nero points to another analogy, that
between Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg and Seneca, the ill-fated counsellor
of the Cæsars. Read in the _Annals_ of Tacitus the speech of Seneca to
Nero, and you will perhaps understand the position of Herr von
Bethmann-Hollweg in the Imperial Palace of Potsdam.


The internal political crisis in Germany, which started at the
beginning of last autumn, has come to a head because the Chancellor
will not speak out. There was a time when political crises in Germany
were due, not to the silence of the German rulers, but to their
utterances and indiscretions. In recent months the Kaiser, the man of
the three hundred uniforms and of the three thousand speeches, has
committed no such indiscretions as marked his reign from his ascent to
the throne; he has been almost as reticent as his unhappy father, who
did not speak because he had cancer in the throat. And now the
silver-tongued von Bethmann-Hollweg has also discovered the political
virtue of silence. The people have been loudly clamouring for a few
words of comfort, but above the thunder of the distant guns we only
hear the scribblers of a servile Press, who are beating the air with
their croakings.


Why this ominous, obstinate, sphinx-like silence of the Chancellor,
more pregnant with meaning than the most eloquent speeches? It would
be so easy for so resourceful a man to utter a few oracular sentences,
a few ambiguous phrases, a few patriotic trumpet-calls. Was not the
last great speech which he delivered in the Reichstag covered with
frantic applause? But the days are past for ambiguous utterances,
however patriotic, however oracular. The Chancellor knows that any
clear, outspoken utterance on the peace aims of the German Government
would seal the doom of the Government; he knows that any statement of
terms would reveal the glaring discrepancy between those terms and the
solemn promises so often made to the German people. The people still
passionately believe in the promises and assurance of an early and
final victory. Only such a belief is still sustaining the drooping
spirits of the nation, only such an assurance enables them to submit
to the starvation of their women and children, to their tragic
isolation in a hostile world, to the appalling sacrifices on the


And now the conspiracy of lies and the conspiracy of silence is about
to be exposed. The inexorable truth must be proclaimed. The German
present is dark, but the future is desperate. The U-boat campaign has
failed, the hope of a separate peace with Russia has vanished, the
menace of America is drawing near. Greater exertions and more
appalling sacrifices are needed, and yet all the motives for further
sacrifices have vanished. The rulers were fighting for conquest and
plunder. But it is now obvious that there can be no conquest nor
plunder. The German people were misled into the belief that they were
struggling in self-defence against the “Slav peril,” but since the
Ides of March in Petrograd the Russian bugbear has disappeared. They
were misled into the belief that they were struggling for liberty. But
the Germans are now the only people still deprived of political
liberty. Even the much-despised Slav has ceased to be a slave. The
only slaves in Europe to-day are the subjects of the Hohenzollern.


This German war has been described as a tragedy of Prussian craft and
graft, and the Teuton rulers have been denounced rightly for their
cruelty and brutality. But posterity would be more inclined to see in
this war a tragedy of German virtue. For the virtues of the German
have been more terrible than his vices. For this catastrophe has been
possible, not because the German people are so wicked, but because
they have been so good, because they have practised too well the
“three” theological virtues of blind faith, passive obedience, and
inexhaustible patience; because they have been so pathetically loyal
to their misrulers; because they have shown the sentimentality of a
woman and the credulity of a child. The German Michel has been the
political Peter Pan of Europe, the boy that won’t grow up. He has
been the boy that has been let loose and has lit the match to the
powder magazine. He has been the incurable romanticist who has
continued to believe in fairy-tales in a world of stern realities. And
now this child-like faith in fairy-tales has been dispelled by
disaster. The vision of a holy German Empire, of the pomp and
circumstance of war, its glory and glamour, is shattered. The spell is
broken. The German Michel is awakening from his dreams. Walhalla is
shaken to its foundation. Tor is ready with his hammer. Revolution is
knocking at the door!




Both French and British publicists have remained strangely silent and
reticent on the problem and prospects of a revolution in Germany. It
may be that they are afraid to conjure up the ghost of political
rebellion, lest that ghost might cause havoc in other countries than
Germany. It may also be that they are unwilling to tackle a very
complex and delicate question. Yet the more we consider the problem,
the more central, the more vital it will appear. German policy, German
diplomacy, German strategy, are now entirely dominated by the dread of
a social upheaval. Measures which might seem to be dictated solely by
military considerations are in reality imposed by the necessity of
deceiving and distracting public opinion and of striking the popular

And this obsession of an impending revolution is fully justified. To
the outside view the war may seem above all a conflict of nations,
involving a reconstruction of the map of Europe, raising international
issues and resulting in a new international order. But in reality the
conflict is concerned with national and internal issues, and it must
result in a new national order. If this war has not been fought in
vain, if we are to achieve the objects for which we entered it, if we
are ultimately to crush German militarism, which is only a vague and
confusing synonym for German reaction, then it inexorably follows that
the war must end in a German revolution. The road to peace must indeed
pass through Berlin, but that Berlin will have ceased to be the Berlin
of the Junkers—it must be the insurrectionary Berlin of 1848. Just as
there can be no real war of attrition in the struggle between Germany
and Europe, so there can be no war of attrition in the struggle
between the German people and despotism. As there could be no
compromise or surrender of principles before, there can be no
compromise and no surrender after. On the conclusion of peace, it must
come to a final trial of strength between the rulers and their
subjects, between the masses and the classes. The issues must be
fought out in a decisive battle. Even though we achieve a crushing
military victory, militarism would not be crushed if the Hohenzollern
were still able to command the allegiance of a still patient and
passive German people: just as Napoleonic militarism was not crushed
at Waterloo and revived in 1849, because Napoleon still retained the
allegiance of the French people. It is inconceivable that the German
reactionaries will abdicate of their own free will. It is equally
inconceivable that the reaction will develop slowly and gradually into
a free democratic government, as von Bethmann-Hollweg would make us
believe in the historic speech of February 27. No doubt this war has
hastened on the day of retribution. And the pathos of the war lies in
this, that it has been a vicarious sacrifice, and that millions of
Frenchmen and Britons have died to prepare the liberation of a nation
of slaves. _But ultimately it is the German people themselves who must
work out their own salvation._ They will have to turn against their
oppressors some of that combativeness, of that fanaticism, of that
idealism, which hitherto they have only directed against their
European brethren.


I stated at the outset that publicists have maintained a conspiracy of
silence on the coming German revolution, because they were afraid to
conjure up a sinister spectre, and because they are repelled by a
difficult and delicate subject. But there may be another and a more
plausible reason for their silence—namely, that most people simply
cannot believe in the very possibility of a German revolution. And if
you press them to state their definite reasons for such a belief, you
will probably find that all the arguments given can ultimately be
brought under the four following headings:

1. Militarism and reaction are too deeply rooted in Germany. The
reactionary forces are far too strong to leave any chance to a
successful revolution.

