The new Zuerich sect, by one of those seemingly inscrutable chances in similar cases of which history is full, not only prospered greatly but went forth conquering and to conquer. It spread rapidly northward, eastward, and westward. In the course of its victorious career it absorbed into itself all similar tendencies and local groups and movements having like aims to itself. As was natural under such circumstances, we find many different strains in the developed Anabaptist movement. The theologian Bullinger wrote a book on the subject, in which he enumerates thirteen distinct sects, as he terms them, in the Anabaptist body. The general tenets of the organization, as given by Bullinger, may be summarized as follows: They regard themselves as the true Church of Christ well pleasing to God; they believe that by rebaptism a man is received into the Church; they refuse to hold intercourse with other Churches or to recognize their ministers; they say that the preachings of these are different from their works, that no man is the better for their preaching, that their ministers follow not the teaching of Paul, that they take payment from their benefices, but do not work by their hands; that the Sacraments are improperly served, and that every man, who feels the call, has the right to preach; they maintain that the literal text of the Scriptures shall be accepted without comment or the additions of theologians; they protest against the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone; they maintain that true Christian love makes it inconsistent for any Christian to be rich, but that among the Brethren all things should be in common, or, at least, all available for the assistance of needy Brethren and for the common cause; that the attitude of the Christian towards authority should be that of submission and endurance only; that no Christian ought to take office of any kind, or to take part in any form of military service; that secular authority has no concern with religious belief; that the Christian resists no evil and therefore needs no law courts nor should ever make use of their tribunals; that Christians do not kill or punish with imprisonment or the sword, but only with exclusion from the body of believers; that no man should be compelled by force to believe, nor should any be slain on account of his faith; that infant baptism is sinful and that adult baptism is the only Christian baptism—baptism being a sacrament which should be reserved for the elect alone.
Such seem to represent the doctrines forming the common ground of the Anabaptist groups as they existed at the end of the second decade of the fifteenth century. There were, however, as Heinrich Bullinger and his contemporary, Sebastian Franck, point out, numerous divergencies between the various sections of the party. Many of these recalled other mediaeval heretic sects, e.g. the Cathari, the Brothers and Sisters of the Spirit, the Bohemian Brethren, etc.
For the first few years of its existence Anabaptism remained true to its original theologico-ethical principles. The doctrine of non-resistance was strictly adhered to. The Brethren believed in themselves as the elect, and that they had only to wait in prayer and humility for the "advent of Christ and His saints," the "restitution of all things," the "establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth," or by whatever other phrase the dominant idea of the coming change was expressed. During the earlier years of the movement the Anabaptists were peaceable and harmless fanatics and visionaries. In some cases, as in Moravia, they formed separate communities of their own, some of which survived as religious sects long after the extinction of the main movement.
In the earlier years of the fourth decade of the century, however, a change came over a considerable section of the movement. In Central and South-eastern Germany, notably in the Moravian territories, barring isolated individuals here and there, the Anabaptist party continued to maintain its attitude of non-resistance and the voluntariness of association which characterized it at first. The fearful waves of persecution, however, which successively swept over it were successful at last in partially checking its progress. At length the only places in this part of the empire where it succeeded in retaining any effective organization was in the Moravian territories, where persecution was less strong and the communities more closely knit together than elsewhere. Otherwise persecution had played sad havoc with the original Anabaptist groups throughout Central Europe.
Meanwhile a movement had sprung up in Western and Northern Germany, following the course of the Rhine Valley, that effectually threw the older movement of Southern and Eastern Germany into the background. These earlier movements remained essentially religious and theological, owing, as Cornelius points out (Muensterische Aufruhr, vol. ii. p. 74), to the fact that they came immediately after the overthrow of the great political movement of 1552. But although the older Anabaptism did not itself take political shape, it succeeded in keeping alive the tendencies and the enthusiasm out of which, under favourable circumstances, a political movement inevitably grows. The result was, as Cornelius further observes, an agitation of such a sweeping character that the fourth decade of the sixteenth century seemed destined to realize the ideals which the third decade had striven for in vain.
The new direction in Anabaptism began in the rich and powerful Imperial city of Strassburg, where peculiar circumstances afforded the Brethren a considerable amount of toleration. It was in the year 1526 that Anabaptism first made its appearance in Strassburg. It was Anabaptism of the original type and conducted on the old theologico-ethical lines. But early in the year 1529 there arrived in Strassburg a much-travelled man, a skinner by trade, by name Melchior Hoffmann. He had been an enthusiastic adherent of the Reformation, and it was not long before he joined the Strassburg Anabaptists and made his mark in their community. Owing to his personal magnetism and oratorical gifts, Melchior soon came to be regarded as a specially ordained prophet and to have acquired corresponding influence. After a few months Hoffmann seems to have left Strassburg for a propagandist tour along the Rhine. The tour, apparently, had great success, the Baptist communities being founded in all important towns as far as Holland, in which latter country the doctrines spread rapidly. The Anabaptism, however, taught by Melchior and his disciples did not include the precept of patient submission to wrong which was such a prominent characteristic of its earlier phase.
Some time after his reception into the Anabaptist body at Strassburg, Hoffmann, while in most other points accepting the prevalent doctrines of the Brethren, broke entirely loose from the doctrine of non-resistance, maintaining, in theory at least, the right of the elect to employ the sword against the worldly authorities, "the godless," "the enemies of the saints." It was predicted, he maintained, that a two-edged sword should be given into the hands of the saints to destroy the "mystery of iniquity," the existing principalities and powers, and the time was now at hand when this prophecy should be fulfilled. The new movement in the North-west, in the lower Rhenish districts, and the adjacent Westphalia sprang up and extended itself, therefore, under the domination of this idea of the reign of the saints in the approaching millennium and of the notion that passive non-resistance, whilst for the time being a duty, only remained so until the coming of the Lord should give the signal for the saints to rise and join in the destruction of the kingdoms of this world and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth. Hoffmann's whole learning seems to have been limited to the Bible, but this he knew from cover to cover. A diffusion of Luther's translation of the Bible had produced a revolution. The poorer classes, who were able to read at all, pored over the Bible, together with such popular tracts or pamphlets commenting thereon, or treating current social questions in the light of Biblical story and teaching, as came into their hands. The followers of the new movement in question acquired the name of Melchiorites. Hoffmann now published a book explanatory of his ideas, called The Ordinance of God, which had an enormous popularity. It was followed up by other writings, amplifying and defending the main thesis it contained.
Outwardly the Melchiorite communities of the North-west had the same peaceful character as those of South Germany and Moravia, holding as they did in the main the same doctrines. It was ominous, however, that Melchior Hoffmann was proclaimed as the prophet Elijah returned according to promise. Up to 1533 Strassburg continued to be regarded as the chief seat of Anabaptism, especially by Melchior and his disciples. It was, they declared, to be the New Jerusalem, from which the saints should march out to conquer the world. Melchior, on his return journey to Strassburg from his journey northwards, proclaimed the end of 1533 as the date of the second advent and the inauguration of the reign of the saints. Owing to the excitement among the poorer population of the town consequent upon Hoffmann's preaching, the prophet was arrested and imprisoned in one of the towers of the city wall. But 1533 came and went without the Lord or His saints appearing, while poor Hoffmann remained confined in the tower of the city wall.
Meanwhile the new Anabaptism spread and fermented along the Rhine, and especially in Holland. In the latter country its chief exponent was a master baker at Harleem, by name Jan Matthys, who seems to have been a born leader of men. While preaching essentially the same doctrines as Hoffmann, with Matthys a Holy War, in a literal sense, was placed in the forefront of his teaching. With him there was to be no delay. It was the duty of all the Brethren to show their zeal by at once seizing the sword of sharpness and mowing down the godless therewith. In this sense Matthys completed the transformation begun by Hoffmann. Melchior had indeed rejected the non-resistance doctrine in its absolute form, but he does not appear in his teaching to have uniformly emphasized the point, and certainly did not urge the destruction of the godless as an immediate duty to be fulfilled without delay. With him was always the suggestion, expressed or implied, of waiting for the signal from heaven, the coming of the Lord, before proceeding to action. With Matthys there was no need for waiting, even for a day; the time was not merely at hand, it had already come. His influence among the Brethren was immense. If Melchior Hoffmann had been Elijah, Jan Matthys was Elisha, who should bring his work to a conclusion.
