[Footnote J: Treitschke, "Politik," i., p 3.]
A most difficult problem is raised by the question how far, for political objects moral in themselves, means may be employed which must be regarded as reprehensible in the life of the individual. So far as I know, no satisfactory solution has yet been obtained, and I do not feel bound to attempt one at this point. War, with which I am dealing at present, is no reprehensible means in itself, but it may become so if it pursues unmoral or frivolous aims, which bear no comparison with the seriousness of warlike measures. I must deviate here a little from my main theme, and discuss shortly some points which touch the question of political morality.
The gulf between political and individual morality is not so wide as is generally assumed. The power of the State does not rest exclusively on the factors that make up material power—territory, population, wealth, and a large army and navy: it rests to a high degree on moral elements, which are reciprocally related to the material. The energy with which a State promotes its own interests and represents the rights of its citizens in foreign States, the determination which it displays to support them on occasion by force of arms, constitute a real factor of strength, as compared with all such countries as cannot bring themselves to let things come to a crisis in a like case. Similarly a reliable and honourable policy forms an element of strength in dealings with allies as well as with foes. A statesman is thus under no obligation to deceive deliberately. He can from the political standpoint avoid all negotiations which compromise his personal integrity, and he will thereby serve the reputation and power of his State no less than when he holds aloof from political menaces, to which no acts correspond, and renounces all political formulas and phrases.
In antiquity the murder of a tyrant was thought a moral action, and the Jesuits have tried to justify regicide.[K] At the present day political murder is universally condemned from the standpoint of political morality. The same holds good of preconcerted political deception. A State which employed deceitful methods would soon sink into disrepute. The man who pursues moral ends with unmoral means is involved in a contradiction of motives, and nullifies the object at which he aims, since he denies it by his actions. It is not, of course, necessary that a man communicate all his intentions and ultimate objects to an opponent; the latter can be left to form his own opinion on this point. But it is not necessary to lie deliberately or to practise crafty deceptions. A fine frankness has everywhere been the characteristic of great statesmen. Subterfuges and duplicity mark the petty spirit of diplomacy.
[Footnote K: Mariana, "De rege et regis institutione." Toledo, 1598.]
Finally, the relations between two States must often be termed a latent war, which is provisionally being waged in peaceful rivalry. Such a position justifies the employment of hostile methods, cunning, and deception, just as war itself does, since in such a case both parties are determined to employ them. I believe after all that a conflict between personal and political morality may be avoided by wise and prudent diplomacy, if there is no concealment of the desired end, and it is recognized that the means employed must correspond to the ultimately moral nature of that end.
Recognized rights are, of course, often violated by political action. But these, as we have already shown, are never absolute rights; they are of human origin, and therefore imperfect and variable. There are conditions under which they do not correspond to the actual truth of things; in this case the summum jus summa injuria holds good, and the infringement of the right appears morally justified. York's decision to conclude the convention of Tauroggen was indisputably a violation of right, but it was a moral act, for the Franco-Prussian alliance was made under compulsion, and was antagonistic to all the vital interests of the Prussian State; it was essentially untrue and immoral. Now it is always justifiable to terminate an immoral situation.
As regards the employment of war as a political means, our argument shows that it becomes the duty of a State to make use of the ultima ratio not only when it is attacked, but when by the policy of other States the power of the particular State is threatened, and peaceful methods are insufficient to secure its integrity. This power, as we saw, rests on a material basis, but finds expression in ethical values. War therefore seems imperative when, although the material basis of power is not threatened, the moral influence of the State (and this is the ultimate point at issue) seems to be prejudiced. Thus apparently trifling causes may under certain circumstances constitute a fully justifiable casus belli if the honour of the State, and consequently its moral prestige, are endangered. This prestige is an essential part of its power. An antagonist must never be allowed to believe that there is any lack of determination to assert this prestige, even if the sword must be drawn to do so.
In deciding for war or peace, the next important consideration is whether the question under discussion is sufficiently vital for the power of the State to justify the determination to fight; whether the inevitable dangers and miseries of a war do not threaten to inflict greater injury on the interests of the State than the disadvantages which, according to human calculation, must result if war is not declared. A further point to be considered is whether the general position of affairs affords some reasonable prospect of military success. With these considerations of expediency certain other weighty aspects of the question must also be faced.
It must always be kept in mind that a State is not justified in looking only to the present, and merely consulting the immediate advantage of the existing generation. Such policy would be opposed to all that constitutes the essential nature of the State. Its conduct must be guided by the moral duties incumbent on it, which, as one step is gained, point to the next higher, and prepare the present for the future. "The true greatness of the State is that it links the past with the present and the future; consequently the individual has no right to regard the State as a means for attaining his own ambitions in life." [L]
[Footnote L: Treitschke, "Politik," i., p 3.]
The law of development thus becomes a leading factor in politics, and in the decision for war this consideration must weigh more heavily than the sacrifices necessarily to be borne in the present. "I cannot conceive," Zelter once wrote to Goethe, "how any right deed can be performed without sacrifice; all worthless actions must lead to the very opposite of what is desirable."
A second point of view which must not be neglected is precisely that which Zelter rightly emphasizes. A great end cannot be attained except by staking large intellectual and material resources, and no certainty of success can ever be anticipated. Every undertaking implies a greater or less venture. The daily intercourse of civic life teaches us this lesson; and it cannot be otherwise in politics where account must be taken of most powerful antagonists whose strength can only be vaguely estimated. In questions of comparatively trifling importance much may be done by agreements and compromises, and mutual concessions may produce a satisfactory status. The solution of such problems is the sphere of diplomatic activity. The state of things is quite different when vital questions are at issue, or when the opponent demands concession, but will guarantee none, and is clearly bent on humiliating the other party. Then is the time for diplomatists to be silent and for great statesmen to act. Men must be resolved to stake everything, and cannot shun the solemn decision of war. In such questions any reluctance to face the opponent, every abandonment of important interests, and every attempt at a temporizing settlement, means not only a momentary loss of political prestige, and frequently of real power, which may possibly be made good in another place, but a permanent injury to the interests of the State, the full gravity of which is only felt by future generations.
Not that a rupture of pacific relations must always result in such a case. The mere threat of war and the clearly proclaimed intention to wage it, if necessary, will often cause the opponent to give way. This intention must, however, be made perfectly plain, for "negotiations without arms are like music-books without instruments," as Frederick the Great said. It is ultimately the actual strength of a nation to which the opponent's purpose yields. When, therefore, the threat of war is insufficient to call attention to its own claims the concert must begin; the obligation is unconditional, and the right to fight becomes the duty to make war, incumbent on the nation and statesman alike.
Finally, there is a third point to be considered. Cases may occur where war must be made simply as a point of honour, although there is no prospect of success. The responsibility of this has also to be borne. So at least Frederick the Great thought. His brother Henry, after the battle of Kolin, had advised him to throw himself at the feet of the Marquise de Pompadour in order to purchase a peace with France. Again, after the battle of Kunersdorf his position seemed quite hopeless, but the King absolutely refused to abandon the struggle. He knew better what suited the honour and the moral value of his country, and preferred to die sword in hand than to conclude a degrading peace. President Roosevelt, in his message to the Congress of the United States of America on December 4, 1906, gave expression to a similar thought. "It must ever be kept in mind," so the manly and inspiriting words ran, "that war is not merely justifiable, but imperative, upon honourable men and upon an honourable nation when peace is only to be obtained by the sacrifice of conscientious conviction or of national welfare. A just war is in the long-run far better for a nation's soul than the most prosperous peace obtained by an acquiescence in wrong or injustice.... It must be remembered that even to be defeated in war may be better than not to have fought at all."
To sum up these various views, we may say that expediency in the higher sense must be conclusive in deciding whether to undertake a war in itself morally justifiable. Such decision is rendered more easy by the consideration that the prospects of success are always the greatest when the moment for declaring war can be settled to suit the political and military situation.
