BLOOD and IRON
Origin of German Empire As Revealed by Character of Its Founder, Bismarck
JOHN HUBERT GREUSEL
THE SHAKESPEARE PRESS 114-116 E. 28th St. New York 1915
Copyright, 1915, John Hubert Greusel
Dedicated to Stella My Wife
BOOK THE FIRST: BISMARCK'S HUMAN ESSENCE
Chapter I—The Man Himself 1. The Giant's Ponderous Hammer 2. Grossly Human Is Our Bismarck 3. Despite Political Bogs 4. Genius Combined with Foibles
Chapter II—Blood Will Tell 5. Iron-headed Ancestry 6. Animal Basis of Rise to Power 7. "The Wooden Donkey Dies Today!"
Chapter III—The Gothic Cradle 8. The Child of Destiny 9. Soft Carl, Spartan Louise
Chapter IV—Sunshine and Shadow 10. Amazing Powers of Hereditary Traits 11. The Wolf's Breed 12. Twenty-eight Duels! 13. Fizzle of First Official Service
BOOK THE SECOND: THE GERMAN NATIONAL PROBLEM
Chapter V—The Great Sorrow 14. The German Crazy Quilt 15. The Diamond Necklace
Chapter VI—Prussia's De Profundis 16. The Lash and the Kiss 17. The Prussian Downfall 18. Prussia Becomes Germany 19. Kingcraft Comes Upon Evil Days 20. The Star of Hope 21. The King Keeps Reading His Bible 22. The Deluge
BOOK THE THIRD: BISMARCK SUPPORTS HIS KING
Chapter VII—Fighting Fire with Fire 23. Voice in the Wilderness 24. The Young Giant 25. Speechless for One Whole Month 26. Bellowing His Defiance
Chapter VIII—Bismarck Suffers a Great Shock 27. Bismarck Scorns French Political Millennium 28. Militarism as National Salvation 29. King Marches with Mob!
Chapter IX—So Much the Worse for Zeitgeist 30. Not Politics—Human Nature 31. Setting Back the Century Clock 32. The Master at Work 33. Bismarck Nudges His King 34. Mystical High-flown Speeches
BOOK THE FOURTH: BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
Chapter X—Socrates in Politics 35. The Frankfort School of Intrigue 36. Preparing for German Unity 37. Tyrants Are Necessary 38. Bismarck, in Naked Realism
Chapter XI—The Mailed Fist 39. Democracy Stems from Aristocracy 40. Parallel Elements of Power
Chapter XII—By Blood and Iron! 41. The Man of the Hour 42. Rough and Tumble 43. On Comes the Storm 44. Bismarck Decides to Rule Alone
Chapter XIII—The Dream of Empire 45. Bismarck Tricks Them All 46. Prussian Domination Essential 47. By Faith Ye Shall Conquer 48. Was Bismarck a Beast?
BOOK THE FIFTH: THE GERMAN PEOPLE ARE ONE AND UNITED
Chapter XIV—Windrows of Corpses 49. Devil or Saint, Which? 50. Sleeping Beside the Dead 51. The Rejected Stone 52. His Ikon? 53. "The Dying Warrior" 54. Sadowa Summed Up 55. Manure
Chapter XV—The Great Year, 1870 56. "These Poor Times" 57. The Bugle Blast 58. Bismarck's Ironical Revenge 59. The Weaver's Hut 60. Zenith!
Chapter XVI—The Versailles Masterpiece 61. The Kaiser's Crown 62. Divine-right, a Politico-Military Fact
BOOK THE SIXTH: ONCE A MAN AND TWICE A CHILD
Chapter XVII—The Downfall 63. Bismarck's Secret Discontent 64. "Who Made United Germany?" 65. The Irony of Fate 66. Last Illusion Dispelled 67. Binding Up the Old Man's Wounds 68. Awaiting the Call 69. Refuses to Pass Under the Yoke 70. Glory Turns to Ashes
Chapter XVIII—Hail and Farewell 71. His Final and Most Glorious Decoration 72. "As One Asleep"
BOOK THE FIRST
Bismarck's Human Essence
The Man Himself
Hark, Hark! The giant's ponderous hammer rings on the anvil of destiny. Enter, thou massive figure, Bismarck, and in deadly earnest take thy place before Time's forge.
It is, it must be, a large story—big with destiny! The details often bore with their monotony; they do not at all times march on; they drag, but they do indeed never halt permanently; ahead always is the great German glory.
Forward march, under Prince Bismarck. He is our grim blacksmith, looming through the encircling dark, massive figure before Time's forge.
The sparks fly, the air rings with the rain of blows: he is in deadly earnest, this half-naked, brawny Prussian giant; magnificent in his Olympian mien; his bellows cracking, his shop aglow with cheery-colored sparks as the heavy hammer falls on the unshapen ores on the big black anvil.
Thus, toiling hour after hour in the heat and sweat, our Pomeranian smith with ponderous hammer beats and batters the stubborn German iron into a noble plan—for a great Nation!
* * * * *
From a human point, we do not always see the ultimate glory.
For that is obscured by dark clouds of party strife, extending over years, the caprices of men and the interplay of ambitions both within and without the distracted German lands. Russia, Austria, Italy, Great Britain, France, Spain, have their spies engaged in all the under-play of political intrigue; there are a thousand enemies at home and abroad, in camp, court and peasant's cottage.
And at times, weary of it all, we throw down the book convinced that, in a welter of sordid ends, the cause is lost in shame.
But, somehow, some way, Germany does in truth ultimately emerge triumphant, in spite of her amazing errors and the endless plots of enemies.
She does indeed justify her manhood—and thus the Bismarck story is of imperishable glory.
* * * * *
We say that Bismarck had to re-inspire the Germans to be a fighting nation.
What we mean is that the spirit of the ancient Teutons had to be aroused; for though it slumbered for centuries, it never died.
Rome found that out when she was still in her infancy; the Germans burnt the town by the Tiber; and the fearsome struggle between the Romans and the Germanic tribesmen lasted almost unbroken for nearly five centuries.
The Romans regarded the Germans as the bravest people in the world.
The migrations of the Cimbri and Teutones, and the frightful struggles in which after superhuman endeavors the Roman Marius destroyed his German enemies is one of the heroic pages of all history. It was a hand-to-hand contest, and torrents of human blood ran that day. Menzel tells us, (Germany, p. 85), that the place of battle enriched by a deluge of blood and ultimately fertilized by heaps of the slain, became in after years the site of vineyards whose wines were eagerly sought by connoisseurs.
The Cimbri were drawn up in a solid square, each side of which measured 7,000 paces. The foremost ranks were fastened together with chains, that the enemy might not readily break through. Even the German dogs that guarded the baggage train fought with animal ferocity. The battle went against the Germans and the slaughter was frightful. When all was lost, the Germans killed their women and children, rather than see them fall into the hands of the Romans. German courage inspired terror and created foreboding throughout the Roman world. It is a heroic story and sustains the German tradition that Germans born free under their ancient oaks never will be slaves, though the whole world is against them.
The success varied, but the Germans conquered, even in death, becoming lineal descendants of the Empire. And on the ruins were builded the German nation, as the successor of the old Holy Roman Empire.
* * * * *
We picture to you these shadowy glimpses of remote battle-scenes to show you that Germans were ever fighting men, who preferred death to loss of liberty.
On the ruins of Roman imperial glory, Teutonic conquerors founded an Empire that defied time and chance for upwards of 1,000 years; then there crept in a peculiar dry rot. The ancient German oak died at the top. Along came Napoleon, hacking away the limbs and scarring the gnarled trunk with fire and sword. The ruin seemed complete. Dead at the top, dead at the root, men said. And what men say is true. There is no longer a Germany, except as a mere geographical designation; when you speak of the German Empire you recall merely the echo of a once mighty name.
It now becomes Bismarck's solemn duty, fortified by a noble appreciation of the ancient legend, to make the German oak green again in its immortal youth. And he watered the roots with blood.
We cannot tell you the great story in a few baby-sentences; you must read and grasp the broad spirit as it gradually unfolds. Bismarck in the crudity of his early inspiration scarcely finds himself for years. But all the while he is holding fast to the idea that the Fatherland should under God be free and united, sustained by the ancient Teutonic brotherhood in arms.
We present him in part as a tyrant, a wild, intolerant spirit, working his own plans to be sure, but those plans in the end are to redound to the good of the nation he long and unselfishly serves.
We ask you to see him in his weakness and we hope with some of his strength, always with his high purpose.
We ask you to behold him as a man with all a strong man's frailties and faults. We do not spare him. We paint him black, now and then, deliberately, that you may know how very small ofttimes are the very great; also to realize that if we are to wait for perfect human beings to front our reforms then those reforms will never be made.
Bismarck is too great a man to be belittled by the glamour of spurious praise for spurious virtues.
It was not necessary for him to cease to be a human being in order to carry out his work. He remained, to the end, grossly human, for which the gods be praised.
Grossly human is our Bismarck, whose lust for control is idiomatic; let us get this clearly, first of all.
Did you ever see a bulldog battle with one of his kind? The startling fact is this: The dog suddenly develops magnificent reserve force, making his battling blood leap; is transformed into a catapult, bearing down his adversary or by him borne down—it matters not which!—for the joy of battle. To fight is the realization of his utmost being.
A peculiar fact known to all admirers of a fighting bulldog is this: The dog during the fight, looks now and then at his master near-by, as much as to say, "See how well I fight!"
Thus Bismarck looked at his King.