2. A revolution is impossible under modern conditions of warfare. A
few machine-guns, a few crack regiments of the Kaiser’s bodyguard,
would at once drench the rebellion in rivers of blood.

3. The Social Democrats, the so-called “revolutionary party,” have
themselves repudiated revolutionary methods.

4. The German temperament has not the initiative, the resilience,
which are the prime conditions of a successful revolution. The whole
German historical tradition is against any revolutionary solution, and
any radical reform must be imposed from outside.

Let us carefully and dispassionately examine each of those arguments.


In the first place we are told that Prussian reaction is too strong,
and that for the German people to attack the Hohenzollern stronghold
would be as hopeless as for a madman or a prisoner to break down the
walls of his prison or cell. The prisoner would only break his head,
and the madman would only get himself put into a “strait-waistcoat.”
The German rebel is confronted by the impregnable structure of a solid
and efficient Government, a Government based on the prestige of the
past, and surrounded by the glamour of triumphant victories achieved
in great national wars.

The argument might have been valid after 1863 and 1870, when the
Catholics fought the battle of Liberalism and when the Social
Democrats fought the battle of democracy against Bismarck. But the
argument ceases to be valid to-day. For this is not a national war for
the Germans. When the conspiracy of lies and the conspiracy of silence
come to an end, when the diplomatic intrigues, when the pan-Germanic
plot, are revealed in their naked and hideous horror, it will be
clear, even to the blindest and dullest German mind, that this war was
waged neither in defence of national existence nor in defence of
national interests. It began primarily as a war against Russia, who
for a hundred and fifty years was the close ally of Prussia. It began
as a war against the Russian people, who were by far the best
customers for German industries. It developed into a war against
England, who, like Russia, was for one hundred and fifty years the
ally of Germany, who fought on many a battlefield with the Germans,
who never on any single battlefield fought against Germany.

Neither can this war be described as a national war for the German
people, nor has it resulted in a German victory. Here, also, when the
conspiracy of silence is broken, the net result of the war will prove
to be universal ruin, bankruptcy, millions of cripples walking the
streets of every German city, the loss of the goodwill of the world.
“Tout est perdu sauf l’honneur,” said the French King after the
disaster of Pavia. “Everything is lost, even honour,” will be the
verdict of the German people after the war.

In so far, therefore, as Prussian reaction was hitherto based on the
glamour of victory, that glamour is dispelled. The Hohenzollerns were
supposed to be the unsurpassed practitioners of _Realpolitik_. They
have only proved reckless and romantic visionaries. The Prussian
Government was supposed to be a marvellously efficient instrument. Its
efficiency has mainly shown itself in wanton destruction. The Prussian
Government was supposed to be the perfect type of a stable
government. Its work of five hundred years has been destroyed in three
years. The Germans had sold their birthright to the Hohenzollern for a
mess of pottage. They have lost their birthright, but they have not
secured the pottage. The German people had entered into tacit
contract. The rulers have broken the contract. The German people were
ready to surrender their personal liberty for the advantages which the
contract gave them. They preferred the security of despotism to the
risks of liberty. But the German people have discovered that the
security was illusory, that the advantages were negative, and that the
risks of despotism are infinitely greater than the perils of liberty.


But, even granting that the prestige and glamour of the Hohenzollern
Monarchy are dispelled, we shall be told that it does not necessarily
follow that a revolution would have any chances of success. For it may
still be objected that a revolution is impossible under modern
conditions of warfare, that under those conditions all the advantages
are with the Government and are not with the people, that it has
become very much easier to-day than in a previous generation to stamp
out a rebellion, and that the risks are very much greater.

I believe that argument to be entirely fallacious. I do not believe
that the chances are with the Government. I believe that they are all
the other way. Modern conditions are more favourable to the prospects
of a popular rising than they were, say, in 1789, in 1848, or in
1871. In olden days armies did not side with the people. They were
non-national. They were professional. They were made up of
mercenaries. The Swiss mercenaries allowed themselves to be massacred
in defence of the monarchy. The Hessian mercenaries allowed themselves
to be massacred in the service of the Hanoverian Kings. Nor had the
people any military training. To-day the armies are national armies.
They are the people themselves. They have received a military
training. They have imbibed the military spirit. If only the people
can be gained over to the revolution, three-fourths of the battle is

In this connection it is essential that we should clearly understand
the fundamental differences between a foreign war and a civil war. A
foreign war is a trial of strength between one nation in arms and
another nation in arms. A rebellion is a trial of strength between a
nation and a Government. In a foreign war the armies will always be on
the side of the Government. In a revolution the armies may or may not
side with the people. They will side with the people if the people are
determined to fight.

The problem of revolution, therefore, is not primarily one of military
force, but of moral and political force. The people will dispose of
the necessary military strength if they dispose of the necessary moral
and political strength. In normal times the people are generally
unconscious of their moral and political strength, even as they are
unconscious of their military strength. But in times of revolution,
with their political consciousness awakened by their grievances and
their sufferings, with a quickened sense of political realities, the
attitude of the people to their rulers undergoes a radical change.
They suddenly discover that they are the source of all power. Once
that revelation has come to them, and once the subjects refuse to
support their rulers and are determined to resist them, the whole
fabric of government collapses like a house of cards. There lies the
reason for the fundamental differences between the slow development of
foreign warfare and the sudden and catastrophic termination of civil
war. The Bastille fell as if by magic and as by a flourish of
trumpets, like the walls of Jericho. The Revolution of 1848 overthrew
in twenty-four hours the strongest French Government of modern times.
And there, also, lies the reason why, in a civil war, the greatest
possible results are achieved with the minimum of sacrifice. To attain
the aims of a foreign war may require the sacrifice of millions of
lives. The aims of a civil war have often been obtained by the
sacrifice of a few hundred.

All revolutions have the same beginnings. The German Revolution of
1848 started in the same way as the French Revolution of 1848. The
insurrection of the people of Berlin very nearly succeeded in 1848 in
establishing a German democracy. The proudest of the Prussian Kings,
the most intoxicated with the dreams or delusions of absolute power,
was humbled to the dust. In an agony of terror, bareheaded, Frederick
William IV. of Hohenzollern had to salute the funeral procession of
the heroes of liberty, and the King’s army had to withdraw from
Berlin, and Prince William, the future Emperor, had to escape to

And the rising of the German people to-day will have a much better
chance than in 1848. If it be indeed true that a few machine-guns may
decide the issue, it will be by no means difficult for the insurgent
people to secure possession of those machine-guns. If it be true that
a military training is essential to success, millions of Germans have
received that training. Let only the merest fraction of the people
raise the standard of rebellion, and let the spirit of rebellion be
rife, and that spirit will spread like wild-fire, and the Hohenzollern
Monarchy after this war will be brought to the ground like a decaying
tree in a November gale.


