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Full text of "Ferdinand Lassalle"



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HX276.L345 B81 

Ferdinand Lassalle. 



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http://www.archive.org/cletails/cu31924030356459 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 



FERDINAND 
LASSALLE 



BY 

GEORGE BRANDES 

AUTHOR OF 
" WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE," ETC. 



"Flectere si nequeo Superos, Acheroata movebo" 
(If I cannot bend the will of Heaven, I w!U cause turmoil in hell) 

Vbrgil 



NEW YORK : THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN 

MCMXI 



.^--^r^tir 




Printed in England 



NOTE 

The master hand of George Meredith has made Lassalle 
a permanent figure in English literature. Those who 
know Lassalle only as Alvan, the passionate lover of the 
" Tragic Comedians," -will wish to know him also as the 
democratic leader, the man of letters and of law, and 
to observe from a wider outlook the progress of the rest- 
less career which ended in profound catastrophe. 



PREFACE 

The first draft of this essay was published by instahnents in 
1874 and 1875, in the monthly magazine the Nineteenth Cen- 
tury. In his preface to " Captain Mansana," Bjomstjerne 
Bjomsen (1879) referred to the character-drawing in the essay. 
Some ten thousand copies were at once printed in Germany in 
the form of magazine articles, and several thousand copies in 
book form were also sold at a later date : the work was well 
received, and enjoyed a considerable circidation, even in 
Russia. 

Old white-haired democrats of 1848 have thanked me for 
my portrait of Lassalle with the speaking look and hand- 
clasp which are the author's best reward. The chief repre- 
sentative of modem pohtical economy at Berlin University — 
Professor Adolf Wagner — ^wrote an appreciative review of the 
book at the time of its pubUcation. With his theories in 
general I am imable to agree, but in the preface to his edition 
of Lassalle's letters to Rodbertus he did me the honour of char- 
acterizing my work as " brilliant." Well meant as the expres- 
sion doubtless was, it does not describe the nature of my efforts 
with reference to this portrait, or to the art of portraiture in 
general. My ideal is Velasquez, and his ideal was not brilliance, 
but truth. In this preface, however. Professor Wagner made 



viii PREFACE 

one assertion concerning Lassalle which I can subscribe with 

.entire conviction. He said that/ divergent as were the judg- 

jments which had been pronounced upon this man, both the 

I friends and the enemies of the great Socialist agitator would 

f 

I readUy agree that his work had made him an historical person- 

5 aHty of first-rate importance. It was this conviction which 

induced me seven years ago to make a first draft of this literary 

portrait of Lassalle, the first and the only attempt of the kind 

that had then been made. I have now completed the picture, 

and have done my best to give it life and reality. 

I Lassalle's Socialism has reappeared in present-day Germany 

/ under the form of State Socialism, and therefore is interesting 

I as one of the burning questions of the day. In neither form, 

\ however, does Socialism form the subject of this work. 

Its chief subject is the historical development during one 
generation of the spirit which inspires modem Germany — a 
subject which certainly can never be a matter of indifference. 
I have, moreover, sought to excite interest by making one per- 
sonality the point of connection between a series of ideas. 
This is a method which I have invariably employed, and which 
I regard as natural. The description of an individual inevit- 
ably presupposes in my case a nimiber of general ideas. As 
Soren Kierkegaard represents an individual fragment of the 
history of Danish culture, so does Ferdinand Lassalle personify 
a period of modern jurisprudence and political economy. The 
attraction of the subject for me is, on the one hand, the purely 
individual element, " a thing that never was before and never 
again can be," to borrow the definition of individualism given 
by Lenbach, the distinguished portrait-painter of Munich ; 



PREFACE ix 

on the other hand, I am attracted by the great and permanent 
ideas of the age upon its civilization, and by the problems 
which have confronted antiquity, and will constantly recur. 
Subjects which provide interesting personaUties and ideas of 
such importance seem to me especially worthy of treatment, 
and the method of handling them which I have gradually 
evovled gives due weight both to the individual character and 
to the general ideas which that character may evoke. 

GEORGE BRANDES. 
Berlin, September, 1881. 



CONTENTS 



PART I 

PAGE 

LASSALLE BEFORE THE AGITATION - - i 



PART II 

LASSALLE AS AN AGITATOR - - 109 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 

PART I 

LASSALLE BEFORE THE AGITATION 

One event during the nineteenth century has provoked the 
greatest surprise and astonishment in Europe. Unsuccessful 
attempts at its explanation have been, and are still offered 
by the different European nationalities. This event is the 
process by which the Germany of Hegel was transformed to 
the Germany of Bismarck. Some theorists speak as if the old 
German stock had suddenly died out, and a new race had 
sprung up without roots ; others, as if the old stock had been 
destroyed or ennobled by an infusion of Wendish-Slavonic 
blood. To some, modern Germany is enigmatic as the Iron 
Mask. The face of the philosopher and the poet was the real 
countenance, and this has now been hidden by Prussian 
domination, as the mask concealed the identity of the imhappy 
prisoner. Others, again, regard the old and pleasant counte- 
nance of romance as the mask, hypocritically hiding the real 
features, which have now become visible. These views are alike 
injudicious, and are based in either case upon ignorance of 
the course of development which rnodem Germany has pursued. 
If this development is studied in lit»8&,ture, it will be seen how, i 
step by step, the ideas, the methods of action, and the views of 
life pursued and entertained by the newer generation have de- 
veloped organically from those of the past age. The gulf which 
divides the Germany of Hegel from the Germany of Bismarck 
will gradually be filled before our eyes. The faces upon either 
side of this gulf will appear as related by similarity of feature ; 



2 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

while certain interesting and strongly marked countenances 
which stand out boldly against the background of history will 
of themselves typify the process of transition and amalga- 
mation which has fused the intellectual individualities of two 
generations. Of these special features hardly any is more 
i interesting or more clearly cut than the figure of Ferdinand 
I LassaUe. He was bom on April ii, 1825, and died of a wound 
vreceived in a duel on August 31, 1864. He was a distinguished 
pupil of Hegel, and was spoken of in his time as Bismarck's 
tutor, and not unreasonably ; for even though he cannot be 
, ! shown to have influenced Bismarck directly, yet, if we_exainine 
■ I thg^pointSJSidiich decidedj3ath~the foreign and domestic policy 
of the great statesman, we shall find that this policy precisely 
realized the programme propounded by the philosophical 
agitator. 



CHAPTER I 

In order to understand Lassalle, we must begin with the study 
of his fugitive writings. His prose style will stir the least 
emotional of men ; his imusuaUy wide learning is dominated 
by eloquence entirely modem, and strictly logical and prac- 
tical in character ; between the lines the reader can detect a 
suppressed enthusiasm, which occasionally blazes out in 
letters of fire. His attacks are delivered with uncommon 
audacity, which is supported by the iron tenacity with 
which he conducts his defensive operations ; his language and 
style are often tasteful and always peculiar to him. Of mere 
rhetoric there is no trace. The extent of the writer's knowledge 
and power left no room for rhetorical display. Nor is the 
weight of his scholarship at any time perceptible. He marches 
out to battle in fuU panoply ; but it is rare to see heavy armour 
so easily worn. Little has been printed that bears upon the 
life and personality of '^ur author. While travelling in Ger- 
many, and afterwards a iring a residence of several years 
(1877-1881) in Berlin, it was my fortune to meet a considerable 
number of men and women, whose judgment I respect, who 
had known LassaUe personally. After LassaUe's sudden death 
had silenced the voices of his assailants, we know that public 
opinion concerning him underwent a change. Public recogni- 
tion of his capacity and of his importance is by no means un- 
common. On the other hand, expressions of private opinion 
concerning him are for the most part comparatively unfavour- 
able. His private acquaintances displayed but fugitive interest 
in his writings, and rarely or never shared his views. His weak 
points were perfectly obvious, and no psychological analysis 

3 



4 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

was required for the discovery of them ; moreover, the private 
acquaintances of public men and the majority of the educated 
reading public are inclined to lay undue stress upon unconcealed 
weaknesses, especially when such failings are entirely dis- 
regarded by a band of hero-worshippers. I did not expect t* 
gather many approving judgments from the upper middle 
classes upon a man who died in feud with the whole middle 
class in his own country, sustaining the struggle almost single- 
handed, universally opposed by the Press. At the same time, 
I must admit that I was surprised to find disapproval so general, 
and, in my opinion, so unfounded and so keenly antagonistic 
to the dead man. To this antagonism is probably due the diffi- 
culty which now confronts any attempt to form a complete 
and adequate picture of Lassalle. No systematic, and certainly 
no complete edition of his writings exists. Most of them can 
only be procured through a Socialist agent in Leipsic, whose 
utterly unbusinesslike habits make the result of an application 
to him entirely problematical ; while such copies as he possesses 
are printed on the worst of paper, and disfiguredjjy careless 
misprints, which constantly distort the sense of a phrase.^ 
Lassalle's rarer writings are not to be found even in the Royal 
Library in Berlin. Very few letters and very little biographical 
material has been printed. But if, as I have said, this want of 
material is the outcome of an antagonism to LassaUe which has 
not yet disappeared, at the same time this antagonism has its 
limits. I have been surprised by the expressions of good 
feeling, recognition, kindliness, and admiration for the dead 
man with which I have met — expressions which have been the 
warmer where intimacy has been close. This fact is a high 
testimony in favour of Lassalle ; for it is a circumstance which 
is repeated in the case of every outstanding personality. Some 
men may dazzle the onlooker by the attraction of their talent 
or the splendour of their reputation, but closer acquaintanceship 
will dispel the charm ; the prestige of the Pope is least in Rome. 
Really great characters secure the most complete devotion from 
those who know them best. For years I have mentally compared 
and contrasted these varying judgments and opinions, while 

,''i ^ Two instances may be given : Staatsanwalt is misprinted for Staatsgewalt, 
Uind unerlaubien for erlaubten, in the " Trial for High Treason," 1864, 38, 43. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 5 

my interest in the study of their subject remained persistent 
and unimpaired. All these pronouncements, in conjunction 
with the views and ideas upon Lassalle which I have earlier or 
later conceived, now form a strange and many-voiced harmony 
^o my mental ear. I know Lassalle as well as anyone can know 
him who has never seen him or heard him speak. In considering 
the brighter side of his character, I feel that delight which is 
necessary for full appreciation of the subject, and I see that 
the shadows are limited in extent. I cannot do full and 
exhaustive honour to his manifold energy — this, indeed, would 
only be possible for one who was no less accomplished a classical 
scholar, thinker, legal authority, and political economist than 
Lassalle himself ; but I will attempt to depict the main features 
of LassaUe's intellectual character. 

' The doctrines which Lassalle propounded in the last years of 
his life have aroused an extraordinary number of writers in their 
defence, and have urged even more to attack. Doubts have 
been cast upon the truth of his doctrines, and that truth has 
also been affirmed. A dispute of unusual violence has arisen 
concerning the advisability of his last practical proposal. I 
am incompetent to offer any opinion upon this dispute, and I 
have no inclination to take part in it. One object I desire 
and will attempt to secure, as no one else has been induced to 
make an effort in this direction : I wish to explain Ferdinand 
LassaUe's character, the ftmdamental principles of his nature, 
his most profound mental characteristics, and his dominant 
ideas ; I wish to display the main features of his intellect and 
the nature of his talent — in short, to draw a picture of him as 
a man, as a writer, as an orator, and as a great party leader. 
I am equally anxious to avoid any confusion between this 
object and the very different task, which to many minds seems 
remarkably simple, of sitting in judgment upon one of the most 
difficult and hotly-contested problems with which the present 
age has to deal. 

The life which I am to describe was lived with such passionate 
vigour and haste that it passed away before the contemporary 
world had had time to appreciate its importance. LassaUe's 
scientific works were inaccessible to the ordinary circle of the 
educated, and his pamphlets were but partially inteUigible to 



6 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

the working classes who read them. As a critical thinker, 
Lassalle remains unvanquished. No institution or person 
that he attacked was ever able to recover from his onslaught. 
That a distinguished scholar should have made occasional 
mistakes is nothing to the purpose. The stream of time 
sweeps away the errors, and leaves the truth for the 
inheritance of humanity. 



CHAPTER II 

The old Greek thinker Heraclitus, whom LassaUe made the 
subject of long research, was in the habit of using various 
^symbolical expressions to denote the primary force of existence 
^Fire, Stream, Justice, War, Invisible Harmony, Bow and 
L5n:e ; these expressions rise involuntarily in the mind if we seek 
some sjTnbol to represent the dominant principle of Ferdinand 
LassaUe's life. Somewhere, in one of his letters, which is fuU 
of impatient outbursts against the tardiness with which 
events develop, LassaUe uses the phrase, " my ardent soul." 
Thousands use the expression as the mere figure of speech 
which it has become. LassaUe, perhaps, alone could use it 
without exaggeration, for his innermost being concealed some 
force akin to fire. His burning love for knowledge and science, 
his thirst for righteousness and truth, his enthusiasm, his un- 
restrained self-confidence, his deep self-conceit, his courage, his 
delight in power — ^these were characteristics which all found 
expression in the same fiery and devouring manner. He was 
a bearer of light and fire to the world ; a bearer of light, bold 
and defiant as Lucifer himself ; a torch-bearer who delighted 
to stand in the fuU glare of the torch with which he brought 
enlightenment — grand oseur et grand poseur. In the world of 
Heraclitus, the conjunction of bow and lyre denoted the domi- 
nant and fimdamental force. The lyre is the type of harmony, 
of fuU culture. The bow, with its deadly shafts of light, 
denotes energy and destructive power. Lyre and bow were 
also conjoined in LassaUe's spirit, as full culture and the restless 
impulse to activity. Rarely has such a union of theoretical 
and practical capacity been seen in the history of the world. 

7 



8 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Any close observer of Lassalle at the outset "of his career, if 
his insight had been both sympathetic and prophetic, might 
well have appHed to him the words which he himself quotes 
from the neoplatonist thinker, Maximus of Tyre : "I understand 
Apollo ; an archer is the god, and a musician, and while I love 
his harmony, I fear his archery. "^ 

Lassalle was bom in Breslau. His father was a merchant of 
no special capacity, but a sound and upright character, by 
name Hesmiann Lassal : it was during his stay in Paris in 1846 
that his son changed the spelling of his name. Both parents 
were of Jewish origin. Throughout his life, LassaUe was 
the most loving of sons, and his relations with his family were, 
as is usual with Jews, very intimate and close. Lassalle's 
whole career was followed by his mother with the greatest 
enthusiasm ; she S3Tiipathized with every one of his enter- 
prises and approved their results. 

One special hardship he had to endure in childhood. When- 
ever he played with other boys — it must be admitted, only as 
their leader — ^his parents regarded him as responsible for any 
damage that was done. A broken window-pane or a trampled 
garden was visited upon Ferdinand Lassalle, though innocent. 
He was bewildered by this circumstance, which he could not 
imderstand, though it was due to his natural superiority over 
all his comrades. At a certain age, boys become forward and 
self-assertive, and these characteristics were unusually strongly 
marked in the case of Lassalle. What he often in later life 
referred to as his " impudence " was even then perceptible. 
Ferdinand Lassalle grew up amid the environment of Jewish 
society in a provincial town between 1830 and 1840. It was 
a society of which the elder members were imable to speak 
pure German, and living as they did in a period before the 
emancipation of the Jews, they necessarily clung tenaciously 
to the fact of their Israelitish descent and to their hereditary 
manners and customs in general. In his mature years, Las- 
salle displayed an extraordinary dislike for the Jews of his 
time, regarding them as representatives of the materialist and 
capitalist interests which he strove to crush ; but in boyhood 
he was keenly conscious of his Jewish descent. From his 

* Lassalle, " The Philosophy of HeracUtns the Obscure of Ephesus," i. iii. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 9 

fifteenth to the end of his sixteenth year he kept a diary, which 
provides evidence of this feeling, and, indeed, of all the experi- 
ences and the general mental life of the early years during 
which his mature character was in formation. An entry dated 
February 2, 1840, made when he was only fourteen years of 
age, states that a friend had expressed surprise at the warmth 
with which he had defended the Jewish faith. " The ass ! As if' 
one could not eat tripe and yet be a good Jew ! . . . I believe 
myself to be one of the best Jews in existence, apart from 
attention to the ceremonial law. Like the Jew in Bulwer's 
' Leila,' I would risk my life to free the Jews from the oppres- 
sion which now burdens them. I would not even shrink from 
the scaffold, if I could restore them to a position of respect 
among the nations. Whenever I indulge in childish dreams, 
I prefer to picture myself sword in hand, at the head of the 
Jews, leading them to recover their independence." ^ 

Towards the end of his life Lassalle was wont to assert : 
" Two things in the world are my special objects of hatred — 
journalists and Jews, and I am both." But at the age of 
fifteen he felt himself a prince in Israel. On May 21, 1840, 
he writes with reference to the outrages upon the Jews in 
Damascus, of which he had heard an account that same evening : 

" Oh, it is terrible to read and terrible to hear, and one's 
hair rises and every emotion is turned to fury ! It is dreadful 
that a people should endure these things, whether they patiently 
bear their treatment or revenge themselves True, fearfully 
true, is the following sentence from the report : ' The Jews in 
this city endure cruelties which none but these pariahs of the 
earth would bear, without making dreadful reprisals.' Thus, 
even the Christians are surprised at our apathy, and wonder 
that we do not revolt, and that we prefer death by torture to 
death in battle. Was the oppression which once drove the 
Swiss to revolt greater than this ? Could any revolution be 
more righteous than that which the Jews in Damascus would 
cause, if they were to revolt, to set every corner of the town 
on fire, blow up the powder magazine, and perish with their 
tormentors ? Nation of cowards, you deserve no better fate. 
The trampled worm will turn, yet do you but bow the head 
more deeply. You cannot die or wreak destruction, you know 



10 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

not the meaning of righteous vengeance ; you cannot bury 
yourself with your foes and mangle them even in the agony 

_Si death. You are bom to servitude !" When the silly 
falsehood that the Jews used the blood of murdered children 
in their religious ceremonies was again served up, Lassalle 
wrote, on July 30 : " Again the preposterous story appears, 

rthat the Jews make use of the blood of Christians. The 
same story, in Damascus, in Rhodes, and in Lemberg. The 
fact that every corner of the world makes the same charge 
seems to me an indication that the time is ripe for us to help 
ourselves in reality by the shedding of Christian blood. God 
helps those who help themselves. The dice are on the board, 
and only the players are wanted." 

'"'^assalle's relations with his parents during his youth were 
marked by boyish love and dutifulness : he was devoted to 
them heart and soul, obedient and anxious to spare them any 
trouble. His father was a tall, powerful man, with a clever 
and attractive face, but he was something of a domestic tyrant, 
violent and choleric in temper ; at the same time, he was a very 
affectionate father to his son. His mother, who was a little 
hard of hearing, was a querulous and somewhat trying char- 
acter. The eldest child, Lassalle's sister Frederike, was a pretty 
and lively girl ; her first engagement ended unfortunately, and 
about the year 1840 she was betrothed to her cousin, Ferdinand 
Friedlander, a very capable man, who was not at that time 
appreciated by the family. Her brother, notwithstanding his 
youth, is seen discussing his sister's circumstances with his 
elders, and calculating with precocious coolness her prospects of 
marriage, and the extent of the dowry which she would require. 
His self-conceit was of early development. It was not, as 
in the case of other youthful geniuses, the mere shadow cast 
upon an immature mind by the rising consciousness of great 
capacities. Even later we are repelled by it, when LassaUe had 
reached manhood. He enters in his diary every little com- 
pliment that was paid him, and we see that his elders not only 
repeatedly praised his intelligence and sharpness, but even 
used the term " genius " in reference to him. The self- 
assertive, or even presumptuous, tendencies of his character 
may be ascribed to his self-conceit, as also may his animosity 



\ 



FERDINAND LASSALLE ii 

towards his teachers, whom he regards as his sworn enemies, 
and his generally refractory character during boyhood. 

He was a hopeless failure as a schoolboy. In spite of his 
keen intelligence and his unusual abilities, he was congenitally 
idle, incessantly playing truant and cheating, copying the 
exercises of his more industrious friends, and absenting himself 
under false excuses. Even worse misdeeds are recorded. He 
not only forged notes of excuse from his father to explain his 
absence from school, but for six months systematically forged 
first his mother's and then his father's signature to the bad 
reports which he brought home from school, while he spent his 
time at biUiards and cards. During the same period he 
cherished the strongest and warmest sense of friendship, and 
takes himself to task for his wickedness with a fine honesty, 
as follows : " I do not know why it is, but I play billiards everjT 
Saturday, though my father has strictly forbidden this game. 
I sign my own conduct reports, which is equally wrong, and yet 
I love my father most intensely, as only a child can love. I 
would joyfully give my life to be of use to him, and yet . . . 
But my want of thought is the cause of it all. At bottom I 
am really good " (January 14, 1840). _ 

The contradiction between his boyish want of thought, to 
which he aUudes, and the extraordinary vehemence of his 
enthusiasms, is rather apparent than real. 

He was of an impetuous and hot-headed disposition. When 
his father one day gave him a sound thrashing, he resolved in 
a fit of woimded pride to commit suicide, and was only pre- 
vented from executing his intention by the fact that his father 
followed him, and caught him up at the moment when he was 
about to throw himself into the Ohle (January 29). When his 
forgeries in the report-book were discovered, he was only 
restrained from suicide by the thought of his parents' grief. 
However, he soon recovered his spirits in thinking how trivial 
these troubles and this humiliation would seem in future years. 

His passionate nature is especially apparent in the intensity 
of his anger and hatred, and of his thirst for revenge. He 
swears inextinguishable, burning hatred to anyone who has 
insulted him or his, and vows to behold the offence before him 
in letters of fire until he has avenged it. 



12 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Even at so early an age he displays a fierce ruthlessness and 
an inclination to secure his wishes by forcible means ; at the 
same time, a very prominent feature is the unbounded honesty 
with which he never spares himself in the examination of his 
inward self, and of his relations to those about him. His sense 
of honour in this respect compensates to some extent for the 
lack of honour which he sometimes shows in his choice of means 
to secure his ends. 

The discovery of the secret by which Lassalle secured good 
reports in the gymnasium at Breslau aroused in him a desire to 
leave that institution and to be sent to the commercial school 
in Leipsic. Lassalle's father did not wish him to enter trade. 
The friends and acquaintances of the family interfered in the 
discussion, some supporting the father, others the son. The 
consequence was family disputes and dissensions, which 
enabled Lassalle to realize for the first time that it is both 
confusing and foolish to consider or to act upon hints' that 
may be given by people who know little or nothing of the 
facts of a case. Just at this time he came across the old 
fable of the peasant and his son, whose readiness to take the 
advice of the passers-by eventually obliged both of them to 
walk and to carry their ass ; hence he derived his first principle 
of practical life, which he often quoted under the formula, " I 
will not carry the ass." 

In desperation at the vexatious annoyances in which he had 
entangled himself, Lassalle gained his wish, and went to Leipsic 
in May, 1840. Here, however, his relations with his teachers 
became even worse than in Breslau. Here, also, he regarded 
them merely as malevolent enemies. As he became more 
profoundly conscious that he was no ordinary character, his 
self-conceit increased. But he suffered from homesickness, 
and longed for his family, especially for his father, to whom 
he was always most tenderly devoted, and for his sister, for 
whom his heartfelt and fine affection only increased with time. 
In Leipsic he also formed enthusiastic friendships with different 
companions. Among these was a certain Robert Zander, 
whose sister Rosalie was Lassalle's first love ; to her the senti- 
mental schoolboy sent many letters and poems, which were 
unfortunately destroyed after her death in 1876. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 13 

Lassalle did not remain at the commercial school after 
August in 1 841. It became clear to him that he had mistaken 
his vocation and was in no way fitted for a mercantile career. 
His parents were not surprised to hear the fact, as they had 
always wished him to be a student. As early as August 3, 
1840, in an entry in his diary, he compares himself with Wilhelm 
/^leister, and says that his heart, like the heart of Wilhelm, 
beats for art, but that the following difference between them 
exists : WUhelm's parents urged him to become a merchant, 
while he himself has voltmtarily renounced aU sesthetic pursuits ; 
but he now feels that he cannot renounce a public career, 
whether it may lie in the path of art or politics. He is more con- 
cerned " about freedom than about the prices of goods, utters^i 
more violent curses upon the dogs of aristocrats, who deprive ' 
man of his highest boon, than upon the rival tradesmen who 
lower prices. But he will do more than curse." _ 

We now find evidence in the diary which shows how rapidly 
this boy, who was scarce seventeen years of age, became a 
young man entirely convinced of the part which he wished to 
play in Ufe, and with more than a suspicion of the fate which 
awaited him. 

He reads and admires Borne, who became his next ideal. 
In Home's " Letters from Paris " he is horrified to find that 
in Germany " thirty millions of men are plagued by thirty] 
t5^ants." He approves Bome's invectives against Europe's 
despots, but, characteristically enough, his sound pohtical 
sense cannot accept Bome's childlike hopes for the immediate 
future. On July 24, 1840, he writes : " But when he saysTl 
' No European ruler is so blind as to suppose that his grandson 1 
wiU ascend his throne,' I must unfortunately doubt his state- 1 
ment. Things wiU be worse before they are better." _J 

It is very remarkable that, in spite of the strength of his 
revolutionary tendencies in youth, he can perceive an aristo- 
cratic strain in his temperament, and feels that his democratic 
bias is due rather to circumstances than to natural disposition. 
On July 19 he writes : __j 

" I went to the theatre ; Lowe gave Fiesco. Upon my 
Iword, this Count of Lavagna is a grand character. My senti- 
|ments are as revolutionary, as republican, and as democratic 



14 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

^as those of anybody, and yet I feel that in Count Lavagna's 
place I should have acted as he did ; I should not have been 
content to remain the first citizen of Genoa, but should have 
stretched forth my hand for the diadem. Hence it seems, if I 
examine tlie situation in the light of day, that I am an egoist. 
If I had been bom a prince or a nobleman, I should be an aristo- 
crat heart and soul. But as I am merely of middle-class origin, 
I shaU. be a democrat in time." 

In the diary we can trace the course of his mental struggles. 
On August 24 he writes : 

" Two opposed principles struggle within me for the mastery. 
Is expediency or honesty to guide my life ? Shall I spread 
my cloak to the breeze, flatter the great, intrigue to gain ad- 
vantage and reputation, or shall I cling to truth and virtue 
with republican obstinacy, and fix my gaze upon one sole 
object — to deal a death-blow to aristocracy ? No, I will be no 
fawning, cowardly courtier, though I may have the capacity to 
play the part. I wiU proclaim freedom to the nations, though 
I should perish in the attem.pt." And on August 26 : "I am 
very sorry that I did not continue my studies. It is now clear 
to me that I shall become a writer. Yes, I will come before 
the German people and before all nations, and summon them 
with burning words to fight for freedom. The menacing 
frown of princes shall not intimidate me : I wiU not be bribed 
with orders and titles to betray the cause of freedom, like a 
second Judas. Never will I rest until they are pale with fear. 
From Paris, the land of freedom, I wUl send the word to all the 
. nations of the earth, as Borne did ; the teeth of all princes shall 
jjchatter with fear, and they shall see that their time is come." 
He spends much time over Heine, with whose work he now 
becomes acquainted. " I love this Heine ; he is my second 
uielf ." He does not understand that Heine is an apostate from 
the cause of freedom, who has torn the Jacobin cap from his 
head, and replaced it with a gold-laced hat. He cannot 
believe that Heine is speaking aught but mockery when he 
says, " I am a royalist and no democrat," nor can he under- 
stand how Heine, in view of this statement, can be so affected 
by the deaths of noble republicans. 
The completion of his sixteenth year found Lassalle entirely 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 15 

decided with regard to his principles and his future. He 
informed his father of his irrevocable determination to study. 
When his father asked him what branch of learning he wished 
to pursue, he replied : " The greatest and most comprehensive 
study in the world, the study which is most entirely bound up 
with the most sacred interests of humanity — the study of 
history." His father went on to ask him whether he thought 
he was a poet. 

" No," he replied ; " but I shall devote myself to pamphlet'^ 
eering and agitation. Now is the time when the struggle is I 
in progress for the most sacred objects of humanity. Until I 
the end of the last century the world was bound in the chains j 
of inert superstition. Then the force of intellect aroused a I 
material power which overthrew the existing system amid blood 
and ruin. The first outburst was terrible, as was inevitable. 
Since that time the struggle has proceeded without interrup- 
tion. . . . The struggle for the most noble of purposes will 
be conducted in the noblest way. Truth must indeed be 
supported hereafter by physical force, for those in possession 
of the thrones wiU have it so. But let our object be to enlighten 
and instruct the peoples, not to excite them." 

For a long time the father was silent ; at length he said : 
" My son, I am well aware of the truth in your words, but why 
should you, of all people, become a martyr ? You, our only 
hope and support ? Freedom must be gained by struggle, 
but it will be gained even without your help. . . . You alone, 
what difference can you make ?" 

The young Lassalle then wrote in his diary : " Oh yes, he is 
right. Why should I, of all people, become a martsn: ? But 
if everyone said as much and withdrew with like cowardice, 
when would a warrior be forthcoming ? Why should I, of all 
people, become a martyr ? Why ? Because God has put a 
voice in my heart that calls me to battle ; because God has 
given me strength and fitted me for battle : I can feel it ! 
Because I can fight and suffer for a noble cause. Because I 
wHl not deceive God in my use of the strength which He has ( 
given me for a definite purpose. Because, in one word, I cannotJ 
help it !" What Lassalle afterwards spoke of jestingly as his 
impudence here appears as a consecration to life and struggle. 



i6 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

At this point we encounter the racial characteristic of 
Lassalle's disposition which was fundamentally distinctive in 
his temperament : it is apparent in the quality best expressed 
by the Jewish word " Chutspo," which connotes presence of 
mind, impudence, temerity, resolution, and effrontery ; it will 
be readily intelligible to anyone who regards it as an extreme 
which the growth of culture necessarily and naturally pro- 
duced by reaction from the timorous and shrinking subservience 
imposed upon a race that has been harassed and oppressed 
for more than a thousand years. We have an instance of 
" Chutspo " when we find Lassalle, during one of his criminal 
cases, flouting the public prosecutor in the course of his speech 
for the defence, notwithstanding the threats of the president 
to deny him a hearing. Even when he has been ordered to keep 
silent, he obtains the right of speech by initiating a discussion 
upon the question how far he can legally be deprived of his 
right to speak. This " Chutspo " sometimes appears in average 
members of the race in such repulsive forms as " pushfulness " 
or unjustifiable desire to appear in the forefront. Sometimes 
it takes the more attractive intellectual form of resolution and 
determination. In the case of Lassalle, whose mind contained 
high capacities awaiting development, challenge was the 
element which appeared as the impulse to personal action, 
and invariably lent its colouring to his innate energy. His 
instinct and his capacity for action was not the pure Anglo- 
Saxon or American spirit of enterprise, which is confined to 
incessant production and to orderly arrangement. It was 
an impulse to action which sought opposition, and could live 
and breathe only in an atmosphere of antagonism. A German 
writer, who had seen Lassalle only once in a concert-room, 
said to me : "He looked like defiance incarnate ; but his brow 
expressed such energy that one could not have felt surprise 
if he had conquered for himself a throne." Thus the essence 
of his nature was an energy which sought and conquered ob- 
stacles, and utilized every possible element in his character as 
a means to victory. His coolness, his love of struggle, his ambi- 
tion, his domineering tendencies, the striking firmness of his 
attitude at critical moments, became so many means to this 
end. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 17 

During his first imprisonment while imder trial, at the age of 
twenty-three, far from obeying the prison regulations, he issued 
his own orders to the warders ; and whenever the latter at- 
tempted to exert their authority, scenes of great violence were 
the result. On hearing that his sister had presented a petition 
on his behalf, he immediately sent a statement to the King 
to secure himself against any misunderstanding. His youthful 
character showed points of resemblance to Csesar, though 
horrified citizens were afterwards to regard him as a Catiline. 
He was bom for power and marked out for rule, but birth had 
placed him in the middle class below Princes and nobles, and 
had made him a member of a down-trodden race ; he therefore 
became a thinker, a democrat, and an agitator, in order to reach 
by this path the position for which he was created. We have 
seen that even in boyhood Lassalle was conscious of his destiny. 
But even if his ideas upon this matter afterwards became less 
precise, we must remember that what self-consciousness may 
regard as an end is often to Nature nothing more than a means, 
and that Nature urged him to demand power, reputation, 
and even the applause and prestige which are conceded to the 
distinguished leader of a people or of a class. We must re- 
member that Nature had also brought him into the world as 
a member of the extreme Left, and endowed him with the 
sense that it was his duty to avenge the oppression and the 
scorn of centuries. Was it not inevitable that he should regard 
himself from the outset as a revolutionary and a faction leader ? 
These tendencies were combined with the influence of modem 
learning, and Lassalle was a bom scholar ; but the whole body 
of modem science naturally promotes the progress of Radical- 
ism, and the more entirely a man is overcome by the spirit of 
learning, the more profoundly does he feel himself bound to 
oppose whatever is based only upon the authority of tradition. 

Early as Lassalle reached maturity, the child in hitn was 
never overgrown or killed. He was not one of those men 
who have never been children : he was one of those who ever 
retain something of childhood's nature. Spielhagen's purely 
poetical description of the hero of " In Reih' und Glied " must 
not lead us to assume that Lassalle was a pale, quiet, and ever- 
serious boy, like Leo, As a man, he possessed feeling and sym- 



i8 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

pathy. In private life he showed a want of self-control, would 
give full rein to his animosity and domineering tendencies, 
and a moment later would concede the point at issue with 
entire amiability. He could be a child and play childish tricks 
as weU as anyone. His love of outward show and the pleasure 
he took in display are among his childlike, or even his childish, 
characteristics. Democrat though he was, he was a dandy, 
and very fastidious about his dress, though his taste was good. 
He liked to see his rooms tastefully fitted up, or even decorated. 
His house was characterized, not only by refinement, but 
also by a touch of outward show. Early in the decade 
1850-1860 Lassalle twice visited the East, and brought back 
hangings and artistic objects for the adornment of his house. 
He was a little histrionic, as dominant characters often are : 
Napoleon and Byron are cases in point. When he enter- 
tained his friends, he would have the most elaborate dishes in 
Berlin, and this at a time when he was appearing as the 
champion of the working classes. These characteristics are 
not to be interpreted as the outcome of sheer inconsistency, 
but as due to the contrast of ideas existing in a deep and 
complex character, in a Jacobin endowed with a keen sense 
of beauty, in a soldier of revolution fighting with splendidly 
decorated weapons, in a man who had never entirely put away 
childish things. LassaUe's intellectual powers comprised 
extraordinarily modem and entirely classical elements, and 
the latter, again, were of a twofold kind. He was an Alcibiades 
in his love of enjoyment and in his capacity for accommodating 
himself to any environment, to the society of scholars or of 
revolutionaries, to a prison or a ballroom. " In his youth he 
would go to prison with as much indifference as anyone might 
go to a ball."^ He was an ancient Roman in his strength of 
will, his energy, his political insight, and his capacity for 
conquest and organization. 

At the Universities of Breslau and Berlin LassaUe's enthu- 
siasm for classical antiquity led him to the study of philology, 
and thence to Hegel, whose dialectical method he appropriated 
with zealous deHght. At the same time he was absorbing the 
revolutionary ideas of Young Germany. After he had left 

' Trial in Diisseldorf, June 27, 1864, conclusion. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE i 

the University, he lived a bachelor Hfe of independence on th 
Rhine and studied Greek philology and philosophy both a 
Diisseldorf and during his stay in Paris in 1845. In Paris 
Lassalle, who was then twenty years of age, made the acquaini 
ance of Heinrich Heine. The Aristophanes of the age wa 
not easily hoodwinked, and our respect for the young student' 
powers is considerably increased when we see how Heine wa 
attracted and dazzled by him. Similarly, we can better realiz 
the keenness of the poet's psychological insight when we weig 
the terms in which he addresses and mentions one who mus 
have seemed but a child in years and in intelligence when con 
pared with himself. Apparently Lassalle, with his usue 
energy, interested himself in the question of an inheritanc 
which was then troubling the poet, who was iU and alone : h: 
vigorous championship secured allies for Heine in German 
whose influence was valuable in this matter of importance t 
the poet's welfare. Heine's letters to Lassalle constantl 
speak of him as " his dearly-beloved friend," " his deares 
brother in arms," and contain such outbursts as the following 

" To-day I wiU do no more than thank you ; no one has eve 
done so much for me before. Nor have I ever yet found an} 
one who combined such warm-heartedness and such clea 
intelligence in dealing with affairs. You have the right to t 
impudent : the rest of us merely usurp this divine right, th 
heavenly privilege. In comparison with you, I am but 
modest gnat." And elsewhere : " Farewell, and be assure 
that my affection for you is inexpressible. How glad I am the 
I was not mistaken in you ! But I have never trusted anyon 
so much — I, whom experience, not Nature, has made so mii 
trustful. Since I have had your letters, my courage has rise 
and I feel better."^ 

There is something almost pathetic in the sight of the grea 
poet, broken by many sorrows at the age of forty-six, tumin 
for protection to the iron will of the youth, which had bee 
inexorably steeled by the passage of twenty winters, and wa 
ready to confront the many other difficulties and vexation 
which lay before him. Heine turning to Lassalle for help- 

1 Heinrich Heine, " Letters," third part; letters of January and Februari 
1846. 



20 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

we think of the antelope asking protection from the young 
Hon: A reference in a letter to Ferdinand's father shows that 
LassaUe introduced himself to Heine as an avowed atheist. 
Heine " would like to see his face " when he hears that the poet 
on his death-bed had undergone conversion. Other humorous 
allusions show what, in any case, was to be expected — that 
Lassalle was neither unattracted by women nbr unattractive 
to them during his stay in Paris. Fortunately, a letter from 
Heine to Vamhagen von Ense has preserved a full description 
of Ferdinand LassaUe ; the description is not only memorable 
as a close portrait drawn by the cleverest pen which Germany 
then possessed, but is doubly valuable because it provides us 
with a picture of Lassalle as he was before he became a public 
character or made his mark in the literary world. We have 
here an etching of LassaUe avant la lettre : 
|~~"My friend, Herr Lassalle, who brings you this letter, is a 
j young man of the most distinguished intellectual powers. To 
the most thorough scholarship, the widest knowledge and the 
r^eateSt penetration that I have ever known, he adds the fullest 
I endowment of imaginative powers, an energy of will and a 
dexterity in action which simply astonish me ; and if he retains 
his sympathy for myself, I expect that he will promote my 
cause most energeticaUy. In any case, this conjunction of 
knowledge and power, of talent and character, has been a very 
pleasant experience for me. ... I should say that Herr 
LassaUe is a definite and declared modernist. He wiU have 
nothing to do with the renunciation and the modesty with 
which we were accustomed, more or less hypocriticaUy, to dream 
and prate away our time. The new generation demands full 
possession, and insists upon making itself seen and heard. We 
elder men were accustomed to bow humbly before the invisible, 
aspiring to shadowy kisses and the scent of blue flowers amid 
regretful renunciations. At the same time, we were perhaps 
happier than those stem gladiators who advance so proudly 
to the death-struggle." 

What words ! In every line we observe the penetrating eye 
of the artist, the hand of the master, and the clever irony of the 
satirist, while the concluding sentence contains the prophetic 
insight of the seer. 



CHAPTER III 

On August II, 1848, there appeared before the Assize Court 
at Cologne, charged with complicity in the theft of a cash-box, 
a youth of proud and attractive exterior, who was thus de- 
scribed in the indictment : " Ferdinand Lassalle, twenty-three 
years of age, of no occupation, bom at Breslau, 5 feet 6 inches 
high, with brown curly hair, an open forehead, brown eyebrows, 
dark blue eyes, a weU-proportioned nose and mouth, a round_ 
chin, a narrow face and slender figure." The young man thus 
described delivered a speech in his defence upon that day of 
which the worthy tribunal had never heard the like. He was 
accused of inciting, two years previously, two other young 
men, Oppenheim and Mendelssohn, to crime. These men 
belonged to extremely rich and distinguished families, and 
both, like himself, had vigorously interfered in the Hatzfeldt 
family quarrels on behalf of the Countess Sophie von Hatz- 
feldt. Lassalle was charged with inducing them to abstract 
from the Count's mistress a cash-box, in which a contract was 
supposed to have been kept securing to this mistress an income 
of eight thousand thalers a year from the Count. Oppenheim 
was already a Prussian assessor, no strong recommendation in 
this case, and his motives for the theft were not likely to be 
mKconstrued, as he was the heir to two or three million 
thalers ; in December, 1846, he was therefore released, although 
his hand had abstracted the cash-box. None the less, in 
January, 1848, a jury condemned Mendelssohn, who was only 
an accomplice, to five years' imprisonment for theft, and 
LassaUe's turn had now come. He, however, adopted the 
attitude rather of accuser than of accused. Far from limiting 



22 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

himself to defence, in the opening sentence of his speech he 
scornfully brushed aside the charge against him, which stated 
that he was the " intellectual originator " of the theft. He then 
identified his own case with that of the Countess, and attacked 
the exalted enemies of his client with all the passion of a youth- 
ful popular orator and the superiority of a born conqueror. 
He described the torments which the Countess had endured, 
and then continued : 

" The family was silent, but we know that when men hold 
their peace the stones will cry out. When every human 
right is outraged, when even the ties of kinship are silent and 
a helpless being is abandoned by its natural protectors, then the 
first and the last relation of such a being has the right to rise 
in the person of another member of the human race. You all 
know and have all read with indignation the dreadful story 
of the unfortunate Duchess of Praslin. Which of you would 
not have thrown himself forward in her defence, when she 
was struggling for life ? Well, gentlemen, I said to myself. 
Here is one who is in tenfold worse case than Praslin, for 
what is the short struggle of an hour compared with the 
long process of assassination which refined cruelty has set on 
foot against the whole existence of a human being, against this 
lamentable figure of a woman whose rights have been daily 
trampled underfoot for twenty years, whose every claim has 
been outraged, after every means has been tried to make her 
the object of scorn and contempt, that she might be ill-treated 
with impunity." 

The young man who was prosecuted in so strange a case, 
and who thus displayed such chivalrous sympathy, had made 
the acquaintance at Berlin, when he was twenty years old, of 
the Coimtess Hatzfeldt, by birth a Princess ; she was then 
thirty-nine years of age, but was still handsome and command- 
ing. Deeply moved by her misfortunes, he had assumed the 
position of her champion. A majestic figure, with nobly- 
modelled limbs, whose every movement betrayed grace enough 
to conquer many a man ; finely-formed features ; heavy red- 
gold hair, with a distinguished bearing and address ; a cahn 

character, and a simple and sensible manner of expression 

such were the weapons of the woman who was constantly de- 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 23 

scribed as a dangerous siren. But the combative soul of the 
passionate youth was stirred, not so much by her beauty as 
by the unusual unhappiness which the Countess had had to 
endure. Her husband and cousin, Count Edmund von Hatz- 
feldt, to whom she had been betrothed at the early age of 
fifteen, had hated and ill-treated her from the outset. He was 
the richest member of the powerful Hatzfeldt family, was 
worth some five milHons of thalers, and possessed all the 
privileges of the high Prussian nobility. Thus, in his behaviour 
towards his wife he was far less subject to legal control than 
any ordinary man would have been. What particular wrong 
she had done to him is very difficult to discover, but in any 
case it cannot have borne any proportion to the meanness of 
the Coimt's revenge, or to the pettifogging and malignant 
nature of his persecution. He confined her in his castles on 
the Rhine ; he refused her medical help and advice when she 
was iU ; he secretly abducted her children, to whom she clung 
with all a mother's tenderness ; he deprived her of the very 
means of existence, while he himself not only squandered his 
patrimony in debauchery, but kept scribblers in his pay to 
calumniate his wife. The Countess had no parents ; her 
brothers and other relations were in high official posts, and 
were more anxious to avoid a scandal than to help the sufferer. 
However, upon more than one occasion the family — and once 
even the King — had interfered, had succeeded in bringing 
about a reconciliation between the married couple, and in 
wresting a promise from the Count to be more careful in his 
behaviour towards his wife. But his promises were made 
merely to be broken. 

Only one course of action remained open — an extremely 
doubtful one in these circumstances — an appeal to law. 

About this time the Mendelssohn who was involved in the 
story of the cash-box introduced LassaUe to the Countess. It 
is certain that the handsome bearing of the young man, 
his well-made figure, and his imusually beautiful dark blue 
eyes, made a very favourable impression upon her. A friend 
of Lassalle has informed me that shortly after his acquaintance 
with the Countess he went to the Count and challenged him. 
The high-bom Junker merely replied from his lofty pedestal 



24 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

of nobility by laughing in the face of the "silly Jewish boy,' 
and then it was that LassaUe seriously resolved to undertak 
the cause of the Countess. In one of his letters he expresse 
himself as follows upon the subject : 

"" " So I said to myself. Never let anyone be able to say tha 
you knew of this and still allowed that woman to be quietb 
strangled without an effort to help her. If you did this, wha 
right would you have to reproach others for their selfishnesi 
and their cowardice ? 

" I was a young man, twenty years of age ; I had just lefi 
the University, where I had studied philosophy ; I knew 
nothing of law, but nothing could restrain me. 

" I said to the Countess, who was at the end of her resources 
I ' You know very well that if you begin an action, your rela- 
tions will abandon you or will turn against you, as you have 
always been told ; but you also know that you have nothing tc 
expect in that direction except empty words. If, therefore, 
you are firmly resolved to conquer or to die, I will take up youi 
case ; for though young, I am strong, and will swear to figh- 
for you to the death.' 

" She had confidence in her right, in her strength and ir 
mine, and readUy accepted my proposal ; and I, a young Jew 
without influence, advanced to the assault of the most for- 
midable powers."^ 

LassaUe accompanied the Countess to Diisseldorf, and foi 
several years of his life devoted the whole of his abilities to the 
struggle to secure her property and her social position. 

We can understand that at the first moment Lassalle's 
parents could feel nothing but anxiety and regret when thej 
saw their son turning aside to champion the cause of a persor 
entirely unknown to them. At an early age he had dis- 
played unusual capacity in the department of philology 
such men as Boeckh and Alexander von Humboldt prophesied 
the most brilliant future for the young scholar — the Wondei 
Child, as Humboldt called him — and his mother would have 
been very glad to see her son a professor. However, she was 
soon reconciled to the course of events, especially when she was 
informed that every road to the University was closed tc 

" Une Page d'Amoiir de Ferdinand LassaUe," 71. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 25 

Ferdinand by reason of his Jewish birth. For himself, how- 
ever, it was undoubtedly a most severe wrench to abandon the 
studies he had begun. His great work upon Heraclitus, which 
had been almost finished at the end of 1846, did not appear 
until 1859, in consequence of this distraction ; to this matter 
he refers in his speech in his defence : __ 

" My own gaze, gentlemen, had long been directed upon 
general questions and afifairs, and I should have hesitated, 
perhaps, to devote the whole of my abilities to an individual 
case of misfortime, to interrupt the whole of my career for some 
years at least, although it is heartrending for a sympathetic man 
to see another person whom he regards as good and noble hurled 
to destruction in the midst of civilization. But in this case I 
could see that general principles and points were involved : I 
told myself that the Countess was a victim to her class ; I 
told myself that no one who was not in the proud position of a 
Prince or a millionaire would venture, or have ventured, thus 
to outrage the moral consciousness of society without hesita- 
tion. ... I did not conceal from myself in the smallest degree 
the difficulties of this enterprise ; I saw very well that it would 
be a most formidable task to clear up the rights and wrongs of 
this long-standing and historical misdeed ; that if the matter 
were brought to the courts, it would demand the whole of my 
energies, and that the task of carrying through so complicated 
an affair would necessitate a long interruption to my own 
career. I knew very well the difficulties of overcoming false 
appearances ; I realized that rank, wealth, and influence are 
dangerous opponents, and that they alone can ever find allies 
in the ranks of the bureaucracy ; I realized, too, that I might 
be exposing myself to considerable danger. All this I knew, but 
it did not deter me. I resolved to oppose truth to specious- 
ness, right to rank, intellectual power to the power of money. 
Obstacles, sacrifices, and dangers in no way deterred me. 
Even if I had known what unworthy and infamous calumnies 
were to be heaped upon me, how my purest motives were to be 
distorted and misinterpreted, and what ready credence would 
be given to the most miserable lies — well, even then I hope my 
resolution would have remained unaltered, though at the price 
of a hard and painful battle. " __ 



26 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Circumstances, allusions in the terms of the charge, and the 
rumours inevitably in circulation, forced Lassalle to refer to 
the accusation against him — that he was upon terms of affec- 
tionate intimacy with his client. Nothing, he said, was more 
generally believed than this accusation, and to protest against 
it would be ridiculous. However, he appeals to that which 
witnesses in reference to this circumstance have expressed as 
their conviction — to his letters, which are produced, and 
prove the opposite to be the fact. He then explains why he 
had been inevitably met with incredulity upon this matter. 
] " Gentlemen, very distinguished members of this town spoke 
j to me — men who wished me well, who knew my position, and 
who had received honourable testimony forbidding them to 
believe that I was actuated by any mean motives of self- 
interest — and these men themselves expressed their conviction 
that I absolutely must be upon terms of affectionate intimacy 
with the Countess ; and when I ventured to ask them what 
grounds they had for their conclusions, they simply replied that 
they had none — none, except the fact that such great sacrifices 
for another's cause are inexplicable upon any other grounds. 
Gentlemen, I will admit that these men judged as men of 
experience with knowledge of the world ; but they forgot one 
thing — they forgot my youth ; they forgot that, though 
selfishness may be the ruling principle of our century, youth 

Lhas ever been, and wiU ever be, the age of disinterestedness, 
enthusiasm, and ready sacrifice." 

In these words there is a certain ring of sincerity and truth. 
Whatever Lassalle's relations with the Countess were, as a 
man of honour he was certainly unable publicly to aver that 
any amorous connection existed between them. But, in my 
opinion, the mode of his denial plainly shows that, whatever 
character the relationship between them may shortly after- 
wards have assumed, it was originally guided, when he plunged 
into this fierce practical struggle, by no sentimental tendencies, 
but by his antagonistic temperament, his burning anger, and 
his purely intellectual inclinations. These motives overcame 
all misgivings, and he was actuated merely by the desire to 
make the cause of right prevail against that of might. 

Lassalle's relations towards the Countess in the years 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 27 

immediately following provided his opponents with continual 
opportunities for attacking his morality and that of his client. 
The real nature of these relations naturally remained unknown, 
and it might, indeed, be said that public opinion had not the 
smallest concern with them. In any case, the intimacy soon 
assumed the form of a friendship concluded under unusual 
circumstances between a young man and a middle-aged 
woman. During Lassalle's later years the attitude of the 
Countess towards him was in every respect that of a second 
mother, and in conversation and correspondence she invariably 
addressed him as " child." 

LassaUe's assertion that in this particular affair he could 
find general rules and principles exemplified may seem to 
many a mere rhetorical trick. But such suspicions would 
certainly be unfounded. It is a characteristic of distinguished 
men to find a universal fate exemplified in the particular 
instance which they may encounter, and which a thousand 
others may encounter without regarding it as anything further 
than an isolated and chance occurrence. Such men immedi- 
ately divine, by force of momentary inspiration, how large a 
number of unfortunate people groan beneath calamities similar 
to the case which they have witnessed. Behind the wrong-doing 
they see the social cause of it, and direct their attacks upon 
these causes, where others might think only of the wrong-doer 
immediately responsible. LassaUe, therefore, means what he 
sa37S when he expresses the hope that in those days (1848), when 
the edifice of lies, hypocrisy, and universal oppression collapsed, 
the daylight of truth would also be bound to break " upon aiTl 
individual fate and suffering which is as truly a microcosmos 
as any individual case can ever be, reflecting the universal 
suffering, the subservience and misery tottering to the grave ; 
the hope that the light would break upon an honourable en- 
deavour, undeterred by criminal prosecution or any other forms 
of law from helping outraged right to secure due recognition."^ 

1 LassaUe, " My Defence against the Accusation of Inciting to the Cash- 
box Theft," delivered on August ii, 1848, before the Royal Assize Court at 
Cologne and the jury. " My Criminal Prosecution for Inciting to the Cash- 
box Theft," or " The Charge of Moral Complicity : A Prosecution with Ulterior 
Object." Cologne : Wilhelm Greven, 1848. These two pamphlets are not obtain- 
able from booksellers, and are not to be found in the Royal Library at Berlin. 
I found copies in the Royal Library at Munich. 



28 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

The speech from which we have quoted some fragments is 
the first literary work which exists from Lassalle's pen. 
Its interest consists in the fact that it gives us a glimpse of 
the mental furniture with which he was provided in the years 
of his youth. I have already drawn attention to the genuine 
nature of the feeling which here comes to light. Character- 
istics of this kind are betrayed by style, and cannot be imitated. 
A belief in the ultimate triumph of right over might is deeply 
rooted in his heart, and appears as a warm and youthful 
enthusiasm. This belief is accompanied by his sense of self- 
sufficiency. Lassalle believes not so much in the power of 
intellect as in the power of his own intellect to defy and over- 
come all difficulties. We here see the motives of chivalrous 
feeling and love of conflict, while his mode of expression 
betrays something of the advocate's talent for grasping a situa- 
tion, turning incidents to account, and laying on the colours 
with a heavy hand, " the rights of humanity," etc. Yet to say 
so much is to say almost too much. When such characteristics 
do appear, they are so delicate and imperceptible that they 
lend little more than a vague colouring to the speech. But 
one characteristic does undoubtedly appear, and one that was, 
deeply rooted in Lassalle's nature — his ruthlessness. Ruth- 
lessness is a very modem ideal of conduct. Bismarck some- 
where replies in one of his letters to an intellectual friend of 
long standing, who reproaches him with excessive ruth- 
lessness, in words both sincere and highly instructive : " As 
a statesman, I am by no means sufficiently ruthless — 
indeed, rather cowardly." Ruthlessness, which must not be 
regarded as synonymous with brutality, iconoclasm, or the 
like, is an ideal which has arisen during the years 1870-1880. 
It was not the ideal of our forefathers. How often have they 
quoted Hamlet's words : 

" And thus the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." 