It must further be remembered that every success in foreign policy, especially if obtained by a demonstration of military strength, not only heightens the power of the State in foreign affairs, but adds to the reputation of the Government at home, and thus enables it better to fulfil its moral aims and civilizing duties.
No one will thus dispute the assumption that, under certain circumstances, it is the moral and political duty of the State to employ war as a political means. So long as all human progress and all natural development are based on the law of conflict, it is necessary to engage in such conflict under the most favourable conditions possible.
When a State is confronted by the material impossibility of supporting any longer the warlike preparations which the power of its enemies has forced upon it, when it is clear that the rival States must gradually acquire from natural reasons a lead that cannot be won back, when there are indications of an offensive alliance of stronger enemies who only await the favourable moment to strike—the moral duty of the State towards its citizens is to begin the struggle while the prospects of success and the political circumstances are still tolerably favourable. When, on the other hand, the hostile States are weakened or hampered by affairs at home and abroad, but its own warlike strength shows elements of superiority, it is imperative to use the favourable circumstances to promote its own political aims. The danger of a war may be faced the more readily if there is good prospect that great results may be obtained with comparatively small sacrifices.
These obligations can only be met by a vigorous, resolute, active policy, which follows definite ideas, and understands how to arouse and concentrate all the living forces of the State, conscious of the truth of Schiller's lines:
"The chance that once thou hast refused Will never through the centuries recur."
The verdict of history will condemn the statesman who was unable to take the responsibility of a bold decision, and sacrificed the hopes of the future to the present need of peace.
It is obvious that under these circumstances it is extremely difficult to answer the question whether in any special case conditions exist which justify the determination to make war. The difficulty is all the greater because the historical significance of the act must be considered, and the immediate result is not the final criterion of its justification.
War is not always the final judgment of Heaven. There are successes which are transitory while the national life is reckoned by centuries. The ultimate verdict can only be obtained by the survey of long epochs.[M]
[Footnote M: Treitschke, "Politik," i., p 2.] 54 The man whose high and responsible lot is to steer the fortunes of a great State must be able to disregard the verdict of his contemporaries; but he must be all the clearer as to the motives of his own policy, and keep before his eyes, with the full weight of the categorical imperative, the teaching of Kant: "Act so that the maxim of thy will can at the same time hold good as a principle of universal legislation." [N]
[Footnote N: Kant, "Kritik der praktischen Vernuft," p. 30.]
He must have a clear conception of the nature and purpose of the State, and grasp this from the highest moral standpoint. He can in no other way settle the rules of his policy and recognize clearly the laws of political morality.
He must also form a clear conception of the special duties to be fulfilled by the nation, the guidance of whose fortunes rests in his hands. He must clearly and definitely formulate these duties as the fixed goal of statesmanship. When he is absolutely clear upon this point he can judge in each particular case what corresponds to the true interests of the State; then only can he act systematically in the definite prospect of smoothing the paths of politics, and securing favourable conditions for the inevitable conflicts; then only, when the hour for combat strikes and the decision to fight faces him, can he rise with a free spirit and a calm breast to that standpoint which Luther once described in blunt, bold language: "It is very true that men write and say often what a curse war is. But they ought to consider how much greater is that curse which is averted by war. Briefly, in the business of war men must not regard the massacres, the burnings, the battles, and the marches, etc.—that is what the petty and simple do who only look with the eyes of children at the surgeon, how he cuts off the hand or saws off the leg, but do not see or notice that he does it in order to save the whole body. Thus we must look at the business of war or the sword with the eyes of men, asking, Why these murders and horrors? It will be shown that it is a business, divine in itself, and as needful and necessary to the world as eating or drinking, or any other work."[O]
[Footnote O: Luther, "Whether soldiers can be in a state of salvation."]
Thus in order to decide what paths German policy must take in order to further the interests of the German people, and what possibilities of war are involved, we must first try to estimate the problems of State and of civilization which are to be solved, and discover what political purposes correspond to these problems.
A BRIEF SURVEY OF GERMANY'S HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT
The life of the individual citizen is valuable only when it is consciously and actively employed for the attainment of great ends. The same holds good of nations and States. They are, as it were, personalities in the framework of collective humanity, infinitely various in their endowments and their characteristic qualities, capable of the most different achievements, and serving the most multifarious purposes in the great evolution of human existence.
Such a theory will not be accepted from the standpoint of the materialistic philosophy which prevails among wide circles of our nation to-day.
According to it, all that happens in the world is a necessary consequence of given conditions; free will is only necessity become conscious. It denies the difference between the empiric and the intelligible Ego, which is the basis of the notion of moral freedom.
This philosophy cannot stand before scientific criticism. It seems everywhere arbitrarily restricted by the narrow limits of the insufficient human intelligence. The existence of the universe is opposed to the law of a sufficient cause; infinity and eternity are incomprehensible to our conceptions, which are confined to space and time.
The essential nature of force and volition remains inexplicable. We recognize only a subjectively qualified phenomenon in the world; the impelling forces and the real nature of things are withdrawn from our understanding. A systematic explanation of the universe is quite impossible from the human standpoint. So much seems clear—although no demonstrable certainty attaches to this theory—that spiritual laws beyond the comprehension of us men govern the world according to a conscious plan of development in the revolving cycles of a perpetual change. Even the gradual evolution of mankind seems ruled by a hidden moral law. At any rate we recognize in the growing spread of civilization and common moral ideas a gradual progress towards purer and higher forms of life.
It is indeed impossible for us to prove design and purpose in every individual case, because our attitude to the universal whole is too limited and anomalous. But within the limitations of our knowledge of things and of the inner necessity of events we can at least try to understand in broad outlines the ways of Providence, which we may also term the principles of development. We shall thus obtain useful guidance for our further investigation and procedure.
The agency and will of Providence are most clearly seen in the history of the growth of species and races, of peoples and States. "What is true," Goethe once said in a letter to Zelter, "can but be raised and supported by its history; what is false only lowered and dissipated by its history."
The formation of peoples and races, the rise and fall of States, the laws which govern the common life, teach us to recognize which forces have a creative, sustaining, and beneficent influence, and which work towards disintegration, and thus produce inevitable downfall. We are here following the working of universal laws, but we must not forget that States are personalities endowed with very different human attributes, with a peculiar and often very marked character, and that these subjective qualities are distinct factors in the development of States as a whole. Impulses and influences exercise a very different effect on the separate national individualities. We must endeavour to grasp history in the spirit of the psychologist rather than of the naturalist. Each nation must be judged from its own standpoint if we wish to learn the general trend of its development. We must study the history of the German people in its connection with that of the other European States, and ask first what paths its development has hitherto followed, and what guidance the past gives for Our future policy. From the time of their first appearance in history the Germans showed themselves a first-class civilized people.
When the Roman Empire broke up before the onslaught of the barbarians there were two main elements which shaped the future of the West, Christianity and the Germans. The Christian teaching preached equal rights for all men and community of goods in an empire of masters and slaves, but formulated the highest moral code, and directed the attention of a race, which only aimed at luxury, to the world beyond the grave as the true goal of existence. It made the value of man as man, and the moral development of personality according to the laws of the individual conscience, the starting-point of all development. It thus gradually transformed the philosophy of the ancient world, whose morality rested solely on the relations with the state. Simultaneously with this, hordes of Germans from the thickly-populated North poured victoriously in broad streams over the Roman Empire and the decaying nations of the Ancient World. These masses could not keep their nationality pure and maintain their position as political powers. The States which they founded were short-lived. Even then men recognized how difficult it is for a lower civilization to hold its own against a higher. The Germans were gradually merged in the subject nations. The German element, however, instilled new life into these nations, and offered new opportunities for growth. The stronger the admixture of German blood, the more vigorous and the more capable of civilization did the growing nations appear.