Among Matthys' most intimate followers was Jan Bockelson, from Leyden. Bockelson was a handsome and striking figure. He was the illegitimate son of one Bockel, a merchant and Buergermeister of Saevenhagen, by a peasant woman from the neighbourhood of Muenster, who was in his service. After Jan's birth Bockel married the woman and bought her her freedom from the villein status that was hers by heredity. Jan was taught the tailoring handicraft at Leyden, but seems to have received little schooling. His natural abilities, however, were considerable, and he eagerly devoured the religious and propagandist literature of the time. Amongst other writings the pamphlets of Thomas Muenzer especially fascinated him. He travelled a good deal, visiting Mechlin and working at his trade for four years in London. Returning home, he threw himself into the Anabaptist agitation, and, scarcely twenty-five years old, he was won over to the doctrines of Jan Matthys. The latter with his younger colleague welded the Anabaptist communities in Holland and the adjacent German territories into a well-organized federation. They were more homogeneous in theory than those of Southern and Eastern Germany, being practically all united on the basis of the Hoffmann-Matthys propaganda.
The episcopal town of Muenster, in Westphalia, like other places in the third decade of the sixteenth century, became strongly affected by the Reformation. But that the ferment of the time was by no means wholly the outcome of religious zeal, as subsequent historians have persisted in representing it, was recognized by the contemporary heads of the official Reformation. Thus, writing to Luther under date August 29, 1530, his satellite, Melanchthon, has the candour to admit that the Imperial cities "care not for religion, for their endeavour is only toward domination and freedom." As the principal town of Westphalia at this time may be reckoned the chief city of the bishopric of Muenster, this important ecclesiastical principality was held "immediately of the empire." It had as its neighbours Ost-Friesland, Oldenburg, the bishopric of Osnabrueck, the county of Marck, and the duchies of Berg and Cleves. Its territory was half the size of the present province of Westphalia, and was divided into the upper and lower diocese, which were separated by the territory of Fecklenburg. The bishop was a prince of the empire and one of the most important magnates of North-western Germany, but in ecclesiastical matters he was under the Archbishop of Koeln. The diocese had been founded by Charles the Great.
Owing to a succession of events, beginning in 1529, which for those interested we may mention may be found discussed in full detail in The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (124-71), by the present writer, the extreme wing of the Reformation party had early gained the upper hand in the city, and subsequently became fused with the native Anabaptists, who were soon reinforced by their co-religionists from the country round, as well as from the not far distant Holland; for it should be said that the Dutch followers of Hoffmann and Matthys had been energetic in carrying their faith into the towns of Westphalia as elsewhere. Without entering in detail into the events leading up to it, it is sufficient for our purpose to state that by a perfectly lawful election, held on February 23, 1534, the Government of Muenster was reconstituted and the Anabaptists obtained supreme political power. Hearing of the way things were going in Muenster, Matthys and his followers had already taken up their abode in the city a little time before. The cathedral and other churches were stormed and sacked during the following days, while all official documents and charters dealing with the feudal relations of the town were given to the flames during the ensuing month. Both the moderate Protestant (Lutheran) and the Catholic burghers who had remained were indignant at the acts of destruction committed, and openly expressed their opposition. The result was their expulsion from the city; the condition of being allowed to remain became now the consent to rebaptism and the formal adoption of Anabaptist principles.
Muenster now took the place Strassburg had previously held as the rallying point of the Anabaptist faithful, whence a crusade against the Powers of the world was to issue forth. The Government of Muenster, though it officially consisted of the two Buergermeisters and the new Council, to a man all zealous Anabaptists, left the real power and initiative in all measures in the hands of Jan Matthys and of his disciple, Jan Bockelson, of Leyden. The reign of the saints was now fairly begun. Various attempts at an organized communism were made, but these appear to have been only partially successful. One day Jan Matthys with twenty companions, in an access of fanatical devotion, made a sortie from the town towards the bishop's camp. Needless to say, the party were all killed. The great leader dead, Jan Bockelson became naturally the chief of the city and head of the movement.
Bockelson proved in every way a capable successor to Matthys. A new Constitution was now given by Bockelson and the Dutchmen, acting as his prophets and preachers. It was embodied in thirty-nine articles, and one of its chief features was the transference of power to twelve elders, the number being suggested by the twelve tribes of Israel. The idea of reliving the life of the "chosen people," as depicted in the Old Testament, showed itself in various ways, amongst others by the notorious edict establishing polygamy. This measure, however, as Karl Kautsky has shown, there is good reason for thinking was probably induced by the economic necessity of the time, and especially by the enormous excess of the female over the male population of the city. Otherwise the Muensterites, like the Anabaptists generally, gave evidence of favouring asceticism in sexual matters.
Considerations of space prevent us from going into further detail of the inner life of Muenster under the Anabaptist regime during the siege at the hands of its overlord, the prince-bishop. This will be found given at length in the work already mentioned. As time went on famine began to attack the city.
It is sufficient for our purpose to state that on the night of June 24, 1535, the city was betrayed and that in a few hours the free-lances of the bishop were streaming in through all the gates. The street fighting was desperate; the Anabaptists showed a desperate courage, even women joining in the struggle, hurling missiles from the windows upon their foes beneath. By midday on the 25th the city of Muenster, the New Zion, passed over once more into the power of its feudal lord, Franz von Waldeck, and the reign of the saints had come to an end. The vengeance of the conquerors was terrible; all alike, irrespective of age or sex, were involved in an indiscriminate butchery. The three leaders, Bockelson, Krechting, and Knipperdollinck, after being carried round captives as an exhibition through the surrounding country, were, some months afterwards, on January 22, 1536, executed, after being most horribly tortured. Their bodies were subsequently suspended in three cages from the top of the tower of the Lamberti church. The three cages were left undisturbed until a few years ago, when the old tower, having become structurally unsafe, was pulled down and replaced, with questionable taste, by an ordinary modern steeple, on which, however, the original cages may still be seen. A papal legate, sent on a mission to Muenster shortly after the events in question, relates that as he and his retinue neared the latter town "more and more gibbets and wheels did we see on the highways and in the villages, where the false prophets and Anabaptists had suffered for their sins."
The Muenster incident was the culmination of the Anabaptist movement. After the catastrophe the militant section rapidly declined. It did not die out, however, until towards the end of the century. The last we hear of it was in 1574, when a formidable insurrection took place again in Westphalia, under the leadership of one Wilhelmson, the son of one of the escaped Anabaptist preachers of Muenster. The movement lasted for five years. It was finally suppressed and Wilhelmson burned alive at Cleves on March 5, 1580. Meanwhile, soon after the fall of Muenster, the party split asunder, a moderate section forming, which shortly after came under the leadership of Menno Simon. This section, which soon became the majority of the party, under the name of Mennonites, settled down into a mere religious sect. In fact, towards the end of the sixteenth century the Anabaptist communities on the continent of Europe, from Moravia on the one hand to the extreme North-west of Germany on the other, showed a tendency to develop into law-abiding and prosperous religious organizations, in many cases being officially recognized by the authorities.
The Anabaptist revolt of the fourth decade of the sixteenth century, though it may be regarded partly as a continuation or recrudescence, showed some differences from the peasant revolt of some years previously. The peasant rebellion, which reached its zenith in 1525, was predominantly an agrarian movement, notwithstanding that it had had its echo among the poorer classes of the towns. The Anabaptist movement proper, which culminated in the Muenster "reign of the saints" in 1534-5, was predominantly a townsman's movement, notwithstanding that it had a considerable support from among the peasantry. The Anabaptists' leaders were not, as in the case of the Peasants' War, in the main drawn from the class of the "man that wields the hoe" (to paraphrase the phraseology of the time); they were tailors, smiths, bakers, shoemakers, or carpenters. They belonged, in short, to the class of the organized handicraftsmen and journeymen who worked within city walls. A prominent figure in both movements was, however, the ex-priest or teacher. The ideal, or, if you will, the Utopian, element in the movement of Melchior Hoffmann, Jan Matthys, and Jan Bockelson—the element which expressed the social discontent of the time in the guise of its prevalent theological conceptions—now occupied the first place, while in the earlier movement it was merely sporadic.
After the close of the sixteenth century Anabaptism lost all political importance on the continent of Europe. It had, however, a certain afterglow in this country during the following century, which lasted over the times of the Civil War and the Commonwealth, and may be traced in the movements of the "Levellers," the "Fifth Monarchy men," and even among the earlier Quakers.
 Those interested will find the events briefly sketched in the present chapter exhaustively treated, with full elaboration of detail, in the two previous volumes of mine, The Peasant's War in Germany and The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (Messrs. George Allen & Unwin).