* * * * *
The nature of the pit bulldog is seen in Bismarck's head. His surly face inspires a sense of dread. There is that in his physiognomy that shows his ugly disposition, when aroused. If you saw that moody face in the crowd, one glance would be sufficient to make you feel how vituperative, short, sharp, murderous the unknown man could be, on occasion.
Yet the fear stirred by the sight of a pit bulldog is ofttimes largely illusionary. The dog at heart is genial in a brute way, and never a more loyal servant than the bulldog to his friends—devoted even to death, to his master.
It is the sense of dread in the bulldog's head that strikes home! So with Bismarck's physiognomy. The Iron Chancellor had but to come into the room to make his onlookers experience uneasiness. There was an ever-present suggestion of pent-up power, that could in an instant be turned upon men's lives, to their destruction!
It is true that Bismarck had his genial side, but it cannot be said that he drew and held men to him. He had thousands of admirers to one friend. During the greater part of his life he was either hated or feared—at best, misunderstood. Like the pit bulldog, Bismarck was born to rule other lives—and he fulfilled his mission.
The element of absolutism in the man, his uncompromising severity, his command of the situation regardless of cost, sorrow or suffering to other men, is seen in his realistic physiognomy. We study these facts more and more, as we go along.
* * * * *
There was always something imperious about this great man. He brooked no interference. His excessive dignity compelled respect. He never allowed familiarities; you could not safely presume on his good nature. He never permitted you to get too near. This abnormal self-confidence conveyed the idea that this giant in physique and in intellectual power was truly cut out for greatness.
One of his favorite pranks, as a boy, was to amuse himself making faces at his sister; he could frighten her by his queer grimaces.
From early youth, he was accustomed to take himself very seriously, and by his offensive manners conveyed an immediate impression of the ironical indifference in which he held humanity, in the mass.
He was a born aristocrat, in a sense of high, offensive partisanship.
Men shrank from him, cursed him, reviled his name; but they respected his intellect, even in the early days when he used his power in an undisciplined way; yes, was painfully learning the business of mastering human lives.
The brute in the man loomed large; the unreasoning but magnificent audacity of the bulldog expressed itself in scars, wounds, deep-drinking bouts, fisticuffs, and in twenty-eight duels.
But he had another kind of courage, greater in import than that expressed by physical combat.
* * * * *
When we say Bismarck's work is a revelation of his will to power, we emphasize again how unnecessary it is to make him either less or more than a human being. There is a school of writers that never mentions his name except with upturned eyes, as though he were a demigod. The tendency of human nature is to idealize such as Bismarck out of all semblance to the original, creating wax figures where once were men of flesh and blood.
Men rise to power largely in uniform ways; that psychic foundation on which they draw is always grossly human, rather dull when you understand it, always conventional;—and the great Bismarck himself is no exception.
In doing his work, Bismarck is following the psychic necessities of his character; is acting in a very personal way, upheld always by the soldier's virtue, ambition. There is also a large element of self-love. His idiomatic lust for control is to be accepted as a root-fact of his peculiar type of being. And while on the whole his ambition is exercised for the good of his country, herein he is acting, in addition, under the ardent appetite, in his case a passion, to dominate millions of lives; urged not perhaps so much from a preconceived desire to dominate as from an inherent call to exercise his innate capacity for leadership.
Making allowance for the idea that Bismarck is a devoted servant of the King of Prussia, it is not necessary to believe that Bismarck poses as the Savior of his country. In fact, he distinctly disavows this sacrifice, has too much sense to regard himself from this absurd point of view.
The words carved on Bismarck's tomb at his own request, "A Faithful German Servant of Emperor William I," show that however much other men were unable to comprehend the baffling Bismarckian character, the Iron Chancellor himself had no vain illusions.
When he was 83 and about to die, the old man taking a final sweep of his long and turbulent life, asked himself solemnly: "How will I be known in time to come?"
Fame replied: "You have been a great Prince; an invincible maker of Empire, you have held in your hand the globe of this earth; call yourself what you will, and I will write a sermon in brass on your tomb."
But the Iron Chancellor, after mature reflection, decided that his entire career, with all its high lights and its deep shadows, could be expressed in four simple words, "A Faithful German Servant." He knew exactly what he was, and how he would ultimately be represented in history.
Think what this means. On those supreme questions of Life and Time involving the interpretation of Destiny—a problem hopelessly obscure to the average man—Bismarck brought a massive mind charged with a peculiar clairvoyance; often, his fore-knowledge seemed well-nigh uncanny in its exact realism; and if you doubt this assertion, all we ask is that you withhold your verdict till you have read Bismarck's story, herein set forth in intimate detail.
How clear the old man's vision to discern behind all his Bismarckian pomp and majesty, in camp, court and combat, only the rle of faithful servant.
The phrase on his tomb proclaims the man's great mind. His overbrooding silence, as it were, is more eloquent than sermons in brass.
* * * * *
In studying Bismarck, the man, we merge his identity in the events of his time; but we must sharply differentiate between the events and the man. We incline to the belief that hereditary tendencies explain him more than does environment. It is Bismarck as a human being, and not the tremendous panorama of incidents leading to German sovereignty that always holds our interest. Life is life, and is intensely interesting, for its own sake.
Thus, we are at once freed from a common fallacy of biographical writing—that vicious mental attitude, as vain as it is egotistical on part of the over-partial historian, who would warp some manifest destiny on human life.
Bismarck needs no historical explanation, no reference to hackneyed categories in the card-index of Time. Whether his plan was dedicated to this world or to the glory of some invisible God, you may debate as you will, but Bismarck will be neither greater nor less because of flights of your imagination.
He is a great man in the sense that he did large things, but this does not make him other than he is, nor does his story lose because we know him to be grossly human in his aims. His life does not borrow anything because a certain type of mind professes to see behind Bismarck's history, as indeed behind the careers of all great men, some mysterious purpose apart and beyond human nature's daily needs. It was not necessary for Bismarck to cease to be a human being, to accomplish what he accomplished.
* * * * *
Also, for the reason that Bismarck was a genius, he is an exception to conventional rules covering the limitations of little men.
Bismarck was a born revolutionist. Look at his terrible jaw, which, like the jaws of the bulldog, when once shut down never lets go till that object is in shreds.
He was a true bulldog in this that, like the thoroughbred bulldog, Bismarck favored one feed a day. He took a light breakfast, no second breakfast, but at night would eat one enormous meal.
The bulldog follows a similar practice, when eating never looks from the plate, and the water fairly runs from his eyes, with animal satisfaction.
Bismarck compelled men to do his bidding—as the wind drives the clouds and asks not when or why. It is enough to know that that is the wind's way!
He knew the coward, the thief, the soldier, the priest, the citizen, the king, and the peasant.
He knew how to betray an enemy with a Judas kiss; how to smite him when he was down; how to dig pitfalls for his feet; how to ply him with champagne and learn his secrets; how to permit him to win money at cards, and then get him to sign papers; how to remember old obligations or to forget new favors; how to read a document in more than one way; how to turn historical parallels upside down; how to urge today what he refused to entertain a year ago; how to put the best face on a losing situation; and how to shuffle, cut and stack the cards, or at times how to play in the open.
He was not a humanitarian with conceptions of world peace or world benevolences. He was for himself and his own ends, which were tied to his political conception of a new Germany.
And all the time he was helped out by his extraordinary vital powers, his ability to work all night like a horse week after week; go to bed at dawn and sleep till afternoon; then drive a staff of secretaries frantic with his insistent demands.
Likewise, he was helped out by his remarkable personality. Actor that he was, he sometimes gained his point by his frankness, knowing that when he told the exact truth he would not be believed.
Also, he could bluff and swagger, or he could speak in the polite accents of the distinguished gentleman; he could gulp a quart of champagne without taking the silver tankard from his lips; in younger years he used to eat from four to eleven eggs at a meal, besides vegetables, cakes, beer, game and three or four kinds of meats; his favorite drink was a mixture of champagne and porter.
* * * * *
He was a chain-smoker, lighted one cigar with another, often smoked ten or twelve hours at a stretch. His huge pipes, in the drawing room; his beer, in the salons of Berlin; his irritability, his bilious streaks, his flashes of temper; his superstition about the number 13; his strange mixing of God with all his despotic conduct; his fondness for mastiffs; his attacks of jaundice; his volcanic outbursts; his belief in ghosts, in the influence of the moon to make the hair grow; his mystical something about seven and combinations of seven; his incessant repetition of the formula that he was obeying his God—were but human weaknesses that showed he had a side like an everyday common man.
On top of it all he was great, because he knew how to manage men either with or without their consent; but he always studied to place himself in a strategic position from which he could insist on his demand for his pound of flesh.
Sometimes, it took years before he could lull to sleep, buy, bribe or win over the men he needed; again when the game was short and sharp, he kicked some men out of his path contemptuously, others he parleyed with, still others he thundered against and defied; but always at the right time, won his own way.
Yes, even Bismarck's card-playing is subordinated to the shrewd ends of diplomacy. Dr. Busch, the press-agent of Bismarck during the Franco-Prussian war, tells us that Bismarck once made this frank confession:
"In the summer of 1865 when I concluded the Convention of Gastein with Blome (the Austrian), I went in for quinze so madly that the rest could not help wondering at me. But I knew what I was about. Blome had heard that this game gave the best possible opportunity for discovering a man's real nature, and wanted to try it on with me. So I thought to myself, here's for you then, and away went a few hundred thalers, which I really might have charged as spent in His Majesty's service. But at least I thus put Blome off the scent, so he thought me a reckless fellow and gave way."
Despite vast areas of political bogs, quaking under foot, that one must traverse, our Otto is not inaccessible!
