The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VII.
Author: Various
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The connection of events above indicated involves also the fact that, in history, an additional result is commonly produced by human actions beyond what they aim at and obtain what they immediately recognize and desire. They gratify their own interest; but something further is thereby accomplished, latent in the actions in question, though not present to their consciousness and not included in their design. An analogous example is offered in the case of a man who, from a feeling of revenge—perhaps not an unjust one, but produced by injury on the other's part—burns that other man's house. A connection is immediately established between the deed itself, taken abstractly, and a train of circumstances not directly included in it. In itself it consisted in merely bringing a small flame into contact with a small portion of a beam. Events not involved in that simple act follow of themselves. The part of the beam which was set afire is connected with its remote portions, the beam itself is united with the woodwork of the house generally, and this with other houses, so that a wide conflagration ensues which destroys the goods and chattels of many other persons besides those belonging to the person against whom the act of revenge was first directed, perhaps even costs not a few men their lives. This lay neither in the deed intrinsically nor in the design of the man who committed it. But the action has a further general bearing. In the design of the doer it was only revenge executed against an individual in the destruction of his property, but it is, moreover, a crime, and that involves punishment also. This may not have been present to the mind of the perpetrator, still less in his intention; but his deed itself, the general principles it calls into play, its substantial content, entail it. By this example I wish only to impress on you the consideration that, in a simple act, something further may be implicated than lies in the intention and consciousness of the agent. The example before us involves, however, the additional consideration that the substance of the act, consequently, we may say, the act itself, recoils upon the perpetrator—reacts upon him with destructive tendency. This union of the two extremes—the embodiment of a general idea in the form of direct reality and the elevation of a speciality into connection with universal truth—is brought to pass, at first sight, under the conditions of an utter diversity of nature between the two and an indifference of the one extreme toward the other. The aims which the agents set before them are limited and special; but it must be remarked that the agents themselves are intelligent thinking beings. The purport of their desires is interwoven with general, essential considerations of justice, good, duty, etc.; for mere desire—volition in its rough and savage forms—falls not within the scene and sphere of universal history. Those general considerations, which form at the same time a norm for directing aims and actions, have a determinate purport; for such an abstraction as "good for its own sake," has no place in living reality. If men are to act they must not only intend the Good, but must have decided for themselves whether this or that particular thing is a good. What special course of action, however, is good or not, is determined, as regards the ordinary contingencies of private life, by the laws and customs of a State; and here no great difficulty is presented. Each individual has his position; he knows, on the whole, what a just, honorable course of conduct is. As to ordinary, private relations, the assertion that it is difficult to choose the right and good—the regarding it as the mark of an exalted morality to find difficulties and raise scruples on that score—may be set down to an evil or perverse will, which seeks to evade duties not in themselves of a perplexing nature, or, at any rate, to an idly reflective habit of mind—where a feeble will affords no sufficient exercise to the faculties—leaving them therefore to find occupation within themselves and to expand themselves on moral self-adulation.

It is quite otherwise with the comprehensive relations with which history has to do. In this sphere are presented those momentous collisions between existing, acknowledged duties, laws, and rights, and those contingencies which are adverse to this fixed system, which assail and even destroy its foundations and existence, and whose tenor may nevertheless seem good—on the large scale, advantageous—yes, even indispensable and necessary. These contingencies realize themselves in history; they involve a general principle of a different order from that on which depends the permanence of a people or a State. This principle is an essential phase in the development of the creating Idea, of Truth striving and urging toward (consciousness of) itself. Historical men—world-famous individuals—are those in whose aims such a general principle lies.

Caesar, in danger of losing a position—not perhaps at that time of superiority, yet at least of equality with the others who were at the head of the State, and of succumbing to those who were just on the point of becoming his enemies—belongs essentially to this category. These enemies—who were at the same time pursuing their own personal aims—had on their side the form of the constitution, and the power conferred by an appearance of justice. Caesar was contending for the maintenance of his position, honor, and safety; and, since the power of his opponents included the sovereignty over the provinces of the Roman Empire, his victory secured for him the conquest of that entire Empire; and he thus became—though leaving the form of the constitution—the autocrat of the State. What secured for him the execution of a design, which in the first instance was of negative import—the autocracy of Rome—was, however, at the same time an independently necessary feature in the history of Rome and of the world. It was not, then, his private gain merely, but an unconscious impulse that occasioned the accomplishment of that for which the time was ripe. Such are all great historical men, whose own particular aims involve those large issues which are the will of the World-Spirit. They may be called heroes, inasmuch as they have derived their purposes and their vocation, not from the calm, regular course of things, sanctioned by the existing order, but from a concealed fount—one which has not attained to phenomenal, present existence—from that inner Spirit, still hidden beneath the surface, which, impinging on the outer world as on a shell, bursts it in pieces, because it is another kernel than that which belonged to the shell in question. They are men, therefore, who appear to draw the impulse of their life from themselves, and whose deeds have produced a condition of things and a complex of historical relations which appear to be only their own interest and their own work.

Such individuals had no consciousness of the general Idea they were unfolding, while prosecuting their aims; on the contrary, they were practical, political men. But, at the same time, they were thinking men, who had an insight into the requirements of the time—what was ripe for development. This was the very truth for their age, for their world—the species next in order, so to speak, and which was already formed in the womb of time. It was theirs to know this nascent principle, the necessary, directly sequent step in progress, which their world was to take, to make this their aim, and to expend their energy in promoting it. World-historical men—the heroes of an epoch—must, therefore, be recognized as its clear-sighted ones; their deeds, their words are the best of that time. Great men have formed purposes to satisfy themselves, not others. Whatever prudent designs and counsels they might have learned from others would be the more limited and inconsistent features in their career; for it was they who best understood affairs, from whom others learned, and approved, or at least acquiesced in, their policy. For that Spirit which had taken this fresh step in history is the inmost soul of all individuals, but in a state of unconsciousness which the great men in question aroused. Their fellows, therefore, follow these soul-leaders; for they feel the irresistible power of their own inner Spirit thus embodied. If we go on to cast a look at the fate of these world-historical persons, whose vocation it was to be the agents of the World-Spirit, we shall find it to have been no happy one. They attained no calm enjoyment; their whole life was labor and trouble; their whole nature was naught else but their master-passion. When their object is attained they fall off like empty husks from the kernel. They die early, like Alexander; they are murdered, like Caesar; transported to St. Helena, like Napoleon. This fearful consolation—that historical men have not enjoyed what is called happiness, and of which only private life (and this may be passed under various external circumstances) is capable—this consolation those may draw from history who stand in need of it; and it is craved by envy, vexed at what is great and transcendent, striving, therefore, to depreciate it and to find some flaw in it. Thus in modern times it has been demonstrated ad nauseam that princes are generally unhappy on their thrones; in consideration of which the possession of a throne is tolerated, and men acquiesce in the fact that not themselves but the personages in question are its occupants. The free man, we may observe, is not envious, but gladly recognizes what is great and exalted, and rejoices that it exists.

It is in the light of those common elements which constitute the interest and therefore the passions of individuals that these historical men are to be regarded. They are great men, because they willed and accomplished something great—not a mere fancy, a mere intention, but whatever met the case and fell in with the needs of the age. This mode of considering them also excludes the so-called "psychological" view, which, serving the purpose of envy most effectually, contrives so to refer all actions to the heart, to bring them under such a subjective aspect, that their authors appear to have done everything under the impulse of some passion, mean or grand, some morbid craving, and, on account of these passions and cravings, to have been immoral men. Alexander of Macedon partly subdued Greece, and then Asia; therefore he was possessed by a morbid craving for conquest. He is alleged to have acted from a craving for fame, for conquest; and the proof that these were the impelling motives is that he did what resulted in fame. What pedagogue has not demonstrated of Alexander the Great, of Julius Caesar, that they were instigated by such passions, and were consequently immoral men? From this the conclusion immediately follows that he, the pedagogue, is a better man than they, because he has not such passions—a proof of which lies in the fact that he does not conquer Asia, or vanquish Darius and Porus, but, while he enjoys life himself, lets others enjoy it too. These psychologists are particularly fond of contemplating those peculiarities of great historical figures which appertain to them as private persons. Man must eat and drink; he sustains relations to friends and acquaintances; he has passing impulses and ebullitions of temper. "No man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre," is a well-known proverb; I have added—and Goethe repeated it ten years later—"but not because the former is no hero, but because the latter is a valet." He takes off the hero's boots, assists him to bed, knows that he prefers champagne, etc. Historical personages waited upon in historical literature by such psychological valets come poorly off; they are brought down by these their attendants to a level with, or, rather, a few degrees below the level of, the morality of such exquisite discerners of spirits. The Thersites of Homer who abuses the kings is a standing figure for all times. Blows—that is, beating with a solid cudgel—he does not get in every age, as in the Homeric one; but his envy, his egotism, is the thorn which he has to carry in his flesh; and the undying worm that gnaws him is the tormenting consideration that his excellent views and vituperations remain absolutely without result in the world. But our satisfaction at the fate of Thersitism also, may have its sinister side.