In the meantime powerful opponents sprung up in this newly-formed world. The Latin race grew up by degrees out of the admixture of the Germans with the Roman world and the nations subdued by them, and separated itself from the Germans, who kept themselves pure on the north of the Alps and in the districts of Scandinavia. At the same time the idea of the Universal Empire, which the Ancient World had embraced, continued to flourish.
In the East the Byzantine Empire lasted until A.D. 1453. In the West, however, the last Roman Emperor had been deposed by Odoacer in 476. Italy had fallen into the hands of the East Goths and Lombards successively. The Visigoths had established their dominion in Spain, and the Franks and Burgundians in Gaul.
A new empire rose from the latter quarter. Charles the Great, with his powerful hand, extended the Frankish Empire far beyond the boundaries of Gaul. By the subjugation of the Saxons he became lord of the country between the Rhine and the Elbe; he obtained the sovereignty in Italy by the conquest of the Lombards, and finally sought to restore the Western Roman Empire. He was crowned Emperor in Rome in the year 800. His successors clung to this claim; but the Frankish Empire soon fell to pieces. In its partition the western half formed what afterwards became France, and the East Frankish part of the Empire became the later Germany. While the Germans in the West Frankish Empire, in Italy and Spain, had abandoned their speech and customs, and had gradually amalgamated with the Romans, the inhabitants of the East Frankish Empire, especially the Saxons and their neighbouring tribes, maintained their Germanic characteristics, language, and customs. A powerful German [A] kingdom arose which renewed the claims of Charles the Great to the Western Roman Empire. Otto the Great was the first German King who took this momentous step. It involved him and his successors in a quarrel with the Bishops of Rome, who wished to be not only Heads of the Church, but lords of Italy, and did not hesitate to falsify archives in order to prove their pretended title to that country.
[Footnote A: German (Deutsch=diutisk) signifies originally "popular," opposed to "foreign"—e.g., the Latin Church dialect. It was first used as the name of a people, in the tenth century A.D.]
The Popes made good this right, but they did not stop there. Living in Rome, the sacred seat of the world-empire, and standing at the head of a Church which claimed universality, they, too, laid hold in their own way of the idea of universal imperium. The notion was one of the boldest creations of the human intellect—to found and maintain a world-sovereignty almost wholly by the employment of spiritual powers.
Naturally these Papal pretensions led to feuds with the Empire. The freedom of secular aspirations clashed with the claims of spiritual dominion. In the portentous struggle of the two Powers for the supremacy, a struggle which inflicted heavy losses on the German Empire, the Imperial cause was worsted. It was unable to mould the widely different and too independent subdivisions of the empire into a homogeneous whole, and to crush the selfish particularism of the estates. The last Staufer died on the scaffold at Naples under the axe of Charles of Anjou, who was a vassal of the Church.
The great days of the German-Roman Empire were over. The German power lay on the ground in fragments. A period of almost complete anarchy followed. Dogmatism and lack of patriotic sentiment, those bad characteristics of the German people, contributed to extend this destruction to the economic sphere. The intellectual life of the German people deteriorated equally. At the time when the Imperial power was budding and under the rule of the highly-gifted Staufers, German poetry was passing through a first classical period. Every German country was ringing with song; the depth of German sentiment found universal expression in ballads and poems, grave or gay, and German idealism inspired the minnesingers. But with the disappearance of the Empire every string was silent, and even the plastic arts could not rise above the coarseness and confusion of the political conditions. The material prosperity of the people indeed improved, as affairs at home were better regulated, and developed to an amazing extent; the Hanseatic League bore its flag far and wide over the northern seas, and the great trade-routes, which linked the West and Orient, led from Venice and Genoa through Germany. But the earlier political power was never again attained.
Nevertheless dislike of spiritual despotism still smouldered in the breasts of that German people, which had submitted to the Papacy, and was destined, once more to blaze up into bright flames, and this time in the spiritual domain. As she grew more and more worldly, the Church had lost much of her influence on men's minds. On the other hand, a refining movement had grown up in humanism, which, supported by the spirit of antiquity, could not fail from its very nature to become antagonistic to the Church. It found enthusiastic response in Germany, and was joined by everyone whose thoughts and hopes were centred in freedom. Ulrich von Hutten's battle-cry, "I have dared the deed," rang loud through the districts of Germany.
Humanism was thus in a sense the precursor of the Reformation, which conceived in the innermost heart of the German people, shook Europe to her foundations. Once more it was the German people which, as formerly in the struggle between the Arian Goths and the Orthodox Church, shed it's heart's blood in a religious war for spiritual liberty, and now for national independence also. No struggle more pregnant with consequences for the development of humanity had been fought out since the Persian wars. In this cause the German people nearly disappeared, and lost all political importance. Large sections of the Empire were abandoned to foreign States. Germany became a desert. But this time the Church did not remain victorious as she did against the Arian Goths and the Staufers. It is true she was not laid prostrate; she still remained a mighty force, and drew new strength from the struggle itself. Politically the Catholic States, under Spanish leadership, won an undisputed supremacy. But, on the other hand, the right to spiritual freedom was established. This most important element of civilization was retained for humanity in the reformed Churches, and has become ever since the palladium of all progress, though even after the Peace of Westphalia protracted struggles were required to assert religious freedom.
The States of the Latin race on their side now put forward strong claims to the universal imperium in order to suppress the German ideas of freedom. Spain first, then France: the two soon quarrelled among themselves about the predominance. At the same time, in Germanized England a firs-class Protestant power was being developed, and the age of discoveries, which coincided roughly with the end of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, opened new and unsuspected paths to human intellect and human energy. Political life also acquired a fresh stimulus. Gradually a broad stream of immigrants poured into the newly-discovered districts of America, the northern part of which fell to the lot of the Germanic and the southern part to that of the Latin race. Thus was laid the foundation of the great colonial empires, and consequently, of world politics. Germany remained excluded from this great movement, since she wasted her forces in ecclesiastical disputes and religious wars. On the other hand, in combination with England, the Low Countries and Austria, which latter had at the same time to repel the inroad of Turks from the East, she successfully curbed the French ambition for sovereignty in a long succession of wars. England by these wars grew to be the first colonial and maritime power in the world. Germany forfeited large tracts of territory, and lost still more in political power. She broke up into numerous feeble separate States, which were entirely void of any common sympathy with the German cause. But this very disintegration lent her fresh strength. A centre of Protestant power was established in the North—i.e., Prussia.
After centuries of struggle the Germans had succeeded in driving back the Slavs, who poured in from the East, in wrestling large tracts from them, and in completely Germanizing them. This struggle, like that with the niggard soil, produced a sturdy race, conscious of its strength, which extended its power to the coasts of the Baltic, and successfully planted Germanic culture in the far North. The German nation was finally victorious also against Swedes, who disputed the command of the Baltic. In that war the Great Elector had laid the foundations of a strong political power, which, under his successors, gradually grew into an influential force in Germany. The headship of Protestant Germany devolved more and more on this state, and a counterpoise to Catholic Austria grew up. This latter State had developed out of Germany into an independent great Power, resting its supremacy not only on a German population, but also on Hungarians and Slavs. In the Seven Years' War Prussia broke away from Catholic Austria and the Empire, and confronted France and Russia as an independent Protestant State.
But yet another dark hour was in store for Germany, as she once more slowly struggled upwards. In France the Monarchy has exhausted the resources of the nation for its own selfish ends. The motto of the monarchy, L'etat c'est moi, carried to an extreme, provoked a tremendous revulsion of ideas, which culminated in the stupendous revolution of 1789, and everywhere in Europe, and more specially in Germany, shattered and swept away the obsolete remnants of medievalism. The German Empire as such disappeared; only fragmentary States survived, among which Prussia alone showed any real power. France once again under Napoleon was fired with the conception of the universal imperium, and bore her victorious eagles to Italy, Egypt, Syria, Germany, and Spain, and even to the inhospitable plains of Russia, which by a gradual political absorption of the Slavonic East, and a slow expansion of power in wars with Poland, Sweden, Turkey, and Prussia, had risen to an important place among the European nations. Austria, which had become more and more a congeries of different nationalities, fell before the mighty Corsican. Prussia, which seemed to have lost all vigour in her dream of peace, collapsed before his onslaught.