Whatever the deficiencies of the present age may be, 
Hamlet's words are now inapplicable to it. Our resolutions 
and determinations are carried out. To pursue one's object 
ruthlessly, careless of opposition from without, and ready to 
use the means that circumstances provide, is both the merit 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 29 

and defect of modem times. The incident which brought 
Lassalle into the dock was of the kind in which nothing but 
an early-developed ruthlessness could have involved him. To 
stigmatize his attempt to abstract a deed affecting the interests 
of the Countess as mere theft would be no less ridiculous than 
stupid ; but a character in any way fastidious about its choice 
of means would have shrunk from such an action. Even if he 
was not immediately concerned in the execution of the act, 
he was indirectly involved by his influence over the partici- 
pators in it. The domination of his character is indicated by 
the express statement in the indictment that, though he was 
the youngest of the defenders of the Countess, his associates 
obeyed him unquestioningly. 

Thus, from the year 1846 onwards Lassalle conducted the 
case of the Countess. He began by pouring a perfect flood of 
lawsuits upon the head of the Count. If he had never studied 
law before, he now began, and worked with unparalleled 
enthusiasm. Even while he was occupied in the conduct of 
these successive suits he was advancing his knowledge of juris- 
prudence. In a few months he could hold his own with any 
advocate. At the same time he set other forces in motion 
with a certainty of touch which betrays the future agitator. 
He appealed to the democratic Press, and a thousand echoes 
resounded through it at his cry. He ruined the Count's 
reputation with the public. Whenever the Count considered 
that he had found a means for the final annihilation of his 
Countess, his efforts turned against himself under Lassalle's 
hands. 

In January, 1847, the Count was no longer contented with 
depriving the Countess of all means for the support of herself 
and her children. She was then living upon money derived 
from the sale of some jewels belonging to better times. He 
now attempted to reduce her to subservience by starvation, 
and for this purpose to destroy her personal credit. He 
wrote, for instance, to her hotel-keeper in Deutz, and requested 
him to give the Countess notice, as he would never pay for 
his wife. The landlord replied with scorn that if he liked to 
support the wife and children of the Count, who was allowing 
them to die of hunger, that was no one's concern but his own. 



30 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Lassalle, however, turned the Count's clumsiness to his own 
account. The newspapers soon spread news of the event in 
Treves, in Mannheim, and Breslau, and demanded that pubhc 
beneficence should put the Count to shame, by providing the 
Countess with the means for taking her case to the lawcourts. 
It was a war without cessation or truce, a war to the death, 
in which Lassalle gradually gained fresh allies among the 
popular party and their Press. One friend alone upon whom 
he had calculated left him, however, in the lurch. This was 
Heinrich Heine, who kept silence chiefly because Count Hatz- 
feldt's mistress, the Baroness Meyendorff, formerly a Russian 
spy in Paris, was on friendly terms with the Princesse de 
Lieven, the mistress of Guizot ; and Heine is known to have 
drawn a yearly pension from Guizot, as did the majority of 
the emigres settled in France during the July Monarchy. 

The task, with all these legal difficulties, became so colossal, 
and obstacles increased in such number, that Lassalle, though 
an unparalleled worker, spent nearly nine years of his life in 
this struggle, instead of one year, as he had thought would be 
sufficient in 1848. He was no legal authority by profession ; but 
he gained so thorough a knowledge of law by practice that he 
was able to produce a theoretical work of permanent value. 
One who has long been regarded as the first legal authority in 
Germany, after studying the case, has privately declared that 
no professional advocate could have conducted it so well. 
Lassalle brought the case of the Countess before thirty-six 
courts. Only so strong a wih as his could have been capable 
of the stem tenacity which the case required, and during this 
period he was at one time in confinement for examination on 
the charge of complicity in the theft previously mentioned, 
and at another time was imprisoned on the ground that he 
had invited people to protect the Constitution by force of arms 
against the couf d'etat of 1848. Undismayed, Lassalle con- 
tinued to conduct the case from his prison cell ; when he was 
liberated he prosecuted it with yet greater energy, though 
philosophy, politics, economy, all his studies and all his pros-^ 
pects in life were set aside and postponed until he should be 
freed from this ungrateful task. Previously to 1848 the 
verdicts which he gained were, as a rule, favourable. After 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 31 

1848, when the counter-revolution was triumphant, hardly a 
week passed in which some one of the large number of cases 
which Lassalle had set on foot was not lost. Defeats showered 
upon him, but he recovered new strength and found new 
devices, though he afterwards himself asserted that he never 
understood how he had been able to bring the case to a tri- 
umphant issue. At length, in August, 1854, his opponent, 
the Count, was exhausted. The silly Jewish boy had been too 
much for him. His strength was broken. Lassalle set his 
foot upon his neck, and dictated terms of peace under con- 
ditions most hmniliating and dishonourable to the Count. 
No verdict was announced, but an agreement was secured, 
and LassaUe gained that for which he had striven, including 
a princely settlement upon the Countess. While the case was 
in progress he had shared with her the scanty sum which was 
annually sent to him by his parents, for during that long period 
the Countess was penniless. In return he had stipulated, by 
written contract, for a definite yearly income of four thousand 
thalers, if success should be attained. Thus from henceforward 
he was relieved from aU anxiety concerning his daily wants, 
and was able to devote himself to scientific and unremunerative 
studies, without being forced daily to consider the necessity 
of earning his bread. 



CHAPTER IV 

Lassalle first returned to his work on Heraclitus. As the 
book now stands, the attentive reader can easily discover the 
traces of two hands. The mature thinker has collected, 
arranged, and published what the researches of the youth had 
discovered. It is certain that in the course of years Lassalle's 
metaphysical and purely Hegelian views had been replaced by 
a more historical outlook. At the same time, the book pro- 
vides a comparatively faithful picture of Lassalle's scientific 
life in his early youth. The " Philosophy of Heraclitus the 
Obscure " is a study in Hegelian style, a study in the history 
of philosophy. Lassalle was inevitably and powerfully at- 
tracted to the philosophy of Hegel, which was paramount 
during his earlier years, by something in his disposition, by 
the dialectical tendencies of his nature, and his yearning to find 
some key or picklock to open the way to that understanding and 
knowledge which imply power. Vast indeed were the promises 
which Hegel's philosophy made to its disciples. The fact that 
Lassalle paid special attention to Heraclitus may probably be 
ascribed in the first instance to his passionate inclination to 
make trial of his strength in the face of appalling difficulties. " 
From the days of early antiquity Heraclitus had been known 
as the Obscure, and such of his writings as remain consist of 
few and scattered fragments ; the task of completing these 
and making them intelligible implies a knowledge of the whole 
of classical literature. Thus the enthusiastic disciple of Hegel 
obviously discovered some pleasure in depicting a mind which 
seemed to him a distant forerunner of Hegel himself, and who 
might be thought, simply on the ground of his relationship to 

32 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 33 

the modem master, to have missed due appreciation. Finally, 
the young and vigorous apostle of his age may have been 
attracted by the great figure of antiquity, many of whose 
traditional characteristics will be found to correspond with the 
instincts and tendencies which Lassalle felt at work within 
himself. Heraclitus is also said to have " banished all peace_ 
and quietness from the world, which became for him onlyv 
absolute motion." With what satisfaction does Lassalle" 
assert in one passage : " We see that Heraclitus was far removed|> 
from that apathy which inspires the ethical-political arguments V 
of the Stoics with such profound monotony. His nature was! 
one of storm. "^ Almost all of LassaUe's writings contain some 
protest against the habit of considering separate sciences or 
departments of laxowledge in irrational isolation, and in this 
point the inherent width and universality of his outlook may 
be seen. Similarly this work begins with an emphatic assertion 
that since histoiry is now no longer considered to be a mere 
collection of interesting or farcical incidents, and since the 
idea is regarded as a historical product, and the history of 
philosophy as the uninterrupted development of thought, 
so the time cannot be far distant when the history of 
philosophy wUl no longer be treated as an isolated department 
of knowledge, any more than the history of art, constitutional 
history, or the history of social forms of life. The emphasis 
which is here laid upon the fact of historical development 
should not, however, lead us to suppose that Lassalle in this 
work adopted an attitude less Hegelian and more modem than 
he actually assumed. The Introduction, which lays such 
particular stress upon the historical mode of treatment, was 
undoubtedly one of the parts of the book last composed. In 
other respects his attitude is entirely speculative. The 
scientific idea is certainly here termed a historical creation ; 
but at the same time, the forms under which the idea is 
conceived are regarded as etemal, transcendental realities, 
producing history by their automatic movement and by the 
revulsions which they create. Philosophers are not historically 
arranged in order according to the stage of development 
which their general intellectual Ufe has attained, but according 
1 Lassalle, " Heraclitus," i. 51 ; ii. 443- 



34 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

to the place which is occupied in the system by the conceptions 
which they represent. Herachtus corresponds to Becoming, 
Parmenides to Being ; hence it is a priori obvious that Par- 
menides must be regarded as preliminary and inferior to Hera- 
clitus, however superior his intellectual powers may have been.^ 

By this we are very far from impl5^ng that Lassalle did not 
understand Heraclitus. The contrary is the case. The meta- 
physical method of Hegel was, indeed, an admirable instrument 
for securing comprehension of a thinker whose strength and 
chief characteristic was his almost hair-splitting dialectic. I 
would not rely solely upon my own judgment in this matter, but 
a weU-known authority in this department, Professor Steinthal, 
of the University of Berhn, returned the following significant 
reply when I asked him how far he considered that Lassalle had 
understood Heraclitus : " Certainly he understood him. A nor- 
mally gifted scholar will not, and, indeed, may not, understand 
Heraclitus, but there is no denying that Lassalle understood him, 
and that his book is an excellent and capable piece of work." 

Lassalle's conception and statement of Herachtus's meta- 
physics betrays the hand of the accomplished Hegelian : the 
essential unity of the great contraries. Being and Not-Being, 
the concept of Becoming which forms the transition from 
Not-Being to Being, is the Divine law itself. Nature herself 
is but the visible promulgation of this law which forms the 
essence of her being, the law of the identity of contraries. 
Day is but the impulse to become night, night but the impulse 
to become day ; sunrise is but uninterrupted sunset, etc. The 
cosmos is but the visible realization of this harmony of con- 
traries which pervades and governs aU existence. Heiberg 
himself could have carried Hegelianism no further, and could 
have displayed no greater pleasure in the technicalities of this 
school of thought than is apparent in the Hegelian explanation 
_of the origin of Herachtus from the Eleatic School : " Their 
pure universal Being is thus Being in itself, Not-Being : for 
all real Being is but definite and qualitative Being ; the re- 
moval and negation of aU real tangible Being is Not-Being. . . . 
The reconciliation of this contradiction, the self-existent Not- 

1 Lassalle, "Heraclitus," i. 35. Cf. Lazarus and Steinthal, Zeitschrift fitr 
Volkerpsychologie uni Sprachkunde, ii. 333. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 35 

Being, is the kernel and the whole depth (sic) of his philosophy. I 
Thus far we may say, that this philosophy is contained in the \ 
one phrase, only Not-Being exists."^ _j 

Heiberg was a Privy Councillor when he died, and if in the 
next world his feehngs were not outraged by his agreement 
with so notorious a revolutionary, he might well have joined 
hands with Lassalle in approval of such an exposition as we 
have outlined.^ Lassalle then explains with entire correctness 
why Heraclitus, in spite of his transcendental principles, none 
the less drew names for his fundamental concepts from the 
material world. He conceived " Not-Being and its unity witli" 
Being as operative, but also as invariably existing objectively, 
and as positing and perfecting itself objectively. He did not 
consider it as reflected upon itself, as existing only for itself as 
a subjective idea ; and as his principle so far was nothing more 
than Not-Being in objective existence, he could only speak of 
it as such — that is to say, in terms of outward and objective 
existence. Not-Being, however, as existing objectively, is 
fire, water in motion, war, harmony, time, necessity, univer- 
sally ruling justice, and Dike limiting action, etc." __ 

The method employed by Lassalle in this metaphysical and 
philosophical investigation is purely Hegelian. On the other 
hand, it is equally clear that the chief interest in the, subject 
of his researches was for him the fact that Heraclitus antici- 
pated his own great master. If Hegel had been bom in Asiatic 
Greece, at the close of the sixth century before our era, he 
would have become Heraclitus. Even in antiquity it had been 
observed that while Heraclitus posits contraries as the origin 
of "jthe world, he does not recognize the fundamental principle 
of j the contradictory. Heraclitus had already adopted a 
position comparable to the deification of Nature by Spinoza 

* Lassalle, " Heraclitus," i. 25, 35. 

^ Lassalle was never able entirely to abandon the use of Hegelian dialect 
In his tragedy, " Franz von Sickingen," Charles V. speaks of his objects, and 
says in true Hegelian manner : 

" If you could make 
My purposes the content of your will — 

Then, Franz — 
Then mightest thou rise." 

In his last important work, " Capital and Labour," he speaks of the " revul- 
sions " (UmscMagen) of conceptions . See also his " System of Acquired 
Rights," ii. 9, for the dialectical activity of the concept. 



36 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

when he explained that to God everything was beautiful and 
righteous, but that man had named one thing righteous and 
another unrighteous. In Heraclitus may be found the philo- 
sophical inclination, which was so predominant when Hegel- 
ianism was at its height, to use every possible opportunity of 
making assertions hopelessly unacceptable to the so-caUed 
common sense. Lassalle himself observes : " Modem philosophy 
was careful repeatedly to emphasize the fact that the most 
simple and ordinary matters which everyone thinks he knows 
by instinct are precisely those about which least is known, 
and whose nature is utterly incomprehensible to the thinking 
intelligence. But in fact Heraclitus was the first to announce 
a truly speculative idea, and consequently he was also the 
first to make this same assertion concerning the impotence of 
_jion-speculative thought and of the subjective intelligence." 

The ethical system of Heraclitus, says Lassalle, is contained 
in the single idea, which is itself the eternal and fundamental 
concept of morality — " surrender to the Universal." This 
statement is both Greek and modern, but Lassalle cannot deny 
himself the pleasure of a special exposition, showing how this 
idea of the old Greek philosophers coincided with the political 
philosophy of Hegel. " In Hegel's philosophy laws are alike 
regarded as the realization of the universally existing will, 
though this definition has not the smallest reference to the 
formal wiU of the subjects or to their number. Similarly, the 
Universal of Heraclitus is far removed from the category of 
_CTnpirical totality."^ 

Stress is laid on this feature, not only on account of the 
similarity with Hegel, but also because it coincided with 
Lassalle's most cherished political views. From his earliest 
youth he had regarded the idea of the State as the realization 
of morality, right, and reason. His enthusiasm for this idea, 
and his belief in the destiny of the State, not only as a pro- 
tective force, but also as a positive stimulus to right and culture, 
runs through all his writings. The idea may be traced in his 
scholarly and scientific researches, as in this case of his " Hera- 
clitus." It is more strongly expressed, though appearing only 
incidentally, in his great legal work (" The System of Acquired 

* Lassalle, " Heraclitus," i. 36, 92, 119 ; ii. 276, 431, 439. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 37 

Rights," i. 47 ; ii. 603 et seq.) ; eventually it is proclaimed in his 
political and economic pamphlets, with passionate attacks upon 
the doctrine of the Manchester School, and with all the warmth 
of conviction which made Lassalle so popular and so formidable 
as a speaker and a writer. 

The contrast between Heraclitus and Lassalle in this respect 
is simply as follows : From the political teaching of the Greek 
thinker it becomes quite obvious that, notwithstanding his 
reverence for the Universal, he must have been in the bitterest 
opposition to the rule of the masses which prevailed in his 
town of Ephesus ; it is much harder to understand how 
Lassalle could have advanced from kindred and Hegelian 
conceptions of the State to practical conclusions, which remind 
us much rather of Rousseau than of Hegel. But his attractive 
personahty betrays an inward inconsistency which is often 
noticeable in the case of prominent intellects. By instinct, 
and as a result of his first principles, Lassalle was a worshipper 
of intelligence, of reason, and a passionate opponent and 
scomer of public opinion and of numbers. On the other hand, 
by conviction, and as the result of his political and practical 
principles, Lassalle, as everyone knows, was a most decided 
champion of popular power, a persistent and successful sup- 
porter of universal suffrage, and a pioneer in the service of 
democratic power such as history had never yet seen. An intel- 
lectual aristocrat and a social democrat ! The human heart 
may contain yet greater contradictions than these, but not 
without loss can they form part of a man's disposition. The 
phenomenon that here meets us is, in the world of thought, 
precisely that contrast which was outwardly apparent when 
Lassalle, in his dandified clothes, his fine linen, and his patent- 
leather boots, spoke formally or informally among a number of 
grimy, horny-handed mechanics. 

If, however, in this respect a certain contradiction existed 
between LassaUe and the Greek philosopher he admired, on the 
other hand a similarity is appareht when we read his description 
of Heraclitus's character, with its incredible self-confidence and 
scorn of humanity. Great must have been the appreciation 
of his own importance possessed by anyone who, hke Hera- 
clitus, could repeatedly assert that " mankind for the mosTl 



38 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

part is unintelligent, and that he himself alone possessed 
knowledge, while all others acted as though they were in their 
sleep." Hefcould also say of his fellow-citizens, speaking in 
general terms, that " they deserved to be hung, for the masses 

Q^only feed themselves like cattle," and in reference to a par- 
ticular case, the expulsion of his friend Hermodorus : " The 

"Ephesians ought to be strangled as they grow up, without 
exception, and the State should be left to the children, for 
they have driven out the most excellent of their number, 
Hermodorus, sapng no one shall be the most excellent among 
us, and if anyone holds that position, then let him be excel- 
lent somewhere else and among other people."^ 

"We can hardly doubt that these words must often have 
occurred to Lassalle in the years immediately before his death, 
when he saw himself everywhere calumniated and slandered, 
menaced with years of imprisonment, persecuted by the 
authorities and the Press, and received with indifference by 
the greater number of those whom he wished to help and for 
whom he sacrificed his peace of mind. In my opinion, no more 
striking counterpart can anywhere be found to the despairing 
self-assertiveness of Heraclitus, the bitterness and scorn of 
which reminds us of Timon of Athens, than the sad but 
wonderfully written meditation with which Lassalle concludes 
his work, " Capital and Labour." 

" To think of this general descent on the part of the niiddle 
classes in the land of Lessing and Kant, Schiller and Goethe, 
Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel ! Did these intellectual heroes 
merely sweep above our heads like a flight of cranes ? Of their 
vast intellectual work, and of the influence which they exerted 
upon the progress of the world, has absolutely nothing reached 
the nation at large ? Does German nationalism merely con- 
sist of a series of isolated individuals, each faithfully taking 
up the inheritance of his predecessors and pursuing his lonely 
labours, which to the nation are fruitless, in bitter contempt 
of his contemporaries ? What is that curse which has dis- 
inherited the middle classes, so that from the great work of 
civilization which has been completed among them, and from 
all this great atmosphere of culture, no single drop of refreshing 

I Lassalle, " Heraclitus," ii. 269, 281, 442. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 39 

dew has ever fallen upon their steadily decajdng brains ? They 
celebrate the festivals of our great thinkers because they have 
never read their works. If they had read them they would 
bum them. They rave about our poets because they have 
seen or read a few lines of their work, but have never been able 
to appreciate their views of life." 

The last point of coincidence between Heraclitus ariH"* 
LassaUe consists in the passionate desire for fame and glory, 
for praise and the admiration of others, which they felt in spite 
of their self-consciousness and their pride ; it was Heraclitus 
who uttered the oft-quoted saying : " Greater fates obtain the 
greater lot " {i.e., the greater reward). Another saying of his 
puts this sentence in the proper light : " The masses and" 
those who think themselves wise foUow the poets of the people, 
and ask the laws for counsel, not knowing that the masses are 
bad, that few of them are good, and that the best choose one 
thing instead of all, the ever-persisting reputation of mortals."^ 
Fame to Heraclitus was, indeed, the greatest reward that the" 
greater fate could obtain. His love of honour did not spring 
immediately and instinctively from his nature, but was also 
founded upon reflection and philosophy. " Fame," says 
Lassalle, " is, in fact, the most opposite of all things, most 
opposite to the category of immediately real Being and its 
several objects. Fame is the Being of mankind within the 
sphere of his Not-Being. It is pure persistence amid the decay 
of material existence, and is therefore the immortality of man_ 
obtained and reahzed." He adds the enthusiastic remark : 
" This is the reason why fame has ever exerted so powerful aiP 
attraction upon great souls, and has lifted them beyond all 
petty and limited things. It is the reason why Platen sings 
of it that it comes only ' hand in hand with the angel of 
death that puts men on trial ' ; it is also the reason why 
Heraclitus regarded it as the ethical realization of his specula- 
tive principle." . 

This estimation of fame and glory may be in complete 

harmony with the metaphysical system of Heraclitus, but the 

fact remains that it is sheer logical contradiction to unite this 

desire for outside admiration with deep scorn for the judgment 

1 lassalle, " Heraclitus," ii. 434, 436. 



40 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

of other people ; but the smallest knowledge of the world will 
show that things logically incompatible may coexist without 
dif&culty in the human soul. Hence we may observe even in 
Lassalle a pride which is never cast down or despondent, in 
close connection with an irresistible desire to obtain praise and 
compliments, and to secure the admiration or the applause of 
others. I am anxious not to be misunderstood. Nothing is 
more natural or human than to enioy the approval and the 
praise of the best men. Anyone who is indifferent to applause 
of this kind could hardly become an author or take a leading 
part in any direction ; indeed, we may go further, and say that 
to the author and the orator a certain amount of recognition 
is an absolute necessity, and is in certain respects the very 
breath of his nostrils ; but if the stream is against him, or he is 
forced to struggle against it, as was the case with Lassalle, he 
can content himself with private manifestations of respect, and 
to such private testimony he should appeal only reluctantly 
and at rare intervals during the period of his public unpopu- 
larity. But Lassalle was unable to withstand this temptation, 
against which his pride was not adequate to defend him. He 
appeals to private approval inopportunely and with want of 
tact. In his case there is more than the orator's polemical 
attitude ; it is something wholly natural to him. I am not 
referring to the fact that he occasionally expresses with over- 
weening self-consciousness that which was the simple truth, and, 
in view of the lies and perversions which were poured upon 
him, was weU worth mention — namely, the fact that he was no 
mere amateur, but a great and, indeed, a supreme scholar, 
who had produced works of permanent value, including one 
important masterpiece. I am referring to his unfortunate 
preference for the froth and fury of reputation, for the 
drums and trumpets of fame which he required or claimed 
for himself, even upon occasions of small importance. For 
instance, he boasts before workmen of having attacked 
in a literary satire the mediocre historian of literature, 
. Tulian Schmidt — " amid the tumultuous applause of the 
'' great scholars and thinkers of Germany, who are congratu- 
\y I lating me by letter and by word of mouth." ^ The publica- 
"'^--^ Lassalle, " The Festivals, the Press, and the Meeting of Frankfort Deputies. ' 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 41 

tion of the pamphlet in question, an extremely clever and 
presumptuous production, became, in his opinion, a high intel- 
lectual achievement. The depth of this characteristic in him 
can only be realized when we observe its emergence in Lassalle's 
free poetical compositions, in his favourite hero, Ulrich von 
Hutten, in the drama " Franz von Sickingen." With a pathos 
drawn from the depths of Lassalle's heart, Ulrich describes his 
feelings when " the gloomy tyranny of dogma " again raised 
its head in Germany, when the closed columns of the obscuran- 
tists revolted against the rise of science, and Cologne, " the 
German capital of priestcraft," proclaimed Reuchlin and his 
writing as heretical. The opening passage is excellent ; the 
roar and thunder of delivery is entirely appropriate ; but 
eventually we reach the unfortunate cry for applause : 

And now I knew the purpose of my birth, - 

Why I was welded in the forge of WQe. ^J 

And, as the billow foams upon the deep. 

As the wild breakers roar upon the shore 

Back-beaten, so with eyes aflame inl wrath, "^ 

Trembhng with passion and the keen delight 

Of battle, did I plunge into the strife — 

The battle-axe of anger and the club 

Of keen-spiked satire whirled I then aloft 

And crushed the enemy beneath my feet, 

Europe re-echoing with wild applause 

And scornful laughter, as their wretched lives 

That strutted in their tinsel finery 

Were pilloried and put to open shame. 

Then rose the hatred of an angry world 

Encircling me, and thus I ever strove 

Combating, breast to breast, until the death. 

The foregoing analysis will perhaps somewhat lessen the 
astonishment, which we might at first be incUned to feel, that 
Lassalle should have devoted so large a part of his youth to 
the study of a mind so remote from us in point of time and 
civilization. It wiU be obvious that the Greek thinker, not 
only by his logical tendencies and his dialectical method, but 
also by his doctrine of duty, with its high appreciation of the 
State and of sacrifice for the general welfare, and by his 
characteristics, virtues as well as vices, coincided in a very 
special degree with the character of his youthful admirer, whose 
conquest he made some thousand years after his death, in 
virtue of the same law which made Soren Kierkegaard so 
passionate a disciple of Socrates. 



CHAPTER V 

I HAVE already mentioned that the period of Lassalle's life 
which was occupied by his studies upon Heraclitus and by the 
case of Countess Hatzfeldt also saw his first appearance as a 
politician, and its consequences. 

A few months after his trial at Cologne we find LassaUe once 
more in the dock, on this occasion at Diisseldorf, and, to use his 
own expression, " no less battered with criminal prosecutions 
than the armour of a warrior with arrows." The great social 
and constitutional movement of the year 1848 had suddenly 
diverted his attention from his own private struggles. Not- 
withstanding his youth, he was one of the most influential 
and active members of the Republican party which was then 
very numerous in Germany. Young as he was, he was one of 
the leaders. He gathered political meetings and spoke before 
them ; he arranged for the exhibition of posters at the street- 
comers, calling for armed resistance when the Prussian Govern- 
ment, by a breach of the Constitution, declared the National 
Assembly dissolved. Hated for his share in the Hatzfeldt 
affair, feared on account of his determined and undaunted 
attitude, he was thrown into prison as soon as the counter 
revolution secured the upper hand, and by legal quibbles of 
every kind his period of detention during the preliminary 
investigation of his case was protracted over more than half a 
year. 

The speech which LassaUe then delivered before his judges 
is, in my opinion, one of the most remarkable examples of 
youthful virility and eloquence that history contains. Unless 
we were aware of the facts, no one would suspect that the 

42 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 43 

speech was delivered by a young man in his twenty-fourth 
year. On this occasion Lassalle was magnificent. He felt 
himself inspired and inwardly enlightened by the noblest and 
purest sympathy which can fill the human heart, and no one 
for a moment can doubt the genuine nature or the depth of 
his feeling. His oratorical blade is wielded with a vigour and 
an art, a dexterity and a force, which cannot be surpassed, 
and yet is never used for the sake of mere display. For the 
first time he comes forth, handsome and radiant, at the height 
of his powers. The speech has the fresh colouring of early 
youth, and yet is never marred by youthful bombast or pre- 
sumption ; but to describe a political speech, a knowledge of 
which cannot be presumed, is impossible, the more so as its 
strength is equally distributed over every part of it, so that 
only by a knowledge of the whole can an estimate of its value 
be formed. We can, and we must, give a few quotations, but 
quotation gives but a feeble idea of the nervous vigour of the 
speech. A iMcket ef water gives no idea of the depth of the 
well. 

Th« exordium ef the speech is very characteristic. Lassalle 
does not propose to deal with the defence as such, for this the 
defending counsel has already done, but with the charge which 
the orator will hurl against the case which has been strained 
against him, and the corpus delicti of which is to be found in 
the documents of indictment. 

Still more characteristic is the following explanation : Las- 
salle says that he will always be ready to admit that his own 
convictions have led him to adopt a revolutionary attitude, 
and that he is a " revolutionary from principle." He wUl not, 
however, conduct his defence from this standpoint, which the 
Government would naturally decline to recognize. It is im- 
possible, he says, to come to grips with an opponent or to 
wound him, if one adopts a materially different standpoint 
from the outset. The opponent is then out of range, and 
blows fall upon empty air. It is, indeed, possible to overthrow 
the opponent by adopting a precisely opposite standpoint and 
exposing the erroneous nature of the opponent's fundamental 
ideas ; but in that case he cannot be put to shame, and it is 
impossible to demonstrate his inconsistency, his betrayal of 



44 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

the principles to which he declares adherence or which he is 
forced to support for the sake of appearances. " In the interests 

""of attack^ and to promote the vigour of my onslaught, I will 
therefore descend to take up the position which the State 
Attorney himself must at least make a show of assuming, as an 
official in a constitutional State ; I will adopt a strictly con- 
stitutional standpoint, and conduct my defence only upon that 
ground." 

A moment's consideration should be devoted to the ex- 
pression " revolutionary by principle," which repeatedly 
occurs in LassaUe's writings, has been often explained by 
him, and has been as constantly misunderstood, for in a sense 
it is the central point of his political and social views as a whole.^ 
Whenever he has been called a revolutionary, he replies that, 
in the uprightness of his heart, he has admitted the truth of 
the accusation time after time, wherever it has been brought 
against him, in public, in his books, in his speeches, and even 
before courts of law ; but it is important to understand the 
sense in which he uses the phrase. In his speech before the 
Court of Assizes he emphasizes the fact that the Government 
have lost the support of " the weak and rotten crutch of 

_Jegal title," and he goes on to say : " In national life legal title 
is a bad position to assume, because law is only the expression 
and the will of society reduced to writing ; it is never the 
master of society ; when the will and the necessities of society 
have changed, the old legal code should be relegated to the 
museum of history, and the new presentation of current needs 

^should take its place." For this reason, in another passage of 
the speech, he appeals to his judges with the words : " Let 
the courts of the Rhine openly proclaim themselves revolu- 
tionary tribunals, and I am ready to recognize them and to 

I explain myself before them. As I am a revolutionary by 
principle, I know the kind of justification that can be claimed 
by a triumphant power when it comes forward openly and 
without concealment ; but I will never silently endure to see 
the most bloodthirsty power exercised under the apparently 

1 For this expression, compare " Speech before the Assize Court," 1848, 
32, 49 ; " Labour Programme," 7 ; " To the Workmen of Berlins," 13 ; " Trial 
for High Treason," 12 ; " Science and the Workmen," 41, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 45 

sacred form of legal right, or to see law stand as crime, and 
crime as law, under the aegis of the law." 

These words may certainly indicate some personal preference"" 
for the employment of forcible means ; at the same time, 
throughout his life Lassalle laid emphasis upon the purely 
scientific sense of the word " revolution " as he used it. His 
speeches abound with scornful commentaries upon those who 
can neither hear nor read the word " revolution " without see- 
ing ," pitchforks brandished " before their eyes. Revolution 
implies reversal, and such a change has invariably taken place 
when an entirely new principle has been substituted for 
existing conditions, with or without the employment of force ; 
for the means of change are of minor consequence. Reform, 
on the other hand, begins when the principle underlying existing 
conditions is retained, and is merely developed in milder or 
more consistent or more righteous directions. Here again the 
means employed is of minor importance. Reform may be 
achieved amid uproar and bloodshed, and revolution amid the 
profoundest peace. The terrible peasant war, which Lassalle 
persisted in regarding as anything but a revolutionary move- 
ment, was an attempt to secure reform by force of arms. The 
discovery of the cotton-spinning machine in 1775, and, in 
general, the peaceful development of modem manufacture, 
was invariably described by LassaUe as revolution upon a 
great scale. In this, as in so many other cases, the important 
point is the readiness to understand. No thinking reader can 
doubt that the cry which Lassalle somewhere utters is the 
expression of deep feeling.^ __ 

" What ! Can anybody have struggled, like Faust, with 
firm and serious tenacity though the philosophy of the Greeks 
and the system of Roman law, through the various depart- 
ments of historical science, as far as modem political economy 
and statistics, and can you seriously believe that the conclusion 
of this long course of development is to place the incendiary's 
torch in the hands of the proletariat ? Is our knowledge of 
science and our insight into its civilizing and humanizing 
force so small that anyone can believe this result possible ?'^ 
This appeal does indeed contain a slight tincture of legal 

1 Lassalle, " Indirect Taxation," 117. 



46 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

h3rpocrisy excusable in the dock. It is true that Lassalle's 
object can never have been fire and sword, but for his friends 
he did not attempt to conceal that he would not recoil 
from a reign of terror as a means to secure his end. If we 
wish to secure a true opinion of his inclination to forcible 
means, we must gain a closer acquaintance with his leading 
ideas than we have hitherto attained. 

If I were asked what was the leading principle around which 
Lassalle's ideas centred, or what was the main question upon 
which his mind worked, I should reply. Might and right. 
These were the two poles which marked the course of his 
orbit. The fundamental question which occupied his mind 
was undoubtedly how right and might stand in the relation 
of cause and effect. The common misinterpretation of 
his views is to consider that he put might in the place 
of right. We shall soon see how remote this belief is 
from truth, and what it was that gave rise to the misunder- 
standing. His only poetical production is comparatively 
valueless, regarded as a dramatic work, but is highly interesting 
as the unreserved and rhetorical expression in lyrical form 
of the teeming ideas and the full mental life of its author. 
The passage occupied by the dialogue between Okolampadius 
and Hutten deserves special attention : 

rj-vw Okolampadius. 

~' Believest thou then that this, our sacred light, 

1 <• The light of truth and reason, which on high 

Has risen for us, could e'er again be quenched 
In darkness of unreason, and would fail 
Of its own self to spread throughout the world ? 

Hutten. 
Master revered, thy knowledge of the past 
Should teach thee better. Reason is its content 
Therein thou spakest truly ; but its form 
Abides eternal, and its form is force ! 

Okolampadius. 
Bethink thee, knight. Wilt thou then desecrate 
Our loving gospel with the bloody sword ? 

Hutten. 
Master revered I Think better of the sword ! 
The sword, uplifted for great freedom's cause. 
Is sure the Word Incarnate that thou preachest. 
Is God Himself, born for the sons of men. 
The sword hath spread the teaching of the Christ, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 47 

The sword in Germany baptized that Charles 

Whom yet in wonder we do call the Great ; 

The sword o'erthrew the heathen and restored 

The tomb of the Redeemer to the world. 

Tarquinius was driven forth from Rome, 

Xerxes was lashed from Hellas' windy shores, 

And art and science born for men to come. 

Through that same sword with which Judge Gideon, 

Samson and David slew their enemies. 

Thus early and thus late the sword performed 

The splendid exploits of the storied past. 

And all the glory that shall ever be 

Will owe its being to the sword, the sword ! 

In this declaration Lassalle first expresses without reserve 
his respect for might and for forcible measures, which gives 
so characteristic and so modem a touch to his genius. Through- 
out the poem we find expressions in the mouths of the most 
different people, proclaiming this delight in might as the 
support of right. Thus, for instance, Balthasar says : 

Then he appeared at Worms, was laughed to scorn. 

Justice was then refused us, so he took 

Certain ten thousand well-considered reasons. 

I with steel head-piece, lady, also went 

With him to Worms, and forthwith supervened 

A demonstration and a disputation 

In such sort as you well may understand. 

And, in more exalted style, Ulrich von Hutten : 

Might is the greatest blessing under heaven 
When it supports a great and righteous cause ; 
A miserable toy, when to sustain 
Some tinsel state it cumbereth the hand 
Wherein it rests. 

It is often the case that some favourite word or metaphor 
wiU betoken the nature of an author's ideal. Lassalle's 
favourite word is " iron " or " bronze." Years before the words 
blood and iron became a political cry in Bismarck's mouth, 
Lassalle had appealed to the " iron lot." He uses no meta- 
phor so constantly. Iron is to him the type of beneficent 
despotism, the blow which clears the way and removes detri- 
ment, the imperial stroke which shortens the painful progress 
of time and accelerates the difficult birth of the ideal of a new 
period. Franz von Sickingen praises iron as " the god of 
man," as the magic wand, the stroke of which brings wishes to 
fulfilment, as the last resort of the despairing, and the highest 
pledge of freedom. In a style yet more distinctive and more 



48 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

characteristic of Lassalle, Franz indicates the decision by 
force of arms, when the Emperor's herald offers him the choice, 
in his master's name, either of submission with full justice from 
the Emperor, or of outlawry as a rebel. 

Herald, take hence this answer to thy lord ; 

The time for words is past ; portentously 

The hour of stern decision comes and knocks 

With iron finger at the door of Time ! 

Low lies thine empire, quivering in the dust, 

And by no legal patchwork shall the strife 

That rends it e'er be quelled. Herald, behold ! 

See there the ordnance and the mouths of thunder 

Whence for this age of ours resistless might 

Is born into the world. Within my camp 

I hold the power of the imperial courts, 

A new commandment will I soon enforce. 

And nerve me to an action, such as none 

Of Roman emperors ever dared or dreamed.' 

As a youth in his first case, Lassalle had asserted that he 
represented right against might, and, strangely enough, with 
expressions which he then used in a depreciatory sense but now 
employed for laudatory purposes. Thus, in his speech before 
the Assize Court, he scornfully says : " As it had been decided 
r~to create right solely and simply by the cannon's mouth, why 
I was not the civic guard simply disbanded without stating 
|_^ny further reason ?" At that time he used expressions 
which are put into the mouth of Balthasar in his poem to 
denote admiration, but which he himself employed in bitterest 
scorn : " If they had no rights, they had something better ; 
they had in Berlin a state of siege, Wrangel, sixty thousand 
soldiers, and several hundred guns ; in Breslau, Magdeburg, 
Cologne, and Diisseldorf there were so many soldiers and so 
many hundred guns. Those are imperative reasons which 
anyone can understand." With the eloquence of passion in 
this strong, proud speech, Lassalle had represented the stand- 
point of law against that of force : " However, the Assembly was 
"dissolved, and instead of summoning a new Assembly in virtue 
of the same electoral law, a Constitution was forced upon us — 
in other words, the whole system of public right was abolished 
with one stroke. They were tired of slowly breaking the 
constitutional organism of the country upon the wheel, shatter- 
ing limb after Umb and law after law. They boldly threw the 
1 I-assalle, " Franz von Sickingen," 2, 62, 85, 92, 140, 151, 207. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 49 

whole concern into the lumber-room and replaced it with their jf 
sic volo sic jubeo and with the eloquence of bayonets." Strange' 
is the apparent contradiction to his praises of sword and iron, 
when he then exclaimed : " The sword is indeed the swordT 
but it is not legal right. Judges who would stoop to persecute 
citizens because they wished to defend their laws, on the basis 
of those very laws the maintenance of which is their sacred 
duty, judges who impute the defence of their laws to their 
nation as a crime, I will never consider judges, but can only 
regard them as the satellites of force, and perhaps the nation 
wiU think with me. ... In my prison cell I wiU endure what- 
ever menaces the sword may have for me when it has desecrated 
the forms of right. I shall allow my case to assume a form 
most disastrous to myself before I will enter counter pleas or 
fulfil any of the formal processes of law, for the purpose of 
playing any part in the legal farce which force is pleased to_ 
perform."- These and many similar expressions show a keen 
consciousness of legal right and a no less keen hatred of brutal 
force, when usurping the place of right. 

. But the mind of this young orator, who had thus early 
reached maturity and practical power, was also dominated 
by a conviction no less keen that ideal right was powerless 
if it was not represented by active minds and strong wills, 
capable of taking the right measures and using the proper 
means for the realization of this right. This was a fact that 
must have stirred the observation and the feehng of a young 
genius, whose deepest characteristics and incUnations were 
practical, when he Uved through the miserable failures that 
marked the progress of the German Revolution of 1848. 
Behind a forehead which expressed energy so strongly, it 
was impossible that thought should not be active, when right 
was seen to be miserably overthrown in consequence of some 
idealist abhorrence of other weapons than those of words, in 
consequence of an hereditary fear of armed authority, in 
consequence of personal cowardice in one case, want of counsel 
in another, conjoined with frivolous prating and a hesitation 
worthy of Hamlet. Anyone who has read Fr. Engel's treatise, 
" The German Imperial Constitutional Campaign " (the revolt 
in Rhenish Prussia and Baden), which appeared in Karl Marx's 

4 



50 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Neue Rheinische Zeitung of 1850, will understand that this 
helpless generation, with its lack of discipline, was necessarily 
followed by a generation firmly resolved to clothe its ideals in' 
adequate armour, and to give them a mighty sword — a genera- 
tion which regarded the noble metal of right as incapable of 
becoming current coin unless it was consolidated by the alloy 
of might. Eventually both the noble and the base metal was 
almost entirely amalgamated under the eyes of this generation 
— a generation which realized that the dice of iron were the 
hardest and the best, and which, like Brennus of old, threw 
the steel into the scales. 

Read Lassalle's lamentations in that speech, over the failure 
of the National Assembly to create a real citizen force at the 
right time for the protection of the Constitution. Read his 
murderous sarcasm upon the invitation of the National 
Assembly to begin a course of " passive resistance " against 
jthe attacks of the Government : " Passive resistance, gentle- 
men — and we must concede that our enemies have appreciated 
the fact — the passive resistance of the National Assembly was 
certainly a crime. Choose one of two alternatives — either the 
Crown was Avithin its rights when it issued those measures, 
and in that case the National Assembly was a band of rebels 
and outlaws when it opposed the legal rights of the Crown and 
brought discord upon the country, or the measures of the Crown 
were illegal acts of force, in which case the freedom of the 
people was to be vigorously protected with their persons and 
their lives, and the National Assembly was bound to call the 
land to arms. In that case the strange device of passive 
resistance was a cowardly betrayal of the people, and of the 
duty of the Assembly to protect the people's rights. . . . 
The individual, gentlemen, if he suffers ill-treatment from the 
State or from a body of men — ^if , for instance, I were condemned 
by you — could honourably offer a passive resistance. I could 
shelter myself within my rights, and utter my protest, as I 
have not the power to make it effective. . . . The nation can 
be subdued by force, as Poland was subdued, but the subjuga- 
tion was not effected until the battle-field had been besprinkled 
with the blood of her noblest sons and until her last forces 
had been mown down. . . . Then, when all strength has 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 51 

been broken, the body of such a nation may content itself 
with passive resistance — ^that is to say, with protests to secure 
their rights, with endurance and toleration, with anger in their 
hearts, with silent hatred repressed, waiting with folded arms 
until some moment of salvation brings redemption. Passive 
resistance of this kind, after the event, after every means of 
active resistance has failed, is the highest degree of enduring 
heroism ; but passive resistance before the event, when not a 
blow has been struck, when not the smallest appeal has been 
made to the forces ready to hand, is the profoundest disgrace, 
the most supreme stupidity, and the greatest cowardice which 
could ever be attributed to a nation. Passive resistance, 
gentlemen, is self-contradiction incarnate ; it is tolerant resist- 
ance — a resistance that does not oppose or resist. Passive 
resistance is like Lichtenberg's knife which had no handle and 
the blade of which was lost, or Uke fur which must be washed 
without making it wet. Passive resistance is the inward will 
without the practical action, and passive resistance is the 
product of the following factors : a clear recognition of duty 
imperatively urging resistance, and personal cowardice declining 
resistance. These two factors during their abhorrent embraces 
on the night of November 10 begot that consumptive child, 
that hectic offspring, passive resistance."^ __ 

Can we be surprised that the man who could inveigh against 
weakness and impotence with such emphasis at the age of 
twenty-three should praise iron as the god of man ten years 
later ? 

This relationship between might and right is a problem that 
always occupied Lassalle's mind. He penetrates more deeply 
into the conditions of their interaction, and studies ever more 
zealously their dependence upon one another. 

In 1862, amid the Prussian constitutional struggles, he gave 
a lecture in Berlin upon the nature of constitutions. He 
attempts in this lecture to define the idea of a constitution or of 
a fundamental law, and in analyzing the term "fundamental 
law " he finds, firstly, that such a law must lie deeper than 
ordinary legal decision ; so much is shown by the word " funda- 
mental." Secondly, that as it is the basis of other laws, it must 

1 " Speech before the Assize Court," i6, 26, 33-35, 48. 



52 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

preserve an active and operative influence upon them. Thirdly, 
that these conceptions are necessary and inevitable, for the 
idea of fundamental contains the idea of operative necessity 
and active force. 

If the constitution thus forms the fundamental law of the 
land, it must be defined as an operative force, necessarily 
making aU other laws and legal institutions in any country 
what they are. Lassalle then proceeds to ask whether there 
is in reality such an operative force. " Yes," is the answer, 
" there is indeed such a force — namely, the actual conditions 
of force which exist in any given society. These actual con- 
ditions of force are the living power which so determines all the 
laws and legal institutions of a society, that they cannot be 
materially otherwise than they are." 

To explain his meaning, Lassalle employs an example for 
jllustration. " Suppose," he said, " that some gigantic con- 
flagration destroyed aU written law in Prussia, and that the 
land by some such calamity was deprived of all law, with the 
consequence that the difficulty could only be solved by the 
promulgation of new laws, are we to suppose that in such a 
case the legislator could go to work as he liked ? Could he 
issue any new laws he pleased ? Let us see. Suppose people 
said : ' The laws have perished ; we are compiling a new 
code, and on this occasion we decline to give the royal power 
the position it had previously held, or we prefer to give it 
no position at all.' In such a case the King would simply 
say : ' The laws may have perished, but, as -a matter of 
fact, the army obeys me, and will march as I order it. As 
a matter of fact, again, the commanders of the arsenals and 
barracks wiU send out their guns at my orders, and the 
artillery wiU march through the streets, and, relying upon 
this practical power, I wiU not permit you to assign any 
^Otljer position to me than that which I choose to take.' " 
J^assaUe then concludes : " You see, gentlemen, that a King 
who is obeyed by his army and his artillery is part of the 
_cpnstitution." Developing his argument in similar fashion, 
^e goes on : " A nobility which has influence at Court and upon 
the King is also an element in the constitution. — Now let us 
suppose that King and nobility agreed in virtue of their full 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 53 

powers to introduce the mediaeval system of guilds ; for instance, 1 
that the calico printer should employ no dyers, and that no I 
master in any branch of handicraft should be allowed to have 
more than a certain number of workmen ; in other words, that 
production upon a large scale should be impossible. What 
would be the result ? In such a case the great manufacturers — 
men like Borsig, Egels, etc. — ^would close their works, and even 
the railway directors would dismiss their workmen. The 
whole mass of workmen crjnng for bread would then invade the 
streets, incited by the whole of the middle classes, and a war 
would break out, in which victory would not inevitably belong 
to the army ; and thus you see, gentlemen, that such men as 
Borsig, Egels, and great manufacturers in general, are also 
elements in the constitution. In virtue of the Government's 
need for large monetary resources, the great bankers and the 
Stock Exchange in general are likewise elements. 

" Let us now suppose that the Government should think well 
to issue such a law as exists in Japan, to the effect that if anyone 
committed theft, his father should be punished ; we then dis- 
cover that general opinion and culture as a whole within certain 
limits are also elements in the constitution. Let us further 
suppose that the Government should deprive the citizens of less 
importance, and the working classes not only of their political 
but also of their personal freedom ; that it made them serfs 
and slaves; and we can see that in certain extreme cases even 
the common man, without the support of the great manu- 
facturers, becomes a part of the constitution. 

" Having thus seen what the constitution of a country is 
— namely, the several forces existing within it, we proceed 
to ask what is the relation of these forces to the legal constitu- 
tion, and we can easily see how this constitution has been 
brought about. The actual conditions of force are reduced 
to writing, and are given documentary expression, and when 
they have thus been written they are no longer actual conditions 
of force, but have also attained legal force, have become legal 
institutions, and those who act in opposition to them are 
punished." 

The explanation concludes with a proof that any change in 
the actual conditions of force (the power of the nobility, the 



' 
J 



54 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

prosperity and progress of the towns, the relations between the 
inhabitants of the capital, and the size of the army) is invariably 
accompanied by some corresponding change in the constitution. 
When too wide a discrepancy exists between the written and 
the actual constitution, and when this discrepancy leads to 
oppression, a conflagration occurs in the form of actual revolu- 
tion. The conflagration which we proposed as an instance 
had occurred in March, 1848, but — and here Lassalle returns 
to his old complaint in the speech in his defence delivered in 
1849 — the triumphant people, instead of creating a strong 
defensive force from the lower classes and the proletariat, and 
thus altering the actual situation, were so foohsh as to draw 
up in writing a new and powerless constitution, which therefore 
proved absolutely useless. " If, gentlemen, you have an 
"^pple-tree in your garden, and hang a ticket on it bearing an 
inscription, ' This is a fig-tree,' has the tree then become a 
fig-tree ? No, and even if you gather together the whole of 
your household, or all the inhabitants of the country, and make 
them swear loudly and solemnly, ' This is a fig-tree !' the tree 
remains what it was, and the following years wiU show that it 
will bear apples, and not figs." 

" Constitutional questions," concludes Lassalle, " are, there- 
fore, in the first instance, not questions of right, but questions 
of might. The actual constitution of a country has its existence 
only in the actual conditions of force which exist in the country ; 
hence written constitutions have value and permanence only 
when they accurately express those conditions of force which 
exist in practice within a society." 

This analysis, incredible as it may seem, was immediately 
interpreted by the Liberal newspapers as a declaration that 
might should precede right. Even Count Schwerin said in 
reference to the subject, amid the applause of the Chambers, 
that in the Prussian State right preceded might. Newspaper 
after newspaper, in the hope of silencing Lassalle, refused to 
accept a short article upon the facts of the case, entitled " Might 
and Right," in which he explained the misunderstanding, and 
he found himself obliged to publish the article in pamphlet form. 
|n it he says with admirable truth and emphasis : " If I had 
created the world I should very probably have made an 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 55 

exception at this point in favour of the wishes of the Volks- 
zeitung and of Count Schwerin, and have arranged that right 
should precede might. Such an arrangement would be quite 
in harmony with my own ethical standpoint and desires. 
Unfortunately, however, I have not been entrusted with the 
creation of the world, and must therefore decline any responsi- 
bility, any praise or blame, for the nature of existing 
arrangements." _ 

He then explains it was not his intention to analyze any 
ideal conditions, but to state the facts as they exist, and that 
he was not writing a treatise upon ethics, but a work of 
historical investigation. The result is, that while right certainly 
ought to precede might, might none the less takes precedence 
of right without exception and until right can gather sufficient 
power behind it to overthrow the might of injustice. 

He analyzes the course of development by which the Prussian 
Constitution since 1848 had been formed by continual breaches 
of right, and says : " What is the meaning, then, of the com- 
placent satisfaction with which the Chamber received the 
declaration of Count Schwerin, that right precedes might in 
the Prussian State ? The statement is nothing more than a 
pious expression of hope. Any deeper meaning than this it 
could only have for men who were determined to make might 
inferior to right. No one in the Prussian State has the right to 
speak of ' right ' except the democracy, the old and real 
democracy, for that alone has invariably clung to right, and 
has refused to humiUate itself by any compromise with I 
might." J 

The question of the relationship between might and right 
was to Lassalle a question of facts and reaUty. His observa- 
tions upon this subject are entirely true, and his position is 
impregnable. He realized and apprehended better than anyone 
else in what cases right is supported by might, and in what 
cases it is not, and when also might can become right, and 
when it becomes wrong. 

It was not merely with reference to practical life, but also 
with reference to the "deeper question of constitutional right, 
that he examined and appreciated ^the interaction between the 
force of the old right which the Conservatives championed. 



56 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

and the right of the new intellectual force, as represented by 
the Radical paiiiies. The old right is an acquired right ; the 
new might is the new consciousness of right. What, then, are 
the relations of the new right to the acquired right ? The new 
consciousness of right will both confer and assume rights, but 
how far may it go in this latter respect ? What rights have 
been properly acquired and are inviolable ? If aU old rights 
have this character, progress is at a standstill, and the past 
wiU slay the life of the present. If, on the other hand, no one 
can base his position upon an acquired right, the present will 
slay the past. Thus we reach the conception of acquired 
right with which Lassalle's chief work, " The System of 
Acquired Rights," deals. 



CHAPTER VI 

The task which Lassalle proposed to himself in this work is, 
as he observes in the preface, nothing less than an exposition 
of the political and social idea which has predominated 
throughout the whole of our period. " What is it," he asksT 
" that forms the principle inherent in our political and social 
struggles ? The conception of acquired right has again 
become a point of dispute. In the legal, political, and economic 
spheres, the conception of acquired right is the mainspring and 
impulse to all further development, and even where legal rights 
as related to civil law appeared to be separated from political 
rights, they are none the less even more political than political 
rights properly so-called, for they form the social element." f 

The fact that Lassalle thought it necessary to refer to this 
point shows the superficiality, in his opinion, with which the 
conception of political right was understood by the leaders 
of the Liberal middle classes. 