A world-famous individual is not so unwise as to indulge a variety of wishes to divide his regards. He is devoted to the one aim, regardless of all else. It is even possible that such men may treat other great, even sacred interests, inconsiderately—conduct which is deserving of moral reprehension. But so mighty a form must trample down many innocent flowers and crush to pieces many an object in its path.

The special interest of passion is thus inseparable from the active development of a general principle; for it is from the special and determinate, and from its negation, that the universal results. Particularity contends with its like, and some loss is involved in the issue. It is not the general idea that is implicated in opposition and combat, and that is exposed to danger. It remains in the background, untouched and uninjured. This may be called the cunning of reason—that it sets the passions to work for itself, while that which develops its existence through such impulsion pays the penalty and suffers loss. For it is phenomenal being that is so treated, and, of this, a portion is of no value, another is positive and real. The particular is, for the most part, of too trifling value as compared with the general; individuals are sacrificed and abandoned. The Idea pays the penalty of determinate existence and of corruptibility, not from itself, but from the passions of individuals.

But though we might tolerate the idea that individuals, their desires, and the gratification of them, are thus sacrificed, and their happiness given up to the empire of chance, to which it belongs, and that, as a general rule, individuals come under the category of means to an ulterior end, there is one aspect of human individuality which we should hesitate to regard in that subordinate light, even in relation to the highest, since it is absolutely no subordinate element, but exists in those individuals as inherently eternal and divine—I mean morality, ethics, religion. Even when speaking of the realization of the great ideal aim by means of individuals, the subjective element in them—their interest and that of their cravings and impulses, their views and judgments, though exhibited as the merely formal side of their existence—was spoken of as having an infinite right to be consulted. The first idea that presents itself in speaking of means is that of something external to the object, yet having no share in the object itself. But merely natural things—even the commonest lifeless objects—used as means, must be of such a kind as adapts them to their purpose; they must possess something in common with it. Human beings, least of all, sustain the bare external relation of mere means to the great ideal aim. Not only do they, in the very act of realizing it, make it the occasion of satisfying personal desires whose purport is diverse from that aim, but they share in that ideal aim itself, and are, for that very reason, objects of their own existence—not formally merely, as the world of living beings generally is, whose individual life is essentially subordinate to that of man and its properly used up as an instrument. Men, on the contrary, are objects of existence to themselves, as regards the intrinsic import of the aim in question. To this order belongs that in them which we would exclude from the category of mere means—morality, ethics, religion. That is to say, man is an object of existence in himself only in virtue of the Divine that is in him—the quality that was designated at the outset as Reason, which, in view of its activity and power of self-determination, was called freedom. And we affirm—without entering at present on the proof of the assertion—that religion, morality, etc., have their foundation and source in that principle, and so are essentially elevated above all alien necessity and chance. And here we must remark that individuals, to the extent of their freedom, are responsible for the depravation and enfeeblement of morals and religion. This is the seal of the absolute and sublime destiny of man—that he knows what is good and what is evil; that his destiny is his very ability to will either good or evil—in one word, that he is the subject of moral imputation, imputation not only of evil, but of good, and not only concerning this or that particular matter, and all that happens ab extra, but also the good and evil attaching to his individual freedom. The brute alone is simply innocent. It would, however, demand an extensive explanation—as extensive as the analysis of moral freedom itself—to preclude or obviate all the misunderstandings which the statement that what is called innocence imports the entire unconsciousness of evil—is wont to occasion.

In contemplating the fate which virtue, morality, even piety experience in history, we must not fall into the Litany of Lamentations, that the good and pious often, or for the most part, fare ill in the world, while the evil-disposed and wicked prosper. The term prosperity is used in a variety of meanings—riches, outward honor, and the like. But in speaking of something which in and for itself constitutes an aim of existence, that so-called well or ill faring of these or those isolated individuals cannot be regarded as an essential element in the rational order of the universe. With more justice than happiness—or a fortunate environment for individuals—it is demanded of the grand aim of the world's existence that it should foster, nay, involve the execution and ratification of good, moral, righteous purposes. What makes men morally discontented (a discontent, by the way, on which they somewhat pride themselves), is that they do not find the present adapted to the realization of aims which they hold to be right and just—more especially, in modern times, ideals of political constitutions; they contrast unfavorably things as they are, with their idea of things as they ought to be. In this case it is not private interest nor passion that desires gratification, but reason, justice, liberty; and, equipped with this title, the demand in question assumes a lofty bearing and readily adopts a position, not merely of discontent, but of open revolt against the actual condition of the world. To estimate such a feeling and such views aright, the demands insisted upon and the very dogmatic opinions asserted must be examined. At no time so much as in our own, have such general principles and notions been advanced, or with greater assurance. If, in days gone by, history seems to present itself as a struggle of passions, in our time—though displays of passion are not wanting—it exhibits, partly a predominance of the struggle of notions assuming the authority of principles, partly that of passions and interests essentially subjective but under the mask of such higher sanctions. The pretensions thus contended for as legitimate in the name of that which has been stated as the ultimate aim of Reason, pass accordingly for absolute aims—to the same extent as religion, morals, ethics. Nothing, as before remarked, is now more common than the complaint that the ideals which imagination sets up are not realized, that these glorious dreams are destroyed by cold actuality. These ideals which, in the voyage of life, founder on the rocks of hard reality may be in the first instance only subjective and belong to the idiosyncrasy of the individual, imagining himself the highest and wisest. Such do not properly belong to this category. For the fancies which the individual in his isolation indulges cannot be the model for universal reality, just as universal law is not designed for the units of the mass. These as such may, in fact, find their interests thrust decidedly into the background. But by the term "Ideal" we also understand the ideal of Reason—of the good, of the true. Poets—as, for instance, Schiller—have painted such ideals touchingly and with strong emotion, and with the deeply melancholy conviction that they could not be realized. In affirming, on the contrary, that the Universal Reason does realize itself, we have indeed nothing to do with the individual, empirically regarded; that admits of degrees of better and worse, since here chance and speciality have received authority from the Idea to exercise their monstrous power; much, therefore, in particular aspects of the grand phenomenon, might be criticized. This subjective fault-finding—which, however, only keeps in view the individual and its deficiency, without taking notice of Reason pervading the whole—is easy; and inasmuch as it asserts an excellent intention with regard to the good of the whole, and seems to result from a kindly heart, it feels authorized to give itself airs and assume great consequence. It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in States, and in Providence, than to see their real import and value. For in this merely negative fault-finding a proud position is taken—one which overlooks the object without having entered into it, without having comprehended its positive aspect. Age generally makes men more tolerant; youth is always discontented. The tolerance of age is the result of the ripeness of a judgment which, not merely as the result of indifference, is satisfied even with what is inferior, but, more deeply taught by the grave experience of life, has been led to perceive the substantial, solid worth of the object in question. The insight, then, to which—in contradistinction to those ideals—philosophy is to lead us, is, that the real world is as it ought to be—that the truly good, the universal divine Reason, is not a mere abstraction, but a vital principle capable of realizing itself. This Good, this Reason, in its most concrete form, is God. God governs the world; the actual working of His government, the carrying out of His plan, is the history of the world. This plan philosophy strives to comprehend; for only that which has been developed as the result of it possesses bona fide reality. That which does not accord with it is negative, worthless existence. Before the pure light of this divine Idea—which is no mere Ideal—the phantom of a world whose events are an incoherent concourse of fortuitous circumstances, utterly vanishes. Philosophy wishes to discover the substantial purport, the real side of the divine idea, and to justify the so much despised reality of things; for Reason is the comprehension of the divine work. But as to what concerns the perversion, corruption, and ruin of religious, ethical, and moral purposes and states of society generally, it must be affirmed that, in their essence, these are infinite and eternal, but that the forms they assume may be of a limited order, and consequently may belong to the domain of mere nature and be subject to the sway of chance; they are therefore perishable and exposed to decay and corruption. Religion and morality—in the same way as inherently universal essences—have the peculiarity of being present in the individual soul, in the full extent of their Idea, and therefore truly and really; although they may not manifest themselves in it in extenso and are not applied to fully developed relations. The religion, the morality of a limited sphere of life, for instance that of a shepherd or a peasant, in its intensive concentration and limitation to a few perfectly simple relations of life has infinite worth—the same worth as the religion and morality of extensive knowledge and of an existence rich in the compass of its relations and actions. This inner focus, this simple region of the claims of subjective freedom, the home of volition, resolution, and action, the abstract sphere of conscience—that which comprises the responsibility and moral value of the individual—remains untouched and is quite shut out from the noisy din of the world's history—including not merely external and temporal changes but also those entailed by the absolute necessity inseparable from the realization of the idea of freedom itself. But, as a general truth, this must be regarded as settled, that whatever in the world possesses claims as noble and glorious has nevertheless a higher existence above it. The claim of the World-Spirit rises above all special claims.