For many years they hate him like hell-fire itself, this Otto von Bismarck. The Prussians hate him, the Austrians, the Bavarians, to say nothing of the intervening rabble; but our tyrant is strong enough, in the end, to win foreign wars, and then the haters veer about, almost in a night, come up on bended knees and kiss the hand that smites—that hand of Bismarck, at once the best-beloved and the most-hated hand of his time. What more pray do you ask of human nature?
Now here is a strange reality: If you look at the general outlines of the German map in 1815, you will see that the frontiers trace in a startling way the scowling outlines of Frederick the Great, "Old Fritz," who first dreamed this German unity idea.
But mighty Frederick is in the royal tomb these many years; and a new Frederick in spirit is rapidly learning the business of king-maker and empire-builder.
* * * * *
Behind the name Bismarck is a story extraordinary, compounded of the intrigues, blood and passions of Austria, Russia, Italy, France, Belgium, Bavaria, Spain, and England.
Volumes would not suffice to give you the bewildering details; mountains of diplomatic letters, orders, telegrams, truths, half-truths, shuffling, cutting and stacking; you go confusedly from palace to people, prince to pauper, university to prison pen—all the way from Waterloo to Versailles, where William I received at last his great glory, German Emperor.
Bismarck's story is best told in flashes of lightning—as you try to picture a bolt from the black skies.
By the patience of the methodical historian who laboriously examines each document in the National archives, one fills soon enough a ten-volume account—with a swamp of cross-references, footnotes to each paragraph, and with notes to the footnotes.
Yet this Bismarck is not inaccessible if we get at his inner side, grasp the man's essence.
Strong arm and tireless brain Time asked;—a man who could neither be bent, broken nor brow-beaten; a man who would for 40 years follow a plan by no means clear; often had to go out in the dark and find his way, all old landmarks lost, and no pole-star in sight.
I dwell on one outstanding fact, all down through his career: I mean Bismarck's power to conceal pain. Hurricanes of insulting criticisms swept around his head, year after year, but on the whole Otto's attitude was that of the mountain that defies the storm. He would never give in that, as it seemed to onlookers, a shaft of disagreeable truth had struck home; that a soft-nosed bullet, well aimed, had torn his flesh or broken a bone; or that a dagger-thrust, going directly through his coat of the White Cuirassier had pierced his heart.
Even in his bitter defeats, he had a peculiar idiomatic way of making out that the result was exactly what he desired. It was of course only an adroit explanation to protect his pride; the brazen invention of a nature that would not acknowledge itself in error. Here is Bismarck, to the core.
For a long and turbulent life-time Bismarck's soul was tried by the very tortures of the damned!
Wherein it is set forth that Otto von Bismarck's massive political genius, combined with his personal foibles, mark him as a heroic figure, side by side with Frederick the Great.
In attempting to depict a consistent Bismarck, we find that his life has been as much misinterpreted through the carping need of envious political critics as through the bad art of historically well-disposed friends.
The perplexing problem is to blend his massive mental grasp, side by side with his strange fits of irritability, his turbulence, his deep-drinking, his gluttony, his wild pranks.
About him at all times, whether expressed or concealed, there floated an ironic derision of the littleness of the average man, whom at heart Bismarck despised.
While the eyes of detractors are everywhere, the voice of hero-worship has likewise conspired to make an impossible idol of a man with very human and ofttimes crying frailties; the biographic truth is to be found somewhere between these two extremes; but even with this clear clue in mind, it is often difficult to reconcile amazing personal and diplomatic inconsistencies with which his career abounds.
Then, too, there is something that strikes like the irony of Socrates, only bitter instead of light; and Bismarck reveals now and then a touch remindful of that Rabelaisian hero whose enormous capacity could only be quenched by draining the river dry. To tell Bismarck's inner life-story, in a large way, one must often deal with a series of pictures akin to the gods and devils in Dore's delineations for Dante's "Inferno."
It often seems as though every important act of this great man's life was charged with the significance of Destiny, stands forth vividly against a background of intrigue, superstition, personal follies, the smoke and flame of battle—a heroic figure side by side with such master-spirits as Frederick the Great.
Like Frederick the Severe, this Bismarck is very human indeed, and has his crying weaknesses, and his enemies, God knows, tried for forty years to get rid of him by intrigue, often by assassination; yet until his great duty is done he must hold firmly to his place, must do the work which brings him no peace, or rest, only trouble year after year.
* * * * *
Throughout the amazing story, no matter which way we travel, we always return to a profound sense of this giant's will and his massive knowledge of human life, expressed in his ability to force the shrewdest men in Europe to do his bidding.
His sense of power is so supreme that sometimes it really seems that, as Bismarck himself often sets forth, his authority fell from heaven.
Here, there is a direct harking back to the ancient days in the Alt Mark, to the Circle of Stendal with its little town of Bismarck, on the Biese, where stands the ancient masonry dating from 1203, and known as the "Bismarck Louse."
The strange legend of the Bismarck Louse tells worlds of the ancient Bismarck power, in those far-off times, helps us in the year 1915 to grasp certain obscure phases of the Bismarck racial strength, inherited by Otto von Bismarck.
This medieval Bismarck Tower received its name from a gigantic louse which inhabited this place, and had to be fed and appeased; therefore, every day the superstitious peasants of the district brought huge quantities of meat and drink, for the monster's food. It is needless to add that these visits were encouraged by the Bismarck lord of the soil, in Alt Mark;—and here you see already the cunning in managing human nature so characteristic of the Bismarck genius.
The purely social application of this gossip may, however, be eyed with suspicion, as a French canard. It was so easy for "Figaro" to libel the Bismarck of 1871, whereupon the whole French press followed and barked at the Iron Chancellor's heels.
He was caricatured, spit at, reviled, depicted as the beast-man in Europe.
For one thing, Bismarck knew France was the richest nation in Europe, also that she had ambition for the left bank of the Rhine; and to General Sheridan, who chanced to be at Sedan and Gravelotte on official business, Bismarck said, "The only way to keep France from waging war in the near future is to empty her pockets."
French newspaper editors lashed themselves into insanity trying to invent new names for the man who had brought the downfall of the Empire, at Sedan; the man who at Versailles was arranging the hardest terms of peace ever conceived by a diplomatic Shylock, bent on having his pound of flesh.
Paris journalists called him "the incarnation of the evil spirit," "the Antichrist," "the shrewd barbarian," "crime-stained ogre, who was always thrashing his wife with a dog-whip," "he kept a harem, from which no Berlin shopkeeper's daughter was safe;" "once he became enamored of a nun and hired ruffians to kidnap her and bear her away to his castle;" "he is the father of many illegitimate children, in Berlin some say as many as fifty;" "he once lashed one of his Russian mistresses over the bare shoulders because he suspected her of looking at another admirer;" "he uses his confidential diplomatic knowledge to add to his huge private fortune by gambling on every Bourse in Europe."
How magnificent—if it were indeed only true! What a relief that would be over the tame details of average human life, and what a boon to biographers this grand wickedness! Alas, the tales are only important as specimens of French drawing room gossip of 1871!
The fables never bothered Bismarck a moment. When he was ready, he repaid them in his own splendid coin; and certainly he was past-master of the gentle art of putting a razor-edge on an insult!
Bismarck had his vituperative side. Egged on by his wife and his son, Bismarck became at times verbally ferocious. His wife, a descendant of those terrible Frankish women-warriors, stemming from barbarian times, could under stress exercise a barbarian's stark freedom of speech; and when Bismarck, furious at some insult, was replying with a political cannonade, she would infuriate him to still greater exertions by suggesting:
"Bismarck, hiss a little! Hiss a little!"
* * * * *
And after seven hundred years, the Bismarck psychology behind the old Tower's superstitious appeal remains substantially the same. We shall see at times as we sketch for you the life portrait of Otto von Bismarck a mysterious atavism; the self-same mental astuteness that stood his ancestors in such good stead, enabling them to frighten the peasants into providing the corn.
Yes, blood will tell—and the Bismarck blood is rare juice!
Blood Will Tell
Battle-born, Bismarck's genius springs from the very fire and sword of human nature—resembling definitely his iron-headed barbarian ancestry, whose freedom remained unconquered through the centuries.
We cannot hope to trace Bismarck to any complete legal basis—any more than we can defend the complete legitimacy of France, Belgium, or the United States, countries avowedly harking back to revolutionary origin. Bismarck's life, likewise, presents unquestioned elements of anarchistic root. Inherited from battle-born Bismarcks are forces peculiar to himself, free, and individualistic, profoundly expressive wherein Mother Nature summoning her ultimate powers endows a colossal courage in a colossal mind and body.
As far as the Thirteenth Century, the name Bismarck, then styled Bishofsmarck or Biscopesmarck, is associated with the little river Biese; but whence the original stock is for antiquarians to debate.
Believe the Bismarcks to be of Bohemian, of Frankish or of Jewish origin, or of Slavic if you will, you find bespectacled, scholastic authorities who will open the musty pages and display to you the truth.
Herbort of Biese became in due course Herbort von Bismarck. The "von" was unquestionably a mark of geographical origin, rather than a sign of nobility. The name is borne by other families from Biese; but the important part is not the name but the men behind that name, what that name stood for.
Herbort von Bismarck's name is enrolled in the guild papers as master of the merchant tailors of Stendal, in the old Mark of Brandenburg; a "Mark" being somewhat equivalent to an English "shire."
But this fact about the tailor-ancestor must not be pressed too far. Some antiquarian of the year 2700 A. D., let us say, might argue that President Taft was a steam-shoveler, because the name is found recorded among the laborers who helped dig the Panama Canal; whereas, the fact is that the President was enrolled as an honorary member of one of the labor unions.