We shall be told that if a revolution were such an easy task, it is
inconceivable that the German people should not have risen before; and
it is perfectly true that, since the bloody days of 1848, there has
been no serious riot, not to mention any rebellion, in the German
Monarchy. But the reason for this passive acquiescence in and for this
servile surrender to despotism is due to the German revolutionaries
themselves. One of the secrets of recent German history is that the
revolutionists themselves have repudiated revolutionary methods. It is
the Social Democrats who deserted the cause of democracy. In France
Socialists were pacifists abroad and aggressive at home. In Germany
the Socialists were pacifists at home and aggressive abroad.

That is why, as I anticipated in my “Anglo-German Problem” (1912), the
German Socialists are ultimately responsible for the war, even more
than the Junkers. The Junkers and the Government knew that they had no
reason to dread a renewal of 1848. They felt that they had a perfectly
free hand. They knew the temper of the Social Democrats and the
meaning of the Marxian creed. For it was an essential part of the
Gospel according to St. Marx that the revolution, if it ever came,
would come peacefully, inevitably, with the people raising their
little finger, through the mere automatic pressure of economic
concentration. Capitalism itself, so the Socialists said, was working
for the triumph of Socialism. Once the process of concentration of
production was complete, once all the capital was gathered in a few
hands, the German revolution would come of itself, and Kaiser Bebel
and Kaiser Liebknecht would simply substitute themselves for Kaiser
William as the rulers of an absolute collectivist State.

That attitude of passive acquiescence, that sordid materialistic
creed, explains the ignominious collapse of the Social Democrats at
the outbreak of the war. It explains the paradoxical fact that to-day
von Bethmann-Hollweg in his tragic isolation is only supported by
Scheidemann and the Socialist majority. The failure is not due to any
lack of numbers. For the Social Democrats had millions of devoted
followers. The failure is not due to lack of organization, for the
Social Democrats were the most admirably organized party known to
modern history. It was not due to lack of discipline, for the Social
Democrats were subjected to an iron discipline. The failure is
entirely due to a lack of spirit, and the lack of spirit itself is
entirely due to the sinister and dreary Marxian creed. Between Marxian
Socialism and Prussianism there is no opposition of principles.
Indeed, one might almost say that the present war socialism, with its
bread rations, its organization of industry, its suppression of every
individual liberty, its hundred thousand regulations, is the nearest
approach to the ideal of the Marxist.

But as the result of the war, that Gospel according to St. Marx is
totally and finally discredited. It is now admitted that the
Socialists have been mere voting machines and doctrinaire
opportunists. It is admitted that no democracy can be built with such
ignoble material. It is admitted that, relinquishing the servile and
materialistic Socialism of Marx, we must revert to the heroic
conception of the British, French, and Italian Revolutions. It is
admitted that the salvation of a people cannot be attained by the mere
mumbling of catchwords and the waving of red flags; that it cannot be
attained by the mere proclamation of an iron law of wages; that it can
only be achieved by the display of an iron courage and by miracles of
heroism and self-sacrifice.


But again granting that the German Socialist creed is partly
responsible for the failure of German Democracy, it will be objected
that this creed is a typically German creed. Granting that the spirit
of heroism and sacrifice is an essential condition of any successful
revolution, it will be objected that it is precisely this heroism
which is lacking in the German temperament and in the German race. In
a famous passage of his “Governance of England,” Chancellor Fortescue,
who wrote about the time of the Wars of the Roses, comparing the large
number of crimes of violence and burglary in England with the small
number of such crimes in France and Scotland, concluded that neither
the French nor the Scotch had the courage and spirit to be burglars.

“It is not pouerte that kepith Ffrenchmen ffro rysinge, but it is
cowardisse and lakke off hartes and corage, wich no Ffrenchman hath
like vnto a Englysh man. It hath been offten tymes sene in Englande,
that iij or iiij, theves ffor pouerte haue sett apon vj or vij trewe
men, and robbed hem all. But it hath not bene sene in Ffraunce, that
vj. or vij. theves haue be hardy to robbe iij. or iiij. trewe men.
Wherfore it is right selde that Ffrenchmen be hanged ffor robbery and
manslaughter, then there be hanged in Ffraunce ffor such maner of
crime in vij yeres. There is no man hanged in Scotlande in vij yere to
gedur ffor robbery. And yet thai ben often tymes hanged ffor larceny,
and stelynge off good in the absence off the owner thereoff. But ther
hartes serue hem not to take a manys gode, while he is present, and
woll defende it; wich maner off takynge is callid robbery. But the
Englysh man is off another corage. Ffor yff he be pouere, and see
another man havynge rychesse, wich may be taken ffrom hym be myght, he
will not spare to do so, but yff that pouere man be right trewe.
Wherfore it is not pouerte, but it is lakke off harte and cowardisse,
that kepith the Ffrenchmen ffro rysynge.”

That “lack of spirit” which Lord Chancellor Fortescue so quaintly and
so unjustly denounces in the French and Scottish temperaments, may it
not be more justly attributed to the German temperament? Are not the
Germans constitutionally incapable of accomplishing a revolution? They
lack the red corpuscles in their veins. They have no phosphorus or
mercury in their composition. They have no élan, no resilience or
vitality. They are strong, but only when they act gregariously, not
when they act as free and irresponsible individuals. They can fight,
but only when they are driven, and only in a quarrel which is not
their own. They fight to-day against the English as the slaves of the
Kaiser even as they fought for the English as the mercenaries of the
Landgrave of Hesse.

I submit that all those generalizations are essentially shallow. It is
not true that the creed of Social Democracy is an essentially German
creed. As a matter of fact, the founders of German Socialism, and some
of their chief leaders, are Jews. Lasalle and Marx were Jews.
Bernstein and Adler are Jews. It is not true that the Germans are
constitutionally incapable of heroism. As a matter of fact, no people
has ever fought more heroically than the millions of blinded and
misguided wretches who challenged a world in arms, and went to their
doom singing religious hymns and patriotic songs. And it is not true
that there is some mysterious fatality in temperament or race. The
race theory is a Prussian theory, and it is a sinister theory, the
prolific mother of many political and moral heresies. National
temperament changes with circumstances, and the German temperament has
often changed in the course of history. If the Germans may be
described to-day as a nation of practical materialists, at one time
they were described as a nation of dreamers. If the German Government
may be described to-day as a despotic State, at one time it was
described as a Government of free cities.