But the German spirit emerged with fresh strength from the deepest humiliation. The purest and mightiest storm of fury against the yoke of the oppressor that ever honoured an enslaved nation burst out in the Protestant North. The wars of liberation, with their glowing enthusiasm, won back the possibilities of political existence for Prussia and for Germany, and paved the way for further world-wide historical developments.
While the French people in savage revolt against spiritual and secular despotism had broken their chains and proclaimed their rights, another quite different revolution was working in Prussia—the revolution of duty. The assertion of the rights of the individual leads ultimately to individual irresponsibility and to a repudiation of the State. Immanuel Kant, the founder of critical philosophy, taught, in opposition to this view, the gospel of moral duty, and Scharnhorst grasped the idea of universal military service. By calling upon each individual to sacrifice property and life for the good of the community, he gave the clearest expression to the idea of the State, and created a sound basis on which the claim to individual rights might rest at the same time Stein laid the foundations of self-employed-government in Prussia.
While measures of the most far-reaching historical importance were thus being adopted in the State on which the future fate of Germany was to depend, and while revolution was being superseded by healthy progress, a German Empire of the first rank, the Empire of intellect, grew up in the domain of art and science, where German character and endeavour found the deepest and fullest expression. A great change had been effected in this land of political narrowness and social sterility since the year 1750. A literature and a science, born in the hearts of the nation, and deeply rooted in the moral teaching of Protestantism, had raised their minds far beyond the boundaries of practical life into the sunlit heights of intellectual liberty, and manifested the power and superiority of the German spirit. "Thus the new poetry and science became for many decades the most effectual bond of union for this dismembered people, and decided the victory of Protestantism in German life." [B]
[Footnote B: Treitschke, "Deutsche Geschichte", i., p. 88.]
Germany was raised to be once more "the home of heresy, since she developed the root-idea of the Reformation into the right of unrestricted and unprejudiced inquiry". [C] Moral obligations, such as no nation had ever yet made the standard of conduct, were laid down in the philosophy of Kant and Fichte, and a lofty idealism inspired the songs of her poets. The intense effect of these spiritual agencies was realized in the outburst of heroic fury in 1813. "Thus our classical literature, starting from a different point, reached the same goal as the political work of the Prussian monarchy", [D] and of those men of action who pushed this work forward in the hour of direst ruin.
[Footnote C: Ibid., i., p. 90.]
[Footnote D: Ibid.]
The meeting of Napoleon and Goethe, two mighty conquerors, was an event in the world's history. On one side the scourge of God, the great annihilator of all survivals from the past, the gloomy despot, the last abortion of the revolution—a
"Part of the power that still Produces Good, while still devising Ill";
on the other, the serenely grave Olympian who uttered the words, "Let man be noble, resourceful, and good"; who gave a new content to the religious sentiment, since he conceived all existence as a perpetual change to higher conditions, and pointed out new paths in science; who gave the clearest expression to all aspirations of the human intellect, and all movements of the German mind, and thus roused his people to consciousness; who finally by his writings on every subject showed that the whole realm of human knowledge was concentrated in the German brain; a prophet of truth, an architect of imperishable monuments which testify to the divinity in man.
The great conqueror of the century was met by the hero of intellect, to whom was to fall the victory of the future. The mightiest potentate of the Latin race faced the great Germanic who stood in the forefront of humanity.
Truly a nation which in the hour of its deepest political degradation could give birth to men like Fichte, Scharnhorst, Stein, Schiller, and Goethe, to say nothing about the great soldier-figures of the wars of Liberation, must be called to a mighty destiny.
We must admit that in the period immediately succeeding the great struggle of those glorious days, the short-sightedness, selfishness, and weakness of its Sovereigns, and the jealousy of its neighbours, robbed the German people of the full fruits of its heroism, devotion, and pure enthusiasm. The deep disappointment of that generation found expression in the revolutionary movement of 1848, and in the emigration of thousands to the free country of North America, where the Germans took a prominent part in the formation of a new nationality, but were lost to their mother-country. The Prussian monarchy grovelled before Austria and Russia, and seemed to have forgotten its national duties.
Nevertheless in the centre of the Prussian State there was springing up from the blood of the champions of freedom a new generation that no longer wished to be the anvil, but to wield the hammer. Two men came to the front, King William I. and the hero of the Saxon forest. Resolutely they united the forces of the nation, which at first opposed them from ignorance, and broke down the selfishness and dogmatic positivism of the popular representatives. A victorious campaign settled matters with Austria, who did not willingly cede the supremacy in Germany, and left the German Imperial confederation without forfeiting her place as a Great Power. France was brought to the ground with a mighty blow; the vast majority of the German peoples united under the Imperial crown which the King of Prussia wore; the old idea of the German Empire was revived in a federal shape by the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria, and Italy. The German idea, as Bismarck fancied it, ruled from the North Sea to the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the German giant rose from the sluggard-bed of the old German Confederation, and stretched his mighty limbs.
It was an obvious and inevitable result that this awakening of Germany vitally affected the other nations which had hitherto divided the economic and political power. Hostile combinations threatened us on all sides in order to check the further expansion of our power. Hemmed in between France and Russia, who allied themselves against us, we failed to gather the full fruits of our victories. The short-sightedness and party feuds of the newly-formed Reichstag—the old hereditary failings of our nation—prevented any colonial policy on broad lines. The intense love of peace, which the nation and Government felt, made us fall behind in the race with other countries.
In the most recent partition of the earth, that of Africa, victorious Germany came off badly. France, her defeated opponent, was able to found the second largest colonial Empire in the world; England appropriated the most important portions; even small and neutral Belgium claimed a comparatively large and valuable share; Germany was forced to be content with some modest strips of territory. In addition to, and in connection with, the political changes, new views and new forces have come forward.
Under the influence of the constitutional ideas of Frederick the Great, and the crop of new ideas borne by the French Revolution, the conception of the State has completely changed since the turn of the century. The patrimonial state of the Middle Ages was the hereditary possession of the Sovereign. Hence sprung the modern State, which represents the reverse of this relation, in which the Sovereign is the first servant of the State, and the interest of the State, and not of the ruler, is the key to the policy of the Government. With this altered conception of the State the principle of nationality has gradually developed, of which the tendency is as follows: Historical boundaries are to be disregarded, and the nations combined into a political whole; the State will thus acquire a uniform national character and common national interests.
This new order of things entirely altered the basis of international relations, and set new and unknown duties before the statesman. Commerce and trade also developed on wholly new lines.
After 1815 the barriers to every activity—guilds and trade restrictions—were gradually removed. Landed property ceased to be a monopoly. Commerce and industries flourished conspicuously. "England introduced the universal employment of coal and iron and of machinery into industries, thus founding immense industrial establishments; by steamers and railways she brought machinery into commerce, at the same time effecting an industrial revolution by physical science and chemistry, and won the control of the markets of the world by cotton. There came, besides, the enormous extension of the command of credit in the widest sense, the exploitation of India, the extension of colonization over Polynesia, etc." England at the same time girdled the earth with her cables and fleets. She thus attained to a sort of world-sovereignty. She has tried to found a new universal Empire; not, indeed, by spiritual or secular weapons, like Pope and Emperor in bygone days, but by the power of money, by making all material interests dependent on herself.
Facing her, between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, linking the West and the East, the United States of North America have risen to be an industrial and commercial power of the first rank. Supported by exceptionally abundant natural resources, and the unscrupulously pushing character of her inhabitants, this mighty Empire aims at a suitable recognition of her power in the council of the nations, and is on the point of securing this by the building of a powerful navy.