The title-page explains the object of the work as an attempt 
to reconcile practical jurisprudence with the system of natural 
right. The standpoint adopted by the author in this respect, 
when compared with his standpoint in "Heraclitus," shows that 
he has made a great advance. He is now less definitely 
bound to Hegel. He certainly describes himself as an adherent 
of Hegelian principles, nor would any other statement have 
been in accordance with truth ; but this does not prevent him 
from criticizing with the greatest freedom an important part 
of Hegel's system and of his school. It soon becomes obvious 
that he is upon the point of introducing a modification which 
is indicated in his preface to " Heraclitus." This modification, 

57 



58 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

which Hegel's French disciples afterwards adopted, tends to 
change a system of philosophy which dealt more than any 
former system with the Unconditional, to a philosophy of the 
Relative, and to remodel as an historical system a view of life 
which was more metaphysical than any other. The divergence 
between this position and that of a thinker who desires to 
apply the methods of the experimental sciences to jurispru- 
dence is in appearance inconsiderable, but Lassalle's loyalty to 
Hegelian dialectic and the tendency of his mind, which was 
rather inclined to soar boldly aloft than to advance with 
patience and care, and to prefer systems and hypotheses based 
upon pure reason, also removes him from the scientific methods 
in force at the present day.^ 

In Lassalle's opinion Hegel had merely indicated the general 
logical outline for the work, and as the Hegelian school, with 
their usual hesitation to go to the heart of the matter, merely 
re-echoed his teaching, constitutional philosophy and practical 
jurisprudence remained as widely separated as natural philo- 
sophy and natural science. Hegel's philosophy of mind, indeed, 
can only be evolved from his system at the price of some 
sacrifice of logic. In Hegel's time the term " natural right " 
would have been regarded as implying a right existing from 
time immemorial, universally valid, and agreeable to reason. 
Such an idea was related to positive or historical right, as the 
first draft of a general idea is related to its execution in prac- 
tice ; and people failed to see that natural right is also a matter 
of history and is historical. Thus the fundamental concep- 
tions of philosophical jurisprudence were regarded as eternal 
and unconditioned and as categories of the logical concept ; 
hence Hegel failed to apprehend the nature of historical right, 
and retraced it to lack of reason, arbitrary dealing, and force. 
But the work of mind in history is ever a process of becoming ; 
consequently, in a philosophy of jurisprudence, it is impossible 
to speak of the property, the wrong, the family, the right of 
succession, the civil society, or the State. On the contrary, it 
is necessary to examine the historical conceptions of the Greek, 

•• Compare, for instance, with Lassalle's views a small treatise by Giuseppe 
Saredo, a high Italian legal authority, " Dell' applicazione del metodo sperimen- 
tale alio studio delle scienze civili e giuridiche." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 59 

Roman, and Germanic minds, and to develop from thence Greek, 
Roman, and Germanic ideas of property, etc. Hegel adopts a 
very different position in his philosophy of religion. What would 
have been the result if, instead of stud5nng different rehgions, 
he had spoken of God, dogma, the future Ufe, etc. ? The 
important point in this matter is that the historical, and not 
the metaphysical, method should be used. In dealing with 
the philosophy of jurisprudence, Hegel's pupils have merely 
followed the misleading traces of their master. The most 
capable of them, Gans, in his work upon inheritance, 
straightway introduced our modem conception of heirship, 
and then proceeded to regard this conception as a logical 
category of universal validity. Three years later, during a 
period of most violent agitation, in his work " Capital and 
Labour," LassaUe analyzed the economic conception " capital " 
and the legal conception " property," and showed that these 
conceptions are by no means eternal and unalterable, but are 
of historical growth and beset by historical limitations. Simi- 
larly in this work, with reference to all legal ideas, LassaUe 
has apphed the same historical point of view in the second 
part of the book with special reference to the right of in- 
heritance.^ 

Not less old than law itself is the reluctance to adopt retro- 
spective legislation. The question of acquired right and the 
question of the retrospective action of law coincide. The 
reason of this reluctance is apparently to be found in the 
apprehension that man's freedom might be infringed, retro- 
spective legal action involving an arbitrary extension of the 
idea of responsibility. Proceeding from this fundamental idea, 
Lassalle, in divergence from aU previous investigators, succeeds 
in defining acquired right in its relation to the retrospective 
action of law in the following way : 

1. No law may have retrospective force if it affects the 
individual only through and in virtue of his voluntary 
actions. 

2. Any law may have retrospective force if it affects the 
individual without the intervention of any such voluntary act, 

1 " System of Acquired Rights," i. 68, 70. Cf. " Capital and Labour," 
165, note. 



6o FERDINAND LASSALLE 

and therefore affects him immediately in respect of attributes 
which are involuntary, common to humanity, or transmitted 
to him by society, or if it affects him only by producing an 
organic change in social institutions. 

Lassalle proves in considerable detail that the modern reluct- 
ance to adopt retrospective legislation is entirely non-existent 
among peoples and at stages of civilization in which no clear 
conception has arisen of the human mind as possessing con- 
sciousness, freedom, and responsibility. The Chinese pass a 
new law denoting as criminal an act which has been previously 
performed in entirely good faith in reliance upon existing law, 
and punish the act unmercifully as criminal. Even the Jews 
in antiquity had not attained to the reverence for acquired 
rights which exists among enlightened nations. In the case of 
the daughters of Zelophehad (Num. xxvii. i-ii), where the 
God of Israel delivers a legal decision. He undoubtedly performs 
a piece of retrospective legislation in civil affairs without any 
apparent consciousness of the fact ; but, then, He was an eastern 
God who had not studied Roman law, and was certainly not 
a product of Greek culture and art ; in other words, He was 
the God of a nation which had come to no high consciousness 
of their humanity, as expressed in personal rights by Rome, 
or in perfect beauty by Greece. 

Lassalle's logical point of departure is thus primarily the 
idea which he expressed in earlier years, in his first speech 
before the Court of Assizes — ^the idea that law is a means of 
expressing the national consciousness of right, and that the 
whole body of legal right is merely a definition secured upon 
one occasion by this national consciousness, which is in con- 
tinual process of change. Hence every new definition which 
proceeds from this national spirit immediately affects the 
individual with the same right as preceding changes. The 
individual, therefore, can only regard as securely his what he 
has upon some one occasion by legal means and by his own 
will and action diverted from this stream and so made his 
own. The individual cannot stake out a claim within the 
territory of right, and declare his independence within that 
sphere for all time and against all future and preventive 
legislation. The analysis of the whole range of jurisprudence 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 6i 

in the light of this idea occupies the first volume of the work. 
The exposition is clear and most incisive, but hardly ever 
polemical. Only with Stahl, the well-known romantic re- 
actionary writer, does LassaUe pick a serious quarrel. He 
shows that Stahl's doctrine leads him to regard the whole of 
the existing social order as inviolable and sacred, as this order, 
according to Stahl, together with aU the rights that arise 
from it, must form the acquired right of the individual. Stahl 
proclaims that no age is ever summoned to sit in judgment 
upon the past and to recognize or to destroy the rights which 
the past has produced, according to its own views of their 
suitabihty. " Certainly," replies Lassalle ; " but just because"/ 
every age is autonomous, no age can be subject to the domina- 
tion of another, and no age is bound to permit the continuance 
as right of anything that contradicts its own consciousness oi 
right, or seems to it to be wrong." With his usual penetration, 
he then discovers Stahl in the act of contradicting himself upon 
several occasions, and cannot deny himself the pleasure of 
demonstrating that his adversary has been influenced by " the 
unavoidable breath of Jacobinism, which every dabbler in 
modem philosophy inevitably and even involuntarily receives 
from it." _J 

The most interesting section of this instructive first volume, 
as illuminating the mental growth and the political standpoint 
of the author, is undoubtedly that in which LassaUe treats 
the question of retrospective legislation with regard to the 
great French Revolution. Here the designation, which we have 
before mentioned, " revolutionary by principle," appears in a 
new light, and remarkable confirmation of his doctrine is 
forthcoming. Here at length we see that LassaUe was guilty 
of no empty boast, but spoke the bare truth, when he cried to 
his judges : " Do you know the real thread of connection 
miming through the history of the French Revolution, gentle 
men ? I know it to its minutest fibre." ^ 

The ancients — Cicero, for instance — ^held that everything' 
which was regarded as established by the moral consent of a 
nation, even if it had been reduced to no legal form, might 

1 "System of Acquired Rights," i. 6i, 197, 200-214, 449 ff : "Indirect 
Taxation," 116. 



62 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

be regarded as an element in the national body of rights. 
If it became a law, this new law could only be regarded as an 
exposition of the content of that body of rights. Hence, in 
the opinion of the ancients, such a law could reasonably have a 
retrospective effect. Against this doctrine Lassalle emphasizes 
the fact that it could only hold good with the men of antiquity, 
among whom alone such complete moral unanimity can be Said 
to have prevailed. For modem times the claim must be 
maintained that only such elements in the universal conscious- 
ness of right should lay claim to realization in the form of 
law as have already found some form of expression, either 
direct or tacit. The question then arises. When can it be 
said that such expression has been found, and what does this 
conception imply ? The conception obviously implies that 
the elements of a nation's legal consciousness need not neces- 
sarily be stated in words, but can be just as well realized and 
made effective by national action. 

The French Convention determined by its law of the 17th 
Nivose, in the year II., that the succession to any inheritance 
after July 14, 1789, should be subject to the terms of this new 
law. During the reaction of Thermidor the regulations 
respecting this matter were regarded and stated to be obviously 
retrospective. At the same time, it certainly was not the 
intention of the Convention to infringe the rule against retro- 
spective legislation. The statement of the principles which 
the law was to express denied that any retrospective action 
took place, because the law merely developed the principles 
then proclaimed by a great people, and the further phrase was 
added : retrospective force would only begin at the moment 
when these limits were overpassed. None the less, as we have 
said, this so-caUed retrospective force was afterwards cited 
as a proof of the atrocious acts of the French Convention ; but 
on July 14, 1789, with the capture of the Bastille, the French 
nation had certainly displayed a consciousness of right which 
rejected privileges and monopoly rights. It cannot be main- 
tained that this action gave rise to any legislation developing 
this national consciousness of right to some practically new 
form ; but the state of affairs was materially changed when the 
content of the new right amounted only to a demand for the 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 63 

abolition of previously existing privileges. Hence, only such 
laws as the Convention passed from this point of view are to 
be referred to July 14, 1789. " Thus we see," says LassalleT 
" that this philosophic assembly declared its legislation con- 
cerning inheritance to contain only the formal declaration of 
those principles which the people themselves had proclaimed by 
storming the BastiUe, and had thereby established as rights, 
and in two ways history has justified the Convention. In 
the first place, the principles of hereditary succession, laid 
down in the law of Nivose, which were transferred to the 
civil code, remained undisputed under the First Empire, 
during the Restoration, under the July Monarchy and under 
the Second Empire, and have thus most clearly shown that 
they were a necessary and integral portion of the conscious- 
ness of right that became predominant with the Revolution. 
In the second place, aU historians, French or German, 
reactionary or revolutionary, whether writing philosophical 
works or mere manuals, date the French Revolution from 
July 14, 1789." 

Apparently, it was not without a sense of inward triumpK^ 
that Lassalle stated these instructive facts, for they displayed 
not only the demonstrated validity of laws which are brought 
forth by a revolution, but the no less definite validity of 
retrospective legislation, which was conceived as adequately 
justified by a reference to " unwritten law," and to a new and 
entirely revolutionary consciousness of legal right, expressed 
in a piece of forcible or violent action which Lassalle re- 
garded as profoundly justified. Very characteristic is the 
absence of any reference in his words to the fact that the 
Bastille at the time of its capture was almost an empty fortress 
used for the confinement of actual criminals, and of any 
reference to the much more important fact that the garrison 
consisted of brave invalides who were anxious to spare the 
assailants, whUe the attacking force was composed of a ruthless 
and bloodthirsty street mob. Lassalle regards the capture of 
the Bastille only as a typical action, denoting the fall of an 
arbitrary despotism. 

It should be clearly noted that there is no question here 
of defending any popular rising or any retrospective law 



64 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

issued by authorities temporarily in power, nor is there 
any want of a criterion by which revolutions justified upon 
Lassalle's principles may be distinguished from unjustifiable 
and purposeless risings. Lothar Bucher wrote a colour- 
less preface which bears the stamp of his official position 
as an introduction to the second edition of bassalle's great 
work in 1881. In this he points out the difficulty which any 
observer who stands too close to events must feel in deciding 
whether at any definite point of time " a people has become 
conscious of its rights." He asserts that not every destruction 
of a building, though such action be styled t5^ical, is equivalent 
to a storming of the BastiUe, with all its consequences. But 
these observations are applicable to LassaUe only in the very 
slightest degree. 

Again, Rodbertus Jagetzow thought he had struck a blow 
at Lassalle's doctrine by proposing the question : " How am I 
to learn the intentions of the national consciousness of the 
present day, and how am I to discover whether a national 
consciousness rejects the whole content of previously existing 
right, or merely certain forms of that right ?" Only in the 
latter case, upon Lassalle's system, can any claim to compensa- 
tion exist, and LassaUe was correct when he replied that this 
question had not the smallest connection with the doctrine 
of retrospective legislation. The question, " What are the 
intentions of a national consciousness at the present day, or 
what will its intentions hereafter be upon any subject such as 
marriage, the State, the monarchy, hunting, mining, news- 
papers, or property, is a question concerning the content of 
the consciousness of an age to which no answer can possibly 
be given by formal rules. The theory of retrospective legisla- 
tion can do and is expected to do nothing more than to 
establish the logical sense of right. Whatever may be the 
content of a national consciousness now or hereafter, the logical 
sense of right expresses the consequences which result from 
the application of this consciousness to existing conditions. The 
content of national consciousness itself must be presupposed as 
known. 

In thoroughly characteristic style, displa5nng his nature both 
as a thinker and a leader, LassaUe writes to Rodbertus in a 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 65 

private letter under date February 17, 1863 : " You are' 
naturally quite right when you say that it is impossible to 
discover the intentions of the national consciousness at any one 
time either by a decision of the majority or even by a plebiscite. 
How do I then discover these intentions ? My opinion simply 
is that what you can demonstrate as correct to yourself and 
to the age by means of reason, logic, and science, the age will] 
inevitably demand." 



CHAPTER VII 

The second part of Lassalle's great work is exclusively con- 
cerned with the law of inheritance, and especially with Roman 
law testamentary. The chief object of the book is to 
break down the difference between the historical and the 
dogmatic treatment of jurisprudence. Hence this portion of 
the work is intended to show by a magnificent example how 
the dogmatic element in a department of law can only be 
understood by a comprehension of its historical meaning — that 
is to say, by means of the definite historical position in which 
any legal institution may find itself at any one time. 

Lassalle now makes the very considerable claim that not 
only particular details in the Roman system, but that the 
whole of this system of testamentary jurisprudence has been 
uncomprehended and misunderstood until his own time, and 
has remained an unsolved riddle. 

This assertion is based upon an unsatisfactory interpretation 
of a dif&cult passage in Gaius concerning the idea of the 
familicB emptor. In accordance with his idealistic conceptions 
of history, and using Hegel's audacious method as an instru- 
ment, Lassalle proposes a theory of Roman testamentary law 
which modem science has rejected. The only point with which 
I am immediately concerned is to give the reader a full and 
true impression of the close and comprehensive thought, of 
the penetration and scholarship, with which Lassalle has con- 
ceived and developed his main ideas. I then wish to isolate 
the purely psychological elements apparent in his method of 
treating the subject, and to use his conception of Roman 
testamentary law for the purpose of providing the reader with 

66 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 67 

a view of the author's intellectual procedure, and of displaying 
the main impulses which determined, unknown to himself, 
the manner and object of his investigations. We shall see 
that even when he is buried in pandects and commentaries 
future systems of evolution or revolution are continuously 
before his eyes in the course of his work. 

Lassalle brought together a large amount of material to 
prove his fundamental idea, which is that an heir in the Roman 
sense originally inherited only the intentions, and not the 
property, of the dead man. For this reason the objects and 
the interests of the Roman law of inheritance, and also its 
historical origin, do not belong to the subject of testamentary 
jurisprudence, for, according to Lassalle's conception, this 
law of inheritance does not imply any conveyance of property, 
but a conception transcendental in its nature, which is in 
direct contradiction with the natural idea of an heir. The 
idea of eternity and of the infinite life of the soul in Chris- 
tianity is preceded in history by another idea, the purely 
material continuanceof the existence of the subject— theinfinity 
of the personal will, which is related to, and can act upon, the 
outer world. Quintilian naively says that there seems to be 
no other consolation for death except the will which can 
persist beyond death. In this passage LassaUe sees a proof 
of his central idea that Roman immortality consisted in testa- 
mentary disposition.^ 

A testament must invariably provide for an institutio 
heredis, the formal institution of an heir, and any provision 
in the testament which simply concerned the division of 
property was null and void unless provision were made for the 
direct institution of an heir to carry out the wiU of the testator. 
Further, this institution was bound to precede aU other pro- 
visions, in particular the mention of legacies, and must form 
the beginning of the testament ; finally, if the heir died before 
entering upon the inheritance, or if he declined it, the whole 
testament was usually annulled, and the legacies became 
invalid. Hence it is clear that the existence of the heir is 
necessary to the existence of the testament, and that it is the 
heir whose existence guarantees and provides legal existence 
1 This view is supported by Maine, " Ancient Law," 1861, 188, 190. 



68 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

for the intentions of the testator. In consequence, only when 
the intention of the deceased has been transferred to the heirs 
as existing after his own death, can his intention be regarded 
as still existing, and as securing execution in his testament. If 
there be no one to continue the testator's intentions, those 
intentions become what they actually are — dead, nuU and void. 

Hence the conception of inheritance is bound up with the 
continuation in practice of the intentions of the testator. The 
interests, therefore, of the testator are concentrated, not upon 
the future position of the heir, but upon his future action 
and upon his action in accordance with the desires of the 
testator. According to Roman ideas, the triumph of the 
testator is to secure that the heir should act in accordance 
with his wiU ; but as long as the heir is both in possession and 
in action — in other words, as long as he receives and takes 
over the inheritance — so long is the situation ambiguous ; for 
the possibihty always remains open that his own interests 
and his own selfish desires, instead of continuing the intentions 
of the testator, may absorb or nullify these. There is but one 
effective method of neutralizing this possibility — namely, to 
give the heir no advantage whatever, and even to place him 
in direct opposition to his own selfish interests. The heir who 
receives nothing and yet remains an heir, and none the less 
acts according to the intentions of the testator — ^the disin- 
herited heir, in other words — ^is an irrefragable proof of the fact 
that the will of the testator stiU exists by continuance in the 
heir. The heir without inheritance is the highest triumph 
of these intentions, and the fuUest enjoyment of the continued 
existence with which these intentions can provide themselves. 

Is this ingenious explanation probable ? Is it conceivable 
that such a nation as that of Rome, which even by its language 
is distinguished as practical, matter-of-fact, and acquisitive 
in a high degree, should have failed to sanctify the property 
interests of the individual, and to deify the conception of 
possession, and should have developed the conceptions of 
inheritance on the basis of a religious idea, conceptions with 
which the conveyance of property has nothing whatever to 
do ? The thing seems impossible from the very outset, and if 
our sources of information are examined, our doubts are but 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 69 

confirmed. These sources provide no satisfactory explana- 
tion. The most important original source, a short statement 
in Gains, can be explained in different ways, while at the same 
time an important passage in his text, which has only been 
preserved to us in one manuscript of Verona, has been badly 
mangled by the copyist. The so-called testamentum per ces 
et lihram originated in Rome from two earlier forms of testa- 
ment. With reference to its employment and the form of its 
statement. Gains says that the testator, by means of mancipa- 
tion, left his estatfe, a quantity of personal property, according 
to the views of time, to the care of a friend, and indicated 
to him, the so-called familice emptor, to whom he was to give 
portions of the estate, and what each person was to receive. 

This mancipation is what LassaUe regards as a cession of 
personal authority to the friend, in virtue of which the friend 
has fuU disposal of all that was previously subject to this 
authority. As a proof that such personal authority is indicated 
by the words familia and patrimoniwm, LassaUe quotes the 
use of the term patrimonium in the phrase " things which are 
outside our patrimonium " ; he understands the phrase to 
imply that an object is unable " to fall within the property 
sphere of private will." 

This remarkable interpretation of the Latin term cannot be 
defended. The conception of property includes dependence 
upon the will of the possessor ; it is therefore impossible to 
speak of the property sphere of private wiU. We may speak of 
the sphere of private property or the legal sphere of private will. 
To say that objects can come within the legal sphere of private 
will is simply 'to say that they can be objects of private pro- 
perty, for property rights imply the complete and full legal 
dependence of an object upon the will of an individual. The 
Latin phrase, " Things which lie without our patrimonium," is 
thus not used to denote simple personal authority, but a special ' 
nature of this authority, property rights. 

The central point in Lassalle's theory is the fact that he 
regards as the heir the friend to whom the inheritance was 
transferred for division, the man whom we should call the 
executor. He asserts that Gains himself referred to the 
familice emptor as an heir. But the passage in Gaius, 



70 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

correctly interpreted, has a different meaning. It runs as 
follows : " But those two former kinds have now become 
incapable of use. Only the kind which is brought about per 
CBS et libram has remained in force. It is, indeed, otherwise 
constituted than in the days of old, for formerly the familice 
emptor — ^in other words, the man who receives the inheritance 
from the testator by mancipium — took the place of the heir, 
and for that reason the testator indicated to him what he 
wished to be given to each man after his death ; but now one 
man is appointed heir by the testament, and another, for ap- 
pearance' sake, is called in as familice emptor, in imitation of 
the old legal custom." It was only a strange mistake in 
translation that enabled Lassalle to interpret this passage as 
meaning that the familice emptor was regarded as the heir.^ 

Hence this passage provides no proof that the familice 
emptor was originally identical with the heir, nor can this 
identity be proved from the testamentary dispositions of 
later times, as Lassalle believes, for the reason that a familice 
emptor and an heir coexisted. At this time the persons who 
were dependent upon the familice emptor could not act as 
witnesses, but persons who were dependent upon the heir 
could so act. The reason for this, in LassaUe's view, is that 
the familice emptor was originally the former heir, whereas 
the heir of later days was originally no more than a legatee. 
The domestic position of the former, in contrast to that of the 
latter, incapacitated him for the position of witness, for the 
simple reason that the former was a party to the mancipation, 
while the latter was not. So much is obvious from the fact 
that in the later form of will by mancipation the household 
of the mancipant were unable to act as witnesses. Here the 
fundamental idea seems to be that, in the case of a mancipation 
will, the witnesses were the representatives of the Roman 
people, and that the people could not be represented against 

1 " Sane nunc aliter ordinatur quam olim solebat, namque olim familias 
emptor, id est, qui a testatore familiam accipiebat maucipio, heredis locum 
obtinebat, et ob id ei mandabat testator quid cuiqne post mortem suam 
dari vellet ; nunc vero alius hares testamento instituitur, a quo etiam legata 
relinquuntur, alius formse gratia propter veteris juris imitationem familise 
emptor adhibetur." 

Lassalle did not understand the construction alius . . . alius, but connected 
alius with heres, and translated, " anothef^heir." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 71 

any single individual by those who belonged to his household 
and were in his power. Even later, when the familicB emptor 
came forward only as a matter of form, the custom was con- 
tinued of incapacitating those subject to him from acting as 
witnesses. 

In other words, the case stands as follows : In early times 
the familice emptor received the estate of the testator as his 
own property in virtue of the twofold legal process, neither 
part of which could be omitted. It was then his business to 
distribute the estate among those to whom the testator had 
left bequests. He was thus the executor of the testator's 
intentions, and not the continuer of those intentions in Lassalle's 
sense of the word. He was not an heir ; for the succession of 
an heir is founded either upon a will — ^that is to say, upon a 
one-sided and revocable appointment on the part of the 
testator, or upon law, or upon hereditary tenement. The 
position, however, of the familice emptor rests upon none of 
these three foundations, and obviously upon neither of the 
first two. Nor, again, is he in the position of one who inherits 
under a contract, for in that case the heir must come forward to 
secure the succession, whilst in virtue of mancipation a families 
emptor becomes possessor of the estate without further cere- 
mony. Finally, he is not an executor in the modem sense 
of the word, but occupies an entirely unique position. 

LassaUe explains the circumstance that no one before his 
time had adopted the views upon testamentary law which he 
formulates, by the fact that previous writers upon Roman 
law had made Justinian the starting-point of their researches, 
where legal developments are found in their latest form, 
instead of going back to their origins. He explains the earlier 
history of the law of inheritance as follows : Gains informs us 
that a very frequent occurrence in the earlier years of Roman 
history was the refusal of the person instituted as an heir to 
accept the inheritance, as it was open to every testator to 
exhaust the whole of the estate by legacies, and so to leave 
the heir nothing but the empty title. To meet this abuse, he 
goes on, the Furian law was brought forward about 183 B.C. 
This law provided that, with the exception of particular persons, 
no legatee should receive more than a thousand asses — a small 



72 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

amount ; but, continues Gains, even this limitation failed of 
its object, as estates continued to be exhausted by legacies. 
Hence the Voconian law was passed about 169 B.C., which 
provided that no one in the position of a legatee should receive 
more than the heir. This law at least provided a certain 
prospect that the heir would obtain something. It proved, 
however, ineffectual ; for by dividing the estate into a large 
number of legacies, it was possible to leave so small a portion 
for the heir that he regarded the advantage as far too inadequate 
a compensation for the task involved by the whole burden of 
the inheritance. In consequence, the Falcidian law was passed 
about 40 B.C., which prohibited the bequests of legacies 
amounting to more than three-fourths of the estate and secured 
to the heir at least one-fourth of the inheritance. 

Gains, at whose time, according to Lassalle's view, the old 
metaphysical theory of inheritance was no longer understood, 
regarded these successive provisions merely as so many efforts 
to improve clumsy legislation. Lassalle, however, regarded 
these three laws which were passed within a period of 150 
years as evidence of a long and weary struggle which the 
Roman spirit had fought out with its own inherent views. 
This civil war was not carried on, as at one time was supposed, 
between the heir and the legatees, but between the testator 
and the heir. The legatee is merely the whipping-boy on 
whose back the heir delivers the blows intended for the testator. 
So much, says Lassalle, is clearly obvious from the nature of 
these successive laws. The starting-point is provided by the 
Twelve Tables, which place the legatee in the most favourable 
position. His position suddenly becomes most unfavourable 
in consequence of the Furian law, and is then materially 
improved by the Voconian law, under which the legatee can 
then receive a fuU half of the estate. The Falcidian law still 
further improved his prospects, as a legatee under it could 
receive three-fourths of the estate. This development, when 
compared with the parallel situation of the heir, which also 
became most favourable after the last law, seems inexplicable 
if we assume that the struggle was carried on between the 
legatee and the heir. LassaUe regards the struggle as entirely 
different in nature ; it is the struggle of personal interest and 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 73 

sound human understanding against the rehgious and transcen- 
dental views of Hfe and death which had dominated the whole of 
the national spirit. As long as this national spirit in Rome was 
left firmly rooted in its foundations and free from attack, the 
personal interests of heirs could not initiate any revolt, for 
the reason that inheritance represented the most binding and 
sacred principle in this national spirit, its idea of immortality. 
Only after lapse of long time can the heir venture to declare 
as a principle that he desires to receive something, and some- 
thing unconditionally for himself, independent of his relations 
to the legatee. Such a development was bound to come 
about, as sound human reason declines to be shut out of 
consideration. The Falcidian law implies a clear recognition 
of the fictitious nature of the principle on which the whole 
system of inheritance is originally based ; hence with the lex 
Falcidia the downfall of the whole Roman system of inheri- 
tance definitely begins. Yet even at this point the Roman 
national spirit finds a chapel within the temple of testamentary 
law in which it can preserve its most sacred object. The lex 
Falcidia was promulgated under Augustus, and under the 
same Emperor the law appears concerning the fidei commissum 
form of inheritance, which opens a new refuge to the testator. 
Anyone who is an heir upon the basis of this voluntary fidelity 
to the national spirit and its sacred traditions, neither can nor 
should make any use of the new influence which the heir could 
exert upon the testator by virtue of the preceding law, and 
cannot claim the advantage provided by the lex Falcidia. 

As long as the sense of Roman nationalism was in existence, 
it strove to cling to the truth of the fiction which concerned the 
continuance of the testator's intentions and the identity of 
intentions between himself and the heir. History during 
its course of development stamps the fiction as false ; Roman 
nationalism attempts to save its existence, in however 
reduced a form. The testament is, therefore, to the Roman 
people a cult of the national existence, for it is the highest 
form in which the national spirit can appear as operative, and 
every act in which the people manifests the public spirit which 
pervades, it is worship or is of a religious nature. Hence wills 
are made, not only in popular assemblies and in the presence 



74 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

of the priests, but also in comitia expressly summoned for 
purposes purely religious. Thus, the intentions of the Roman, 
which during his lifetime were his private affair, became a 
matter of public concern after his death. It has often been 
said that the Roman testator, in view of his unlimited freedom 
of action with reference to the system of intestate succession 
as established by law, can be compared with a legislator ; 
but this is an under-statement. It was customary in Rome 
for the testator to threaten a monetary fine if his tomb were 
sold or hired or mortgaged — a regulation inserted not only in 
the testament, but also in the inscription on the tombstone, 
which was often erected during his lifetime. These fines were 
invariably payable to the Vestal Virgins, the high-priests, or 
the public chest. A testator was not obliged to repeat this 
injunction in his testament. Whence did he acquire the power 
of inflicting a fine ? According to the usual conceptions of 
Roman testamentary law, it was only the heir that he could 
thus threaten, but the penalty is made applicable to the 
outside purchaser as well as to the seller. This burial-right has 
a twofold nature ; outwardly it is not a formal testament, but 
in reality it is practically testamentary ; in other words, 
it is a final expression of intentions with reference to 
the maintenance of individual personality— an idea most 
clearly proceeding from the conception of a testament and 
the underlying significance of that conception. The Roman 
at death obtains a right which he never possessed during his 
life ; death raises him to the glory of a legislator. The dying 
man, according to his own ideas and in his own interests, 
must thus rise to a legislative power, for he has now to express 
his intentions as a permanent, enduring, and definite part of 
his environment. They must therefore appear as law. He must, 
and he can, assume the attitude of a legislator towards other 
persons in law, and can invade their spheres of right, for, com- 
pared with the transcendental interest which the spirit of 
nationalism feels in him, other persons in law who are merely 
private individuals in comparison with him — the dead man — 
are of no account. Thus, during the history of the Roman 
Empire a transition slowly took place from this metaphysical 
conception to the conception of property, and the person con- 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 75 

tinuing a dead man's intentions is transformed into the heir to 
his property, until eventually under Justinian, by the intro- 
duction of inheritance sub heneficio inventarii, the heir regards 
the acquisition of property as the main point and as the only 
point which concerns his relationship to the testator. The 
process of detrition here ends, and with it disappears the 
national character and the Roman national spirit.^ 

Such is LassaUe's theory. We have seen that Roman 
jurisprudence did not originally recognize any testamentary 
executor. However, the need of such an institution had already 
been felt, and attempts were made to satisfy it by other 
methods. Thus it was possible to make the heir himself an 
executor by depriving him of the inheritance while laying upon 
him the burden of its administration. The testator had the 
right to exhaust the whole of his property in legacies, until this 
right was limited by the Furian, the Voconian, and the Falci- 
dian laws. The reasons which provoked the Falcidian law 
were concerned with political taxation. Under the second 
triumvirate inheritances by will were subject to taxation, to 
cover the expenses of the war against Sextus Pompeius, and it 
was therefore necessary to secure the due execution of testa- 
ments, for the legal heirs, who were really nothing more than 
executors, often preferred to decline the inheritance, and thus 
to nullify the intentions of the testator, for the estate was then 
administered as though in case of intestacy, and the legatees 
received nothing. Legislation therefore attempted a com- 
promise in the interests of those concerned by securing to the 
heir a fourth of his inheritance. Thus the testator was less 
free than before to dispose of his property by will, but at the 
same time the execution of his testament was secured, as the 
payment of the sums representing his bequests was now 
certain.* 

Shortly after Lassalle's " System of Acquired Rights " ap- 
peared, Ihering objected to his speculative treatment of Roman 
law upon no scientific grounds, but in the name of normal 
human intelligence. He deals in a particularly humorous 

1 See especially "System of Acquired Rights," ii. 21, 62, 72, 77, 101, 105, 
179-184, 233, 486. 

2 Hermann Deutsch, " Die Vorlaufer der heutigen TestamentsvoUstrecker 
m Romischen Recht," 3-17. 



76 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

way with the statement that the Roman questions of in- 
heritance in no way turned upon the transmission of real 
property. From Lassalle's theory he draws the sarcastic 
conclusion that Roman testamentary law is a region of specu- 
lative thought realized in fact. Everything that it defines or 
does not define, contains or does not contain, can be deduced 
by philosophical argument, and if not a word concerning the 
whole business had been preserved to us, Lassalle could none 
the less have discovered it a priori. He illustrates Lassalle's 
theory by the following amusing parody : Two baby twins 
are left without parents ; one of them dies, and the other 
inherits his estate ah intestato. The case may then be assumed 
to develop as foUows : The testator, anxious to secure im- 
mortality for his intentions or the continuity of them, has, by 
a silent act of will, instituted his brother as " the person 
continuing the existence of his own will." Having in this 
way " overcome mortality, though with the help of the general 
will," and casting a thankful glance upon the future executor 
of his intentions, who is nestling at his side and performs his 
responsibilities through a representative, he gently falls asleep 
and returns with a sigh of satisfaction to his cosmic dust.^ 

As in Lassalle's view the whole Roman system of inheritance 
was based upon certain religious and metaphysical theories, 
he attempted to carry his foundations as deep as possible, and 
for this purpose studied from the philological side the origin 
of the conception to which his legal studies had brought him. 
To discover this origin, he goes back to the prehistoric age of 
the nation. The origin must be religious in character, for 
religion invariably preserves a deposit of the earliest recol- 
lections of a people. Lassalle then finds that this conception 
was intellectually rooted in the ancient worship of the Manes 
and Lares. The Manes, or spirits of the departed, were 
regarded by the Romans not as the dead or as those who had 
passed away, but as those who remained. The idea of the 
Manes as remaining is seen in the word manere, to remain ; 
the correctness or incorrectness of the derivation is of no 
account, as it was the derivation current in antiquity. The 

1 Ihering, " Scherz und Ernst in der Jurisprudenz," 32 ; and " Geist 
des Romischen Rechts," ii. 2, 533 et seq. ; and iii. i, 247 and 295. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE T] 

Manes are and remain what they were — spiritual individuahties, 
so far agreeing with the Roman conception of individuahty ; 
persons able to will, with objects of will in the outer world. 
The Romans did not originally burn a dead man, but buried 
him in his dwelling upon the scene where his will had been 
exerted, and only after the custom of cremation had been 
introduced was the Lararium, or house chapel, regarded as the 
abode of these spirits. The Lares thus become protecting 
gods, the watchers and guardians of the house, and so long 
as the same family continues to inhabit the house they are 
family divinities, but they are bound to the house and not to 
the family. They are not ancestral but local divinities, and 
do not remain in possession of the family if the family removes. 
The Lares are those in power, the powerful ones (potentes). 
The Lar protects the place of his abode, but not as a household 
god. He guards the house only as the particular sphere 
subject to his power. Obviously, therefore, his relations with 
a new owner will not be of the most friendly nature, as an 
incomer is an intruder within his sphere of power. For the 
purpose of appeasing the Lar and the goddess Mania, human 
sacrifice was customary in Rome at the earliest times. The 
new owner of a house sacrificed his own child upon the altar 
to avoid damage to the family. As early as the period of the 
Kings this worship was forbidden in Rome. Tarquinius, who 
was an Etruscan, and therefore closely connected with religion, 
reintroduced the worship. Junius Brutus put an end to it 
by ordering that the oracle should be satisfied by cutting off 
garlic and poppy heads ; in other words, this barbarous custom, 
which originated in the Pelasgic period, was suppressed by 
the Repubhc. The Pelasgic spirit becomes the Roman spirit. 
The true rehgion of the Romans is law. Religion is but a pre- 
historic point of departure, and is therefore preserved by the 
Roman as an element alien to himself and his national spirit, 
but as an element which none the less fills his mind with 
reverential awe, as being the foundation of his nationalism. 
While aU other peoples have their rehgious ceremonies per- 
formed by their own priests, the Roman entrusts them to a 
foreign nation, and this nation was the nation of his origin — 
the Etruscans. The Haruspices, who demand the death of 



78 FERDINAND LASSAI^LE 

Curtius as an atonement to the Manes, are of Etruscan origin. 
Etruscan also was the art of augury. The reconciliation be- 
tween the dead and the hving, between the Lar and the new 
owner, which is brought about by the Roman national spirit, 
or rather is not brought about, but exists, took place within 
the region of law. The appointment of a testamentary heir 
is the outward sign of this reconciliation. Such an heir repre- 
sents the continued existence of the deceased, and undertakes 
to continue the deceased's will. But a deeper and more 
essential necessity now brings it about that law is forced to 
reflect the inherent breach and contradiction between the 
dead and the living, which was a fundamental element in 
religion. Thus upon the basis of a reconciliation already 
effected there arises once more the old hostility between the 
Lar as a permanent force of will and his successor, in the form 
of the mutual antagonism between the testator and the heir. 
This dissension was bound to reappear, for the same national 
spirit which became obvious at the lower or religious stage of 
development now asserts itself when a higher stage has been 
reached. All previous developments fall into a new and wider 
perspective in the light of this relationship, and so far as the 
sense of Roman nationalism is concerned, its development in 
the sphere of law now only becomes entirely clear. All nations 
have laws, for all nations give practical expression to their 
intellectual conceptions. What the Roman has here brought 
to reality is the conception of personal will as unending ; in 
other words, he has expressed the idea which is the basis of 
all law. Hence it is the law, and not any one form of law, 
which thus becomes the real expression of his being. The 
transition from the original Pelasgic people to the Greeks and 
Romans is the transition of the infinite ego, from the essential 
imaginativeness of religion to the higher form of art among the 
Greeks and to the higher form of law among the Romans. 
Behind these two intellectual forms religion remains in the 
case of Greece as the form of art, in the case of Rome as the 
religious and transcendental foundation of law, 

The weak side of this great poetical and philosophical ex- 
planation of legal ideas as originating from religious concep- 
tions seems to lie in the parallel between the household god 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 79 

and the new owner on the one hand, and between the testator 
and the heir upon the other hand. Closer critical examination 
in this case can find nothing but indications and no real 
parallel. The household god did originally demand human 
sacrifice, but on this we cannot lay stress, for all gods originally 
did the same. This is too common a relation to be ex- 
plained as an early state of antagonism to the heir, in which 
the Roman testator of the theory is said to have existed. 

After this ingenious investigation of the nature of Roman 
hereditary law, LassaUe turns his eyes to the Germanic system 
of inheritance, and thus reaches the main point of the work, 
which is in no respect open to the objections above stated. 
His conclusion is that not a word in his explanation of Roman 
law has any application to the whoUy different system of 
inheritance in force among the Germanic races. In this latter 
case it is a fundamental rule that on the death of the testator 
the inheritance immediately passes to the heir. When the 
Germans appeared in history, their only institution of the kind 
was intestacy, the right of inheritance when no will has been 
made ; and there is a vast difference between intestate in- 
heritance, which in Rome was only an emergency means 
employed when the testator had not pronounced his individual 
intentions, and intestacy as the sole form of inheritance, 
excluding any divergency in the wiU of the testator. The 
Germanic form of intestate inheritance is thus that which the 
Roman form has been wrongly styled — simple family right. 
The moral identity of persons resting upon the tie of blood 
forms in this case the conception of the family. If an anti- 
thetical form of statement is desired, we might say that Roman 
hereditary right stands to the Germanic system as wiU stands 
to love. The unity between the testator and the heir is in this 
case undoubtedly identity of blood. The property, according 
to his ideas, is regarded as the common family possession. It 
is acquired by the heir as soon as he is begotten, and his 
acquisition becomes practical upon the death of the testator. 
Thus the rights of a possessor to his property are confined to 
his lifetime. Hence testamentary dispositions are unknown 
among the Germanic peoples. When they come inxontact with 
the Romans, they certainly borrow from them the custom of 



8o FERDINAND LASSALLE 

making wills in a purely formal manner, without any com- 
prehension whatever of the underlying meaning. They regard 
the Roman testament as what it is in its outward material 
form — a means of bequeathing property. As such they use it 
because it flatters their sense of individual freedom, but they 
understand its real meaning so little that for a long time they 
regard a testamentary bequest as equivalent to a presentation 
between living men, proceeding from the idea that a transaction 
in property cannot possibly be conducted when one of the 
parties to the business is dead. This erroneous view can be 
described as logical. It is a mistake which contains more truth 
than its rectification upon that basis. 

Even when the legal character of the Roman testament has 
been reconstructed within the Germanic system of inheritance, 
it is divergent from those fundamental conceptions in which 
alone its inner meaning and its possibility of existence were 
rooted. It is transferred purely in outward form to an en- 
vironment of ideas with which it is in every respect contra- 
dictory, and in one respect inherently incompatible. The 
testamentary law of the Germanic nations is thus a vast 
mistake, a theoretical impossibility, and this is a statement 
based upon no arbitrary and personal criticism of the testa- 
mentary system, but upon practical criticism supported by 
history itself. 

The great mistake of modem writers has been to suppose 
that the testament is part of natural law. The Roman, how- 
ever, was very far removed from regarding the capacity to 
make a will as natural to the individual, and therefore as part 
of natural right. On the contrary, he was so impressed with 
the natural incapacity of the individual to exert his intentions 
after his death that the conjunction of two intentions, the 
amalgamation of the dead man's desires with those of one 
living who made the desires of the dead man his own, was 
thought necessary in order that the deceased's testament 
might reach execution. The whole system of the Roman law 
of inheritance indicates a mighty effort to secure that a man's 
desires shall not become inoperative with his death, but shall 
be maintained for ever by the maintenance of his personality. 
The system might thus be described with truth as the dogma 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 8i 

of immortality in Roman form. A right has been interpreted 
as a natural right which never existed anywhere, either in 
Roman or Germanic law, in any people or at any time. 

Here again Lassalle adds his laudation of the philosophical 
and legal insight displayed by the French Revolution : .^ 

" Only now are we able clearly and intelligibly to under- 
stand how it was that at a time when, as Hegel says, the world 
was placed upon its head — ^namely, reason — ^the French 
National Convention abolished all possibility of bequeathing 
property in a direct line by the law of March 7 to 10, 1793. 
The reaction against aU empirical tradition gave rise to a 
return of the national spirit to its own vital substance, and 
deprived it of an element of Latinism. This reaction, however, 
did not imply immediate retirement to the forests of Germany. 
An heir by intestacy obtained no right to the property of a 
testator during his life, and he could only inherit when any 
property remained after death ; but he could not claim that 
any part of his property should be transmitted by inheritance. 
The idea of individual freedom as against the Germanic system 
of law had developed so far that the owner had now become 
the sole and unconditional owner. Property was thus no longer 
family property as such, the common possession of which is only 
dissolved by death. For this purpose it would be necessary 
that, even during the lifetime of the possessor, the intestacy heir 
should have a right limiting the possessor's powers of alienation. 
Property, on the contrary, was now purely individual property ; 
yet the owner who has children can only give his property 
away within certain limits during his own lifetime. Upon 
what principle, then, is intestate succession here based ? As 
we have seen, it is not based upon any claim to the property 
peculiar to the heir by intestacy, as such a claim must also have 
been in existence during the testator's lifetime. As, again, the 
testator cannot make testamentary dispositions, such rights 
cannot be based upon his presumed will. It is therefore clear 
that the claim rests upon nothing else than the general will 
of the State, regulating questions of bequest. It rests, 
indeed, upon the family, as it qualifies the family only for 
inheritance, but not upon the family as inheriting by its own 
right, nor upon the family as called to inherit by the presumed 

6 



82 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 



ui 



1 



will of the deceased ; but upon the family as a State institu- 
tion. Even when testamentary freedom exists within a quanti- 
tative Umit, as is for the most part the case with testamentary 
rights at the present day, the character of the testamentary 
right is that of the development which we have described up 
to the point when this quotite disponibU is involved. Much as 
we may be surprised or shocked by the fact, the fact remains, 
when truthfully examined, that the majority of modem systems 
of inheritance — such, for instance, as the Code Napoleon — ^in 
their fundamental nature and up to the point where the 
quotite disponible is involved, simply represent a regulation of 
testamentary dispositions by society." 

~"The great philosophers of earlier times, when considering 
the law of inheritance, did not go to work historically like 
Lassalle. The conception of hereditary right, as based upon 
the moral identity of the members of a family which finds 
outward expression in the necessarily common possession 
of property, is due to Hegel. He, however, was mistaken, 
and regarded as the idea of testamentary law in general 
what was merely the particular historical idea peculiar 
to Germanic law. Thus he only succeeded in producing a 
theory of intestate succession, and was unable to arrive at 
any permanent theory of the testament. The only great 
philosopher, apart from Hegel, who attempted the question is 
Leibniz, whose penetrating genius was upon the point of 
developing the idea of Roman hereditary law by a process of 
deduction, notwithstanding his entire want of historical 
knowledge. He says : " Testaments would have had no im- 
"portance whatever as law if the soul were not immortal, but 
as the dead still live in reality, they remain masters of their 
property, and the heirs which they leave behind must be con- 
sidered as their representatives."^ 

"^ But while in Roman testamentary law a testator continues 
his existence in his heir, who is himself the continuation in life 
of the deceased, this idea cannot be considered as supported 
by the spirit of Christianity, which believes that the individual 

1 " Testamenta vero mero jure nullius essent momenti, nisi anima esset 
immortalis ; sed quia mortui revera adhuc vivunt, ideo manent domini rerum ; 
quos vero heredes reliquerunt concipiendi sunt ut procuratores in rem suam." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 83 

continues his life in a totally different position and under quite 
different conditions than in his finite will, which he abandons 
when he abandons all mortality. If it is true that the testa- 
ment depends for its significance upon the presupposition of 
personal immortality, this only holds good when inunortaJity 
is regarded as it was in ancient Rome ; for in the Christian 
sense it is the soul that is immortal, and this possesses no 
earthly property ; hence it cannot remain the permanent 
master of property in any relationship of agreement with its 
representative. Finally, the institution of the testament 
could only be preserved by this means at the cost of destrojnng 
the whole conception of property. As Adam was the first 
testator, so he would be the only possessor.^ 

It has been by no means easy to compress within the space 
of a few paragraphs an exposition which occupies more than 
six hundred pages in LassaUe's concentrated style. Never- 
theless I hope that I have given the reader a correct and 
adequate conception of the characteristics and leading ideas 
contained in the second portion of the work. The ultimate 
issue of it is obviously the view directly expressed by LassaUe 
in one passage of the book, that " a stricter conception of the 
theory of the State is the source from which all prpgress that 
has been made in this century has been and will be derived." 2 

Beyond this statement there is no syllable or further hinT" 
in this direction. The book is strictly confined to theoretical 
considerations, and not a line of it indicates a desire to 
translate the theory into practice. More than this, the book, 
as a scholarly, historical, and philosophical investigation, 
not only contains no single hint in the direction of practice, 
but throughout the rest of his life, even during the most 
passionate agitation and the most violent persecution of his 
party by middle-class organs of opinion, never did LassaUe 
indicate by any single sign that he would care to rouse an 
agitation in support of a practical system corresponding to 
his theory. In private life LassaUe was often wanting in 

1 C/. " System of Acquired Rights," ii. 400-604 ; and also Von Sybil's 
criticism of LassaUe's chief work in " Doctrines of Modern Socialism and 
Communism" ("Lectures and Essays," 81 et seq.) ; and F. A. Lange's reply in 
his book, " The Labour Problem," 399. 

2 " System of Acquired Rights," i. 47. 



84 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

proper self-command, but in public life he was so entirely 
master of himself, and was of so eminently practical a dis- 
position, that he invariably devoted his efforts only to the 
object immediately before him. Often and obstinately did he 
call for agitation to attain such immediate objects as direct 
and universal franchise, and often did he speak on behalf 
of workmen's industrial enterprises to be supported by the 
State, the institution of " productive unions " based upon 
State credit. But in aU his pamphlet writings not a line or a 
syllable touches upon the question of inheritance rights. 
Lothar Bucher concludes the preface to his edition of the 
" System of Acquired Rights " with a quotation from Lessing, 
which he says he provoked LassaUe to utter one evening during 
a party at his house : " At all times men have lived who were 
fable to form a correct estimate of the future, but were unable 
to await its arrival. They desired that movements for which 
history requires the space of centuries should come to maturity 
within the short space of their own lives." 
"""The reader has seen that these words are applicable to no 
one so little as to Lassalle, and in no respect can they be 
applied to him in a less degree than as the author of the 
" System of Acquired Rights." 

It was in the year 1861 that he published this book, which 
is his chief work, and was dedicated to his father on the latter' s 
sixtieth birthday. He repeatedly expressed his intention 1 of 
making this work the foundation-stone of a connected system 
covering the whole range of mental philosophy, which he 
1^' would perhaps complete some day, provided," he adds very 
j characteristically, " that the period of leisure for theorizing 
never ceases for us Germans." In the year 1859 ^^ ^^^ 
sent his " Heraclitus " into the world with regrets that the 
struggles of practical life had postponed its publication for 
so many years. Only two years later his chief work upon 
law is accompanied with a further regret that the prevailing 
political peace provided him with leisure enough to elaborate 
this book. Deeply as he was able to bury himself in theories, 
his desires and ambitions were directed to the work and 
influence of practical life. 

^ Preface ; cf. ii. 586, note. 



CHAPTER VIII 

To avoid interrupting the conjiection between certain ideas 
propounded by LassaUe, we have followed his work down to 
the year 1861. A retrospective glance now becomes necessary. 
Berlin had become impossible as a residence for LassaUe 
in consequence of his participation in the Revolution of 1848. 
His life in Diisseldorf was a kind of forced exile from the 
capital of his country, where he must have wished to live for 
many reasons. Ten years of his life were spent on the Rhine, 
and his house and purse during that period were ever 
open to political refugees or to impoverished democrats and 
workmen. Many years later, in one of his agitation speeches 
to the Rhenish workers, he reminded them of this period of 
his life Avith the following striking words : " You know meT 
For ten years I have lived among the working-classes of the 
Rhine. With you I spent the period of revolution and the 
time of the white reign of terror in the fifties. As your address 
truly says, you have seen me in both of these movements. 
You know what house was the undaunted asylum of demo- 
cratic propaganda, the asylum dear to the boldest and most 
determined supporters of our party, notwithstanding the white 
terror of Hinckeldey and Westphalen, notwithstanding the wild 
lawlessness of that time, even to the last moment of my stay 
in the Rhine Provinces." ^ At the same time LassaUe was 
yearning for Berlin, and his wishes were known to his friends. 
Dressed as a coachman he entered the capital in April, 1857, 
after long years of absence, and attempted from his hiding- 
place to secure permission through his patrons to remain. 
No one exerted himself so zealously on his behalf as the old 

1 LassaUe, " The Festivals, the Press, and the Meeting of Frankfort Deputies. ' ' 
Hinckeldey, chief of the Prussian police ; Westphalen, Prussian minister. 

85 



86 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

and influential Alexander von Humboldt, whose house had 
ever been open to him. The authorities had little or no 
objection to Lassalle's residence in the capital, but the in- 
fluential family of Countess Hatzfeldt desired at any cost to 
prevent this lady from living in the neighbourhood of her 
relations. It was regarded as inevitable that she would take 
up her abode in Lassalle's house, and attempts were therefore 
made to keep her at a distance by preventing any arrangement 
of the kind. The Prussian authorities thus employed against 
Lassalle a procedure precisely opposite to that which the 
Austrian authorities had pursued against Byron in Italy, when 
the whole family of the Guiccioli were banished from Ravenna 
because they were convinced that Byron would follow the 
young Countess. 

One evening Alexander von Humboldt happened to be sitting 
near Hinckeldey at a large dinner-party, and urged him to 
give LassaUe permission to reside in Berlin. A member of the 
company who heard the conversation told me that he had 
plainly heard Hinckeldey 's answer : " Readily, so far as I 
am concerned ; I have no objection to him. It is a matter 
of total indifference to me, but the King will not hear of it." 
" Is that the only objection ?" replied Humboldt. " I will 
undertake to persuade the King." He kept his word, and 
Lassalle remained in Berlin. 

Berlin, the town to which he belonged, in which he had 
studied philology in his youth and had absorbed the ideas of 
Young Germany, provided precisely the environment which 
he required in maturity ; the town of work, the great factory 
in which ideas are forged and sharpened, the great smithy in 
which plans are welded into action, the great storehouse in 
which learning is gathered and from whence it is dissemi- 
nated, the point of contact from which Germany's spirit sends 
forth its illuminating beams ! So indeed the anagram runs : 

Berolinum — lumen orbi ! 

Berlin ! Populated by inhabitants of mixed blood whose 
intellects have gained the clear and decisive imprint of France 
from the descendants of refugee Huguenots, and whose wit 
has been so polished by well-to-do and well-bred Jewish immi- 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 87 

grants that it glitters in a thousand facets ! Berlin, the city 
of Prussia over which the dominant spirit of Frederick still 
hovers, even as his bronze figure on horseback towers above 
the flowering linden-trees ! Berlin, the town of Frederick, 
with a trace of Voltaire's smile still playing in the air ! 