The truth is that national character has little to do with race. It is
the result of political institutions and religious beliefs. And it is
the political institutions and religious beliefs of modern Germany
which largely explain the failure of Democracy.

We have already pointed out the baneful influence of the Socialist
creed. But there is another creed which has exercised an even more
baneful influence. If we attempt to trace, farther back in history,
the main source of German character, we are driven to the conclusion
that it is Lutheranism which is responsible for the perversion of the
German soul, that it is Lutheranism that is the _fons et origo
malorum_. Before the war all our ideas about religion and philosophy
in Germany were made up of unmeaning formulas. And I make the
confident forecast that all those ideas will have to be transvalued in
the light of the present catastrophe.

If I were asked to sum up the achievements of Lutheranism, I would say
that it has accomplished two things equally fatal to Germany and

On the one hand it has broken up the spiritual unity of Medieval
Christendom and the political unity of the Holy German Empire into two
thousand four hundred petty principalities. It has set up a tribal
religion and the pagan idolatry of the State; and, on the other hand,
it has broken up the human soul into two water-tight compartments.

Or to express the Lutheran achievement in terms of freedom and
despotism, it has, in the first place, killed political liberty by
surrendering all ecclesiastical power to the Prince, or to the State
incarnated in the Prince. It has brought about the fusion and
confusion of spiritual and temporal powers. It has decreed that the
religion of the ruler shall determine the religion of the subject.
_Cujus regio illius religio._ From the beginning his own
ecclesiastical policy compelled Luther to sanction the bigamy of the
Landgrave Philip of Hesse. In the most violent of his tracts he
denounced a miserable German peasantry, and he called upon the
nobility to massacre those peasants who had only too faithfully obeyed
the provocations of the reformer.

And, in the second place, Lutheranism has killed spiritual liberty by
creating an inner world of emotions and of dreams and an outer world
of social and political activities without any relation to the inner
world. It has divorced speculation and action, theory and practice.
The German is like the symbolical eagle of the Habsburg. He has two
heads, and both look in an opposite direction.

I would say that the poison of Lutheranism has been acting like that
mysterious Indian poison called “curare,” which I used to inject in my
distant student days when I had to dissect frogs in the Zoological
Laboratory at Liége. The “curare” does not kill the nerves, for the
frog still suffers under the dissecting knife. Nor does it kill the
muscles, for the muscles still react if you stimulate them. But the
poison cuts the connection between the nerves and the muscles. The
nerves can no more transmit their orders to the muscles. Even so
Lutheranism has not killed the thinking power of the German people. On
the contrary, it has given it a morbid stimulus, as speculation is no
more hampered by reality. Nor has it paralyzed their external
activities, but it has prevented any connection between the two. It
has prevented the thinking from influencing the acting. It justifies
the recent damning statement of Prince von Bülow, who ought to be a
competent judge, that the Germans have remained an essentially
unpolitical people.

At the outbreak of the Reformation there took place in Wittenberg, the
Mecca of Lutheranism, a memorable and ominous meeting to which few
textbooks take the trouble to allude, and which has had more
far-reaching consequences than any meeting known to history. It was
the meeting between Dr. Martinus Luther and the Grand Master of the
Teutonic Order, Albrecht of Hohenzollern. Luther advised the Grand
Master to secularize his Order, to confiscate its immense territories,
and to proclaim himself Duke of Prussia. Under such auspices arose the
Prussian State. Under such auspices, at the instigation of the
“Champion of Liberty,” was established the most tyrannical despotism
of modern times. Under such auspices was consummated the unholy
alliance between a “reformed” Germany and a twice “reformed”
Hohenzollern Monarchy.

This unholy alliance has been shattered by the war. And with the
alliance will vanish the Lutheran creed, with all the evil works that
proceeded therefrom.

For four hundred years the German people have followed their
preachers, and have been led by them to the abyss, even as in the
famous ballad of Burger the German maiden Lenore has fallen under the
spell of a corpse and has been driven to the gates of hell.

For four hundred years the German people have been in the grip of
their despots. They will be under the spell no more.

For four hundred years the German masses have practised the three
theological virtues of Faith, Patience, and Obedience. The
long-suffering, docile, and servile Teutons are now ready to surrender
to the original sin of rebellion. They are now ready to revert to the
methods followed by the peasants massacred by the orders of Luther.

For four hundred years their temporal and spiritual rulers have
manufactured a nation of slaves. The war has manufactured a nation of
revolutionists. What seemed an inexhaustible inheritance of loyalty
and devotion has been wantonly squandered. The Hohenzollern Monarchy
has been born in spoliation, baptized in blood, and welded together by
iron. Blood and iron are now destroying it. The German armies have
been the terror of the world. The day is drawing near when those same
German armies will become a terror to their tyrants, and will call
them to account for the slaughter of twenty nations.



Whatever excellent reasons we may have for doubting the sincerity of
the German peace overtures, and whatever grounds we may have for
criticizing the unfortunate wording of the American Notes, it must be
conceded that President Wilson has rendered a conspicuous service to
the Allies by compelling them to face the formidable difficulties of
the problem of peace. Henceforth it will be impossible for our rulers
to shirk those difficulties. They will have to give us something more
tangible than mere vague and solemn abstractions, than mere rhetorical
phrases and catchwords: they will have to depend on the support of
public opinion. The peace settlement will have to be made by the
nations themselves, and not by a few diplomats. It will have to be
made in the full light of day and not in the secret and murky and
musty atmosphere of chancellories.

As a basis for any discussion on the peace settlement we would lay
down the following propositions:

1. We must take good care to retain a firm hold of fundamental
principles, and we must remain loyal to the conditions which have been
proclaimed from the beginning by the statesmen of the Allies, and
which are summed up in the primary aims, the “crushing of Prussian
militarism and the liberation of small nationalities.”

2. We must see to it that none of the secret agreements which may have
been entered into by the diplomats of the Allies shall be allowed to
conflict with those fundamental principles.

3. We must realize that those principles are not particular principles
applicable only to Germany and Austria. They are universal principles,
applicable to all the Powers. “Prussian militarism” must be crushed
everywhere, in Great Britain as well as in Germany, in Finland as well
as in Alsace-Lorraine, in Italy as well as in Austria. Nationalities
must be liberated everywhere, the Ruthenians as well as the Poles, the
Jews as well as the Croatians.