Russia has not only strengthened her position in Europe, but has extended her power over the entire North of Asia, and is pressing farther into the centre of that continent. She has already crossed swords with the States of the Mongolian race. This vast population, which fills the east of the Asiatic continent, has, after thousands of years of dormant civilization, at last awakened to political life, and categorically claims its share in international life. The entrance of Japan into the circle of the great World Powers means a call to arms. "Asia for the Asiatics," is the phrase which she whispers beneath her breath, trusting in the strength of her demand. The new Great Power has emerged victoriously from its first encounter with a European foe. China, too, is preparing to expand her forces outwardly. A mighty movement is thrilling Asia—the awakening of a new epoch.
Dangers, then, which have already assumed a profound importance for the civilized countries of Europe, are threatening from Asia, the old cradle of the nations. But even in the heart of the European nations, forces which have slumbered hitherto are now awake. The persisting ideas of the French Revolution and the great industrial progress which characterized the last century, have roused the working classes of every country to a consciousness of their importance and their social power. The workers, originally concerned only in the amelioration of their material position, have, in theory, abandoned the basis of the modern State, and seek their salvation in the revolution which they preach. They do not wish to obtain what they can within the limitations of the historically recognized State, but they wish to substitute for it a new State, in which they themselves are the rulers. By this aspiration they not only perpetually menace State and society, but endanger in the separate countries the industries from which they live, since they threaten to destroy the possibility of competing in the international markets by continuous increase of wages and decrease of work. Even in Germany this movement has affected large sections of the population.
Until approximately the middle of the last century, agriculture and cattle-breeding formed the chief and most important part of German industries. Since then, under the protection of wise tariffs, and in connection with the rapid growth of the German merchant navy, trade has marvellously increased. Germany has become an industrial and trading nation; almost the whole of the growing increase of the population finds work and employment in this sphere. Agriculture has more and more lost its leading position in the economic life of the people. The artisan class has thus become a power in our State. It is organized in trade unions, and has politically fallen under the influence of the international social democracy. It is hostile to the national class distinctions, and strains every nerve to undermine the existing power of the State.
It is evident that the State cannot tolerate quietly this dangerous agitation, and that it must hinder, by every means, the efforts of the anti-constitutionalist party to effect their purpose. The law of self-preservation demands this; but it is clear that, to a certain point, the pretensions of the working classes are justified. The citizen may fairly claim to protect himself from poverty by work, and to have an opportunity of raising himself in the social scale, if he willingly devotes his powers. He is entitled to demand that the State should grant this claim, and should be bound to protect him against the tyranny of capital.
Two means of attaining such an object are open to the State: first, it may create opportunities of work, which secure remunerative employment to all willing hands; secondly, it may insure the workman by legislation against every diminution in his capacity to work owing to sickness, age, or accident; may give him material assistance when temporarily out of work, and protect him against compulsion which may hinder him from working.
The economical prosperity of Germany as the visible result of three victorious campaigns created a labour market sufficiently large for present purposes, although without the conscious intention of the State. German labour, under the protection of the political power, gained a market for itself. On the other hand, the German State has intervened with legislation, with full consciousness of the end and the means. As Scharnhorst once contrasted the duty of the citizen with the rights of man, so the Emperor William I. recognized the duty of the State towards those who were badly equipped with the necessaries of life. The position of the worker was assured, so far as circumstances allowed, by social legislation. No excuse, therefore, for revolutionary agitation now existed.
A vigorous opposition to all the encroachments of the social democrats indicated the only right way in which the justifiable efforts of the working class could be reconciled with the continuance of the existing State and of existing society, the two pillars of all civilization and progress. This task is by no means completed. The question still is, How to win back the working class to the ideals of State and country? Willing workers must be still further protected against social democratic tyranny.
Germany, nevertheless, is in social-political respects at the head of all progress in culture. German science has held its place in the world. Germany certainly took the lead in political sciences during the last century, and in all other domains of intellectual inquiry has won a prominent position through the universality of her philosophy and her thorough and unprejudiced research into the nature of things.
The achievements of Germany in the sphere of science and literature are attested by the fact that the annual export of German books to foreign countries is, according to trustworthy estimates, twice as large as that of France, England, and America combined. It is only in the domain of the exact sciences that Germany has often been compelled to give precedence to foreign countries. German art also has failed to win a leading position. It shows, indeed, sound promise in many directions, and has produced much that is really great; but the chaos of our political conditions is, unfortunately, reflected in it. The German Empire has politically been split up into numerous parties. Not only are the social democrats and the middle class opposed, but they, again, are divided among themselves; not only are industries and agriculture bitter enemies, but the national sentiment has not yet been able to vanquish denominational antagonisms, and the historical hostility between North and South has prevented the population from growing into a completely united body.
So stands Germany to-day, torn by internal dissensions, yet full of sustained strength; threatened on all sides by dangers, compressed into narrow, unnatural limits, she still is filled with high aspirations, in her nationality, her intellectual development, in her science, industries, and trade.
And now, what paths does this history indicate to us for the future? What duties are enforced on us by the past?
It is a question of far-reaching importance; for on the way in which the German State answers this question, depend not only our own further development, but to some extent the subsequent shaping of the history of the world.
GERMANY'S HISTORICAL MISSION
Let us pass before our mind's eye the whole course of our historical development, and let us picture to ourselves the life-giving streams of human beings, that in every age have poured forth from the Empire of Central Europe to all parts of the globe; let us reflect what rich seeds of intellectual and moral development were sown by the German intellectual life: the proud conviction forces itself upon us with irresistible power that a high, if not the highest, importance for the entire development of the human race is ascribable to this German people.
This conviction is based on the intellectual merits of our nation, on the freedom and the universality of the German spirit, which have ever and again been shown in the course of its history. There is no nation whose thinking is at once so free from prejudice and so historical as the German, which knows how to unite so harmoniously the freedom of the intellectual and the restraint of the practical life on the path of free and natural development. The Germans have thus always been the standard-bearers of free thought, but at the same time a strong bulwark against revolutionary anarchical outbreaks. They have often been worsted in the struggle for intellectual freedom, and poured out their best heart's blood in the cause. Intellectual compulsion has sometimes ruled the Germans; revolutionary tremors have shaken the life of this people—the great peasant war in the sixteenth century, and the political attempts at revolution in the middle of the nineteenth century. But the revolutionary movement has been checked and directed into the paths of a healthy natural advancement. The inevitable need of a free intellectual self-determination has again and again disengaged itself from the inner life of the soul of the people, and broadened into world-historical importance.
Thus two great movements were born from the German intellectual life, on which, henceforth, all the intellectual and moral progress of man must rest: the Reformation and the critical philosophy. The Reformation, which broke the intellectual yoke, imposed by the Church, which checked all free progress; and the Critique of Pure Reason, which put a stop to the caprice of philosophic speculation by defining for the human mind the limitations of its capacity for knowledge, and at the same time pointed out in what way knowledge is really possible. On this substructure was developed the intellectual life of our time, whose deepest significance consists in the attempt to reconcile the result of free inquiry with the religious needs of the heart, and to lay a foundation for the harmonious organization of mankind. Torn this way and that, between hostile forces, in a continuous feud between faith and knowledge, mankind seems to have lost the straight road of progress. Reconciliation only appears possible when the thought of religious reformation leads to a permanent explanation of the idea of religion, and science remains conscious of the limits of its power, and does not attempt to explain the domain of the supersensual world from the results of natural philosophy.
The German nation not only laid the foundations of this great struggle for an harmonious development of humanity, but took the lead in it. We are thus incurring an obligation for the future, from which we cannot shrink. We must be prepared to be the leaders in this campaign, which is being fought for the highest stake that has been offered to human efforts. Our nation is not only bound by its past history to take part in this struggle, but is peculiarly adapted to do so by its special qualities.