In 1859 Berlin was not the great city with millions of in- 
habitants which, as Germany's capital, it has since become. It 
was a town of moderate size, in which an individual of dis- 
tinguished powers was not lost in the crowd. It possessed 
neither new and splendid public buildings, nor many of the 
fine new streets in the west ; but if its architecture was poor, 
its natural beauties were rich. The nearer part of the Thier- 
garten had not yet been sacrificed to the necessities of city 
extension. LassaUe settled in the pretty quarter in the 
neighbourhood of the Thiergarten. From 1858 onwards he 
lived at No. 13, in the fine and beautiful Bellevuestrasse, 
a street in which there are no shops, with splendid rows of 
chestnut-trees which seemed to be connected with the Thier- 
garten, into which it opens. At the end of the year before his 
death he moved house to another No. 13, in the Potsdamer- 
strasse hard by. 

Berlin was still the town of Frederick William IV. — the town, 
that is, that had revolted against him. Beyond, on the other 
side of the Thiergarten, from In den Zelten, the revolution of 
1848 had proceeded. Its spirit was subjugated and repressed, 
but not dead. Its weak breath still inspired the whole world 
of scholarship and the whole of the upper middle-classes, in 
the most distinguished houses of which all the leaders of the 
yet undivided opposition met. All the opponents of the pre- 
vailing and antiquated system met as allies in these circles, 
careless of their different shades of opinion, held intercourse 
with the leaders of science and art, and formed the good society 
of that time. 

LassaUe, with his brilliant personality, his reputation as a 
scholar, and his obvious power of conquest, of inspiring en- 
thusiasm and of domination, found little difficulty in obtaining 
a footing in these circles. There were indeed salons, including 
many of aristocratic character, which were closed to the "cash- 
box thief," but access to houses thus limited can have had no 



88 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

great value for him. With such an income as that of which 
Lassalle could then dispose, a citizen in Berlin was not only 
comfortable, but almost rich. In his house, which was 
decorated with elaborate splendour, according to the ideas 
and conditions of that age, he enjoyed the pleasure of gathering 
an ever-increasing circle of highly educated, clever, and cultured 
men, free from prejudice, many of whom were far-famed, and 
of beautiful, vivacious women, in many cases celebrated for 
their wit and talent ; and among the aristocracy of mind were 
to be found numerous members of the aristocracy of birth. 
LassaUe kept a French cook, and did not care to drink wine 
at less than twenty or thirty marks a bottle. " Why should 
we leave all the good wine for WiUiam the Just ?" he was 
accustomed to say ; and the numerous parties which he gave 
in Berlin were enjoyed no less on account of the admirable 
food and wines than they were famous for the perfection of 
their social tone and their cheerfulness, and also for the un- 
restrained and ideal freedom of conversation which visitors to 
the house involuntarily adopted. 

At his house were to be met, not only men of the generation 
to which Lassalle himself belonged, but also many distinguished 
members of the earlier generation, men whose experiences, 
studies, works, and deeds, made their conversation delightful. 
There was old Vamhagen, whose acquaintance Lassalle had 
made through Heine ; there was Boeckh, born in 1785, who 
had been the first to define classical philology as the knowledge 
of antiquity in its totality and as the comprehensive repro- 
duction of ancient culture, a man who was able to fulfil the 
demands laid down by his own definition. It was Boeckh 
who replied, when the beautiful wife of Professor Diderici 
exclaimed at a party, " Lassalle is the handsomest man that I 
have ever seen " : " The handsomest man ! I can offer no 
opinion upon that, but he is the cleverest and most learned 
man that I have ever met."^ 

Forster, the historian, was there, bom in 1791, the poet and 
connoisseur who had ridden in his youth by the side of Komer 
among Lutzow's volunteers. In 1817 he had been brought 
before a court-martial to answer for his treatise upon the 

1 Helene von Rackowitza, " My Relations to Ferdinand LassaUe," p. 46. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 89 

constitution of Prussia, and since then had been living in 
private hfe with a distinguished reputation as an author. 
There was old General von Pfuel, bom in 1780, with whom 
Lassalle was in constant intercourse for many years, Minister 
of War and Prime Minister in September, 1848. He had entered 
the army in 1797, had travelled through Europe with his 
friend Heinrich von Kleist, had gone through the campaign 
as a member of Bliicher's General Staff in 1809, had entered 
the Austrian service after the peace, and the Russian service 
in 1812, and had commanded the advance guard in the Battle 
of Ligny in 1815. It was there that he mounted all his 
drummers and sent them forward against the enemy drum- 
ming loudly, so that the enemy imagined a powerful force 
was in their neighbourhood, and did not venture upon any 
movement until Pfuel was relieved by reinforcements. In 
1815 he was in command in Paris, and in 1847 in Berlin ; in 
1848 he had suppressed the revolt in Vienna. He was a man 
who had seen history made, and had helped to make it. 

In LassaUe's house were also to be found men of his own 
age — scholars, authors, lawyers, energetic democrats, and men 
of the Progressive party, most of whom are still living, and have 
remained faithful to their youthful convictions, with the ex- 
ception of Lothar Bucher, who has changed his views. 

Lassalle found favour with many women. He desired to 
make an impression, and it is a fact that he was often success- 
ful. In his relations with the other sex he was, so to speak, 
desirous of conquest, inconstant, carried away only momen- 
tarily, rather anxious for the triumph of prHe than amenable 
to the influence of the one woman. The earliest and deepest 
feelings of his life had been devoted to Countess Hatzfeldt. 
To her he remained faithful, because on this point he remained 
faithful only to himself. The Countess had beUeved in him 
when he was a nobody, had placed her fate in his hands when 
he was young, unknown, and powerless ; nor could he ever 
abandon the woman who had been the first to say to him, " I 
believe in you." But his feelings were those of friendship, 
gratitude, and pride, with, perhaps, at most, a few grains of 
love at the outset. At a later time he certainly had love- 
affairs, but was at no time deeply in love, while he was loved 



90 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

as such outwardly imposing and dominant men usually are. 
Women who are admitted to their intimacy are often the most 
brilliant members of their circle, as a rule the most unimagi- 
natively gifted, and their powers are generally obvious at the 
first glance. Who does not know the remarkable ring of female 
forms which invariably surrounds genius and becomes a small 
and exclusive world of strangely composed elements ? I 
doubt whether Lassalle regarded women with other emotions 
than those aroused by a somewhat crude sense of beauty, or 
with other desires than to find wit and intellect and to receive 
admiration. Between 1870 and 1880 I occasionally met old 
ladies in Germany who were said to have been in close 
intimacy with Lassalle. To the eyes of a younger genera- 
tion these ladies seemed in no way particularly impressive. 
There was a sharpness, a dry intelligence, and a certain virility 
in all of them, and they spoke of Lassalle with the quiet 
admiration which is customary in such cases. 

Meanwhile, in the winter of 1858 and 1859, those Berlin 
families who had taken Lassalle to themselves were put to a 
somewhat severe test. His " motherly friend," the Countess 
Hatzfeldt, arrived in Berlin, as was to be expected, settled 
there permanently, and proceeded to exert her old rights over 
her former protector. Her existence had been almost for- 
gotten in Berlin. Male conversation knew her only in carica- 
ture, and though tolerance was then the order of the day, 
the respectable middle-class families would have been glad to 
exclude her ; but on this point LassaUe was inexorable. The 
reception and recognition of the Countess was regarded by 
him as a cabinet question. He declinedintercourse with those 
who would not know her, and, when confronted with this 
alternative, hesitation disappeared, for society neither could 
nor would be deprived of him. The much-discussed lady was 
found to be generally pleasant and amiable, and her attitude 
towards Lassalle was that of a mother. She acted as hostess 
at his table, though they did not live in the same house. She 
never betrayed any trace of jealousy, however zealous his 
attentions to other younger or more beautiful ladies. Though 
now fifty-four years of age, her splendid figure and her beautiful 
shoulders, which she was careful not to hide, gained her such 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 91 

enthusiastic admirers as Marx and Riistow ; nor was she 
indifferent to the admiration which she aroused. The smallest 
knowledge of the world will enable us to understand that the 
proximity of this lady and the irregular and ambiguous nature 
of her maternal attitude towards Lassalle considerably in- 
jured his social prospects. With her painted eyebrows and 
lips, with all the art and industry which she expended upon 
the preservation of her beauty, she brought a note of false 
and almost ridiculous colour into his life and his house- 
hold. 

Lassalle's life in Berlin was divided between study and dis- 
traction. Public attention did not lose sight of him, and he 
had certainly no objection to publicity. Rumours of his 
extraordinary whims and of the luxurious entertainments 
which he gave spread abroad in Berlin. Distorted accounts 
of them even appeared in the descriptions given of him by the 
daily Press. 

Thus, in the collection of " Contemporaries," a story may be 
found to the effect that he was accustomed to intoxicate his 
guests with hashish and to play similar senseless tricks. The 
incident which gave rise to this story occurred only once, 
when Lassalle and a few of his guests, as one of them has told 
me, amused themselves by sitting in the smoking-room, which 
was fitted up in Turkish style, wearing Turkish dresses which 
he had brought home from the East, and trpng the effects of 
hashish. Lassalle's conduct at this time also caused a scandal 
of no importance, which none the less roused some painful 
feelings. A gentleman whose eyes had been sharpened by 
jealousy, conceived himself insulted by Lassalle and boxed 
his ears at a large party when he was with a lady who was 
certainly more interested in Lassalle than in the gentleman 
concerned. Lassalle, who had invariably asserted that, as a 
member of the Democratic party, he would not fight a duel, had 
shown strong disapproval of the duel between Twesten and 
Manteuffel ; and though he was a good fencer and a good shot, 
he possessed sufficient self-command to decline the ensuing 
challenge. The next day, however, his insulter with a friend 
waited for Lassalle as he was taking his usual walk, and came 
upon him in the neighbourhood of the Brandenburger Thor ; 



92 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

but Lassalle gave the two men so sound a thrashing as obliged 
them to abandon their warlike intentions. This trivial and 
unpleasant incident is of interest because it shows what a 
height of passion Lassalle must afterwards have reached 
when he sent the double challenge which became the 
cause of his death. On the occasion of this attack Forster 
presented him with a Robespierre stick, the handle of which 
was a model of the Bastile in wrought gold. The transference 
of such a stick to such hands was a remarkable coincidence. 

Though Lassalle was strong enough when bodily exertion 
was in question, his health was by no means invariably good. 
As his first speech before the Court of Assizes proves, he 
had suffered from a troublesome and chronic malady from 
earliest youth, and when he was in the prime of life his health 
had been undermined. He was therefore obliged to undergo 
long and wearisome courses of cure. 

WhUe undergoing some such course he was once forced to 
keep his room for some weeks. Ernst Dohm, from whom I 
have this information, one day received a note in which 
Lassalle asked him to come and see him. " I want to show you 
something with regard to which I require your help and advice. 
You will probably laugh at me, but please come." My infor- 
mant found Lassalle at work on the drama " Franz von 
Sickingen." The first act was completed. The astonishment 
of the friend may be understood at the idea of LassaUe, who 
was certainly the most unpoetical of men, trpng his powers 
as a poet. " I know what you will say," said Lassalle hastily. 
" I know as well as you that I am no poet ; but Lessing 
also wrote dramas with the full consciousness that he was not 
a poet. I have no wish to compare myself with Lessing, but 
I do not see why I should not try my hand," etc. He required 
the help of Dohm for details of stage management, which he 
did not understand, and upon matters of metre, in which 
Dohm was an expert. Dohm began by advising Lassalle to 
write in prose, nor could he have given better advice. Even 
if the prose had been oratorical, it would have been excellent 
of its kind ; while Lassalle's incapacity to produce a harmonious 
verse in correct metre is quite astonishing. It cannot be 
said that he had no ear, for he read metrical translations of the 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 93 

Greek poets aloud with good taste, and enjoyed them, but his 
own lines form very amusing evidence of the uncertainty of 
his sense of metre. Iambics of six feet appear in his drama, 
and produce a most harsh and discordant effect among the 
five-foot lines, while the emphasis in these halting verses is left 
to fall where it may. " The scientific redecorator " sounded 
to Lassalle a good iambic line in five feet. None the less, or, 
more correctly, precisely on this account, Lassalle could not 
be induced to give up verse as his chosen form, as it coincided 
with the theories of tragedy which he had adopted from the 
Greeks and from Hegel. Thus " Franz von Sickingen " received 
its present form. As a work of art the drama possesses, apart 
from its interesting plot, practically every defect of form 
that a poetical work can have. It abounds with lapses from 
good taste ; the scenes drag painfully, and are without central 
point or climax ; naturally the work would never bear pro- 
duction on the stage. At the same time it is impossible to 
assert that this drama, which is fuU to the brim with Lassalle's 
glowing energy, produces an unpoetical effect. The deep 
political insight into an age which was stirred to great move- 
ments, and the stormy pathos which thence proceeds, certainly 
have their poetical value. As we have it, this drama is cer- 
tainly a most valuable gold-mine for anyone who wishes to 
study the mental life of its author. Whichever of Lassalle's 
works we may have at hand, the drama rises continually to 
recollection, for it contains everything ; it displays the strongly 
marked characteristics of Lassalle's natural and individual 
personahty, and it provides manifold and numerous indica- 
tions which enable us to understand how he formed his ideas 
of the world, and how his views of history, of foreign and 
domestic pohtics, arose. The production is necessarily not a 
uniform whole, and must not therefore be considered as pro- 
viding a complete description of Lassalle ; but for purposes of 
illustration it can be used at every point. 

We now glance at the personal description of Lassalle which 
the work contains. I propose to quote the most important 
passages, giving a prose version of the poetry, which is often 
dreadfully poor, and quoting only a few significant passages in 
metrical form. 



94 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Ulrich von Hutten describes his miserable life since his 
excommunication by the Pope. He relates how Town Comicils, 
in fear of difficulties with the Pope or the Princes, have not 
ventured to grant him a refuge within their walls. " Still," 
he says, " if they had offered me shelter I would have promised 
to remain quiet," but 

I cannot hold my peace ; I cannot buy, 
At price of silence, safety for myself ; 
The spirit drives me on to testify : 
I cannot stanch the mighty stream within. 

" The general need," he says, " rises higher, so that everyone 
confines himself in his house, as in a time of plague, or steals 
noiselessly by anyone he meets. All the more am I driven 
by the power of the Spirit to oppose this devastation and to 
attack it the more vigorously, the more menacing its appearance. 
Oh, that I had a thousand tongues ! With every one would 
I now cry aloud to the country. I would rather wander from 
village to village like a hunted animal than keep silent and 
abandon my vocation for truth-teUing. Praise me not for 
it, Franciscus ; many have blamed me bitterly for it. 

And yet, when I perpend, I do not deem 
Censure nor praise to be my rightful meed ; 
A heart of ruth was set within my breast 
Which feels the general woe ; the common pain 
Stirs me more deeply than the heart of man 
Is wont to feel : how can I help it, sir ? 
'Twas set within me ! 

He describes the attitude of his friends. Some are de- 
lighted to see him again, but many shun him in the cowardice 
of their hearts. " Some openly declared that I was a burden 
to them ; others would not so openly admit it, but I felt it 
none the less. Others, again, who had been consoled by my 
voice in times of trouble, whose sheet-anchor I had been in 
many a storm, told me that they would gladly continue as 
my friends in secret, but could not be seen with me again in 
public, as they could not afford to quarrel entirely with Rome. 

To sufier this from friends, 
This, sir, from friends, to whom I did devote 
Myself with ready service and with love 
Unbounded, this is hard ! 

Ulrich is warmly received by Franz von Sickingen, and wins 
the love of his daughter Marie, to whom he replies : " Before 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 95 

you surrender yourself to this love, Marie, learn the nature of 
the curse which drives me on. It is the most powerful and 
the most inevitable of aU that God, in the anger of His love, 
can cast upon mortal head. For ever the old story remains 
true. When an abyss yawned wide in Rome, and plague and 
destruction threatened the State, the oracles said that the gods 
could only be appeased if the most precious thing that the 
State possessed were cast into the gulf ; and then on horseback, 
decked in ftdl martial array, Curtius sprang into the abyss, 
devoting himself to the gods of the lower world. The best 
men must leap into the open jaws of a vengeful age, and only 
over their bodies will the abyss close." 

Franz thinks as Ulrich does, and as Lassalle also thinks. 
He says : " We owe our Hves to those great purposes for 
accomphshment of which generations are sent into the world 
as workmen. I have done what I could. I feel relieved and 
happy like one who has honourably paid his debt." 

But of aU the utterances in the piece there is no better or 
more complete characterization of Lassalle's mental life than 
the following, which shows his condition when his powers were 
strained to the utmost amid threatening dangers, and his 
strength of wiU was derived from an inexhaustible source 
within him. At this point he attains real poetic power, for 
here he has felt so deeply that the words rise from these 
depths in lyrical form. The difference between an artist in 
language and a poet consists in the fact that the rhetorician has 
others before his eyes while the Ij^ic poet is alone with himself ; 
and LassaUe is alone with himself when he utters the following 
outcry : 

Look thou not earthwards, Balthazar, look up ! 

Only in danger's hour do we men learn 

All that a man may be. Then shrink away 

The pale and coward fears that, earthly born. 

Would fetter him to earth. From out the wreck 

Of well-schemed counsels and the overthrow 

Of vain devices, rises to its height 

His spirit pure, untrammelled, undismayed. 

Then to the infinite almighty will 

That sleeps within him doth he turn for strength. 

And with closed eyes he drinks vitality. 

New inspiration from himself, and stakes 

His life and fortunes on a single cast ; 

Then springs to action, casting care aside, 

And strikes the blow which, like the lightning flash. 

Shall change the face of all material things. 



96 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

These words, in my opinion, display the real and the ideal 
Lassalle as he was in his most characteristic moments, and 
surely at such times he was indeed himself. What result can 
be gained in the case of great minds by counting all the hours 
in which they were not truly themselves and judging them 
thereby ? How much time have they not been forced to 
concede to their bodily wants and the claims and distractions 
of daily life ? How many hours have they not wasted in 
illness, sleep, personal needs, and the claims of others upon 
their attention and sympathy ? And all that may be said of 
these hours definitely lost for the mental life, may be said 
almost as entirely of the similar periods in their inward life 
absorbed byuncontrolled passions, restless ambition, voluptuous- 
ness, or weakness. Can we not forget, and ought we not, 
as far as possible, to forget these moments when we wish to 
know what the individual was in the depths of his heart, and is 
it right or sensible to dwell continually upon the weaknesses 
of a great soul ? In any case, it will be understood that the 
artist who insists upon laying no less weight upon the negative 
than upon the positive characteristics is not likely to produce 
a picture of the man, whatever else he may make, for it is 
certain that no one is capable of painting a portrait if he 
attempts to represent the original as he might have been in all 
situations, and if he has not a certain ideal of-the personality in 
question before his eyes. The important point is not idealiza- 
tion, but the power of seeing, with a keen eye for reality this 
ideal figure in its essential expression and activity, or, in other 
words, the person in his main characteristics as he revealed him- 
self more or less completely to his contemporaries ; and such an 
ideal picture of his nature Lassalle has given in those lines. 

The play also contains a premonition of his sudden death. 
Marie asks Ulrich, when she sees him despondent with regard 
to his future, whether he does not believe in some higher Pro- 
vidence which defends the cause of good. He replies : 

The universe indeed may build thereon, 
Wrapped in its own mysterious purposes, 
Advancing ever to its mighty goal, 
It wanders not from its appointed path. 
« • * « » 

Each single man doth build upon the force 
Of chance, which, like a powder-mine, explodes, 
And hurls his shattered fragments high in air. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 97' 

These words contain a true and bitter philosophy of hfe ; a 
philosophy with truth and consolation for a nation, with truth 
and bitterness for the individual, but with greatest truth for 
those who, like Lassalle, dig their mines and storm barricades 
that have been undermined. 

Any student of the writer's personality will feel that these 
almost autobiographical features of the play are closely con- 
nected with those revealed by Lassalle's fundamental views of 
history and politics. Even in his speech before the Court of 
Assizes Lassalle had described how the inward movement of 
men's minds really determines the course of historical develop- 
ment, and cannot be subjugated by measures which can only 
affect the outward manifestation of feeling : " Long before] 
barricades can be raised in the outer world, the citizen in thel 
world of mind must have dug the pit which will swallow up.i 
the forms of government." In conformity with this idea 
Franz von Sickingen tells the Emperor Karl, in words of 
much importance, that he should not overestimate his own 
power, which " can only accelerate, but cannot retard, can 
only modify, but cannot suppress." The principles of Lassalle's 
historical faith are here seen transformed into a political 
principle. Every theoretical conviction immediately assumed 
practical form in his case. It was upon this conviction that a 
definite and irresistible influence runs through history that he 
based his dislike to the petty arts of diplomacy, to half-measures, 
and to dissembling of any kind. When Karl wishes to negotiate 
with the reformation, Franz replies : " There can be no negotia- 
tion with truth ; you might as weU attempt to negotiate with 
the fiery pillar which went before the people of Israel." After- 
wards, when Franz simunons a levy of his troops in the neigh- 
bourhood of the town of Treves, with the object of secretly 
collecting an army which he can use as a trump-card in his 
struggle against the other Princes, Balthasar, the keen-sighted 
pohtician of the piece, tells him the foolishness of this policy. 
" Whom are you deceiving ?" he asks. " Not your enemies ; for 
however much a man may misrepresent himself, his enemies 
wiU always suspect his thoughts and desires. The vital 
instinct in a threatened man becomes speedily suspicious of the 
intentions of any who threaten him with destruction. There- 

7 



98 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

fore you have not deceived the Princes ; with infaUible instinct 
they see in you the enemy of their order, and put no credence 
in the story of this petty feud. Only your friends have you 
carefully deceived and fooled, for they trusted your word. 
To them this feud implied only the petty possibility which 
you represented it to be, and they do not support you. Now, 
if you wish to break loose, it were better for you to rise openly 
against the Emperor Karl, to inscribe the reformation of 
Church and State broad and wide upon your standard ; better 
that, in virtue of the rightful character of your object, you 
should proclaim yourself Emperor of this realm, and unchain 
the fettered forces of the nation ; better this than play hide- 
and-seek with your friends without deceiving a single member 
of your enemies. 

Oh, thou art not the first, nor shalt thou be 
The last, who practised cunning in affairs 
Of moment, to the loss of his own life. 
For in the market-place of history, 
Where only by thy harness and thy arms 
The motley throng shall know thee for thyself. 
There is no reason in disguise. — Put on. 
And boldly wear the colours of thy flag, 
Yea, wrap thyself therein from head to foot. 
Then, in the shock of conflict wilt thou prove 
The vigour and the power given by truth. 
Wilt stand or fall, thyself in all thy might. 
To fall is not the worst ; but overthrow 
With strength unconquered, power unimpaired. 
This is the worst that heroes can endure. 

The political views expressed in this speech are those which 
Lassalle maintained and followed throughout his later life. 
These views he continually urged upon the Progressives at the 
time when this party, during its struggle with the Government, 
fondly imagined that the Ministry could be induced by continual 
importunity to concede its faithfulness to the Constitution and 
therefore to prove it. " You wish," he cries out," to hoodwink 
the Government ; but all real success in life and history is only 
to be obtained by real reform and remodification, and not by 
hoodwinking." When Bismarck came to power, and the air was 
full of curses against him, Lassalle's views immediately enabled 
him to see in Bismarck the coming man, and to predict directly 
what Bismarck would do. Accused of high treason on the 
charge that he wished to overthrow the Constitution by his 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 99 

agitation in favour of universal suffrage, he said to his judges^ 
" Well, gentlemen, though I am but a simple individual, I ' 
can tell you that I will not only overthrow the Constitution, 
but shall perhaps have done so within the space of a year ! 
Possibly in less than a year universal suffrage will be granted. 
Bold games, gentlemen, can be played with cards thrown on 
the table. The strongest diplomacy is that which does not 
require to surround its calculations with any secrecy because 
they have been founded upon iron necessity, and I therefore 
teU you in this solemn place that in less than a year, perhaps, 
Herr von Bismarck wiU have played the part of Robert Peel, 
and direct and universal suffrage will be granted." 

As is weU known, Bismarck fulfilled this prophecy, after the 
war with Austria, with reference to the newly-formed North- 
German Federation, and afterwards to the German Empire. 

We have now seen the general political principles which this 
drama contains — principles deeply characteristic of its author. 
This is not the place to dwell upon the specially German nature 
of its pohcy. I wiU only observe that that policy is now in force 
to an unhmited extent — the policy of passionate opposition 
to all petty Princes and to the principle of petty States. 
" The breath of history," says Franz, " cannot pass through 
such tiny particles." Of similar character is the deep exaspera- 
tion at the retention of priestly rule, with its benumbing effect 
upon the people, while the immediate object proposed as a 
remedy is a Protestant Emperor at the head of the German 
Empire. 

In the autimm of i860, while Lassalle was staying at Aix-la- 
ChapeUe to take a course of the waters for his malady, he 
made the acquaintance of the young Russian lady who in 1878 
revealed to the world in three languages the fact that Lassalle 
had wooed her and had been rejected. The edition in which 
LassaUe's letters were pubhshed in their original language, 
French, bore the title " Une Page d' Amour de Ferdinand 
LassaUe. Recit — Correspondance — Confessions." So far as 
we can judge this incident from the matter published, it is a 
strong proof of LassaUe's weakness of judgment where women 
were concerned. After a few days' acquaintanceship with the 
father and the daughter in Aix-la-Chapelle, he seems to have 



100 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

conceived the idea of marrying the young lady. In the French 
text she is stated to have been twenty years younger than he, 
or fifteen years of age, while the Russian text gives her age 
as nineteen. We may safely conclude that she was young, 
and, though she was far from beautiful, and by no means 
wealthy or distinguished, she seems to have been a lively and 
enthusiastic character. To her Lassalle offered his hand and 
heart with astonishing precipitation. 

|..r^The most original feature in LassaUe's autobiographical 
love-letters is the circumstance that in them he details his dis- 
advantages, uninterruptedly and with the utmost care relates 
everything which could produce disinclination to a imion with 
himself, and concludes by asking the girl whether, in spite of 
all these defects, she is bold enough to unite her fate with his. 
She can bring him no dowry, but he states that this is a matter 
of total indifference to him, not because he is too simple 
to know the value of money in this world ; for he admits with 
the greatest openness that he would perhaps have married a 
woman even if he had not loved her, provided that she brought 
him a dowry of three or four mUlion thalers, for so large an 
amount is in itself a power which he could have used for 
artistic, scientific, or political purposes. But as things are, 
he is in love with her, can look only at herself, and dismiss 
pecuniary matters from his mind. He tells her the amount 
of his income, which would in the course of time increase 
by about three thousand thalers yearly, and informs her that 
she will not be able to live on this sum as she might have been 
accustomed to live in Russia on her father's estates (which 
had long before been sold), but that she would be forced to 
undergo some privations. He further adds that she must not 
expect that he will ever add a single halfpenny to the 
amount of his income. His work is purely intellectual, and 
it is entirely against his principles to write for money, which 
he calls " the most unworthy and unnatural of aU proceedings." 
This is the attitude of intellectual exclusiveness which Bjnron 
also adopted in his youth, but speedily abandoned. Lassalle's 
hatred of journalism induced him to confuse justifiable literary 
business with the trade of writing for pay where the writer 
is obliged to deny or even to combat his own convictions, a 



FERDINAND LASSALLE lOi 

phenomenon of daily occurrence. But as things were at that 
time in Germany, a man with such capacities as Lassalle 
could gain nothing worth mentioning by his pen unless he 
held a definite position as a journalist ; and though Lassalle 
felt no scruples in basing his economic existence upon the 
income derived from the Hatzfeldt property, he none the less 
had such a horror of journalism that he regarded it as im- 
possible under any circumstances to increase his income by 
literary work. 

The lady has attempted to preserve her anonymity. Her 
name was at that time Sophie Solnzew, and is now Arendt, of 
Simferopol, where she is lady superior of an asylum. Her 
father was a Russian official, deeply in debt, the Vice-Govemor 
of Witebsk, and the family had a bad reputation for many 
reasons. It is clear that the Russian lady had succeeded in 
impressing Lassalle with the idea that she was of royal blood. 
Those about her knew that she derived her origin from no less 
an ancestor than the ancient Vladimir who introduced Chris- 
tianity into Russia ; but the derivation was based only upon 
similarity of name, and not upon any genealogical tree. 
Vladimir received from the people the additional name of 
Solnze (the sun), the addition of " w " to which produces 
Solnzew ; no derivation could be simpler. The lady was far 
from noble, and was herself obliged to admit that her father 
was not acquainted with any language but his own — a most 
unusual circumstance among the higher classes in Russia. 
How the father was able to excite Lassalle's admiration to the 
high degree betokened by the letters is quite inexpUcable, as 
the two men were unable to converse. The letters are un- 
doubtedly genuine. Their tone and style are entirely Lassalle's, 
and even the solecisms which they contain are some evidence 
of their genuineness, as they are mistakes which could only 
be committed by a German writing French. But it is im- 
possible to discover the contents of the letters which are said 
to have been lost, or what omissions, alterations, and so forth 
may have been made. Equally impossible is it to decide how 
much coquetry and what overtures the lady employed ; her 
own account represents her as encircled with a halo of iimo- 
cence, and therefore it is hopeless to gain any clear idea of the 



102 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

character of this intimacy. Sophie Sohizew shortly afterwards 
made several attempts, which remained fruitless, to make a 
name for herself as an actress and a singer. The part which 
she played to win Lassalle's attention seems to have been that 
of a young and enthusiastic disciple, whose life and thoughts 
were devoted to the welfare of the poor in her own country. 
The letters show that Lassalle's infatuation disappeared as 
rapidly as it had arisen. It was but a transitory whim, which 
left no trace behind it. The only certain fact is that Lassalle's 
choice upon this first occasion, as afterwards, fell upon an 
object hardly worthy of him. It is also noteworthy that the 
two girls whom he desired to marry were actresses of moderate 
ability.^ 

1 trom Russia I have received a considerable amount of infornaation 
concerning the lady who edited the letters. In the light of this information 
it seems very doubtful that her description gives an accurate account of the 
intimacy between Lassalle and herself. I have seen two photographs of 
her, one taken in early youth and one at a later date. 

It is noteworthy that the Russian and French edition are entirely dis- 
crepant, wherever she speaks in her own name. Many circumstances which 
in other respects bear the stamp of truth are given in the Russian edition, 
though the author has seen good to withhold them from her non-Russian 
readers. Conversely, in the Russian edition a passage from Lassalle's long 
letter to her is left out immediately after his declaration : " I will begin by 
saying that I will not marry you unless I am completely cured of my illness." 
The omission runs as follows : " For you need a man of full bodily vigour and 
strength, as I was a few months ago." The reason for the omission is clear. 

The real cause why Lassalle's proposals were rejected is not plain. The 
lady's sudden attack of homesickness, her yearning desire to devote herself 
to the education of Russian peasant children and the wish to teach, which she 
asserted of herself in the Russian edition, are hardly more credible than her 
royal origin. Did the father think the match too unsafe ? Was he afraid 
of losing his office if his daughter married Lassalle ? Did he in return show 
unusual friendliness to his daughter's lover ? How are we to explain this 
outburst of admiration on the part of Lassalle : " What I admire as much 
as the generosity and delicacy of your sentiments is your account of your 
father's attitude. He is a man above all that I have seen in my life ; indeed, 
he is prodigious ! What a man he is !" 

In the social democratic newspaper, the Vorwaris of September 25, 1878, 
the following statement is to be found : " Although doubts were felt on our 
side also at first concerning the genuineness of the said letters, it afterwards 
appeared — and Countess Hatzfeldt supported the statement — that the letters 
were written by Lassalle himself." 

No such evidence on the part of the Countess has been published, but it 
can easily be seen that such a statement in no way guarantees the genuineness 
of the letters in any particular point, and still less their completeness. 

The answer by the head of the firm of Brockhaus to one of my friends, 
whom I asked to put a few questions to him as the publisher of the letters, 
runs as follows : " On the other hand, I can return an equally definite negative 
to the second question, whether we have felt any doubts concerning the 
authenticity of the letters since their publication. We had no doubts as to 
their authenticity previously, either upon internal or external evidence, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 103 

otherwise we should not have undertaken their publication. Since that time 
the originals of the letters have, in part at least, come before our eyes, and 
have convinced us that they are in Lassalle's well-known handwriting." 

It is very remarkable that the firm of Brockhaus should have undertaken 
the edition without previously seeing the original letters and testing their 
genuineness by experts, and it is still more remarkable that this firm should 
only have succeeded in seeing a part of them since that time, apparently 
after these questions had induced them to make inquiries. The reason cannot 
have been any fear that the firm might betray the name of the editor, for 
this name had been communicated to the firm as a business secret, as Herr 
Brockhaus expressly states in the above-mentioned letter. 



CHAPTER IX 

Precisely at the moment when Lassalle sent his " Franz von 
Sickingen " into the world he was i;nduced, for the first and last 
time in his life, to expound, under the cloak of anonymity, 
against his usual practice, his views concerning the foreign 
policy to be followed by Prussia. War with Austria had been 
declared. Europe was shaken by a great wave of national 
feeling, and the national liberal middle-class in Prussia were 
excited, and had lost their bearings. They were calling for 
war upon Louis Napoleon, to punish his attack upon Austria, 
which it was thought should be supported at any price as a 
land of German nationality. The righteousness of Italy's 
cause and the political interests of Prussia were lightly aban- 
doned in favour of an evil policy of sentimentality. This state 
of things induced LassaUe to cast upon the world his pamphlet 
entitled " The Itahan War and Prussia's Task : A Voice from 
the Democracy." Here he shows first that the democracy 
could not trample upon the principle of free nationalities, 
unless it broke with its own programme. He then explains 
that it would be foolish to allow mere hatred of Napoleon III. 
to dictate an attack against him at a point when he had 
undertaken, no matter for what reason, an enterprise which 
must and would be most dangerous to himself. He then 
proceeded to show that Napoleon was even then tottering, 
that his Councils were divided and distracted, that, allied 
to Victor Emmanuel and supporting the Pope, he was 
fighting for national freedom in order to strengthen his 
own despotism. In consequence, he was not nearly so dan- 
gerous to the democracy as Austria, for Austria was then 

104 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 105 

" a thoroughly firm, consistent and consequently reactionary 
principle." Eventually he strikes the point by clearly 
demonstrating that the political results of the Italian war could 
only be to the advantage of Prussia and Germany. The 
reason was that the defeat of Austria would compensate for 
the obstacles which stood in the way of German unity, the 
obstacles upon which the revolution of 1848 and the German 
efforts for unity had so miserably made shipwreck. To 
what purpose had the revolution of that time dissolved the 
German Federation, which, with strange simplicity, the people 
regarded as the cause of disruption ? This movement did 
not remove the real and inherent cause of disruption— namely, 
the balance of power existing between the two great German 
States. Division was due, not to a defective Constitution, but 
to the actual conditions of power. The Italian war, assuming 
that France was victorious, would inevitably deal the first blow_ 
overthrowing the balance of power between the States. " On 
the day when Austria is destroytsd as a State of the German 
Federation the colours upon the toll-gates of Bavaria, Wtirtem- 
berg, and the other countries will pale." On that day German 
tmity was founded and secured for Lassalle, and with prophetic 
insight of surprising depth, which was reaUy derived from his 
profound understanding of all existing conditions, Lassalle pro- 
ceeds to prophesy, undisturbed by the very divergent dreams and 
inclinations of the national spirit, unmoved by the forebodings 
and menaces of opposition newspapers, and states everything 
that would come, and, indeed, has come, to pass : that France 
would annex Savoy and Nizza, and that Italy, against Napo- 
leon's wish, would become an independent State. Involved 
in the usual German prejudices towards Denmark, he demands 
in the name of the principle of nationality that Prussia should 
declare war against Denmark, and annex Slesvig and Hol- 
stein ; that she should then exclude Austria from the German 
Federation, and finish her work by the foundation of the 
German Empire. 

When the peace of Villafranca had been concluded, Lassalle 
undertook a journey to Italy, stayed with Garibaldi at Caprera 
for several days, and is said to have attempted to persuade 
him to undertake a freebooting expedition in Austrian terri- 



io6 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

tory, with a view to forwarding German unity by this means. 
To accompHsh something for his own country akin to the 
achievements of Garibaldi for his Fatherland was, strangely 
enough, one of the dreams for the future which Lassalle per- 
haps entertained in moments of hope. For the present, when 
calm had descended upon the political world, he retired to his 
study, and elaborated his " System of Acquired Rights," with 
which, in 1861, he had completed two great works of theoretical 
speculation. He was now in the prime of life, at the age of 
thirty-six, and a spectator by necessity of the few events pro- 
ceeding in the outer world. It was a year before Bismarck 
took up his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the field 
of foreign policy lay fallow. The social problem which filled 
the mind of the young scholar in preference to any political 
question had disappeared from pubhc discussion in Germany 
since 1849 ; the old democratic party had ceased to exist. 
With the enthusiasm which distinguished Lassalle in every- 
thing that he undertook, he now penetrated more deeply into 
the complications of political economy with which he had been 
occupied from his earliest youth. Only by the thorough study 
of this subject, which appealed to the practical disposition" of 
his temperament, was he able to lay the coping-stone upon a 
series of scientific investigations, the starting-point of which 
lay in the metaphysics of a remote antiquity, and which opened 
a deep-cut road through history and philosophy to politics and 
statistics of the most modem character. 

With fierce impatience, he saw superficial and officious 
charlatans persuading public opinion to tinker with the great 
social question. He saw honourable, but unscientific and un- 
important people attempting to satisfy the crying necessities 
of the moment with the most inadequate and often the most 
mischievous measures. Deep sympathy was burning in his 
heart, and capacities yet undeveloped lay dormant within 
him. Though a bom public speaker, it was now more than 
ten years since he had spoken. He was provided with all the 
gifts necessary for dealing with the case before him — a con- 
fident bearing, presence of mind, determination, the power of 
leadership, and a rare capacity for organization. Yet, with a 
world of unsolved problems before him, he was obliged to fold 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 107 

his hands and rest. He had attempted to arouse those in 
power by his words, and perhaps for a moment he had hoped 
to see Prussia stirred to action, and to accomplish by the 
methods which he had indicated that which he regarded as the 
task and inevitable object of his country. He had attempted, 
fl&ctere superos, to move those in high places, but his voice had 
been drowned amid the outcries of many others. His social 
position and his past precluded for ever any possibility that 
he might himself attain to power, and thus perform something 
to forward his own ideas and the welfare of the people. Thus 
the thought must have continually recurred to him that it 
might be possible to organize and to prepare for political 
action the masses who had been excluded from pohtics for the 
last twelve years. Much might be done by working from below. 
As the line in Virgil runs, " If I cannot move the gods, I will 
stir the lower world to uproar." 

' Then came the period of political struggle in Prussia. The 
dispute concerning military organization placed the Govern- 
ment and the Chamber in deadly opposition, and the majority 
thought that the result would be a war, with absolutism or 
democracy as the stakes. For a moment Lassalle seems to 
have hoped that the middle classes would take energetic action 
through their representatives. In 1861 several members of the 
Liberal party, in conjunction with the Democratic party, 
which had reappeared after the election of Waldeck in Decem- 
ber, i860, had coalesced, and formed the Progressive party. 
LassaUe approached the Committee of this newly-founded 
party with a request to support his candidature, but his rejec- 
tion, and the attitude of the Chamber upon the whole matter, 
finally convinced him that the middle class had ceased to be 
a force in politics. Their conservative interests inevitably led 
them to prefer the loss of their freedom rather than to call 
in the dreaded fourth estate for the protection of it. Thus 
the working classes once more became a power ; they alone 
had no reactionary interests, but were by nature the supporters 
of national freedom. For a Government which found itself in 
a life-and-death struggle with the middle classes, no other 
resource remained, in Lassalle's opinion, than to appeal to the 
workmen as a class. Lassalle was entirely excluded from aU 



io8 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

immediate influence upon the Government, and therefore upon 
the development of society in the State. He stood upon the 
farther side of the great gulf formed by the obscurantism of 
the petty nobility and revolutionary Radicalism. But Lassalle 
was by no means excluded from exerting influence indirectly, 
if he were able to avoid creating unnecessary enemies for him- 
self by attacking the Monarchy in general, or the reigning 
d57nasty, or the Government, or national sentiment, or religion, 
or hereditary right, and could raise the so-called fourth class 
from its political impotence, and rouse it to a struggle properly 
conducted by lawful means, for the purpose of securing social 
and pohtical equivalence (not equahty) with the other classes. 
This seemed no impossible purpose. No wonder, therefore, if 
Lassalle, pondering like AchiUes in his tent, mentally repeated 
to himself for nights and days the burden of Virgil's line : 

" Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo." 



PART II 

LASSALLE AS AN AGITATOR 

It was as an agitator that Lassalle came forth from his tent. 
The word seems to have been made to describe him. An 
agitator in the fuU sense of the word is a man who has the 
power to inspire dead masses with the life of his spirit, and 
simultaneously to vivify and to lead them. The agitator's art 
is to electrify and to inform with one and the same shock, and 
for this purpose supreme will is no less necessary than supreme 
intellectual power. An agitator must be simultaneously an 
orator, a writer, a guerilla chief, and a general : he must appear, 
now here, now there, make his influence felt at once over 
many scattered points, and yet keep all the strings of action 
well in hand. But for intentional and sudden action of this 
kind, electrifying by unexpected shocks, Lassalle had ever been 
destined. What was the chief requirement for such a destiny ? 
In every case strength of wiU, and strength of wiU to him was 
life. The expression of will at sudden moments, yet continu- 
ously, was needed, and this was his calling. I say his calling, 
for strength of wiU describes his inmost nature. At the first 
glance it seems as if Lassalle's life had hitherto shown but 
scanty traces of those characteristic and unconscious elements 
in a man's nature which go to compose what is known as his 
calling. He belongs rather to those who choose than to those 
who are called. A chance occurrence meets him on his way ; 
he chooses to pursue it with the whole passion of his soul, and 
thus makes it an actual necessity for himself, but such occur- 
rences cannot be regarded as necessities imposed by Nature. 

109 



no FERDINAND LASSALLE 

It was by chance that Lassalle became a lawyer, in order to 
help Countess Hatzfeldt, and spent nearly ten years of his life 
upon a department of learning which was not his profession. 
For years he devoted himself to the most difficult problems of 
classical philology, but never made the study of classical 
antiquity his special province. Upon occasion he was a poet ; 
he investigated modem and ancient law from the standpoint 
of theoretical jurisprudence, but in none of these cases do we 
feel that he was obeying a definite call. He selects an object, 
and pursues it to the end. But ultimately he has no desire to be 
a learned jurist, or a dramatic author, or a classical philologist, 
or a practical solicitor. Hence the observation of F. A. Lange 
concerning Lassalle is profoundly appropriate, when he says 
" that the legal matter contained in his chief work has been 
elaborated with extraordinary ingenuity, but none the less was 
elaborated merely for the purpose of this particular achieve- 
ment."^ It is impossible to characterize in better terms an 
object arbitrarily chosen by an act of will, as distinguished 
from objects imposed by definite caU ; but, as we have already 
observed, the truth is that Lassalle's will was in itself a call. 
Lassalle's acts of will invariably betray something of the 
agitator in their nature, taking the term " agitator " in its 
widest and fundamental meaning, and not in the ordinary 
sense. The concept agitare, in contrast with agere (to act), 
implies the constant pursuit of new points of departure — the 
repeated, restless, energetic and unchecked desire for further 
action. The agitation which he carried on in public was but 
the outward sign of the uninterrupted mental agitation in 
which his will existed. This inward tumult was his life, and 
became his death. Only in his will did he find full life, as 
Goethe, by his own confession, found life only in the creations 
of his intellect, and it was this will which made him invincible 
in practice — that is to say, when he directed himself to great 
and important objects ; but, considered abstractly, in other 
words, when his will subordinated everything to the one object 
of gaining his desire, his will became his fate, his curse, and 
eventually his death. This will was his strength as long as it 
repelled or overpowered the desires, temptations, impulses, or 

* F. A. Lange, " The Labour Problem," 248. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE iii 

distractions which rose around him, and might prove in the 
youthful mind so many obstacles to the studies and plans 
which he proposed. This will became his misfortune when it 
was stirred to passion by resistance in the course of his last 
love-affair, and eventually destroyed love, reason, the sense of 
moderation and proportion, and some of the best impulses of 
the mind. But for the moment this will raised its own memorial 
by its restless work of creation. 



CHAPTER I 

The years 1862 to 1864, the last two years of Lassalle's life, 
embrace the whole of that part of his work which has made 
his name known throughout Europe. He almost seems to 
have concentrated the exertions of ten years within these two, 
and what he performed in this space of time is astonishing. 
Between March, 1862, and June, 1864, he wrote no less than 
twenty works, three or four of which, both in their extent and 
their contents, may be considered as books, and most of which, 
in spite of their brevity and the popularity of their style, 
contain a wealth of thought, and are written with a scientific 
regard for logic which very few great books display.^ 

Apart from this, at the same time he delivered numerous 
speeches, was constantly negotiating with deputations of work- 
men, emerged from the entanglements of some ten political 
lawsuits, founded the General Union of German Workmen, 
carried on an enormous correspondence, and organized the 
conduct of the Union. He seems to have had some premonition 
of his approaching death, which led him to put forth almost 
supernatural exertions. 

The most remarkable criticism of Lassalle's general activity 

1 The order of his writings is as follows : 

1862. " Herr Julian Schmidt, the Historian of Literature," " Constitutional 
Theory,'' " The Workmen's Programme," " Fichte's Philosophy," " Science 
and the Working Classes," " Criminal Trial, the Court of Second Instance." 

1863. "Indirect Taxation," "Might and Right," "Criminal Trial, the 
Court of Third Instance," " Open Letter of Reply,'' " The Working-Class 
Problem," "The Workmen's Handbook," " The Festivals, the Press, the 
Frankfort Deputies' Meeting," " To the Workmen of Berlin." 

1864. "Herr Bastiat-Schultze von DeUtzsch ; or. Capital and Labour," 
" Prosecution for High Treason," " Reply to a Criticism," " Speech at 
Ronsdorf," " Criminal Trial on June 27." 

113 8 



114 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

during this period, which was offered after his death, is the 
accusation that his work is lacliing in originahty. This state- 
ment is based either upon misunderstanding or upon an in- 
adequate knowledge of the writings which are criticized. 
During his Hfetime his enemies boldly denied the truth of the 
historical facts and the economic laws which he asserted. 
After his death they adopted an opposite form of procedure, 
and repeatedly emphasized " astonishing lack of originality," 
as characteristic of the evidence which he adduced, the truth of 
which is now indisputable. But so far as the economic facts 
are concerned to which Lassalle continually returns in this 
period of his life, he by no means proclaims himself as their 
discoverer, but, on the contrary, passionately asserts that 
they are truths long before recognized by science. Statements 
which have passed from handbook to handbook for centuries 
have been made the bases from which his conclusions were 
drawn, and are treated by his opponents as inventions of his 
own. He never reproaches his adversaries with the fact that 
they shut their eyes to his discoveries, but with the incredible 
ignorance, as he considered it, which they displayed when they 
accused him of making new and unheard-of assertions {e.g., 
his arguments concerning indirect taxation).^ No scholar has 
yet ventured to complain that the author of the " System of 
Acquired Rights " was lacking in scientific independence and 
originality. With regard to questions of pure political economy, 
or, more correctly, with regard to the great theoretical ques- 
tions concerning the fundamental points of contact between 
political economy and law, there is but one earlier thinker of 
importance, to whom Lassalle, and Marx in an equal degree, 
owes a distinct debt. This was Rodbertus Jagetzow, whom 
Adolf Wagner has called the Ricardo of economic Socialism. 
That the existence of this debt is in no way derogatory to 
Lassalle as a scientific thinker is obvious, and is in addition 
stated by Wagner. With regard to the points upon which 
Rodbertus and Lassalle differed in their conclusions, the 

T" ' " Scientific men have shouted themselves hoarse for centuries, and their 
cries have at length reached the ears of the Government. One state counsel 
and one court of justice have remained unmoved by the general outcry, 
have stopped their ears with wax as Odysseus stopped his ears to the Siren's 
song, and for this reason I am to go to prison ! How unreasonable I " 

'"J^ Indirect Taxation," 95). 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 115 

above-mentioned distinguished economist, who is still alive, 
proclaims his preference for the latter. 

The theoretical foundations upon which Lassalle's agitation 
was based are not entirely characteristic of him, though the 
manner of their development is characteristic enough, but in 
this respect he claims no honours which were not duly his. 
His main point of view was that generally adopted by the 
German democracy, properly so called, of 1848. This demo- 
cracy, which must not be confused with the opposition con- 
stitutional party, called itself sometimes Socialist and some- 
times Communist. The manifesto of the Communist party, 
issued anonymously, but composed by Marx and Engels, 
and almost a mere translation from Victor Considerant, 
contains in compressed form and drastic expression the ideas 
which Lassalle afterwards propounded and developed in a 
style at once the most definite and the most politically prudent. 
This old Socialism of 1848 is the basis of the whole of Lassalle's 
activity, and for reasons of prudence he does not immediately 
refer his ideas to it, though at the very last — indeed, not imtil 
his last speech of all, and then with considerable reluctance — 
does he admit that he might be called a Socialist. Where he 
bases his theory upon Marx in one individual point, in his 
explanation of the nature and formation of capital, and modifies 
the doctrine of Marx only to a very small extent, he is careful 
to state the fact with the fullest possible acknowledgment. 

Throughout the period when Lassalle was thus active, Marx 
kept silent, but after Lassalle's death asserted with some 
bitterness that he had borrowed his own economic doctrines. 
Marx might have added, without too great a concession to the 
dead man, that his special characteristic as an agitator con- 
sisted, and must consist, not in theoretical elaboration, but in 
practice, in method and in form. Lassalle himself often 
asserted the fact that while a theoretical work is all the better 
in proportion to the completeness with which it deduces the 
very farthest conclusions from its principles, practical agita- 
tion, on the other hand, is powerful in proportion as it is con- 
centrated about one cardinal point upon which all others 
turn. There is, therefore, no opportunity in this case for 
displa37ing originality in point of theory. The art of attaining 



ii6 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

practical results consists in concentrating one's strength upon 
one point, looking neither to right nor to left. The only theo- 
retical requirement in such a case is that this point should be 
theoretically on the highest plane, so that all due conclusioi^s 
can follow from it in practice and in course of time. The special 
nature of Lassalle's movement consists in the conjunction of 
two circumstances — ^its deep scientific truth and its popular 
character. As it was easily intelligible, it was able to influence 
the great majority of the uneducated ; and as it was scientific- 
ally profound, it was also able to influence the little band of 
highly cultured thinkers among the educated classes.^ Re- 
garded from a literary point of view, the originality of the 
movement consists in the clarity with which the agitator was 
able to compress the last and highest results of scientific in- 
vestigation, and make them comprehensible to audiences in 
whom no scientific knowledge could be presupposed. In other 
words, Lassalle was original by reason of the tangible and 
definite form which he impressed upon every one of his utter- 
ances. 

^ "Open Letter of Reply," 31; "Capital and Labour," 174, note; 
" Trial at Diisseldorf , " 21 ; " Trial for High Treason," 33. 



CHAPTER II 

Any writer who takes himself seriously has a twofold and 
difficult problem to solve. He must ask himself, " How can 
I maintain the creative freshness of my mind day by day, 
when the facts of life are continually intruding upon my 
inmost thoughts ? How, again, can I induce some thousand 
fellow-citizens to whom my person, my life and my interests 
are absolutely indifferent, to read my prose or — an almost pre- 
posterous supposition — ^to buy my book ?" But this twofold 
difficulty is as nothing compared with the countless obstacles 
against which an opposition leader in Lassalle's position is 
bound to fight. 

An author can, within certain limits, promise his reader some 
amount of pleasure. What prospect can the leader of a new 
opposition party — an opposition which he must himself create 
— hold out to his adherents ? Troops can be induced to 
advance under fire when the happy fields of Italy are promised 
for their plunder. How can an agitator induce his adherents 
to advance, when all that can be honourably and certainly 
promised for their attainment within a reasonable time is the 
persecution and hatred of those about them, the loss of their 
money and reputation, passionate complaints of their be- 
haviour in the newspapers, and a thousand obstacles in the way 
of their future progress, supposing that their progress be not 
immediately cut short ? The leader of a rising opposition 
party has no reinforcements upon whom he can rely. Generals 
and Ministers need not be men of outstanding capacity ; they 
have but to give their orders, and to direct the strength of 
the masses where they will. The founder of an opposition party 

117 



ii8 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

must do the same, without any outward or practical authority, 
by the mere inward force of his personality, by his power for 
inspiring enthusiasm and attracting, and by his capacity for 
convincing and rousing others to fanaticism. 

To have courage for oneself is no great art. In hours of 
depression a man may fold his arms and wait tiU the crisis is 
past, or he may allow the waves to pass over his head in the 
consciousness that he -will rise to the surface hereafter, or he 
may clench his teeth and force a way through difficulties in 
obstinate silence. But when he may not be silent, must ever 
be speaking and giving counsel and consolation, and pointing 
the way for others, the case is very different. Very different is 
the necessity of finding courage for twenty others who lose 
their heads and their nerve at every moment, and ask their 
leader to inspire them with that confidence in a fortunate 
issue which he does not himself feel. He may show no sign 
of weariness, unless he is prepared to see the whole band fling 
themselves down and remain l5^ng in the road. Tired to death 
is the burden of LassaUe's closing letters to his friends. 