These observations may suffice in reference to the means which the World-Spirit uses for realizing its Idea. Stated simply and abstractly, this mediation involves the activity of personal existences in whom Reason is present as their absolute, substantial being, but a basis, in the first instance, still obscure and unknown to them. But the subject becomes more complicated and difficult when we regard individuals not merely in their aspect of activity, but more concretely, in conjunction with a particular manifestation of that activity in their religion and morality—forms of existence which are intimately connected with Reason and share in its absolute claims. Here the relation of mere means to an end disappears, and the chief bearings of this seeming difficulty in reference to the absolute aim of Spirit have been briefly considered.

(3) The third point to be analyzed is, therefore: What is the object to be realized by these means—that is, What is the form it assumes in the realm of reality? We have spoken of means; but, in carrying out of a subjective, limited aim, we have also to take into consideration the element of a material either already present or which has to be procured. Thus the question would arise: What is the material in which the Ideal of Reason is wrought out? The primary answer would be: Personality itself, human desires, subjectivity generally. In human knowledge and volition as its material element Reason attains positive existence. We have considered subjective volition where it has an object which is the truth and essence of reality—viz., where it constitutes a great world-historical passion. As a subjective will, occupied with limited passions, it is dependent, and can gratify its desires only within the limits of this dependence. But the subjective will has also a substantial life, a reality, in which it moves in the region of essential being and has the essential itself as the object of its existence. This essential being is the union of the subjective with the rational will; it is the moral whole, the State, which is that form of reality in which the individual has and enjoys his freedom, but on the condition of his recognizing, believing in, and willing that which is common to the whole. And this must not be understood as if the subjective will of the social unit attained its gratification and enjoyment through that common will, as if this were a means provided for its benefit, as if the individual, in his relations to other individuals, thus limited his freedom, in order that this universal limitation, the mutual constraint of all, might secure a small space of liberty for each. Rather, we affirm, are law, morality, government, and these alone, the positive reality and completion of freedom. Freedom of a low and limited order is mere caprice, which finds its exercise in the sphere of particular and limited desires.

Subjective volition, passion, is that which sets men in activity, that which effects "practical" realization. The Idea is the inner spring of action; the State is the actually existing, realized moral life. For it is the unity of the universal, essential will, with that of the individual; and this is "morality." The individual living in this unity has a moral life and possesses a value that consists in this substantiality alone. Sophocles in his Antigone says, "The divine commands are not of yesterday, nor of today; no, they have an infinite existence, and no one could say whence they came." The laws of morality are not accidental, but are the essentially rational. It is the very object of the State that what is essential in the practical activity of men and in their dispositions should be duly recognized; that it should have a manifest existence and maintain its position. It is the absolute interest of Reason that this moral whole should exist; and herein lies the justification and merit of heroes who have founded States, however rude these may have been. In the history of the world, only those peoples can come under our notice which form a State; for it must be understood that the State is the realization of freedom, i. e., of the absolute final aim, and that it exists for its own sake. It must further be understood that all the worth which the human being possesses—all spiritual reality—he possesses only through the State. For his spiritual reality consists in this, that his own essence, Reason, is objectively present to him, that it possesses objective immediate existence for him. Thus only is he fully conscious; thus only is he a partaker of morality, of a just and moral social and political life. For truth is the unity of the universal and subjective will; and the universal is to be found in the State, in its laws, and in its universal and rational arrangements. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth. We have in it, therefore, the object of history in a more definite shape than before—that in which freedom obtains objectivity and lives in the enjoyment of this objectivity. For law is the objectivity of Spirit, volition in its true form. Only that will which obeys law is free; for it obeys itself—it is independent and, therefore, free. When the State or our country constitutes a community of existence, when the subjective will of man submits to laws, the contradiction between liberty and necessity vanishes. The rational has necessary existence, as being the reality and substance of things, and we are free in recognizing it as law and following it as the substance of our own being. The objective and the subjective will are then reconciled and present one identical homogeneous whole. For the morality (Sittlichkeit) of the State is not of that ethical (moralische) reflective kind, in which one's own conviction bears sway; the latter is rather the peculiarity of the modern time, while the true antique morality is based on the principle of abiding by one's duty (to the State at large). An Athenian citizen did what was required of him, as it were from instinct; but if I reflect on the object of my activity I must have the consciousness that my will has been called into exercise. But morality is duty—substantial right, a "second nature," as it has been justly called; for the first nature of man is his primary, merely animal, existence.

The development in extenso of the idea of the State belongs to the philosophy of jurisprudence; but it must be observed that in the theories of our time various errors are current respecting it, which pass for established truths and have become fixed prejudices. We will mention only a few of them, giving prominence to such as have a reference to the object of our history.

The error which first meets us is the direct opposite of our principle that the State presents the realization of freedom—the opinion—that man is free by nature, but that in society, in the State, to which nevertheless he is irresistibly impelled, he must limit this natural freedom. That man is free by nature is quite correct in one sense, namely, that he is so according to the idea of humanity; but we imply thereby that he is such only in virtue of his destiny—that he has an undeveloped power to become such; for the "nature" of an object is exactly synonymous with its "idea." But the view in question imports more than this. When man is spoken of as "free by nature," the mode of his existence as well as his destiny is implied; his merely natural and primary condition is intended. In this sense a "state of nature" is assumed in which mankind at large is in the possession of its natural rights with the unconstrained exercise and enjoyment of its freedom. This assumption is not raised to the dignity of the historical fact; it would indeed be difficult, were the attempt seriously made, to point out any such condition as actually existing or as having ever occurred. Examples of a savage state of life can be pointed out, but they are marked by brutal passions and deeds of violence; while, however rude and simple their, conditions, they involve social arrangements which, to use the common phrase, "restrain freedom." That assumption is one of those nebulous images which theory produces, an idea which it cannot avoid originating, but which it fathers upon real existence without sufficient historical justification.

What we find such a state of nature to be, in actual experience, answers exactly to the idea of a merely natural condition. Freedom as the ideal of that which is original and natural does not exist as original and natural; rather must it first be sought out and won, and that by an incalculable medial discipline of the intellectual and moral powers. The state of nature is, therefore, predominantly that of injustice and violence, of untamed natural impulses, of inhuman deeds and feelings. Limitation is certainly produced by society and the State, but it is a limitation of the mere brute emotions and rude instincts, as also, in a more advanced stage of culture, of the premeditated self-will of caprice and passion. This kind of constraint is part of the instrumentality by which only the consciousness of freedom and the desire for its attainment, in its true—that is, its rational and ideal form—can be obtained. To the ideal of freedom, law and morality are indispensably requisite; and they are, in and for themselves, universal existences, objects, and aims, which are discovered only by the activity of thought, separating itself from the merely sensuous and developing itself in opposition thereto, and which must, on the other hand, be introduced into and incorporated with the originally sensuous will, and that contrarily to its natural inclination. The perpetually recurring misapprehension of freedom consists in regarding that term only in its formal, subjective sense, abstracted from its essential objects and aims; thus a constraint put upon impulse, desire, passion—pertaining to the particular individual as such—a limitation of caprice and self-will is regarded as a fettering of freedom. We should, on the contrary, look upon such limitation as the indispensable proviso of emancipation. Society and the State are the very conditions in which freedom is realized.