 Amongst the curiosities of literature may be included the translation of the title of this manifesto by Prof. T.M. Lindsay, D.D., in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition (Article, "Luther"). The German title is "Wider die morderischen und rauberischen Rotten der Bauern." Prof. Lindsay's translation is "Against the murdering, robbing Rats [sic] of Peasants"!
We have in the preceding chapters sought to give a general view of the social life, together with the inner political and economic movements, of Germany during that closing period of the Middle Ages which is generally known as the era of the Reformation. With the definite establishment of the Reformation and of the new political and economic conditions that came with it in many of the rising States of Germany, the Middle Ages may be considered as definitely coming to an end, notwithstanding that, of course, a considerable body of mediaeval conditions of social, political, and economic life continued to survive all over Europe, and certainly not least in Germany.
We have now to take a general and, so to say, panoramic view embracing three centuries and a half, dating from approximately the middle of the sixteenth century to the present time. Our presentation, owing to exigencies of space, will necessarily take the form of a mere sketch of events and general tendencies, but a sketch that will, we hope, be sufficient to connect periods and to enable the reader to understand better than before the forces that have built up modern Germany and have moulded the national character. In this long period of more than three centuries there are two world-historic events, or rather series of events, which stand out in bold relief as the causes which have moulded Germany directly, and the whole of Europe indirectly, up to the present day. These two epoch-making historical factors are (1) the Thirty Years' War and (2) the Rise of the Prussian Monarchy.
Owing to the success of Protestantism, with its two forms of Lutheranism and Calvinism in various German territories, the friction became chronic between Catholic and Protestant interests throughout the length and breadth of Central Europe. The Emperor himself was chosen, as we know, by three ecclesiastical electors, the Archbishops of Koeln, Trier, and Mainz, and by four princes, the Pfalzgraf, called in English the Elector Palatine, the Markgraves of Saxony and Brandenburg, and the King of Bohemia. The princes and other potentates, owing immediate allegiance to the empire alone, were practically independent sovereigns. The Reichstag, instituted in the fifteenth century, attendance at which was strictly limited to these immediate vassals of the empire, had proved of little effect. This was shown when in the middle of the sixteenth century Protestantism had established itself in the favour of the mass of the German peoples. It was vetoed by the Reichstag, with its powerful contingent of ecclesiastical members. Of course here the economic side of the question played a great part. The ecclesiastical potentates and those favourable to them dreaded the spread of Protestantism in view of the secularization of religious domains and fiefs. This, notwithstanding that there were not wanting bishops and abbots themselves who were not indisposed, as princes of the empire, to appropriate the Church lands, of which they were the trustees, for their own personal possessions. After a short civil war an arrangement was come to at the Treaty of Passau in 1552, which was in the main ratified by the Reichstag held at Augsburg in 1555 (the so-called Peace of Augsburg); but the arrangement was artificial and proved itself untenable as a permanent instrument of peace.
During the latter part of the sixteenth century two magnates of the empire, the Duke of Bavaria on the Catholic side and the Calvinist, Christian of Anhalt, on the Protestant, played the chief role, the Lutheran Markgrave of Saxony taking up a moderate position as mediator. Of the Reichstag of Augsburg it should be said that it had ignored the Calvinist section of the Protestant party altogether, only recognizing the Lutheran. In 1608 the Protestant Union, which embraced Lutherans and Calvinists alike, was founded under the leadership of Christian of Anhalt. It was most powerful in Southern Germany. This was countered immediately by the foundation under Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, of a Catholic League. The friction, which was now becoming acute, went on increasing till the actual outbreak of the Thirty Years' War in 1618. The signal for the latter was given by the Bohemian revolution in the spring of that year.
The Thirty Years' War, as it is termed, which was really a series of wars, naturally falls into five distinct periods, each representing in many respects a separate war in itself. The first two years of the war (1618-20) is occupied with the Bohemian revolt against the attempt of the Emperor to force Catholicism upon the Bohemian people and with its immediate consequences. It was accentuated by the attempt of the Emperor Matthias to compel them to accept the Archduke Ferdinand as King. This attempt was countered through the election by the Bohemians of the Pfalzgraf, Friedrich V (the son-in-law of James I of England), who was called the Winter King from the fact that his reign lasted only during the winter months; for though the Protestant Union, led by Count Thurn, had won several victories in 1618 and even threatened Vienna, the Austrian power was saved by Tilly and the Catholic League which came to its rescue. Many of the Protestant States, moreover, were averse to the Palatine Friedrich's acceptance of the Bohemian crown. The Bohemian movement was ultimately crushed by a force sent from Spain, under the Spanish general Spinola. The final defeat took place at the battle of the White Hill, near Prague, November 8, 1620.
The second period of the war was concerned with the attempt of the Catholic Powers to deprive Friedrich of his Palatine dominions. Here Count Mansfeld, with his mercenary army of free-lances, aided by Christian of Brunswick and others on the side of Friedrich and the Protestants, defeated Tilly in 1622. But later on Tilly and the Imperialists by a series of victories conquered the Palatinate, which was bestowed upon Maximilian of Bavaria. Mansfeld, notwithstanding that he had some successes later in the year 1622, could not effectually redeem the situation, Brunswick's army being entirely routed by Tilly in the following year at the battle of Stadtlohn, which virtually ended this particular campaign.
The third period of the war, from 1624 to 1629, is characterized by the intervention of the Powers outside the immediate sphere of German or Imperial interests. France, under Richelieu, became concerned at the growing power of the Hapsburgs, while James I of England began to show anxiety at his son-in-law's adverse fortunes, though without achieving any successful intervention. The chief feature of this campaign was the entry into the field of Christian IV of Denmark with a powerful army to join Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick in invading the Imperial and Austrian territories. But the savageries and excesses of Mansfeld's troops had disgusted and alienated all sides. It was at this time that Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, was appointed general of the Imperial troops, and soon after succeeded in completely routing Mansfeld at the battle of Dessau Bridge in 1626. Four months later Tilly completely defeated Christian IV and his Danes at Lutter. Wallenstein, on his side, followed up his success, driving Mansfeld into Hungary. Mansfeld, in spite of some fugitive successes in the Austrian dominions in the course of his retreat, was compelled by Wallenstein to evacuate Hungary, shortly after which he died. The campaign ended with the Peace of Lubeck in 1629.
The action of the Emperor Ferdinand in attempting to enforce the restitution of Church lands in North Germany was the proximate cause of the next great campaign, which constitutes the fourth period of the Thirty Years' War (1630-36). The immediate occasion was, however, Wallenstein's seizure of certain towns in Mecklenburg, over which he claimed rights by Imperial grant two years before. This, which may be regarded as the greatest period of the Thirty Years' War, was characterized by the appearance on the scene of Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish King. He was not in time, however, to prevent the sacking of Magdeburg by the troops of Tilly and Poppenheim. The former, nevertheless, was defeated by the Swedes at the important battle of Breitenfeld in 1631. The following year the Imperial army was again defeated on the Lach. Thereupon Gustavus occupied Muenchen, though he was subsequently compelled by Wallenstein to evacuate the city. The last great victory of Gustavus was at Luetzen in 1632, at which battle the great leader met his death. Wallenstein, who was now in favour of a policy of peace and political reconstruction, was assassinated in 1634 with the connivance of the Emperor. On September 6th of the same year the Protestant army, under Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, sustained an overwhelming defeat at Noerdlingen, and the Peace of Prague the following year ended the campaign.
The fifth period, from 1636 to 1648, has, as its central interest, the active intervention of France in the Central European struggle. The Swedes, notwithstanding the death of their King, continued to have some notable successes, and even approached to within striking distance of Vienna. But Richelieu now became the chief arbiter of events. The French generals Conde and Turenne invaded Germany and the Netherlands. Victories were won by the new armies at Rocroi, Thionville, and at Noerdlingen, but Vienna was not captured. The Imperial troops were, however, again defeated at Zumarshauen by Conde, who also repelled an attempted diversion in the shape of a Spanish invasion of France at the battle of Lens in the spring of 1648. The Thirty Years' War was finally ended in October of the same year at Muenster, by the celebrated Treaty of Westphalia.
The above is a skeleton sketch in a few words of the chief features of that long and complicated series of diplomatic and military events known to history as the Thirty Years' War.
The Thirty Years' War had far-reaching and untold consequences on Germany itself and indirectly on the course of modern civilization generally. For close upon a generation Central Europe had been ravaged from end to end by hostile and plundering armies. Rapine and destruction were, for near upon a third of the century, the common lot of the Germanic peoples from north to south and from east to west. Populations were as helpless as sheep before the brutal, criminal soldiery, recruited in many cases from the worst elements of every European country. The excesses of Mansfeld's mercenary army in the earlier stages of the war created widespread horror. But the defeat and death of Mansfeld brought no alleviation. The troops of Wallenstein proved no better in this respect than those of Mansfeld. On the contrary, with every year the war went on its horrors increased, while every trace of principle in the struggle fell more and more into the background. Everywhere was ruin.