No nation on the face of the globe is so able to grasp and appropriate all the elements of culture, to add to them from the stores of its own spiritual endowment, and to give back to mankind richer gifts than it received. It has "enriched the store of traditional European culture with new and independent ideas and ideals, and won a position in the great community of civilized nations which none else could fill." "Depth of conviction, idealism, universality, the power to look beyond all the limits of a finite existence, to sympathize with all that is human, to traverse the realm of ideas in companionship with the noblest of all nations and ages—this has at all times been the German characteristic; this has been extolled as the prerogative of German culture." [A] To no nation, except the German, has it been given to enjoy in its inner self "that which is given to mankind as a whole." We often see in other nations a greater intensity of specialized ability, but never the same capacity for generalization and absorption. It is this quality which specially fits us for the leadership in the intellectual world, and imposes on us the obligation to maintain that position.
[Footnote A: Treitschke, "Deutsche Geschichte," i., p. 95.]
There are numerous other tasks to be fulfilled if we are to discharge our highest duty. They form the necessary platform from which we can mount to the highest goal. These duties lie in the domains of science and politics, and also in that borderland where science and politics touch, and where the latter is often directly conditioned by the results of scientific inquiry.
First and foremost it is German science which must regain its superiority in unwearying and brilliant research in order to vindicate our birthright. On the one hand, we must extend the theory of the perceptive faculty; on the other, we must increase man's dominion over Nature by exploring her hidden secrets, and thus make human work more useful and remunerative. We must endeavour to find scientific solutions of the great problems which deeply concern mankind. We need not restrict ourselves to the sphere of pure theory, but must try to benefit civilization by the practical results of research, and thus create conditions of life in which a purer conception of the ideal life can find its expression.
It is, broadly speaking, religious and social controversies which exercise the most permanent influence on human existence, and condition not only our future development, but the higher life generally. These problems have occupied the minds of no people more deeply and permanently than our own. Yet the revolutionary spirit, in spite of the empty ravings of social democratic agitators, finds no place in Germany. The German nature tends towards a systematic healthy development, which works slowly in opposition to the different movements. The Germans thus seem thoroughly qualified to settle in their own country the great controversies which are rending other nations, and to direct them into the paths of a natural progress in conformity with the laws of evolution.
We have already started on the task in the social sphere, and shall no doubt continue it, so far as it is compatible with the advantages of the community and the working class itself. We must not spare any efforts to find other means than those already adopted to inspire the working class with healthy and patriotic ambitions.
It is to be hoped, in any case, that if ever a great and common duty, requiring the concentration of the whole national strength, is imposed upon us, that the labour classes will not withhold their co-operation, and that, in face of a common danger, our nation will recover that unity which is lamentably deficient to-day.
No attempt at settlement has been made in the religious domain. The old antagonists are still bitterly hostile to each other, especially in Germany. It will be the duty of the future to mitigate the religious and political antagonism of the denominations, under guarantees of absolute liberty of thought and all personal convictions, and to combine the conflicting views into a harmonious and higher system. At present there appears small probability of attaining this end. The dogmatism of Protestant orthodoxy and the Jesuitic tendencies and ultramontanism of the Catholics, must be surmounted, before any common religious movement can be contemplated. But no German statesman can disregard this aspect of affairs, nor must he ever forget that the greatness of our nation is rooted exclusively on Protestantism. Legally and socially all denominations enjoy equal rights, but the German State must never renounce the leadership in the domain of free spiritual development. To do so would mean loss of prestige.
Duties of the greatest importance for the whole advance of human civilization have thus been transmitted to the German nation, as heir of a great and glorious past. It is faced with problems of no less significance in the sphere of its international relations. These problems are of special importance, since they affect most deeply the intellectual development, and on their solution depends the position of Germany in the world.
The German Empire has suffered great losses of territory in the storms and struggles of the past. The Germany of to-day, considered geographically, is a mutilated torso of the old dominions of the Emperors; it comprises only a fraction of the German peoples. A large number of German fellow-countrymen have been incorporated into other States, or live in political independence, like the Dutch, who have developed into a separate nationality, but in language and national customs cannot deny their German ancestry. Germany has been robbed of her natural boundaries; even the source and mouth of the most characteristically German stream, the much lauded German Rhine, lie outside the German territory. On the eastern frontier, too, where the strength of the modern German Empire grew up in centuries of war against the Slavs, the possessions of Germany are menaced. The Slavonic waves are ever dashing more furiously against the coast of that Germanism, which seems to have lost its old victorious strength.
Signs of political weakness are visible here, while for centuries the overflow of the strength of the German nation has poured into foreign countries, and been lost to our fatherland and to our nationality; it is absorbed by foreign nations and steeped with foreign sentiments. Even to-day the German Empire possesses no colonial territories where its increasing population may find remunerative work and a German way of living.
This is obviously not a condition which can satisfy a powerful nation, or corresponds to the greatness of the German nation and its intellectual importance.
At an earlier epoch, to be sure, when Germans had in the course of centuries grown accustomed to the degradation of being robbed of all political significance, a large section of our people did not feel this insufficiency. Even during the age of our classical literature the patriotic pride of that idealistic generation "was contented with the thought that no other people could follow the bold flights of German genius or soar aloft to the freedom of our world citizenship." [B]
[Footnote B: Treitschke, "Deutsche Geschichte," i., p. 195.]
Schiller, in 1797, could write the lines:
"German majesty and honour Fall not with the princes' crown; When amid the flames of war German Empire crashes down, German greatness stands unscathed." [C]
[Footnote C: Fragment of a poem on "German Greatness," published in 1905 by Bernhard Suphan.]
The nobler and better section of our nation, at any rate, holds different sentiments to-day. We attach a higher value to the influence of the German spirit on universal culture than was then possible, since we must now take into consideration the immense development of Germany in the nineteenth century, and can thus better estimate the old importance of our classical literature. Again, we have learnt from the vicissitudes of our historical growth to recognize that the full and due measure of intellectual development can only be achieved by the political federation of our nation. The dominion of German thought can only be extended under the aegis of political power, and unless we act in conformity to this idea, we shall be untrue to our great duties towards the human race.
Our first and positive duty consists, therefore, in zealously guarding the territories of Germany, as they now are, and in not surrendering a foot's breadth of German soil to foreign nationalities. On the west the ambitious schemes of the Latin race have been checked, and it is hard to imagine that we shall ever allow this prize of victory to be snatched again from our hands. On the south-east the Turks, who formerly threatened the civilized countries of Europe, have been completely repulsed. They now take a very different position in European politics from that which they filled at the time of their victorious advance westwards. Their power on the Mediterranean is entirely destroyed. On the other hand, the Slavs have become a formidable power. Vast regions which were once under German influence are now once more subject to Slavonic rule, and seem permanently lost to us. The present Russian Baltic provinces were formerly flourishing seats of German culture. The German element in Austria, our ally, is gravely menaced by the Slavs; Germany herself is exposed to a perpetual peaceful invasion of Slavonic workmen. Many Poles are firmly established in the heart of Westphalia. Only faint-hearted measures are taken to-day to stem this Slavonic flood. And yet to check this onrush of Slavism is not merely an obligation inherited from our fathers, but a duty in the interests of self-preservation and European civilization. It cannot yet be determined whether we can keep off this vast flood by pacific precautions. It is not improbable that the question of Germanic or Slavonic supremacy will be once more decided by the sword. The probability of such a conflict grows stronger as we become more lax in pacific measures of defence, and show less determination to protect the German soil at all costs.
The further duty of supporting the Germans in foreign countries in their struggle for existence and of thus keeping them loyal to their nationality, is one from which, in our direct interests, we cannot withdraw. The isolated groups of Germans abroad greatly benefit our trade, since by preference they obtain their goods from Germany; but they may also be useful to us politically, as we discover in America. The American-Germans have formed a political alliance with the Irish, and thus united, constitute a power in the State, with which the Government must reckon.
Finally, from the point of view of civilization, it is imperative to preserve the German spirit, and by so doing to establish foci of universal culture.