We must notice a second view, contravening the principle of the development of moral relations into a legal form. The patriarchal condition is regarded, either in reference to the entire race of man or to some branches of it, as exclusively that condition of things in which the legal element is combined with a due recognition of the moral and emotional parts of our nature, and in which justice, as united with these, truly influences the intercourse of the social units. The basis of the patriarchal condition is the family relation, which develops the primary form of conscious morality, succeeded by that of the State as its second phase. The patriarchal condition is one of transition, in which the family has already advanced to the position of a race of people, where the union, therefore, has already ceased to be simply a bond of love and confidence and has become one of plighted service.

We must first examine the ethical principle of the Family, which may be reckoned as virtually a single person, since its members have either mutually surrendered their individual personality and consequently their legal position toward one another, with the rest of their particular interests and desires, as in the case of the parents, or, in the care of children who are primarily in that merely natural condition already mentioned, have not yet attained such an independent personality. They live, therefore, in a unity of feeling, love, confidence, and faith in one another, and, in a relation of mutual love, the one individual has the consciousness of himself in the consciousness of another; he lives out of self; and in this mutual self-renunciation each regains the life that had been virtually transferred to the other—gains, in fact, the other's existence and his own, as involved with that other. The ultimate interests connected with the necessities and external concerns of life, as well as the development that has to take place within their circle, i. e., of the children, constitute a common object for the members of the family. The spirit of the family—the Penates—form one substantial being, as much as the spirit of a people in the State; and morality in both cases consists in a feeling, a consciousness, and a will, not limited to individual personality and interest, but embracing the common interests of the members generally. But this unity is, in the case of the family, essentially one of feeling, not advancing beyond the limits of the merely natural. The piety of the family relation should be respected in the highest degree by the State; by its means the State obtains as its members individuals who are already moral (for as mere persons they are not) and who, in uniting to form a State, bring with them that sound basis of a political edifice—the capacity of feeling one with a whole. But the expansion of the family to a patriarchal unity carries us beyond the ties of blood-relationship—the simply natural elements of that basis; and outside of these limits the members of the community must enter upon the position of independent personality. A review of the patriarchal condition, in extenso, would lead us to give special attention to the theocratical constitution. The head of the patriarchal clan is also its priest. If the family in its general relations is not yet separated from civic society and the State, the separation of religion from it has also not yet taken place; and so much the less since the piety of the hearth is itself a profoundly subjective state of feeling.

We have considered two aspects of freedom—the objective and the subjective; if, therefore, freedom is asserted to consist in the individuals of a State, all agreeing in its arrangements, it is evident that only the subjective aspect is regarded. The natural inference from this principle is, that no law can be valid without the approval of all. It is attempted to obviate this difficulty by the decision that the minority must yield to the majority; the majority therefore bears sway; but long ago J.J. Rousseau remarked that, in that case, there would no longer be freedom, for the will of the minority would cease to be respected. At the Polish Diet each individual member had to give his consent before any political step could be taken; and this kind of freedom it was that ruined the State. Besides, it is a dangerous and false prejudice that the people alone have reason and insight, and know what justice is; for each popular faction may represent itself as the people, and the question as to what constitutes the State is one of advanced science and not of popular decision.

If the principle of regard for the individual will is recognized as the only basis of political liberty, viz., that nothing should be done by or for the State to which all the members of the body politic have not given their sanction, we have, properly speaking, no constitution. The only arrangement found necessary would be, first, a centre having no will of its own, but which should take into consideration what appeared to be the necessities of the State, and, secondly, a contrivance for calling the members of the State together, for taking the votes, and for performing the arithmetical operations of reckoning and comparing the number of votes for the different propositions, and thereby deciding upon them. The State is an abstraction, having even its generic existence in its citizens; but it is an actuality, and its simply generic existence must embody itself in individual will and activity. The want of government and political administration in general is felt; this necessitates the selection and separation from the rest of those who have to take the helm in political affairs, to decide concerning them, and to give orders to other citizens, with a view to the execution of their plans. If, for instance, even the people in a democracy resolve on a war, a general must head the army. It is only by a constitution that the abstraction—the State—attains life and reality; but this involves the distinction between those who command and those who obey. Yet obedience seems inconsistent with liberty, and those who command appear to do the very opposite of that which the fundamental idea of the State, viz., that of freedom, requires. It is, however, urged that though the distinction between commanding and obeying is absolutely necessary, because affairs could not go on without it, and indeed, this seems only a compulsory limitation, external to and even contravening freedom in the abstract—the constitution should be at least so framed that the citizens may obey as little as possible and the smallest modicum of free volition be left to the commands of the superiors; that the substance of that for which subordination is necessary, even in its most important bearings, should be decided and resolved on by the people, by the will of many or of all the citizens; though it is supposed to be thereby provided that the State should be possessed of vigor and strength as a reality—an individual unity. The primary consideration is, then, the distinction between the governing and the governed, and political constitutions in the abstract have been rightly divided into monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy; this gives occasion, however, for the remark that monarchy itself must be further divided into despotism and monarchy proper; that in all the divisions to which the leading idea gives rise, only the generic character is to be made prominent, it being not intended thereby that the particular category under review should be exhausted as a form, order, or kind in its concrete development. But it must especially be observed that the above mentioned divisions admit of a multitude of particular modifications—not only such as lie within the limits of those classes themselves but also such as are mixtures of several of these essentially distinct classes and which are consequently misshapen, unstable, and inconsistent forms. In such a collision, the concerning question is: What is the best constitution—that is, by what arrangement, organization, or mechanism of the power of the State can its object be most surely attained? This object may indeed be variously understood; for instance, as the calm enjoyment of life on part of the citizens, or as universal happiness. Such aims have suggested the so-called ideals of constitutions, and, as a particular branch of the subject, Ideals of the education of princes (Fenelon), or of the governing body, the aristocracy at large (Plato); for the chief point they treat of is the condition of those subjects who stand at the head of affairs, and in these ideals the concrete details of political organization are not at all considered. The inquiry into the best constitution is frequently treated as if not only the theory were an affair of subjective independent conviction, but as if the introduction of a constitution recognized as the best, or as superior to others, could be the result of a resolve adopted in this theoretical manner, as if the form of a constitution were a matter of free choice, determined by nothing else but reflection. Of this artless fashion was that deliberation—not indeed of the Persian people, but of the Persian grandees, who had conspired to overthrow the pseudo-Smerdis and the Magi, after their undertaking had succeeded and when there was no scion of the royal family living—as to what constitution they should introduce into Persia; and Herodotus gives an equally naive account of this deliberation.