The population became by the time the war had ended a mere fraction of what it was at the opening of the seventeenth century. Some idea of the state of things may be gathered from the instance of Augsburg, which during its siege by the Imperialists was reduced from 70,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. What happened to the great commercial city of the Fuggers was taking place on a scale greater or less, according to the district, all over German territory. We read of towns and villages that were pillaged more than a dozen times in a year. This terrific depopulation of the country, the reader may well understand, had vast results on its civilization. The whole great structure of Mediaeval and Renaissance Germany—its literature, art, and social life—was in ruins. At the close of the seventeenth century the old German culture had gone and the new had not yet arisen. But of this we shall have more to say in the next chapter. For the present we are chiefly concerned to give a brief sketch of the second great epoch-making event, or rather train of events, which conditioned the foundation and development of modern Germany. We refer, of course, to the rise of the Prussian monarchy.
We should premise that the Prussians are the least German of all the populations of what constitutes modern Germany. They are more than half Slavs. In the early Middle Ages the Mark of Brandenburg, the centre and chief province of the modern Prussian State, was an outlying offshoot of the mediaeval Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, surrounded by barbaric tribes, Slav and Teuton. The chief Slav people were the Borussians, from which the name "Prussian" was a corruption. The first outstanding historic fact concerning these Baltic lands is that a certain Adalbert, Bishop of Prague, at the end of the tenth century went north on a mission of enterprise for converting the Prussian heathen. The neighbouring Christian prince, the Duke of Poland, who had presumably suffered much from incursions of these pagan Slavs, offered him every encouragement. The adventure ended, however, before long in the death of Adalbert at the hands of these same pagan Slavs.
The first indication of the existence of a Mark of Brandenburg with its Markgraves is in the eleventh century. There is, however, little definite historical information concerning them. The first of these Markgraves to attract attention was Albrecht the Bear, one of the so-called Ascanian line, the family hailing from the Harz Mountains. Albrecht was a remarkable man for his time in every way. Under him the Markgravate of Brandenburg was raised to be an electorate of the empire. The Markgrave thus became a prince of the empire. It was Albrecht the Bear who first introduced a limited measure of peace and order into the hitherto anarchic condition of the Mark and its adjacent territories. The Ascanian line continued till 1319, and was followed by a period of political anarchy and disturbance, until finally Friedrich, Count of Hohenzollern, acquired the electorate, and became known as the Elector Friedrich I. Meanwhile the Order of the Teutonic Knights, who earlier began their famous crusade against the Borussian heathens, had established themselves on the territories now known as East and West Prussia. In spite of this fact and of the for long time dominant power of their Polish neighbours, the Hohenzollern rulers continued to acquire increased power and fresh territories.
At the Reformation Albrecht, a scion of the Hohenzollern family, who had been elected Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, adopted Protestantism and assumed the title of Duke of Prussia. Finally, in 1609, the then Elector of Brandenburg, John Sigismund, through his marriage with Ann, daughter and heiress of Albrecht Friedrich, Duke of Prussia, came into possession of the whole of Prussia proper, together with other adjacent territories. The Prussian lands suffered much through the Thirty Years' War during the reign of John Sigismund's successor, George Wilhelm. But the latter's son, Friedrich Wilhelm, the so-called Great Elector, succeeded by his ability in repairing the ravages the war had made and raising the electorate immensely in political importance. He left at his death, in 1688, the financial condition of the country in a sound state, with an effective army of 38,000 men. Friedrich I, who followed him, held matters together and got Prussia promoted to the rank of a kingdom in 1701. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm I, by rigid economies succeeded in raising the financial condition of the kingdom to a still higher level. The military power of the monarchy he also developed considerably, and is famous in history for his mania for tall soldiers.
We now come to the real founder of the Prussian monarchy as a great European Power, Friedrich Wilhelm I's son, who succeeded his father in 1740 as Friedrich II, and who is known to history as Friedrich the Great.
Friedrich no sooner came to the throne than he started on an aggressive expansionist policy for Prussia. The opportunity presented itself a few months after his accession by the dispute as to the Pragmatic Sanction and Maria Theresa's right to the throne of Austria. In the two wars which immediately followed, the Prussian army overran the whole of Silesia, and the peace of 1745 left the Prussian King in possession of the entire country. East Friesland had already been absorbed the year before on the death of the last Duke without issue. In spite of the exhaustion of men and money in the two Silesian wars, Friedrich found himself ready with both men and money eleven years later, in 1756, to embark upon what is known as the Seven Years' War. Though without acquiring fresh territory by this war, the gain in prestige was so great that the Prussian monarchy virtually assumed the hegemony of North Germany, becoming the rival of Austria for the domination of Central Europe, the position in which it remained for more than a century afterwards. Nevertheless, after this succession of wars the condition of the country was deplorable. It was obvious that the first thing to do was the work of internal resuscitation. The extraordinary ability and energy of the King saved the internal situation. Agriculture, industry, and commerce were re-established and reorganized. It was now that the cast-iron system of bureaucratic administration, where not actually created, was placed on a firm foundation. But in external affairs Prussia continued to earn its character as the robber State of Europe par excellence.
In 1772 Friedrich joined with Austria in the first partition of Poland, acquiring the whole of West Prussia as his share. A few years later Friedrich formed an anti-Austrian league of German princes, under Prussian leadership, which was the first overt sign of the conflict for supremacy in Germany between Prussia and Austria, which lasted for wellnigh a century. By the time of his death—August 7, 1786—Friedrich had increased Prussian territory to nearly 75,000 square miles and between five and six millions of population.
Under Friedrich's nephew, Friedrich Wilhelm II, while the rigour of bureaucratic administration, controlled by a monarchical absolutism, continued and was even accentuated, the absence of the able hand of Friedrich the Great soon made itself apparent. As regards external policy, however, Prussia, while allowing territories on the left bank of the Rhine to go to France, eagerly saw to the increase of her own dominions in the east to the extent of nearly doubling her superficial area by her participation in the second and third partitions of Poland, which took place in 1783 and 1795 respectively. These external successes, or rather acts of spoliation, were, notwithstanding, counter-balanced at home by a degeneracy alike of the civil bureaucracy and of the army. The country internally, both as regards morale and effectiveness, had sunk far below its level under Friedrich the Great. This showed itself during the great Napoleonic wars, when Prussia had to undergo more than one humiliation at the hands of Buonaparte, culminating in October 1806 with the collapse of the Prussian armies at Jena and Auerstaedt. The entry of Napoleon in triumph into Berlin followed. At the Peace of Tilsit, in 1807, Friedrich-Wilhelm had to sign away half his kingdom and to consent to the payment of a heavy war indemnity, pending which the French troops occupied the most important fortresses in the country.
Following upon this moment of deepest national humiliation comes the period of the Ministers Stein and Hardenberg, of the enthusiastic adjurations to patriotism of Fischer and others, and of the activity of the "League of Virtue" (Tugendbund). It is difficult to understand the enthusiasm that could be aroused for the rehabilitation of an absolutist, bureaucratic, and militarist State, such as Prussia was—a State in which civil and political liberty was conspicuous by its absence. But the fact undoubtedly remains that the men in question did succeed in pumping up a strong patriotic feeling and desire to free the country from the yoke of the foreigner, even if that only meant increased domestic tyranny. It must be admitted, however, that as a matter of fact not inconsiderable internal reforms were owing to the leading men of this time. Stein abolished serfdom, and in some respects did away with the legal distinction of classes, thereby paving the way for the rise of the middle class, which at that time meant a progressive step. He also conferred rights of self-government upon municipalities. Hardenberg inaugurated measures intended to ameliorate the condition of the peasants, while Wilhelm von Humboldt established the thorough if somewhat mechanical education system which was subsequently extended throughout Germany. He also helped to found the University of Berlin in 1809.
But at the same time the curse of Prussia—militarism—was riveted on the people through the reorganization of the Prussian army by those two able military bureaucrats, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. In 1813 Prussia concluded at Kalicsh an alliance with Russia, which Austria joined. In the war which followed Prussia was severely strained by losses in men and money. But at the Congress of Vienna the Prussian kingdom received back nearly, but not quite, all it lost in 1807. The acquirement, however, of new and valuable territories in Westphalia and along the Rhine, besides Thuringia and the province of Saxony, more than compensated for the loss of certain Slav districts in the east, as thereby the way was prepared for the ultimate despotism of the Prussian King over all Germany. The success of Prussian diplomacy in enslaving these erstwhile independent German lands in 1815 was crucial for the subsequent direction of Prussian policy.