Ten or fifteen letters must be answered daily, apart from 
letters which can be destroyed when read. At every post 
the beU rings, and a bundle of letters is brought in ; more 
drudgery, more questions, fresh matters which must be 
considered and decided on the moment — announcements of 
new disasters. 

With the letters come the newspapers ; fresh attacks, mis- 
representations, accusations, insults from anonymous and 
known writers. The hostile Press — and at the outset the whole 
Press is necessarily hostile — ^utters its cries of fury morning and 
evening ; and even if this uproar frightens no man, at any rate 
it works unconsciously upon the nervous system. Lassalle 
may indeed write : " Such a daily concert of bankrupt musi- 
teans I never heard before ; I could die of laughing." Whether 
a man dies of laughing or frets himself ill is a matter of indiffer- 
ence, if the last word in either case spells illness or death. It 
is indeed ridiculous when such a writer as Max Wirth discovers 
that the law of wages to which Lassalle appeals " is a very 
antiquated standpoint "; when a Faucher discovers that 
Lassalle knows nothing whatever of political economy ; when 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 119 

the Workmen's Union of Nuremberg declares that he is a 
" paid tool of the reaction "; or when Schultze writes his 
" piteous answer." But what does it profit the subject of 
these remarks, if no one but himself can appreciate the 
humour of the situation, and if the public regard the cater- 
wauHng of newspapers as the voice of morality and true 
science ? 

Then the agitator feels the necessity for dealing some great 
blow, and the need of victory becomes for him the firm con- 
sciousness which produces victory. In such a frame of mind 
LassaUe writes to Rodbertus, after determining to deliver a 
speech in Frankfort : " You are quite right in saying thai 
pubUc disputations of this kind produce no result, but upon 
this occasion I need a disputation. The Berhn Press has been 
turning the recent workmen's comedy here to account, and as 
we have no organ in which we can express ourselves, I feel the 
necessity for some display which will force the middle-class 
Press to serve my purpose ; so I must go, and I must be tri- 
umphant. I feel the want of a triumph. The people there 
are unanimously against me, and have only invited me out of 
poUteness, but I shaU stake everything upon this throw, and 
the old war-horse wiU shake his revolutionary mane. Things 
will be bad if I do not conquer. The general knowledge of 
the fact that these unions are collectively against us \dU 
increase the triumph of our victory, and will deprive defeat 
of its sting, if defeat should come to pass." 

In Frankfort he was triumphant, but hundreds of triumphs' 
of a very different character were necessary, for disappointment 
followed disappointment. Then, according to the law of con- 
sciousness, the everlasting illusions of good fortune and success, 
of the influence which he exercised, and of the support which he 
found, rose afresh before his mind. The following words are 
from an unpublished letter, and reproduce the feverish haste 
and pressure in which the agitator's life was passed : 

" Dear M., 

" Thank you for your letter. You will receive herewith 
for distribution gratis three hundred copies of my address (to 
the workers of Berhn). It has an enormous effect here, and 



120 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

we think it likely to bring over the Berlin workers in a body. 
At last I ana making way here ; at last ! 

" As regards the other pamphlets, you may distribute any- 
thing gratis that you have from my pen ; the rest do not belong 
to me, but to the publisher or to the Union. 

" Now a point of the greatest importance. We absolutely 
must have a plenipotentiary in Konigsberg. This is most im- 
portant. Wherever merely one such official is stationed, 
a community rises automatically. Experience has shown this 
to be true everywhere ; so appoint master-mason Schmidt to 
be our plenipotentiary in Konigsberg. Write him an urgent 
and imperative letter, representing his acceptance of the post 
as a duty incumbent upon him and demanding an immediate 
statement of his choice, and send me within the next week 
official notice that you have appointed Schmidt as plenipoten- 
tiary for Konigsberg. 

" In a week I shall be publishing the recent new appoint- 
ments which I have proposed for the different parts of Ger- 
many, and I should be extremely glad if I were able to announce 
at the same time the appointment carried out by you to 
Konigsberg. 

" This would make a very good impression. I count uncon- 
ditionally upon your readiness to fulfil my desire at the right 
_time." 

The italicizing of words|here betrays passionate emphasis. 
We feel the words trembling on his lips, " I demand, I order, 
I will endure no refusal." We feel that he is then forced 
to remember that he can only request, and we see how he 
compensates for this restriction by making his request an 
imperative demand. 

The addressee to whom this letter was sent writes to me : 
" You will see from this letter under what illusions Lassalle 
still laboured in October, 1863, as regards the strength of the 
movement which he had aroused among the working classes. 
I was unable to fulfil the desires expressed in his letter, because 
in Konigsberg, as in the whole province of Prussia, scarce a 
man was to be found with any adequate knowledge of the 
question or any readiness to take part in the agitation." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 121 

And yet he did not lose courage. Amid all these disappoint- 
ments and this disquietude, he went on preparing his speeches 
— often out of humour, weary, hoarse, and overstrained, obliged 
to show himself in public and make a display of invincible 
power. He must concentrate his mind with his faculties undis- 
turbed and unimpaired by the daily waste of time expended 
upon current business, direct his thoughts to a rough and 
surging assembly of partly hostile hearers, and elaborate in his 
study the phrase that can strike home and arouse enthusiasm — 
the effective and convincing argument, the immemorable 
oratorical form. 



CHAPTER III 

A CONSIDERATION of the agitation in its outward form implies 
an estimate of Lassalle as an orator. 

It might be thought that he was not specially gifted by 
Nature for this purpose, and that his best quaUfication was his 
very unusual memory. He told one of my acquaintances that 
in his youth he knew the whole of the " Ihad " and " Odyssey " 
by heart, and he delivered his long lectures, which were never 
improvised, word for word as he had written them, without a 
manuscript before him. In ordinary conversation his voice 
was high and shrill, and he spoke with a lisp ; but as soon as he 
appeared in pubhc these defects disappeared, and his voice 
soimded strong and attractive. His literary work had trained 
him for oratory, and seems, indeed, to be the best of schools 
for this purpose. In ancient Rome it was generally asserted 
that oratorical readiness could only be gained by speaking ; 
but Cicero, whose authority is indisputable in aU that concerns 
eloquence, most vigorously attacks this view (" De Oratore," 
i- 33)- " It might as well be said," Crassus asserts in Cicero's 
dialogue, " that the power of speaking badly would be most 
easily attained by bad speaking. No," he continues, " the 
great point is to write as much as possible. Writing is the best 
school and the best means of education for the coming orator." 
I believe this to be the case when it is necessary to make a 
speech which can afterwards be read with profit. If the 
speech is to make but a momentary impression, previous 
literary training is hardly required. Gambetta's speeches, for 
instance, which exerted so powerful an influence, owing to 
the fiery nature of his temperament, and the beauty of his 

122 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 123 

voice, make no great impression when they are read. They 
provide a momentary solution of the question at issue, but 
are far too lacking in depth of thought to rivet attention for 
any lengthy period, nor is their expression stamped by any 
definite Uterary character. The wide point of view from 
which all questions are regarded, the keenness and novelty of 
his ideas, the great foundation of scholarship suspected by 
the hearer, but not displayed by the orator, together with 
the brevity and strength of his style, give the best of Lassalle's / 
speeches permanent literary value. 

Ancient writers — ^for instance, Quintilian — divided eloquence 
into the Asiatic and Attic styles, or the flowery and the dry 
styles. If we adopt this principle, Lassalle's eloquence un- 
doubtedly belongs to the dry and nervous style. But in 
one single and important point Lassalle is very far from the 
Attic style, and this is his preference for superlatives. The 
delight with which he strides along the highest summits 
of the adjectival forms is incredible, as also is the en- 
thusiasm with which he devises and heaps together such 
expressions as "the immense," "the horrible," "the gigan- 
tic." In this one instance the admirable phrase of Metter- 
nich, " the superlative is the mark of fools," is not confirmed ; 
but such heavy artillery remains no less unwieldy, even when 
worked by a man of talent. The German author who has 
studied Ferdinand Lassalle with deeper intelligence than 
anyone else, uttered in my presence the sharp criticism of 
him : " He had no taste at all." This is somewhat 
exaggerated, but it can justly be said that his taste was 
very uncertain. From French literature he learned astonish- 
ingly little, though considerable parts of it must have been 
known to him. I have already mentioned that he did not 
shrink in his drama from making Ulrich von Hutten de- 
scribe his own greatness in the purest bombast. When he 
speaks of the considerations which forbade him to unite the 
life of a beloved woman with his own uncertain and perilous 
existence, he speaks as if he could shatter the earth in pieces, 
and uses such expressions as : 

When in my wild career athwart this globe 
Of earth I crash confounded, hurtUng wide 
In manifold disruption. 



124 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

And again, when he describes his greatness and his ill-fortune, 
he says : 

Then in a Baltic haven I embarked ; 

The vessel could not bear me and the planks 

Beneath my feet did part incontinent. 

This is rhodomontade in utter lack of taste. While he was 
thus entirely wanting in a sense of hunnour, his speeches do not, 
at any rate, reach such points of exaggeration as we find in his 
poetry ; but it happens occasionally that the metaphors by 
which he attempts to attract the attention of his hearers are 
ridiculous enough to arouse laughter. In his first speech before 
the Court of Assizes he speaks of the " Erinnys of the murdered 
basis of right." In " Science and the Working Classes " he 
says : " The proud and lofty tree of scientific knowledge has 
been transmitted from age to age with holy reverence." ^ The 
murder of a legal basis and the transmission of the tree of know- 
ledge are pictures somewhat too highly coloured ; but a 
masterly painting is not ruined because a line here or there is 
out of drawing. 

I said that Lassalle's style was of the dry type ; the meta- 
phors are therefore rare and short. The use which he makes 
of them is, generally speaking, all the more remarkable. 

Lassalle never uses metaphor for purely decorative purposes. 
His metaphors always contain a logical explanation of the 
true nature of the matter at issue, and are therefore logical 
continuations of his arguments, while they serve at the same 
time to crystallize his ideas, and to arouse the enthusiasm of 
his hearers. For instance, in his speech before the Court of 
Assizes, LassaUe was obliged to deal with one difficult point : 
he had appealed for armed defence of the overthrown Consti- 
tution, which, among other things, had contained provisions 
for uiiiversal suffrage. He proved that the Government, by 
the coii/p d'etat, had outraged and scorned the manifest desires 
of the people ; but the people, by taking part in a new election 
conducted upon the law of December 6, which provided for 
the three classes of electors, recognized the Constitution that 

C' " The Erinnys of murdered legal right. . . . But that which has grown 
more powerful than them all . . . transmitted from age to age with holy 
reverence, is the proud and lofty tree of scientific knowledge " {" Science 
and the Workmen," 3). 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 125 

had been forced upon it, and to this fact the Government 
appealed. 

Lassalle refutes this assertion : " On what erroneous coi>l ^^-4-^1 
elusions are these attempts based which would justify the foolish 
idea that because the people voted to procure means of expres- 
sion for themselves, and to gain champions by whose help 
they might recover the freedom of which they had been robbed, 
they, by this very action, have recognized the robbery as legal ? 
I will take the first example, gentlemen, which occurs to me. 
Supposing a robber, while I am asleep, snatches from my side 
a precious Damascus blade, and leaves me his clumsy club in 
its place : when I start up and seize the club for the purpose 
of pursuing him and recovering my property, have I, by the 
act of using the club, admitted the justice of its exchange for 
my Damascus sword ?" _^ 

Whether this analogy was really the first that came to hand, 
or whether it was elaborated by careful thought, I regard it in 
any case as a model of what a simile should be. The picture 
by no means interrupts the course of the description, and not 
only illuminates the business under discussion, but also 
removes a difficulty which could oiily have been explained 
away by a much longer political argument in logical form. It 
is no mere rhetorical decoration, but gives vigour to the speech. 
On some occasions liassaUe succeeded in so compressing his 
thoughts in a simile of this kind that it passed from mouth 
to mouth as representing the quintessence of his ideas. For 
instance, in his " Workmen's Programme " he develops the con- 
nection between the ideas of the working classes and of the 
time, and thus exclaims : " The high honour in the history" 
of the world which this deterxnination implies (the desire to 
become the ruhng class) must claim aU your thoughts ; not for 
you are the vices of the oppressed, or the idle distractions 
of the thoughtless, or even the harmless carelessness of the 
unimportant ; you are the rock upon which the church of the_ 
present is to be built." Similarly, he characterizes the political 
philosophy of the Manchester school in reaUstic fashion : 
" Thus the middle class conceives the moral object of the StateT 
This object consists simply and solely in securing the personal 
freedom of the individual and his property. This is the night- 



126 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

watchman theory, gentlemen, for this conception can regard 
the State only under the form of a night-watchman whose 
duties are confined to preventing burglary and theft." 

In Cicero's times (De Oratore, ii. 28) the orator's task was 
formulated as follows : it was threefold — the orator must 
instruct his hearers, win their sympathy, and urge them to 
action. " To win their sympathy," says Cicero, " a man's 
personality must be attractive "; and he adds, with some 
childishness, " the orator will not find this difficult if he is an 
honourable man." He need only consider the views and 
inclinations of his hearers. We know to what resources the 
orator in ancient times turned, in order to win the public to his 
point of view, and we know with what similar sentimentalities 
— ^the production of children in tears, etc. — our juries can be 
moved at the present day. 

Lassalle, when confronted with his judges, not only despised 
such surreptitious methods of securing their sympathy, but 
invariably adopted so proud and unbending an attitude that 
one can only suppose him to have been desirous of gaining the 
approval of those upon whom his fate depended, by means 
of the calmness and greatness of heart which he displayed in 
the face of his judgment. I have given examples of his power 
of crystallizing his thomghts and informing his audience by 
means of metaphor. Here is an instance of another kind, 

_when he attempts to win approval with the help of metaphor : 
" Upon a man," he says, " such as I am, who has devoted his 
life to science and the working classes, even the condemnation 
with which he may chance to meet will produce no other effect 
than the bursting of a test-tube would make upon a chemist 
absorbed in his scientific experiments. With a slight frown 
at the difficulties which the properties of matter raise in his 
path, he will continue his investigations and his work as soon 
as he has cleared away the damage. But for the sake of the 
nation and its honour, for the sake of science and its dignity, 
for the sake of the country and its legal freedom, Mr. President 
and Councillors, I call upon you to pronounce for my libera- 

jtion." 

Finally, when Lassalle is not concerned with instructing or 
attracting his hearers, but with urging them to action, his style 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 127 

and his metaphors become entirely martial. His preference 
for similes drawn from batSe and war is preponderant. In 
one place he concludes : 

" In this case let us not be carried away by conciliatory 
sentimentalism, gentlemen ; you have now seen by fully 
adequate experience what the old absolutism is. Let us, then, 
have no fresh compromise with it, but overthrow it with our 
thumbs in its eyes and our knees upon its breast." In anotheT 
place he appeals to the working classes of Berlin to join his 
union, and his summons is couched in the style of a bulletin. 

" The most important centres of Germany have been won PI 
Leipsic and the manufacturing districts of Saxony are for us ; 
Hamburg and Frankfort-on-Maine are marching under our 
banner ; the Prussian Rhine Provinces are advancing at the 
charge. Reinforced by Berlin, the movement wiU be irre- 
sistible. Will you, workmen of Berlin, take upon yourselves 
the responsibility of delaying by your attitude this great 
German movement and this triumph of your common cause ? 
WiU you, workmen of the capital, whose duty it is to take the 
lead, bear the reproach of being the last to join the movement ?'^ 

Such expressions as " smashing blows," " review of the 
troops," " battalions," " the iron hand," " the iron grip," 
" iron law," and others of the kind, are metaphorical ex- 
pressions which constantly recur in his speeches. He was 
invited by the Progressive party to speak before their own 
workmen's union in Frankfort, and succeeded in two successve 
speeches in winning over an audience originally hostile. He 
relates his success as foUows : " I defeated the men of progressl 
in a two days' conflict with the troops which they had themj 
selves brought against me." When he was accused of attempts 
to begin a revolution, he describes the revolution which he was 
not desirous of producing, but which he was certain would 
arrive, by the following metaphor : " The revolution mayl 
occur in aU legal form, and with all the blessings of peace, 1 
if the government is wise enough to resolve upon its I 
introduction in proper time, or it will break upon us, 1 
within a period unknown to me, with aU the convulsions of I 
force, with hair wildly streaming and iron, sandals upon its 1 
feet." ^ 



128 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

The chief object of Lassalle's warUke outbursts and of his 
most impetuous attacks is that organ which is both the servant 
and the master of the middle classes at the present day — the 
Press. Anyone who studies his style when he " calls for 
action " — ^to use the phrase of the ancients — must be particu- 
larly impressed by his war against the newspapers. It extends 
through almost all his writings. As an instance of the tone 
and style of Lassalle's compelhng rhetoric, I will quote a few 
sentences from one of his most important pamphlets upon 
th is subject : " The series of personal concessions which the 
\ "journalists have made to the Government, purely in the 
interests of their own business, naturally could not be granted 
as concessions by those concerned. . . . Thus, the only alter- 
native was to represent these concessions to the pubUc as so 
many new points of view which the pubUc mind should adopt, 
and to impose them upon newspaper readers by representing 
them as developments and salutary compromises in the interests 
of the national welfare. Thus it was possible to emasculate 
and to dilute the national spirit to the point at which the con- 
tinuance of the lucrative newspaper business could be guaran- 
teed. ... If anyone wishes to earn money, let him manufac- 
ture cotton or cloth, or gamble on the Stock Exchange ; but 
daily to inject spiritual death into the nation from a thousand 
syringes for the sake of some contemptible gain is the most 
criminal proceeding of which I can conceive. . . . Much as I 
regret it, I have no hesitation in telling you that if we do not 
shortly see a complete transformation of our daily Press, and 
if this plague of newspapers rages for another fifty years in its 
present form, our national spirit will be destroyed and brought 
even to the dust. The reason is easily intelligible : thousands 
of journalists, the modern teachers of the people, with their 
countless voices, are daily inoculating the nation with their 
crass ignorance, their lack of conscientiousness, their insensate 
hatred of everything true and great in politics, art, and science ; 
and the nation, in credulous confidence, stretches out its hands 
for this poison, under the impression that it is deriving intellec- 
tual nutriment from this source. Under such conditions, the 
national spirit must be ruined, were it thrice as noble as it is. 
Not even the most highly gifted people in the world, not even 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 129 

the Greeks, could have survived the influence of such a Press. 
... I have explained that the corruption of the Press is a 
necessary consequence of the fact that, under the pretext of 
championing intellectual interests, it is steadily becoming a 
commercial speculation in virtue of the system of advertise- 
ment. The problem is thus simple enough, and merely con- 
sists in separating these two things, which have no connection 
with one another. In so far as the Press represents the in- 
terests of the national Ufe, it may be compared with the pulpit 
orator or the schoolmaster. In so far as it exists to publish 
advertisements, it is but the town crier or the public bell- 
man, announcing to the pubUc with its countless voices where 
a watchchain has been lost, where the best tobacco or the best 
malt extract is to be procured. The preacher has nothing to do 
with the town crier, and the union of these two functions is a 
sad miscarriage. In a Social Democratic State a law must 
therefore be passed forbidding newspapers to pubUsh any 
advertisements, and confining advertisements exclusively and 
solely to the official papers pubhshed by the State or com- 
munity. . . . Grasp firmly and with glowing enthusiasm the 
solution which I offer you — scorn and hatred, death and de- 
struction to the ignorant Press ! It is a bold solution, pro- 
pounded by one man against the thousand-handed institution 
of the Press, against which even Kings have fought in vain ; 
but as truly as you hang with eager passion upon my words, 
and as truly as my heart trembles with pure enthusiasm while 
its feeUngs overflow to yours, so truly am I penetrated with the 
certainty that the moment wiU come when we shall launch the 
thunderbolt which wiU whelm this Press in everlasting night." 

I am far from regarding the methods which Lassalle recom" 
mended to check the corruptions of the Press as either effective 
or practicable, but the scorn which boiled within LassaUe like 
molten bronze is here poured out, and has assumed in cooling 
the strongest form of words. 

I said that although Lassalle was a bom orator, he developed 
his power of using the spoken word by perfecting his mastery 
of the written word. Sparklingly eloquent as he was in society, 
the gift of extempore speech was apparently denied to him, nor 
did he ever attempt to acquire it. At the same time, he was 

9 



130 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

so good a speaker that his oratory seemed to be the result of 
momentary inspiration, while he was so unconstrained that if he 
was interrupted or obliged to answer an unexpected question, 
he was able to combine the interruption of the moment in the 
speech he had prepared with such dexterity that no transition 
point is perceptible. Cicero says of this gift : " A man who 
proceeds to the art of oratory after much practice in writing 
has this advantage — ^that even when he speaks unprepared, 
what he says will sound as though it had been written. . . . 
Even as a vessel in rapid movement continues its progress when 
the rowers cease their efforts, so, too, in the stream of oratory, 
when written matter comes to an end, the spoken word retains 
its impetus, and the speech speeds forward along the path of 
the written matter." A few examples of Lassalle's presence of 
mind under these conditions may now be given. 

In his speech in his defence (January 15, 1863) he had 
demonstrated that every point in the accusation was based 
upon ignorance and lack of intelligence. He exclaims : " How 
can I help the literary incompetency of the counsel for the 
State ? How can I be responsible for his lack of acquaintance 
with every department of progress at the present time — 
progress already recognized and catalogued by science ? Am 
I to be the scientific whipping boy of the counsel for the 
State ?" 

The counsel now interrupted Lassalle's speech, and entered 
a most vigorous demand that he should be refused a further 
hearing, as this outburst " was the culmination of his mockery 
of the State counsel." He concluded : " I therefore demand, 
Yeferring to Article 134 and the supplementary law of May 3, 
1852, that the accused should be refused a further hearing, 
and that he should be removed from the court if he should 
continue further to reply." (Sensation.) 

The President. " The accused is accordingly refused a 
further hearing, and any further expressions on his part are 
therefore inadmissible." 

The Accused {quickly). " Mr. President, upon this point I must 
ask for an expression of opinion by the whole court. I demand 
such an expression, and ask that I should be allowed to speak 
in justification of this demand." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 131 

Counsel. " I must protest against any further speaking by 
the accused, as the President has already deprived him of a 
hearing." 

The Accused. " This is a confusion of ideas. I have been 
refused a hearing on the main point ; I have demanded a 
resolution by the whole court on this question, and the court 
cannot decide upon so important a matter without first hearing 
what I have to say about it." 

The President. " The accused may speak upon the question 
whether he is to have a hearing or not." 

Counsel. " Then I will at least point out that the accused 
cannot be heard upon any other subject." 

The Accused. " You need feel no anxiety. I wiU confine 
myself to the point." 

He then proceeded to explain what in any case was obviousr 
that he could not be said to have insulted anyone by calling 
himself a scientific whipping boy, and that anyone to whom, for 
instance, an opponent in a literary quarrel exclaimed, ' ' Am I your 
scientific whipping boy ?" would be dismissed from any court 
if he attempted to bring an action for libel against his oppo- 
nent. Lassalle then proceeds immediately and undisturbed 
to continue his interrupted speech in his defence.^ The situa- 
tion is worthy of Shakespeare. One might almost be reading 
the scene in which Mr. Justice Shallow holds his Court in 
" Henry IV." 

But the most amusing and instructive instance of Lassalle's 
gift of rising to the occasion which I can find is the following : 
in the speech which he delivered at Frankfort-on-Maine at the 
invitation of his opponents, he demonstrated that one of the 
literary men who was opposing him had asserted in some book 
of very moderate merit precisely the statements which he now 
disputed when they were brought forward by Lassalle. 

Lassalle. " You see, gentlemen, a hired workman is, in my 
opinion, a very honourable character, but a hired writer is 
something very different." (Cries of " Order !" Great uproar. 
" Let him speak !" " Put the question !" " No, let him speak !") 

The President. " I must ask the speaker, once for all, to avoid 
personal remarks. On this occasion he has been personal." 

1 " Science and the Workmen," 43 ; " Criminal Trial," part ii., 15 et seq. 



132 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Lassalle. " This is quite a new experience for me, and the 
scene that has just taken place shows the point that we 
have reached. Gentlemen, I will not be deterred from open 
expression of my opinions. (Loud cheers.) Apart from this, 
I ask you to notice one fact : I have uttered no criticism of 
anybody in particular, but have merely enounced a general 
statement. I did not say that Herr Max Wirth was a writer 
for hire ; no one can have heard anything of the kind ; I appeal 
to the reporters. . . . The President, therefore, has no right 
to censure the intention of my words." (Cheers from the hall 
and galleries, and cries of " Stop !" and " Go on!") 

The President. " Are you not aware, gentlemen, that this is 
a meeting upon which the eyes of half Germany are turned ? 
Pray do not let it be said that this assembly could not main- 
tain order, because the working class are lacking in Parliamen- 
tary tact. I interrupted Herr Lassalle because he used the 
phrase ' writer for hire ' in connection with Herr Max Wirth ; 
no one can doubt that fact, although that was perhaps not the 
phraseology which he used. I am therefore within my right in 
calling the attention of the speaker to the necessity of avoiding 
anything of the kind in future." 

Lassalle. " I must again remind the President that he may 
object to unparliamentary expressions, but not to the sense of 
my speech. Freedom of speech depends entirely upon the 
possibility of indicating a point apart from expressing it 
directly — of saying what one pleases, provided Parliamentary 
language is used. Both freedom of speech and the capacity 
Df the orator are based upon this point. Otherwise, suppose 
^ou feel indignation at anything or any man, how do you pro- 
pose to communicate your feelings to others ? (Loud cheers 
from the hall and galleries.) I have thus demonstrated that 
Herr Wirth in his work has stated precisely what I have stated. 
Possibly in the same book, which I have not read, other pas- 
sages may occur in which he has stated the opposite. . . . 
Vou may wonder how I have been able, as I have not read the 
Dook, to point to the crucial passages. On this matter I owe 
,7ou an explanation. When the book appeared, a copy reached 
ne, but after running through a few pages I discovered 
:hat it was an unoriginal compilation, and threw the book 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 133 

aside, as I have no time to waste over worthless compilations 
of the kind ; but on the present occasion a friend (it was 
Rodbertus) sent me the book and pointed out that passage. 
I wiU make a further observation in reference to the President's 
objection to my mode of expression. I may use unqualified 
language, but in that case I am not personal, for I am keeping 
to my argument throughout. I merely show a lack of refine- 
ment, and that is quite a different matter. Unrefined I must, 
can, and should be, as I will prove to you. Every representa- 
tive of a great cause must use unrefined methods against all 
who intervene with falsehoods between him and his great 
object, and I am resolved to overthrow with the smashing blows 
of intellect those who come between you and me with false- 
hoods. In your interests, therefore, I must be unrefined, and 
I both may and should be so ; for if Herr Max Wirth, who wiU 
afterwards have an opportunity of replying to me, cared to 
show as little refinement towards me, there would, in any case, 
be an enormous difference between what he says and what I 
say. For instance, if he wished to call me an unoriginal com- 
piler, as I have called him, he would merely arouse enormous 
laughter from every scholar who knows me. But when I use 
the term to him, every expert knows how enormously true it 
is, and therefore my words come upon his head with crushing 
force." (Loud applause.) __ 

This passage — ^in which, by the way, the word " enormous " 
occurs three times in succession — seems to me a real model of 
rhetorical vigour and readiness. The special talent of the orator 
is apparent, not in the veiled personal attack (and the veil here 
is extremely transparent), though the definition which Lassalle 
here gave bases the orator's capacity upon his power of veiling 
his direct attack, but in the manner in which he repels an 
attempt to reprimand him. His style contains none of those 
characteristics peculiar to authors who are forced to keep 
themselves strictly in hand under the pressure either of a 
Government or of hostile feeling. Such writers appeal chiefly 
to the power of imagination, which is hampered by direct 
expression, but rather stimulated by veiled suggestion. The 
reader who knows the caution which the author is obliged 
to observe, and the httle which he dare express of his 



134 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

real and deepest meaning, reads attentively, and a secret 
bond of sympathy is formed between hirft and the author. The 
one conceals his meaning and the other his comprehension. 
None of these characteristics can properly be attributed to 
Lassalle, who utters his meaning straightforwardly and without 
reserve, up to the point at which he considers the laws against 
incitement to rebellion or high treason might become applic- 
able. He appeals, in other words, not to the imagination, but 
to the will and energy of his hearers. 

We have given examples of his style and tone, and it is now 
worth while to consider his speeches on their artistic side, and 
to glance at their logical construction. The orators of anti- 
quity taught that the supreme law governing the arrangement 
of matter and argument was to omit no opportunity of making 
a deep impression. We might say that if this law had never 
previously been observed, Lassalle would have been credited 
with its discovery, for he had a special capacity for grasping 
the opportunity with unusual readiness, and of making it his 
own. The ancients also said that the first and most important 
point of all in a speech was to establish the question at issue, 
to define the facts of the case, and to give them their true 
names. In this respect Lassalle is one of the greatest masters 
that ever lived. The capacity here required is practical 
common sense, and in the case of a political orator the term 
implies political inssight. Political insight, in my opinion, 
may be defined as an eye for the centre of gravity. To see the 
position of this point among conflicting political forces is the 
first condition under which interference becomes possible ; and 
political capacity, in accordance with this definition, may be 
further defined as the power of changing this centre of gravity. 
The power of seeing the means by which such a change can be 
itiade is the second condition under which political action can 
become effective. The third and last condition is that a man 
should have the means within his power, and understand how 
to use them. 

In full harmony with Lassalle's peculiarity of style, his habit 
of direct utterance, is his characteristic realism, which induces 
him to express and to emphasize the bare facts of the case on 
every occasion. The real and logical point of departure in his 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 135 

conduct of the agitation consists in the revelation and destruc- 
tion of false appearances. As an instance, I will choose the 
speech in which LassaUe exalts his own practice to the dignity 
of political theory. He had been involved in some trouble 
by a pamphlet in which he asserted that constitutional 
problems are ultimately and invariably problems of poHtical 
power. Disseminated during the constitutional conflicts of 
1862, the pamphlet had aroused special excitement in the 
governmental camp. The Minister of War disapproved of it, 
though in the same breath he uttered its leading ideas ; the 
President of the Ministry, Herr von Bismarck, made use of 
expressions which led directly to Lassalle's assertions ; the re- 
a.ctiona.TyKreuzzeitung devoted a.lea.ding article to the pamphlet, 
which it termed in its own dialect, " A Speech delivered 
by a Revolutionary Jew of whom much has been formerly 
heard, who has shown a Profound Instinct for hitting the 
Nail on the Head." In a following pamphlet (" What Now ?") 
LassaUe considered the means at the disposal of the Chamber 
for enforcing its will in the face of so determined and so powerful 
a Government, and showed that the most natural means, a 
general refusal of taxation, would be quite ineffective. In 
England, where the army is of secondary importance, the 
real elements of power are in the hands of the nation. Relying 
upon this fact, men might refuse, and refuse unpunished, to 
pay their taxes, and such methods would inevitably produce a 
result ; but they would be ineffectual in Prussia, where no one 
would venture to execute the threat. Such a resolution on 
the part of the Chamber would therefore be nothing more 
than a beating of the air. What, then, is to be done ? Lassalle 
considers that there is but one means, as simple as it is infallible, 
which he defines as follows : "to state the facts." This is 
the means which he himself employed throughout his career 
as an agitator. In his opinion, it is the most powerful form 
of political leverage. As Fichte has shown, it was one of the 
favourite methods of the great Napoleon, and in our own days 
has been one of the means most constantly used by Bismarck. 
Lassalle examines its appUcation to the given case, and shows 
that the result would be to make absolutism impossible. The 
prevailing power in Prussia at that time was absolutism, 



136 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

ostensibly limited by a constitution. Why, then, did abso- 
lutism exist in so hypocritical a form ? Because the counter- 
revolution after 1,848, wherever it reintroduced the arbitrary 
system of government, considered that some concession was 
advisable to the spirit of the times — ^in other words, to the 
unorganized power of the people. Even Napoleon III. after 
the coup d'etat conceded a chamber elected by the people ; 
even Austria, which had originally declared the Constitution 
of 1849 invalid, restored the Constitution on its own initia- 
tive. Hence LassaUe concludes that Prussia could not afford 
to do without a Constitution, in view of the power of its 
middle-class. If, therefore, the Government persisted in 
their presumption, the great means of bringing compulsion 
to bear was to renounce all such outward forms, and this 
result, thinks LassaUe, might be secured if the Chamber would 
only " state the facts." Supposing, then, that the Prussian 
Chamber was to declare : "In view of the fact that the 
I Government is incurring expenses on its own responsibility 
\ which the Chamber has declined to approve ; and in view of 
the fact that the Government has even declared its intention 
of continuing in this course ; considering, further, that under 
these circumstances it is unworthy of the representatives of 
the nation to support the Government in maintaining an out- 
ward show of constitutional form — ^the Chamber resolves to 
suspend its sittings for an indefinite period until the Govern- 
ment intimates that it has the approval of the Chamber for 
its expenditure." In this case the Government would be 
forced to decide either to give way or formally to appear 
before the world as that which it really was — a bare absolutism. 
LassaUe explains that the Government neither can nor will 
adopt the latter alternative. It cannot, because, in Talley- 
rand's phrase, " you can do anything with bayonets except 
sit on them." Bayonets cannot provide a solid and per- 
manent foundation. Again, the Government wiU be unwilling 
to adopt the latter alternative, for, requiring as it does so 
great an annual sum, and incessantly putting its hand into 
the pocket of every citizen, it must at least maintain an out- 
ward show of possessing every citizen's approval. The 
Government would also be unwilling, because in every foreign 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 



137 



dispute it would expose itself to the most insolent and intoler- 
able insults on the part of the other Powers, as a Government 
which was in open and constant antagonism with its own 
nation, and therefore unable to hide its weakness from any- 
body. 

As we know, the Progressive party at that time made no 
attempt to use the means which Lassalle had indicated. 
Only one member of the Prussian House of Deputies — Martiny, 
who is now a distinguished advocate in Dantzig — considered 
that he could best serve his own honour and the dignity of 
his party by resigning his seat, after delivering a detailed and 
carefully argued proposal, to the effect that the House should 
suspend its sittings until the Government recognized its 
obligation to administer the financial affairs of the State only 
upon the basis of a budget legally adopted, and ceased to spend 
nfioney upon objects to which the House refused consent. I 
have in my possession a printed copy of Martiny's proposal, 
and also the manuscript of it. The latter is a very interesting 
document, as Lassalle carefuUy corrected it, and introduced 
alterations in blue pencil to strengthen the expression and to 
emphasize the decisive arguments. Compare, for instance : 



Martiny. 

Considering that the House, if it 
continues its functions under such 
conditions, would not only be ex- 
posed to the insult to its honour and 
dignity implied in the disregard 
shown to its rights, but would also 
further the openly expressed inten- 
tions of the Government, to make 
the present constitutional impotency 
of the House an element of constitu- 
tional practice, and so to make the 
House a party to the breach of the 
constitution of the country. . . . 



Lassalle. 

Considering that the House, if it 
continues its functions under such 
conditions, would expose its rights 
to the disregard of the Government, 
and its honour and dignity, together 
with that of the nation, to the insult 
which such disregard implies ; con- 
sidering, further, that this House 
would simply promote the openly 
expressed intention of the Govern- 
ment to make its present constitu- 
tional impotence an element of 
constitutional practice, and would 
support the continuance of Absolu- 
tism under an outward show of Con- 
stitutionalism, and would thus be- 
come a party to the breach of the 
national Constitution. . . . 



Naturally, the resignation of one individual produced a 
moral, but no political, effect. Whether Germany would have 
been advantaged if this example had been followed, is a ques- 
tion which I shall not attempt to decide. The great army, 



138 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

over the approval of which the parties were quarrelling, was 
necessary for the accomplishment of Bismarck's comprehen- 
sive plans. At the same time, a bolder attit^de on the part 
of the House would have forced him to communicate his 
intentions to the party leaders, and would have inspired him 
with a useful respect for the Liberal party in future. No 
wonder that no indications of such respect are to be found in 
him afterwards ! The only point now at issue is, whether the 
means proposed by Lassalle would have been effective, and 
what their effect in general would be. For my part, I 
have approved this practice ever since I have been able to 
think at all. I have always asserted that this simple method, 
which is within the power of anybody — ^the method of calling 
the facts of a case by their proper names — is the only means 
by which helpless Right can attain to Might. When intellectual 
Might is impotent, but at the same time is recognized, as it 
is in all so-caUed civilized countries. Might, as such, is invariably 
based upon some outward show or lie, and the most certain 
method, though it be lengthy, of overcoming brutal Might 
will always consist in producing such revelations as will oblige 
Might openly to admit the real nature of its intentions. The 
important point is to undermine it precisely where it assumes 
the outward appearance of an intellectual force. 

However, the only point with which we are concerned is 
the fact that this means was the means of Lassalle's choice, 
and that this standpoint of his, " Down with appearances," 
is the logical and actual foundation of all his speeches 
and of the whole of his agitation. In every case these 
appearances can be more definitely defined — e.g., the pre- 
tence that Right and not Might is predominant ; that the 
German middle-classes can seriously be called democratic ; 
that indirect taxation is chiefly paid by the property-owning 
class ; that the position of one particular class has improved 
in relation to that of others, because it has improved when 
compared with its position in previous centuries, etc. Similarly, 
the pretence in question may receive a more definite name, 
such as " apparent freedom of action," " apparent liberty of 
thought," " apparent prosperity," or anything else of the 
kind. Lassalle's invariable point of departure when embarking 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 139 

upon a speech in opposition is ever to rend the veil of outward 
show. 

I regard this point of departure as very happily adopted. I 
think with Lassalle that apparent freedom is most poisonously 
destructive to real freedom, and that nothing can be so 
emasculating and so soporific, for the simple reason that the 
good object which ought to be attained seems to have been 
already attained ; consequently, all those whose duty it would 
have been to struggle on behalf of this purpose at once relapse 
into complete self-satisfaction. On the other hand, if pseudo- 
freedom is forced to reveal itself as such, and to display its 
many consequences inimical to freedom, there is some prospect 
of attaining the main object at issue in all intellectual struggles. 
The indifferent may be won over, and as many minds as possible 
may be induced to feel sympathy with the oppression which 
others experience. But this can only be done if people like 
Lassalle, in contrast to the Progressive party, decline to be 
intimidated by the threats of opponents, and steadily defy them 
until they are forced either to put their threats into practice — a 
proceeding which will affect many more men than the one 
individual concerned, and will disperse the halo of apparent free- 
dom which encircles the head of the persecutor — or until they 
are forced to give way, whatever their reluctance, in order to 
retain their fictitious halo.^ This is a means which, naturally, 
can lead only those to ultimate victory who are in the right ; 
for if people seek martyrdom with the errors of centuries upon 
their side, with the object of appealing to the sympathy of 
the thoughtless multitude — a policy boldly and cleverly 
followed in Prussia and Switzerland by the Catholic clergy — 
their prospects of ultimate victory are not increased. Every 
falsehood has its martyrs and its apostles, but the assertion 
of " that which is not," whatever its boldness or audacity, 
is in the long run the most hopeless policy in the world. 

We have thus seen that, in the strictest sense of the word, 
Lassalle's point of departure was what Cicero calls the decisive 
point of departure for an orator — ^to define his facts and give 
them their true names. Upon this principle the logical con- 
struction of his speeches rests, which must be studied in their 
» " What Now ?" and " The Festivals, the Press," etc., 1 1. 



140 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

argumentation. I may be allowed one example as an illustra- 
tion, and will choose his speech upon indirect taxation. 

He was accused of rousing the lower classes to hatred and 
contempt of the well-to-do, by his assertions upon the 
subject of indirect taxation, which he stated were chiefly 
paid by the poor. With secure mastery of an important 
scientific subject he collects in fifty pages the statements 
of great economists, together with statistics confirming the 
correctness of his assertions and even the mildness of their 
expression. He proves how much greater is the prevailing 
_ extent of poverty than is generally supposed. 

" Thus we have 11,400 persons in the whole State of seven- 
teen millions with an income of more than 2,000 thalers, and 
44,400 persons (including the 11,400 just mentioned) in the 
whole State with an income of over 1,000 thalers. Such is 
the condition of our social balance-sheet. 

" You would hardly have believed this, gentlemen, or have 
regarded it as possible, if the facts were not to be found in 
official publications. It is a ridiculously small handful of 
people with their families, who fill the theatres, the concert- 
halls, the parties, the balls, the clubs, the restaurants and the 
wine-shops in every town, and by reason of their ubiquity 
assume the appearance of an extraordinary number. They 
think and speak only of themselves, imagine themselves to be 
the world, and, by controlling all the newspapers and estab- 
lishments where public opinion is manufactured, they induce 
everyone else to share their beliefs and to be persuaded that 
these 11,000 or 44,000 are really the world. 

" And beneath this scanty handful of people, who alone 
live and move, speak, write, perorate, realize and secure theif 
own interests, and persuade themselves that they pay the 
taxes^beneath this handful of men writhe in silent, inex- 
pressible misery the swarming numbers of the poor, the 
seventeen millions who produce everything that makes hfe 
tolerable for us, make possible for us the indispensable con- 
dition of moral existence, the existence of the State, fight its 
battles, pay its taxes, but has no one to think of them or to 
represent them. 

" Justice, therefore, for this class, gentlemen, and do not 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 141 

gag the men, in any case sufficiently isolated, who take up I 
the cudgels on their behalf." ^ _^.. j 

Lassalle has thus shown that his assertions concerning 
indirect taxation rest upon facts, and are irrefutable. He 
then demonstrates that even the Government which was 
accusing him had made the same assertions under Manteuffel's 
Ministry, and had expressed them even more strongly. Man- 
teuffel's Ministry had attempted, by legislative proposals, to 
lighten the burden of taxation which rested on the poorer 
classes, but the proposals were a failure. The upper classes 
roused public opinion against the law with all their might, 
which was naturally an easy task for them, as aU the means 
of stirring public feeling were at their disposal ; and when the 
proposed law came before the First Chamber, it was rejected. 
The Government then declared, with a deep sigh of regret, that 
the task of reform must be abandoned, as public opinion was 
not yet sufficiently prepared to receive it. LassaUe further 
shows that the Prussian Privy Councillor Engel, the Director 
of the Statistical Office, in a speech a few months previously, 
had made the assertion for which Lassalle has been accused. 
With the permission of Privy Councillor Engel, he produces a 
letter in which the Councillor declares his agreement with 
LassaUe : " Thus, that which I am proclaiming to you, gentle^ 
men, is practically a State doctrine." -J 

He then shows that the main argument usually adduced 
in favour of indirect taxation is that the small man under 
direct taxation knows that he is pa5dng taxes, but under 
indirect taxation he imagines that he is pa5nng as octroi duties 
to the town what he is reaUy giving to the State. It is there- 
fore a most useful and politic action to explain the ruinous 
nature of these taxes to the small man. But, it will be 
asserted, it is not because such statements are made, but be- 
cause they are made to the working classes and to uneducated 
people that they become criminal. LassaUe wishes to know 
whether these " uneducated " classes have not their share in 

* In confirmation of Lassalle's statement of the scanty numbers of 
citizens in comparative affluence, compare Lange's calculations upon the 
Distribution of Meat Foods ; F. A. Lange, " The Labour Problem," 
183 et seq. Indirect taxation was steadily restricted irom Lassalle's death 
to 1877, but since the change in Bismarck's economic policy has become the 
most oppressive of burdens. 



142 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

the legislative power, and whether they are to vote in absolute 
blindness, without knowing upon what subject or for what 
reason they are voting. For all the above-mentioned reasons 
Lassalle does not hesitate to declare that it is question- 
able whether the accusation raised against him does not 
itself imply a breach of the Constitution. AU that he 
desires is to lay the theoretical foundation of a legal and 
peaceful agitation for the purpose of advancing the prospects 
of universal and direct suffrage. If it is a principle that 
burdens should imply corresponding rights, " why do the 
poorer classes have only a third of the vote, when they pay 
in taxes five, six, ten, and twenty times as much as the pros- 
_£erous classes ?" Lassalle then explains his political principle 
in a few eloquent sentences : " Let us have one of two things — 
either pure absolutism or universal franchise. There may be 
different and conflicting views upon these two things, but any 
compromise between them is impossible, erroneous, and 
illogical. 

" An absolute power, removed by its position from all 
contrasts of class, standing high above society and all social 
interests, might conceivably devote itself to the general 
interest — ^the interest of the vast majority. Whether and 
how far it has done so has depended upon the accident of 
personal insight, capacity and character ; it might, at any 
rate, have so acted, and was reminded of its duty in this 
direction by its position ; and such, in truth, was the motto 
of the old absolutism in its best period : ' Nothing by the 
people, everything for the people.' 

" This time is past ; the age of constitutionalism has begun — 
the age in which society, conceiving that it has reached years 
of discretion, desires to decide questions affecting its interest 
upon its own responsibility. Henceforward it becomes a 
logical impossibility, a tangible inconsistency and a burning 
injustice, to place this decision in the hands of the minority, 
in the hands of the prosperous classes of society. These 
classes are not above social interests. On the contrary, 
standing as they do amid the cross-fire of such interests, they 
cannot but turn the power of decision to their own social 
advantage, and thus sacrifice to their selfish purposes the 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 143 

general interest — the interest of the vast majority of the ( 
lower classes." ^ I 

It is here worth while to glance at the art of war as 
practised by Lassalle. His principle is to use every attack 
delivered upon his previous statements as a means of 
advancing his parallels a little farther towards the enemy's 
position. 

He had, for instance, to prove the truth of his previous 
assertion that indirect taxation was paid for the most part 
by the poorer classes. He first shows by quotations that 
numbers of economists, who are not writing on behalf of any 
special theory, are agreed upon this point ; next, that his own 
description of this abuse is couched in the mildest terms ; 
further, that the Government which accuses him has made 
the same statements as himself ; and, finally, that, like him- 
self, they have attempted to remove the evil, but were pre- 
vented by popular prejudice. 

The point of special importance was to show that the 
proclamation of such principles before the proletariat was an 
admissible course of procedure. Lassalle proves that the 
prejudices which shipwrecked the governmental measures 
originated among this very proletariat, and that in champion- 
ing his own principles he was therefore working for the 
Government and consequently deserved rather a civic 
crown than a prison. He had been opposed on the basis 
of the principle that great burdens should bring corre- 
spondingly great privileges, and he ultimately proves that 
the transference of this principle into practice will lead to 
the introduction of the universal franchise for which he is 
fighting. 

A characteristic common to all Lassalle's speeches in his 
defence is his habit of accumulating testimony with reference 
to one disputed point which he maintains with the utmost 
energy, his practice of adopting the attitude of an accuser, 
his tactical advance to the attack from a defensive position, 
and his thorough demonstration of the ill-founded nature of 
the accusations against him. When criticizing accusers, 
advocates, and judges, whom he had confronted in the lower 

1 " Indirect Taxation," 50, no. 



144 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

courts, he treats all these subordinate intellects as helpless 
weaklings and lashes one with another as Vikings lashed 
Eskimoes. The presiding magistrate usually plays the same 
part during this procedure as the court officials in Shake- 
speare's " Much Ado about Nothing." When Lassalle has 
shown that an accusation is a breach of the law, he exclaims 
as if he himself were the judge. Audiatur et altera pars, or 
he says : " thus the accusation is meaningless ; I will put 
I it in more direct terms than the State counsel has done "; ^ 
or he delivers a personal attack upon the State counsel. 
Even in his first speech before the Court of Assizes he read 
out a special document, which he had sent to his first accuser, 
requesting him most energetically to conduct his prosecution 
in person, as he intended to call him to account. Lassalle then 
turned to the judge, and added : " You see, I attempted to 

tlash his sense of honour into life enough to drive him here, 
so that he might now be called to account by me. My efforts 
were in vain." In his speech upon " Science and the Working 
Classes " he gained a triumph by continually quoting state- 
ments from Schelling, the famous philosopher, which breathe 
a passionate sense of freedom, against the State counsel, who 
was Schelling's son. To the amusement of the audience, the 
result was a very comical disputation between Schelling senior 
and Schelling junior. In short, Lassalle was never so much 
in his element as when he was in the dock. This is 
the oratorical position which especially stirs his brilliancy and 
evokes his capacity for battle ; for his capacities were by nature 
military, and were only displayed in their full power under 
arms. 

During these two years he was, in a metaphorical sense, 
continually in the dock. Every word that he uttered or wrote 
became a war-cry, rousing the attacks of a thousand voices 
and a thousand newspapers. The great connected develop- 
ment of his ideas, which appears in his work " Capital and 
Labour," was produced in a most warlike frame of mind, and 
was written with bitterness and passion to confute Schultze- 
Delitzsch and the moderate school which he represented, with 
the result that the book in its present form is comparable to a 

1 " Science and the Workmen," 31, 39. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 145 

scornful piece of lampooning. But it is perfectly obvious that 
the penetrating vigour of polemical writing brought one 
advantage with it, of which Lassalle was entirely conscious, 
and which is a partial compensation for the poor and]'noisy 
tone of his exposition, for its crudity and lack of repose. As 
he himself said, hundreds and thousands would read this book 
who would coldly and carelessly pass by a systematic develop- 
ment of his ideas in several volumes. 



10 



CHAPTER IV 

What, then, were these ideas ? Whence were they derived ? 
What were their chief sources ? And to what modification 
did Lassalle subject them ? 

/ These ideas were the traditions of the revolutionary Germany 
of 1848, as they were proclaimed in the manifesto of the 
Communist party, which was pubhshed in London, in February, 
1848, and, in particular, as they appeared in the Socialist 
writings of Marx and Engels. Their historical source is to 
be found in the attempts at social revolution which were made 
in the Reformation period. 

Spielhagen, in his book, " In Reih und Glied," has used the 
traditions of the age of the peasant wars (die BundscJmh) as 
a background for Leo's agitation. The hero grows up amid 
descriptions of the struggles of that age, and the author's 
idea is correctly — and, indeed, excellently — conceived ; for as 
soon as proposals for Socialist reform began to be discussed 
in Germany about 1848, recollections were aroused of the 
terrible class struggle to which the Reformation had given rise, 
and which it had vainly attempted to master. A glance at 
these intestine conflicts, as they were conceived by the German 
revolutionaries of 1848-50, is necessary in order to realize 
in its proper proportions the connection of the modem German 
working-class movement with an earlier and distantly related 
event of the same kind, and to understand its position with 
reference to its historical background. 

In 1848 the Radical party held the following ideas of the 
Reformation period : There were in that age three great camps 
— the Roman Catholic and Conservative camp, the Moderate 

146 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 147 

Citizen and Lutheran Reform party, and the Revolutionary 
party (the peasants and people), whose demands were most 
clearly expressed by Thomas Miinzer. Luther and Miinzer 
were perfect representatives of their parties, both by their 
doctrines and by their characters and attitudes. In 1517, 
when Luther first attacked the Catholic Church, his opposition 
had assumed no decided character, and, though it did not go 
beyond the demands of earUer middle-class heresy, it did not 
exclude any further hne of action, nor could it do so. At the 
first moment it was necessary to set in motion aU the forces of 
antagonism and the strongest revolutionary energy in general, 
and to represent the whole body of earlier heresy against 
CathoMc orthodoxy. In precisely similar fashion in 1847 the 
Liberal middle classes styled themselves " Revolutionary " 
and "Socialist," and enthusiastically championed the Kbera- 
tion of the peasant and workman. 

Luther's strong nature broke out in the most unrestrained 
fashion during this first period of his career. " If you (the 
Roman priests) are to continue your mad ravings, in my 
opinion there can be no better counsel and medicine to check 
them than that Kings and Princes should interfere with force 
and put an end to the business with arms, and not with words. 
As we punish thieves with the sword, murderers with the 
rope, and heretics with the fire, why should we not much rather 
attack these dangerous teachers of destruction — Popes, Car- 
dinals, Bishops, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom — 
with every kind of weapon, and wash our hands in their 
blood ?" 

This first fury, however, was of no long duration. When 
the whole German people had been stirred to its depths, 
when the peasants and poor citizens regarded Luther's out- 
cry against the Popes in his preaching of Christian freedom 
as the signal to rise against their oppressors, when the secular 
authorities were only concerned to break the power of the 
clergy, and to enrich themselves by appropriating Church 
property, and when Luther was therefore forced to choose, 
he did not hesitate for a single moment, protected as he was 
by the Elector of Saxony, and surrounded by followers, who 
constantly flattered the distinguished teacher. He allowed the 



148 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

popular element to go its way, and joined the group of citizens, 
nobles, and Princes. The outcries for a war of extermination 
against Rome died away, and he proceeded to preach on 
behalf of a peaceful solution and of passive resistance, as did 
the German National Assembly in 1848, upon the occasion of 
the coup d'etat. 

When Hutten invited him and Sickingen to come to Ebem-. 
burg, the centre of the conspiracy of nobles against the Pope 
and the Princes, Luther replied : " I have no wish that the 
cause of the Gospel should be advanced by force and blood- 
shed. By the Word the world has been overcome ; by the 
Word the Church has been maintained ; by the Word it will 
again be restored, and the Antichrist, as he came to his own 
without force, will fall without force." It will be seen that 
these are the words to which Lassalle represents Hutten as 
repl5nng with his praise of the sword, in his drama, " Franz 
von Sickingen." 