In the present day, the constitution of a country and people is not represented as so entirely dependent on free and deliberate choice. The fundamental, but abstractly and therefore imperfectly, entertained conception of freedom, has resulted in the republic being very generally regarded—in theory—as the only just and true political constitution. Even many who occupy elevated official positions under monarchical constitutions, so far from being opposed to this idea are actually its supporters; only they see that such a constitution, though the best, cannot be realized under all circumstances, and that, while men are what they are, we must be satisfied with less freedom, the monarchical constitution, under the given circumstances and the present moral condition of the people, being even regarded as the most advantageous. In this view also the necessity of a particular constitution is made to depend on the condition of the people as though the latter were non-essential and accidental. This representation is founded on the distinction which the reflective understanding makes between an idea and the corresponding reality. This reflection holding to an abstract and consequently untrue idea, not grasping it in its completeness, or—which is virtually, though not in point of form, the same—not taking a concrete view of a people and a State. We shall have to show, further, on, that the constitution adopted by a people makes one substance, one spirit, with its religion, its art, and its philosophy, or, at least, with its conceptions, thoughts and culture generally—not to expatiate upon the additional influences ab extra, of climate, of neighbors, of its place in the world. A State is an individual totality, of which you cannot select any particular side, although a supremely important one, such as its political constitution, and deliberate and decide respecting it in that isolated form. Not only is that constitution most intimately connected with and dependent on those other spiritual forces, but the form of the entire moral and intellectual individuality, comprising all the forces it embodies, is only a step in the development of the grand whole, with its place pre-appointed in the process—a fact which gives the highest sanction to the constitution in question and establishes its absolute necessity. The origin of a State involves imperious lordship on the one hand, instinctive submission on the other. But even obedience—lordly power, and the fear inspired by a ruler—in itself implies some degree of voluntary connection. Even in barbarous states this is the case; it is not the isolated will of individuals that prevails; individual pretensions are relinquished, and the general will is the essential bond of political union. This unity of the general and the particular is the Idea itself, manifesting itself as a State, and which subsequently undergoes further development within itself. The abstract yet necessitated process in the development of truly independent states is as follows: They begin with regal power, whether of patriarchal or military origin; in the next phase, particularity and individuality assert themselves in the form of aristocracy and democracy; lastly, we have the subjection of these separate interests to a single power, but one which can be absolutely none other than one outside of which those spheres have an independent position, viz., the monarchical. Two phases of royalty, therefore, must be distinguished—a primary and a secondary. This process is necessitated to the end that the form of government assigned to a particular stage of development must present itself; it is therefore no matter of choice, but is the form adapted to the spirit of the people.

In the constitution the main feature of interest is the self-development of the rational, that is, the political condition of a people, the setting free of the successive elements of the Idea, so that the several powers in the State manifest themselves as separate, attain their appropriate and special perfection, and yet, in this independent condition, work together for one object and are held together by it—i. e., form an organic whole. The State is thus the embodiment of rational freedom, realizing and recognizing itself in an objective form. For its objectivity consists in this—that its successive stages are not merely ideal, but are present in an appropriate reality, and that in their separate and several workings they are absolutely merged in that agency by which the totality, the soul, the individuate unity, is produced, and of which it is the result.

The State is the Idea of Spirit in the external manifestation of human will and its freedom. It is to the State, therefore, that change in the aspect of history indissolubly attaches itself; and the successive phases of the idea manifest themselves in it as distinct political principles. The constitutions under which world-historical peoples have reached their culmination, are peculiar to them, and therefore do not present a generally applicable political basis. Were it otherwise the differences of similar constitutions would consist only in a peculiar method of expanding and developing that generic basis, whereas they really originate in diversity of principle. From the comparison therefore of the political institutions of the ancient world-historical peoples, it so happens that, for the most recent principle of a constitution for the principle of our own times, nothing, so to speak, can be learned. In science and art it is quite otherwise—that is, the ancient philosophy is so decidedly the basis of the modern that it is inevitably contained in the latter and constitutes its basis. In this case the relation is that of a continuous development of the same structure, whose foundation-stone, walls, and roof have remained what they were. In art, the Greek itself, in its original form, furnishes us the best models, but in regard to political constitution it is quite otherwise; here the ancient and the modern have not their essential principle in common. Abstract definitions and dogmas respecting just government—importing that intelligence and virtue ought to bear sway—are, indeed, common to both, but nothing is so absurd as to look to Greeks, Romans, or Orientals, for models for the political arrangements of our time. From the East may be derived beautiful pictures of a patriarchal condition, of paternal government, and of devotion to it on the part of peoples; from Greeks and Romans, descriptions of popular liberty. Among the latter we find the idea of a free constitution admitting all the citizens to a share in deliberations and resolves respecting the affairs and laws of the commonwealth. In our times, too, this is its general acceptation; only with this modification, that—since our States are so large, and there are so many of "the many," the latter (direct action being impossible) should by the indirect method of elective substitution express their concurrence with resolves affecting the common weal—that is, that for legislative purposes generally the people should be represented by deputies. The so-called representative constitution is that form of government with which we connect the idea of a free constitution; and this notion has become a rooted prejudice. On this theory people and government are separated. But there is a perversity in this antithesis, an ill-intentioned ruse designed to insinuate that the people are the totality of the State. Besides, the basis of this view is the principle of isolated individuality—the absolute validity of the subjective will—a dogma which we have already investigated. The great point is that freedom, in its ideal conception, has not subjective will and caprice for its principle, but the recognition of the universal will, and that the process by which freedom is realized is the free development of its successive stages. The subjective will is a merely formal determination—a carte blanche—not including what it is that is willed. Only the rational will is that universal principle which independently determines and unfolds its own being and develops its successive elemental phases as organic members. Of this Gothic-cathedral architecture the ancients knew nothing.

At an earlier stage of the discussion we established the two elemental considerations: First, the idea of freedom as the absolute and final aim; secondly, the means for realizing it, i. e., the subjective side of knowledge and will, with its life, movement, and activity. We then recognized the State as the moral whole and the reality of freedom, and consequently as the objective unity of these two elements. For although we make this distinction in two aspects for our consideration, it must be remarked that they are intimately connected, and that their connection is involved in the idea of each when examined separately. We have, on the one hand, recognized the Idea in the definite form of freedom, conscious of and willing itself, having itself alone as its object, involving at the same time the pure and simple Idea of Reason and, likewise, what we have called Subject, self-consciousness, Spirit, actually existing in the world. If, on the other hand, we consider subjectivity, we find that subjective knowledge and will is thought. But by the very act of thoughtful cognition and volition, I will the universal object—the substance of absolute Reason. We observe, therefore, an essential union between the objective side—the Idea, and the subjective side—the personality that conceives and wills it. The objective existence of this union is the State, which is therefore the basis and centre of the other concrete elements of the life of a people—of art, of law, of morals, of religion, of science. All the activity of Spirit has only this object—the becoming conscious of this union, i. e., of its own freedom. Among the forms of this conscious union religion occupies the highest position. In it Spirit-rising above the limitations of temporal and secular existence—becomes conscious of the Absolute Spirit, and, in this consciousness of the Self-Existent Being, renounces its individual interest; it lays this aside in devotion—a state of mind in which it refuses to occupy itself any longer with the limited and particular. By sacrifice man expresses his renunciation of his property, his will, his individual feelings. The religious concentration of the soul appears in the form of feeling; it nevertheless passes also into reflection; a form of worship (cultus) is a result of reflection. The second form of the union of the objective and subjective in the human spirit is art; this advances farther into the realm of the actual and sensuous than religion. In its noblest walk it is occupied with representing, not, indeed, the Spirit of God, but certainly the Form of God; and, in its secondary aims, that which is divine and spiritual generally. Its office is to render visible the divine, presenting it to the imaginative and intuitive faculty. But the true is the object not only of conception and feeling, as in religion—and of intuition, as in art—but also of the thinking faculty; and this gives us the third form of the union in question—philosophy. This is consequently the highest, freest, and wisest place. Of course we are not intending to investigate these three phases here; they have only suggested themselves in virtue of their occupying the same general ground as the object here considered the State.



TRANSLATED BY J. LOEWENBERG, PH.D. Assistant in Philosophy, Harvard University



The State is the realization of the ethical idea. It is the ethical spirit as revealed, self-conscious, substantial will. It is the will which thinks and knows itself, and carries out what it knows, and in so far as it knows. The unreflected existence of the State rests on custom, and its reflected existence on the self-consciousness of the individual, on his knowledge and activity. The individual, in return, has his substantial freedom in the State, as the essence, purpose, and product of his activity.

The true State is the ethical whole and the realization of freedom. It is the absolute purpose of reason that freedom should be realized. The State is the spirit, which lives in the world and there realizes itself consciously; while in nature it is actual only as its own other or as dormant spirit. Only as present in consciousness, knowing itself as an existing object, is it the State. The State is the march of God through the world, its ground is the power of reason realizing itself as will. The idea of the State should not connote any particular State, or particular institution; one must rather consider the Idea only, this actual God, by itself. Because it is more easy to find defects than to grasp the positive meaning, one readily falls into the mistake of emphasizing so much the particular nature of the State as to overlook its inner organic essence. The State is no work of art. It exists in the world, and thus in the realm of caprice, accident, and error. Evil behavior toward it may disfigure it on many sides. But the ugliest man, the criminal, the invalid, and the cripple, are still living human beings. The affirmative, life, persists in spite of defects, and it is this affirmative which alone is here in question.