It is time now to return once more to the internal conditions in the Prussian State now dominant over a large part of Northern Germany. A Constitution had been more than once talked of, but the despotism with its bureaucratic machinery had remained. Now, after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars and the re-drawing of the Prussian frontier lines by the peace of 1815, the matter assumed an urgency it had not had before. Following upon proclamations and promises, a patent was addressed to the new Saxon provinces granting a national Landtag, or Diet, for the whole country. The drawing up of the Constitution thus proclaimed in principle gave rise to heated conflicts. There was, as yet, no proletariat proper in Prussia, and for that matter hardly any in the rest of Germany. The handicraft system of production, and even the mediaeval guild system, slightly modified, prevailed throughout the country. The middle class proper was small and unimportant, and hence Liberalism, the theoretical expression of that class, only found articulate utterance through men of the professions.
The new Prussian territories in the west were largely tinctured with progressive ideas originating in the French Revolution, while the east was dominated by reactionary feudal landowners, the notorious Junker class—a class special to East Prussian territories, including the eastern portion of the Mark of Brandenburg—whom the moderate Conservative Minister Stein himself characterized as "heartless, wooden, half-educated people, only good to turn into corporals or calculating-machines." This class then, as ever since, opposed an increase of popular control and the progress of free institutions with might and main. Friction arose between the Government and Liberal gymnastic societies and students' clubs. This culminated in the festival on the Wartburg in October 1818, when a bonfire was made of a book of police laws and Uhlan stays and a corporal's stick. It was followed the next year by the assassination of the dramatist and political spy Kotzebue by the student Sand.
Panic seized the reactionists, and the Austrian Minister Metternich, one of the chief pillars of absolutist principles in Europe, induced the King to commit himself to the Austrian system of repression. In 1821 the Reactionary party succeeded in getting the projected Constitution abandoned and the bureaucratic system of provincial estates established by royal warrant two years later (1823). The Prussian police with their spies then became omnipotent, and a remorseless persecution of all holding Liberal or democratic views ensued, the best-known writers on the popular side no less than the rank and file being arbitrarily arrested and kept in prison on any or no pretext. The amalgamation of the new districts into the Prussian bureaucratic system was not accomplished without resistance. The Rhine provinces especially, accustomed to easy-going government and light taxation under the old ecclesiastical princes, kicked vigorously against the Prussian jack-boot. The discontent was so widespread indeed that some concessions had to be made, such as the retention of the Code Napoleon. What created most resentment, however, was the enactment of 1814, which enforced compulsory universal military service throughout the monarchy. Friedrich Wilhelm also undertook to dragoon his subjects in the matter of religion, amalgamating the Lutherans with other reformed bodies, under the name of the "Evangelical Church."
In foreign politics, in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, during the Napoleonic wars, Prussia, as yet hardly recovered from her defeats under Buonaparte, almost entirely followed the lead of Austria. But perhaps the most important measure of the Prussian Government at this time was the foundation of the famous Zollverein or Customs Union of various North German States in 1834. The far-reaching character of this measure was only shown later, being, in fact, the means and basis by and on which the political and military ascendancy of Prussia over all Germany was assured. Friedrich Wilhelm III, who died on June 7, 1840, was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The new reign began with an appearance of Liberalism by a general amnesty for political offences. Reaction, however, soon raised its head again, and Friedrich Wilhelm IV, in spite of his varnish of philosophical and literary tastes, was soon seen to be au fond as reactionary as his predecessors. The conflict between the reaction of the Government and the now widely spread Liberal and democratic aspirations of the people resulted in Prussia (as it did under similar circumstances in other countries) in the outbreak of the revolution of 1848.
It is necessary at this stage to take a brief survey of the political history of the Germanic States of Europe generally from the time of the Peace of Vienna, in 1815, onwards, in order to understand fully the role played by the Prussian monarchy in German history since 1848; for from this time the history of Prussia becomes more and more bound up with that of the German peoples as a whole. During the Napoleonic wars Germany, as every one knows, was, generally speaking, in the grip of the French Imperial power. To follow the vicissitudes and fluctuations of fortune throughout Central Europe during these years lies outside our present purpose. We are here chiefly concerned with the political development from the Treaty of Vienna, as signed on June 9, 1815, onward. The Treaty of Vienna completed the work begun by Napoleon—represented by the extinction of the mediaeval "Holy Roman Empire of the German nation" in 1806—in making an end of the political configuration of the German peoples which had grown up during the Middle Ages and survived, in a more or less decayed condition, since the Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years' War. The three hundred separate States of which Germany had originally consisted were now reduced to thirty-nine, a number which, by the extinction of sundry minor governing lines, was before long further reduced to thirty-five. These States constituted themselves into a new German Confederation, with a Federal Assembly, meeting at Frankfurt-on-the-Main. The new Federal Council, or Assembly, however, soon revealed itself as but the tool of the princes and a bulwark of reaction.
The revolution of 1848 was throughout Germany an expression of popular discontent and of democratic and even, to a large extent, of republican aspirations. The princely authorities endeavoured to stem the wave of popular indignation and revolutionary enthusiasm by recognizing a provisional self-constituted body, and sanctioning the election of a national representative Parliament at Frankfurt in place of the effete Federal Council. The Archduke of Austria, who was elected head of the new, hastily organized National Government, was not slow to use his newly acquired power in the interests of reaction, thereby exciting the hostility of all the progressive elements in the Parliament of Frankfurt. When after some months it became obvious that the anti-Progressive parties had gained the upper hand alike in Austria and Prussia, the friction between the Democratic and Constitutional parties became increasingly bitter.
The Prussian Government meanwhile took advantage of the state of affairs to stir up the Schleswig-Holstein question, so-called, driving the Danes out of Schleswig, an insurrectionary movement in Holstein having been already suppressed by the Danish King. Prussia, alarmed by the attitude of the Powers, agreed to withdraw her troops from the occupied territories without consulting the Frankfurt Parliament, an act which involved Friedrich Wilhelm in conflict with the latter. The issues arising out of this dispute made it plain to every one that the Parliament of all Germany was impotent to enforce its decrees against one of the German Powers possessed of a preponderating military strength. By the end of 1848 the revolution in Vienna was completely crushed and a strongly reactionary Government appointed by the new Emperor. Meanwhile in Berlin the Junkers and the reactionaries generally had already again come into power, a crisis having been caused by the attempt of the democratic section of the Prussian National Assembly, convened by the King in March, to reorganize the army on a popular democratic basis. We need scarcely say the Prussian army has been the tool of Junkerdom and reaction ever since.
The last despairing attempt of the Frankfurt Parliament to give effect to the national Germanic unity, which all patriotic Germans professed to be eager for, was the offer of the Imperial crown to the King of Prussia. Against this act, however, nearly half the members—i.e. all the advanced parties in the Assembly—protested by refusing to take any part in it They had also declined to be associated with a previous motion for the exclusion of German Austria from the new national unity, in the interest of Prussian ascendancy. Both these reactionary proposals, as we all know, at a later date became the corner-stones of the new Prusso-German unity of Bismark's creation. On this occasion, however, the Prussian King refused to accept the office at the hands of the impotent Frankfurt Assembly, which latter soon afterwards broke up and eventually "petered out." Meanwhile Prussian troops, led by the reactionary military caste, were employed in the congenial task of suppressing popular movements with the sword in Baden, Saxony, and Prussia itself.
The two rival bulwarks of reaction, Prussia and Austria, were now so alarmed at the revolutionary dangers they had passed through that, for the nonce forgetting their rivalry, they cordially joined together in reviving, in the interests of the counter-revolution, the old reactionary Federal Assembly, which had never been formally dissolved, as it ought to have been on the election of the Frankfurt Parliament. Reaction now went on apace. Liberties were curtailed and rights gained in 1848 were abolished in most of the smaller States. Henceforth the Federal Assembly became the theatre of the two great rival powers of the Germanic Confederation. Both alike strove desperately for the hegemony of Germany. The strength of Prussia, of course, lay generally in the north, that of Austria in the south. Austria had the advantage of Prussia in the matter of prestige. Prussia, on the other hand, had the pull of Austria in the possession of the machinery of the Customs Union. In general, however, the dual control of the Germanic Confederation was grudgingly recognized by either party, and on occasion they acted together. This was notably the case in the Schleswig-Holstein question, which had been smouldering ever since 1848, and which came to a crisis in the Danish war of 1864, in which Austria and Prussia jointly took part.