Also, after Waterloo, when the British nation was running wild trying to imagine some distinction that as yet had not been bestowed on Wellington, the London tailors in a moment of inspiration added the Iron Duke's name to the great roll of scissor-snippers!
* * * * *
Beginning with Herbort's son, four Bismarcks, in three generations, were social lepers.
* * * * *
Klaus von Bismarck died about the year 1385, outside the holy favor of the church—as his father had died before him, and as did two sons, in their turn. But Klaus, ever shrewd in a worldly way, recommended himself as a king's fighting man; led the robber gang off with the loot in the name of his merry monarch, the Margrave of Bavaria.
For this most excellent service as a professional man-killer, Klaus was rewarded with a knight's fee of forest land, at Burgstal, an estate that remained in the family for two hundred years. There were deer, wild boar, wolves and bear in the Bismarck forest, and one day Conrad of Hohenzollern came that way on a royal hunting expedition.
Conrad could have stolen the Bismarck petty title outright, but while he confiscated Burgstal forest, he offered Schoenhausen, on the Elbe, in exchange. However, Schoenhausen did not compare with the estate that the envious monarch took by force. The Burgstal forest is to this day one of the great game preserves of the German Emperor.
The Bismarcks also received in the exchange farming land known as Crevisse, lately confiscated by the Hohenzollerns from the nuns; and one of the conditions of the transfer to the Bismarcks was that these nuns should be supported.
Strong animal basis of Bismarck's rise to Power—The story is always the same, "Fight, or die like a dog!"
Thus, from time immemorial, the fighting Bismarcks wrote their title to a share of this earth with the sword, which in spite of all Hague Conferences remains the best sort of title man has been able to devise.
As time sped and what is called Civilization grew somewhat, men took on chicken-hearted ways; and in every pinch appealed to courts for decisions formerly decided by individual brawn; till finally, as in these latter degenerate days, if a fight becomes necessary, society hires policemen to stop the row.
Klaus von Bismarck preferred to do his own murdering, and consequently, Klaus stood first in the eyes of honest men of his own generation; but in this Twentieth Century, instead of putting incompetents to the test of the sword, society, committed to the soft doctrine that all life is sacred, burdens itself with lengthening the days of the daft. A far cry that from the ideals of the early Bismarcks! It is well to keep these facts in mind, in contemplating the extraordinary career of the great Otto von Bismarck, king-maker and unifier of Germany.
* * * * *
Modern timid-hearted folk, reading of the desperate makeshifts of the old Bismarcks to get on in the world, would say off-hand, "There must be a strain of madness in the Bismarck brain?"
Unquestionably! This fighting family in each generation had its born revolutionists, its enormous egotists, its men who lived what orthodox opinion calls "godless lives"—although in their own philosophy the Bismarcks are always preaching that God is on their side. When the Elector decided to steal Burgstal forest, the Bismarcks set up this pious plea: "We wish to remain in the pleasant place assigned to us by the Almighty." Four hundred years later we find Otto von Bismarck using again and again this peculiar reasoning, to justify, at least to explain, his own career: "If I were not a Christian, I would not continue to serve the King another moment. Did I not obey my God and count on Him, I should certainly take no account of earthly masters."
In three great wars of ambition in which 80,000 perished, he repeated this solemn formula about God; he repeated it on the blood-drenched field of Koeniggraetz; he repeated it in the Holstein war, and he repeated it again at Sedan and at Gravelotte.
Bismarck persisted in this peculiar conception of life, down to the last. While in retirement, after his downfall, one day the bloody past rose before him like a dream, and he exclaimed to Dr. Busch: "Politics has brought me vexation, anxiety and trouble; made no one happy, me, my family nor anyone else, but many unhappy. Had it not been for me, there would have been three great wars less; the lives of 80,000 would not have been sacrificed; and many parents, brothers, sisters and wives would not now be mourners. That, however, I have settled with my Maker!" Now, once and for all, what we understand this to mean is merely this: a super-abundance of faith. Many great leaders have had it—David, Cromwell, Bismarck.
* * * * *
In seeking biographic clues, through hereditary influences, we are impressed with the astounding animal-basis of strength behind the Bismarcks, from earliest recorded history. They were a deep-drinking, prolific gormandizing race, and every mother's son had to do battle by brawn backed by the sword, or die like a dog! This bred high tempers, turbulent manners and contempt for the weak.
Soldiers, diplomatists, brow-beaters, characterized the Bismarck clan down through centuries. Stormy and adventurous Bismarcks fought for the sheer delight of doing battle;—it mattered not, whether against the Turks or against some near-by king whose lands the German robber-knights lusted for and wished to annex by appeal to the sword.
There is a story of a garrison brawl in which a Bismarck slew his companion in drink, then fled to Russia, then on to Siberia; soldier of fortune, he fights under any flag that promises a gay life and plenty of loot. Three hundred years later—how the wheel turns round!—Otto von Bismarck, as Russian Ambassador to the King of Prussia, engaged in intrigues for the same old lust of land, the same old nefarious business, but this time sprayed over by the high-sounding name, diplomacy.
Dr. Busch, the Saxon press-agent for Prince Bismarck, repeats the old tale of the winning of Alsace by the French king, through the aid of Otto von Bismarck's great-great-grandfather, a mercenary soldier; adding that while one Bismarck helped take Alsace away, another of that redoubtable family brought it back many years later, with the added joy of the prodigious money-fine of five billions of francs!
Boisterous Col. Bismarck, of the Dragoons; "The Wooden Donkey dies today!" French Cavalier Bismarck and his mushy prose-poems.
Burly strength and horse-play, rather than diplomacy, were always distinctive traits of that part of the Bismarck family immediately surrounding Otto von Bismarck; and in Otto's case, although the years gradually taught him that there are more ways of stopping a man's mouth than by cutting off his head, on the whole we seek in vain, among ancestral Bismarcks, for any striking characteristics in which the point does not turn either on gluttony or on deep-drinking.
They were enormous eaters. Bread and meat were not enough. They must have game, fish, cake, wines, and plenty of each. Hunger put them in a rage. They were iron men, with stomachs of pigs.
They were unbrooked master spirits, followed the hounds, fought duels, had noisy tongues, and gloried in personal independence.
When they loved they loved madly; when they hated it was the same. They drank all night and were out again at dawn.
Yet in their way, they were high-minded gentlemen, devoted themselves industriously to their duties; and it may be that the turbulence of their lives borrowed something from the rude clash of opinion that often divided the best friends, during the stormy periods of history in which they fought as soldiers of fortune.
Otto von Bismarck's great-grandfather, Augustus, calling his cronies of the barracks around him, was wont to add zest to the carousal by introducing the trumpet call after each toast; to heighten the infernal racket, the boisterous colonel of dragoons ordered a volley fired in the drink-hall.
This terrible dragoon, master of the hounds, guzzler, companion and leader in all revels, was generally voted one of the amiable men in army circles. He was a noted shot. In one year of record his score was 154 red deer and 100 stag.
At the Ihna bridge was a ducking stool, for army punishments; it took the amusing style of a wooden donkey, and was so called by the dragoons as a rude joke.
After one of his hard drinking bouts, it was often the colonel's amusing habit to order his men to march to the bridge; on arriving the band struck up and the wooden donkey was thrown into the stream. "All offenders of my regiment are forgiven," Bismarck would bawl, "the donkey dies today!"
Then with all manner of opera bouffe the offending donkey would be put overboard—only to be brought out next morning, ready for official business.
* * * * *
But our fun-loving colonel's good times were now over. As commander of the gallant Anspach-Bayreuth dragoons, Augustus fought for Frederick the Great and was severely wounded at Czaslau. Austrian hussars surprised the transport wagons carrying the wounded to the rear, and with brutality common to the soldier-business of that rude day killed the defenseless Prussians, among whom was our Colonel von Bismarck.
* * * * *
Bismarck's grandfather, Karl Alexander, leaned toward the namby-pamby intellectual rather than to the social and convivial. He is remembered for his affected poetical style. Karl, brave soldier, attracted the eye of no less a judge of valor than the Great Frederick, who appointed this Karl Alexander von Bismarck an attache of the Prussian embassy at Vienna.
Karl, like other Germans of the sentimental period, aped the French poets; but when a German is sentimental, the mush-pots boil over. Karl's writings show that peculiar over-inflated quality, "sentimentality," so much admired in the rococo period.
* * * * *
Karl William Ferd., Otto's father, and Louise Wilhelmina, Otto's mother, born Mencken, lived at Schoenhausen in troublous French times. Oct. 14th, 1806, the terrible defeat at Jena put Prussia in the hands of the enemy.
Fortresses surrendered without firing a shot, and the panic-stricken king fled to the far eastern side of his domains, near Russia.
All this took place within three months after the marriage of Karl and Louise, who had now set up housekeeping at Schoenhausen.
The Bismarcks tried to escape in a coach, but the French unexpectedly appeared and ordered Karl back to the house. The French ransacked every room; Louise fled to the library and locked the massive oak door; to this day it bears the marks of French bayonets; the Bismarcks then hid in the forest where they remained all night with panic-stricken neighbors; at dawn Karl and Louise ventured out, to find Schoenhausen a scene of destruction.
The one galling fact that Karl could not overlook, in Marshal Soult's raid, was the desecration of the genealogical tree. This huge painting with its shields of the Bismarck descent was slashed from end to end, with bayonets!
Oh, Otto von Bismarck remembered this many, many years later, in making terms with the French after Sedan—do not for a moment forget that! Such is the amazing power of hereditary loves and hates;—and certainly the Bismarcks had no reason to admire the French.