In the State, everything depends upon the unity of the universal and the particular. In the ancient States the subjective purpose was absolutely one with the will of the State. In modern times, on the contrary, we demand an individual opinion, an individual will and conscience. The ancients had none of these in the modern sense; the final thing for them was the will of the State. While in Asiatic despotisms the individual had no inner self and no self-justification, in the modern world man demands to be honored for the sake of his subjective individuality.

The union of duty and right has the twofold aspect that what the State demands as duty should directly be the right of the individual, since the State is nothing but the organization of the concept of freedom. The determinations of the individual will are given by the State objectivity, and it is through the State alone that they attain truth and realization. The State is the sole condition of the attainment of the particular end and good.

Political disposition, called patriotism—the assurance resting in truth and the will which has become a custom—is simply the result of the institutions subsisting in the State, institutions in which reason is actually present.

Under patriotism one frequently understands a mere willingness to perform extraordinary acts and sacrifices. But patriotism is essentially the sentiment of regarding, in the ordinary circumstances and ways of life, the weal of the community as the substantial basis and the final end. It is upon this consciousness, present in the ordinary course of life and under all circumstances, that the disposition to heroic effort is founded. But as people are often rather magnanimous than just, they easily persuade themselves that they possess the heroic kind of patriotism, in order to save themselves the trouble of having the truly patriotic sentiment, or to excuse the lack of it.

Political sentiment, as appearance, must be distinguished from what people truly will. What they at bottom will is the real cause, but they cling to particular interests and delight in the vain contemplation of improvements. The conviction of the necessary stability of the State in which alone the particular interests can be realized, people indeed possess, but custom makes invisible that upon which our whole existence rests; it does not occur to any one, when he safely passes through the streets at night, that it could be otherwise. The habit of safety has become a second nature, and we do not reflect that it is the result of the activity of special institutions. It is through force this is frequently the superficial opinion-that the State coheres, but what alone holds it together is the fundamental sense of order, which is possessed by all.

The State is an organism or the development of the idea into its differences. These different sides are the different powers of the State with their functions and activities, by means of which the universal is constantly and necessarily producing itself, and, being presupposed in its own productive function, it is thus always actively present. This organism is the political constitution. It eternally springs from the State, just as the State in turn maintains itself through the constitution. If these two things fall asunder, if both different sides become independent of each other, then the unity which the constitution produces is no longer operative; the fable of the stomach and the other organs may be applied to it. It is the nature of an organism that all its parts must constitute a certain unity; if one part asserts its independence the other parts must go to destruction. No predicates, principles, and the like suffice to express the nature of the State; it must be comprehended as an organism.

The State is real, and its reality consists in the interest of the whole being realized in particular ends. Actuality is always the unity of universality and particularity, and the differentiation of the universal into particular ends. These particular ends seem independent, though they are borne and sustained by the whole only. In so far as this unity is absent, no thing is real, though it may exist. A bad State is one which merely exists. A sick body also exists; but it has no true reality. A hand, which is cut off, still looks like a hand and exists, but it has no reality. True reality is necessity. What is real is internally necessary.

To the complete State belongs, essentially, consciousness and thought. The State knows thus what it wills, and it knows it under the form of thought.

The essential difference between the State and religion consists in that the commands of the State have the form of legal duty, irrespective of the feelings accompanying their performance; the sphere of religion, on the other hand, is in the inner life. Just as the State, were it to frame its commands as religion does, would endanger the right of the inner life, so the church, if it acts as a State and imposes punishment, degenerates into a tyrannical religion.

In the State one must want nothing which is not an expression of rationality. The State is the world which the spirit has made for itself; it has therefore a determinate and self-conscious course. One often speaks of the wisdom of God in nature, but one must not believe that the physical world of nature is higher than the world of spirit. Just as spirit is superior to nature, so is the State superior to the physical life. We must therefore adore the State as the manifestation of the divine on earth, and consider that, if it is difficult to comprehend nature, it is infinitely harder to grasp the essence of the State. It is an important fact that we, in modern times, have attained definite insight into the State in general and are much engaged in discussing and making constitutions; but that does not advance the problem much. It is necessary to treat a rational matter in the light of reason, in order to learn its essential nature and to know that the obvious does not always constitute the essential.

When we speak of the different functions of the powers of the State, we must not fall into the enormous error of supposing each power to have an abstract, independent existence, since the powers are rather to be differentiated as elements in the conception of the State. Were the powers to be in abstract independence, however, it is clear that two independent things could never constitute a unity, but must produce war, and the result would be destruction of the whole or restoration of unity by force. Thus, in the French Revolution, at one time the legislative power had swallowed up the executive, at another time the executive had usurped the legislative power.


The constitution is rational, in so far as the State defines and differentiates its functions according to the nature of its concept.

Who shall make the constitution? This question seems intelligible, yet on closer examination reveals itself as meaningless, for it presupposes the existence of no constitution, but only a mere mass of atomic individuals. How a mass of individuals is to come by a constitution, whether by its own efforts or by those of others, whether by goodness, thought, or force, it must decide for itself, for with a disorganized mob the concept of the State has nothing to do. But if the question does presuppose an already existing constitution, then to make a constitution means only to change it. The presupposition of a constitution implies, however, at once, that any modification in it must take place constitutionally. It is absolutely essential that the constitution, though having a temporal origin, should not be regarded as made. It (the principle of constitution) is rather to be conceived as absolutely perpetual and rational, and therefore as divine, substantial, and above and beyond the sphere of what is made.

Subjective freedom is the principle of the whole modern world—the principle that all essential aspects of the spiritual totality should develop and attain their right. From this point of view one can hardly raise the idle question as to which form is the better, monarchy or democracy. One can but say that the forms of all constitutions are one-sided that are not able to tolerate the principle of free subjectivity and that do not know how to conform to the fully developed reason.

Since spirit is real only in what it knows itself to be, and since the State, as the nation's spirit, is the law permeating all its affairs, its ethical code, and the consciousness of its individuals, the constitution of a people chiefly depends upon the kind and the character of its self-consciousness. In it lies both its subjective freedom and the reality of the constitution.

To think of giving a people a constitution a priori, though according to its content a more or less rational one—such a whim would precisely overlook that element which renders a constitution more than a mere abstract object. Every nation, therefore, has the constitution which is appropriate to it and belongs to it.

The State must, in its constitution, permeate all situations. A constitution is not a thing just made; it is the work of centuries, the idea and the consciousness of what is rational, in so far as it is developed in a people. No constitution, therefore, is merely created by the subjects of the State. The nation must feel that its constitution embodies its right and its status, otherwise the constitution may exist externally, but has no meaning or value. The need and the longing for a better constitution may often indeed be present in individuals, but that is quite different from the whole multitude being permeated with such an idea—that comes much later. The principle of morality, the inwardness of Socrates originated necessarily in his day, but it took time before it could pass into general self-consciousness.


Because sovereignty contains in ideal all special privileges, the common misconception is quite natural, which takes it to be mere force, empty caprice, and synonymous with despotism. But despotism means a state of lawlessness, in which the particular will as such, whether that of monarch or people (ochlocracy), is the law, or rather instead of the law. Sovereignty, on the contrary, constitutes the element of ideality of particular spheres and functions under lawful and constitutional conditions.

The sovereignty of the people, conceived in opposition to the sovereignty residing in the monarch, stands for the common view of democracy, which has come to prevail in modern times. The idea of the sovereignty of the people, taken in this opposition, belongs to a confused idea of what is commonly and crudely understood by "the people." The people without its monarch and without that whole organization necessarily and directly connected with him is a formless mass, which is no longer a State. In a people, not conceived in a lawless and unorganized condition, but as a self-developed and truly organic totality—in such a people sovereignty is the personality of the whole, and this is represented in reality by the person of the monarch.

The State must be regarded as a great architectonic edifice, a hieroglyph of reason, manifesting itself in reality. Everything referring merely to utility, externality, and the like, must be excluded from its philosophic treatment. That the State is the self-determining and the completely sovereign will, the final decision being necessarily referred to it—that is easy to comprehend. The difficulty lies in grasping this "I will" as a person. By this it is not meant that the monarch can act arbitrarily. He is bound, in truth, by the concrete content of the deliberations of his council, and, when the constitution is stable, he has often nothing more to do than to sign his name—but this name is important; it is the point than which there is nothing higher.