Among the most reactionary of the Junker party in the Prussian Parliament of 1848 was one Count Otto Bismarck von Schoenhausen, subsequently known to history as Prince Bismarck (1815-98). This man strenuously opposed the acceptance of the Imperial dignity by the King of Prussia at the hands of the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849, on the ground that it was unworthy of the King of Prussia to accept any office at the hands of the people rather than at those of his peers, the princes of Germany. In 1851 Count von Bismarck was appointed a Prussian representative in the revived princely and aristocratic Federal Assembly. Here he energetically fought the hegemony hitherto exercised by Austria. He continued some years in this capacity, and subsequently served as Prussian Minister in St. Petersburg and again in Paris. In the autumn of 1862 the new King of Prussia, Wilhelm I, who had succeeded to the throne the previous year, called him back to take over the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and the leadership of the Cabinet. Shortly after his accession to power he arbitrarily closed the Chambers for refusing to sanction his Army Bill. His army scheme was then forced through by the royal fiat alone. On the reopening of the Schleswig-Holstein question, owing to the death of the King of Denmark, German nationalist sentiment was aroused, which Bismarck knew how to use for the aggrandisement of Prussia. The Danish war, in which the two leading German States collaborated and which ended in their favour, had as its result a disagreement of a serious nature between these rival, though mutually victorious, Powers.
In all these events the hand of Bismarck was to be seen. He it was who dominated completely Prussian policy from 1862 onwards. Full of his schemes for the aggrandisement of Prussia at the expense of Austria, he stirred up and worked this quarrel for all it was worth, the upshot being the Prusso-Austrian War (the so-called Seven Weeks' War) of the summer of 1866. The war was brought about by the arbitrary dissolution of the German Confederation—i.e. the Federal Assembly—in which, owing to the alarm created by Prussian insolence and aggression, Austria had the backing of the majority of the States. This step was followed by Bismarck's dispatching an ultimatum to Hanover, Saxony, and Hesse Cassel respectively, all of which had voted against Prussia in the Federal Assembly, followed, on its non-acceptance, by the dispatch of Prussian troops to occupy the States in question. Hard on this act of brutal violence came the declaration of war with Austria.
At Koeniggratz the Prussian army was victorious over the Austrians, and henceforth the hegemony of Central Europe was decided in favour of Prussia. Austria, under the Treaty of Prague (August 20, 1866), was completely excluded from the new organization of German States, in which Prussia—i.e. Bismarck—was to have a free hand. The result was the foundation of the North German Confederation, under the leadership of Prussia. It was to have a common Parliament, elected by universal suffrage and meeting in Berlin. The army, the diplomatic representation, the control of the postal and telegraphic services, were to be under the sole control of the Prussian Government. The North German Confederation comprised the northern and central States of Germany. The southern States—Bavaria, Baden, Wuertemberg, etc.—although not included, had been forced into a practical alliance with Prussia by treaties. The Customs Union was extended until it embraced nearly the whole of Germany. Prussian aggression in Luxemburg produced a crisis with France in 1867, though the growing tension between Prussia and France was tided over on this occasion. But Bismarck only bided his time.
The occasion was furnished him by the question of the succession to the Spanish throne, in July 1870. By means of a falsified telegram Bismarck precipitated war, in which Prussia was joined by all the States of Germany. The subsequent course of events is matter of recent history. The establishment of the new Prusso-German empire by the crowning of Wilhelm I at Versailles, with the empire made hereditary in the Hohenzollern family, completed the work of Bismarck and the setting of the Prussian jack-boot on the necks of the German peoples. The Prussian military and bureaucratic systems were now extended to all Germany—in other words, the rest of the German peoples were made virtually the vassals and slaves of the Prussian monarch. This time the King of Prussia received the Imperial crown at the hands of the kings, princes, and other hereditary rulers of the various German States. Bismarck was graciously pleased to bestow unity and internal peace—a Prussian peace—upon Germany on condition of its abasement before the Prussian corporal's stick and police-truncheon. Such was the united Germany of Bismarck. Germany meant for Bismarck and his followers Prussia, and Prussia meant their own Junker and military caste, under the titular headship of the Hohenzollern.
Yet, strange to say, the peoples of Germany willingly consented, under the influence of the intoxication of a successful war, to have their independence bartered away to Prussia by their rulers. In this united Germany of Bismarck—a Germany united under Prussian despotism—they naively saw the realization of the dream of their thinkers and poets since the time of the Napoleonic wars—which had become more than ever an inspiration from 1848 onwards—of an ideal unity of all German-speaking peoples as a national whole. It is unquestionable that many of these thinkers and poets would have been horrified at the Prusso-Bismarckian "unity" of "blood and iron," It was not for this, they would have said, that they had laboured and suffered.
As a conclusion to the present chapter I venture to give a short summary of the internal, and especially of the economic, development of Prussia since the Franco-German War from an article which appeared in the English Review for December 1914, by Mr. H.M. Hyndman and the present writer:—
"From 1871 onwards Prussianized Germany, by far the best-educated, and industrially and commercially the most progressive, country in Europe, with the enormous advantage of her central position, was, consciously and unconsciously, making ready for her next advance. The policy of a good understanding with Russia, maintained for many years, to such an extent that, in foreign affairs, Berlin and St. Petersburg were almost one city, enabled Germany to feel secure against France, while she was devoting herself to the extension of her rural and urban powers of production. Never at any time did she neglect to keep her army in a posture of offence. All can now see the meaning of this.
"Militarism is in no sense necessarily economic. But the strength of Germany for war was rapidly increased by her success in peace. From the date of the great financial crisis of 1874, and the consequent reorganization of her entire banking system, Germany entered upon that determined and well-thought-out attempt to attain pre-eminence in the trade and commerce of the world of which we have not yet seen the end. From 1878, when the German High Commissioner, von Rouleaux, stigmatized the exhibits of his countrymen as 'cheap and nasty,' special efforts were made to use the excellent education and admirable powers of organization of Germany in this field. The Government rendered official and financial help in both agriculture and manufacture. Scientific training, good and cheap before, was made cheaper and better each year. Railways were used not to foster foreign competition, as in Great Britain, by excessive rates of home freight, but to give the greatest possible advantage to German industry in every department. In more than one rural district the railways were worked at an apparent loss in order to foster home production, from which the nation derived far greater advantage than such apparent sacrifice entailed. The same system of State help was extended to shipping until the great German liners, one of which, indeed, was actually subsidized by England, were more than holding their own with the oldest and most celebrated British companies.
"Protection, alike in agriculture and in manufacture, bound the whole empire together in essentially Imperial bonds. Right or wrong in theory—which it is not here necessary to discuss—there can be no doubt whatever that this policy entirely changed the face of Germany, and rendered her our most formidable competitor in every market. Emigration, which had been proceeding on a vast scale, almost entirely ceased. The savings banks were overflowing with deposits. The position of the workers was greatly improved. Not only were German Colonies secured in Africa and Asia, which were more trouble than they were worth, but very profitable commerce with our own Colonies and Dependencies was growing by leaps and bounds, at the expense of the out-of-date but self-satisfied commercialists of Old England. Hence arose a trade rivalry, against which we could not hope to contend successfully in the long run, except by a complete revolution in our methods of education and business, to which neither the Government nor the dominant class would consent.
"This remarkable advance in Germany, also, was accompanied by the establishment of a system of banking, specially directed to the expansion of national industry and commerce, a system which was clever enough to use French accumulations, borrowed at a low rate of interest, through the German Jews who so largely controlled French financial institutions, in order still further to extend their own trade. It was an admirably organized attempt to conquer the world-market for commodities, in which the Government, the banks, the manufacturers and the shipowners all worked for the common cause. Meanwhile, both French and English financiers carefully played the game of their business opponents, and the great English banks devoted their attention chiefly to fostering speculation on the Stock Exchange—a policy of which the Germans took advantage, just before the outbreak of war, to an extent not by any means as yet fully understood.
"Thus, at the beginning of the present year, in spite of the withdrawal, since the Agadir affair, of very large amounts of French capital from the German market, Germany had attained to such a position that only the United States stood on a higher plane in regard to its future in the world of competitive commerce. And this great and increasing economic strength was, for war purposes, at the disposal of the Prussian militarists, if they succeeded in getting the upper hand in politics and foreign affairs."