The Gothic Cradle
Idyl of the child Otto, in his huge Gothic cradle at Schoenhausen; wonders that gather 'round his destiny, a forecast and a reality.
Otto Edward Leopold von Bismarck, the great central figure in our story, was the fourth of six children, three dying in infancy. He was born April 1, 1815, but a few months before the crowning defeat at Waterloo—that year big with the hammer-blows of Destiny!
In lonesome Schoenhausen on the Elbe, the village lately devastated by Marshal Soult and his plundering soldiers, the infant Otto sleeps peacefully in his oak-carved Gothic cradle. A century later, we still see that huge cradle as one of the souvenirs in the famous Bismarck museum at Schoenhausen.
Schoenhausen house is one of those thick-walled monuments of medival masonry.
There is, to be sure, something out of drawing about the antiquated three-story house; and we survey with respect for the past the queer courtyard, leaded panes, park with the artificial island, wooded byways, and old forest, and not far away is the village church with the square stone tower; hard by, also, the kattenwinkel, or Katte's corner, at the confluence of the Havel and the Elbe; and on the house is the Katte's coat-of-arms, a cat watching a mouse, the mark of the sturdy 17th century builder, Katte, who to honor his wife, Dorothea Sophia Katte, added her name to his builder's sign over the lintel.
In this historical 1815, seed-time and harvest strangely blend, yet are years apart.
For, while the child sleeps in his Gothic cradle, the Congress of Vienna meets to redistribute among the hungry kings the old domains stolen as prizes in the long Napoleonic wars; and in turn, after incredible political adventures, running over years, the child before us, grown to be a man, will smash the rulings of Vienna and will build an empire stronger far than that of imperial France, now dying at Waterloo.
All these wonders gather 'round the destiny of the child in the big Gothic cradle, before which we now tiptoe at Schoenhausen, lest we awaken the baby and he cry.
* * * * *
When the French overrun Prussian territory the old land-owning military aristocracy was reduced to bankruptcy. Mortgages falling due could not be paid; the king extended credit for four years; and in the interim Prussians were forced to use depreciated rag-money; all the gold and silver had been confiscated by the French invaders.
Great dissatisfaction followed. The farms had been tilled by feudal-laborers, practically slaves; these oppressed peasants now flew to arms.
Schoenhausen was a dreary place indeed; while the Bismarcks were better off than their neighbors, still the times were out of joint and ruin fell over the broad acres.
Then came an unexpected change. Along about 1816, Karl inherited Kneiphof, Kuelz and Jarchelin estates from his cousin, moved to Kneiphof, just east of the hamlet of Naugard.
The house was exceeding modest; a brook, the Zampel, ran near by; and there was a carp pond. Karl was fond of hunting in the old beech forest. Such were the unsettled conditions in the Bismarck family, up to Otto's sixth year.
Soft-hearted Karl and Spartan Mother Louise; her rigid character, its good and its bad side; her extreme punctilio and her pistol-shooting, to steady her sight.
Otto von Bismarck inherited his tall form from his father, Karl William. This unusual type of cavalry captain subscribed for French journals and ate off silver plate. Karl's regiment was known as the "White and Blue," and one of his duties was to get up at 4 in the morning and measure corn for horses. At one time the captain lived in Berlin, but he soon tired of the capital and gladly returned to the country where he passed his days as squire. To the end of his life, he was fond of horseback riding and hunting; and he brought his sons up to ride like centaurs.
Bismarck's mother, Louise Wilhelmina Mencken, married at the age of sixteen; her husband Karl was nineteen years her senior.
In the family circle, the father was known as the heart, the mother as the brains; but in Louise's case it might well read "ambition." She wished to see Otto von Bismarck, her youngest son, become a diplomatist—a judgment that in the light of after years seems almost uncanny.
Later, at the full tide of the Chancellor's great glory, frequently his earliest friends used to say, "Bismarck, had your mother only survived to see this day!"
* * * * *
The wife's leading trait was her inflexible resolution, the will to rulership;—and rule she certainly did, always.
For one thing, she steadied her nerves and schooled her sharp eyes by practising pistol shooting.
There was Spartan courage about her decisions! Frau Bismarck's irritability had been growing of late; Karl was too soft with Otto. She was angered to think that her husband might spoil Otto, by too much coddling. The domestic climax came.
That day at table, Otto with childish impatience, began swinging his legs like a pendulum. The good-natured Karl hadn't it in his heart to correct the child, but instead began making excuses for Otto's conduct. This aroused Louise's ire. To smooth matters Karl said, "See, Minchen, how the boy is sitting there dangling his little legs!"
Louise then and there read her ultimatum. She would not have her son spoiled by the foolishness of his soft father—not at all! She would send her beloved son away, first. At the time, Otto was only six years old.
And she thereupon proceeded to keep her decision—acting with all the aggressiveness for which in later life Otto von Bismarck was himself celebrated.
Sunshine and Shadow
Wherein is shown the amazing power of hereditary traits; history repeats itself.
It was from his mother that Prince Bismarck, the future ruler of Germany, received his endowment of dauntless audacity, his gift of trenchant argument, his bursts of ironical laughter, his power of instant decisions, his scolding, and his bitter wrath. All these qualities shone in the parliamentary fight before the Austrian war, when for three years he defied the country, and raised the Prussian war-funds by extortion!
In one sense, he was always stacking the cards! And what chance has the fellow-player against the dealer with the marked deck? Bismarck's life abounds with episodes showing this astonishing readiness. In love, in laughter and in intrigue, it was ever the same. Bismarck's use of human nature, constructively, at the precise psychological moment, redounding to his self-interest, is supreme.
* * * * *
At the wedding of his friend Blankenburg to Fraulein Thadden-Triglaff, the bridesmaid was Fraulein Johanna von Puttkammer. Bismarck saw, admired and decided. Soon after in a Hartz journey, with the Blankenburgs, Otto had a brief opportunity to favor energetic measures. He wasted no time, Johanna must become his wife! He wrote direct to the young lady's parents, with whom he was not acquainted. A flying visit followed to the home of his intended father-in-law. The Puttkammers were surprised at the suitor's impetuous love-making, also were shocked by the reputation Bismarck had for fast living.
The moment he saw parents and daughter he forced the situation. Throwing his arms around his sweetheart, Bismarck embraced her, vigorously. And thus he won his bride even before an unwilling father and mother; for Bismarck carried them off their feet by the very audacity of his wooing.
* * * * *
During the Franco-Prussian war, coming to the Rothschild chteau, Bismarck found 17,000 bottles of wines in the cellar, under lock and key; and the keeper was determined that Bismarck should not use the master's champagnes.
It took Bismarck only a few minutes to change all that. Soon he was comfortably settled in the Baron's private chambers, reached by a grand winding staircase; here the Chancellor proceeded to make himself at home in dressing gown and slippers.
He rang for the butler, ordered wine for himself and suite. The keeper of the cellar still refused—and Bismarck's black ire rose. In a voice of thunder he cried, "If you do not open that cellar door by the time I count five, you will be trussed on a spit, like a fowl!"
After that, the Prussians had what they wanted, made merry on the rare wines of Baron Rothschild, who was known as a hater of Prussia and an admirer of Austria.
Bismarck now decided to try various gastronomic oddities; ordered his staff to shoot pheasants from the Baron's preserves, and commanded the cook to stew the birds in champagne!
* * * * *
When Napoleon wrote his famous note, at Sedan, "Not having been able to die in the midst of my troops, there is nothing left for me but to place my troops in your Majesty's hands," Bismarck saw the human nature side at a glance! He urged peace, then and there, with the Prince Imperial on the throne, and "under German influence," which would thus give to Prussia the whip hand. General Sheridan tells the story.
It was an instantaneous look into the far future, and although it did not prevail, for certain important reasons, the Chancellor caught the human side of the combination, with the clarity of a dramatist constructing a plot.
On his mother's side, Otto von Bismarck comes of hunting, fighting and farming stock.
Shrewd, wise, ambitious, and haughty—with these traits she richly endowed her son. His father was handsome, bright, solid, emphatic-looking, but with a yielding disposition; the iron will and sharp tongue of the wife overawed the husband. The shrewish frau had things largely her own way, was able to read a lecture like the wrath of God. However, on the whole, the couple got along passably well—for Karl never took Louise too seriously! When Frau Louise's efforts to make a lackey of him got on his nerves, Karl called his cronies and away they went fox-hunting.
At the tender age of six, already is Otto forced out of the family circle; the wolf's breed shows its teeth.
Well, the incensed Louise, weary of the softness of Karl, and fearing lest Karl would spoil Otto by too much petting, packed the child off to Plamann Institute, Berlin, a school of the Squeers type.
Otto remained in this Spartan school-prison for nearly six years, and to the end of his life carried unpleasant memories. Plamann Institute idea was to harden lads, but instead of hardening the practices there embittered.
The half-starved boys were up at 6; breakfast of bread and milk; religious exercises at 7; at 10, luncheon of bread and salt; then, a run in the garden; at noon, dinner from the hands of Frau Plamann; and if a lad wanted a second plate, and couldn't eat it all, he was punished by being sent to the garden, there to remain till he had gulped down the last morsel, even though he fairly choked; at teatime, bread and salt, or warm beer and slices of bread; all day, studies of interminable length and dullness;—but, best of all, fencing exercises wound up the day.
In the school yard was a lone lime-tree, and here the boys came running as a goal for their sports. Using this lime-tree as a pulpit, Otto used to read to his companions chapters from Becker's stories about giants.