It may be said that an organic State has already existed in the beautiful democracy of Athens. The Greeks, however, derived the final decision from entirely external phenomena, from oracles, entrails of sacrificial animals, and from the flight of birds. Nature they considered as a power which in this wise made known and gave expression to what was good for the people. Self-consciousness had at that time not yet attained to the abstraction of subjectivity; it had not yet come to the realization that an "I will" must be pronounced by man himself concerning the decisions of the State. This "I will" constitutes the great difference between the ancient and the modern world, and must therefore have its peculiar place in the great edifice of the State. Unfortunately this modern characteristic is regarded as merely external and arbitrary.

It is often maintained against the monarch that, since he may be ill-educated or unworthy to stand at the helm of the State, its fortunes are thus made to depend upon chance. It is therefore absurd to assume the rationality of the institution of the monarch. The presupposition, however, that the fortunes of the State depend upon the particular character of the monarch is false. In the perfect organization of the State the important thing is only the finality of formal decision and the stability against passion. One must not therefore demand objective qualification of the monarch; he has but to say "yes" and to put the dot upon the "i." The crown shall be of such a nature that the particular character of its bearer is of no significance. Beyond his function of administering the final decision, the monarch is a particular being who is of no concern. Situations may indeed arise in which his particularity alone asserts itself, but in that case the State is not yet fully developed, or else is ill constructed. In a well-ordered monarchy the law alone has objective power to which the monarch has but to affix the subjective "I will."

Monarchs do not excel in bodily strength or intellect, and yet millions permit themselves to be ruled by them. To say that the people permit themselves to be governed contrary to their interests, aims, and intentions is preposterous, for people are not so stupid. It is their need, it is the inner power of the idea, which, in opposition to their apparent consciousness, urges them to this situation and retains them therein.

Out of the sovereignty of the monarch flows the prerogative of pardoning criminals. Only to the sovereignty belongs the spiritual power to undo what has been done and to cancel the crime by forgiving and forgetting.

Pardon is the remission of punishment, but does not abolish right. Right remains, and the pardoned is a criminal as he was before the pardon. The act of mercy does not mean that no crime has been committed. This remission of punishment may be effected in religion, for by and in spirit what has been done can be made un-done. But in so far as remission occurs in the world, it has its place only in majesty and is due only to its arbitrary decision.


The main point upon which the function of the government depends is the division of labor. This division is concerned with the transition from the universal to the particular and the individual; and the business is to be divided according to the different branches. The difficulty lies in harmonizing the superior and the inferior functions. For some time past the main effort has been spent in organizing from above, the lower and bulky part of the whole being left more or less unorganized; yet it is highly important that it should become organic, for only thus is it a power and a force; otherwise it is but a heap or mass of scattered atoms. Authoritative power resides only in the organic state of the particular spheres.

The State cannot count on service which is capricious and voluntary (the administration of justice by knights-errant, for instance), precisely because it is capricious and voluntary. Such service presupposes acting according to subjective opinion, and also the possibility of neglect and of the realization of private ends. The opposite extreme to the knight-errant in reference to public service would be the State-servant who was attached to his task solely by want, without genuine duty and right.

The efficiency of the State depends upon individuals, who, however, are not entitled to carry on the business of the State through natural fitness, but according to their objective qualification. Ability, skill, character, belong to the particular nature of the individual; for a particular office, however, he must be specially educated and trained. An office in the State can, therefore, be neither sold nor bequeathed.

Public service demands the sacrifice of independent self-satisfaction and the giving up of the pursuit of private ends, but grants the right of finding these in dutiful service, and in it only. Herein lies the unity of the universal and the particular interests which constitutes the concept and the inner stability of the State.

The members of the executive and the officials of the State form the main part of the middle class which represents the educated intelligence and the consciousness of right of the mass of a people. This middle class is prevented by the institutions of sovereignty from above and the rights of corporation from below, from assuming the exclusive position of an aristocracy and making education and intelligence the means for caprice and despotism. Thus the administration of justice, whose object is the proper interest of all individuals, had at one time been perverted into an instrument of gain and despotism, owing to the fact that the knowledge of the law was hidden under a learned and foreign language, and the knowledge of legal procedure under an involved formalism.

In the middle class, to which the State officials belong, resides the consciousness of the State and the most conspicuous cultivation: the middle class constitutes therefore the ground pillar of the State in regard to uprightness and intelligence. The State in which there is no middle class stands as yet on no high level.


The legislature is concerned with the interpretation of the laws and with the internal affairs of the State, in so far as they have a universal content. This function is itself a part of the constitution and thus presupposes it. Being presupposed, the constitution lies, to that degree, outside the direct province of the legislature, but in the forward development of the laws and the progressive character of the universal affairs of government, the constitution receives its development also.

The constitution must alone be the firm ground on which the legislature stands; hence it must not be created for purposes of legislation. But the constitution not only is, its essence is also to become—that is, it progresses with the advance of civilization. This progress is an alteration which is imperceptible, but has not the form of an alteration. Thus, for example, the emperor was formerly judge, and went about the empire administering justice. Through the merely apparent advance of civilization it has become practically necessary that the emperor should gradually yield his judicial function to others, and thus came about the transition of the judicial function from the person of the prince to a body of judges; thus the progress of any condition is an apparently calm and imperceptible one. In this way and after a lapse of time a constitution attains a character quite different from what it had before.

In the legislative power as a whole are operative both the monarchical element and the executive. To the former belongs the final decision; the latter as advisory element possesses concrete knowledge, perspective over the whole in all its ramifications, and acquaintance with the objective principles and wants of the power of the State. Finally, in the legislature the different classes or estates are also active. These classes or estates represent in the legislature the element of subjective formal freedom, the public consciousness, the empirical totality of the views and thought of the many.

The expression "The Many" [Greek: oi polloi] characterizes the empirical totality more correctly than the customary word "All." Though one may reply that, under this "all," children, women, etc., are obviously meant to be excluded, yet it is more obvious that the definite expression "all" should not be used when something quite indefinite is in question.

There are, in general, current among the public so unspeakably many distorted and false notions and phrases about the people, the constitution, and the classes, that it would be a vain task to mention, explain, and correct them. The prevalent idea concerning the necessity and utility of an assembly of estates amounts to the assumption that the people's deputies, nay, the people itself, best understand what would promote the common weal, and that they have indubitably the good will to promote it. As for the first point, the case is just the reverse. The people, in so far as this term signifies a special part of the citizens, stands precisely for the part that does not know what it wills. To know what one wills, and, what is more difficult, to know what the absolute will, viz., reason, wills, is the fruit of deep knowledge and insight; and that is obviously not a possession of the people. As for the especially good will, which the classes are supposed to have for the common good, the usual point of view of the masses is the negative one of suspecting the government of a will which is evil or of little good.

The attitude of the government toward the classes must not be essentially a hostile one. Belief in the necessity of this hostile relation is a sad mistake. The government is not one party in opposition to another, so that both are engaged in wresting something from each other. When the State is in such a situation it is a misfortune and not a mark of health. Furthermore, the taxes, for which the classes vote, are not to be looked upon as gifts, but are consented to for the best interests of those consenting. What constitutes the true meaning of the classes is this—that through them the State enters into the subjective consciousness of the people and thus the people begin to share in the State.

In despotic countries, where there are only princes and people, the people assert themselves, whenever they act, as a destructive force directed against the organization, but the masses, when they become organically related to the State, obtain their interests in a lawful and orderly way. When this organic relation is lacking, the self-expression of the masses is always violent; in despotic States the despot shows, therefore, indulgence for his people, and his rage is always felt by those surrounding him. Moreover, the people of a despotic State pay light taxes, which in a constitutional State are increased through the very consciousness of the people. In no other country are taxes so heavy as they are in England.

There exists a current notion to the effect that, since the private class is raised in the legislature to a participation in the universal cause, it must appear in the form of individuals—either that representatives are chosen for the function, or that every individual exercises a vote. This abstract atomic view prevails neither in the family nor in civic society, in both of which the individual appears only as a member of a universal. The State, however, is in essence an organization of members, and these members are themselves spheres; in it no element shall show itself as an unorganized mass. The many, as individuals, whom one chooses to call the people, are indeed a collection, but only as a multitude, a formless mass, whose movement and action would be elemental, irrational, savage, and terrible.