 Works on the Thirty Years' War are numerous. Many scholarly and exhaustive treatises on various aspects of the subject are, as might be expected, to be found in German. For general popular reading Schiller's excellent piece of literary hack work (translated in Bonn's Library) may still be consulted, but perhaps the best short general history of the war with its entanglement of events is that by the late Professor S.R. Gardiner, of Oxford, which forms one of the volumes of Messrs. Longman, Green & Co.'s series entitled "Epochs of Modern History."
MODERN GERMAN CULTURE
It is important to distinguish between the meaning of the German term "Kultur" and that commonly expressed in English by the word "culture." The word "Kultur" in modern German is simply equivalent to our word "civilization," whereas the word "culture" in English has a special meaning, to wit, that of intellectual attainments. In this chapter we are chiefly concerned with the latter sense of the word.
Germany had a rich popular literature during the Middle Ages from the redaction of the Nibelungenlied under Charles the Great onwards. Prominent among this popular literature were the love-songs of the Minnesingers, the epics drawn from mediaeval traditionary versions of the legend of Troy, of the career of Alexander the Great, and, to come to more recent times, to legends of Charles the Great and his Court, of Arthur and the Holy Grail, the Nibelungenlied in its present form, and Gudrun. The "beast-epic," as it was called, was also a favourite theme, especially in the form of Reynard the Fox. In another branch of literature we have collections of laws dating from the thirteenth century and known respectively from the country of their origin as the Sachsenspiegel and the Schwabenspiegel. Again, at a later date, followed the productions of the Meistersingers, and especially of Hans Sachs, of Nuernberg. Then, again, we have the prose literature of the mystics, Eckhart, Tauler, and their followers.
Towards the close of the mediaeval period we find an immense number of national ballads, of chap-books, not to mention the Passion Plays or the polemical theological writings of the time leading up to the Reformation. Luther's works, more especially his translation of the Bible, powerfully helped to fix German as a literary language. The Reformation period, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, was rich in prose literature of every description—in fact, the output of serious German writing continued unabated until well into the seventeenth century. But the Thirty Years' War, which devastated Germany from end to end, completely swept away the earlier literary culture of the nation. In fact, the event in question forms a dividing line between the earlier and the modern culture of Germany. In prose literature, the latter half of the seventeenth century, Germany has only one work to show, though that is indeed a remarkable one—namely, Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus, a romantic fiction under the guise of an autobiography of wild and weird adventure for the most part concerned with the Thirty Years' War.
The rebirth of German literature in its modern form began early in the eighteenth century. Leibnitz wrote in Latin and French, and his culture was mainly French. His follower, Christian Wolf, however, first used the German language for philosophical writing. But in poetry, Klopstock and Wieland, and, in serious prose, Lessing and Herder, led the way to the great period of German literature. In this period the name of Goethe holds the field, alike in prose and poetry. Goethe was born in 1749, and hence it was the last quarter of the century which saw him reach his zenith. Next to Goethe comes his younger contemporary, Schiller. It is impossible here to go even briefly into the achievements of the bearers of these great names. They may be truly regarded in many important respects as the founders of modern German culture. Around them sprang up a whole galaxy of smaller men, and the close of the eighteenth century showed a literary activity in Germany exceeding any that had gone before.
Turning to philosophy, it is enough to mention the immortal name of Immanuel Kant as the founder of modern German philosophic thought and the first of a line of eminent thinkers extending to wellnigh the middle of the nineteenth century. The names of Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer and others will at once occur to the reader.
Contemporaneously with the great rise of modern German literature there was a unique development in music, beginning with Sebastian Bach and continuing through the great classical school, the leading names in which are Glueck, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, etc. The middle period of the nineteenth century showed a further development in prose literature, producing some of the greatest historians and critics the world has seen. At this time, too, Germany began to take the lead in science. The names of Virchow, Helmholtz, Haeckel, out of a score of others, all of the first rank, are familiar to every person of education in the present and past generation. The same period has been signalized by the great post-classical development in music, as illustrated by the works of Schumann, Brahms, and, above all, by the towering fame of Richard Wagner.
From the last quarter of the eighteenth century onwards it may truly be said of Germany that education is not only more generally diffused than in any other country of Europe, but (as a recent writer has expressed it) "is cultivated with an earnest and systematic devotion not met with to an equal extent among other nations." The present writer can well remember some years ago, when at the railway station at Breisach (Baden) waiting one evening for the last train to take him to Colmar, he seated himself at the table of the small station restaurant at which three tradesmen, "the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker" of the place were drinking their beer. Broaching to them the subject of the history of the town, he found the butcher quite prepared to discuss with the baker and the candlestick-maker the policy of Charles the Bold and Louis XI as regards the possession of the district, as though it might have been a matter of last night's debate in the House or of the latest horse-race. Where would you find this popular culture in any other country?
Germany possesses 20 universities, 16 polytechnic educational institutes, about 800 higher schools (gymnasia), and nearly 60,000 elementary schools. Every town of any importance throughout the German States is liberally provided in the matter of libraries, museums, and art collections, while its special institutions, music schools, etc., are famous throughout the world. The German theatre is well known for its thoroughness. Every, even moderately sized, German town has its theatre, which includes also opera, in which a high scale of all-round artistic excellence is attained, hardly equalled in any other country. In fact, it is not too much to say that for long Germany was foremost in the vanguard of educational, intellectual, and artistic progress.
That the above is an over-coloured statement as regards the importance of Germany for wellnigh a century and a half past in the history of human culture, in the sense of intellectual progress in its widest meaning, I venture to think that no one competent to judge will allege. Is then, it may be asked, the railing of public opinion and the Press of Great Britain and other countries outside Germany and Austria, against the Germany of the present day, and the jeers at the term "German culture" wholly unjustified and the result of national or anti-German prejudice? That there has been much foolish vituperative abuse of the whole German nation and of everything German indiscriminately in the Press of this and some other countries is undoubtedly true. But, however, our acknowledgment of this fact will not justify us in refusing to recognize the truth which finds expression in what very often looks like mere foolish vilification.
The truth in question will be apparent on a consideration of the change that has come over the German people and German culture since the war of 1870 and the foundation of the modern German Empire. The material and economic side of this change has been already indicated in a short summary in the quotation which closes the last chapter. But these changes, or advances if you will, on the material side, have been accompanied by a moral and material degeneration which has been only very partially counteracted at present by a movement which, though initiated before the period named, has only attained its great development, and hence influenced the national character, since the date in question.
It is a striking fact that in the last forty-four years—the period of the new German Empire—there has been a dearth of originality in all directions. In the earlier part of the period in question the survivors from the pre-Imperial time continued their work in their several departments, but no new men of the same rank as themselves have arisen, either alongside of them or later to take their places. The one or two that might be adduced as partial exceptions to what has been above said only prove the rule. We have had, it is true, a multitude of men, more or less clever epigoni, but little else. Again, it is, I think, impossible to deny that a mechanical hardness and brutality have come over the national character which entirely belie its former traits. It is a matter of common observation that in the last generation the German middle class has become noticeably coarsened, vulgarized, and blatant.
Again, although I am very far from wishing to attribute the crimes and horrors committed by the German army during the present war to the whole German nation, or even to the rank and file of those composing the army, yet there is no doubt that some blame must be apportioned at least to the latter. The contrast is striking between the conduct of the German troops during the present war and that of 1870, when they could declare that they were out "to fight French soldiers and not French citizens." Such were the military ethics of bygone generations of German soldiers. They certainly do not apply to the German army of to-day. The popularity of such writers as Von Treitschke and Bernhardi, respecting which so much has been written, is indeed significant of a vast change in German moral conceptions. The practical influence of Nietzsche, who—with his corybantic whirl of criticism on all things in heaven above and on the earth beneath, a criticism not always coherent with itself—can hardly be termed a German Chauvinist in any intelligible sense, has, I think, been much exaggerated. The importance of his theories, considered as an ingredient in modern German Chauvinism, is not so considerable, I should imagine, as is sometimes thought.
We come now to the movement already alluded to as a set-off and, within certain boundaries at least, a counteractive of the degeneracy exhibited in the German character since the foundation of the present Imperial system. The rise and rapid growth of the Social Democratic movement is perhaps the most striking fact in the recent history of Germany. The same may be said, of course, of the growth of Socialism everywhere during the same period. But in Germany it has for a generation past, or even more, occupied an exceptional position, alike as regards the rapidity of its increase, its direct influence on the masses, and its party organization. Modern Socialism, as a party doctrine, is, moreover, a product of the best period of nineteenth-century German thought and literature. Its three great theoretical protagonists, Marx, Engels, and their younger contemporary, Lassalle, all issued from the great Hegelian movement of the first half of the nineteenth century. Their propagandist activity, literary and otherwise, was in the German language. The analysis of the present capitalist system, forming the foundation of the demand for the communization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, as resulting in a human society as opposed to a class society, and ultimately in the extinction of national barriers in a world-federation of socialized humanity—these principles were first appreciated, as a world-ideal, by the proletariat of Germany, and they have unquestionably raised that proletariat to an intellectual rank as yet equalled by no other working-class in the world.