4. We must realize the concrete and deeper meaning of the vague and
somewhat confusing phraseology contained in the words “to crush
Prussian militarism.” To “crush Prussian militarism” does not mean
only to crush the German armies. It cannot mean to crush 100,000,000
German and Austrian people. It does not mean the repression of the
legitimate expansion of the Teutonic nations. To “crush Prussian
militarism” means to do away with a sinister political system. It
means exorcising an evil spirit. And we must clearly understand that,
in order to exorcise that evil spirit, we must have the co-operation
of the German people themselves. We must help them to achieve their
own salvation. We must take in the paradoxical and tragic fact that
the awful sacrifice of twenty nations has been mainly a vicarious
sacrifice, and that millions of our soldiers have died for the good of
the enemy as well as for the good of Europe—that they have died to
make Germany and Austria free.

5. We must realize that this war is a holy war and not a punitive
expedition, much less a predatory war. Vengeance must be left to
Almighty God. The punishment of the criminals must be left to the
people themselves.

6. Peace, if it is to be real, and if it is to be permanent, cannot be
achieved by any vindictive policy. From the moment they enter the
peace congress the belligerents cease to be belligerents, and become
allies in a sacred cause—the reconstruction of the world. From the
moment the Central Powers are admitted to cross the threshold of the
Temple of Peace they are readmitted to the community of nations, and
they are admitted on equal terms.

7. A permanent peace excludes the very idea of any future economic
war. We must prevent the Central Powers from entering into any
offensive or defensive economic alliance. We must repudiate the
sinister delusion of a “Mittel Europa” which is haunting the diseased
brains of the Pan-Germanists. On the other hand, we must repudiate any
offensive or defensive economic alliance between the Allied Powers.
The terms of peace must be engraved on clean white marble.

8. If a permanent peace is to be attained we must remove the deeper
causes which brought about the catastrophe. The Central Powers are
immediately and directly responsible for the greatest crime of
history, and they will bear the penalty for generations to come. They
planned the war and forced it on Europe. But the megalomania of the
Teutons has only been one of the contributory causes. The war could
never have taken place but for the universally prevailing and
universally accepted immorality of European foreign policy, which is
writ large in Morocco and Persia, in China and Asia Minor.

9. The principle of nationality, however legitimate in the case of
oppressed nationalities, is not a sufficient foundation for the new
European order. The principle of nationality, which in the case of
small nations leads to the vindication of freedom, on the contrary, in
the case of great Powers, leads to an aggressive imperialism. The
international principle must therefore take the place of the national
principle. Federalism and solidarity must take the place of tribal
rivalry and national isolation.

10. Any permanent peace settlement must involve the unreserved
acceptance of a new political philosophy and the practice of a new
political system. No peace is possible through the old methods of a
balance of power, of alliances and counter-alliances, of assurance and
reassurance treaties. Any balance of power is unstable and precarious
and can only be maintained by a competition of armaments. The
distinction between offensive and defensive alliances is essentially
unreal. Under the old dispensation a defensive alliance became
offensive as soon as it felt strong enough to assume the offensive. It
is the system of alliances which led to armaments, and not the
armaments which were responsible for the alliances. It is therefore
futile to speak of disarmament as long as we do not repudiate the
traditional European principle of the “balance of power.”

11. It also follows as a corollary that no peace is possible merely
through a readjustment of boundaries, through compensations and
annexations of territories. We might recast the whole map of Europe,
we might dismember the German Empire, we might dismember the Austrian
Empire, we might dismember the Turkish Empire, and yet entirely fail
to achieve the objects for which we entered the war. On the other
hand, we might achieve those objects without shifting one single
milestone of the political boundaries of Europe.

12. We must clearly realize that the issue of peace and war is not a
military issue, but a political issue, and that the political issue
itself is a moral issue. It is not a _Machtfrage_, but a _Rechtfrage_.
It is not a question to be settled by diplomats of the old school; it
can only be solved by constructive and democratic statesmanship.

13. To say that “we must crush Prussian militarism” is only a vague
and unsatisfactory way of stating that we must establish democratic
government. Militarism is not a matter of foreign policy, but of
domestic policy. Militarism is but the _ultima ratio_ of reaction, and
all nations are allies against the one common enemy, reactionary

14. It is therefore futile to say that the future congress must not
interfere in the internal government of any belligerent Power. If any
European Power after this war were still to be ruled by a reactionary
government based on brute force and oppression, that government would
still have to maintain a large army in order to keep down the
liberties of its people, and such an army would sooner or later be
used against the foreign enemy in the name of imperial national
aspirations, in the name of a higher civilizing mission.

15. Therefore, the one problem before the European Congress is to
establish government in Europe on a constitutional and democratic
basis, and to grant a _Magna Carta_ to all nations, great and small.
The establishment of such a government, and not any annexations or
compensations, would alone guarantee a permanent peace.

16. All civilized nations must be equally interested in the
maintenance of peace and in the establishment of the new international
order. Therefore, all neutral nations, including the United States of
America, must join the congress as signatories and guarantors of the
peace settlement.

17. The new democratic charter shall be placed under the guardianship
of a Supreme Constitutional Court. Such a Court would not be a secret
diplomatic Sanhedrin, but a democratic Tribunal. Such a Court would be
essentially different from the Hague Tribunals of the past, and the
democracies of the world would be directly interested in enforcing its

18. There is one immediate sanction to the constitutional settlement
just outlined—namely, the Sovereign Will of the people of Europe.
Revolution is knocking at the door. Unless a constitutional charter be
granted, unless democratic government be firmly established in Europe,
it will be wrested from their rulers by the nations themselves. All
the signs of the times confirm us in the conviction that the only
alternative to the establishment of democratic government for all the
nations participating in the congress is universal civil war. The
peacemakers of to-morrow have it in their power not only to crush
“Prussian militarism,” but to prevent an appalling upheaval which
would shake human society to its foundations.





It is generally assumed, even by those writers who are most strongly
opposed to the sinister policy of the Hohenzollerns, that at least
their domestic relations present an edifying contrast with the private
immorality of the other Royal Houses of Europe. The world has been
made familiar with the Court scandals of the Habsburgs, the Bourbons,
and the Georges, and has heard little of the Hohenzollern Dynasty. But
that is merely because the “amours” and the family squabbles of the
Hohenzollerns are so much less picturesque and so much less
interesting than those of a Henry IV. or of a Louis XIV., and because
they have been hidden under a thick cloud of hypocrisy. The most
brilliant of French historians, Monsieur Albert Sorel, has torn the
veil from this hypocrisy and has laid bare the sordid story of
Frederick William II.

As an illustration of the manner in which the official historians of
Prussia have narrated the history of the dynasty, it is instructive
to compare the following character-sketch of the successor of
Frederick the Great with the idealist portrait of Treitschke (“Germany
History,” vol. i.), who would make us believe that Frederick William
II. was a paragon of all the private virtues.