The concrete State is the whole, organized into its particular spheres, and the member of the State is a member of such a particular class. Only in this objective determination can the individual find recognition in the State. Only in his cooeperate capacity, as member of the community and the like, can the individual first find a real and vital place in the universal. It remains, of course, open to him to rise through his skill to any class for which he can qualify himself, including even the universal class.

It is a matter of great advantage to have among the delegates representatives of every special branch of society, such as trade, manufacture, etc.—individuals thoroughly familiar with their branch and belonging to it. In the notion of a loose and indefinite election this important matter is left to accident; every branch, however, has the same right to be represented as every other. To view the delegates as representatives has, then, an organic and rational meaning only if they are not representatives of mere individuals, of the mere multitude, but of one of the essential spheres of society and of its large interests. Representation thus no longer means substitution of one person by another, but it means, rather, that the interest itself is actually present in the representative.

Of the elections by many separate individuals it may be observed that there is necessarily an indifference, especially in large States, about using one's vote, since one vote is of such slight importance; and those who have the right to vote will not do so, no matter how much one may extol the privilege of voting. Hence this institution turns into the opposite of what it stands for. The election becomes the business of a few, of a single party, of a special interest, which should, in fact, be neutralized.

Through the publicity of the assembly of classes public opinion first acquires true thoughts and an insight into the condition and the notion of the State and its affairs, and thus develops the capacity of judging more rationally concerning them; it learns, furthermore, to know and respect the routine, talents, virtues, and skill of the authorities and officers of the State. While publicity stimulates these talents in their further development and incites their honorable display, it is also an antidote for the pride of individuals and of the multitude, and is one of the greatest opportunities for their education.

It is a widespread popular notion that everybody already knows what is good for the State, and that it is this common knowledge which finds expression in the assembly. Here, in the assembly, are developed virtues, talents, skill, which have to serve as examples. To be sure, the ministers may find these assemblies onerous, for ministers must possess large resources of wit and eloquence to resist the attacks which are hurled against them. Nevertheless, publicity is one of the best means of instruction in the interests of the State generally, for where publicity is found the people manifest an entirely different regard for the State than in those places where there are no assemblies or where they are not public. Only through the publication of every one of their proceedings are the chambers related to the larger public opinion; and it is shown that what one imagines at home with his wife and friends is one thing, and what happens in a great assembly, where one feat of eloquence wrecks another, is quite a different thing.


Public opinion is the unorganized way in which what a people wants and thinks is promulgated. That which is actually effective in the State must be so in an organic fashion. In the constitution this is the case. But at all times public opinion has been a great power, and it is particularly so in our time, when the principle of subjective freedom has such importance and significance. What shall now prevail, prevails no longer through force, little through use and custom, but rather through insight and reasons.

Public opinion contains, therefore, the eternal substantial principles of justice, the true content, and the result of the whole constitution, legislation, and the universal condition in general. The form underlying public opinion is sound common sense, which is a fundamental ethical principle winding its way through everything, in spite of prepossessions. But when this inner character is formulated in the shape of general propositions, partly for their own sake, partly for the purpose of actual reasoning about events, institutions, relations, and the recognized wants of the State, there appears also the whole character of accidental opinion, with its ignorance and perversity, its false knowledge and incorrect judgment.

It is therefore not to be regarded as merely a difference in subjective opinion when it is asserted on the one hand—

"Vox populi, vox dei";

and on the other (in Ariosto, for instance)—[2]

"Che'l Volgare ignorante ogn' un riprenda E parli piue di quel che meno intenda."

Both sides co-exist in public opinion. Since truth and endless error are so directly united in it, neither one nor the other side is truly in earnest. Which one is in earnest, is difficult to decide—difficult, indeed, if one confines oneself to the direct expression of public opinion. But as the substantial principle is the inner character of public opinion, this alone is its truly earnest aspect; yet this insight cannot be obtained from public opinion itself, for a substantial principle can only be apprehended apart from public opinion and by a consideration of its own nature. No matter with what passion an opinion is invested, no matter with what earnestness a view is asserted, attacked, and defended, this is no criterion of its real essence. And least of all could public opinion be made to see that its seriousness is nothing serious at all.

A great mind has publicly raised the question whether it is permissible to deceive a people. The answer is that a people will not permit itself to be deceived concerning its substantial basis, the essence, and the definite character of its spirit, but it deceives itself about the way in which it knows this, and according to which it judges of its acts, events, etc.

Public opinion deserves, therefore, to be esteemed as much as to be despised; to be despised for its concrete consciousness and expression, to be esteemed for its essential fundamental principle, which only shines, more or less dimly, through its concrete expression. Since public opinion possesses within itself no standard of discrimination, no capacity to rise to a recognition of the substantial, independence of it is the first formal condition of any great and rational enterprise (in actuality as well as in science). Anything great and rational is eventually sure to please public opinion, to be espoused by it, and to be made one of its prepossessions.

In public opinion all is false and true, but to discover the truth in it is the business of the great man. The great man of his time is he who expresses the will and the meaning of that time, and then brings it to completion; he acts according to the inner spirit and essence of his time, which he realizes. And he who does not understand how to despise public opinion, as it makes itself heard here and there, will never accomplish anything great.


The freedom of public utterance (of which the press is one means, having advantage over speech in its more extended reach, though inferior to it in vivacity), the gratification of that prickling impulse to express and to have expressed one's opinion, is directly controlled by the police and State laws and regulations, which partly hinder and partly punish its excesses. The indirect guarantee lies in its innocuousness, and this again is mainly based on the rationality of the constitution, the stability of the government, and also on the publicity given to the assemblies of the classes. Another security is offered by the indifference and contempt with which insipid and malicious words are, as a rule, quickly met.

The definition of the freedom of the press as freedom to say and write what one pleases, is parallel to the one of freedom in general, viz., as freedom to do what one pleases. Such views belong to the uneducated crudity and superficiality of naive thinking. The press, with its infinite variety of content and expression, represents what is most transient, particular, and accidental in human opinion. Beyond the direct incitation to theft, murder, revolt, etc., lies the art of cultivating the expression which in itself seems general and indefinite enough, but which, in a measure, conceals a perfectly definite meaning. Such expressions are partly responsible for consequences of which, since they are not actually expressed, one is never sure how far they are contained in the utterances and really follow from them. It is this indefiniteness of the content and form of the press which prevents the laws governing it from assuming that precision which one demands of laws. Thus the extreme subjectivity of the wrong, injury, and crime committed by the press, causes the decision and sentence to be equally subjective. The laws are not only indefinite, but the press can, by the skill and subtlety of its expressions, evade them, or criticise the judgment of the court as wholly arbitrary. Furthermore, if the utterance of the press is treated as an offensive deed, one may retort that it is not a deed at all, but only an opinion, a thought, a mere saying. Consequently, impunity is expected for opinions and words, because they are merely subjective, trivial, and insignificant, and, in the same breath, great respect and esteem is demanded for these opinions and words—for the opinions, because they are mine and my mental property, and for the words, because they are the free expression and use of that property. And yet the basic principle remains that injury to the honor of individuals generally, abuse, libel, contemptuous caricaturing of the government, its officers and officials, especially the person of the prince, defiance of the laws, incitement to revolt, etc., are all offenses and crimes of different grades.

However, the peculiar and dangerous effect of these acts for the individuals, the community, and the State depends upon the nature of the soil on which they are committed, just as a spark, if thrown upon a heap of gunpowder, has a much more dangerous result than if thrown on the mere ground, where it vanishes and leaves no trace. But, on the whole, a good many such acts, though punishable by law, may come under a certain kind of nemesis which internal impotence is forced to bring about. In entering upon opposition to the superior talents and virtues, by which impotence feels oppressed, it comes to a realization of its inferiority and to a consciousness of its own nothingness, and the nemesis, even when bad and odious, is, by treating it with contempt, rendered ineffectual. Like the public, which forms a circle for such activity, it is confined to a harmless malicious joy, and to a condemnation which reflects upon itself.

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