Even if we succeed in guarding our possessions in the East and West, and in preserving the German nationality in its present form throughout the world, we shall not be able to maintain our present position, powerful as it is, in the great competition with the other Powers, if we are contented to restrict ourselves to our present sphere of power, while the surrounding countries are busily extending their dominions. If we wish to compete further with them, a policy which our population and our civilization both entitle and compel us to adopt, we must not hold back in the hard struggle for the sovereignty of the world.
Lord Rosebery, speaking at the Royal Colonial Institute on March 1, 1893, expressed himself as follows: "It is said that our Empire is already large enough and does not need expansion.... We shall have to consider not what we want now, but what we want in the future.... We have to remember that it is part of our responsibility and heritage to take care that the world, so far as it can be moulded by us, should receive the Anglo-Saxon and not another character." [D]
[Footnote D: This passage is quoted in the book of the French ex-Minister Hanotaux, "Fashoda et le partage de l'Afrique."]
That is a great and proud thought which the Englishman then expressed.
If we count the nations who speak English at the present day, and if we survey the countries which acknowledge the rule of England, we must admit that he is justified from the English point of view. He does not here contemplate an actual world-sovereignty, but the predominance of the English spirit is proclaimed in plain language.
England has certainly done a great work of civilization, especially from the material aspect; but her work is one-sided. All the colonies which are directly subject to English rule are primarily exploited in the interest of English industries and English capital. The work of civilization, which England undeniably has carried out among them, has always been subordinated to this idea; she has never justified her sovereignty by training up a free and independent population, and by transmitting to the subject peoples the blessings of an independent culture of their own. With regard to those colonies which enjoy self-government, and are therefore more or less free republics, as Canada, Australia, South Africa, it is very questionable whether they will permanently retain any trace of the English spirit. They are not only growing States, but growing nations, and it seems uncertain at the present time whether England will be able to include them permanently in the Empire, to make them serviceable to English industries, or even to secure that the national character is English. Nevertheless, it is a great and proud ambition that is expressed in Lord Rosebery's words, and it testifies to a supreme national self-confidence.
The French regard with no less justifiable satisfaction the work done by them in the last forty years. In 1909 the former French Minister, Hanotaux, gave expression to this pride in the following words: "Ten years ago the work of founding our colonial Empire was finished. France has claimed her rank among the four great Powers. She is at home in every quarter of the globe. French is spoken, and will continue to be spoken, in Africa, Asia, America, Oceania. Seeds of sovereignty are sown in all parts of the world. They will prosper under the protection of Heaven." [E]
[Footnote E: Hanotaux, "Fashoda et le partage de l'Afrique."]
The same statesman criticized, with ill-concealed hatred, the German policy: "It will be for history to decide what has been the leading thought of Germany and her Government during the complicated disputes under which the partition of Africa and the last phase of French colonial policy were ended. We may assume that at first the adherents to Bismarck's policy saw with satisfaction how France embarked on distant and difficult undertakings, which would fully occupy the attention of the country and its Government for long years to come. Nevertheless, it is not certain that this calculation has proved right in the long-run, since Germany ultimately trod the same road, and, somewhat late, indeed, tried to make up for lost time. If that country deliberately abandoned colonial enterprise to others, it cannot be surprised if these have obtained the best shares."
This French criticism is not altogether unfair. It must be admitted with mortification and envy that the nation vanquished in 1870, whose vital powers seemed exhausted, which possessed no qualification for colonization from want of men to colonize, as is best seen in Algeria, has yet created the second largest colonial Empire in the world, and prides herself on being a World Power, while the conqueror of Gravelotte and Sedan in this respect lags far behind her, and only recently, in the Morocco controversy, yielded to the unjustifiable pretensions of France in a way which, according to universal popular sentiment, was unworthy alike of the dignity and the interests of Germany.
The openly declared claims of England and France are the more worthy of attention since an entente prevails between the two countries. In the face of these claims the German nation, from the standpoint of its importance to civilization, is fully entitled not only to demand a place in the sun, as Prince Buelow used modestly to express it, but to aspire to an adequate share in the sovereignty of the world far beyond the limits of its present sphere of influence. But we can only reach this goal, by so amply securing our position in Europe, that it can never again be questioned. Then only we need no longer fear that we shall be opposed by stronger opponents whenever we take part in international politics. We shall then be able to exercise our forces freely in fair rivalry with the other World Powers, and secure to German nationality and German spirit throughout the globe that high esteem which is due to them.
Such an expansion of power, befitting our importance, is not merely a fanciful scheme—it will soon appear as a political necessity.
The fact has already been mentioned that, owing to political union and improved economic conditions during the last forty years, an era of great prosperity has set in, and that German industries have been widely extended and German trade has kept pace with them. The extraordinary capacity of the German nation for trade and navigation has once more brilliantly asserted itself. The days of the Hanseatic League have returned. The labour resources of our nation increase continuously. The increase of the population in the German Empire alone amounts yearly to a million souls, and these have, to a large extent, found remunerative industrial occupation.
There is, however, a reverse side to this picture of splendid development. We are absolutely dependent on foreign countries for the import of raw materials, and to a considerable extent also for the sale of our own manufactures. We even obtain a part of our necessaries of life from abroad. Then, again, we have not the assured markets which England possesses in her colonies. Our own colonies are unable to take much of our products, and the great foreign economic spheres try to close their doors to outsiders, especially Germans, in order to encourage their own industries, and to make themselves independent of other countries. The livelihood of our working classes directly depends on the maintenance and expansion of our export trade. It is a question of life and death for us to keep open our oversea commerce. We shall very soon see ourselves compelled to find for our growing population means of life other than industrial employment. It is out of the question that this latter can keep pace permanently with the increase of population. Agriculture will employ a small part of this increase, and home settlements may afford some relief. But no remunerative occupation will ever be found within the borders of the existing German Empire for the whole population, however favourable our international relations. We shall soon, therefore, be faced by the question, whether we wish to surrender the coming generations to foreign countries, as formerly in the hour of our decline, or whether we wish to take steps to find them a home in our own German colonies, and so retain them for the fatherland. There is no possible doubt how this question must be answered. If the unfortunate course of our history has hitherto prevented us from building a colonial Empire, it is our duty to make up for lost time, and at once to construct a fleet which, in defiance of all hostile Powers, may keep our sea communications open.
We have long underestimated the importance of colonies. Colonial possessions which merely serve the purpose of acquiring wealth, and are only used for economic ends, while the owner-State does not think of colonizing in any form or raising the position of the aboriginal population in the economic or social scale, are unjustifiable and immoral, and can never be held permanently. "But that colonization which retains a uniform nationality has become a factor of immense importance for the future of the world. It will determine the degree in which each nation shares in the government of the world by the white race. It is quite imaginable that a count owns no colonies will no longer count among the European Great Powers, however powerful it may otherwise be." [F]
[Footnote F: Treitschke, "Politik," i., Section 8.]
We are already suffering severely from the want of colonies to meet our requirements. They would not merely guarantee a livelihood to our growing working population, but would supply raw materials and foodstuffs, would buy goods, and open a field of activity to that immense capital of intellectual labour forces which is to-day lying unproductive in Germany, or is in the service of foreign interests. We find throughout the countries of the world German merchants, engineers, and men of every profession, employed actively in the service of foreign masters, because German colonies, when they might be profitably engaged, do not exist. In the future, however, the importance of Germany will depend on two points: firstly, how many millions of men in the world speak German? secondly, how many of them are politically members of the German Empire?
These are heavy and complicated duties, which have devolved on us from the entire past development of our nation, and are determined by its present condition as regards the future. We must be quite clear on this point, that no nation has had to reckon with the same difficulties and hostility as ours. This is due to the many restrictions of our political relations, to our unfavourable geographical position, and to the course of our history. It was chiefly our own fault that we were condemned to political paralysis at the time when the great European States built themselves up, and sometimes expanded into World Powers. We did not enter the circle of the Powers, whose decision carried weight in politics, until late, when the partition of the globe was long concluded. All which other nations attained in centuries of natural development—political union, colonial possessions, naval power, international trade—was denied to our nation until quite recently. What we now wish to attain must be fought for, and won, against a superior force of hostile interests and Powers.