Luther's career now underwent a change, was occupied 
with bargaining and chaffering about the institutions and 
dogmas which needed reformation, and was fiUed with un- 
seemly negotiations, concessions, intrigues, and agreements, 
the result of which was the Augsburg Confession of Faith. 
To the undeceived Radicals of 1848, this result seemed typical 
of all the attempts at compromise and of all the haggling and 
chaffering which they had observed, as they watched the life 
of the German National Assembly. The very sublunary 
character of the official German Reformation seemed to them 
to show a similarity to the attempts of the citizen parties 
carefuUy wavering between a policy of abolition and a policy 
of maintenance. 

In the history of the Reformation, however, a counterpart 
could also be found to the reversion of the citizen class to 
reactionary views. When the peasant war broke out, even in 
districts where the peasants were for the most part Catholics, 
Luther attempted to adopt an attitude of mediation. He 
made a decided attack upon the Government. Governmental 
oppression was to be blamed for the revolt ; the Government was 
rousing, not only the peasants, but God Himself. At the same 
time, the revolt was certainly sinful and contrary to the Gospel, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 149 

and for this reason he summoned both parties to concession 
and agreement. The movement, however, rapidly spread, in 
spite of these well-meant attempts at intervention, invaded 
even Protestant districts, and rapidly outgrew the citizen 
reform. When the most determined section of the rebels, 
under Miinzer, made Thiiringen their headquarters, in Luther's 
immediate neighbourhood, and when a few successful battles 
would have sufficed to spread conflagration throughout 
Germany, it was seen that intervention was hopeless. In the 
face of the revolution, old quarrels were forgotten, and priests, 
nobihty, Princes, Luther, and the Pope, united in defence 
against " the murderous and marauding bands of peasants. 
They are to be cut down, strangled, and stabbed, secretly and 
publicly, by anyone who is able, as if they were mad dogs," 
cried Luther ; " and therefore, my dear lords, liberate here, 
bring safety there ; stab, strike, and slay them as you can ; 
and should you die in the enterprise, well for you, for you 
can find no more blessed death." Luther maintained that no 
false sympathy with the peasants should be felt, as God 
Himself had no sympathy with them. At a later time the 
peasants themselves would be glad if they were forced to 
surrender one cow, that they might eat the other in peace. 
" Only let them hear the whistle of bullets, for otherwise they 
wiU be a thousand times worse." Was there any great dif- 
ference, people asked, between this language and that which 
was used by the citizen classes of Germany and France, 
notwithstanding their one-time inclination to Socialism and 
Humanitarianism, when the proletariat demanded their share 
of the fruits of victory, after the March revolution ? The days 
of June, 1848, in Paris, when workmen were shot down by 
thousands, seemed to be a commentary upon Luther's old text. 
Luther had placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the 
proletariat movement by his translation of the Bible. Over 
against the haughty Christianity of the feudal period he had 
placed a picture of the modest Christianity of early times, 
and the peasants had availed themselves of this implement. 
Luther now turned the Bible against them, and drew from 
its contents a song of praise on behalf of the authority set up 
by God. Princes by the grace of God, obedience unquestion- 



150 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

ing, and even serfdom, were approved with the help of the 
Bible. Not only the peasant rising, but also Luther's own 
revolt against ecclesiastical and secular authority was thus 
disavowed. Had not rebels been shot down in 1848 in pre- 
cisely similar manner, and thrown into prison in the name of 
Christianity ? Was not such action based upon a religion, 
the essence of which was a crude communism ? 

Luther was confronted by the popular rebel, Thomas 
Miinzer, whose father had died on the gallows, a victim to a 
noble's arbitrary wiU. His wide learning in the theology of 
the age had procured him a doctor's degree, but at the same 
time he treated the dogmas and the worship of the Church 
with the utmost contempt. He abolished the use of Church 
services in Latin long before Luther ventured to go so far. 
From the outset the object of his attacks was only the ecclesi- 
astical power, and, like Luther, he urged the employment of 
force ; but his free-thinking doctrines were directed, not only 
against Catholicism, but against Christianity in general. 
Under mysterious formulae, he taught a pantheism almost 
modem in character, and declined to regard the Bible either 
as the only means of revelation or as infallible. The only 
real source of revelation was reason, which had existed at all 
times and among all peoples. The Holy Ghost of which the 
Bible speaks was reason ; faith was nothing more than the 
life of reason in man, and therefore even the heathen could 
possess faith. By this faith man became divine and blessed. 
Heaven was not reserved for the life beyond the grave, for 
the Kingdom of God was to be set up here on earth. The only 
devil was the evil desires and lusts of men. Christ was a man 
like ourselves, and the Last Supper was merely a memorial 
feast. These religious views were accompanied by a corre- 
sponding Socialist programme, demanding a society without 
differences of class, without rights of inheritance, and without 
a Government from which the members of the State were 
excluded. 

Miinzer had broken with Luther and his party at an early 
period. Luther was necessarily forced to accept many ecclesi- 
astical reforms which Miinzer had introduced without con- 
sulting him. As early as the spring of 1524 Miinzer had written 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 151 

to Melanchthon, saying that neither he nor Luther understood 
the movement, but were attempting to stifle it by their dogma 
of the verbal inspiration of the Bible.^ Challenges issued by 
Luther to meet him in theological disputation were declined 
by Miinzer, who replied that if Luther's intentions were honest 
he would use his influence to stop the persecution of Miinzer's 
printers, and to remove the censure from his books, in order 
that the struggle might be fought out in the Press without 
hindrance. Luther then came forward to denounce him in 
pubUc. In his letter to the Prince of Saxony, " against the 
rebel spirit," he declared Miinzer to be a tool of Satan, and 
invited the Prince to interfere and drive him out of the 
country.^ 

Similarly, in the French National Assembly before and 
during the presidency of Louis Napoleon, the so-caUed Liberal 
majority had disavowed its past. It had constantly thundered 
one single word against the minority — " Socialism." Even 
middle-class Liberalism was declared to be Socialist, and the 
same accusation was levelled against civic enlightenment. To 
build a railway where there was already a canal was Socialism. 
It was Sociahsm to defend oneself with a stick if attacked with 
a dagger. " The middle class," says Marx,^ " correctly saw" 
that all the weapons which they had forged against feudalism 
were turning upon themselves, and that all the means of 
culture which they had brought forth were rebelling against 
their own civihzation. . . . But what they failed to perceive 
was the consequence that their own Parliamentary govern- 
ment and their pohtical supremacy was now to be universally 
condemned as Socialist. ... If they saw ' peace ' endangered 
whenever the social organism gave signs of life, how could 
they lead society to champion the rule of unrest, their own 
rule, Parhamentary rule — the rule that Hves in battle and by 
battle, to use the expression of one of their orators ? Parha- 

* Dear brothers, away -with your hesitation and delay ; it is time, for 
summer is at our doors. Make no peace with the godless, who prevent the 
Word from working with full power. Flatter not your Princes, otherwise 
you will perish with them. Ye tender scribes, be not unwilling ; I can do 
nought else. 

2 Cf. Karl Marx, Neue Rheinische Zeitvmg, 5, 6, vol. for 1850 ; " The German 
Peasant War," by Friedrich Engels. 

3 Karl Marx, " The Eighteenth Bruma,ire of Louis Naipoleon," 26, 



152 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

mentary government lives on discussion ; how, then, could it 
forbid discussion ? The strife of oratory in Parliament calls 
forth the strife of the scribblers of the Press. The Parlia- 
mentary debating club finds its necessary complement in 
debates held in drawing-rooms and in public houses. If those 
in power at the summit of the State proceed to pipe, -why 
should they expect that those beneath them will not darice ? 
The middle class, condemning as Socialist what they had 
formerly honoured as Liberal, thereby admit that their 
own interest demands the abohtion of the dangers involved 
by self-government, for the purpose of restoring peace to the 
country." To apply the conditions then existing in France to 
Germany was obvious, and a comparison between Luther's 
attitude and the position of the German citizen class at that 
critical age was no less intelUgible. 

People were inclined to think that they were living in an age 
which had begun the work of the Reformation period anew. 
Upon the theological side the Reformation had been continued 
by Strauss and Feuerbach, while the Democratic party hoped 
in the political and social departments to resume the ideas 
and plans of the Reformation which had never come to fulfil- 
ment. But the party was not sufficiently instructed upon the 
nature of the Reformation. It forgot that the success of that 
movement was solely due to the fact that it had been confined 
and limited, both upon its negative and positive sides, and 
also to the fact that, though it proceeded from a strong and 
vital moral sense, it had been able to attract political powers 
and passions. The Reformation had emerged triumphant 
from its duel, because it had been seconded by the political 
advantages of those in power, but the Revolution of 1848 
was purely idealistic and radical ; it was anxious to transform 
everything at one blow. For this reason, " the old Socialists," 
Marx and Engels, go back to the peasant wars, and glorify 
them. Lassalle, like them, was attracted by these wars, but 
regards them with greater intellectual power and with more 
historical insight. He observes that the peasants who were 
enchained by medieval ideas regarded landed property, the 
economic power of the Middle Ages, as the qualifpng condition 
for participation in the government, whereas it never occurred 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 153 

to them that a man might have a right simply as a man to a 
share in the governmental power. In contrast to Marx and 
Engels, Lassalle now directs his studies by preference to the 
aristocratic revolts of that time and to the rising of the nobility 
under Sickingen. His researches in this direction gave him 
the idea for his drama, " Franz von Sickingen." We must 
return once more to this important source of evidence upon 
LassaUe's mental life. In his preface to this work he mentions 
the erroneous idea that the spirit of the Reformation had been 
more or less created by Luther. He shows that this spirit 
not merely existed before Luther's time, but was also inspired 
by pure human enthusiasm, arising from the renaissance of 
the sciences, which Luther turned into the narrow channel of 
one-sided dogmatic theology. He further demonstrates that 
this spirit of reform, which existed before the Reformation, 
was wider, freer, and more human in its scope than its own 
fruit, the Reformation. A letter from Hutten to Count 
Nuenar, referring to Luther's first appearance, runs as follows 2_ 
" They are beginning to destroy one another. Perhaps you 
do not yet know that a party has risen in Wittenberg, in 
Saxony, against the dignity of the Popes, while another party 
is defending the Papal indulgences. Both sides are using 
every possible means and straining their utmost. The leaders 
of either party are monks, and are shouting, howling, and com- 
plaining as loud as they can ; recently they have even begun to 
write. Paragraphs, pamphlets, and articles, wiU be printed 
and disseminated. I hope that they will contrive to over- 
throw one another (' Sic spero fiet, ut mutui interitus causas 
sibi invicem praebeant '). When a mendicant friar recently 
told me the news, I replied : ' Devour one another, so that none 
of you remain ' (' Consumite, ut consumamini invicem ') . So 
I trust that our enemies will destroy and devour one another 
in their mutual conflicts." 

It is thus not the theological, but the moral and political 
reform that is represented by the two heroes of Lassalle's drama, 
Hutten and Sickingen ; and, in order that the piece might 
fuUy represent the later fate of its writer, Hutten finally joins 
the leaders of the peasant revolt, and persuades Franz to take 
the lead of the rebel peasants. 



CHAPTER V 

In the spring of 1862 the days passed by in hard work and 
fruitful thought, but as yet without feverish haste or restless- 
ness, in the well-known house in the Belle vuestrasse. The 
little winter garden, which was full of beautiful and rare plants, 
peacefully exhaled its scents into the rooms about it. The 
beautiful life-size marble and alabaster statues which were there 
placed, and stood out most effectively from the dark velvet 
curtains, seemed to be in perfect harmony with the life and 
habits of their owner. The mirrors, bronzes, Chinese vases, 
the modern pictures on the walls, the old papyrus rolls and 
folios in the library, bore no indication that their possessor 
would soon be reproached for his ownership of such luxuries, 
or be told that he should distribute them elsewhere ; nor did 
they give any premonition of the approaching time when they 
would all be scattered to the winds. 

In the evening old friends and acquaintances continued to 
gather together. Franz Duncker, the supporter of the party 
of progress and owner of the Volkszeitung, who was soon to 
quarrel with Lassalle ; the botanist Prietzel, a friend of earHer 
years ; Ziegler, formerly chief burgomaster of Brandenburg ; 
the old, simple, and undaunted battle-poet Scherenberg ; 
Martiny, Lothar Bucher, Boeckh, Von Pfuel, and others, were 
there. Sometimes the lively and excitable Hans von Biilow 
would sit down at the splendid grand piano, and Liszt's com- 
positions filled the lofty room. 

Much laughter went on in the study when Lassalle had 
thrown aside his pen, so weary of writing his sparkling com- 
mentary upon the spiritless and halting prose of Julian 

154 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 155 

Schmidt, under the cloak of the " compositor," that Lothar 
Bucher was obhged to write the last third of the book, under 
the cloak of the " compositor's wife." They read aloud the 
preposterous ideas which the golden words of poor Julian have 
transmitted to posterity concerning the Seven Wise Men of 
Greece. They enjoyed his penetrating observations upon the 
Schwdbensfiegel, the famous medieval code of Suabian laws, 
which he regarded as a modem German collection of songs of 
innocence. They laughed over his serious criticism of " Faust," 
" the virtuoso with no idealism," and over his fooHsh, misty 
phrases concerning Fichte and Hegel. There was laughter, 
too, in the drawing-room ; jokes and sarcastic puns were 
made upon the Progressive party that had recently been 
founded under the intellectual leadership of Schultze-Delitzsch. 
These people had not even the courage to call themselves 
Democrats, and what in all the world did they expect to signify 
or to represent if they were not ? 

The breach between LassaUe and the Liberals had not yet 
occurred ; it was not far off, but had not yet become irreparable. 
Hence might be explained the circumstance that just at that 
time Lassalle received a complimentary invitation from one 
of the most cultured and almost ofl&cial circles in Berlin — 
the only official recognition which was ever offered to him 
during his lifetime by high society. Philosophical society 
in BerMn had taken him to itself unanimously, for the author 
of " Heraclitus " was regarded as an obviously qualified 
member. He was now requested to deliver the memorial 
oration in the course of the celebrations which this society 
and the Society of Art and Science proposed to celebrate in 
memory of Fichte on May 19, 1862. 

It cannot be denied that in this lecture, " The Philosophy of 
Fichte and the Significance of German Nationalism," Lassalle 
brilliantly performed his difficult task. Strictly scientific as 
the lecture is, and wide as is the information given in very 
narrow limits of space, it is none the less light in style and 
characterized by noble simplicity. How clever and true, for 
instance, is the illustration which Lassalle gives of Kant's 
' ' Critique of Pure Reason, ' ' which, by the superiority of self -con- 
sciousness, is able to overthrow the certainty of the outer world. 



156 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

the fragments of which reflect only the critique itself. Las- 
salle exemplifies this by quoting a passage from Goethe's 

^ Faust." 

" The giant spirit of Kant," says Lassalle, "is in reality 

j the Faust to whom the chorus of spirits call " — 

" Woe, woe ! 
Thou hast destroyed 
This beauteous world 
With, mighty hand ; 
It falls, it fades ! 
A demigod hath stricken it ; 
We bear 

The ruins over to the shades of night 
And weep 

For beauty perished : but thou 
Mightier 

Than the sons of earth 
Build it 

Once more in greater splendour, 
Build it up within thy heart ! 

" and even so," adds Lassalle, " as the poet's cry of yearning 
calls to Faust, did he reconstruct the world in his heart. The 
German spirit, while he reconstructs the world from his own 
inner consciousness, is Fichte." 

But Lassalle's lecture dealt with Fichte, not as a philosopher, 
but as a patriot ; he lauded him as the enthusiast who brought 
enlightenment to the spirit of Germany, and as the prophet 
who announced her unity. His love of this idea and his faith 
in it formed the ultimate bond between himself and his com- 
patriots of his own rank. Upon that evening he clung to it 
as if it were the last sign of communion between himself and 
his fellow-citizens, with their Liberal ideas and their scientific 
culture. 

His efforts were in vain ; his views were already known, and 
he was himself unpopular. During the lecture he was inter- 
rupted by outcries, the doors- behind him were continually 
opened and banged. The audience did not hesitate openly to 
show their anxiety to go to dinner, and the conclusion of 
this masterly speech was heard only by a small number of 
the public. Thus in due form he was expelled from the midst 
of the Liberal middle class. 

The lecture which Lassalle had delivered in Berlin upon 
Constitutional theory had attracted the attention of the 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 157 

workmen. They were yet more strongly aroused by his 
lecture upon the connection between the present age and 
the aims of the working class, which he delivered on April 12, 
1862, before a union of Berlin workmen in the suburb of 
Oranienburg. At the outset of 1863 a committee met to call 
a general meeting of German workmen in Leipzig. The leaders 
had been greatly flattered by the f>rogressive party, but had 
been unable to decide their course of action. They now 
determined to invite Lassalle to tell them what, in his opinion, 
would be the most correct and advantageous method for them 
to pursue. 

He sent an Open Letter of Reply to the committee, in which 
he declared with great precision and clearness his programme, 
which was precisely opposed to that of Schultze-Delitzsch. 
His words made an irresistible impression, and shortly after- 
wards the Universal German Workmen's Union was founded. 

It would be waste of time to explain his economic principles 
in the order in which he proclaimed them in his agitatory 
speeches and lawsuits. I will therefore give here a general 
view of them in compressed form as they may be found 
scattered throughout his writings. 

Lassalle, as a true Hegelian, divides the past history of the 1^ 
world into three epochs, the two first of which form contrasts, \ 
while the latter unites the permanent elements in the two ! 
fortner. He then shows that all historical development has ' 
proceeded from corporate life and action, without which no / 
civilization at all could have been formed. / 

Throughout antiquity and medieval times human solidarity 
or corporate life was regarded as based upon subjugation 
and subjection. The French Revolution of 1789, and the 
period which it dominated, sought for freedom in the 
dissolution of all solidarity and corporate life, though freedom 
apart from corporate life is mere licence. Finally, the modem 
period, which Lassalle regards as beginning in 1848, attempts 
to find the bond of union in freedom. It is instructive to 
observe in passing, that a philosophic historian of Hegel's 
school feels no hesitation in dividing the history of the world 
into three epochs of equal importance for the purpose of 
producing two complementary conceptions, though one of 



158 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

these epochs embraces some five or six thousand years, and 
the other scarce sixty. It seems more natural to regard the 
development after 1849 as a continuation of the movement 
begun in 1789 than to exaggerate contrasts and to ascribe 
so short a period to the second epoch, in order to produce the 
Hegelian tripartite idea, with its revulsion of concept. 

LassaUe is, none the less, correct in proceeding from human 
corporate life as an actual point of departure. He concludes 
that the fact of human solidarity may fail to be realized, but 
cannot be abolished, and that it exists, even though social 
institutions fail to recognize or to guide it. In such cases it 
appears as brute natural force, while the individual who is 
forced to rely upon himself is at its mercy. The interaction 
of social forces, their rise and fall, brings wealth to one, 
throws others into poverty, and sports with the labour and 
industry of the individual. Lassalle therefore maintains that 
attempts to limit and overcome this intermittent action are by 
no means intended to remove the freedom and responsibility of 
the individual, but, on the contrary, endeavour to give this 
freedom every opportunity of expressing itself in a reasonable 
way. The unfortunate fact, in his opinion, is that favourable 
circumstances at the present day usually have but a very slight 
and transitory influence upon the condition of the working 
classes, whereas unfavourable conditions recoil with destruc- 
tive power upon those who own no property. Immediate 
reduction of wages, diminution of employment or an entire 
absence of work, are the blows delivered upon the backs of 
the workmen by bad times and by the fluctuations due to the 
greedy rivalry of speculators. 

The school of political economy, represented in France by 
Bastiat, and in Germany by the leader of the Progressive 
party, Schultze-Delitzsch, had regarded the mutual exchange 
of commodities as the whole secret of political economy. 
Against this Lassalle vigorously emphasizes the fact that human 
society and human work in the present age does not merely 
consist in the association of men within definite localities, 
and the interchange of the products of their personal labour. 
He shows that production is a common result of co-operation, 
produced by the complex activities of a numerous body, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 159 

, while at the same time the profits of production are not 
\ divided as common property, but, as products or values, 
become the personal possession of the contractor or manufac- 
turer. The manufacturer thus makes labour productive, 
inasmuch as his agreements with the whole of the working 
class, whose co-operation has brought about production, are 
subject to that law of wages which must inevitably be developed 
under these circumstances — the law which plays so im- 
portant a part in the works of Marx and in the agitation of 
Lassalle ; the law which, never denied except by Lassalle's 
most ephemeral opponents, was formulated by Ricardo and 
has been recognized by all economists of any reputation ; the 
law that wages, upon the average, are limited to the sum 
which is unconditionally necessary for the maintenance of life 
and the propagation of the species, and will vary according to 
the habits of the people in question. The current rate of 
wages will oscillate about this point, never rising far above 
it or sinking far below it. Thus, according to Lassalle, the 
profound contradiction in modem society is due to the fact 
that the principle of co-operation is invariably employed for 
production, whereas the distribution of the profits is made 
solely upon the principle of individuahsm. 

The antiquated economic school of exchange had depicted 
conditions as if every man worked immediately for his own 
purposes, and then, under some idyllic system, proceeded to 
exchange such products as he could not use himself for those 
of his neighbours. Lassalle scornfully asks whether under- 
takers' establishments exist primarily to provide for cases of 
death in the family of the owner, and only when such cases are 
rare, exchange for other commodities such trappings of woe as 
may be superfluous. 

The same economic school spread the doctrine that saving 
and hoarding were the only means by which capital could be 
formed. Lassalle shows how irrational is the assumption that 
such a purely negative procedure as saving and not consuming 
could ever be the source by which the capital of a State is 
formed. " What products of labour," he asks, " can be con- 
sumed, and what cannot be saved ? Corn, meat, wine, and 
similar articles of food and drink — these things which can be 



i6o FERDINAND LASSALLE 

consuttied, must be consumed in general within a certain space 
of time, because as a rule they will not keep ; but if we glance 
at the other products which chiefly compose the capital Wealth 
of modern society, such as steam-engines and farming imple- 
ments, houses, raw materials of every kind, such as iron bars, 
pigs of copper, bricks and blocks of stone, need we ask whether 
these commodities can be consumed or will not be saved ? 
Is it reasonable so zealously to crown the capitalists for their 
services in not consuming aU these steam-engines, all this 
guano, all these bars of iron and blocks of stone, or will the 
statement be brought forward that they have not sold them ? 
But if we are discussing the political economy of the State, 
and not that of the individual, it is obviously a matter of in- 
difference whether a thing belongs to Peter or to Paul. It is 
only a misunderstanding of Adam Smith's century-old defini- 
tion of capital as accumulated labour that has led to the 
doctrine of saving. 

Instead of making unscientific attempts to represent capital 
as a natural necessity of eternal permanence, Lassalle enters 
upon an investigation to show how capital actually arose in 
the course of history. 

In ancient times a man who had a hundred slaves could 
very well consume the product of sixty slaves' labour, and 
accumulate the product of forty slaves. This, however, was 
not saving. In the Middle Ages the overlord similarly accumu- 
lated the labour of his servants. This, again, was not saving. 
Then came the Revolution of 1789, when labour was declared 
free by law. But obviously work cannot be begun without 
tools and without the means of maintaining existence while 
the work is in progress — in other words, without previous work, 
which means capital. Hence the workman is under compul- 
sion no less onerous than before to give his master the whole 
profits of his labour so far as that profit exceeds his own daily 
wants. Thus the labour previously performed, the dead labour 
or capital, outweighs the living labour in every society which, 
like our own, produces under the laws of open competition 
and individualism.^ 

* " We have been reproached with a desire to abolish property personally 
acquired by a man's own efforts, property which is the foundation of all 
personal freedom, energy, and independence. Are you speaking of the pro- 



FERDINAND LASSALLE i6i 

The workman is killed by the products of his own toil. 
His labour of yesterday rises up against him, strikes him 
down, and deprives him of the profits of his labour of to-day. 
The work of the wild Indian, his hunting, produces no super- 
fluity. Superfluity is only produced by labour carried on 
under the principle of the division of labour, and the division 
of labour is only possible when capital has been previously 
formed. Labour divided or united, producing the culture of 
which it is the condition, was originally and for a long time 
only possible in the form of slave-labour, brought together and 
kept in subjugation by force ; but it is the task of our period 
to aboUsh slavery and its various forms, and therefore, in 
LassaUe's view, our age must not merely put an end to these 
conditions — so much is unquestionably its task — ^but it must 
make this end a new beginning. 

History thus shows that capital funds have not been formed 
by saving or by individual labour ; equally impossible is their 
formation by these methods at the present day. They are 
formed by the interconnection of society. Capital profit is 
very far removed from the nature of a wage paid in return for 
personal inconvenience. On the contrary, it constantly 
accrues, although the capitalist has not raised a finger or 
denied himself the smallest pleasure. Such increment may 
occur, for instance, by a rise in the value of land or of railway 
shares. It was simply in order to avoid the admission that 
labour alone creates value that Bastiat invented service as an 
economic idea. According to his theory, the standard of value 
does not consist in the necessary work expended upon the 
production of a commodity, but in the work that the consumer 

perty of the small citizen and the small peasant which preceded citizen 
property ? We do not need to abolish this, for the progress of manufacture 
has abolished it and is daily abolishing it. But does paid work, the work of 
the proletariat, bring property to the labourer ? By no means ; it creates 
capital, in other words the property which exploits paid labour. . . . By 
freedom we understand free trade, free purchase and sale within the present 
conditions of civic production, but if haggling comes to an end, even free 
haggling will cease. You are horrified because we wish to abolish private 
property ; but in your existing society, property is beyond the acquisition 
of nine-tenths of its members. It exists simply because it does not exist 
for these nine-tenths. You are therefore reproaching us for our desire to 
abolish property, the existence of which necessarily presupposes the incapacity 
of the vast majority of society to possess anything." — Karl Marx, " Com- 
munist Manifesto," 1848. 



i62 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

is " saved " by the transference of the commodity to him, and 
this " saving " contains the idea of service. Lassalle asks 
whether a railway company could reasonably ask a price for 
the ticket which would correspond to the trouble, loss of time, 
and expense to which the traveller would have been put if he 
had been obliged to make his journey on foot or by carriage. 

Against this LassaUe urges with Marx that labour is activity, 
and therefore movement. But all continuous movement im- 
plies time ; the solution of all values as consisting in the 
quantity of labour expended upon them, and this, again, in 
the time expended upon labour, is Ricardo's contribution to 
the subject. All value thus amounts to the time necessarily 
expended in labour for the production of a commodity. Is, 
then, this time the time expended by the individual ? When 
the workman is isolated it is so. With reference to the com- 
modity produced, it is only so if I produce objects for my 
actual personal use ; but if I produce commodities for exchange 
— ^that is, for the use of others — my labour includes general or 
society labour. Thus, the commodity in question implies not 
only individual time, the time spent in labour by me personally, 
but also general or social time spent in labour, and this it is 
which forms the measure of unity for the amount of labour 
represented by the commodity produced. Now, the time of 
a society expended in labour has an independent existence of 
its own as money. Money is social labour-time in tangible 
form, abstracted from the special purposes of the particular 
labour, such as may be spent upon needles, wood, linen, etc. 
It is only by taking a salto mortale, or leap to destruction, into 
the sea of money that commodities can prove the truth of their 
existence as social labour-time externalized in tangible form. 
The statement of Say, that products can only be exchanged 
for products, that the capital of a land consists in wares, and 
not in money, and that money is not capital, is a truth which 
is only true when abstracted from the actual objects of economic 
intercourse. In actual practice products are never exchanged 
for products, but for money, and so long as products avoid 
this salto mortale into the form of money they are not capital. 
They are potential capital, but nothing more. 

The pulsation of capital, which interpenetrates the civic 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 163 

process of production, is interrupted, and during the time of 
its interruption capital is known as commodities. When the 
circulation recommences, commodities are removed and con- 
sumed for the purpose of further production. Production is, 
therefore, a stream, the motive-power of which is formed by 
capital, and is brought to a standstill in the produced com- 
modity. This commodity can only return to the form of capital 
if it is turned out of its fixed form and thrown once more into the 
stream of production — ^if, in other words, it ceases to be a pro- 
duct, whether it is a means of life, or whether it is raw material 
for further work. There is but one product in the case of 
which this circulation is never interrupted, but is as constant 
as the circulation of the blood — and this is money. Money is, 
therefore, capital in the truest sense of the word. Money was 
certainly borrowed in antiquity and in the Middle Ages, but 
only with the object of consuming the amount of the loan. 
For this reason high rates of interest — in fact, interest at all — 
was often regarded as something dishonourable. The point of 
departure was that a loan made only for the purpose of use, 
and which made the borrower no richer, ought not, therefore, 
to enrich the lender — ^in other words, it was regarded as dis- 
graceftJ to use the necessities and the embarrassments of 
another man in order to plunder him. Among us, on the 
other hand, it is not loans of this kind, but productive loans, 
that play the most important part. The lender's whole object 
in this case is to enrich himself — an object which the borrower 
readily shares with him — and a loan thus imphes the same as 
an economic share in business profits. Gold and the riches 
of the ancients were capital in embryo form, but not capital 
itself. When the commerce of the Middle Ages began to rise 
to importance, the embryo attained development ; but only 
after the French Revolution were all the barriers removed 
which prevented free competition, and only then did capital 
become a fuUy developed organism. Henceforward all legal 
conditions of production are absorbed in one purely practical 
condition, preliminary possession of the necessary money 
enabling the producer to have his capital in his hands. In 
the Middle Ages the value of commodities depended partly 
upon the intentions of the producer. He might, for instance. 



i64 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

insist upon a proiit corresponding to his social position ; but 
the price of commodities is now determined by the cost of 
production. Under the equaUzing predominance of free com 
petition, one producer underbids another in order to secure the 
market for himself. Hence an actual advantage for the con- 
sumer is cheapness, but this fact again necessitates production 
upon a large scale, and a large amount of money in hand, or a 
large capital. Consequently, under our present social arrange- 
ments, all capital necessarily tends to become large in size and 
to absorb smaller capital sums. 

The standard of value for the commodity — ^in other words, 
the amount of labour-time necessary for its production — ^may 
be called the conscience of civic production. Now, this con- 
science is necessarily and continually outraged by the continual 
oscillation of prices between excess and deficiency. This, how- 
ever, is a matter only of importance for the individual capitalist 
With regard to capital as such, the several swings of the pen- 
dulum compensate for one another. Like the price of all other 
commodities, so also the price of labour or the rate of wages 
is determined by the relations of demand and supply. Mean- 
while, the price of every commodity is determined by the 
necessary expense of its production. What, then, does it cost 
a workman to be productive ? The ordinary and necessary 
expenses of life for him and his family — in other words, the 
costs of producing labour — are equivalent to the cost at which a 
workman can produce. What, then, would happen to the sellers 
of other wares, supposing they were unable to hold out for several 
weeks in succession against a demand that did not correspond 
to their prices ? The seller of that commodity known as labour 
cannot hold out. He must sell, under compulsion of hunger. 
The special characteristic of the civic epoch is the cold and 
impersonal attitude of the manufacturer towards the work- 
man, as though he were a commodity like other commodities 
on the market, produced according to the law of the cost of 
production. In this way it therefore appears that the average 
wage is necessarily limited to the amount usually regarded by 
the people as necessary to maintain daily life. Any, surplus 
profit of labour comes to benefit capital in its different forms, 
and becomes a bonus upon capital. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 165 

The secret of the fruitfulness of capital is thus seen to 
consist in the unfruitfulness^of labour. In the difference 
between the amount of labour expended, which is paid for 
in the price given for the commodity produced, and, on the 
other hand, the sums paid in wages, lies the profit that accrues 
to capital, or bonus, which appears as the capacity and power 
of capital to increase continually, a capacity that first gains full 
liberty of action by means of free competition. The bonus 
on capital is not, as has been said, merely a wage due to the 
intellectual powers which guide labour. This idea can be 
refuted merely by considering the difference between the wages 
of a company director and between bonus. Nor do wages rise 
with an increase of annual production, for, though a larger 
amount may then be paid in wages, it is merely distributed 
among a larger number of workmen — in other words, accord- 
ing to LassaUe's theory, there is not, under existing arrange- 
ments, a single shilling earned by a workman or a single drop 
of his sweat which does not on the morrow produce a new and 
unprofitable drop of sweat for the workman and a new shilling 
for capital. The implement of labour — namely, capital — has 
then become separated from the workmen, and attained in- 
dependence. Its suckers absorb all fruitfulness to itself, and 
concede to the workman merely the compensation for the vital 
force necessarily expended in the course of the work. Capital 
thus makes labour unfruitful. What, then, is capital ? It is 
an implement of labour that has become independent, that has 
changed parts with the workman, has reduced him from a 
living being to a dead implement, and has raised itself, a dead 
implement, to the position of a living and productive force. 
If a stronger definition be wanted, capital is an advance made 
in virtue of labour previously expended, an advance which is 
necessary during the division of labour under a system of 
production which depends upon exchange ; necessary also 
during the unrestrained course of commercial rivalry for the 
daily maintenance of the producer, until his commodities have 
been delivered to their eventual consumers ; an advance pro- 
ducing the consequence that the profits of labour which exceed 
the amount necessary for daily maintenance accrue to the 
man who has made the advance. The statement of Lassalle's 



i66 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

opponents is thus entirely true when they assert that the 
market price of a commodity is payment for nothing else than 
for human labour ; but, be it observed, the payment is made, 
not to, the workman, but is absorbed by the sponge of capital : 
" the workman's own has become another's." 

The most obvious revelation of the uncertainty of modem 
social conditions, and the impossibility of basing calculations 
upon them, is found by Lassalle in the procedure of the Stock 
Exchange, with its gambling upon the rise and fall of stocks 
and the investment of property in shares, State bonds, and 
loans in general. Every event in Turkey or Mexico, every 
act of peace and war, every change of public opinion, a false 
telegram, a loan in Paris or London, the wheat-harvest on the 
Mississippi, gold-mines in Australia — ^in short, any outward 
event occurring by purely outward movements of society as 
such, whether in the sphere of the State, or the money market, 
or trade, daily produces upon the Stock Exchange some 
alteration for the weal or woe of the individual, and creates 
new conditions under which he must live. Lassalle asks how 
Socialism may be well defined. It may be certainly defined 
as the distribution of property by social means, but it is pre- 
cisely this condition which is nowadays in force. The state 
of things as prevaiHng is nothing else than lawless Socialism 
in the guise of personal production. What Socialism as a 
regulating force would abolish is thus not property, but law- 
lessness ; in fact, it desires to introduce no property except 
personal property founded upon labour.^ 

If now, says Lassalle, we turn our gaze from capital property 

1 Marx, who was an even more tenacious adherent of Hegel's principles of 
rhjrthm and symmetry in the philosophy of history than Lassalle, laid down 
three main periods of economic history. In the first, the workman owns his 
means of production and conducts a small business upon his own account. 
In the next period, the accumulation of capital, when it is not the direct 
consequence of the transformation of slaves and serfs into wage-earners, 
is based upon the exploitation of the immediate producer — i.e., upon the 
disappearance of private property as acquired by individual labour. But 
this first transition from scattered private ownership to capitalist ownership 
finds its counter part in the transition from capitalist to social ownership, 
as a negation of a negation. The first point at issue is the exploitation of the 
people at large by a few robbers. But whereas centuries were occupied in 
the first transition, Marx with his abstract radicalism imagines that the latter 
transition can proceed so rapidly and easily as the progress of his own specula- 
tions and be accomplished by one stroke and by a sudden revolution, a most 
unhistorical point of view. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 167 

as existing, which has certainly accrued in due correspondence 
with the prevailing state of affairs, we have the indisputable 
right to make the property of the future, as yet unproduced, 
the property of labour, by reforming the methods of produc- 
tion. There is to be no breach with the division of labour, 
the source of aU civilization ; only capital is to be once more 
reduced to its position as a dead implement of work in the 
service of man. For this purpose it is only necessary that 
throughout the realm of production individual private capital 
for productive purposes should be aboUshed ; that the labour 
of society, which was previously common, should be main- 
tained in employment by the common capital of society, 
while the profits of production should be divided among the 
feUow-labourers according to the value of their achievements. 
The means of transition to this purpose, the simplest and 
mildest of all, are, in Lassalle's opinion, productive unions 
supported by State credit. 



CHAPTER VI 

We have taken a general view of the theoretical foundation 
upon which Lassalle's polemical writings are based. We must 
now see what specially advanced points in his theory were 
brought under the enemy's fire during the progress of the 
conflict, and which of these points proved to be indefensible. 
We have held a rapid review of his forces ; we must now 
observe their attitude in attack and defence during the battle. 

We will therefore take the first disputed point — the law of 
wages. Lassalle placed the law of wages in the front of all 
his economic arguments, calling it by preference the " cruel 
iron law." He told the workmen, when anyone spoke of 
improving the conditions of their daily Uves, to ask him first 
of all whether he recognized this law or not. If he did not 
recognize it, further negotiations with him were not worth the 
trouble, for the law was recognized by all leaders of economic 
science. If he did recognize the law, the second question 
arose — How did he think the law could be abolished ? 

The Progressive party of that time, led by Schultze-Delitzsch 
as representing their economic theories, was, however, very 
far removed from recognizing the existence of that law. 
Open refusal to admit, ambiguous denial, attempts to explain 
the facts away, the imputation of low motives actuating the 
declaration of this "untruth" — all these methods were 
attempted. Such procedure can be only partially excused by 
the unwarrantable and exaggerated conclusions which Las- 
salle deduced from this law. He represented as something 
pecuUar and especially formidable to the working class the 
fact that its income should at all times correspond with its 

i68 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 169 

most urgent necessities, while at the same time the necessities 
increased with an increase of income. As there are extremely 
few men whose income perceptibly surpasses their require- 
ments, this law does not express anything peculiar to the 
working class alone, nor anything which, considered in and 
for itself, should arouse horror ; but instead of emphasizing 
this circumstance, Lassalle's opponents attacked his principle 
as a pure piece of invention. Lassalle rightly says that the 
anger of his enemies was " boundless " after he had revealed 
this law in the argument of his " open answer." Men turned 
upon him, as in antiquity they turned upon a priest who had 
betrayed the mysteries of Ceres. " Had my enemies beeiH 
Romans," he says, " they would have struck me down in ' 
open market, as the patricians once struck down Gracchus ; 
but my enemies are not Romans, and for that reason they 
attempt to strike me down with calumnies, and not with 
swords."^ _ 

Just at that time Lassalle had been condemned to four 
months' imprisonment, as a punishment for the pacificatory 
and purely historical tone of his " Workmen's Programme." 
The newspapers professed to have discovered at one time that 
his opposition to the middle class was based upon hopes of 
ameliorating the rigours of his confinement, or that he 
was acting as a deserter, or as a tool of the reaction, or, 
again, as an ignorant amateur in the department of political 
economy. None the less, no one succeeded in explaining 
away the existence of the law. Thus the only issue was to 
regard it as an economic law of nature which, as such, could 
never be overthrown, and this last resource was also adopted. 

Lassalle asserts that all attempts to improve the position 
of the working class by means of savings-banks, sick-clubs, 
.accident insurances, and the like, are invalidated by this law, 
and must ever be naturally fruitless. If these institutions 
are intended to counteract the manifold misfortunes — ^insanity, 
illness, old age, etc. — which reduce individual workmen by 
chance or necessity below the general level of their class, they 
have a relative though a very subordinate value ; but for the 
welfare of the class as such they are purposeless. Lassalle 
1 " Labour Problem." 



170 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

then considers the co-operative societies of consumers, founded 
by Schultze-Delitzsch for similar humanitarian purposes. He 
shows that the workmen require help, not as consumers, but 
as producers, for aU men as consumers stand, comparatively 
speaking, upon the same level. The point is to relieve pressure 
where the shoe pinches. He then examines the credit and 
raw material societies, and points out that the inevitable 
movement of industry is daily killing the labour of the in- 
dividual handicraftsman by the system of manufacture on a 
large scale. Hence these unions, which at most place the 
poor craftsman in a position to compete with the prosperous, 
do but unnecessarily prolong the deadly struggle of individual 
labour with the larger manufactories. 

Finally, he draws attention to the illusory nature of the 
comparison constantly made between the position of the work- 
man to-day and his position in earlier centuries, by which the 
true question is quietly obscured. The point at issue is not 
the position of the workman in comparison with his position 
three hundred years ago, but his position in comparison with 
the necessities and customs of life at his time. The cannibal 
savage cannot be said to regard the lack of a decent coat as a 
want. Similarly, before the invention of printing, the work- 
man felt no privation if he were unable to procure a 
useful book. Privation is the point at issue. LassaUe finally 
demonstrates that such retrospective views of the history of 
civilization are of very doubtful value, for the manufactured 
products, which tend to become cheaper, are consumed by 
the workman to a far less degree than the necessities of life, 
which show no similar steady tendency to cheapness. 

Thus the usual considerations and compensating measures 
leavethe law of wages untouched, and are therefore, in Lassalle's 
opinion, of no importance to the working class, considered as a 
class. Hence he takes the view that the only remaining 
remedy is State interference. To oppose this position, his 
adversaries changed their tactics, and asserted that the law of 
wages is a law of nature, against which, therefore, the State 
ought not to fight. Lassalle's view was, as we have already 
seen, that economic laws are not natural, but historical. 

A short explanation of this disputed point now becomes 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 171 

necessary. Ricardo's theory of wages is the following : 
Everything has a natural price and an actual price, and labour 
is no exception. The natural price consists in the amount 
of labour expended upon the production of the commodity. 
If this object is labour itself, the natural price of labour con- 
sists in the expenditure necessary to produce a workman — that 
is, in the sum absolutely necessary for the support of himself 
and his family. The actual price of every article depends upon 
supply and demand, but, as a rule, will only diverge from the 
natural price for short intervals of time and to an insignificant 
extent. As regards labour, a steadily increasing demand for 
it will naturally produce a rise in wages, but at the same time 
will produce a greater influx of workmen. If the demand is 
reduced, the resulting distress will diminish the number of 
workmen, and therefore again produce a rise in wages. 

The point below which wages cannot fall is most intimately 
connected with the mode of life under which the workman 
finds he can live and rear his family in any particular land or 
at any particular time. The reasons which prevent wages 
from faUing below this point are stated by Lassalle, in his 
answer to the Workmen's Committee, to be emigration, the 
faU in the marriage rate, artificial sterihty of marriage, and 
the diminution of the working population by distress. 

Of these causes, the last alone is decisive. The connection 
of the marriage and birth rates with the general prosperity, 
and especially with the price of com, is universally recognized, 
but will not explain variations in the rate of wages ; for these 
occur within spaces of time too short to admit the influence 
of variations in the numbers of the rising generation. Emigra- 
tion and migration within a country are merely forms under 
which distressjis outwardly expressed. This, therefore, re- 
mains the only 'material influence. 

No one wiU deny that this law of wages is as hard as 
" iron," as Lassalle called it, if he knows the difference between 
the longevity of the rich and the poor, and realizes that want, 
even if it claims victims only sporadically, none the less steadily 
undermines vitaUty. Its influence is almost equally oppressive 
whether the average prosperity of the population is high or 
low ; for when the average is high, the workman will cling as 



172 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

long as possible to the objects characteristic of his social 
status, which can be seen and are regarded by him as outward 
tokens of his position, and will do this even at the sacrifice 
of the greatest necessaries of life. 

It was certainly a gross mistake on the part of Lassalle's 
opponents to dispute an assertion which he could so easily 
prove, as that all scientific authorities are agreed in regarding 
the law of wages as really existing. He was equally correct 
in pointing out the deceptive nature of comparisons between 
the present position of the workman and his position in 
earlier times ; but, none the less, one circumstance exists 
which, if it does not invalidate the existence of the law, 
invalidates Lassalle's conclusions — namely, that wages within 
recent years have, as a matter of fact, risen. 

The law by no means excludes the workman from the possi- 
bility of improving his mode of life, in consequence of the pro- 
gress of civilization, and even if the law cannot be abolished 
under existing social conditions, the conclusion does not follow 
that an improvement in the workman's position under present 
society is impossible. Such an improvement has been actually 
brought about in spite of the law, and to this Lassalle's action 
has largely contributed ; for such progress has been due, 
partly to the interference of the State in the most obvious 
abuses, partly to the fear of a threatening social revolution, 
and partly to the sympathy which a few leading men were 
able to arouse on behalf of the working class ; partly, also, 
to the co-operation of the workmen for the protection of their 
common interests — all of which influences were either furthered 
or in many cases created by Lassalle's agitation.^ 

The second point at issue is the alternative of self-help, or 
State-help. The destructive influence of a system of support 
and the strength inherent in the principle of self-help were 
generally acknowledged in Germany, which regarded England 
as the pattern State, after the abortive revolution of 1848. 
Hence we cannot be surprised at the outcry of disgust aroused 
by the word " State-help." Lassalle replies by urging that 
it is obvious foolishness to be continually calling upon the 

1 F. A. Lange, "The Labour Problem," 161-172 ; Lujo Brentano, "The 
Position of Labour in Modern Law," 179 et seq. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 173 

workman to help himself. The individual without capital is 
helpless, and one might as well call out to a man who had 
fallen into the water, with a weight of a thousand pounds in his 
pocket, advising him to swim to the shore. In the second place, 
Lassalle emphasizes the fact that State interference by no 
means excludes social self-help. No one, for instance, pre- 
vents a man from climbing a tower by his own strength, if he 
lends him a ladder for the purpose. Nor, then, does the 
State prevent youth from developing their own powers by 
providing teachers, schools, libraries, etc., for their benefit. 
Thirdly, he proves that the Manchester school itself was so un- 
principled as to demand State-help, on finding itself unable to 
procure other resources, at a time when it was necessary to 
stop the emigration of workmen during the cotton famine, 
brought about by the great American War. 

In these general statements LassaUe is correct, but he shows 
a tendency to hair-sphtting in his fourth criticism, which is 
directed against an enterprise of his chief opponent, Schultze- 
DeUtzsch, who attempted to find enough capital among the 
workmen to found a bank, which is stiU flourishing at the 
present day. This bank was to give credit to workmen's 
unions which reaUy deserved it, and LassaUe criticizes the 
idea as if Schultze-Dehtzsch had dropped his own principle 
and adopted Lassalle's. Schultze-Delitzsch always formulated 
his principle as foUows : He stated that the weak forces of the 
smaller workmen and craftsmen would always be able to 
obtain credit if they would unite for purposes of self-help. 
After he had covered Germany with a vast net of unions, 
with a turnover of many millions, he crowned his system with 
the bank, that by this means he might be able to divert a 
large amount of capital into the smallest channels of his 
widely distributed unions. He conducted this plan upon 
such strict business principles that the shares of the bank 
even to-day enjoy the best of reputations upon the Berlin 
Stock Exchange ; while the industrial bank founded by his 
Conservative opponent. Privy Councillor Wagner, Bismarck's 
factotum, has disappeared from the Stock Exchange quota- 
tions. Lassalle is certainly correct in stigmatizing the attitude 
of Schultze-Dehtzsch as shameless, when he made his appeal 



174 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

to the working class : " If you are to choose between Herr 
Lassalle and us, we need only say, ' There fine phrases, and here 
capital.' " When, however, LassaUe asks whether it would 
not be better to accept help from the State than receive it 
as alms from private individuals, we must point out that in 
this case there was no question of charity, but of an actual 
business enterprise. 

The central point of his demonstration is to show that the 
vast majority of the population are without means, and that 
the State is, in reality, nothing more than an association of 
its population. " Why, therefore," Lassalle appeals to the 

r working class, " cannot your great association, the State, 
exert a fructifying and stimulating influence upon your 
smaller associations ?" This the State not only can, but 
must do. Its task and its intention is to facilitate the pro- 
gress of civilization among mankind. For this purpose the 
State exists, and has always existed. Without State inter- 
ference neither canals, highroads, railways, nor telegraphs, 
would have been introduced. England paid twenty millions 
of pounds for the abolition of slavery in her colonies, and if 
the fact be established that free competition, as it exists 
I among us, means for the poor that they must fight with teeth 
/ and nails against cannons and firearms, why should the State 
Ljiot interfere in this case also ?' ^ 

If we examine these two catch-words, " Self-help " and 
" State-help," from the historical point of view, as they were 
understood in Germany in 1863 and 1864, both will be found 
to suffer from great lack of precision. As we have already 
observed, Schultze-Delitzsch a few years previously had 
succeeded, after making a small beginning in his own town, 
in creating a connected series of unions to advance cash and 
raw materials, founded upon the principle of " self-help." In 
connection with these, a number of workmen's educational 
unions, conducted in the same spirit, was gradually founded. 
This spirit was very different from that which prevailed in 
the Enghsh workmen's associations, which were based upon 
actual self-help. In the case before us the workman had or 

'■ Cf. Lassalle, " The Labour Problem " ; " Open Letter of Reply " ; 
" The Workmen's Handbook " ; " Indirect Taxation." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 175 

took no initiative ; his position was determined upon a 
patriarchal system, his education was guided by those in 
better positions than himself, to whose interest it was to 
prevent the existing difference between the advantage of 
the manufacturer and that of the workman from ending 
in open struggle, for the manufacturer naturally regarded 
a settlement of contradiction by peaceful means as most 
important. In other respects the movement displayed aU 
possible sympathy towards the working class : there were 
credit unions for those of them who already possessed a little 
capital, and wished to rise slowly above their class. Popular 
lectures were given upon astronomy, geography, natural 
science and history, whales and electrical machines, but 
politics were taboo. The workmen would then automatically 
join the Liberal party. This system was called self-help, 
for aU were entirely agreed that there should be no State-help 
for the working classes. " No State-help granted from above, 
lest the Conservative party should be strengthened, and no 
State-help extorted from below, because the sense of democratic 
independence among the workmen necessary to secure such 
extortion was detested."^ 

In opposition to this system, Lassalle propounded his solu- 
tion of State-help, which was intended to induce the workman 
to help himself with serious intent, but also to call in the State 
as a regulating power. We have already seen what he was 
able to say in general in favour of State interference, and how 
he emphasizes the duty of definitely forwarding objects of 
civilization as incumbent upon the State. Upon this point 
thinkers of the most different schools agree with him to-day, 
but it cannot be denied that even before Lassalle's time such 
agreement was also widely spread. Schultze-Delitzsch, for 
instance, had often emphasized this duty of the State, but with 
regard to the limits within which the State could justifiably 
interfere there was, and there still continues, much divergence 
of opinion. It is, however, certain that one of the most 
fruitful branches of Lassalle's activity is to be found in his 
vigorous emphasis of the rights and duties of the State, as 
against the one-sided views of the Manchester school. 

1 F. A. Lange, " The Labour Problem," 361. 



176 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

We must now conclude with a glance at his practical 
proposals. 

Here we have the third point in dispute — productive unions 
supported by State credit. Lassalle has nothing to say con- 
cerning any State organization of workmen, and makes no 
proposals in the least resembling the national factories erected 
in Paris in 1848 (by the enemies of the Socialists), which 
inevitably ended in disaster. He demands the voluntary 
co-operation of individuals. He only asks that these unions 
may be enabled to begin their existence by an advance of the 
necessary capital from the State. The State is thus to help 
them by giving them credit, but is not to " organize " them, 
and is not to carry on the work at its own expense or in the 
position of a manufacturer. On the contrary, it is, by giving 
credit, to enable the workmen to organize themselves and to 
work for their own advantage. 

But for the success of his plan not only must a credit 
union include all existing workmen's unions, but an insurance 
system must embrace the several unions within any one 
branch of trade and thereby provide a balance to cover 
practically all losses. Capital risk, therefore, does not exist 
for individual unions, since competition is excluded. The 
common organization of aU the unions in the country would 
at any rate go so far that they would keep one another in- 
formed of the conditions of production and the state of the 
markets. The business books of the several unions would be 
audited by a central committee appointed for the purpose, 
and thus would become a real foundation for scientific statistics 
of the conditions of production. By this means it would 
be possible to avoid any likelihood of over-production, and 
even so long as this object was not attained, over-production 
would simply become production by anticipation, as the 
colossal capital of the unions would abolish the necessity of 
competitive sale. Thus society would be saved the crises 
brought about by over-production, and this advantage, in 
Lassalle's opinion, would be accompanied by a great and 
positive addition to the wealth of the community. 

To what an extent expenses are cut down by production 
upon a large scale is universally recognized. It has been 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 177 

proved, for instance, that by combining the bakeries of Saxony 
into large firms, with uninterrupted production, at least a 
million thalers a year would be saved in fuel alone. Lassalle 
maintains that such great co-operative enterprises would not 
only transform the problem of distribution, but would increase 
production to an unexampled extent by abolishing the hap- 
hazard methods at present in vogue. He further asserts that 
the markets of the world would consequently belong to the 
nation which first resolved to introduce this social transforma- 
tion. 

With regard to Lassalle's proposals for the future, it should 
be observed above aU things that he never regarded them as 
containing any solution of the social question, nor did he ever 
profess to anybody that he could solve that problem. He has 
repeatedly asserted that this solution was a task demanding 
generations, and perhaps centuries, of time. In his pamphlet, 
" Open Letter of Reply," he never once used the phrase, 
" the social problem," and even less did he speak of its solu- 
tion. Such a phrase was repugnant " to his conscience as a 
thinker," to use an expression he employs in a letter. His 
habitual term invariably was, " the improvement of the 
position of the working classes." Productive unions sup- 
ported by State credit were to him merely the necessary 
first step upon the road which he was firmly convinced 
posterity would and must follow. 