Frederick the Great’s base tolerance produced dissolvent effects. Not
proceeding from respect of religious beliefs, it engendered contempt
for them. As, apart from the curb of religion, the new society of
Prussia had no tradition of social morals to rely upon, corruption
entered in and consumed it. The King’s scepticism took possession of
his subjects, who translated it into deeds. It was good “form”;
everyone in Berlin took it up and conducted himself accordingly. The
leaven of licence and sensuality which mars all the literature of the
century fermented without let or hindrance in those coarse souls. An
immature civilization had overstimulated imaginations and senses
without abating the brutality of the primitive passions. In Prussia
people lacked the delicate taste, the genteel habits, the light wit,
which in France qualified the depravity of the age. A heavy
dissoluteness was paraded in Prussia. Officials, the gentry, women,
all fed their minds on d’Holbach and La Mettrie, taking their
doctrines seriously and applying them to the very letter.

Add to this that in the newly built Prussian capital society, utterly
artificial as it was, an improvised amalgam of incongruous elements,
was predisposed, so to speak, to dissoluteness. Berlin swarmed with
army men who had no family life and whose whole day was not occupied
with military duties. Men of letters, adventurers of the pen and of
the sword, attracted by Frederick’s reputation and reduced to intrigue
and all sorts of expedients for a living; a nobility, very poor, very
proud, very exclusive, weighed down by royal discipline and thoroughly
bored; a bourgeoisie enlightened, enriched, but relegated to a place
of its own; between these groups, separated one from the other by
etiquette or prejudice, a sort of demi-monde where they met, chatted
and enjoyed themselves at their ease, the foyer of “French ideas,” the
hub of affairs and intrigues—Jewish society, the richest and most
elegant in Berlin. With the marvellous pliancy of their race the Jews
had assimilated the new civilization and took their revenge from the
political exclusion of which they were the victims by bringing
together in their salons all the intellectual men in Berlin, all the
attractive women, all desirous of liberty and freed from prejudice.
Such was Berlin in the days of Frederick.


One of the finest cities in Europe, wrote Forster in 1779; but the
Berliners! Sociability and refined taste, he found, degenerated in
them into sensuality, into libertinage (he might almost say voracity),
freedom of wit and love of shining in shameless licence and
unrestrained debauch of thought. The women in general were abandoned.
An English diplomat, Sir John Harris, afterwards Lord Malmesbury, had
the same impression: Berlin was a town where, if _fortis_ might be
translated by “honourable,” you could say that there was not a _vir
fortis nec femina casta_.

If you consider that outside Jewish homes money was scarce, and that
temptations are all the stronger the less means you have of satisfying
them, you can see why in many minds disorder of ideas and corruption
of morals opened a new wound, the most dangerous, in sooth, and the
most repugnant in nations—venality. Mirabeau, in his “Secret
History,” indelibly recorded all the vices of _ce noble tripot_,
Berlin. On this head his famous pamphlet is a picture in violent
colours, but true nevertheless. Cynicism there seems merely local
colour. “‘Rottenness before Ripeness’—I am very much afraid that must
be the motto of Prussian power.... What cannot money do in a house so


It required Frederick’s hand of iron to set in motion these
complicated springs, to regulate the unwieldy machine, keep together
these elements collected with no little ingenuity and ready to go to
pieces. But that hand was weighty and hard. There were signs, in the
upper classes at all events—the only classes then taken into
account—of a sort of muffled revolt against this implacable disciple.
Besides, the Prussians entertained queer illusions as to the future.
Frederick had deceived his subjects just as he had deceived himself
regarding the durability of his work. They did not understand to what
an extent their power was the personal power of their King. Proud to
the point of infatuation of the rôle he had made them play, they
imagined it was their own doing, and that Frederick’s soul would
survive in them. They expected from a new reign the same glory abroad,
the same security at home, the same relative prosperity, with a yoke
less rough and a discipline less severe, not understanding that the
very roughness of the yoke and the severity of the discipline were
conditions necessary to the duration of the work. The mercantile
protective system, which had built up industry; the administration of
taxes, which poured money into the State coffers; the economy, which
immobilized this money in the treasury, hampered and irritated all who
wished to work and trade, all who reflected on the natural conditions
of commerce and industry; but it was these things alone that enabled
the poorest Government in Europe to be better armed than the richest,
and to keep in the van. In a word, people wanted the spring to relax,
and failed to see that to slacken the spring meant annihilating the


To reform Frederick’s monarchy would have required no less genius than
it took to create it. Reform, however, was indispensable, since
Frederick alone was capable of holding up the composite edifice he had
built. Hence a threatening and wellnigh inevitable catastrophe. “All
will go on almost of its own accord, so long as foreign affairs are
quiet and unbroken,” wrote Mirabeau after Frederick’s death. “But at
the first gunshot or at the first stormy situation the whole of this
little scaffolding of mediocrity will topple to the ground. How all
these underling Ministers would crumple up! How everyone, from the
distracted chief to the convict-gang, would shout for a pilot! Who
would that pilot be?”


Frederick’s nephew, who was called upon to succeed him, was not made
for so great a rôle. In every respect he offered a complete contrast
to the Prince whose weighty heritage he took up. Frederick in person
was infirm and sober; all his prestige lay in the gaze of his great
eyes, which, as Mirabeau put it, “at the will of his heroic soul,
carried fascination or terror.” Frederick William II. was a _bel
homme_, highly sanguine, very robust, fond of violent exercise and
coarse pleasures. “The build and strength of a Royal Guardsman,” wrote
the French Minister d’Esterno, who had no liking for him. “An enormous
machine of flesh,” said an Austrian diplomat who saw him at Pillnitz
in 1791. “The true type of a King,” according to Metternich, who was
presented to him in 1792 at Coblenz, at the time of the German crusade
against France and the Revolution. “His stature,” he added, “was
gigantic, and his corpulence in keeping. In every company he stood a
head higher than the surrounding crowd. His manners were noble and
engaging.” He expressed himself with a certain effort, in little
abrupt phrases. There was nothing in him to recall the implacable and
sovereign irony of Frederick.

“His look,” said one apologist, “does not betoken a man of genius, but
German candour shines on his brow.” Strange candour, scarcely
recognizable if you take the word in its common and proper sense. It
must be taken, as was then the practice in Germany, through
translations of Rousseau, in the equivocal and refined acceptation
which reconciled innocence with indecency, virtue with every disorder
of the imagination and the heart. Ecstatic and sensual, devout and
licentious, a prey to violent appetites, tormented by scruples,
superstitious and debauched, believing in ghosts, with a tendency
towards cabal, Frederick William had a taste for ethics and a feeling
for religion. He spoke of them with respect, with awe, with emotion.
In his case it was a natural penchant and at the same time a pose, the
attitude of every heir-presumptive towards the crowned head, a way of
winning admiration and captivating by force of contrast.