It is all the more emphatically our duty plainly to perceive what paths we wish to take, and what our goals are, so as not to split up our forces in false directions, and involuntarily to diverge from the straight road of our intended development.
The difficulty of our political position is in a certain sense an advantage. By keeping us in a continually increasing state of tension, it has at least protected us so far from the lethargy which so often follows a long period of peace and growing wealth. It has forced us to stake all our spiritual and material forces in order to rise to every occasion, and has thus discovered and strengthened resources which will be of great value whenever we shall be called upon to draw the sword.
WORLD POWER OR DOWNFALL
In discussing the duties which fall to the German nation from its history and its general as well as particular endowments, we attempted to prove that a consolidation and expansion of our position among the Great Powers of Europe, and an extension of our colonial possessions, must be the basis of our future development.
The political questions thus raised intimately concern all international relations, and should be thoroughly weighed. We must not aim at the impossible. A reckless policy would be foreign to our national character and our high aims and duties. But we must aspire to the possible, even at the risk of war. This policy we have seen to be both our right and our duty. The longer we look at things with folded hands, the harder it will be to make up the start which the other Powers have gained on us.
"The man of sense will by the forelock clutch Whatever lies within his power, Stick fast to it, and neither shirk, Nor from his enterprise be thrust, But, having once begun to work, Go working on because he must." Faust (translated by Sir Theodore Martin).
The sphere in which we can realize our ambition is circumscribed by the hostile intentions of the other World Powers, by the existing territorial conditions, and by the armed force which is at the back of both. Our policy must necessarily be determined by the consideration of these conditions. We must accurately, and without bias or timidity, examine the circumstances which turn the scale when the forces which concern us are weighed one against the other.
These considerations fall partly within the military, but belong mainly to the political sphere, in so far as the political grouping of the States allows a survey of the military resources of the parties. We must try to realize this grouping. The shifting aims of the politics of the day need not be our standard; they are often coloured by considerations of present expediency, and offer no firm basis for forming an opinion. We must rather endeavour to recognize the political views and intentions of the individual States, which are based on the nature of things, and therefore will continually make their importance felt. The broad lines of policy are ultimately laid down by the permanent interests of a country, although they may often be mistaken from short-sightedness or timidity, and although policy sometimes takes a course which does not seem warranted from the standpoint of lasting national benefits. Policy is not an exact science, following necessary laws, but is made by men who impress on it the stamp of their strength or their weakness, and often divert it from the path of true national interests. Such digressions must not be ignored. The statesman who seizes his opportunity will often profit by these political fluctuations. But the student who considers matters from the standpoint of history must keep his eyes mainly fixed on those interests which seem permanent. We must therefore try to make the international situation in this latter sense clear, so far as it concerns Germany's power and ambitions.
We see the European Great Powers divided into two great camps.
On the one side Germany, Austria, and Italy have concluded a defensive alliance, whose sole object is to guard against hostile aggression. In this alliance the two first-named States form the solid, probably unbreakable, core, since by the nature of things they are intimately connected. The geographical conditions force this result. The two States combined form a compact series of territories from the Adriatic to the North Sea and the Baltic. Their close union is due also to historical national and political conditions. Austrians have fought shoulder to shoulder with Prussians and Germans of the Empire on a hundred battlefields; Germans are the backbone of the Austrian dominions, the bond of union that holds together the different nationalities of the Empire. Austria, more than Germany, must guard against the inroads of Slavism, since numerous Slavonic races are comprised in her territories. There has been no conflict of interests between the two States since the struggle for the supremacy in Germany was decided. The maritime and commercial interests of the one point to the south and south-east, those of the other to the north. Any feebleness in the one must react detrimentally on the political relations of the other. A quarrel between Germany and Austria would leave both States at the mercy of overwhelmingly powerful enemies. The possibility of each maintaining its political position depends on their standing by each other. It may be assumed that the relations uniting the two States will be permanent so long as Germans and Magyars are the leading nationalities in the Danubian monarchy. It was one of the master-strokes of Bismarck's policy to have recognized the community of Austro-German interests even during the war of 1866, and boldly to have concluded a peace which rendered such an alliance possible.
The weakness of the Austrian Empire lies in the strong admixture of Slavonic elements, which are hostile to the German population, and show many signs of Pan-Slavism. It is not at present, however, strong enough to influence the political position of the Empire.
Italy, also, is bound to the Triple Alliance by her true interests. The antagonism to Austria, which has run through Italian history, will diminish when the needs of expansion in other spheres, and of creating a natural channel for the increasing population, are fully recognized by Italy. Neither condition is impossible. Irredentism will then lose its political significance, for the position, which belongs to Italy from her geographical situation and her past history, and will promote her true interests if attained, cannot be won in a war with Austria. It is the position of a leading political and commercial Mediterranean Power. That is the natural heritage which she can claim. Neither Germany nor Austria is a rival in this claim, but France, since she has taken up a permanent position on the coast of North Africa, and especially in Tunis, has appropriated a country which would have been the most natural colony for Italy, and has, in point of fact, been largely colonized by Italians. It would, in my opinion, have been politically right for us, even at the risk of a war with France, to protest against this annexation, and to preserve the territory of Carthage for Italy. We should have considerably strengthened Italy's position on the Mediterranean, and created a cause of contention between Italy and France that would have added to the security of the Triple Alliance.
The weakness of this alliance consists in its purely defensive character. It offers a certain security against hostile aggression, but does not consider the necessary development of events, and does not guarantee to any of its members help in the prosecution of its essential interests. It is based on a status quo, which was fully justified in its day, but has been left far behind by the march of political events. Prince Bismarck, in his "Thoughts and Reminiscences," pointed out that this alliance would not always correspond to the requirements of the future. Since Italy found the Triple Alliance did not aid her Mediterranean policy, she tried to effect a pacific agreement with England and France, and accordingly retired from the Triple Alliance. The results of this policy are manifest to-day. Italy, under an undisguised arrangement with England and France, but in direct opposition to the interests of the Triple Alliance, attacked Turkey, in order to conquer, in Tripoli, the required colonial territory. This undertaking brought her to the brink of a war with Austria, which, as the supreme Power in the Balkan Peninsula, can never tolerate the encroachment of Italy into those regions.
The Triple Alliance, which in itself represents a natural league, has suffered a rude shock. The ultimate reason for this result is found in the fact that the parties concerned with a narrow, short-sighted policy look only to their immediate private interests, and pay no regard to the vital needs of the members of the league. The alliance will not regain its original strength until, under the protection of the allied armies, each of the three States can satisfy its political needs. We must therefore be solicitous to promote Austria's position in the Balkans, and Italy's interests on the Mediterranean. Only then can we calculate on finding in our allies assistance towards realizing our own political endeavours. Since, however, it is against all our interests to strengthen Italy at the cost of Turkey, which is, as we shall see, an essential member of the Triple Alliance, we must repair the errors of the past, and in the next great war win back Tunis for Italy. Only then will Bismarck's great conception of the Triple Alliance reveal its real meaning. But the Triple Alliance, so long as it only aims at negative results, and leaves it to the individual allies to pursue their vital interests exclusively by their own resources, will be smitten with sterility. On the surface, Italy's Mediterranean interests do not concern us closely. But their real importance for us is shown by the consideration that the withdrawal of Italy from the Triple Alliance, or, indeed, its secession to an Anglo-Franco-Russian entente, would probably be the signal for a great European war against us and Austria. Such a development would gravely prejudice the lasting interests of Italy, for she would forfeit her political independence by so doing, and incur the risk of sinking to a sort of vassal state of France. Such a contingency is not unthinkable, for, in judging the policy of Italy, we must not disregard her relations with England as well as with France.