Many elements in LassaUe's fundamental views were derived 
from Hegel, and ascended the throne in company with Bis- 
marck. One of these is his exaggeration of the State as the 
highest moral unity in which the individual can be merged. 
For Lassalle, with his love of power, it was a matter of indiffer- 
ence whether a decree from above forced society to modify its 
nature or whether such modifications were gradually introduced ; 
as the outcome of the widest possible political freedom. 
Though he was a lover of freedom, he was by nature a dominat- i 
ing, commanding and patronizing character, and regarded the 
independence of the masses as no more than a very remote 
object. I do not beUeve in the vitahty of a union which is not , , 
independently developed, and does not conduct its own affairs.. 
An official body in charge of the details of organization would 



178 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

be more likely to stifle than to stimulate any inclination to 
independence on the part of the workman, which is the great 
point at issue. The principal question is whether such unions 
would increase the scale of production above its present extent. 
It is not so much defective methods of distribution as the 
necessary limitations upon production which are the causes of 
the oppression under which the poorer classes labour. At the 
present time, with the stimulus of competition, with long hours 
of work and the subjection of the workmen, we are unable to 
produce more than we do, and is it likely that production 
could be increased under new regulations less severe in their 
operation ? Is it true that co-operation alone would produce 
so material a change in the conditions of production ? In 
the opposite case the productive union would be unable to 
guarantee the participants any profits much beyond the present 
rate of wages, simply because the capitalist, or, in other words, 
the bonus on capital, had been excluded from the enterprise. 
Let us suppose that a great manufacturer has four thousand 
workmen, and makes an annual profit amounting to the 
colossal sum of £10,000. If we regard this sum as a bonus 
on capital, and divide it, each workman would annually obtain 
an addition of only £2 los. Lassalle has apparently over- 
looked the fact that private landed property is the first to 
profit by a rise in values produced by labour, and that such 
property, without „ny expenditure of labour, chiefly absorbs 
the fruits of labour. 

While Lassalle continually repeats the fact that capital is in 
immediate enjoyment of aU advantages, he lays no weight 
upon the fact that it is also immediately exposed to all risks 
and losses. Risk and loss do undoubtedly affect the workman 
indirectly, but he does not directly bear them. Obviously, 
the productive unions which could only be organized by slow 
degrees would never be able to bear a loss unless they were 
supported by State credit. The capitalist who has £100,000 
can lose £50,000, and is not reduced to beggary ; but if we 
suppose that two thousand union workmen lost a similar 
amount — workmen living immediately upon their incomes — 
how could their difficulties be in any way relieved without 
drawing upon State credit to an almost unlimited extent ? 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 179 

If the existence of Lassalle's productive unions is to be assured, 
the simultaneous erection of all unions in one branch of trade 
becomes necessary. 

Even in such a case State-help in this form would scarcely 
be a permanent guarantee, unless we possessed the Universal 
State. A State can also suffer loss, and against such loss 
there is no insurance. It is surely superstitious to suppose 
that the connection between the price of commodities and pre- 
vailing circumstances can be severed. Surely, in opposition 
to Lassalle's view, the first State to introduce the new order 
of things would be in the worst possible position in the markets 
of the world, because it would be the least able to bear a 
loss. 

Finally, the productive unions supported by the State, which 
are intended to abolish class differences, would inevitably intro- 
duce a new system of class differences by introducing new 
privileges. The object of Lassalle's historical efforts may be 
briefly stated as an attempt to replace the predominance of 
the third estate by that of the fourth, which he regards as 
sjmonymous with the human race. He readily admits 
that the third estate, when it rose against the classes 
favoured with privileges and protected by inequality in the 
sight of the law, during the great French Revolution, did 
regard its cause in its initial enthusiasm as the cause of the 
whole nation and of humanity at large (the declaration of the 
" Rights of Man ") ; but at the same time he maintains that 
this estate was speedily seen to be bringing with it a new 
privilege — the privilege of capital — and that it necessarily con- 
cealed among its numbers a new and unprotected estate, the 
fourth. Then this fourth estate, which can show no exclusive 
quahfication for a share in the governmental power, neither 
nobihty nor landed property nor capital, becomes for Lassalle 
equivalent with the human race, and its freedom is the freedom 
of the human race, " for we are all workmen." Here I will 
only point out that the fourth estate, as described by Lassalle, 
is not a reality, but an ideal of his own conception. Even if 
this estate were unwiUing to offer any fresh privileges either to 
nobility, landed property, capital, or education, its ideas would 
follow the obvious course of argument and it would probably 



i8o FERDINAND LASSALLE 

infer : because I am neither rich nor noble nor educated, I have 
a right to maintenance and to a share in the Government. But 
there is a far more obvious danger apparent. Would not the 
gradual formation of productive unions supported by State 
credit place the workmen who were not members in a critical 
position ? The gradual formation of such unions would reduce 
to a lower stage the working class who were forbidden by the 
nature of their occupation to make any use of such a union 
(such as porters, hodmen, and casual labourers of every kind). 
The foundations of a fifth estate would then be laid. The 
process would be repeated which occurred after the declara- 
tion of the " Rights of Man." It would be seen that the new 
programme was incapable of embracing more than one class, 
or of forming an5H;hing else than a new aristocracy.^ 

All these objections, whatever their justification or impor- 
tance, are of no considerable interest here, for the simple reason 
that the question of productive unions supported by State 
credit was of very subordinate importance to Lassalle himself. 

It is true, he thought, that the formation of such unions 
upon a large scale would be a means of accommodating supply 
to demand, as the enormous credit which these unions would 
enjoy would secure them against the necessity of selling com- 
modities regardless of times and seasons ; but for him they 
were nothing more than a means to an end. 

On April 22, 1863, he writes to Rodbertus, who did not 
believe in the value of the productive unions : " If you can 
"show me another means equally effectual, I shall be equally 
ready to accept it and to subscribe to it. I have only pro- 
posed the association temporarily, because at the moment I 
really see no means which would be, relatively speaking, so 
easy and so effective. For the workman must have some- 
thing quite definite and tangible proposed, not a mere law, to 
become interested in it." A month later he writes again : 
"" Here we are only dealing with a practical means of transition, 
and not with a theoretical and final solution of fundamental 
importance. This you yourself will hardly expect for another 
five centuries. That this solution can be gradually brought about 
by the association, a.nd facilitated hy it to an astonishing extent, 

1 F. A. Lange, " The Labour Problem," 361. 






FERDINAND LASSALLE i8i 

seems to me indisputable, and I will do my best to prove it to | 
you. Moreover, I do not see any other means of transition 1 
equally practicable. You have yourself admitted"^and most 
strongly emphasized the fact that a final solution,''^hich you 
do not expect for five centuries, will only be brought about by 
a series of transitions, and cannot possibly be produced at one 
stroke. At the same time, it is quite possible that you may 
have devised an even better means of transition than 
mine. In this case, as I have said, I will most readily I 
support it." _J 

Rodbertus, who wished to retain and modify the principle 
of wages, does not seem to have been able to indicate any 
other means. In any case, the utmost interest attaches to 
the fact that in September, 1878, Bismarck expressed himself 
favourably upon LassaUe's proposal. He declared the founda- 
tion of productive unions to be an idea concerning the inex- 
pediency of which he was by no means convinced. " I cannot 
say," he states, " whether I have been impressed by Lassalle's 
arguments or am stiU influenced by the convictions which I 
acquired in part during my stay in England in 1862 ; but it 
seems to me that the foundation of productive associations, 
such as are flourishing in England, would provide a possibility 
of improving the position of the workman, and giving him a 
material share in the business profits." He asserted that the 
attempts made in Germany proved nothing, as they had been 
carried out upon too small a scale. He referred the idea of 
these unions to the " sensible efforts " which at that time were 
the driving-wheel of the Social Democratic movement, and 
summed up his exposition in the following terms : " What 
LassaUe told me on this point was stimulating and instructive, 
for he knew and had learnt a great deal." 

The statements quoted prove, in the first place, that the 

system of productive unions supported by State credit, pro- 

/ posed by LassaUe as the immediate object of the agitation, 

' was in itself for him simply a means to attain a distant and 

final object — the abolition of landed and capital property. In 

\ a letter to Rodbertus he describes this as being the essence of 

his views, since he had begun to study political economy at all. 

He adds that this was an object which he certainly would not 



i82 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

venture to put before the mob, and which he had therefore 
been careful to avoid mentioning ; but, on the other hand, his 
statement undoubtedly shows how entirely he was convinced 
of the correctness and practicability of his means. He firmly 
believes that unions supported by State credit would, in the 
course of some centuries, inevitably lead to his object. Rod- 
bertus, in his " Posthumous Papers," says upon this point : 
" It must be said, without any desire to cast the smallest slur 
upon Lassalle's character, that there was an esoteric and an 
exoteric Lassalle, and in my opinion such practical questions 
as the social problem must always be discussed from these 
two points of view." These words were at once connected by 
Lassalle's opponents with those previously quoted (see, for 
instance, the impudent and valueless plagiarism from Becker : 
A. Kutschbach, " Lassalle's Death "), and were adduced as a 
proof that he did not himself believe in the means which he 
propounded to the workmen, whom in reality he regarded as 
the mob ; but such an assertion contains a double untruth. 
It is untrue to say that Lassalle had no confidence in this 
means, and it is untrue to say that he regarded the workmen 
as a mob, for he applies this term, on the contrary, to the vast 
and half-educated forces of Philistinism. 

However, the fact is clear that the economic position of 
society cannot be permanently relieved by purely economic 
methods. Lassalle, with his excessive belief in the efficacy of 
outward methods, forgot that greater and richer production 
can only be attained under the influence of intellectual and 
moral education. He certainly manifests his anger against the 
large production of senseless objects of luxury. He reasonably 
attacks the middle classes for the foolishness with which they 
confuse the expensive with the beautiful. In other words, he 
clearly saw the desirability of removing the steadily increasing 
difference between the modes of life followed by the lowest and 
the highest groups of society. This change could be pro- 
duced by substituting a larger production of indispensable 
commodities in place of our modem requirements. But, 
this sensible and justifiable praise of equality is not sup- 
ported as its interests imperatively demand, by due emphasis 
of the fact of inequality. The master-workman should 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 183 

and must earn more than the apprentice ; the foreman 
deserves more than the labourer, and the overseer more 
than all. In other words, when Lassalle appears as a dema- 
gogue, we feel the want of any desire to inspire respect for 
intellectual work or to stimulate his hearers to rise to a higher 
stage of culture. They are to him an imposing force, as 
indeed they are, merely by numbers and weight. Thus, in 
his zeal to obtain another mode of distributing surplus products, 
he never says a word in any of his pamphlets on behalf of 
attempts to secure an increase in the value of products, such 
as a radical improvement in elementary education under the 
cheapest possible conditions. Only once in the long article 
which appeared in the Kreuzzeitung of July 19, .1864, does he 
ask for " the education of the working classes to a far wider 
extent under compulsion." Perhaps it is too much to ask 
that he who was obliged to create this movement from the 
outset should also have an eye to every consideration or 
teservation which was desirable. 

In this point also he disagreed with Rodbertus, and their 
want of harmony upon this question was the reason that 
Rodbertus, though he approved Lassalie's principles and 
theories, declined to support his agitation with the great 
influence of his name. Lassalle wished to make the Socialist 
party a political force ; Rodbertus wished to confine its efforts 
to economic objects. Lassalle declined to join him unless he | 
would take political action. This condition he based upon the 
view that under Schultze-Delitzsch the workmen had become 
a political force, but had been led astray into wrong economic 
paths, and that only by a stronger political agitation could they 
be led back from their economic aberrations. Hence he placed 
universal franchise as the first immediate object before himself 
and his opponents. The Liberals, who were fighting for free 
trade, were by no means favourably inclined to this demand^ 
On this question he writes to Rodbertus in May, 1863 : " I 
have no intention of allowing the social question to be over- 
powered by the electoral question. You may rely upon me 
for that, but both myself and my party are injured by pseudo- 
democratic arguments (we neglect the development of political 
freedom, etc.), and so I must outbid my opponents upon 



i84 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

L either side, and defeat them both as a Democrat and as 
a SociaHst." 

To the best of my understanding, under existing circum- 
stances no other path was open to Lassalle than that which 
he chose. His genius grasped the situation completely, and 
dominated it with tactics in which no fault can be found. 
It was his intention in the first place to raise the workman 
in the political world, and only then could he contemplate 
the task of improving and securing his social position. 



CHAPTER VII 

If we are to form a correct estimate of the agitation created 
by LassaUe, we must consider the pohtical conditions under 
, which it began. These conditions seem very remote, because 
even greater pohtical changes have taken place in Germany 
since that time than in the previous half -century. The 
Government was then supported by the Kreuzzeitung party. 
The Progressive party, generally corresponding to the 
National Liberals of to-day, had entered the political arena 
in 1861, and had thus waged for only one year their 
apparently hopeless war against those in power, which 
was continued until 1866. This conflict produced no result, 
until the Government, after all possibility of ending the 
strife by overthrowing their opponents was removed, cleared 
the way by war after war, and partially carried out 
the programme of the party whose views had hitherto been 
desperately opposed. The old German democracy of 1848 had 
left the scene, or had resigned itself to join the Progressive 
party. To Lassalle's restless spirit it seemed daily clearer 
thkt this party was lacking in political capacity and energy. 
At the outset of i86a he seems to have entertained 
some weak hopes that the opposition would change their 
tactics, and would definitely insist upon their desires (the 
speech " What now ?"). When these hopes had vanished, h< 
necessarily turned his gaze in another direction. His answer 
to the Workmen's Committee in Leipsic became, as we have 
mentioned, the occasion for the formation of the General 
Union of German Workmen, with the attainment of universal 
and direct suffrage as its object, and the presidency was 

185 



i86 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

offered to Lassalle. He was not particularly anxious to accept 
it, as the prospect of acquiring immediate power by which 
any serious achievement could be secured was very small. 
As he says in one of his letters : " Political action means 
Pimmediate and instantaneous effectiveness. Everything else 
jean be secured by scientific methods."^ He yielded, however, 
to the persuasions of Countess Hatzfeldt, and undertook the 
difficult and harassing task of organizing and guiding a great 
workmen's union in face of the passionate opposition of the 
ruling classes, who were ready to use any means that came to 
hand. 

The political object of his agitation can be described in a 
few words. Like Marx, he held the fundamental view that 
the whole course of social history, as known to us, has been a 
history of class warfare. In his book " The Italian War " 
he demonstrates the erroneous nature of the view that the 
French Revolution of 1789 was a purely political movement. 
It was a social revolution, and consisted in the overthrow of 
the old feudalism by modem civic society. With the object 
of destropng the new social order, feudal Europe joined in 
alliance against France. To defend and to secure its social 
significance, the Revolution abandoned its political form under 
Napoleon and became a military dictatorship. The French 
middle class, under Napoleon, fought for the confiscated 
property of the emigres, which was estimated to be worth 
twelve miUiards, for the abolition of monopolies and for free- 
dom of competition. The object of the French middle class 
at that time was to overthrow feudal methods of production 
in manufacture and agriculture, and to secure freedom of 
capital. For these purposes the middle class displayed both 
energy and vigour. Purely political freedom, on the other 
hand, according to Lassalle's views, would never have been 
able to inspire the middle class with a readiness to self-sacrifice, 
for such freedom is never regarded by this class as of sufficient 
importance. 2 

1 B. Becker, " Revelations Concerning the Tragic Death of Ferdinand 
Lassalle," 28. The genuineness of the letters printed in this low pamphlet 
is not disputed. Yet the possibility of falsification in points of detail is not 
excluded in the case of copies taken secretly, as these. 

2 Lassalle, " The Italian War," 54 ; " The Workmen's Handbook," 
63-65 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 187 

Hence Lassalle's idea was to make class and social interest 
the moving force behind the cause of political freedom, and 
the only interest to be found was that of the poorer classes, 
whose numbers make them formidable indeed. He made the 
acquisition of universal franchise a question of daily food for the 
workman. In the working class he found the only adequately 
imposing force which could cope with the forces of political 
reaction prudently equipped with all the instruments of power. 
" Give me," he cries optimistically, " five hundred thousanSH 
German workmen as members of my union, and the reaction! 
is no more." ^ 

If we can contrive to imagine ourselves in his position, 
we cannot refuse him our admiration. Schultze-Delitzsch 
was at that time the man of the hour. All the forces 
of independent thought flattered him, venerated him and 
followed him. Even Bebel was then walking in his foot- 
steps. His doctrine of self-help was the only solution. From 
the moment when Lassalle rose against him he received as his 
portion scorn and mockery, and outbreaks daily renewed of 
hatred and overflowing contempt. The Liberal party beheved, 
as one of the tenets of their faith, that LassaUe was in the , 
service of the reaction — ^unconsciously, according to the calmer 
spirits ; with firm intent and purpose, said the hotheaded 
members of the party. The efforts of the Liberal leaders must 
have made him appear a secret reactionary to a large propor- 
tion of the working class. The sharp-sighted regarded him 
as a SociaUst, as a man dangerous to society, and therefore to 
be treated as an outlaw. At the same time the philosophers 
of Sociahsm — Rodbertus, Marx, and Engels — wrapped them- 
selves in profound silence which could only be interpreted as 
disapproval and necessarily aroused distrust. 

In this apparently desperate situation LassaUe showed 
himself really great. It was impossible for him to f oUow Rod- 
bertus, and, while agreeing to sacrifice the political element in 
his movement, to restrict himself to proposals aiming at social 
improvement, as purely theoretical disputes naturally would 
have been their only outcome. By such methods progress 
would have been impossible. Equally impossible was it for him 
to follow the example of Marx, and to preach revolution and 



i88 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

the violent overthrow of every form of social order hitherto 
recognized, while declaring the abolition of private property as 
the object of his movement, unless he wished to end his time 
in penal servitude or in London, like Marx, who had fled the 
country. He came forward with perfect knowledge of men. 
He knew very weU the strength of the Prussian monarchy, 
the slackness of the middle classes, and the thoughtlessness of 
the workmen. The middle-class cry for freedom produced 
no impression upon the working class. The working class had 
been aroused by the proclamation of equality, for which their 
first demand was expressed in their desire to exercise universal 
and direct suffrage. But it was not only necessary to arouse 
the working class, but to strengthen their sense of honour and 
of independence. Lassalle attained this end by disseminating 
his pamphlet, " Science and the Workmen." He showed the 
workmen that the highest culture and the greatest knowledge 
then existing were in alliance with them. It was further neces- 
sary to inspire them with the confidence of victory, and here 
Lassalle succeeded by explaining the numerical relations between 
the prosperous and the poor, and by showing the working classes 
in how diminishing a minority their favoured opponents were. 

At the same time, in order to stir even the most indifferent 
among his hearers, he produced official statistics of the death- 
rate among the children of factory-workers, and appealed to 
paternal feeling and the love of mankind when his appeal to 
the love of freedom failed to strike home.^ 

Throughout the' course of his agitation he used no single 
inflammatory or illegal phrase. No other object was proposed 
or admitted except the improvement of the condition of the 
working classes. 

He was ready to dominate and to use threats, and did not 
shrink from the danger of stirring the powers of the uneducated 
against society ; but he was anxious to control and organize 
the masses, as indeed he did, by inspiring them with great 
ideas. " What is the origin," he asks in one of his speeches 
in his defence,^ " of the political fear which the middle classes 
entertain of the people ?" He replies : " The recollections of 

1 C. A. Schramm, " Rodbertus, Marx, Lassalle," 70. 
^ " Science and the Workmen," 24 et seq. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 189 

the spring of 1848, when poHce discipHne was broken down, 
when the people filled all the streets and public squares, and 
everyone was completely in the hands of men hke Karbe, 
Lindenmiiller, and other thoughtless agitators of the time— men 
without knowledge, culture, or insight, whirled to the surface 
by the storm which stirred political life to its very depths." 

At that time the middle classes shut themselves trembling" 
in their houses. " Where," asks Lassalle, " were the intellects'! 
of Berhn, the men of science and of thought ?" " They were 
not cowardly," he replies, " but they told themselves, " the 
people does not understand our ideas or our language.' Now, 
gentlemen," he exclaims, " are you so certain that a political 
convulsion will never return ? Do you wish that your lives 
and property were again in the hands of men like Karbe j 
and Lindenmiiller ? If not, you may thank the men who 
have devoted themselves to the work of filling the abyss which 
divides scientific thought and scientific language from the 
people. You may thank those men who have undertaken at 
the expense of their own intellectual efforts a work, the results 
of which may benefit you aU, every one of you. Maintain 
such men at the public cost in the Prytaneum, and do not 
subject them to prosecutions." j 

The movement which LassaUe's action accelerated was not 
directly marked by any characteristic repugnant to the con- 
stitutional system of monarchical Prussia. Even in his earliest 
youth, when he admitted in open court that he was " an 
adherent of the Social Democratic Republic," he possessed 
sufficient self-command and insight most decisively to restrain 
the workmen from any attempt to preach a State revolution^ 
He says in his first speech before the Court of Assizes : " I 
turned to the workmen, I adjured them never to give way to 
the idea that they might use the opportunity to proclaim a 
Republic forthwith. Such action would be treachery to the 
common cause, for it would cast the apple of discord among 
the ranks of the citizens, who must now join like one man to 
avenge the insults offered to the law." 

If such was his language as early as 1848, obviously in 1863 
he was still further removed from any inclinations to come 
forward as a Republican. On the contrary, a mind so supremely 



igo FERDINAND LASSALLE 

practical as his, far from entertaining desires for the overthrow 
of the ruhng powers, was prepared to make a compromise with 
them, and to use them as a support where possible. In a 
word, he had considered all the given circumstances, and had 
resolved to make himself as few enemies as possible. 

1 In this respect Lassalle is utterly different from Karl Marx. 

/Marx in character is as remote from LassaUe as a slowly moving 

I mind filled with profound and bitter resentment is remote from 
a versatile and eloquent spirit, but in theory he is related to 
Lassalle as the power of generalization to the power of dealing 
with particular conditions.^ Marx had the whole world before 
his eyes ; Lassalle was concerned only with Germany, or, more 

1 correctly, only with Prussia. The difference between their 
doctrines is immaterial, but their methods were different. 

1 Marx was international, Lassalle was national. Marx regards 
social equivalence as only feasible in his Social Democratic 
Republic, from which religion was banned, and his idea is a 
federation of European Republics. Lassalle saw that the 
European nationalities were still firmly established, that 
national ideas were a factor of supreme importance, and that 
religion would long retain an influence which no one could 
afford to neglect, and he thought it possible, even under 
existing political circumstances, to give the initial impulse to 
a movement for transforming social conditions. As he so often 
said, aU he asked from the State was the " little finger." 
Eventually he thought he had found in the Prime Minister of 
that time, Herr von Bismarck, a man who was capable of 
carrying out the work. 

The complaint, which is justified up to a certain point, and 
can be raised against Lassalle from the outset of his agitation, 
is that his words at times ring with the true spirit of the dema- 
gogue. In his " Workmen's Programme," he flatters the 
working class and heaps charges upon the upper classes to 
an unjustifiable extent. However vigorously he may state 
that the legal accusation against him was founded upon 
stupidity and misunderstanding, the moral accusation remains. 
A man is guilty who tells his workmen that the ruling classes 

1 Rudolph Meyer, " The Ominous Development of Socialism and the 
Doctrine of Lassalle." 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 191 



/ 



are forced in their own interests " daily to oppose all that is ' 
great and good, invariably to regret its success, and no less 
invariably to rejoice at its failure," etc.^ 

However far this may be true of individuals, a man does 
but rouse the hatred and passion of the blind mob when he 
enumerates such actions as demonstrable in the case of whole 
classes of feUow-citizens, many of whom have shown themselves 
capable of rising above their own class interests. It is little 
use for Lassalle, in attempting to defend his assertions con- 
cerning the necessary immorality of the upper classes, to appeal 
to the far stronger expressions of the Gospel. The Gospel 
was not an authority for him, and is equally little an authority 
for the rest of us, and such a wrong by no means makes 
Lassalle right. 1 

It is also impossible to acquit Lassalle from the reproach of 
appeahng indirectly to the brute force of the masses, for he' 
never utters a word to explain the low and subordinate value 
of such brute force in every case where an intellectual point 
is at stake. His excuse is to be found in his principle that 
there is nothing more nearly related to pure intelligence than 
the sound common sense of large masses of men, and also in 
the principle which he had proved by practice that nothing 
is so amenable to organization as these great masses. In 
short, from the outset, the men of the French Convention 
were his real political ideals, and force gradually became all 
in all to him. 

The place which he thus gave to force brought a change, at 
first imperceptible but by degrees quite obvious, upon the 
character of his agitation. It had begun as a purely Demo- 
cratic movement, but the bitter and very personal feud which 
the several organs of the middle classes immediately opened 
against LassaUe were so many speedy intimations to the 
reactionary party that a new force had here appeared in the 
pohtical arena, alliance with which might be well worth their 
trouble to obtain. By an old historical and political law, 
extreme parties are invariably drawn to one another ; so it 
now happened that these several reactionary papers, hence- 
forward designated Conservative by Lassalle, joined his side. 

1 " Workmen's Programme," 25. 



192 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

The Liberals, as we have already mentioned, attempted to 
alienate the working class from Lassalle by the unanimous 
cry that he was the servant and tool of the reaction. About 
this time Lassalle made the personal acquaintance of Bismarck. 
His first visit to the Prime Minister is said to have been occa- 
sioned by the telegram to Bismarck, printed at the conclusion 
of Lassalle's Rhine speech (" The Festivals," etc.), demanding 
compensation for the violence of the police towards him. In 
my opinion, the form of the telegram indicates that the ac- 
quaintance had already been made. LassaUe found Bismarck's 
table covered with his pamphlets, and he found in the Prime 
Minister a kindred spirit who was entirely captivated by his 
personal influence, though this in no way prevented successive 
criminal prosecutions being brought against Lassalle. 

About the time when he came in contact with Bismarck he 
received support of another kind, which he thought he could 
not venture, for reasons of prudence, to reject, but which 
injured his cause with good reason in the eyes of free and 
honourable thinkers, on account of the manner in which he 
used this help. He accepted the overtures of the clergy. This 
step was certainly not taken without some reluctance. Spiel- 
hagen is doubtless correct in reference to Lassalle when he 
depicts Leo as forced at the end of his career, witR inward 
reluctance and many searchings of heart, to make common 
cause with the most reverend Privy Counsellor Urban. The 
Catholic clergy, which can never be accused of stupidity and 
invariably moves with the times, immediately saw that popu- 
larity and advantage might be gained by showing LassaUe the 
honour that was his due, and by supporting his efforts for the 
welfare of the lower classes. The Bishop of Mayence, after- 
wards the well-known Ketteler, was the first who openly 
declared for him. Lassalle was delighted at the acquisition 
of this new ally. In his speech at Ronsdorf, he declared with 
his usual emphasis that " the most brilliant representatives of 
German science, and the most distinguished names, before 
which even the State Counsel and the Judges must bow," had 
expressed by writing and word of mouth the highest approval 
and the most enthusiastic estegm for his book, " Bastiat 
Schulze." He then continued : 1" I will, however, give you a 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 193 

proof which is far more cogent than any that I have yet 
adduced. I will mention a name which will be heard by any 
court of justice on the Rhine, not only with the respect which 
those other names command, but with the highest reverence. 
A short time previously no less a person than a servant and 
Prince of the Church, the Bishop of Mayence, Freiherr von 
Ketteler, was impelled by his conscience to pronounce his views 
upon the workmen's question. He is a man who enjoys the 
reputation almost of a saint upon the Rhine, a man who for 
long years has devoted himself to scholarly research. He has 
pubHshed a book entitled ' Christianity and the Problem of the 
Working Classes,' and in this work he has declared for each 
several point in my economic principles and theories, in opposi- 
tion to the so-called Progressives." J 

It is indisputably somewhat strange to hear from Lassalle 
this increasing emphasis of expression which advances from 
respect for great scholars to reverence for the clever priest in 
the princely cloak. It was also hardly worthy of Lassalle to 
appeal to the innocent confidence of the ignorant mob, who 
were thereby induced to regard as a saint the well-paid Bishop, 
who in after-years defended the syllabus and championed the 
Obscurantist party. Nor does he improve his case by intro- 
ducing such qualifications as : " You know, my friends, that 
I do not belong to the pietists." He was obviously entering 
upon an undesirable alliance, but in his position Lassalle would 
none the less have been acting senselessly if he had rejected so 
powerful an ally who voluntarily offered his support. More- 
over, at that time he had reached the highest pitch of irrita- 
tion, in consequence of his lack of success and the opposition he 
encountered — irritation which history shows is experienced by 
those who attempt to make a disputed idea prevail against 
superior force. " The Messiah of the nineteenth century," as 
Heine, with poetical boldness, called LassaUe, was suffering 
the universal fate of Messiahs ; the tokens of his approaching 
downfall were manifest. 

However, immediately before his downfall he was to ex- 
perience yet one more triumph, such a triumph as had ever 
been his dream, amid thunders of applause, the enthusiasm of 
thousands, and a short enjoyment of the sweets of power. 

13 



194 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

As an agitator he had constantly shown his possession of the 
most remarkable gifts for winning the support of the masses ; 
devotion, admiration, blind obedience, and even absolute 
reverence were the feehngs which the workmen displayed for 
him. The fact is the more remarkable, as Lassalle had 
hitherto never maintained a permanent connection with 
members of the working class. A talented workman, how- 
ever, by name Kichniawy, had possessed his full confidence 
in Diisseldorf, and during his lifetime LassaUe was always in 
closest intimacy with this man ; but at the present moment 
enthusiasm for him spread like wildfire. I have already men- 
tioned how, like a second Napoleon, he won over to his side 
in Frankfort the troops which his opponents brought against 
him. His journey through the Rhine Provinces in September, 
1863, was not so much a tour to raise agitation as a magnificent 
review of troops. 

From town to town Lassalle reviewed his adherents. In 
Elberfeld he spoke before an audience of three thousand and 
in Solingen before five thousand under one roof ; when the 
meeting was broken up by the police upon a pretext, and 
LassaUe was arrested, he was accompanied by ten thousand 
workmen, amid a continual storm of cheers, from the place of 
meeting to the telegraph-office, where he telegraphed to Bis- 
marck, as we have stated. 

This arrest, which became a triumphal procession, was un- 
wisely described by part of the Liberal Press as if the police 
had been forced to accompany LassaUe to secure his personal 
safety, and had been obliged to protect him against the curses 
of the population with fixed bayonets. Naturally, such a false- 
hood produced no effect upon the eye-witnesses of the occur- 
rence, and only served to evoke the angry devotion which is 
the reward and the satisfaction of men who are attacked with 
such weapons. 

But aU the ovations of this first campaign were as nothing 
to the triumphs which Lassalle gained when he made another 
tour through the Rhine Provinces in the spring of 1864, and 
for the first and last time took a personal part in the festivities 
celebrating the foundation of the Universal Union of German 
Workmen. Little harm was done by the fact that the hired 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 195 

quarters of the Union were found closed almost everywhere, 
for the reason that the police, with threats which were anything 
but ambiguous in character, had induced the landlords to break 
their word. Other meeting-places were soon found. In every 
case the same scenes occurred. Hundreds of workmen met 
him at every station, offered him their greetings at the various 
stopping-places, accompanied him in procession to his lodging, 
which was decorated with wreaths and flowers, and presented 
him with testimonials. In all the towns and upon aU the roads 
were serenades, gateways of honour, garlands, inscriptions, 
endless cheering, and the delighted uproar of a thousand voices. 
Workmen, young and old, wherever he appeared, pressed forward 
about his carriage, which was decked on every occasion with 
flowers, wreaths, and flags, to shake his hand or to gain a word 
from him. Sometimes as many as twenty-five decora ted carriages 
followed him as a procession of honour. This feeling was the 
more remarkable, as Ronsdorf and the neighbouring town of 
Solingen are among the few districts in the Rhine Provinces 
which both before and afterwards sent members of the Pro- 
gressive party of the time to the German Reichstag. To give 
a correct idea of it, I will quote an extract from a newspaper 
report of the time, dated Ronsdorf, May 23 : 

" As the carriage approached the limits of Ronsdorf it couldH 
be seen even from a distance that old and young were abroad, I 
for the heights were thick with people. At the boundary 
of the town was an archway with a wreath which bore the 
inscription : 

' Welcome to Dr. Ferdinand ! 
A thousand welcomes to this our land ! ' 

With wreaths and garlands and inscriptions of this kind the 
road was decorated throughout its length. At the boundary 
the President's carriage, which could be recognized by its 
decoration and the transparency, ' Be at One !' was con- 
stantly overwhelmed with a rain of flowers, thrown with 
sure and laughing aim by the factory girls. At this point 
the workmen of Sohngen and Wermelskirch were drawn 
up in thick array to receive the President and to join the 
procession. The enthusiasm was indescribable. Till Rons- 
dorf was reached there was a continual round of greetings 



196 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

and cheers. Where the road turns and goes downhill 
a very interesting sight was afforded, as the masses of the 
people who had come out to the welcome attempted to keep 
pace with the carriage downhill, and ran either upon the 
side-walks or upon the road itself in pursuit of the procession ; 
so great was their zeal and enthusiasm that most of them 
reached Ronsdorf together with the carriages." 

" ^ Such reports of tours made by royal personages or high 
of&cials are common enough. In these cases public feeling is 
easily aroused to enthusiasm by various motives — ^the loyalty 
of subservience, the hope of promotion and rank, the fear of 
reprimands or the anxiety to be noticed ; but such spon- 
taneous expressions of gratitude and enthusiasm as are above 
described are unusual among the unemotional peoples of the 
North. Indeed, as Social Democracy was never able to gain 
a firm footing in this district for a long time afterwards, the 
enthusiasm seems to have been as short-lived as its blaze was 
fierce for the moment. 

The speech which Lassalle now delivered, amid tumultuous 
cheers, to celebrate the foundation-day of the Workmen's 
Union, entirely corresponded with the prevailing enthusiasm. 
It was a long and proud retrospect of the results attained, of 
the rapidity with which the Union had spread and the ready 
reception it had received from the working classes in all 
German towns and districts from the greatest to the smallest. 
LassaUe, as we have mentioned, referred to the testimony of 
great scholars and of the venerable Bishop on behalf of his 
cause, and proceeded to emphasize the fact that King Frederick 
William IV., who had sent bayonets against the Silesian 
weavers in 1844, had shortly before graciously received a 
deputation from Silesia, and had directly promised to consider 
the miserable position of the workmen in the cloth factories. 
All these facts LassaUe summed up in the cry : " We have now 

riorced workmen, people, scholars, Bishops, and the King, to 

1 testify to the truth of our principles." 

At the moment when Lassalle uttered these words he reached 
the zenith of his life and his influence. His words were truth, 
and their truth was power. " Wherever I have been," he said, 

l'*'! have heard observations from the workmen which -may be 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 197 

summed up as follows : We must weld our wills unanimously 
into one single hammer, and put that hammer in the hands of 
a man whose intelligence, character, and good-will we can 
trust, that he may raise the implement and strike." And in 
virtue of the dictatorship of insight he now held this heavy 
hammer in his hand, and was as happy to feel its weight as 
the god Thor when he again grasped his long-lost Mjolnir. 
Like the god, LassaUe had now gained the desired weapon, 
without which he was not entirely himself. For a moment he 
brandished it rejoicing, as if he had reached his goal, though 
in his thoughts he must have reviewed the strange vicissitudes 
of his life, of which two whole years had been spent in prison, 
while five fresh criminal actions were now threatening him — a 
life which had passed through fire and storm, but had been 
filled by an invisible harmony, the twanging of the bow-string 
and the sounds of the lyre. His heart swelled beneath the 
enthusiastic applause of the grateful crowds, but at the same 
moment the picture changed, and he saw in giant outline before 
his eyes the many anxieties which he had kept from the know- 
ledge of his hearers — ^the dangers which threatened him, the 
attempts which had failed, the weakness, the indifference, the 
hatred, the envy, the brutality and the power against which 
he had to fight. Such was the darker side of the picture. 
News had reached him the previous day that he had been again 
condemned to four months' imprisonment in contumaciam (as 
he had failed to appear within the limits of time appointed by 
the court), and he knew that the judges in the Rhine Provinces 
were almost exclusively composed of members of the Progres- 
sive party. He also knew that the position of the Workmen's 
Union was by no means so brilliant as he thought prudent to 
represent it, to describe it to his warmest friends and to see 
it in his optimistic moments. The Union exhausted his powers, 
absorbed his property, which had been considerably increased 
by his father's death, and was far from making the progress he 
had expected. LassaUe's letters at this time complain bitterly 
that everjTthing might have been very different " if the working 
classes had done their duty." And he was well aware that his 
enemies were infinitely more energetic than his friends. No 
wonder that thoughts of death and downfall arose within him 



igS FERDINAND LASSALLE 

during this moment of brilliant enthusiasm. He concluded 
this last speech which he delivered to his adherents with these 
words : 

" WeU, I hope to refute these two charges, as I have refuted 
so many others. Strong, however, as a man may be, he is lost 
when confronted by a certain bitter antagonism. But this 
troubles me little. As you may think, I did not raise this 
standard without full knowledge beforehand of the possibility 
that my own downfall might be the consequence. (General 
sensation throughout the meeting.) The feehng that over- 
comes me upon the thought that I personally may be set aside 
cannot be better expressed than in the words of the Roman 
poet, ' Exoriare aUquis nostris ex ossibus ultor '; or, in German, 
' If I am overthrown, may some successor and avenger arise 
from my bones.' May this great a'nd national movement 
towards civilization not come to an end with myself. On the 
contrary, may the fire that I have kindled spread and devour 
as long as one of you draws breath. Such is the promise that 
I ask from you, and in token of it I wiU ask you to raise 
[_your right hands." 

It might be thought that when Lassalle uttered these words 
he had a clear premonition that three months later he would 
be a corpse. A week previously, in a meeting of the Union at 
Diisseldorf, he had said to the members : " Next year you will 
jT)e obliged to drape this room with mourning." Possibly he 
even foresaw that this national movement, if it did not die 
with him, would lose its national and monarchical character, 
and that the organization which he had founded would be 
absorbed in a few years by International and Republican 
Socialism. 

Upon several subsequent occasions, though his health was 
shaken, he was obliged to speak in public. In the course of 
the prosecution directed against him at Diisseldorf, he who 
had shattered I know not how many criminal charges vainly 
made a last effort to win his freedom. The court condemned 
him in the first instance to six months' imprisonment. He felt 
deeply despondent. When Paul Lindau, the young editor of 
the Dusseldorfer Zeitung, who had done Lassalle the courtesy 
of reproducing verbally his speech in his defence, called out to 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 199 

him, as they took leave of one another, " We shall meet again, 
Herr Lassalle !" he replied, " Who knows ?" And when 
Lindau looked at him in surprised interrogation, he added : 
" I cannot endure imprisonment for a year or even six months. 
I simply cannot stand it, and should prefer to go into exUe. 
My nerves are completely broken down." Weary in body 
and soul, he went to his usual watering-place in July, at Rigi- 
Kaltbad. Here he was again overwhelmed with work, but 
attempted to restore his shattered health by feasting his eyes 
upon the beauties of Nature, and then it was that the fate 
overtook him which became his death. 



CHAPTER VIII 

We have seen that Lassalle understood that his efforts for the 
moment were fruitless. Countess Hatzfeldt had written to 
him : " Can you not content yourself for a time with science, 
friendship, and the beauties of Nature ?" He replied from 
Rigi on July 28 : " You think that politics are a necessity to 
me. How little you know my nature ! I desire nothing more 
earnestly than to be rid of politics once for aU, and to be able 
to retire to science, friendship, and the beauties of Nature. I 
am tired and weary of politics. Doubtless my political ardour 
would flaine as fiercely as ever if any serious incidents called 
it forth, or if I had power or saw a means of gaining it 
— a means that I could suitably adopt, for without supreme 
power nothing can be done. I am too old and too great a man 
for mere child's play. For that reason I was very unwilling 
to accept the presidency. It was only at your request that I 
gave way, and it is at the present moment a heavy burden. 
If I could only lay it down, I could decide at once to travel with 
__you to Naples, but how can I be rid of it ?"^ 

This is not the kind of thing that one would have expected 
to hear two months after the speech at Ronsdorf, but it is the 
language of weariness and overstrain. A few days before this 
was written, on July 25, a young woman had caUed upon 
Lassalle at Rigi. This incident was to lead to the conclusion 
of his life. It is an incident of which the low tongues of 
scandalmongers have made great use, but it wiU only be 
described here as far as it illustrates Lassalle's character or 
is explicable by it. 

Fraulein Helene von Donniges was the daughter of a dis- 

^ B. Becker, " Revelations," 28. 
200 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 201 

tinguished Bavarian diplomatist. Her father was an influential 
Privy Counsellor of King Max, and since the early sixties had 
gathered round him at Munich a circle of cultured scientific 
men, legal authorities, historians, and poets, including such 
men as Liebig, Bluntschli, Sybel, Geibel, Heyse and Dingelstedt. 
He was known throughout Bavaria for his hostility to the 
power of the Catholic Church. Her mother was a beautiful 
Jewess, who had been converted to Protestantism in order to 
marry her father. The parents lived a luxurious, worldly and 
pleasure-seeking life. Their daughter, Helene, was left greatly 
to herself and to a devoted maid in her youth, and became a 
spoilt and neglected girl of lively spirit, impressionable and 
thoughtful at an early age — ^in short, a premature woman of 
the world. When she was twelve years old she was as fully 
developed as an ordinary girl of nineteen. She was un- 
usually pretty, of sensual and challenging beauty, with a 
magnificent head of fiery red hair — one of the beauties who 
invariably gather men round them in any company, because 
they show without ambiguity that men are the chief object of 
their interest. Her ambition was to be the most daring of 
horsewomen and the most desirable partner at balls. At the 
same time a tendency to enthusiasm for art and artists and for 
men of greatness and daring slumbered in her heart. When 
she visited Berlin in the winter of 1861 she had a pleasant 
South German or rather Southern manner, showed a readiness 
to please and a somewhat imperious spirit. She had been 
already involved in several love affairs, and her reputation was 
widespread. 

She frequented those circles of Berlin society with which 
Lassalle was connected, heard accounts of him here and there, 
and heard even the most fastidious men speak of him in terms 
of admiration. One day a clever man whom she met for the 
first time said to her after a short conversation : " You are 
the first woman whom I have ever been able to think of as 
Lassalle's wife."^ 

1 Dr. Oldenberg has assured me that he actually did speak these surprising 
words, which were repeated altuost literally by Helene von Donniges, or 
as she afterwards called herself, using the name of her first husband, von 
Rackowitza (afterwards Friedmann, and now Schewitz), in her book, which 
in all material respects is reliable and truthful, " My Relations with Ferdinand 
Lassalle," 1879. 



202 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

They met one another at the houses of common friends, and 
fell in love immediately. Each of them had then become the 
subject of conversation on account of their respective minor 
love affairs — Lassalle for an intimacy with a lady of Berlin, 
and Fraulein von Donniges for the ardour with which she was 
pursued by a young WaUachian Bojar named Yanko, Prince 
of Rackowitza, to whom she had hitherto regarded herself as 
half engaged. But these new feelings dispelled any that they 
had hitherto entertained. As Lassalle immediately said of 
them, " each was the other's fate." 

Helene's passion was of the overpowering kind which may 
bring a spoilt and unusually brilliant woman to worship the 
man in whose neighbourhood she first feels that her will is 
subordinate to another far stronger will ; that her pulses stand 
still in fear and delight ; that her mind sinks beneath the 
domination of a superior nature, and rises in yearning towards 
it. Lassalle's feeling for the young lady was calmer, but by 
no means cool, and she made no concealment whatever of her 
lively interest in him. His period of youth was at its close. 
He was seriously thinking of marriage, and something in 
Helene's character attracted him so strongly that the idea of 
a marriage rose in his mind at their first meeting. 

The couple, however, had but few opportunities of seeing 
one another. Helene lived with her grandmother, who knew 
nothing of Lassalle except that he was a " horrible demagogue, 
who had once been involved in a prosecution for theft." Her 
house was therefore closed to him, and invitations from Las- 
salle's acquaintances were declined. At the same time there 
is no doubt that the lovers met oftener than Helene von Racko- 
witza declares. I have certain information of the fact, but her 
silence upon the point is natural, and in any case no definite 
plans for the future had yet been made. 

On that July evening at Rigi Lassalle saw her on horse- 
back with a whole company of strange ladies and gentlemen. 
In his delight at meeting her again, so fair and radiant, Lassalle 
immediately resolved upon the serious step of a definite engage- 
ment. Half jestingly and half seriously he proposed, in order 
to avoid all difiiculties with respect to parental objections, that 
they should elope to France, and there be married. She replied, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 203 

as was quite natural, that in case of necessity she was prepared 
to agree, but she asked him first to make a serious attempt to 
gain her parents' consent. Lassalle promised to offer his pro- 
posals for the hand of the young lady, and immediately com- 
municated his intentions to the Countess. She wrote a letter 
attempting to dissuade him, to which he replied : " You sayH 
in your letter that I should feel some doubts, as I was 
recently head over ears in love with another girl, and I reply 
that the expression, being head over ears in love, can never 
apply to me. But in any case, it is no small piece of 
fortune for a man already thirty-nine and a half years of age 
to find a woman so beautiful, so free, and so entirely suitable 
to me, who loves me so much, and who finally will give up her 
will entirely to mine, which is an absolute necessity for me." __ 

We see that LassaUe, in this letter of August 2, discusses 
the subject with a certain calmness and coldness, though such 
a tone is less surprising, as he is writing to the Countess. As 
a matter of fact, he was neither calm nor cold. He had spent 
the week after July 25 in a whirl of love and happiness. 
Politics, the agitation, and his many vexations were all for- 
gotten. He had become young again. His relations with 
Helene were innocent and youthful. She could do with him 
as she would. She played with him as with a great dog, and 
if she said " Lie down !" he was prostrate at her feet. When 
she had gone away, he used to do his work in the telegraph- 
office of Rigi in order that he might be able to send her a 
message whenever he felt inclined. The tapping of the instru- 
ment calmed his nerves. Moreover, within three days he 
sent her six stormy love-letters — effusions of wild adoration. 
He followed her to Bern, read poetry to her, gave her books 
to read, told her of his life and his struggles, and allowed this 
adoring woman, twenty years of age, to learn full details of his 
plans, while she before her idol, her Caesar, her royal eagle, 
again became a child and rejoiced at her happiness. His love 
was that of a student or a poet. He has " window dreams " 
while sitting on her window-sill during a beautiful moonlight 
night, lost in imaginings of the future and the wildest aspira- 
tions of youth. She may still see the day when he will be able 
to place the crown of victory upon her brow. Would she like 



204 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

a triumphal entry into Berlin in a carriage drawn by six white 
horses ? Our enemies are as numerous as the sand, but we 
shall drive over their bodies with people rejoicing and cheering 
about us, " Ferdinand the defender of the people !" a (proud 
title, isn't it ? " Long live the Republic and its golden-haired 
lady President !" But they return to earth. From one who 
was supposed to be Bismarck's right-hand man she had heard 
that Lassalle had visited him, and that he was " awfuUy im- 
pressed." Is that true ? Has LassaUe been to him, and on 
what account ? 

He is silent, and plays with her hand. " What a child you are ! 
It is absurd with such small fingers — for, you know, it is absurd 
to have such small fingers — I say it is absurd with these fairy 
fingers to try and pry into my deepest secrets, which I preserve 
as precious stones in the strong-box of my heart. Yes ; I did 
visit Bismarck. The great man of iron tried to captivate me, 
and iron is a precious metal, so strong and hard, so reliant for 
cutting and thrusting. What is there that iron has not secured 
in this world ? Almost everything has been wrought and 
founded by means of iron. I tell you, almost everything. 
But there is another metal more pliable and more seductive, 
useless for heroic exploits and deeds of arms, and yet more 
powerful than this omnipotent iron ; it is gold. What iron 
has destroyed gold rebuilds. It is very questionable which of 
the two metals is the stronger and more effective, but effect, 
after aU, is the one important point. And, finally, iron grows 
rusty in course of time, and the place for rusty iron is the 
lumber-room. Away with it to history, the lumber-room of 
centuries. I prefer gold — such gold as my darling wears upon 
her head, and has been given to me, in my mysterious power 
to attract men and to make them mine. You shall see, my 
beloved, that our gold can attain ever3rthing." 

" But you yourself speak a great deal about weapons and 
blood, and battles and revolutions cannot be brought about 
without weapons and without iron." 

" Child, why talk of aU this upon so beautiful a moonlight 
night ? To talk of battles and the caU to arms is by no means 
the same thing as to hew down one's brothers and one's fellow- 
men with cold, hard, and blood-stained hands. Don't you 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 205 

understand what weapons I mean ? Don't you know that I 
mean my golden weapons of intellect, the art of speech, the 
love of humanity, the task of improving and raising the poor, 
the miserable, the toilers and moilers, and, finally, and above 
all things, the will ? Don't you know that I desire to use 
these noble and reaUy golden weapons for more noble and 
beneficent purposes than the murderous implements of the 
Middle Ages ? Blood and iron are but the last necessity, 
when men will listen to nothing else ; but I think they will 
learn to fear us without any drawing of swords." Then fol- 
lowed a long embrace, kisses, whispering, and farewell. 

This week, with its bright hopes and its long whispered con- 
versations in the moonhght at the low window, was the poetry 
of their love, its true Hfe, disturbed by no hostile elements and 
no violent passions. Indeed, this week, with its forgetfulness 
of the world and its surrender to love^, marked the height of 
peaceful joy that was granted to both of them. A few days 
later the card-castle of happiness was overthrown. 

Lassalle generally and in theory was aware of the fact that 
he was hated and abhorred by the upper classes of German 
society, but he had never yet attained any keen or true realiza- ' 
tion of the height which this hatred and this bitter abhorrence 
had reached. He saw himself as he was, with his great gifts 
and capacities, with his defects, which as a whole were not 
repellent, and he forgot how distorted a caricature of himself 
was in circulation among society, and how much dirt his 
detractors had cast upon his name. He was a simple nature, 
and he thought in his simple pride that he could easily bring 
two reluctant parents to reason. The only point was to dis- 
cover " what they had against him." He relied upon his gift 
of attraction and upon his rights. He had the girl's consent, 
and he was no ordinary man. Moreover, Helene was of age, 
and a statesman like her father would hardly be likely to cause 
unnecessary scandal by a refusal. 

On the morning of August 3 Helene von Donniges came to 
meet her parents at Geneva. On the afternoon of that day 
Lassalle was to arrive at an hotel in the town. Helene found 
her relatives in a state of cheerful excitement. One of her 
sisters had become engaged to a man after her parents' hearts. 



2o6 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

a Count of high rank. She determined to take advantage of 
the prevailing good-humour, and to tell her mother everything, 
and she informed her that she was engaged to Lassalle. 

Had she informed her mother that she had brought a for- 
midable and deadly poison, and was proposing to administer 
it to the whole family, she could hardly have aroused greater 
horror and dismay. In spite of Helene's requests, her mother 
hurried away in tears to inform her father. He rushed in, 
thundering : " What is the meaning of this horrible affair with 
that scoundrel LassaUe ?" The friends of the family intervened, 
each with some dreadful story of LassaUe and his life with women, 
his relationship to the Countess, and his pernicious energy 
as an agitator. What was Lassalle ? The braggart chieftain 
of a marauding robber-band, with a prosecution for theft in 
his past history. Of all those present, the most poisonously 
disposed was a man whom LassaUe had once ordered to be 
thrown out of a public assembly, and who had sworn to repay 
the insult. 

The girl remained unshaken in her declaration that, sorry as 
she was to vex her relations, she was none the less determined 
to marry Lassalle. Her father with curses informed her that 
if she persisted in her resolution he would permit no further 
intercourse between her, her mother, and her brothers and 
sisters. She ran out of the house unobserved, and hastened 
to LassaUe's hotel, where she had sent her maid a few hours 
previously with a letter of warning. LassaUe's train, however, 
was late. He had only just reached Geneva, had not received 
the letter, and Helene met him at the door of the hotel as he 
was getting out of the carriage. He was surprised by her 
desperate and distracted appearance. He opened the door of 
a room in the hotel. She feU down before him, calling herself 
his wife and his property. Now was the moment to flee to 
France by the next train. 

She was right. The moment had arrived, and would never 
return. It was the only possibility of saving their future. 
LassaUe laughed at her. He could not understand or realize 
the state of affairs, and was simple enough to believe that 
Helene was exaggerating. Why in aU the world could he 
not openly obtain his bride like other men ? What reasons 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 207 

called for a romantic elopement ? At that moment of his 
life Lassalle was not himself, and he never forgot it. For 
the first time in his hfe he acted irresolutely and according 
to social convention, and instead of escaping with Fraulein 
von Donniges, he gave her his arm and took her to a lady 
friend. There her mother found her, and treated Lassalle, 
who maintained his calm demeanour, as an outcast whose 
observations demanded no reply. Stricken with stupidity and 
bUndness, he gave Helene back to her mother in order to show 
her his power over her daughter, in the foohsh belief that he 
could easily persuade a sensible and educated man like her 
father, and in the desire of papng his addresses in legal and 
conventional form. Her father now proceeded to pour the 
vials of his wrath upon the girl. Seizing her by the hair, he 
dragged her across the road to his house, locked her up, and 
began to subject her weak and broken will to a system of 
compulsion and persuasion which would have deprived a 
stronger woman of all power of action. 