There was a pond near Schoenberg where the pupils used to go bathing. Otto's chum was Ernest Kriger.
After six years of this life on salt and potatoes, Otto was transferred to Dr. Bonnell's Frdk-Wm. Gymnasium, Berlin, and in another year to Grey Friars' Gymnasium. Soon after Dr. Schleiermacher confirmed Otto, at Trinity Protestant church.
In the light of subsequent history, it is significant, almost uncanny, to recall the life-text offered to Otto at this solemn moment by his pastor: "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Many years later—just before his death—Bismarck ordered the motto to be carved on his tomb; all his life he had followed the text.
The lad was two years at Grey Friars' school. While there Otto's deep-seated hatred of the French is again visible for a decisive moment.
In 1806 Marshal Soult had slashed the genealogical tree of the Bismarck family; and young Otto, who often heard the story, grew up with the idea that the French were ogres.
The school schedule, among other studies, called for French, or English as an optional selection; although all Otto's chums decided for French, the lad flatly refused to follow and instead stood almost alone in the English class.
He is no longer a child when he says good-bye to Grey Friars; he is a young man of 17—and life is opening before him.
Life! The joyous care-free life of youth and inexperience; with the world and its cares still seemingly far away!
At Goettingen, he joined the Hannovera Corps and his record is twenty-eight duels; his face bore many scars, among them a long cut from left jaw to corner of his mouth.
Otto's mother, who had strong social aspirations and held to the rigid exclusiveness of the upper classes, wished to send her son to an aristocratic university. So she selected Goettingen. Her ideas were to make her son a man of dignity and solid social qualities.
Alas, he became but an indifferent student, excelling principally in dueling, beer-bouts in college taverns, dog-fighting, flirting, and general deviltries unnumbered, for which he spent considerable time in the college dungeon. Listen to this:
Many years ago, in his roaring student days, long before Otto von Bismarck was famous, he received an invitation to a ball, and went to the shoemaker to be measured for high-topped military boots, affected by the beaux of that day. Calling some days later, he was told that it would be impossible to get them finished in time; and he would therefore have to wear his old boots to the ball.
Bismarck scowled and going back to his rooms, whistled for his two ferocious dogs with which he was wont to trail around town; returning to the cobbler's the daring rascal said in a loud voice: "Mister bootmaker, at a signal from me the dogs will tear you to pieces! I am here to tell you, in the most friendly way in the world, that it is absolutely necessary to have my boots on time."
Bismarck then went away, but he hired a man to parade up and down in the vicinity of the shop with the two mastiffs; and now and then this man dropped in, and in a voice of sorrow, said to the cobbler: "My master has a terrible temper and I am sorry for you." At that, the shoemaker told his wife: "Frau, I am going to work all night, to get Herr Bismarck's boots finished in time for that ball!"
It is needless to add that young Bismarck had his boots on time.
* * * * *
In discussing Bismarck's life and personality many writers will tell you that the man is inconsistency itself; advocating now what in a year he will recant; that for this and other reasons it is baffling to try to make a picture many-sided enough to portray adequately his complex life.
On the contrary, Bismarck, once you get the biographic clue, is as open, free and direct as the light of the noonday sun. And the story of the poor cobbler and the boots is all there is to it!
Repeat this story in a hundred and one forms, and the same man is always behind.
Among his cronies, he early gained the name "The Mad Bismarck." At Goettingen university, Otto fought 28 duels and his face bore his fighting scars.
To scare the girls and to make them shriek and lift their skirts, a sight that the rascal Otto enjoyed, one night at a dance he let loose a small fox in the ball room! And he had ridden like the devil, some 30-odd miles to be at this dance.
As for drinking, no man could put him under the table. Later in life, he invented his own special draught, a combination of champagne and porter; ordinary men dropped under the deadly compound as from a dose of cyanide of potassium, but Otto could drain his quart without taking the tankard from his lips. He soon had all the company under the chairs, like dead soldiers.
Often, at country houses, he fired pistols to awaken guests in the morning.
His groom fell into the canal, the young giant Bismarck leaped in and dragged the drowning man to safety; for this heroic deed, Bismarck won his first medal.
* * * * *
Bismarck's student life was tempestuous. He was indeed full of the very devil.
His every-day get-up comprised top boots, long hair flowing over the collar of his velveteen jacket; a big brass ring on the first finger of his left hand; two fierce mastiffs trotted sullenly at his side. He trailed around, smoking a long pipe.
The young man's high animal spirits broke all restraints; he smoked, he drank, he sang, he flirted, and he fought; but as for books, he did as little studying as he could.
He was sent many times to the university "carcer" or prison; an interesting souvenir is still to be seen at Goettingen, the student-prison door, on which Bismarck carved his name in 1832, when he was "doing" ten days for acting as second in a pistol duel.
With a Mecklenburg student, Otto's great chum, a trip was made through the Hartz mountains, and on returning a wine dinner was offered to other students.
All the fellows drank too much brandy. Bismarck made an inflammatory speech, at table, ending by showing his derision of scholasticism by hurling ink bottles out of the window. For this breach of the rules, he was hauled before the university court. Here, he appeared in outlandish get-up, jack boots, tall hat, long pipe, dressing gown—and coolly asked the proctor what 'twas all about. Bismarck's huge dogs, with which he was always accompanied, frightened the proctor half to death! Bismarck was promptly fined five thalers for his absurdities; he paid the fine and began studying up more deviltry.
Joining the Hannovera Corps of fighting men, Otto was soon known as "Achilles," leading the fellows in all sword-play. He fought duel after duel, and finally under the influence of Morley, an American student, decided to switch over from the Hannovera to the Brunswick corps—whereon every Jack in the Hannovera sent Otto a challenge.
* * * * *
On a trip to Jena, the fellows decided on a riot, and were deep in their cups when the Goettingen proctor arrived to bring the runaway Bismarck back, and put him in the "carcer" till he cooled off. The Jena fellows carried on at a great rate to think that the beloved "Achilles" had to leave so unceremoniously, but at the last moment hitched up six horses and paraded Bismarck around town, as a demonstrative fare thee well!
* * * * *
The scene of many of his drinking bouts was "Crown" tavern, an ancient Goettingen resort, where the fellows sat on wooden benches in front of a long bar and drank till they felt like fighting cocks. By the way, it is a bit strange that Otto had such amazing capacity; for he was as thin as a knitting needle.
Among the men Bismarck met at this bar was Albrecht von Roon, who many years later was to become the great Prussian military drill-master.
Bismarck finally left Goettingen in August, '33; his last duel was with an Englishman who had made fun of the German peasant, describing that worthy as "a dunce in a night cap, whose night-dress is made of 39 rags." The 39 rags was an allusion to the 39 petty German states. Bismarck was already becoming imbued with the "national German faith," as it was called, and could not let the insult go by.
As a rule, Bismarck was lucky in his sword play. The biggest slash he received was made by Biedenweg, whose sword broke and cut Otto from jaw to lip, on the left cheek—a scar that Bismarck carried to his grave.
Giesseler, the proctor, gave Bismarck a very doubtful letter of recommendation; the duelist and beer-drinker had asked for a transfer to Berlin university. Otto wanted to hear law lectures by Savigny.
He began his Berlin course in a mocking way. There was an unserved jail sentence hanging over Bismarck's head at Goettingen; and with sham seriousness, as though he were going to turn over a new leaf, Otto humbly set up that, to be strictly honest with the professors, to jail Otto must go and to jail they sent him! But no sooner was he out than he forgot all his good resolutions, and began his mad existence again.
Finally, in May, 1835, he passed his examination in law, or "advocate assistant," but not without hiring a professional "crammer" to drill him hours and hours—to make up for wasted weeks in beer cellars and with the pretty girls.
Deficient in discipline, young Otto makes a fizzle of his first office-holding; his shocking conduct against his superior officer; back to the old estates, he looks after the cattle, dogs and horses.
Harum-scarum days are over—and now for the serious business of life. Years later, in the days of his great renown, Bismarck, thinking of his early preparation, always regretted, he said, that he did not join the army. As a matter of fact, he had no serious plans for years to come—and it would appear that, on the whole, his career was decided by accident. Of this more, at the right time, later.
* * * * *
When Bismarck was 20, he served several months at Aix-la-Chapelle, in court work, then was transferred to Potsdam, to the administrative side.
He soon showed himself deficient in discipline. An over-officer kept him waiting, and Bismarck took personal offense. At last Bismarck was admitted. The over-officer was sitting there, calmly killing time smoking a cigar. Bismarck leaned over and in his gruff way asked, "Give me a match!" This in itself was highly insolent, a violation of Prussian ideas of discipline. But the astonished over-officer complied. The young clerk thereupon sprawled in a chair and lighted his cigar.
It was, you see, merely to show his independence. Also, it meant that he had to get out of the service.
Bismarck was glad to go; he hated intensely the clock-like regularity of the Prussian bureaucracy.
His mother died in 1839, at which time Otto was 24; and on the young chap now fell the management of the Pomeranian estates.
In 1844, Otto went to live with his father at Schoenhausen; here, Otto and his brother looked after the farms. Otto was later appointed Dyke-captain of the Elbe.
Along about this time, a religious revival swept through Prussia and Otto was carried away on the flood; also, he began showing himself a strong monarchical man.
Always religious and always a King's man, at heart, Otto now seriously studied religion and state affairs. When the call came, he was not found wanting!
* * * * *
We hasten along. In 1847, Otto's naturally deep religious convictions were strengthened by his wife's uncompromising orthodoxy.