It must be admitted, however, that with the colossal growth of the Social Democratic party in Germany in numbers and the introduction into it of elements from various quarters, a certain deterioration, one may hope and believe only temporary, has become apparent in its quality. This applies, at least, to certain sections of the party. A sordid practicalism has made itself felt, due to a feverish desire to play an important role in the detail of current politics. Personal ambition and the mechanical working of the party system have also had their evil influence in the movement in recent years. Nevertheless, we have reason to believe that the core of the party is as sound and as true to principle as ever it was, and that on the restoration of international peace this will be seen to be the case. What interests us, however, specially, at the moment of writing, is the lamentable, yet undeniable, fact that German Social Democracy has, on this occasion, disastrously failed to prevent the outbreak of war, notwithstanding the vigour of its efforts to do so during the last week of July; and still more that it has failed up to date to stem the rising flood of militarism and jingoism in the German people. That before many months are over the scales will fall from the eyes of the masses of Germany I am convinced, and not less that a revolutionary movement in Germany will be one of the signs that will herald the dawn of a better day for Germany and for Europe. But meanwhile we must hold our countenances in patience.
If we inquire the cause of the degeneracy we have been considering in the German character since the war of 1870 and the creation of the new empire—apart from those economic causes of change common to all countries in modern civilization—the answer of those who have followed the history of the period can hardly fail to be—Bismarck and Prussia. We have already seen in the short historical sketch given in the last chapter how the robber hand of Prussia, in violation of all national treaty rights, had gradually succeeded in annexing wellnigh all the neighbouring German territories. But, notwithstanding this, the greater part of Germany still remained outside the Prussian monarchy. The policy of Bismarck was first of all to cripple the rival claimant for the hegemony of Central Europe, Austria. Her complete subjugation being unfeasible, she had to be shut up rigorously to her immediate dominions on the eastern side of Central Europe, in order to leave the path clear for Bismarck, by war or subterfuge, to absorb, under a system of nominally vassal States, the whole of the rest of Germany into the system of the Prussian monarchy.
Now, as we know, from its very foundation the Hohenzollern-Prussian monarchy has always been a more or less veiled despotism, based on working through a military and bureaucratic oligarchy. The army has been the dominant factor of the Prussian State from the beginning of the eighteenth century onwards. Prussia has been from the beginning of its monarchy the land of the drill-sergeant and the barracks. It is this system which the Junker Bismarck has riveted on the whole German people, with what results we now see. Badenese, Wuertembergers, Franconians, Hanoverians, the citizens of the former free cities no less than the already absorbed Westphalians, Thuringians, Silesians, Mecklenburgers, were speedily all reduced to being the slaves of the Prussian military system and of the Prussian military caste. The naive German peoples, as already pointed out, accepted this Prussian domination as the realization of their time-honoured patriotic ideal of German unity.
The fact of their subservience was emphasized in every way. The law of lese-majeste (majestaetsbeleidigung), by which all criticism of the despotic head of the State or his actions is made a heinous criminal offence, to which severe penalties are attached, it is not too much to say is a law which brands the ruler who accepts it as a coward and a cur, and the Legislature which passes it as a house, not of representative citizens, or even subjects for that matter, but of representative slaves. It must not be forgotten that the law in question strikes not only at public expressions of opinion in the press or on the platform, but at the most private criticism made in the presence of a friend in one's own room. The depths of undignified and craven meanness to which a monarch is reduced by being thus protected from criticism by the police-truncheon and the gaoler struck me especially as illustrated by the following incident which happened some years ago: Shortly after the accession of the present Kaiser, a conjurer was giving his entertainment in a Swiss town. For one of the tricks he was going to exhibit he had occasion to ask the audience to send him up the names of a few public men on folded pieces of paper. His reception of the names written down was accompanied by the "patter" proper to his profession. On coming to the name of Kaiser Wilhelm II he ventured the remark, "Ah! I'd rather it had been the poor man just dead" (meaning the Emperor Frederick), "for I'm afraid this one's not much good." Will it be believed that the whole diplomatic machinery was set on foot to induce the Swiss Government to prosecute the unfortunate entertainer, abortively of course, since it could not have been legally done? Surely the head of a State who could allow his Government to descend to such contemptible pettiness must be devoid of all sense of common self-respect, not to say personal dignity. And this is the fellow who claims to be hardly second in importance to his "dear old God"! In this connection it is only fair to recall the very different behaviour of King Edward VII when an Irish paper published not a mere criticism but an unquestionably libellous article reflecting on his private character. The police seized the copies of the paper and were prepared to take steps to prosecute, when the late King interfered and stopped even the confiscation of the paper. The least monarchical of us must, I think, admit that here we have a good illustration of the distinction between a man sure of his reputation and a cur nervously alarmed for his.
This severe law of lese-majeste in Bismarck's Prusso-German Empire is only an illustration of the way in which the German people have been made to grovel before the Prussian jack-boot. The Prussification of Germany in matters military and in matters bureaucratic has gone on apace since 1870. Prussia, it is not too much to say, has hitherto consisted in a nation of slaves and tyrants and nothing else. It is the Prussian governing class which has everywhere and in all departments "set the pace" since the empire was established. No man known to hold opinions divergent from those agreeable to the interests of the Prussian governing class can hope for employment, be it the most humble, in any department of the public service. This is particularly noticeable in its effects in the matter of education. The inculcation of the brutal and blatant jingoism of Von Treitschke at the universities by professors eager for approval in high places has already been sufficiently animadverted upon in more than one work on modern Germany. The defeat of Prusso-German militarism will be an even greater gain to all that is best in Germany herself than it will be to Europe as a whole.
Delenda est Prussia, understanding thereby not, of course, the inhabitants of Prussian territory as such, but Prussia as a State-system and as an independent Power in Europe, must be the watchword in the present crisis of every well-wisher of Humanity, Germany included. A united Germany, if that be insisted upon, by all means let there be—a federation of all the German peoples with its capital, for that matter, as of old, at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, but with no dominant State and, if possible, excluding Prussia altogether, but certainly as constituted at present. Who knows but that a united States of Germany may then prove the first step towards a united States of Europe?
But it is not alone to the political reconstruction of Germany or of Europe that those who take an optimistic view of the issue of the present European war look hopefully. The whole economic system of modern capitalism will have received a shock from which the beginnings of vast changes may date. Apart from this, however, the avowed aim of the war, the destruction of Prussian militarism and, indirectly, the weakening of military power throughout the world, should have immediate and important consequences. The brutalities and crimes committed in Belgium and the North of France at the instigation of the military heads of this Prusso-German army do but indicate exaggerations of the military spirit and attitude generally. Von Hindenburg is not the first who has given utterance to the devilish excuse for military crime and brutality that it is "more humane in the end, since it shortens war." To refute this transparent fallacy is scarcely necessary, since every historical student knows that military excesses and inhumanity do not shorten but prolong war by raising indignation and inflaming passions. The longest connected war known to history—the Thirty Years' War—is generally acknowledged to have been signalized by the greatest and most continuous inhumanity of any on record. But whether military crime has the effect claimed for it or not, we may fain hope that public opinion in Europe will insist upon giving the "humane" commanders who "mercifully" endeavour to "shorten" war by drastic methods of this sort a severe lesson. A few such treated to the utmost penalties the ordinary criminal law prescribes to the crimes of arson, murder, and robbery would teach them and their like that war, if waged at all nowadays, must be waged decently and not "shortened" by such devices as those in question.
If the present war with all its horrible carnage issues, even if only in the beginning of those changes which some of us believe must necessarily result from it—changes economical, political, and moral—then indeed it will not have been waged in vain. With the great intellectual powers of the Germanic people devoted, not to the organization of military power and of national domination, but to furthering the realization of a higher human society; with the determination on the part of the best elements among every European people to work together internationally with each other, and not least with the new Germany, to this end, and the great European war of 1914 will be looked back upon by future generations as the greatest world-historic example of the proverbial evil out of which good, and a lasting and inestimable good, has come for Europe and the world.
UNWIN BROTHERS LIMITED THE GRESHAM PRESS WOKING AND LONDON.
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