When Lassalle discovered that his access to Helene was cut 
off, he broke into despair at what he himself called his 
" drivelling," and made a firm resolve to recover Helene at 
any cost. The difficulties with which he was confronted raised 
and were to raise his passion to the highest degree, which was 
further inflamed by his scorn of himself for casting away by 
his weak and conventional action the happiness which had 
readily been offered to him. When, however, Lassalle's 
passion reached boiling-point under the influence of these 
events, the bold and enthusiastic pride of the girl was broken 
by the interpretation which she placed upon his action, and 
which we can easily understand. She loved Lassalle as 
tenderly as ever, and doubtless believed in his power to secure 
their union, but the fiery and dauntless character of her feelings 
had expired. She had staked everything upon one throw. 
Weak as she was, she had completely surrendered to him, and 
had acted with a desperate determination unusual in her sex 
and her youth, and her overflowing passion had been greeted 
with prudential considerations. Her violent adoration for him 
whom she called her beautiful and noble eagle began to fade 
from the moment when the eagle appeared to act like a common 



2o8 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

domestic fowl, and then her doubts began to rise. Was he 
really hotly in love with her ? Had he been entirely seriohs, 
and, if so, why did he thus voluntarily give her up and hand 
her over to her parents ? 

By August 4 her father extorted from her a declaration, 
which was handed to Lassalle, in which she broke off their 
engagement. Lassalle was prepared to believe anything, 
except that the girl's passion for him had faded, as his feeling 
for her had now reached the point of madness. He correctly 
interpreted the declaration as extorted by force, suspected that 
his beloved was kept in confinement and ill-treated, bribed 
the servants to open communications with her, began legal 
proceedings to remove her from the guardianship of her father, 
and, in short, stirred heaven and earth. With his preference 
for forcible measures, even when milder means would have 
afforded more prospect of success, he travelled to Munich, 
interviewed the Minister who was the superior of Herr von 
Donniges, in the hope of working upon his anxiety by threats. 
He telegraphed east and west to his friends, induced them to 
negotiate with Herr von Donniges, with his daughter and 
with the people of the house, and inquired of Bishop Ketteler, 
through the Countess of Hatzfeldt, whether he would be pre- 
pared to marry himself and Helene if he became a convert to 
the Catholic religion. At the same time, he did not conceal 
that the reason for this inquiry lay less in his own convictions 
of the truth of Catholicism than in the fact that Helene pro- 
fessed this religion. As a matter of fact, she was a Protestant ; 
but Lassalle proceeded in such frantic haste that he never gave 
himself time to verify the fact, and the inconsiderable influence 
exerted by questions of creed at the present day is well evidenced 
by the fact that this loving pair had never yet exchanged 
a word concerning the religious communion of the bride. 

A thousand plans shot through Lassalle's brain, while his 
proud heart rapidly sank at the idea that his efforts might 
possibly be shipwrecked by an actual change in the girl's 
feelings. But about this time a successful issue appeared 
possible. It is extremely difficult to prevent two lovers for 
any length of time from exchanging letters or from meeting, 
and a single conversation between Lassalle and Helene would 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 309 

have been enough to clear up the misunderstanding and to 
secure the future. Unfortunately for him, he chose, as if he 
had been stricken with insanity, the most disastrous method 
of opening negotiations with Helene. 

As long as he felt no doubts of her love he had fully under- 
stood that his continued friendly relations with Countess Hatz- 
feldt might lead Helene's parents to regard him with disfavour. 
He had promised Helene that, when they were married, they 
should not be troubled with the continual presence of the 
Countess, and he also saw that his proposed marriage would 
find in the Countess herself an adversary who could not very 
easily be appeased. In his letters, therefore, he was careful to 
keep her away from Switzerland, and eventually he ordered 
her in somewhat unceremonious words to " obey his com- 
mand " and to stand aloof. Hardly, however, had his doubts 
of Helene's loyalty arisen, hardly had he begun to fear that he 
had been mistaken in the woman whom, with considerable 
lack of prudence, he had belauded in a letter to the Countess 
as the one woman in the world for him, than he became anxious 
to find someone upon whose devotion he could unconditionally 
rely, and, following the habits of the last twenty years, he 
applied to the Countess, asking her to use her " eloquence " 
to strengthen Helene in her determination. He probably 
thought that a woman would more easily find access to the 
house than himself, and he was at the same time detained in 
Munich by his attempts to influence Herr von Donniges 
through the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He did not consider 
that the Countess had already regarded Helene with the 
mistrustful eyes of jealousy, had begun to despise the girl 
from the bottom of her heart since the failure of her courage, 
and was therefore much more likely to do her best to dissolve 
an engagement which she could only regard as disastrous to 
her friend. But before Lassalle had applied to the Countess 
he had summoned by telegraph his friend, the well-known 
historian. Colonel Riistow, and had commissioned him, while 
he was otherwise occupied, to discover Helene's real feelings, to 
find out her place of residence after her removal from Geneva, 
and to bring about her liberation. He forgot, or did not con- 
sider, that Riistow and Countess Hatzfeldt were at that time 

14 



210 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

quite unanimous and more than intimate. As a matter of 
fact, the Countess inflicted a deadly insult upon the girl by 
demanding a meeting with her " to settle the question of her 
relations to Lassalle," in terms to which only a refusal or no 
answer at all was possible. Riistow at the saipe time appeared 
as Lassalle's ambassador, and frightened Helene by his cold 
and hostile bearing. Were these Lassalle's best friends ? 
Were these the people in whom she was to confide ? People 
who could not see or understand, or would not realize, that 
she was acting under threats and compulsion, and that her 
every word was dictated by her selfish and imperious father. 

Meanwhile Lassalle was daily writing long urgent letters of 
ardent and beseeching explanation, in which he told her that 
both in Swiss and Bavarian law she was of age, and could 
marry anyone she liked, that there was no material objection 
to their marriage, etc. But by a really tragical fate, and by a 
sinister consequence of her father's plans which Lassalle did 
not expect and never learnt until his death, not one of these 
letters was read by Helene. One alone reached her hands, 
but only after she had given her father her word of honour to 
return it unread. 

Why did she not break her word, and abandon all other 
considerations ? It is perfectly obvious that some fibre in her 
being had been broken when Lassalle handed her over to her 
parents. Her feelings for her lover changed at the moment 
when he deserted her. She was bewildered at never hearing 
from him ; she was insulted and wounded by the hostile atti- 
tude of his ambassadors. The compulsion to which she was 
subjected in her parents' house broke her spirit, and accus- 
tomed her to the idea of abandoning Lassalle. She was in- 
capable of taking any step whatever on her own responsibility. 
Help must come from without, directly from Lassalle, and she 
had seen him for the last time upon the day when he gave her 
back to her mother. 

Half intimidated by her father's threats, and partly led by 
her repulsion to Riistow, bewildered, disheartened, exhausted, 
and vacillating, she declared before her father and Lassalle's 
friends, Riistow and Dr. Hanle, that she regarded her relations 
with Lassalle as at an end and desired no further com-- 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 2ii 

munication with him. At that moment the family sent for her 
former fianc6, Yanko von Rackowitza, with whom she had 
broken since her acquaintance with Lassalle, and hurried on 
preparations for his marriage with Helene. 

As long as Lassalle was in doubt concerning a change in 
Helene's feelings he was utterly harassed and despairing. 
Such phrases as the following from a letter to the Countess 
are not of rare, but of constant occurrence : " I am so unhappy" 
that I am weeping — ^the first time for fifteen years. You are 
the only one who knows what it means when a man of iron 
Uke myself writhes in tears, like a woman." And he writes to" 
Helene : " I am suffering a thousand deaths hourly." The 
word death is of frequent occurrence in all these letters. 

LassaUe definitely felt that if he were humiliated and beaten 
in this affair he was overthrown for ever. He realized that 
the pride and self-consciousness which had carried him through 
so many hard struggles would be shattered, and that his belief 
in his " star " would be gone for all time. To regard the cause 
of his overthrow as wounded pride is too severe a judgment. 
His belief in other men and his confidence in himself were 
suddenly destroyed at the moment when he was forced to 
regard the passionately desired object of his adoration as 
faithless. 

In one of his letters he says : " If I am now overthrown, iF 
will not be by brute force, which I have so often defeated, but 
by the most unparalleled vacillation and flightiness on the 
part of a woman whom I love beyond all permissible bounds.'^ 
Elsewhere he says : " So I fall with and through her will — a" 
dreadful example of the fact that a man should never tie 
himself to a woman. I am overthrown by the most horrible 
treachery and the most repulsive felony which the all-seeing 
sun has ever beheld." ^ 

His bitterness at the " boundless ridicule " to which he 
would be exposed for stirring up a whole Ministry for the sake 
of a girl who would have nothing to do with him,as he imagined, 
is also to some extent responsible for those exaggerated out- 
bursts which were dictated by the extremity of despair ; but 
he wouldjnever have spoken of downfall and death if the vital 
power within him had not received some flaw, and if he had 



212 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

not thought that he had lost all control of his fate. Moreover, 
his despair now brought to the surface all the coarser elements 
of his disposition — elements the existence of which he had 
hardly suspected in his better moments. His letters to 
Riistow contain passages which cannot be printed, so hideous 
is the feeling by which they are inspired. 

As soon as apparent certainty had replaced the period of 
painful doubt, Lassalle sent a challenge to Herr von Donniges, 
and a letter full of the coarsest insults against Helene to Herr 
von Rackowitza, which was bound to evoke a challenge from 
the bridegroom. Herr von Donniges speedily left Geneva, and 
the challenge which Lassalle received from the insulted bride- 
groom decided the matter. The seconds agreed upon a duel 
with pistols, the conditions of which were as follows •} 

P" " Conditions. 

I " The combatants to stand firm at fifteen paces, to fire 
within twenty seconds marked by counting one, two, three, at 
the beginning, middle, and end of the time. Pistols to be 
smooth-bore, with fore and back sights. The combatants to 
adopt any attitude they please, each'P!to have thrfte shots. 
Refusal to^fire to count as a shot. The same second to load 
both pistols on each occasion. Seconds to draw lots for their 
turn in loading. Count Kayserlingk and Dr. Amdt to procure 
the surgeon. Meeting-place, the omnibus terminus in Carouge, 
at half-past seven in the morning, August 28. R. I., A. II., 
B. III. Each combatant leaves in the hands of his second a 
statement that he has committed suicide in case of eventu- 

_alities." 

Lassalle's second and intimate friend. Colonel Riistow (who 
committed suicide in 1879), says that at midday on the 27th 
he informed Lassalle in the Victoria Hotel of these conditions, 
earnestly begged him to get] some practice in shooting and 
told him of a place where he could find opportunities. Las- 
salle, however, spoke of this advice as " nonsense." His 
opponent was of another opinion. The same afternoon he 

1 Carl Schilling, " The Expulsion of President Bernhard Becker from the 
General Union of German Workmen," 31. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 213 

fired 150 shots in a shooting-gallery. I now quote a few pas- 
sages fronti Colonel Riistow's description of the next morning : 

" At midnight I went to bed in Lassalle's rooms. At three] 
o'clock the next morning I got up, and, after dressing, hurried j 
to my lodging, where I had several small things to fetch./ 
Then I went to the gunsmith and found him at work at fourj 
o'clock repairing a pistol-spring. I took the pistol from him,, 
and went back to the Victoria Hotel. At five o'clock I woke 
Lassalle, who was sleeping quietly. He happened to catch 
sight of the pistol. He seized it, fell upon my neck and said :! 
' It is just what I want.' We started for Carouge. On the| 
way Lassalle repeatedly asked me to see that the duel was! 
carried out upon French soil, that he might be able to stayl 
in Geneva and to settle affairs with the old ' runaway.' Glad j 
as I was to see him so confident, I thought this was a little too | 
much. I pointed out to him that he was not the only com- I 
batant, and that every bullet might find a mark — 'that one | 
should never despise one's opponents. My words, however, 
made no impression. We reached Carouge before seven { 
o'clock, and as the other parties had not yet arrived, we | 
waited. Lassalle, who betrayed not the smallest excitement, 
drank a cup of tea. At half-past seven the others arrived. 
They had Dr. Seiler with them, who knew a suitable place. 
They were in front and we followed. Near the place which 
Dr. Seiler wished to reach, we got out of our carriage, and went 
through the bushes until we had reached the spot. When we 
drew lots it feU upon me to load for the first shot, and to give 
the word of command. 

" The parties were led into position while I loaded. I wasj 
several times urged to give the word of command loud andi 
distinctly — naturally an unnecessary request. Twenty seconds \ 
were allowed for each shot, and were to be marked by the \ 
second who loaded by calling one at the beginning, two at , 
ten seconds, and three at twenty seconds. I was careful to 
call, ' Are you ready ?' beforehand. I gave the first word of 
command. Hardly five seconds afterwards the first shot 
exploded, fired by Herr von Rackowitza. Scarce a second 1 
afterwards Lassalle rephed. He missed, for he had already I 
met his death. It is surprising that he was able to fire at all. I 



214 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

After he had fired he made two involuntary steps to the left. 
Only then did I hear, for I had been obliged to look at my 
watch, that someone — I did not know whether it was General 
Bethlen or Dr. Seller — asked : ' Are you wounded ?' Lassalle 
replied : ' Yes.' We immediately placed him on a rug, and 
temporarily dressed his wound. While the opposite party 
went away. Dr. Seiler and I took Lassalle to a carriage, and 
helped him in. We both went with him, and supported him 
on the way as well as we could. I made the coachman choose 
a way where there were no paving-stones, which we were only 
obliged to cross for 200 yards. LassaUe was very quiet during 
the drive. Only when we came upon the rough paving-stones 
did he speak of the pain caused by the wound, and asked 
whether we should soon be home. The bullet had entered 
the lower part of his body in the left side, had injured all the 
chief organs, and issued at the right side. In spite of his pairi, 
he went firmly up the hotel stairs in order not to frighten 
I Countess Hatzfeldt, \Yho was waiting to know the result of the 
duel. He then lay in pain for three days under continual 
jinfusions of opium. We knew from the outset that his wound 
jwas mortal, and he died on August 31." 



CHAPTER IX 

So poor and melancholy — indeed, so unworthy — was the death 
that ended a life of great promise and full performance ; but 
this death was no mere accident. It was a fate necessarily 
resulting from the nature of his character. Whatever Lassalle 
had accomplished in life he owed to himself, and to no outside 
help. He was also the destroyer of his own fortunes, and 
went to his doom as though of set purpose. 

The words found upon the breast of the wounded man were : 

" I hereby declare that it is I myself who have put an end 
to my hfe. 

" F. Lassalle. 

" August 28, 1864." 

-i 
These were the last words that he ever wrote, and were 

intended to disseminate an innocent untruth for the purpose 
of shielding an opponent, but they contain a higher truth and 
express the full nature of Lassalle's fault. No one but he 
could have ended his life in so unworthy a manner — a life to 
which he himself had given so great an importance and on 
which he had laid so great a responsibility. The strain of pride 
and of despotism in his nature, which prevented him from 
devoting himself entirely to his own business, moulded as he 
was for one purpose, brought him to his downfall. 

As soon as the news of his death spread abroad, a com- 
mittee was formed in Geneva of Repubhcans from every 
country for the purpose of arranging a magnificent funeral. 
The members of this committee included Colonel Johann 
Philipp Becker for Germany, Generals Georg Klapka and 

215 



2i6 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

Bethlen for Hungary, Bakunin and Alexander Herzen for 
Russia, Thaddeuz Strynski and Fr. Bosak for Poland, Elie 
Ducomme and James Fazy for Switzerland, Francesco Garrida 
for Spain, Giuseppe Pino and Giuseppe Zamperini for Italy. 
The funeral, which was attended by more than four thousand 
persons, took place on September 2 in the Temple Unique at 
Geneva. 

The Countess had Lassalle's body embalmed, and took it 
with her to Germany, with the intention of la5ring it in state 
wherever he had worked and gained adherents, but this project 
was forbidden both by his family and the Prussian Govern- 
ment. None the less, his funeral was celebrated with fanatical 
grief and sorrow in the towns by the " communities," then 
comparatively few, which Lassalle had founded. Men lamented 
as if a national liberator had died, and even to-day the Socialist 
workmen of Germany remember the anniversary of his death 
as the death of the Redeemer is remembered by the Christian 
Church. 

Lassalle's body reached Breslau on September 14, and was 
laid in the family vault in the Jewish churchyard. A simple 
monument raised above him bears the following iiiscription, 
composed by Boeckh, then eighty years of age : 

" HERE REST THE MORTAL REMAINS OF 

FERDINAND LASSALLE, 

THINKER AND WARRIOR.'' 

He never lived to see any of the ideas for which he had 
struggled brought to realization. His grave lies at the en- 
trance of that bloodstained road upon which a new Germany 
strains vigorously forward towards a goal which he and many 
others had before their eyes — ^the power and unity of the 
Empire — ^but which was attained by means which his en- 
thusiasm and intelligence alone could indicate. Probably 
Lassalle, like his friend Lothar Bucher, though in another 
way, would have been a political support to Prince Bismarck 
during his struggle for the formation of the German Empire, 
had his life been prolonged ; on the other hand, he would have 
laid great demands upon the Government for social measures 
— demands which the Government never thought of satisf jnng 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 217 

after his death. But it is certain that the coldness of the 
Government towards burning social questions has contributed 
more than anything else to abohsh Lassalle's national SociaUsm, 
which disappeared with the condition which secured its 
supremacy— its easy practicability. Within a few years after 
Lassalle's death, if his adherents were unable to secure the 
election of their own candidates, they preferred to vote for a 
Conservative rather than for a member of the Marx-Bebel 
party. In no long time the Social Democratic groups were 
divided upon trivial personal questions, and Lassalle's Work- 
men's Unions invariably voted for the most radical candidates 
when elections by vote took place. The unions have now 
been amalgamated. As long as Prussia remained a kingdom 
in black and white in the old style, the working-class popula- 
tion was either without influence upon politics, or followed 
Liberal leaders. It was not until the North German Federa- 
tion was founded that Social Democrat principles began to 
spread through Germany, and it was not until the conclusion 
of peace with France that their astonishiagly rapid growth 
began. The movement seems to increase in proportion to the 
disappearance of the spirit of provincialism. 

The fact is still remembered that the attempted assassina- 
tion of the German Emperor gave Bismarck the opportunity 
of passing a law which temporarily outlawed the German 
Socialists, and it is a well-known fact that after he had pro- 
claimed and begun to carry out a complete revolution of the 
economic policy of the Empire, he attempted to complete his 
Socialist legislation by his State Socialism, and put into 
practice several of the main principles contained in the pro- 
gramme of the exponents of SociaUst theory. 

During the first discussions upon the Socialist legislation in 
September, 1878, when Bebel and Bismarck were the chief 
speakers, the latter discoursed at considerable length upon his 
relations with Lassalle. 

Bebel's most important arguments were that the Govern- 
ment had always attempted to use the Social Democratic 
party for its own advantage, and as he devoted much of 
his speech to the meetings and the close relations between 
Bismarck and Lassalle, the Chancellor was obUged to go 



2i8 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

into this burning question in some detail. But no one 
believed that he would have confined himself exclusively to 
these personal recollections, to the complete neglect of the real 
nature and the practicability of the law. After delivering a 
blow at the previous speaker, Professor Hanel, and declaring 
his inability to follow him " upon the main battle-field of 
rhetoric," he immediately attacked the personal question and 
deHvered himself of a fragment of biography, together with a 
eulogy, of Lassalle, surprising in its warmth. Obviously, if 
Bismarck was not prepared with the curt denial (which a 
politician in necessity might have used) of Bebel's statements 
concerning his close intimacy with Lassalle, his only alterna- 
tive was to represent Lassalle as by no means dangerous to 
the State ; but the warmth of his words was not necessary for 
political purposes, and was apparently the outcome of genuine 
admiration, nor do I remember ever having heard Bismarck 
speak with such full recognition of a political personality. He 
first emphasized the fact that it was Lassalle who had ap- 
proached him, and not vice versa, as against Bebel's statements, 

^and then continued : 

"~ " I saw him, and since the first few hours conversation 
with him, I have never regretted my action. I did not see 
him three or four times in that week, but have seen him 
perhaps three or four times altogether. Our relations could 
not possibly take the form of political negotiations. What 
was there that Lassalle could have offered or have given 
me ? He had nothing behind him. In political negotiations, 
the principle of do ut des (I give that you may give) is an 
implied principle, though dignity may forbid the expression 
of it — (laughter) — but if a man is forced to ask himself. What 
can a poor wretch like you give ? the principle does not hold 
good. He ha,d nothing which he could have given me as a 
Minister. What he had was something which attracted me 
extraordinarily as an individual. He was one of the most] 
intellectual and amiable men with whom I have ever had to/ 
deal — a man who was ambitious upon a large scale, and by no,' 
means Republican. His ideas were very definitely national 
and monarchical, and the ideal before him was the German 
Empire. Here, then, we found a point of contact. Lassalle, 



FERDINAND LASSALLE. 219 

I say, was ambitious upon a large scale, and whether the 
German Empire was to end in the Hohenzollern or the Lassalle 
d5masty was to him perhaps a matter of doubt — (great laughter) 
— but his ideas were thoroughly monarchical. Had he been con- 
fronted with the miserable epigoni who are now boasting of * 
him, he would have launched upon them a quos ego, would 
have hurled them scornfully back to their nonentity, and have 
made them powerless to misuse his name. Lassalle was an 
energetic and very clever man. A conversation with him was 
most instructive. Our talks lasted for hours, and I was 
always sorry when they came to an end. At the same time 
it is wrong to suppose that I came to any rupture with Las- 
salle concerning our personal relations and personal goodwill, 
as he apparently entertained the pleasant impression that I 
regarded him as a man of genius whose society was agreeable 
to me, while he also had the no less pleasant impression that 
I was an intelligent and interested listener. Thus, there can 
be no question of negotiations, for the simple reason that I 
had but little chance to speak in our conversations. (Laughter.) 
He took the burden of conversation on his own shoulders, but 
in a pleasant and attractive manner, and everyone who knew 
him will agree with my description. He was not a man with 
whom definite agreements upon the basis of do ut des could be 
concluded. I am only sorry that his political position and 
mine did not allow a more extended intercourse between us, 
and I should have been glad to have a man of such talents and 
intellectual capacity as a next-door neighbour. (Laughter.)" 

If these assertions be regarded with the eye of criticism, one" 
point appears of very subordinate importance — the question 
whether Bismarck saw Lassalle some twenty or thirty times, 
as the Countess Hatzfeldt asserts, or whether they had three 
or four interviews, as he himself states. A man's memory 
may easily deceive him upon such points after the lapse of 
fifteen years. Probably the Countess is exaggerating and Bis- 
marck is underestimating, but an error upon such a matter is 
immaterial. This, however, is not the case with reference to 
the nature of their intercourse. We can easily understand that 
Bismarck would attempt to represent this as innocent and 
unimportant from the political point of view, but is such a 



320 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

statement in any way probable or credible ? The Chancellor, 
who was well able to make the best of his capacities, did not 
disdain to declare with humour half good-tempered and half 
mahcious that LassaUe was rather too fond of hearing himself 
talk, and thus prevented the conclusion of any arrangement 
between them. He forgets that a moment previously he had 
spoken of LassaUe as free from all petty pride, and had de- 
scribed him as ambitious in a great style. Then he proceeds 
to dispute the possibility of a do ut des between himself and 
LassaUe, between the Revolution as engendered from above 
and from below. He says that LassaUe had nothing behind 
him. Nothing ? Bismarck in 1863 was not so simple as to 
regard the great German Labour party, which had just been 
founded, as nothing. What LassaUe had behind him and could 
offer was a very valuable aUiance for the Goverimtient in times 
of struggle, and if this aUiance was not then accepted, it cer- 
tainly was not rejected. Finally, if, as Bismarck asserts, the 
principle of do ut des forms the political rule of negotiations, 
why did Bismarck give something to LassaUe, who could offer 
him nothing in return ? Universal direct suffrage was Las- 
salle's requirement and only his programme, and thislBismarck 
conceded. Productive unions supported by State credit were 
only LassaUe's idea and his immediately practical object, and 
Bismarck induced the King of Prussia to give a large sum of 
money from his private chest to support the first attempts in 
this direction. Bismarck's expressions upon this point are 
somewhat ambiguous. " Our conversation certainly turned 

piipon the question of universal suffrage. ... I am readily 
convinced, and I see no harm in discussing the question with 

I a clever man. ... I am quite sure that we have spoken 

I about it." 

So it was not in virtue of conviction that Bismarck intro- 
duced universal franchise. He adopted it " with a certain 
reluctance, as a Frankfort tradition." It was during the 
political struggles of those days " a card which had previ- 
ously been played, and was left lying on the table." The 
undoubted result was that this card was played against the 
ruling middle classes, and that the advantage of it was bound 
to fall to the lot of the pure Democracy. 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 221 

In this connection the point of chief interest to myself in 
these assertions is not the pohtical question, but the picture 
which they give of Lassalle in private hfe, as he appeared to 
the gaze of the greatest statesman of the age. We have here 
a sketch of LassaJle immediately before his fall, which forms an 
historical counterpart to the portrait of him drawn by Heine 
at the outset of his career. 

The consideration, what future would have been reserved 
for Lassalle if he had not been taken away in the prime of life, 
may be attractive, but is futile. Everyone appears in history 
characterized by what he has been and what he has done, and 
no figure is more clearly stamped than that of LassaUe. 

In the German literature of the nineteenth century we become 
acquainted with three successive generations of minds. First 
comes the romantic school, who avoid the present and practical 
realities of life, and forget the poverty of daily life in a world 
of their own imagining. Then, about the time of the July 
Revolution, appear the first pohtical authors, such as Borne and 
Heine, who desire to liberate the whole race from all the bonds 
of law and tradition, and cry aloud to humanity as a whole in 
the course of their attempts to shake off the oppression of 
State religion and despotism. Young Germany is the con- 
tinuation of this Radicalism, which is rather universally 
humanitarian than pohtical. Among the Hegelians of the 
Left, such as the talented Ruge ; among such writers as Gutz- 
kow, Herwegh, Prutz, Freiligrath, Moritz Hartmann ; and 
among orators hke Kinkel, the revolt against the existing 
system — a movement also supported by high capacities for 
poetry, thought, or oratory — retains the vagueness of outline 
which marks the liberationist group before the month of March, 
1848. Then comes the third and present generation, in love 
with power. In them the vague and lyrical element has passed 
away. They are marked by their close and often harsh grip 
of reahty, while they rest upon a broad basis of knowledge. 
This is the generation which Bismarck has impressed with the 
mark of his genius, and which has gradually subjected itself 
to him, as the French Republicans of 1793 subjected them- 
selves to the bold despotism of Napoleon. 

But though he had no experience of Bismarck's performances. 



222 FERDINAND LASSALLE 

and though he was uninfluenced by Bismarck's spirit, Lassalle, 
in spite of the fact that he descends from 1848, bears the strong 
intellectual impressions of New Germany — complete freedom 
from doctrinaire traditions, the keenest practical insight, the 
gift of energy based upon scientific training. With regard to 
social questions, he has seen into the future to a point beyond 
any that we have yet reached, and so far he belongs, not only to 
the present, but to the future. Beneath the political and social 
surface of Europe is fermenting a great and comprehensive 
idea which many years ago Lassalle announced to a few thou- 
sand men, and which is now supported by four millions of 
German voters — the idea that our present economic system 
cannot be maintained, that it must be remodelled, and 
that in place of the domination now supported by brutality 
and injustice, conditions must supervene under which our 
accumulated and as yet untried economic science can be used 
in the service of liberation and order ; and the fact that this 
idea has become a universal sentiment is due to Lassalle more 
than to anyone else. 

Nature had endowed Lassalle with great and fine capacities ; 
she had given him a will of Spartan strength, intellectual 
and oratorical talent ; Hke a youth from Athens of old he 
had the bow and the lyre. But from the harmony of these 
great gifts rose a character unequally developed. There was 
an impure deposit of pride and haughtiness — a " Hybris," 
to use the Greek term — and this pride became his ruin. Cir- 
cumstances granted the opportunity which his capacities 
demanded in theory only, and not in practice. Throughout 
his life, in freedom or in prison, he was a caged eagle, and 
under stimulus his force of will rose and became overstrained 
until it overpowered his other abilities, and destroyed the 
equilibrium of his nature. Other men might die of undue 
greatness of heart. Lassalle died of undue greatness of will, 
but this will or self-coirfidence, excess of which caused his 
death, had at the same time maintained him throughout his 
life. He stands in history as a monument to will-power. The 
romantic school had found employment for their self-confi- 
dence in the caprices and tricks of huniour. The revolutionary 
political school satisfied their self-confidence in a struggle for 



FERDINAND LASSALLE 223 

freedom conducted with genius, but necessarily without 
poHtical purpose. Lassalle's self-consciousness obliged him 
to provide within this period a great and memorable example 
of personal energy, dispersed and concentrated in a manner 
wholly characteristic of him. 

For these reasons all that he has done will ever arouse an 
interest which is purely human and partially independent of 
scientific considerations. 



INDEX 



Absolutism, Lassalle and, 135-36 
Acquired Rights, the system of, 

Lassalle's work on. See Lassalle 
Aix-la-Chapelle, 99 
Arendt, Sophie. See Solnzew, Sophie 
Arndt, Dr., 212 
Augsburg Confession, the, 148 
Augury, the art of, 78 
Augustus, the lex Falcidia, yi 
Austria, the Constitution restored, 

136 
Austrian war with Prussia, 104 

Bakunin, 216 

Bastiat, his principles, 158, 161 

Bastille, captured July, 1789, 62-64 

Bebel, Herr, 187 ; Socialist legisla- 
tion, 217-18 

Becker, B., " Revelations," T.S6note i, 
200 

Becker, Colonel Johann Philipp, 215 

Berlin : Royal Library, 4, 27 note 1 ; 
University, 18 ; Lassalle's return 
in 1857, 85-87 ; a picture of, in 
1859, 87 ; Lassalle's house in the 
Bellevuestrasse, 154-55 

Berlin union of workmen, Lassalle 
and, 120, 127 

Bern, 203 

Bethlen, General, 214, 216 

Birth-rate and the general prosperity, 
relation between, 171 

Bismarck, Prince : Letters quoted on 
ruthlessness, 28 ; policy, 47, 106 ; 
relations with Lassalle, 98-99, 135, 
190, 2 1 6, 219-20 ; economic policy, 
141 note I ; and Wagner, 173 ; and 
the foundation of Productive 
Unions, 181 ; Lassalle's visit to, 
192, 204 ; his State Socialism, 217- 
18 ; his appreciation of Lassalle, 
217-19 ; influence, 221 

Bliicher, 89 

Bluntschli, 201 

Boeckh, 24, 1 54 ; a saying of, quoted, 
88 ; inscription on Leissalle's tomb, 
216 



Borne, " Letters written from Paris," 
Lassalle on, 13, 14 ; principles, 221 

Borsig, manufacturer, 53 

Bosak, Fr., 216 

Brandenburger Thor, the, 91 

Brentano, Lujo, " The Position of 
Labour in Modern Law," cited, 172 

Breslau, 30, 48 ; birthplace of Las- 
salle, 8 ; gymnasium, 12 ; Uni- 
versity, 18 ; Lassalle buried at, 
216 

Brockhaus, Herr, publication of the 
letters, 102 note i 

" Bronze," a favourite word of 
Lassalle, 47 

Brutus, Junius, yy 

Bucher, Lothar, 64, 89, 154, 155, 216 

Billow, Hans von, 154 

Bulwer, " Leila," 9 

Burial-rights, Roman, 74 

Byron, Lord, 86, 100 

Capital and Labour, Lassalle's ideas 

concerning, 59, 159-67 
Caprera, 105 
Carouge, 212, 213 
Chinese laws, 60 
Christianity and testamentary law, 

82-83 
Cicero, " De Oratore," cited, 122, 126, 

130, 139 
Code Napol'6on, the, 82 
Cologne, priestcraft in, 41 ; the 

Assize Court, trial of Lassalle, 21, 

27 note I 
Communist party manifesto, 1848, 

146 
Conservatives, the, 146 ; their idea 

of Right, 5 5 
Considerant, Victor, 1 1 5 
Constitution, the, established, 48-49 
Constitutions, Lassalle's lecture on 

the nature of, 51-56 
Cotton-spinning machine, discovery, 

45 
Coup d'ttat of 1848, 30 
Curtius, 78, 95 

225 15 



226 



INDEX 



Damascus, Jews of, 9-10 

Democratic party, the, 107 

Deutz, 29 

Diderici, Professor, 88 

Dingelstedt, 201 

Dohm, Ernst, advice to Lassalle, 92-93 

Donniges, Countess von, and Las- 
sale, 203, 205-07 

Donniges, Fraulein Helene von. See 
Rackowitza, Helene von 

Donniges, Herr von, and Lassalle, 
201, 206, 208, 209 ; the duel, 212-14 

Ducomme, Elie, 216 

Duncker, Franz, 154 

Diisseldorf, 24, 42, 48, 85 ; Lassalle 
at, 19 ; Lassalle's speech at, 198 

DUsseldorfer Zeitung, the, 1 98 

Ebernburg, 148 

Egels, manufacturer, 53 

Elberfeld, 194 

Eleatic School, the, 34 

Engel, Prussian Privy Councillor, 
Lassalle's accusation against, 141 

Engels, Friedrich : " The German 
Imperial Constitutional Cam- 
paign," 49 ; Socialism of, 115, 146, 
152, 187; "The German Peasant 
War," 151 note 2 

Ephesus, 37 

Etruscans, the, and the Roman 
religion, 77-78 

Falcidian law, the, 72, 73 

Fame, Lassalle's estimation of, 39 

Families emptor, 66, 69-71 

Faucher, 118 

Fazy, James, 216 

Feuerbach, 152 

Fichte, cited, 38, 135 ; Lassalle's lec- 
ture on, 155-56 

Fidei commissum, the, 73 

Fines, Roman, 74 

Forster, the historian, 88-89 ; his 
present to Lassalle, 92 

Fourth estate, the, considered by 
Lassalle, 179-80 

Frankfort-on-Maine, speech of Las- 
salle, 119, 131-34 

Frederick William IV., 86-87, 196, 217 

Freiligrath, 221 

French Revolution, the, and retro- 
spective legislation, 61-64 ; Las- 
salle on the philosophical and legal 
insight displayed, 81 ; political 
nature of, 157, 160, 186 

Friedlander, Ferdinand, 10 

Furian law, the, 71, 72 

Gaius, cited, 66, 69-70, 71, 72 
Gambetta, speeches of, 122 



Gans, his work upon inheritance, 59 

Garibaldi, visit of Lassalle to, 105 

Garrida, Francesco, 216 

Geibel, 201 

General Union of German Workmen 
founded, 113 ; Lassalle's presi- 
dency, 185-86 ; his tour, 194-99 

Geneva, Lassalle at, 205-14 ; funeral 
of Lassalle, 216 

German federation dissolved, 105 

German Labour party, founded 1863, 
220 

Germany : Forces influencing de- 
velopment of modern, i-2 ; revo- 
lution of 1848, 49, 85, 87, 146, 189; 
Germanic system of inheritance 
considered, 79 

Goethe, 38, no, 156 

Guilds, medieval system of, 53 

Guizot, 30 

Gutzkow, 221 

Hamburg, 127 

Hanel, Professor, 218 

Hanle, Dr., 210 

Hartmann, Moritz, 221 

Haruspices, the, 77-78 

Hatzfeldt, Count Edmund von, and 
Lassalle, 23-24, 29, 31 

Hatzfeldt, Countess Sophie voa : 
Story of, 21-31; the Berlin authori- 
ties and, 86 ; Lassalle's friendship 
for, 89, 102 note i, 186, 214; arrival 
in Berlin, 1858, go-91 ; letters to 
Lassalle, 200 ; and Fraulein von 
Donniges, 209-11 ; on Lassalle's 
relations with Bismarck, 219 

Hegel, philosophy of : Lassalle's at- 
traction for, 18, 32-41 ; " natural 
right," 58 ; his idea of testamentary 
law, 82 ; his three periods of eco- 
nomic history, 157-158, 166 note i 

Heiberg, 34, 35 

Heine, Heinrich : A letter describing 
Lassalle, quoted, 20 ; Lassalle on, 
14 ; his letters to Lassalle, quoted, 
19-20 ; abandons Lassalle, 30 ; on 
Lassalle, 193 ; principles, 221 

Heraclitus : Symbolic expressions 
used by, 7 ; Lassalle's work on, 
analyzed, 25, 32-41 

Hermodorus, 38 

Herwegh, 221 

Herzen, Alexander, 216 

Hejrse, 201 

Hinckeldey, 85, 86 

Holstein, 105 

Huguenots in Berlin, 86 

Human sacrifice, yj 

Humboldt, Alexander von. 24, 86 

Hutten, 148, 153 



INDEX 



227 



Ihering and Lassalle's " System of 
Acquired Rights," 75-76 

Inheritance : Intestate inheritance, 
79-82 ; Germanic system, 79 ; laws 
made by the National Convention, 
7-10, March, 1793, 81 ; the right of 
inheritance, 59 ; the laws con- 
sidered in Lassalle's " System of 
Acquired Rights," 66-84. See also 
Testamentary Law 

Institutio heredis, the, 67-70 

" Iron," a favourite word of Lassalle, 
47-49, 204 

Italy, independence of, 105 

Jagetzow, Rodbertus : Correspon- 
dence with Lassalle, 64-65, 119, 
180-84; principles, 114, 187; "Pos- 
thumous Papers," quoted, 182 ; 
break with Lassalle, 183 

Japanese law, 53 

Jewish law and acquired right, 60 

Jews, I-assalle's attitude towards 
the, 8-9 ; outrage on, in Damascus, 
9-10 

Justinian, 71, 75 

Kant, 38 ; " Critique of Pure 

Reason," 155-56 
Karbe, 189 

Kajrserlingk, Count, 212 
Ketteler, Bishop. See Mayence, 

Bishop of 
Kichniawy, 194 
Kierkegaard, Soren, 41 
Kinkel, 221 

Klapka, General Georg, 215 
Kleist, Heinrich von, 89 
Konigsberg, the labour question in, 

120 
Komer, 88 

Kreuzzeitung, the, 183, 185 
Kutschback, Becker A., " Lassalle's 

Death," 182 

Lange, F. A., " The Labour Prob- 
lem," cited, 83 note i, no, 141 
note I, 172, 180 
Lararium, the, jy 
Lares, the, worship of, 76, 77-79 
Lassal, Frederike, 10 
Lassal, Heymann, 8, 10, 15 
Lassal, Mme., 8, 10 ; attitude towards 

the Hatzfeldt case, 24-25 
Lassalle, Ferdinand — 

Account of: Childhood, 2, 8-9; 
Jewish environment, 8-9 ; his 
relations with his parents, 10 ; 
at Leipsic, 12-15 ; in the dock at 
Diisseldorf, 18, 42 ; first appear- 
ance as a politician, 42 ; the ex- 



pression " revolutionary by 

Erinciple " considered, 44-45 ; 
.assafie's definition, 44, 60 ; life 
in Berlin, 87-89 ; women friends, 
89-92 ; ill-health, 92, 99 ; views 
on Russian foreign policy, 104 ; 
political struggle of 1861, 107-08 ; 
founds the General Union of 
German Workmen, 113; attack 
on the Press, 1 28-29 ; a view of 
his economic principles, 157-67 ; 
Marx and, compared, 190 ; and 
the overtures of the clergy, 
192-93 ; his arrest and telegram 
to Bismarck, 192, 194 ; tour 
through the provinces, 1864, 194- 
99 ; imprisonment, 198 ; pre- 
monition of his death, 198 ; the 
duel, 212-14; funeral, 215-16 

Character : His intellectual char- 
acter, 5-6; self-conceit, lo-ii ; 
impetuosity 11-12, 17-18; his 
racial characteristic, 16 ; hir 
character compared with Caesar's 
and Catiline's, 17 ; a description 
by Heinrich Heine, 20 ; ruthless- 
ness, 28-29 ; preference for repu- 
tation, 40 ; his respect for Might 
and Right, 46-51 ; aversion to 
duelling, 91-92 ; strength of will, 
109 ; an unusual memory, 122 ; 
power over the masses, 194 ; in- 
fluence in Germany, 221-23 

Letters of, quoted : On the Hatz- 
feldt case, 24 ; love-letters, 99- 
103; to Rodbertus, 119, 180-81 ; 
an unpublished letter, 119-20; 
open letter to the workmen of 
Berlin, 156, 157, 177; to the 
Countess Hatzfeldt, 200 ; to 
Colonel Riistow, 211-12 

Political Life and Principles : Po- 
litical pamphlets, 54-55, 135, 138, 
169; as an agitator, 109-11 ; 
style of eloquence, 122-24 ; his 
" Workmen's Programme," 125, 
169, 190-91 ; similes, 125-27 ; 
breach with the Liberals, 155 ; 
and the law of wages, 168-72 ; 
on productive unions supported 
by State credit, 176-84 ; and 
the education of workmen, 182- 
84 

Quoted on : The Jews of Damascus, 
9-10; Borne, 13-14; Heine, 14; 
Fame, 39 ; the Passive Resis- 
tance of the National Assembly, 
50-51 ; the philosophical and 
legal insight displayed by the 
French Revolution, 81 ; the 
question of State-help, 172-75 



228 



INDEX 



Lassalle, Ferdinand — 

Relations with : Heinrich Heine, 1 9- 
20, 30 ; the Countess Sophie von 
Hatzfeldt, 26-27 : liis conduct of 
her case, 29-31 ; Garibaldi, 105 ; 
Bismarck, 135, 192, 194, 204, 
217; Helena von Rackowitza, 
200-214 
Speeches : Before the Court of As- 
sizes, 21-22, 24-25, 28, 42-45, 48, 
50-51, 124, 144, 189 ; extempore 
speeches, 129-30 ; speech in his 
defence, January 15, 1863, 130- 
31 ; at Frankfort, 131-34 ; politi- 
cal insight displayed, 134 ; upon 
indirect Taxation, 140 - 43 ; 
Science and the Working Classes, 
144 ; " What Now," 185 ; at 
Ronsdorf, 192-93 
Works : Misprints in his works, 4 
and note i ; his fugitive writ- 
ings studied, 3-6 ; a list of his 
works, 1862-64, 113 i^ot^ I 
" Bastat Schulze," 192-93 
" Capital and Labour," 35 note 2, 

38, 59 
" Franz von Sickingen," 35 
note 2, 41, 97, 148, 153 ; the 
dialogue between Okolam- 
padius and Hutten, 46-48 ; 
Lassalle as a poet, 92-93 ; 
Ulrich on his miserable life, 
94-95 ; a premonition of Las- 
salle's death, 96-97 ; conversa- 
tion of the Emperor Karl, 
97 ; Lassalle's political views, 
98 
" Heraclitus," 8, 32-41 
"Indirect Taxation," 45, 114 

note I 
Lecture on the " Nature of Con- 
stitutions," 51-56; on "The 
Philosophy of Fichte and the 
Significance of German Na- 
tionalism," 155-56 
" Might and Right," pamphlet 

on, 54-55 
" Science and the Workmen," 

pamphlet on, 124, 188 
" System of Acquired Rights," 
30, 36-37, 56 ; acquired right 
in its relation to retrospective 
law, 57-65 ; the law of inheri- 
tance, 66-84 ; the Germanic 
system of inheritance, 79 
" The Italian War," 104, 186 
Legacies, laws regulating, 72-75 
Legislation, retrospective, modern 
reluctance to adopt, 59-60 ; and 
the French Revolution, 61-64 
Leibnitz, on Testaments, quoted, 82 



Leipsic : Commercial school, Lassalle 
at, 12-13; Lassalle and, 127; 
Labour movement in, 157 

Lemberg, Jews of, 10 

Lessing, 38 

Liberal newspapers, the, on Las- 
salle's lecture on Constitutions, 

54 
Liberals : Breach with Lassalle, 155 ; 

principles, 183 ; and Lassalle, 187, 

192 
Liebig, 201 

Lieven, Princesse de, 30 
Ligny, Battle of, 89 
Lindau, Paul, and Lassalle, 198-99 
Lindenmuller, 189 
Liszt, 154 
Louis Napoleon, 151 ; attack on 

Austria, 104 
Lowe, 13-14 
Luther : Doctrines, 147-48 ; and the 

Peasant War, 148-49 ; and the 

Bible, 149-50; and Miinzer, 150- 

51 ; the Reformation, 153 
Lutheran Reform party, 147 
Lutzow, his volunteers, 88 

Magdeburg, 48 

Maine, " Ancient Law," cited, 67 

Manchester School, the, principles, 

37. 125. 173. 175 

Mancipation, 69-71 

Manes, the, worship of, 76-79 

Mania, the goddess, jy 

Mannheim, 30 

ManteufEel, 91, 141 

Marriage, and the general prosperity, 
relation between, 171 

Martiny, 1 54 ; proposal of, and resig- 
nation, 137-38 

Marx Karl : Neue rheinische Zeitung, 
49; principles of, 91, 1 14-15, 146, 
151, 152, 186-88 ; works, 159, 162 ; 
" Communist Manifesto," quoted, 
160 note I ; on the periods of eco- 
nomic history, cited, 166 note i ; 
his principles compared with Las- 
salle's, 190 

Marx-Bebel party, 217 

Max, King, 201 

Maximus of Tyre, quoted, 8 

Mayence, Ketteler, Bishop of, and 
Lassalle, 192-93, 208 

Meister, Wilhelm, Lassalle and, com- 
pared, 13 

Melanchthon, 151 

Mendelssohn and the Hatzfeldt 
quarrel, 21, 23 

Metternich, saying of, quoted, 123 

MeyendorfE, Baroness, 30 

Meyer, Rudolph, cited, igo 



INDEX 



229 



Might and Right, the relation be- 
tween, Lassalle on, 46-51 

Moderates, the, 146-147 

Money and Capital, the relation be- 
tween, 159-67 

Miinich, Royal Library, 27 note 1 

Munzer, Thomas, 147, 149 ; doctrines 
of, 150 ; and Luther, 150-51 

Napoleon I., 135, 186 

Napoleon III., 104, 136 

National Assembly, the : Dissolved in 
1848, 42, 48, 148 r its policy of pas- 
sive resistance, Lassalle on, 50-5 1 

National Consciousness, 63-65 

National Convention, the, and retro- 
spective legislation, 62-63, 81 

New Germany, 222 

Nizza, annexation of, 105 

North German Federation, 99, 217 

Nuenar, Count, 153 

Obscurantist party, the, 193 
Ohle, the, 1 1 

Oldenberg, Dr., 201 note i 
Oppenheim, 21 
Oranienburg, 157 

Paris : Lassalle in, 19 ; June, 1848, 
149 ; national factories, 176 

Passive Resistance of the National 
Asserhbly, Lassalle on, 50-51 

Patrimonium, the term, 69 

Peasant war, Lassalle and the, 45 

Pfuel, General von, 89, 1 54 

Pino, Giuseppe, 216 

Platen, 39 

Poland, subjugation of, Lassalle on, 
50-51 

Pope, the. Napoleon and, 104 

Praslin, Duchess of, 22 

Press, Lassalle and the, 128-29 

Prietzel, the botanist, 154 

Productive Unions, supported by 
State credit, the question con- 
sidered, 176-84 

Progressive party, the, 98, 107, 137, 185 

" Property," 59 

Prussia : The constitutional struggle, 
1862, 51 ; foreign policy of, Las- 
salle's views on, 104 ; the dispute 
concerning military organization, 
107 

Prutz, 221 

Quintilian : cited, on death, 67 ; on 
eloquence, 123 

Rackowitza, Helene von, " My Rela- 
tions with Ferdinand Lassalle," 88, 
201 note I ; story of, 200-214 



Rackowitza, Herr von, 202, 211 ; the 

duel, 212-14 
Radicals, the, their conception of 

Right, 56 
Reform, Lassalle on, 45 
Reformation period in Germany, 146- 

Republican party in Germany, Las- 
salle and the, 42 ; the Republicans 
of Germany, 215-16 

Reuchlin, 41 

Revolution, Lassalle on, quoted, 44-45 

Revolution of 1848. See Germany 

Revolutionary party, the, 147 

Rhenish Prussia and Baden, the 
revolt in, 49 

Rhine, the, Lassalle on, 85 

Rhodes, Jews of, 10 

Ricardo, 159; his theory of wages, 
171 

Right : Natural, 80-81 ; testamentary, 
81-82 ; acquired. See Lassalle 

Rigi-Kaltbod, 199, 200 

Rodbertus. See jagetzow 

Roman Catholics, and the Reforma- 
tion, 146 ; Lassalle and the, 192-93 

Roman testamentary law : Lassalle's 
theory regarding the heir, 66-71 ; 
the Furian law, 71-72 ; the Vo- 
conian law, 72 ; the Falcidian law, 
72-73 ; the fidei commissum, 73 ; 
wills, 73-74 ; Christianity and, 82- 

83 
Rome, worship of Lares and Manes, 

76-79 
Ronsdorf, LassaUe's speech at, 192, 

195 
Rousseau, 37 
Ruge, 221 
Riistow, Colonel, 91 ; and Fraulaln 

von Donniges, 209-11 ; advice to 

Lassalle, 212-13 ; account of the 

duel, 213 

Saredo, Giuseppe, " Dell' applica- 

zione," etc., 58 note i 
Savoy, annexation of, 105 
Saxony: Bakeries combination, 177; 

Luther and the Prince of, 151 
Say, cited, 162 
Schelling, cited, 38, 144 
Scherenberg, poet, 154 
Schiller, 38 

Schilling, Carl, cited, 212 
Schmidt, Julian, 40, 155 
Schmidt, mason, 120 
Schramm, C. A., " Rodbertus, Marx, 

Lassalle," cited, 188 
Schultze-Delitzsch, 119, 144, 155; 

principles, 157, 158; and the law 

of wages, 168 ; his workmen's bank. 



230 



INDEX 



principle of self-help, 173-75 ! ^.nd 
tlie principle of State-help, 175 ; 
influence of, 187 

Schwabenspiegel, the, 155 

Schwerin, Count, on Lassalle's lec- 
ture, 54, 55 

Seller, Dr., 213, 214 

Sextus Pompeius, war against, 75 

Sickingen, Franz von, 148, 153 ; his 
praise of iron, 47-48. See also 
Lassalle 

Silesians, the, 196 

Simferopol, loi 

Slesvig, 105 

Smith, Adam, cited, 160 

Socialism : Lassalle and the Socialism 
of 1848, 115 ; and the French 
National Assembly, 151 ; Lassalle 
on, 166 

Socialists, German, Bismarck's law 
against, 217 

Society of Art and Science in Berlin, 
Lassalle and, 155 

Solingen, Lassalle in, 194, 195-96 

Solnzew, Sophie, Lassalle's love- 
letters to, 99-103 

Spielhagen, " In Reih' und Glied," 
17, 146, 192 

Spinoza, deification of nature, 35-36 

Stahl, Lassalle and, 61 

State, the : Lassalle's idea of, 36-37, 
177 ; State credit supporting pro- 
ductive unions, 176-84 ; State-help 
for workmen considered, 172-75 

Steinthal, Professor, on Lassalle's 
" Heraclitus," 34 

Stock Exchange, 173 ; and social con- 
ditions, 166 

Strauss, 152 

Strynski, Thaddeuz, 216 

Sybel, 201 

Talleyrand, saying of, quoted, 136 

Tarquinius, religion under, 77 

Taxation : Roman, 75 ; indirect, Las- 
salle on, 140-43, 141 note i 

Temple Unique, Geneva, 216 

Testamentary law {see also Roman 
Testamentary Law) : the institutio 
heredis, 67-71 ; German, 79-80 

Testamentum per tss et Hbram, 69 

Thiiringen, 149 

Treves, 30, 97 

Twelve Tables, the, 72 

Twesten, 91 



Union of Berlin Workmen, 157 

Universal German Workmen's Union 
founded, 157 

Universal Sufirage, Lassalle's opin- 
ions, 99, 183-84, 220 

Unwritten law, 63 

Vamhagen von Ense, letter from 
Heine, 20 ; and Lassalle, 88 

Vestal Virgins, the, 74 

Victor Emmanuel, 104 

Victoria Hotel, the, 212, 213 

Villafranca, peace of, 105 

Virgil, quoted, 107 

Vladimir, loi 

Voconian law, the, 72 

Volkszeitung, the, 154 

Von Sybil, " Doctrines ■ of Modem 
Socialism and Communism," 83 
note I 

Wages : Laws regulating, 159, 164-67 ; 
Lassalle's views concerning, 168-72 

Wagner, Adolf, on Rodbertus Jaget- 
zow, cited, 114 

Wagner, Privy Councillor, bank 
founded by, 173 

Waldeck, election, 107 

Wermelskirch, 195 

Westphalen, 85 

White terror, the, 85 

Wirth, Max, and Lassalle, n8, 132-33 

Witebsk, loi 

Wittenburg, 153 

Workmen : Lassalle and the workmen 
of Berlin, 156-57 ; and the law of 
wages, 168-72 ; the question of 
State-help considered, 172-75 ; pro- 
ductive unions supported by State 
credit, 176-84 ; education of, Las- 
salle's principles concerning, 182-84 

Workmen's Committee of Leipsic, 
Lassalle's reply to, 171, 185 

Workmen's Union of Nuremberg, 119 

Workmen's Unions, 197 ; amalgama- 
tion, 217 

Wrangel, 48 

Young Germany, principles, 18, 86 

Zamperini, Giuseppe, 216 
Zander, Robert, 12 
Zander, Rosalie, 12 
Ziegler, burgomaster of Brandenburg, 
154 



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