It was in this year, also, that he made his entry into Prussian politics—to the study of which he was to devote his long life and his surprising genius. However, to present a clear idea of the work Bismarck was to do, it is necessary to return, briefly, to an earlier day, and to trace a complex historical movement through the past. We shall summarize, on broad lines, the problem presented by the question of German national unity. The German problem comprised a political, sociological and racial situation toward whose solution hundreds, if not thousands, of notable men and women, for several generations past, had sought in vain.
"Nothing," says Wilhelm Gorlach, "can more clearly prove Bismarck's historical importance than the fact that we are obliged to go back several centuries to understand the connection of his actions."
BOOK THE SECOND
The German National Problem
The Great Sorrow
The German crazy-quilt, of many hues and colors, and how this blanket was patched and mended through the years.
From the 18th Century, and indeed before that time, to say nothing of years to come as late as 1871, there was in fact no Germany. The term was a mere geographical "designation." We shall hear more of this, as Bismarck assumes the stupendous task of German unity, in a real sense of the word; but we will never understand what Bismarck and other statesmen who hoped for German unity had to deal with, unless we take a broad survey of conditions in Germany from the year 1750; not only from the political but also from the social and domestic side, as represented in 300-odd German principalities that like a crazy-quilt were thrown helter-skelter from Hamburg on the North to Vienna on the South.
Many of the holdings were gained through musty papers from rulers of the ancient Holy Roman Empire, a nation Voltaire declared "neither holy, nor empire, nor Roman."
There were free cities, great landlords, and there were great robber-barons—thieves of high or low degree.
At Cologne, Treves and Mayence archbishops held the lower valley of the Moselle, also some of finest parts of the Rhein valley.
Next, came dukes, landgraves, margraves, cities of the Empire, and then still smaller, duchies in duodecimo, down through some 800 minor landlords who as the owners of some borough or village walked this earth genuine game cocks on their own dunghills. Political conditions were distressing; old feuds, old hates prevailed.
There were restrictions on commerce, statute labor, barbarous penal laws, religious persecution and Jew-baiting.
* * * * *
In short, to make 300-odd jealous princelings join hands in national brotherhood is the complex problem that goes down through the years; generation after generation; till at last the one strong man appears, Otto von Bismarck, who in his supreme rise to power sees clearly that the only hope for Germany is in a complete social and political revolution, in which the changes in the German mind concerning political unity in governmental affairs must be as unusual as the transformations in the German mode of life.
* * * * *
During the early part of the 18th Century, of which we are now writing, a certain bold political doctrine still stood unchallenged. It had come out of the dim and hoary past, and in effect it proclaimed the power of the fist. For centuries unnumbered the idea prevailed that a state defends itself against foreign foes, and otherwise conserves its existence through the direct will of a strong ruler, preferably a king brought up in arms.
Thus the "genius of the people" meant in effect the wisdom or the ignorance of the line of kings.
Under this theory, Prussia by slow degrees and through many sacrifices of blood and treasure, had become a great power.
Fred: Wm. I., (1713-40), who was indeed a miser and a scoffer, freed little Prussia from debt and rebuilt cities ruined by the wars. He likewise established a system of compulsory education, made schoolmasters state officers, and contributed mightily to a higher standard.
And he went further still: he welcomed religious exiles from other parts of Germany; he settled thousands of immigrants on the raw lands; he saved his money, economized to the last pfennig, was prudent in a worldly sense, and to the end of his life remained intolerable foe of idleness.
It was from this severe master that the Great Frederick (1740-86) learned the trick of laying his cane over the backs of peasants and crying out in rage: "Get to work!"
Old Fritz continued his line of battle from 1740 to 1763, in various unequal contests with the Allies. He fought Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, Saxony, and Poland, and for a while he fought their allied strength. The upshot was that Prussian enemies at home and abroad were defeated and Prussia won first rank as a military and political power. This idea of military discipline, united with large worldly sagacity in the management of state affairs, marks and explains Prussia's rise to power.
But the decline was equally manifest under Fr: Wm. II, the Great Frederick's nephew. Although he inherited a domain of six millions of people, banded under an excellent administrative system, sustained by the disciplined army of "Old Dessauer" (Prince Leopold), and although Fr: Wm. II found the huge sum of 40,000,000 thalers in his fighting uncle's treasure chest, yet within a few years all these splendid advantages were frittered away in idle dalliance and the weak king found himself twenty millions in debt.
By the time he died, 1797, Prussia was riding to a fall; and disregarding plain measures for her own safety, she had reached the sad place where the sturdy old Prussian spirit of prudence and independence had become so compromised that Prussia almost deemed it unessential to preserve her own political life!
Thus, within three generations, Prussia repeated the old story of human life, wherein the weak descendant eats up the strong sire's goods. Frederick the Great died Aug. 17th, 1786. Within three years, France struck at the German lands; and within 20 years the old Constitution of the Empire was scoffed at by encircling enemies along the frontiers, led by France, while at home political disputants destroyed National spirit by exciting revolution after revolution. "Everywhere," says Zimmermann, (Germany, p. 1618), "one felt the morning breeze of the new dispensation." The cry of the people had to be answered, and the common man wanted to know not only "Why!" but "When!"
For the ensuing 85 years clamor, disruption and disunion continue often accompanied by bloodshed; till through Bismarck's great work over which he toiled for 40-odd years, came the final answer of the Imperial democracy, 1871.
* * * * *
It is to be the labor of years with confusion worse confounded, as we go along. The Feudal system, with which Germany has been for centuries petrified, must be thrown off; the peasant laborers freed in some sort, whether social or political, the absurd restrictions of countless customs houses walling-in each petty principality, must be destroyed. Before a new Germany may emerge, if Germany is to emerge at all, a National faith must be stimulated, fighting blood stirred, wars waged. Then, and then only, may this idea of German Unity, long the puzzling mental preoccupation of the fathers, become a geographical actuality and a political fact.
The German peasants' sense of respect for vested authority, even when held by hated kings, made the common people of the various German states almost ox-like in their patience under harsh political conditions.
Between the power of petty tyrants and of foreign despots, there was no freedom worthy of the name.
The German lived for himself, aloof, suspicious, not caring particularly to change his condition.
Compromise after compromise, failure after failure, sorrow after sorrow must be recorded in the great story; but do not despair. In amazing manner, through blood and iron, Otto von Bismarck, our blond Pomeranian giant, will face, fight and finally conquer the bewildering cross-forces of his time—till "German national faith" is supreme.
* * * * *
Paying no attention to its neighbor, each German state stood off by itself; each princeling had his army, in some instances only 25 men; each ruler had his castle, in imitation of Versailles; each state its custom house, its distinct court and rural costumes.
To go ten miles north or south was to find yourself in a new world; you could scarcely understand the mush-talk of the peasants, whereas the various Liliputian courts chattered in mongrel French, aped from Versailles.
The minor courts of Germany imitated the excesses of Versailles; had dancing teachers from Paris, French barbers, French governesses, and French prostitutes.
Every young man of wealth was sent to Paris to acquire what was called "bon ton," that is to say, familiarity with the vices of the day; the etiquette of the fan and the study of new ways to spend money wrung from over-taxed peasants of German provinces was also regarded as very important.
Even to speak German was held a mark of vulgarity; and what more despicable than to be ashamed of one's ancestry?
Unmoved by the sufferings of the peasants, Augustus III of Saxony applied himself to grand operas, written by queens of French society. While the peasants were living like beasts, Frederick Augustus, the successor, spent his time hunting red deer. The dukes of Coburg and Hildburghausen were miserable bankrupts. As a result of social excesses, Charles VII of Bavaria left a debt of forty millions. Charles Theodore, in some respects an enlightened monarch, is particularly remembered for three strange facts: That he once gave an opera in German and not in French; that he tried to sell off Bavaria, his inheritance, and move to a more congenial locality; and third, that he hired Rumford, the great chemist, to invent a soup, at low cost, to feed the poor, whose miseries had been growing on account of the bad government.
Nor should we overlook the monarch at Zweibrucken, the Pfalzgraf Charles. His mania took the form of collecting pipes and toys, of which he had innumerable specimens from the ends of the earth. He kept also one thousand five hundred horses and a thousand dogs and cats. Every traveler had to take off his hat and bow at sight of the spire, on pain of being beaten by the Count's constable.
Charles Eugene, of Wuertemberg, slave to luxury, played pranks when he was not indulging in vices. He liked to alarm peasants at night with wild cries; and when a woman stuck her head out of the window, the monarch would throw a hoop and try to drag her outside. In a deep forest he built his castle "Solitude."
On his 50th birthday, he wrote to his subjects, promising to mend his life; the letter was read in all the churches. The people decided that he was in earnest, promised him more money, of which he was in sore need. His first step was to contract a left-handed marriage with Francisca von Bernedin, whom he raised to the rank of countess.
His next step was to build a queer bird-cage for his new mate. Menzel says of this episode: "Records of every clime and of every age were here collected. A Turkish mosque contrasted its splendid dome with the pillared Roman temple and the steepled Gothic church. The castled turret rose by the massive Roman tower; the low picturesque hut of the modern peasant stood beneath the shelter of the gigantesque remains of antiquity; and imitations of the pyramids of Cestius, of the baths of Diocletian, a Roman senate-house and Roman dungeons, met the astonished eye."
* * * * *
Another amiable peculiarity of French-mongering German princelings in their petty monarchies, was man-stealing. Hard-pressed for funds, the practice was to kidnap peasants and sell them into foreign military service. The vile trade was dignified by court authority; followers of the game were known as "man merchants."