He and those around him might be gulled by this “German candour.” Not
so Frederick. In his Memoirs he draws his nephew as he was in 1765, at
the age of twenty-one, at the time of his first marriage with
Elizabeth of Brunswick: “The young husband, without any morals, given
over to a life of debauchery, was daily guilty of infidelity to his
wife. The Princess, who was in the flower of her beauty, was shocked
at the slight regard shown for her charms. Soon she plunged into
excesses almost as bad as her husband’s.” In 1769 they were divorced.
Frederick William married a Princess of Darmstadt. The second
marriage was no happier than the first. The Princess did not
retaliate, though she did not lack incentives to do so. The Prince
lapsed back into his dissolute habits. Apart from many passing
fancies, he had a recognized mistress-in-chief. This person, who
managed always to retain the favour, if not the love, of Frederick
William, was the daughter of a humble musician. She married the
Prince’s _valet de chambre_, became Madame Rietz, and was afterwards
made Countess of Lichtenau. Frederick William by the first marriage
had had a daughter, Princess Frederica, who was brought up by the
Queen, the discarded, not to say repudiated, wife of Frederick the
Great. The father, when visiting the girl, fell in love with one of
her maids-of-honour. Her name was Mademoiselle de Voss, and she came
of a good house, being cousin to one of the King’s Ministers, M. de
Finckenstein, and sister of a President of the Chamber. “This beauty,
who to my mind is very ugly,” wrote Mirabeau, “is a mixture of prudery
and cynicism, of affectation and ingenuousness; she has a natural wit
of a kind, some schooling, manias rather than desires, a gaucherie
which she strives to cover by an appearance of _naïveté_.... All her
charm lies in her complexion, and even that I find wan rather than
white; a very beautiful neck. It was this mixture of unique licence,
they say, which she combined with the airs of innocent ignorance and
vestal severity, that captivated the Prince.”


Frederick William was one of those complex libertines who find in
clever resistance a whet to their passion and a solace to their
scruples. The siege of Mademoiselle de Voss lasted nearly two years.
The outs and ins of this strange romance were the common talk of the
Court. It had not yet reached its dénouement when Frederick the
Great’s death stopped its course for several weeks. King from August
17, 1786, onwards, Frederick William seemed to forget everything but
affairs of State. But Mirabeau affirms, after September 8, “the
fervour of the novice began to abate.” Mademoiselle de Voss, he added,
was on the point of yielding. The King, to make her comfortable, had
set up an establishment for his daughter Frederica; Mademoiselle de
Voss did the honours. The year passed, however, without the vestal’s
surrendering. She loved the King, but the honour of the family still
weighed more with her than love. She set rigorous conditions to her
capitulation: a left-handed marriage, the written consent of the
Queen, and the removal of the titular mistress, Madame Rietz. On this
last point the King was inflexible; he gave in on the other two. The
Queen gave her consent, with the stipulation that there should be no
real divorce or public separation; she kept her title of Queen and her
position as lawful wife. The rest, it appears, was of no great
interest to her. It only remained to conclude the marriage, but, under
the circumstances, that was a delicate and ticklish business.

By hook or by crook a precedent had to be found: the Prussian
Consistory proved amenable, and authorized the marriage. The marriage
was celebrated in July, 1787, in the Chapel Royal of Charlottenburg.
Mademoiselle de Voss took the title of Countess of Ingenheim. Her
happiness was short-lived. She died in the month of March, 1789. “All
Berlin is in mourning,” wrote M. d’Esterno. “The Countess of Ingenheim
is cruelly regretted by the people, the royal family, and even the
Queen, much less for the person of the said Countess as because of the
increase of credit which her death will bring to Dame Rietz, the old
habitual mistress, who is said to be very avaricious and a great


The literature of the day shed tears over the royal bereavement,
celebrated the “virtues” of this susceptible monarch, and contrasted
with the withering scepticism of Voltaire and the criminal frivolity
of the French the tender abandon with which Frederick William gave
himself up to “nature’s sweetest inclination.” “Women-haters,” wrote
Baron de Trenck, “have been the scourges of humanity. The King of
Prussia has a great soul, full of sensibility; in love he is capable
of a tender attachment: he knows the value of his mistress. Supposing
he gives her a million, the money is divided among the members of the
household who are citizens. He will not rob an honest man of the
spouse who constitutes his happiness, he will not sacrifice Rome for
Cleopatra. He wants to please all by himself. For twenty months he
courted Mademoiselle de Voss, he married her, he was faithful to her,
he wept over her ashes. Every citizen wise enough to know human
weaknesses must wish that if he made a fresh choice it would fall on
an object as worthy of his heart. So let him enjoy a happiness which
belongs to the simple peasant as it does to kings.” This hypocritical
twaddle, this licentious casuistry, was “very good style” in Germany
then, and was highly appreciated.


The distraction which Trenck desired for the afflicted soul of the
King was not long in presenting itself. In 1790, on the anniversary of
the Countess of Ingenheim’s death, Mademoiselle Dœnhof was presented
at Court. Everyone there was busy consoling Frederick William. A
claimant had even been put forward in the person of a young lady
called Viereck, a friend of Mademoiselle de Voss, who had taken the
latter’s place with Princess Frederica. Unhappily for Mademoiselle
Viereck’s friends, she was dark and in no way recalled the dear
departed. Mademoiselle Dœnhof, on the other hand, was, according to
the French Minister, “so perfectly fair that, while pretty in
artificial light, in daylight she was as yellow as a lemon.” With the
same charms as Mademoiselle de Voss, she had the same jumble of
pietism and virtue. It was once more a case of marrying. The King saw
no difficulty in the way. “I am separated from the Queen,” he wrote to
Mademoiselle Dœnhof; “Madame d’Ingenheim has left me a widower; I
offer you my heart and hand.” He made no concealment of it, openly
declaring that he had grounds for repudiating the Queen, but he
refrained from taking action upon them in order to maintain the
dignity of the throne.

The Consistory did not require to deliberate a second time; precedents
had been established, and they were followed. The marriage took place
on April 10, 1790, and it was the Court preacher, Zœllner, who
consecrated it, as he had consecrated that with Mademoiselle de Voss.
The Queen gave the bride girandoles of diamonds. The Queen-Dowager
received her, and everyone at Court made a fuss of her. All the same,
she was no more successful than Mademoiselle de Voss in getting rid of
Madame Rietz. This favourite, who had been given 70,000 crowns to take
her departure, remained, took an officer as her lover, and even got
the King to promote him.