The Wuertemberg monarch in order to raise funds to complete the absurd castle for his mistress, took it into his head to sell 1,000 peasants to the Dutch, for the war in the Indies; and so deep lay the curse of tyranny that no public protest was raised. It is true that Schiller, the noble poet, who at this time was a student at Charles College, fled in disgust, but Schaubert, another poet, was not so fortunate; he was seized and imprisoned for ten years.
The vile practice of man-stealing from the wretched peasantry long continued as a monarchical privilege. The Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Cassel, on one occasion sent 12,800 Hessians to the British, to fight in America. English commissioners came over and inspected the captive men as though picking out stock at a cattle show. Should a parent protest, a son, a wife or a widow, the answer was the lash. Hanau furnished 1200 of these slave-soldiers, Waldeck several hundred. Seume, who was himself a victim to the system, deported to America, tells us in his Memoirs: "No one was safe; every means was resorted to, fraud, cunning, trickery, violence. Foreigners were thrown into prison, and sold."
"There is a Hessian prince of high distinction," says Huergelmer. "He has magnificent palaces, pheasant-preserves, at Wilhelmsbad, operas, mistresses, etc. These things cost money. He has, moreover, a hoard of debts, the result of the luxury of his sainted forefathers. What does the prince do in this dilemma? He seizes an unlucky fellow in the street, expends fifty dollars on his equipment, sends him out of the country, and gets a hundred dollars for him in exchange."
* * * * *
Frederick of Bayreuth expended all his revenues in building a grand opera house, for giving balls, parties, receptions and official functions to aristocrats. His successor Alexander fell under the sway of Lady Craven, a British adventuress, who led the peasants a merry chase for the cash; man-stealing was the old game; and one order alone from the British government called for 1,500 peasants.
* * * * *
But why continue the recital of man's inhumanities?
Charles of Brunswick, a spendthrift, who sold subjects into captivity, paid his ballet-master 30,000 a year. Frederick of Brunswick on one occasion sold 4,000 peasants to Britain, for the army.
The terrible famine of 1770-72 added to the discontent of the common man, throughout Germany; he began to feel that it was the duty of kings to feed the hungry; bark, grass, leaves, carrion were eaten; disease spread; emigrations depopulated the Rheinlands; 20,000 left Bavaria alone; while upwards of 180,000 Bavarians died of hunger; in Saxony, the number that starved to death is placed at 100,000. Other kingdoms suffered heavily.
In many of the provinces were laws to prevent immigration; those who tried to get Bavarians to leave the country were guilty of a crime, punishable by hanging. A similar punishment was exacted for marrying out of one's native province.
Also, the wretched condition of the roads added to the isolation of the various German provinces. Exacting customs' duties, military espionages, a weak postal system, contributed to keep Germans unacquainted, except with near neighbors. He, indeed, was a bold man who had gone over the mountains or beyond his native valley. Even a journey of two days caused grave anxieties; the carriage was almost certain to be overturned in some deep rut and the travelers injured or killed; robbers lay in wait in the mountains; protection was almost unheard of; life and property were insecure; every traveler had to be his own policeman, and never issued forth on a journey without dagger, pistol and sword.
* * * * *
Thus, 300 princelings, great or small, were determined to rule in their individual capacities; there was no Germany in fact, and that much of the German Empire that had outlived the gradual ruin of the old Holy Roman Empire, the great-ancestor of Germany, was now approaching complete dissolution.
The power lay no more in states, but in 300-odd local political bureaus, scattered everywhere, dominated often enough by an ambitious French prostitute, or by some lucky ballet-master.
Then, there was August of Saxony, who is said to have been the father of 300 children. This foolish fellow's fetes cost thalers by the wagon-load; one set of Chinese porcelains ran into the millions, and it cost 6,000 thalers to gild the gondolas for a night in June, to say nothing of the fancy ball.
The Baden monarch, Charles William, built Carlsruhe in the deep forest, the better that his orgies be kept from prying eyes.
Eberhardt of Wuertemberg gave the whole conduct of his government over to women and Jews—and by the way the Jews were the only saving force. As for the Graevenitz woman, she was king in petticoats. She mortgaged crown lands and raised hell generally. One day in church she made a fuss about not being mentioned among royal rulers, and the pastor immediately replied: "Madam, we mention you daily in our prayers when we say: 'O Lord, deliver us from all evil!'" Once, in time of famine, Charles William scattered loaves of bread; the rabble maddened by hunger fought to the death for the dole!
Also, there were Ernest of Hanover and Tony of Brunswick, two precious rascals, with all their retinue of mistresses, mistresses' maids, mothers, hangers-on, and pimps. Carl Magnus had his Grehweiler palace costing 180,000 guelden. He grew so desperate that the Emperor sent him to a fortress for ten years' imprisonment, for forging documents to raise the wind. Count Limburg-Styrum was a princeling whose army consisted of one colonel, six officers and two privates! Count William of Bueckeburg had a fort with 300 guns, defending a cabbage patch. Count Frederick of Salm-Kyrburg swindled the churches; and in tiny Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, only 15 miles square, was a royal palace of 350 rooms with clocks of all sizes, great and small, in each apartment. This count went mad over clocks, but was popular with the working class; often he would take a man off a job in order to laugh and joke.
Also, Frederick had original taste in military affairs; his army comprised 150 soldiers, with 28 guards on horseback. The prince prided himself on being a wrestler, and one day when a yokel threw the prince, the prince set up a great cry, "I slipped on a cherry stone!"—and this regardless of the fact that it was not the time of the year for cherries.
There was another local ruler, Ludwig Guenther, who was fond of painting horses, and on his death 246-odd horse pictures adorned the walls of his palace.
* * * * *
"Show a German a door and tell him to go through, and he will try to break a hole in the wall."
"Here, every one lives apart in his own narrow corner, with his own opinions; his wife and children round him; ever suspicious of the Government, as of his neighbor; judging everything from his personal point of view, and never from general grounds."
"The sentiment of individualism and the necessity for contradiction are developed to an inconceivable degree in the German."
The problem of directing this intense individualism is the problem of German unity.
* * * * *
With rough manners, blunders, extravagances, absurdities, the hereditary princes continued to sponge on the peasants, generation after generation, till wretchedness spread far over the German lands. They had their chteaux, their dancing girls, their dogs, horses, cats, mistresses and their royal armies.
The misery of centuries of oppression existed; petty monarchs exercised powers of life and death.
The South German mocked the North German's pronunciation. One set vowed that the "g" in "goose" is hard, the other proclaimed that the "g" is soft. One side went about mumbling with hard "g's," "A well-baked goose is a gracious gift of God," whereupon the other side replied that all the "g's" are "j's," that the "gute ganz" is really "jute janz," and "Gottes" "Jottes." And duels were fought over it.
Nor was this all. An intense local pride expressed itself in grotesque dialects, unsoftened by intercourse with the outer world; also, there were outlandish fashions in dress and other domestic affairs.
In Brunswick the women wore green aprons, curious black caps, the men buff coats, red vests with four rows of buttons, caps with crazy pompons, buckled slippers and gay ribbon garters.
In lower Saxony the women wore flat straw hats, like a dinner plate, hair plastered down, head-dresses of gigantic black ribbons, aprons of gay stripes, and ten petticoats coming only a little below the knee. The men wore farce-comedy costumes, not unlike coachmen.
In Pomerania-Rugen the women admired scarlet petticoats, knee-length, capes like turko-rugs, black veils, green garters and blue stockings. The men wore aprons like butchers, caps and long-tailed coats.
The Hessian women preferred turbans of red, vestees of gay stuffs, blue, green or yellow knee-length skirts.
* * * * *
The Baden men folk liked reds, greens and yellows, vests adorned with many ribbons, top boots, high white collars and funny-looking black coats. The women had their green aprons, puffed sleeves, and ten short petticoats.
In East Prussia men wore double and triple vests. As for the women, they looked like animals in the zoo.
In Wuertemberg, a typical landlord wore a blue peajacket with two rows of large silver buttons, two vests of high contrasting colors, a black sash, salmon-colored trousers, polished boots;—and carried a meerschaum pipe.
In Bavaria one saw green vests, yodlers' hats with tiny feathers, green leggings, or military boots; and among the women gay vestees, bright shawls and white kerchiefs.
* * * * *
Thus, the dead-weight of centuries still lay like a mountain on the various German states.
This dead-weight of olden times kept the German states bickering among themselves.
For long years past, the people were divided by political brawls, altercations, affrays, squabbles, feuds, often with the loss of life. The general disposition was choleric, pugnacious, litigious.
There was bad blood over principles and procedure, policies and plans.
To transform aloofness to neighborliness, tumult to conciliation, quarreling to friendliness, hostility to good will, dissent must give way to assent, distrust to faith, denial to admission, misgiving to conviction, political atheism to political revelation.
Such are some of the peculiarities of the human animal; and in political life human animals are prone to fight for self-interest, like dogs over a bone.
* * * * *
We are not going to try to tell you of the many efforts by rash reformers, in the half-century of the dead-weight, leading to the rise of Prussia.
Again and again, far-sighted Germans, sick unto death at the way things were going, urged equality for all men before the law, equal taxation, restriction of the power of the nobles.
Strange as it may seem, the peasants themselves stood in the way. They did not care to change their condition, miserable as it was. They dreaded the future, preferred present miseries than to risk new ills. For example, on one occasion, a certain political idealist excited the peasants in revolt, assassinated 120 nobles, destroyed 264 castles. This was in the time of Joseph II, of Austria, the ruler filled with amazing ideas of equality. The peasants themselves were the first to protest, much as they detested the nobles; and the unsupported leaders died on the wheel, while 150 miserable followers were buried alive.