And so, in 1790, the King of Prussia, Mademoiselle de Voss’s widower,
had three wives living: the Princess of Brunswick, who was repudiated;
the Princess of Darmstadt, who, although divorced, still kept the rank
of Queen; and Mademoiselle Dœnhof, morganatic wife. This third wife,
wrote one diplomat, will not be the last, for “those the King longs
for will also want to be married.” The Prince in any case was always
ready. Polygamy, in his eyes, was a prerogative of royalty. As the
result of a Court intrigue in 1792 he had himself separated from
Mademoiselle Dœnhof, crowning by this divorce the strange series of
his conjugal evolutions. Then he offered his heart and hand to a lady
called Bethmann, a banker’s daughter whom he had known at Frankfurt,
and found very much to his liking. This young person, in the words of
Lord Malmesbury, was “all sentiment and all fire”; but she had
principles and discretion. She had misgivings about the character of
the marriage and the constancy of the bridegroom. She refused, thus
sparing the Berlin casuists the trouble of a deliberation still more
ticklish than before. I know not whether these accommodating
theologians, reared in the school of Voltaire and Frederick, took
these simultaneous marriages very seriously or not; abroad they
afforded subject for ridicule, and Catherine the Great, who herself
did not feel bound to observe so many formalities, was highly amused
at them; “that big lout of a Gu”—such was her name for Frederick
William in her letters to Grimm—“that big lout has just married a
third wife; the libertine never has enough legitimate wives; for a
conscientious libertine, commend me to him.”


Frederick William loved women. Women, however, did not govern him. But
if he escaped the influence of mistresses, he fell under the influence
of favourites, and the people were none the better off. Badly brought
up, kept apart from State affairs by his uncle, distrusting others
because he was very distrustful of himself, he knew nothing of the art
of government, and dallied with vague reform projects. The Ministers
whom Frederick left behind, although very second-rate, made him ill at
ease. He was afraid of being considered under their thumb; besides,
these Ministers represented ideas and a system which he affected to
condemn. “The King will be led just because he is afraid of being so,”
wrote Mirabeau. The fear of being governed by his Ministers delivered
him into the hands of underlings, who promptly gained a mastery over
him by humbling themselves before him, reassuring his suspicious
pride, flattering his passions—above all, exploiting the shortcomings
of his mind. Frederick William desired the good of the State; he had a
hazy but quite keen idea of the necessity of counteracting the
excesses of Frederick’s Government; but his intentions rambled, and
his reform fancies, more mystical then political, proceeded not so
much from the idea of the interests of the State as from the influence
of a secret doctrine with which he was imbued. The statesman in him
was but an adept in magic; for Ministers he took mere charlatans.
Skilled conjurers replaced at Potsdam Frederick’s “judicious


Of all these mystical adventurers, the one whose influence was perhaps
the most baneful for the Prussian State was Wœllner, a pure intriguer.
Son of a country pastor, he worked his way into the household of
General d’Itzenplitz; after wheedling the mother, he ended by marrying
the daughter. Frederick, who was anything but indulgent to
mis-alliances, had him clapped into prison in Berlin. The hatred of
Wœllner for the Philosopher-King dated from that day. At that time he
was a rationalist and a disciple of Wolf; he became a Freemason. But
already in high society in Germany the wind no longer set in the
direction of pure Deism. Wœllner, always a perfect sceptic, changed
his convictions. Considering himself as fitted as any other for the
apparition business and the mystery industry, he decided to turn
“honest broker” between the powers of this world and those of the
next, basing his credit with the former on that which he claimed with
the latter. He joined the Rosicrucians, and soon became one of the
leading lights of the Order.

Thus he knew the man who was to counterbalance his favour at the Court
of Berlin and one day share with him Frederick’s Government, the Saxon
Bischoffswerder. The son of a small noble, an officer of fortune, come
like so many others to seek service in Prussia, he had wormed his way
into the favour of the Prince-Royal, and had quickly taken him in.


Mistresses and favourites, Rosicrucians and valets, theosophists and
_femmes galantes_, on the whole got on very well together and agreed
surprisingly. It was but a step from the laboratory of the
Rosicrucians to the boudoir of Madame Rietz, and these mystic
personages cleared it without a scrap of shame. They formed a close
alliance with the _valet de chambre_ and his wife, the _maîtresse
d’habitude_, who throughout all the matrimonial pranks of the King
managed to preserve her credit by artifices analogous to those which
at Versailles had so long maintained that of Madame de Pompadour.

Around them swarmed a crowd of subordinate intriguers, the “clique,”
as they were called in Berlin, ready for all sorts of jobs behind the
scenes at Court, in the Army, in politics, in diplomacy—above all, in
finance. Needy and greedy, they had a firmly established reputation in
Europe for venality. “I maintain,” declared Mirabeau, “that with a
thousand louis you could, if need be, know perfectly all the secrets
of the Berlin Cabinet.... So the Emperor has a faithful record of
every step of the King, day by day, and could know everything he
planned, if he planned anything.” These were the methods, as Custine
affirmed in 1792, that every diplomatist in the world employed; all
the Ministers who resided in Berlin used them with more success and
more generally than elsewhere.


Such was the strange band of adventurers who pounced on the monarchy
and the treasury of Frederick the Great. Their course of action, very
complex and very powerful, was well designed to captivate a fantastic
and voluptuous bigot. However, they would never have gained more than
an antechamber or alcove influence, they would never have risen to
political influence, had they not known how to pervert the noblest
inclinations of the King, whilst flattering the lowest. Mediocre and
secondary as was his place in the line of the Hohenzollerns,
Frederick William was not devoid of all royal qualities. He was brave,
he was kind-hearted, or rather he was a man of “sensibility”; he
desired the public weal; he had suffered, like the nation, from the
pitiless régime of Frederick; like the whole nation, he wanted to
reform the State by lightening the yoke. He believed himself inspired
from on high, “illumined,” and called by Providence to restore the
morals and faith of a country which, he was told, and he himself
believed, was perishing through the scepticism of men’s minds and the
looseness of men’s morals.

How could he combine such tendencies with such tastes, such
aspirations with such passions, such beliefs with such debauchery? It
was just therein that he showed himself a weak character and a mystic;
that was why he joined theurgic sects instead of submitting to the
Church; why he believed in visions more than in the Gospel, listened
to a ventriloquist mimicking the voice of Frederick instead of
listening to the voices of the Ministers, the great King’s disciples;
that is why he distrusted wise, thoughtful, experienced people and
surrendered himself to charlatans and favourites.




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